Friday, May 27, 2011

Chapter 70 - WAKING

The trip must have gone without a hitch because the next thing I knew I was waking and I felt like I had arrived home at last. I don’t know what it was; perhaps the planet has its own resonance.

“Liam, can you hear me?”

Her voice was there. She had come with me. I was relieved.

“Liam,” said another voice I hadn’t expected to hear. The emperor had come too. What was he doing here? Did he find his wife? I sat up and looked to see who else was here, but all was in darkness. There were no fireflies in my head. There should have been at least two. “Who all is here? Where am I?”

“I’m here too, Liam,” said Haines. “I uh…I had to come back. After I heard what happened to you…because of me…”

“For his crime,” said the emperor, “he will stay here with you for the rest of his life. Actually, his proximity to you is strictly between the two of you.”

“Where am I?” I asked again.

“We are here, Planet 663-457. This is where you wanted to go, isn’t it. It’s what your mother told us,” said Haines.

“I can tell that much, but where are we?”

“Liam, you never had any problem knowing where you are or who is around you,” said Patricia with concern. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. It’s all dark to me. Perhaps my magic has died.” In a way, I hoped that was so. At least I would not be a danger to my friends any longer that way.

I tried to get to my feet, discovering that it was quite difficult. Hands steadied me and guided me to a chair.

“We just disembarked from the ship,” said Haines. “We’re still at the space port. The port authority gave us this room so we could have some privacy to wake you.”

“We need to hire a car. I don’t think I can walk very far.” Then I remembered that the emperor never went anywhere without a contingent of guards. “Actually, we’ll have to hire several cars, won’t we?”

“No, just one,” said the emperor. “By my own law, there will never be another show of military force on the surface of this planet, and I really must obey my own laws. I’ll be returning to Earth as soon as you are ready to depart.”

“The lifts used to come and go about once a week. You’re not going to hang around here for a week, are you?”

“He brought his own ship,” said Haines.

“Oh,” was all I could come up with to say. I felt awkward sitting here. I felt like I was the center of attention and everyone was waiting for me to do something. I pushed myself to my feet and felt hands steady me again. I felt so weak.

“Hold on,” said Patricia. She started to tug at my shirt.

“What are you doing?”

“This is a homecoming,” said the emperor. “You must be properly dressed.”

My shirt came away. It was probably pajamas anyway. I have no idea what I was wearing. When she started pulling at my pants, I had to object.

“Oh, all right then. I’ll turn my back and let Cap…Steven do it,” she said.

“You’re not a captain any more?” I asked, as he helped me shed my pants.

“Not any more,” he replied, as he helped me put on leather pants.

My leathers; they were dressing me in my leathers.

By some signal I didn’t catch, Patricia stepped up and helped me with my shirt while Haines buckled my boots.

“I thought… The blast… These can’t be mine.” The doctor had told me that my leathers had stopped much of the glass. Surely, there hadn’t been much left.

“The emperor had new leathers made,” said Patricia. “They’re not as heavy and the dragon is different, but it’s the best we could do from memory.”

When I stood up again, the emperor came forward. “Here, you might need this.” He reached around me, and with his own hands, he buckled a belt around my hips. “It’s a new belt too.” The weight and feel was so familiar that I didn’t have to ask what it was.

“My lord, why? You know I can never pick up a sword again.”

“I’m hoping that will change now that you are here. When it does, I’ll look forward to your return to my side. There’ll be lieutenant’s bars waiting for you when you get there.”

I couldn’t put into words that I expected to die here. Everyone expected me to pull off another miracle, but I just wanted to find a dark corner to curl up in and die.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chapter 69 - APPROVAL

The doctor came some time later. He found me still huddled in the center of the room, shaking like a leaf. I had finally been able to tap my pent-up magic, but it felt like I had opened the spigot and now I couldn’t close it.

“Liam, are you all right?” asked the doctor. Patricia was at his elbow and I could taste her fear.

“No, I’m not all right. I have to go home. I have to go right now before this happens again. I can’t control it. I can only hope my teachers can.”

“The emperor has already sent his approval. We didn’t think you would be ready to travel for another couple months at the very earliest, but the emperor has ordered it.”

“Hurry.”

“I’ll begin making the arrangements today.”

“Begin by putting me in cryo-sleep until we get there.”

“But, Liam…”

“It’s a must, doctor, an absolute must, and it must be done immediately. No one can afford for this to happen again.”

The two of them picked me up off the floor. On our way out the door, the doctor ordered the guard to bring a portable cryo-pod from the spaceport. It would be a couple hours before they could return. I hope I can last that long.

I needn’t have worried. As soon as we reached the doctor’s office, he pumped me full of drugs. My magic stirred, but didn’t fight it off. Before I fell asleep I asked, “Patricia, please forgive me. Please…” I wanted her to be there when I woke up. I needed her to be there. The drugs kept me from hearing any response.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chapter 68 - RUNNING AWAY

As soon as I felt strong enough to do it, I tried to leave, intending to go home. Patricia was taking me for a walk and I just kept going.

She wasn’t big enough to stop me. I made it almost to the palace doors before she was able to convince the guards to restrain me.

I fought, but I wasn’t strong enough. While I fought, a memory stirred and it was frightening, very frightening. I remembered the big basilisk laying waste to a herd of thoppers, only this time it was different. Instead of thoppers, the basilisk was laying waste to people, these people. I stopped fighting then and allowed them to take me back to my apartment.

Back in my apartment, I spoke to Patricia for the first time. “Patricia, you have to help me. I need to go home.”

“You aren’t strong enough to go anywhere yet. You have only just been released from the hospital.”

“Believe me, Patricia; you don’t want me to get any stronger.” I wish I could explain this to her so she would understand. Perhaps the emperor would understand, but he was miles away. I suppose he was looking for his wife. I could see Haines far away, but I couldn’t tell where he was. I could point, but that wasn’t good enough, and Haines wasn’t dumb enough to stay in one place for long. The doctor, maybe the doctor would understand. I headed for the door again.

“Where are you going,” asked Patricia as she grabbed my arm.

“I need to see the doctor. I need to make someone understand.”

“The doctor was scheduled for surgery this morning. Explain this to me. Come on; sit down here and tell me why you think you have to go home. Where is home anyway?”

What choice did I have? I had to try. “Home is where I got my magic.”

“You’ve learned some magic? Can you show me?” she asked. She was so na├»ve.

“No. That’s just the point. You see I’ve never done well without spending magic pretty much all the time. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been since the explosion, but I do know that it’s been far longer than I’ve been able to go before. I’m spending some magic because I can see after a fashion, but it’s not enough.

“You’re talking about this magic of yours like its some kind of money or something.”

“Its not money but it is energy and it’s all pent up.” Then I had an idea. “Have you ever seen a movie where the family pet gets hurt or frightened so bad that it turns on its family?”

“No, I don’t like those kinds of movies.”

“But you’ve heard of the concept.”

“Not really, but I can imagine, I suppose.”

“Well, that’s what my magic is doing right now.”

“What? Now you’re saying that this magic of yours is like some kind of family pet. Magic is just some clever slight of hand.”

“I knew you wouldn’t understand.” I got up and paced the floor missing a small table that was in my path. “My magic is not slight of hand or clever tricks. It’s real. It’s like breathing for me and I’m not breathing very well. I’m scared, Patricia. I’m dangerous and I’m powerful. I could probably level this entire palace if I tried.”

“You’re kidding.”

I whirled and pinned her against the wall with the one arm I had left. “No I’m not,” and then I felt it stir again. I pushed away and leaned on the couch only to feel it fly apart in large chunks and splinters. “Go!” I yelled, “Get out of here.” Another piece of furniture flew apart and I heard her let out a small squawk and run from the room. I hope she hadn’t been hurt.

Guards arrived a few minutes later, but they didn’t dare enter the room. I was the eye of my own hurricane and I was fighting desperately to contain it within the walls of my apartment. Everything that wasn’t solidly mortared together had splintered or shattered, and was whirling around me as fast as it could go.

Five or ten minutes later, it just stopped and I was left sitting in the middle of heaps of splinters and glass; anything less sturdy had been turned to dust. I didn’t dare move.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chapter 67 - DRIFTING

I drifted on a sea of pain and fever. There were times when I could hear and even understand the doctor’s voice, and sometimes I heard a girl’s voice, I liked her voice; listening to it soothed my soul, but what good was I to her? I’d never see her face; I couldn’t even touch her hair. I never spoke to her.

I must have been able to open the emperor’s door because he came to see me once. He asked where Haines had taken his wife. “Where did they go, Liam?”

All I could muster was a single word. “Safe.” Haines loved her, he would keep her safe, or die trying, but he wouldn’t be able to keep her from the emperor forever, not with the kind of power the emperor could bring to the chase.

“Safe? How can you say they’re safe? Haines has taken Heather and the girls. Where did they go? How did they leave here?”

I didn’t answer the emperor. I didn’t have the answers. I pictured them crowding into the lighter and taking off, but I wasn’t too sure the guards would have let the empress and her daughters leave. Then again, the place would have been in chaos and it would have been easy for Haines to divert the attention of the guards. I turned away and allowed myself to drift as another wave of pain crashed over me.

I’m certain I must have been delirious a good deal of the time, and because of that, I have no idea how much time passed. It had to have been a long time though.

“Liam, we’re going to move you. We’re taking you back to the city, to the palace. My office is better equipped than we are here.”

“The girl comes too,” I said. I wanted her there. I didn’t even know her name.

“The girl? Patricia? Yes, she’s coming too.”

Patricia, her name was Patricia. I must remember that. I’d add her name to my fevered dreams.

The transition was incredibly painful. The tiny vibrations of the lift jangled every raw nerve in my body and there must have been billions. I was raving by the time we reached our destination and the motion stopped. I wished for my magic to work like I had become accustomed to. I wanted it to take away my pain. I would have been happy for only a little cushion. I wanted to go home. I wanted to crawl into a hole there and lick my wounds in peace. I wanted to crawl into some dark corner and die.

In my delirium I must have spoken some of my desires aloud and I must have said it often enough to reach the emperor’s ear at least once. Who knows, he may have been considering it all along.

Finally, my fever broke and my body began to heal, but I still had no energy; then again, it probably wasn’t my energy that was lacking. I had no motivation, no enthusiasm, no appetite, nothing.

If it weren’t for Patricia, who was there every day, almost all day long, I’m not sure I would have done as well as I did. She fed me my meals and insisted that I eat all of it. She got me out of bed and made me walk around to get my strength back. She changed my bandages every day and best of all she talked to me. Somehow, she kept up a cheerful chatter single-handedly. I wasn’t any help since I didn’t contribute anything.

The doctor came in every morning, while my bandages were being changed, to check my progress. He always said I was doing fine, but I knew I wasn’t. My magic was still there. I could see after a fashion. The fireflies still swarmed around me and I recognized many of them, but I had no control. It was probably the same amount of magic that had kept me alive, just enough and no more; I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived the blast or the recovery without it. It felt as if my basilisk was cowering in a dark corner and wouldn’t come out. I wanted to be cowering right along with him. I wanted to go home. I was becoming convinced that I needed to go home very badly.