Swords whirled in my mind. They did a beautiful kaleidoscopic dance, leaving ghost traces of their passing in my view. They glittered and spun and the tracery was fascinating. I could watch it forever.
A sharp blow stung my face and the lacy glow shattered. Stubbornly, I reconstructed it, noticing vaguely that the swords were different and the design had changed.
Another blow stung my face, but that didn’t matter; all I had to do was make another.
Another blow; I tried to concentrate.
Another blow; I was groping.
Another blow; I was getting frustrated. I couldn’t quite remember what I was trying to find.
Another blow - I cried out and tried to raise my hand. I’m not sure I succeeded.
“S . . . stop,” I said; I think I said it out loud, but I couldn’t be sure.
“Stop.” I pulled both of my hands up to guard my face.
Hands gripped my wrists and pulled them away. “Look at me,” said a voice from very far away.
I struggled with myself. Part of me still wanted to find that beautiful sword kaleidoscope, but part of me also wanted to figure out what had happened. Where was I? What was going on?
“Look at me,” the voice insisted.
I did it. I opened my eyes, but the first thing I saw wasn’t a face, it was round and it glowed with a soft blue light. I had seen it before somewhere. It took me a minute to remember that it was the big stone ball suspended over the altar in the outer chamber. It was glowing.
The hands on my wrists shook me. “Look at me,” he insisted again.
It took me a moment. The kaleidoscope of swords was becoming a fast-fading dream. I finally found the face of Durmas on the other side of my hands.
“Good. You know me. Now tell me what happened.”
My whole body began to tingle.
“No, Liam, don’t do that. You’re not strong enough to do it again. Step on it. Stop it.” He shook me again.
I felt like a rag doll in his grip. I curled up around his hands.
“Come on, you can do it. Control it.”
I could smell flowers, fresh tilled earth. It didn’t belong here.
“No, try not to draw on me. You have to find the strength to do this on your own.”
A cool wash of what felt like rain splashed through my soul and I could breathe again. I hadn’t realized that I was having trouble. After several heaving gasps I said, “I think I’m all right now.”
“Yes, you are,” he replied and helped me to sit up on the edge of the altar. “Come on; let’s go get you something to eat.”
On my feet, finally, I returned his question. “What happened?”
With his steadying hand on my arm, he guided my wobbly path down the hall into the next room. “I was hoping you could tell me that, but I’ve been thinking on it. The magic in you is acting like . . . well, rather like a basilisk. Normally the magic is as small and inexperienced as the host and the two grow and learn together, but apparently your magic, like a basilisk, is quite large already and it has a mind of its own. You are going to have to tame it.”
What was a basilisk? I think I heard Brom’s father mention one once, but I had never asked about it. Well it looks like I needed to know what one was now. “What’s a basilisk?”
Durmas chuckled. “I have to keep reminding myself that you haven’t lived here very long.”
“How could you forget? I’m barely taller than your elbow.”
He just laughed. “Perhaps that’s why your magic is so big. It’s trying to make up for your lack of size.”
We entered what I was beginning to see as my living room, though the table was its only furnishing. Tsan and my friends were waiting there.
Tsan started handing out large bowls of thick stew as soon as he saw us. He seemed relieved, though I couldn’t tell you why. After Durmas was seated at his usual place at the head of the table, I noticed that he looked older than I remembered.
I held my tongue about it though and ate my food instead. “How . . . how long . . . was I . . . . How long has it been?”
“You only wasted half a day,” growled Tsan. “What made you think you could refine a sword on your first try?”
“Take it easy, Tsan,” said Durmas.
“I honestly didn’t think about it.” I wanted to understand myself. “I just remembered something I had seen recently and then it happened. It hurt. I couldn’t stop it. I was helpless.”
He growled again, but Durmas interrupted any further comment. “I’m going to have Oskan show him a basilisk this afternoon.” He looked at me. “I’ll tell him to make it a big one.”
Tsan glowered, but he only nodded and handed Durmas another bowl of stew.