It only took me a moment to make out the figure lying on the altar beneath the orb, and only a second longer to see the figure sitting on a stool with his head resting on the slab.
I gently shook his shoulder. “Haines, wake up.”
He jumped and looked up at me with bleary eyes that couldn’t penetrate the darkness. His hand found mine and he sighed. “Liam, it’s you. I’m so glad you’ve finally come. Master Oskan brought us here, laid Larak here, told me to watch over him and then left. That was ages ago. I’ve looked for him, but I can’t find him; I don’t know where his quarters are. I swear I’ve looked everywhere. I’m worried about him. I’m worried about both of them.”
I made and lit a small lamp for him and then bent over Larak to examine him. His breathing seemed to be regular, but his skin was clammy. “He’s been like this ever since he’s been here?”
Oskan touched my shoulder. When I looked up at him, he cocked his chin at the globe. I looked at it. It looked the same to me. Then it occurred to me, it was dark. “What does it mean?”
I’d never heard of burnout. “What does that mean?”
“It means he has no more magic,” he said in a voice that echoed his regret.
“Is there nothing that can be done?”
“I’m thinking that Master Durmas tried, and it’s likely that he failed. I’ll go find him and see. Take care of Haines.”
Haines had been here for two days unattended and this place was the home of men of magic; no supplies were stored here, none were necessary. Thinking of him reminded me of when we first returned. He had brought me here to heal after the bomb had come close to killing me. The train of thought reminded me of something my teachers had done. They had cycled magic through my body in hopes of waking the magic that lay cowering within me. It had worked for me. Was this the same thing? Could I do the same thing for Larak? It couldn’t hurt to try. I made Haines a sandwich that would have made my mother proud and explained my intentions while he ate.
“How are you going to do that? You’re only one person.” he asked through mouthfuls. “Why don’t you wait for the others to get back?”
I looked at Larak’s pale face. “I don’t think time is on our side.”
I held my hands up and looked at them. This would be tricky. I couldn’t draw from him; he didn’t have anything to draw from. He couldn’t draw from me, though that would be the best thing. That meant I had to draw from myself through him; that would indeed be tricky.
Larak was a big man, and that slab of rock he was laying on was a big hunk of rock. I was forced to climb up onto it and straddle him in order to reach both hands. I closed my eyes and whispered, “Come on, Larak, help me.”
At first, it was difficult, not unlike learning how to juggle, I suppose, but then I made it something like a rain dance. Instead of making a spinning ball of water, I made the magic spin. It was halting and rough at first, but it felt right. In time, the spin gained momentum, and I fed power into it, and then there was another force melding in with my efforts. I thought I felt a fresh breath of air on my face. It made me aware of the fact that I had become drenched with sweat.
“Come on, Larak. I know you want this. Reach out.”
Almost on command, there was another presence. It was infantile, a down feather caught in a high wind, but it fought to stand in the whirlwind, and then it fed. It was ravenous. Vaguely, I felt pain in my hands, but I ignored it and fed him all he could take until he finally pushed us away.
I almost fell from my perch, but Oskan had ahold of me and he helped me down to the floor.
I felt like I had danced the mother of all rain dances. I was exhausted to the point of passing out and I was giddy and euphoric to the point of hysterics. Between the two emotions, I managed to sit down on the stool Haines had been using when we arrived and just grin like an idiot while trying to keep from going cross-eyed. The globe overhead glowed with a healthy green glow, and by its light, we could see that Larak’s sleep was much more normal.
Oskan knelt in front of me. “Liam, you must heal your hands before this wears off.”
I looked down. My hands were bruised, bloody and crooked, and there was blood on the one hand of Larak’s that I could see. I chuckled a bit. He had crushed my hands.
With some coaching and encouragement from Oskan, I managed to put my hands back together before they started to hurt. The effort helped me come back to normal and I realized that Durmas wasn’t here. “Where’s Master Durmas? You found him, didn’t you?”
His expression was grim. “I found him. He’s dying. He wants to see you.”
“Dying.” It didn’t seem possible. He had always been so strong, so powerful, so confident. How could he be dying? “Take me to him.” I never knew where his room was.