Her words must have registered somewhere though, because moments later there were four very large men in the room with us. Suddenly my arms were pinioned behind me and there was an arm across my chest and a hand across my mouth. Somehow, this was familiar, but that didn't stop me from struggling. I even lashed out with my magic, but it felt numb and useless. I looked to the woman for help, but she was so small and now she looked so frightened.
She reached out to me anyway. "Liam, calm down. Don't fight them. They're your friends. Don't you recognize them?"
I stopped struggling. I would do anything to hear her voice and my struggles made too much noise, coming close to drowning out her soft voice.
Now that I was quiet, she stepped forward and pulled the big hand away from my mouth. "Liam, don't you recognize us? I'm Patricia; you remember me, don't you? And this is Tsan, Larak, Oskan and Durmas, your teachers and friends."
As I drank in the sound of her voice, the names she said began to register, and with the names came memories. I turned my head and tried to look at the giant behind me. I looked the other way and there stood a ghost with another behind him. No, they were not ghosts. Ghosts could not pin my hands together. Ghosts did not expel hot breath. Ghosts did not have the huge heart that pounded beneath the hard chest behind my ear.
The rest of my memories flooded back, and with them came all the emotions I had forgotten to feel: relief and exhilaration at having a whole body again, joy at seeing friends I had thought dead, grief at the thought of having lost them, and love I had refused to acknowledge for so long.
I felt tears streaming into my beard and leaned my face into her hand as she reached up to wipe them away.
"Clean yourself up, boy," said a familiar voice over my head. "You smell like an animal."
I began to laugh through my sobs and the hands and arms began to drop away.
I did as I was told. I straightened my hair. I made the months of sweat and grime go away with my tattered and furred clothes, dressing myself in a T-shirt and a pair of sweats at the same time. I did all of it without taking my eyes off of Patricia.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking," I said, finding my voice unaccustomed to speech. I reached out; I wanted to touch her hair again, to feel her skin. I caressed her shoulders through her silky gown instead. "I'm sorry," I said again.
Durmas rested a massive hand on my shoulder. "Will you trust us to finish your healing?"
"Finish?" I couldn't think of anything left to heal, but I trusted them. I did. I trusted them with my life. "Yes, but can I eat something first? I haven't eaten..." I tried to remember how long it had been, where I had been. All of it was like a fading nightmare. "...in a long time."
Tsan sat me at a table where Haines found us. He made me a large bowl of stew. It was familiar. I recognized the smell, but it turned my stomach and I had to step away from the table.
"I didn't think you would want that, but I figured if we didn't try, you would be insulted and confused."
"Why? I don't understand?" I asked. I was indeed confused.
Haines picked up a spoon and tasted the stew. "There's nothing wrong with this," he said. He was confused too.
"No," said Durmas. "There's nothing wrong with it; it's part of the healing that hasn't been completed yet. Oskan, Why don't you take him hunting? We'll meet you at the Chamber of Contemplation."
"Chamber of Contemplation? What place is that?" I asked.
"I'm sure you'll recognize it," said Durmas. "You've been there."