Continued from part 1:
Tanei felt her energy draining away. The feeling that she could not win against a creature who stole not only one’s face but one’s abilities, one’s very thoughts, threatened to overwhelm her. If she could not find a strength that was not also possessed by her enemy, how was she to…
Then Tanei blinked. If the sorcerer possessed her strengths while in her form, then perhaps her weaknesses were shared between them as well. Her mind cleared. The princess had told her often enough: You are too protective! You leave yourself at your enemies’ mercy whenever you fling your body in front of mine to protect me.
Tanei smirked and pivoted on her feet toward the guillotine. She cocked her arm and threw her staff with all her strength at the sorcerer’s machine.
The sorcerer’s eyes flew wide. “No!” he shouted, and threw himself at the staff. He missed, and the weapon clattered against the machinery. It did not harm anything as far as Tanei could tell – but that had not been her intent. In the moment her staff hit the guillotine, Tanei’s knees hit the sorcerer’s back. The sorcerer went down with Tanei atop him. She grabbed the head below her and slammed it into the stone floor.
She knew she had dazed the sorcerer when she caught a glimpse of a man beneath her, dressed in a gray robe. Then the illusion returned. Tanei locked her arm around the sorcerer’s throat and pulled him toward the guillotine. She heaved his body, beginning to struggle, up onto the machine. She held his wrists down one at a time and shackled them.
When he was bound, she turned to the clockwork of the wicked device and studied it. It did not take her long to find the lever that surely operated the thing. She reached for the handle and touched it thoughtfully.
“You won’t do this, of course.” The sorcerer’s voice was now a man’s voice. She turned to regard him. He had dropped his disguise entirely. “I know you won’t, because I know you – although, clearly, I might have analyzed a bit more thoroughly. But you won’t murder me, of that I am certain.”
Tanei knew his words were true – and then suddenly, with his having spoken them, they weren’t. Grasping the lever’s handle, she leaned close to the man, and his eyes widened as he realized his mistake.
“I am going to disappoint you,” she said. The great blade came sliding down. “But you knew that already.”