Oskan and I left the complex. Patricia wanted to come with us, but I stopped her. "No, Patricia, this is not for your eyes," I said. I wanted to protect her from what I was, from what I had become.
"You should at least dress properly," she said as she indicated my sweats and bare feet.
She was right of course, so I changed into my leathers and instead of boots, I made the moccasins I had been using lately.
Patricia reached up and touched the basilisk across my shoulder. "So this is what it's supposed to look like; it's beautiful.
My basilisk, not a dragon, which reminded me, I rolled up my sleeve, the tattoo was still there, good. On my other hand, I remade the clawed gift the emperor had given me for my birthday shortly before entering his service.
Patricia looked at it, turning my hand over in hers; I could have melted. "Where did you get this?"
Her voice woke me from her mesmerizing touch and I remembered her other question too. "This..." I touched my shoulder; it was difficult drawing my hand from her touch, "is a basilisk. I colored it blue because my magic is water based. And this..." I displayed the ornament on my hand for her to see again and guided her hand to trace it's contours up to my elbow, "...was a gift from the emperor." I wanted so badly to keep her hand on my arm, but Oskan brought me back to reality.
He looked me over critically and nodded, then he handed me my sword belt. At a glance, I could tell it was mine and not a remade one; the belt was new but nearly identical to my old one. It served to remind me that there were still things I needed to learn. Then, with a wrench that took me away from Patricia, we left; I could have cried at the loss.
He took us to the edge of a forest where it didn't take me long to find the trail of a herd of thoppers. The hunt could have been fairly quick and clean if it weren't for the basilisk that came upon the herd before we did.
Oskan saw it moments after I did, and sought to hunt elsewhere, but I wasn't listening to him anymore. This was familiar, this I had become good at. The hunt was on.
I ran after the basilisk and quickly caught up with it. It was only medium-sized and it became my target. Always before, I had avoided them or ran away, but no more, I had a mate to impress. Her, I would protect and provide for. I could - I would do anything to protect her, to provide for her.
The basilisk was easily a hundred feet long, and if I had been half as sane as I thought I was, I would never have gone anywhere near it.
I tagged it on the tail with my 'claws'. I had retracted them when Patricia's hand was touching them, but now, they were at least two inches long and very sharp.
The basilisk coiled on this unexpected pain and I used my grip to help me jump over the tail to land next to its back foot on the outside of it's coil. I sliced the foot from the body with my sword, causing the thing to roar and coil in the other direction.
The herd of thoppers bounded away unscathed while we danced this dance of death. I jumped, rolled, and even slid under, over and around it, dealing damage or pain wherever I touched, until the creature was so maddened that it began attacking the trees in the vicinity. After that, it was only a matter of time before it bashed itself senseless. As soon as it was still, I leapt onto its head and drove my sword into it's brain.
I drew my sword out of the carcass, and was about to lick the blood from my hand, but Oskan was there. "NO! Liam!" he cried out and vanished the blood.
With an inarticulate roar of rage, I leapt at him, but he deflected my attack. I charged again in blind anger. He was another hunter trying to take my kill - trying to take my mate. He put me down hard. "Liam, snap out of it."
I heard his words, but they were just meaningless sounds. I roared and struggled as he held me down on the ground with his weight and his magic, and then we weren't there anymore.
With the smell of blood gone, with the hunt, the kill, far away, I returned to my senses quickly. I was so hungry by now that I curled up around my aching belly and groaned.
"How did the hunt go?" asked Durmas from somewhere behind me.
"He killed a basilisk," said Oskan.
"A basilisk, no. Did he...?" asked Durmas aghast.
"No, I was close enough to prevent it, but then he attacked me. I had to bring him here. He still hasn't fed."
"That's unfortunate. See if he'll take this. He must be sated or this could be very dangerous for him."
Oskan came around in front of me again. "Liam, are you better now?"
I looked up at him. "I don't feel any better. I'm sorry I attacked you." I didn't bother to repeat that I didn't know what I was thinking. This must be what it feels like to have a split personality or schizophrenia.
"Try this; if you can't eat this, I'll take you on another hunt." Oskan handed me a bowl.
In it, I saw chunks of raw meat. The smell didn't drive me away, but the sight was...questionable. I picked up a piece. It was cold. I caught a drop of blood on my finger and put it in my mouth. It too was cold. I tried to warm it up, but it was no good. I had to set it aside. "I can't," I said as my stomach roiled.
"I thought so, but I thought I'd try." said Durmas.
"What's wrong with me?"
"You know by now that your magic has a bit of a personality of its own, right?" said Durmas as he knelt in front of me.
"I guess that's true," I replied.
"You were badly injured. Steven told me what happened and Patricia told me about your recovery. Instinctively your magic kept you alive, but all that was left was instinct. A wild creature operates on instinct. It hides in fear. In lashes out in anger. It kills to feed hunger. It finds a mate in order to breed. Rational thought has little to do with instinct and your rational self has been subdued for a long time allowing your instinctive self to grow inordinately strong. You need to rebuild the union that makes us all whole. The wild creature in you needs to be comforted and nurtured so that it will trust the rational you again. Together you will be whole. Here, drink some water. It will help with the cramps."
I drank the water and it did help, then Oskan took me out again. This time the hunt went quickly. Oskan watched over me from a distance, but since he never came close, I devoured my kill in peace while only keeping a wary eye on him.
When I was finished, I turned to join the herd, after all, I had a mate to hunt for, but Oskan was there, in my way.
"Liam," he said as he wiped all signs of my hunt away.
I backed away; I had nothing to fight over. My hunt was finished and I was full. I wanted to sleep soon.
"Liam, who am I?"
I hesitated only a moment and then continued my retreat, but he was there again, so I struck out at him. He wouldn't leave me alone.
Once again, I was pinned to the ground like a misbehaving kit. I struggled and squalled. Then I was in a different place. It was made all of black stone. I curled up and snarled at those who surrounded me.
"Well, I can tell he has fed," said the gray haired elder of the group.