When we got there, they had to put me down because the tunnels weren’t tall enough for this arrangement. We waited while I finished the thopper leg, then I turned the bone into a miniature thopper and set it on a tiny ledge beside the entrance to the cave. The four of us then entered the tunnel with as much irreverence as entering a barn. The darkness that had been so absolute last time I had entered here was no problem now. My magic ensured that my eyes functioned sufficiently for me to see what I needed to see.
We settled right down when Tsan met us in the outer chamber. He glowered at us and then raked me up and down with hard eyes. Then he drew his sword slowly and deliberately. I dropped one of my crutches and held the other one in my hand like an overlong cane. I’d be clumsy, but I’d have the balance of three points of contact with the ground since I didn’t have the proper use of my feet.
Our fight was over rather quickly; I knew it would be. If he was supposed to be my teacher, he had to be a lot better than I was. All I’d had was a dozen low gravity lessons, if you want to call what we did lessons.
He seemed pleased though. As soon as he had me pinned against the wall with his sword across my throat, he said, “I’m glad you came back. Let’s go on in and see the Master.”
Carm picked up my sword and handed it back to me, then Brom handed me my discarded crutch.
When we entered the next chamber, Larak said, “Well, how many did it take?”
“Four,” growled Tsan.
Larak just laughed. “You said you’d be able to best him with the second hit. You must be slipping.”
They had bet on the length of the fight we just had.
“One of your first rules, Larak, is never underestimate your opponent,” said Durmas. I missed that voice. “Perhaps you should study that one a little more.”
Larak just hung his head and chuckled, then he shoved me onto a bench and sat down beside me. When everyone had found a space at the table, Durmas said, “You come back to us damaged. Will you tell us about it?”
I looked around at their expectant faces. After a long moment, I started telling them of my folly. I had to explain some of the things in minute detail in order for them to understand what had happened. Brom had told me that he had seen one of the big ships take off once, but that didn’t mean he knew anything about the forces of gravity.
When I finally reached the part about the crewman dying, Durmas hung his head. “I am sorry to hear these sad events. If I understand the details you have tried so hard to explain to us, the strength of your magic may well be beyond anything we have ever seen; and this death you describe, you say that you think you fed on him somehow, but you don’t sound too sure. What makes you think that?”
“It’s just a suspicion, really. All I remember is holding him harder than he wanted to be held - harder than I should have been able to - and the next time I woke up, I felt so much better, not great, you understand, far from it, but much better. Mind you, I didn’t put all that together right away.”
“It’s entirely possible that you did exactly as you suspect. It’s not unlike creating something you might eat out of a bowl; the only difference is your source and your method of consumption. Well, it’s obviously long past time to teach you what you need to know. Climb up here on this table and lets have a look at your feet.”
I shuddered at his words; I didn’t want to do that ever again, even by accident; it was bad enough thinking of the worms and bugs that went into the makings of the really good stew Durmas made.
“The doctor said I should leave the casts alone for at least another two months,” I said, though I climbed onto the table anyway.
“You also said that almost all your ribs were broken; when did you discard those bindings?”
“I did that after my first shower on the trip back here. I couldn’t rewrap myself.”
“And you didn’t want to bother with it anymore. Do your ribs hurt?” He reached up and began to unbuckle my shirt. After pulling up my under shirt, he looked at my ribs. My body was still liberally laced with bruises, but most of them were turning yellow by now. His probing fingers found a few tender spots, but nothing that was overly painful.
Next, his hands melted my casts away. As he carefully manipulated my feet, I could tell that they seemed fine though they felt weakened. “I think your magic has healed your feet like it has the rest of your body. However, I recommend that you buckle your boots a little extra tight for a few days.