Friday, November 25, 2011

Chapter 96 - PICKING UP THE PIECES

Back at the farmhouse, before entering the door, Oskan touched my shoulder. “Mind your hosts,” he said softly.

I had mostly stopped dripping, but I was still soaked. I swept the remainder of the water away, using it to water a few of the flowers planted by the front door, remembering that Carm’s mother had planted those flowers.

Inside, Carm still slept peacefully; he looked so much better now. I wasn’t finished with him yet, but it looked like he had benefited from my efforts and the time.

Encouraging us to leave him in peace for a little while longer, the farmer ushered us into the kitchen where his wife was laying out a feast for us. My stomach came alive at the sight and informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was way behind in that regard.

I dug in. Oskan did too. Both of us had had a hard time, and from the looks of it, Oskan hadn’t had a proper meal for days. During the meal, I learned the names of my hosts. The farmer’s name was Finnian and his wife’s name was Moira.

I was midway through my third plate and I could have sworn that we were talking about rain when I fell asleep at the table. I don’t remember anything about it; I don’t even remember being put to bed.

I woke to find myself in a familiar yet strange room. After I climbed up out of the fog of sleep, I realized that the room used to be Carm’s room, but of course, the new owners had made several changes.

I dressed and headed back downstairs. I passed a young woman I hadn’t seen before, going up with a tray laden with food. She smiled shyly at me and ducked on past. I headed on into the living room where I had left Carm, intending to finish with him before allowing myself to rest, but apparently, things had taken a different course.

Carm’s absence from the middle of the living room floor was conspicuous, but before I could so much as turn around to seek an answer, Finnian came in. “Your friend is resting comfortably upstairs in the spare room. Master Oskan is with him. He told us you were showing signs of waking so my wife has a meal prepared for you in the kitchen.”

What could I do? I went into the kitchen and found a breakfast of eggs, ham and potatoes with toast, jam and orange juice on the side. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’d been a long time since I’d had an earth-style breakfast and breakfast takes on a whole new dimension when prepared by someone who is twice your size. That meant that there were six eggs, four large slices of ham, at least two whole potatoes, about a quart of orange juice, half a loaf of toasted bread and a massive jar of jam. It was a good thing the plate wasn’t human-sized. It was a really good thing I was still very hungry.

“Where did you get all this?” was the first thing out of my mouth, rather than ‘thank you for going to so much trouble for me.’ I felt like an idiot for saying it, but the words were out, and Moira had an answer before I could apologize.

“I got it all from Mr. Preston’s house. He hasn’t been seen since the battle. Most of us think he’s left and I thought you might like some of your native food for a change. Much better than watching it all go to waste.”

I was helpless to resist; I dug in. “Gone, you say.” I thought it more than likely that he had suffered the same fate as the inn.

“Yes,” chatted Moira, “everyone knew he was socializing with that evil man, and when the inn came apart, he was seen running from the yard. He hasn’t been seen since. Healer Danow went out there yesterday morning to see if maybe he might be hurting or something, but he hasn’t been back there either.”

I flexed my magic and tried to look for his fire, but if he was out there, either I was looking in the wrong place or his flame was hopelessly drowned out and unidentifiable. Then Moira was talking again.

“It’s a beautiful thing to watch you do that.”

“What?” I asked; I wasn’t sure I had heard her right.

“You and the other Masters, when you use your magic, it’s just beautiful.”

I had forgotten that it was some of the village people who had spoken for my magic potential. “Just what is it that you see?”

“Oh, you know; you probably see it all the time. You do live with them. I used to have such a crush on Master Durmas when I was a girl.”

“What do you see?” I asked again. I didn’t really want to know about her crush.

She looked at me with an odd expression, but I never found out what she would have said next.

“Liam, what’s taking you so long?” called Carm from upstairs.

It was good to hear some of the old gusto in his voice. The last time I had heard his voice, he had resigned himself to die a painful death. I jumped up from the table and ran up the stairs sparing only a quick “thanks Mrs.” before rounding the corner.

Carm was sitting up in bed and Oskan was sitting on a chair next to him, the girl from the stairs was sitting on the bed beside him, and on the other side of the bed sat the old healer woman in another chair.

Healer Danow was old when I was a kid and somehow it looked like that might have been only yesterday. She didn’t look a day older than she did when she set Brom’s finger that first day when the four of us became an inseparable team.

“I have been listening to the most amazing stories,” said Danow. “I’ve been setting bones since I was a teenager, but I’ve never heard of bones being removed or remade or whatever it is you think you did. Now don’t get me wrong, young Master, I’ve seen some pretty amazing magics in my day, but making or unmaking bones just isn’t possible.”

I smiled. “With magic, anything is possible. All that’s necessary is an understanding of how to do it.” She just harrumphed as I turned to Carm. “Are you ready to finish this?”

“I don’t know what you did, but yes, I’ve been stuck in this bed entirely too long.”

“You never did make a very good sick person.” I sank into the magic and refined what I had already accomplished. Satisfied, I opened my eyes. Carm was sleeping again and the girl was tucking the blanket around his shoulders and fluffing the pillow under his head.

Moira was leaning against the doorjamb with a look on her face that reminded me of someone who had just come in out of a blizzard and was relishing the heat of a fire.

I just shook my head and stepped aside to let the women fuss over Carm. “What about Larak? How is he?” I asked Oskan.

“Master Durmas said not to worry about him, he’ll be fine.”

His words said not to worry, but something about the way he said them told me that things weren’t so peachy.

“Come on, let’s go see. I think Carm is in good hands now.”

Oskan got to his feet and rested a hand on my shoulder. I had a moment to notice the grim expression on his face and then we were back at the cave in the chamber of the globe.



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