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.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Chapter 95 - DANCE OF LIFE

I wedged my eyes open and saw Larak lying on the grass in a heap. Durmas and Oskan were pulling him into a prone position.

“Is he alive?” Those were the hardest words I think I have ever uttered. My stomach wasn’t the only thing hurting. I’m not even sure I hurt this much after I took the full blast of that bomb.

A voice spoke urgently in my ear, but the effort it took to figure out who was talking confused the meaning of the words. “Shake it off. Shake it off; don’t let yourself linger like this. Talk to him. Pull him out of this.”

Then I heard Patricia’s voice, her patient voice, the voice that had pulled me through so many dark days. I took a deep breath, and then I took another. I struggled to pull myself upright. My whole body shuddered and swayed, but her strong arms were around me. I looked into her cherished face. She was saying something; what was she saying?

“Look at me, Liam. Take deep breaths.”

Numbly I did as she said. I felt so thirsty. I brought my hand up into my range of view and filled it with a ball of water.

“Yes,” she whispered and I felt her draw away.

I felt so alone without her arms around me, but I needed to dance. I needed a water dance so badly just now; at least a small one. I could handle a small one.

My dance scarcely equaled the word. It was little more than me turning slowly in the middle of a magical fountain that I soaked up hungrily. I’m sure everyone around me got drenched, but I just couldn’t spare the energy to do anything but turn. Other things were happening too, but I didn’t really care, it felt too good to care just now.

When I finished, all too soon, believe me. I opened my eyes and found Patricia. She was standing a few feet away with Lloyd Hanley and Oskan; all of them were dripping but they were smiling too.

Larak and Durmas were nowhere in sight. I brushed water from my face and hair, allowing the rest of me to drip. “Where’s Larak and Durmas? Is Larak alive?”

Oskan smiled and hit me on the shoulder almost sending me from my not-to-steady feet. “Yes, he lives. Master Durmas has taken him and Haines back to the cave. I’m sure he will sleep for some time. Come on; let’s go back to Carm. You should sleep too.”

Sleep sounded so good. I reached for Patricia’s hand but Lloyd’s hand came to rest on her shoulder. “It’s not time for that yet.”

I know I was tired, and I know that I can be a bit grouchy when I’m tired. There must have been something in my face because Oskan stepped between us. “It’s our way, Liam,” he said with a look that told me he was trying to maintain peace. “You must have patience.”

I’m sure I growled, but I turned on my heels and headed back to Carm. I just wish Patricia was at my side instead of Oskan. Hotly, I promised myself that if I ever got her away from that family, I would leave this place and never come back. These old-fashioned ways didn’t affect me much when I was a kid, but this was ridiculous.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chapter 94 - LARAK

Haines stood there. He had been telling Durmas something, and from the look on their faces, it was something very serious. They both looked at me when I rose from beside the sleeping Carm.

When they said nothing, I asked, “What’s wrong? Where’s Patricia? She’s all right, isn’t she? You were supposed to get her out of town immediately; not wait for the last minute. If something has happened to her…”

“Calm down, Liam,” said Haines. “She’s fine. She’s with Larak. We found him shortly after we left the house the first time so we went back to tell Durmas, but what’s-his-name showed up, so we had to leave again; we didn’t get the chance to tell anyone. After the battle, I came back to find you, but you weren’t there any more. I had a heck of a time finding you.”

My mind was still operating a little slow. “You found Larak? Where is he? Is he all right?”

“No Liam, he’s far from all right. He’s been imbedded into a tree not far from the edge of town. He’s barely alive. It’s the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen,” said Haines.

My mind reeled. Who could have magic powerful enough to override the most basic instinct of physical isolationism? The few times the subject came up, Larak had always said I was stronger than he was, but I’m not sure I was strong enough to do such a thing to another magical creature. Then again, it would take something like this to give me the idea. I shuddered and goose bumps ran up my spine and made the hair on my neck stand up. “Where is he? Show me?”

“Liam, you’re exhausted; there’s nothing you can do,” said Haines.

I waved a hand at Carm. “I know more about anatomy than any other person on this planet. Don’t tell me there’s nothing I can do. I have to try.”

“What about him?” asked Durmas, speaking softly of Carm. Indicating without saying it that I might have to choose.

I looked at him. He looked much more tired than I felt, then I looked at the sleeping form of Carm. He looked infinitely better than when I first found him at the inn. “He’ll be fine for a while. I’m not done with him, but I’m done enough for now. Let’s go.” I refused to choose.

The farmer’s wife came up to me with a large package wrapped in waxed paper. “Eat this. You must be hungry.”

She faded shyly back behind her husband as I opened the package. It was a meat pie. My stomach wouldn’t let me refuse the offer. It barely allowed me to utter my heart-felt thanks before I dug in.

My mouth being inadequate to the demands of my stomach, I headed out the door nodding for Haines to follow me. Durmas and Oskan followed a few seconds later; they also each had a meat pie or maybe it was their second.

On the other side of town, a few trees into the edge of a forest, I saw Patricia and Lloyd Hanley. Mrs. Hanley was not in sight, but when I saw Larak, I could imagine Lloyd sending her away to spare her the sight.

Before I saw the man, I saw his hand protruding from the tree we were approaching. It was strangely lit by the dawn sunlight and I could see that it was all black and blue, but it still loosely gripped the bent bow whose tips were also imbedded in the same tree.

Rounding the tree, I saw Larak’s head where it sagged against the other side of the tree. I had to look again before I could identify exactly what I was seeing. Apparently, he had been aiming his bow at some target in or near the town and someone had simply moved him over into this tree.

I reached up to touch his face. It looked for all the world like he was dead; he just hung there. His left arm and shoulder, half of his left ribcage, his left hip and all of his left leg were out of sight in the tree.

He slowly raised his head and looked at me. His face was covered with sweat and his eyes were bloodshot. I could tell he was having a lot of trouble breathing and his circulation had to be all screwed up.

“I knew you would be able to beat him,” he whispered. “I’m glad I lived long enough to see it. I wish I could have seen it.”

“Don’t waste your breath,” I said. “Let me see what I can do.”

“You can’t do anything. I’m a dead man.”

“Shut up,” I said. I reached up and wrapped my fingers around his neck. “Help me.”

“I can’t.” He laid his cheek against the tree and closed his eyes. A drop of blood fell from the corner of his mouth.

“Yes you can. Just think about it,” I insisted. I don’t know if he did, but that’s what I did; I let all the memories I had of him flip through my mind like a slide show, sparring with him, hunting with him, a kaleidoscope of our training exercises, anything I could think of where he was involved. Then, with a gut-wrenching jerk that threatened my newly eaten meal and dropped me to my knees, I made it happen. Something heavy dropped nearby.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chapter 93 - BONES

The sight of my shaking hands brought memories of Carm and his swollen limbs to my numb mind. I had promised to fix things as soon as this was all over. I cleaned and sheathed my blades and then pushed myself to my feet to stagger in that direction. I intended to keep that promise.

Oskan caught my arm. “Liam, slow down. You should rest. It’s over.”

I pulled away from him and kept going. I had yet to spend as much magic as when I had fought the fire, but it was far more than I had done for a while. I couldn’t allow myself to let Carm down when he needed me. I had been too late for Tsan and I had yet to see Larak, but I knew where Carm was and that’s were I was headed.

With Oskan and Durmas flanking me, I wove my way to the farmhouse where I had (hopefully) sent Carm. It seemed to be farther away than I remembered, but I made it there eventually.



The people at the house had made Carm as comfortable as they could without moving him more than they had to. They had pulled the rug he had appeared on closer to the fireplace and built up the fire on the hearth. They also cushioned him with many pillows and blankets.

“He just appeared here,” said a middle-aged woman from behind her husband’s shoulder. “I didn’t know what else to do for him.”

I dropped to my knees beside him. “You did good.” I touched Carm’s forehead. He was still fevered. He sighed and shifted slightly, but didn’t wake.

I closed my eyes and sought the memories of my lessons with the doctor over Colin. The situation and the person were very different but the information would still be useful.

“Do you have a baston here?” I asked.

“Yes I do, out in the barn, but why,” said the man.

“Kill it, bleed it and hang it. Do it now,” I said. “And have another ready. One should be enough but just in case…”

“I don’t understand.” the man began to protest, but Durmas gave him a nod and he went to do as he was asked.

By the time he came back into the house and handed his wife the bloody knife, I had regained some of my energy.

I let the magic flow. I used the farmer as an example and began to recreate Carm’s bones. At first Carm tried to struggle. He moaned in pain and his struggles caused even more pain.

I had to squelch his movements, so I essentially paralyzed him, then I dampened the pain; unfortunately, there was no way to take all of the pain away. Fortunately, just like before, he soon fell into a deep sleep.

Some time later – it could have been hours – there was a quiet commotion behind me. Someone had entered the house without the customary formalities and the ensuing excitement was quickly hushed so as not to disturb my concentration.

Much of Carm’s bones had been reconstructed though there was still a good deal of refining left to do. I pulled away for a brief break to see what all the excitement was.