Friday, April 20, 2012
My father woke me up early one morning and dropped a pack on the foot of my bed. “Come on, son. It’s time I took you to meet the Masters.”
I dressed hurriedly and scooped up the meat pie mother had laid out for me. Father was already putting on his coat. I looked at my two sisters. They watched me with their big blue eyes. I was only twelve, but they were younger. Harvest was over, so I wouldn’t be missed too much during the winter, but what if I ended up being gone much longer? “Father, you need me.”
“We’ll get by,” he said. He had made up his mind and I didn’t push it.
It took us three days to reach the cave of the Masters. Father collected an armload of dry sticks before entering the dark mouth of the cave.
We built a small fire in a ring of stones we found just inside, but we weren’t to have much rest. They appeared at the edge of our firelight almost before it was going good.
Two of them were pretty much what I expected, older men with generous amounts of gray in their hair, but the third one was quite surprising. He was only a few inches taller than I was and really quite delicate by comparison. I’m sure if we were to compare hands, mine would be twice as thick as his. He had to be an off-worlder. Father had told me and my sisters many stories about the family that had lived in the village where he had grown up.
I was just wondering where he could have gotten that surprising shock of red hair when my father stepped up behind me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders.
The red-haired little man stepped through the fire as if it didn’t exist. He had his hand out as if he were going to pull my father’s arms away. I didn’t expect what happened next and I tried to back away, but my father was a solid wall at my back.
A heavy stone knife materialized in the little man’s hand and he slid it into my chest, into my heart. The horrendous burning stab of fire robbed me of breath to cry out and I clung to my father’s arms for support.
The little man stepped aside and looked behind him at an orb that had just lit up as if someone had touched it with a torch. In its fire, I saw that the stone hilt protruding from my chest glowed with the same fire, and then I didn’t know anything else.
I felt myself sag and I felt my father take my weight. Other hands picked me up and I felt them lay me out on cold stone.
Friday, April 13, 2012
I woke again and gazed up at the glowing blue orb suspended over my resting place. I was beginning to hate that orb. Why wouldn’t they just let me die? I heard a stirring at my side and closed my eyes again.
“Come and have something to eat, Steven. He’ll wake up soon enough.”
I listened to the retreating footsteps until they were out of hearing and then I left. Once again, I didn’t have a destination; I just flung myself out across the surface of the planet. From there I began my search. It was early fall. The basilisks would be aggressive as they search for enough food to sustain their bulk through the winter when hunting was hardest.
I wanted a big one and I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found the biggest one on the planet.
It took me four and a half days to find one I considered big enough. I didn’t sleep or eat. I hadn’t drawn energy either. I did nothing to sustain myself. Only my determination kept me on my feet. Then, there it was. It would have put a semi-truck to shame with its size, and it was only a single rise away from a herd of baston.
I put myself on that rise. Behind me, the baston ran off at my appearance. The basilisk was hungry; they are always hungry. I just stood there and watched the monster come.
Suddenly there was a lithe figure standing in front of me, between me and my goal.
She turned around and faced me. “I won’t let you do this.”
It was Patricia standing there. The basilisk was going to be on her in seconds. I teleported forward and scooped her out of danger. “I have to do this. Stay back,” I told her as I set her down out of harm’s way.
I turned back to the basilisk, but she snagged my arm. “I won’t let you.”
I teleported away from her grip and back to the fangs I was seeking to impale myself upon. She was there in front of me again. This time she was only inches away from that gaping, fang-filled mouth.
Once again, I pulled her out of harm’s way. She clung to me. Her gentle voice directed my magic the way she used to so long ago and I couldn’t help but obey her. She took us away from the basilisk, and when we had left it far behind, she shook my shoulders before holding my face in her soft hands. “You can’t kill yourself. Your magic won’t let you and neither will I. Come on, dance with me. Dance a water dance.”
She began to sway and turn a hypnotic rhythm around me. I could only follow her. She spread her arms as I did and a few drops of rain hit my face. She spun faster and I had to do likewise.
I was just finishing when the others found me. I opened my eyes and reached for my wife only to see that my beautiful Patricia was no longer dancing with me. I sank to the ground sobbing; my arms were so empty. Steven knelt beside me and pulled me into a hug. When I had cried myself out, he helped me to my feet. “Let’s go back now.”
I nodded and Oskan took us back to the cave. I paused briefly by the orb and drew my fill, then I went to my room, closing off my chambers behind me. I woke early in the morning of the second day and went out to the table where I fixed myself a meal. I put a big chair in the corner and curled up in it to think, remembering that my Patricia had sat in another one just like it – once upon a time.
Friday, April 6, 2012
It was almost a month before I woke again. I reached up and felt the scar across my eye. I could tell that the bruising had healed and the stitches had been removed long ago.
“Well, so the sleeper finally wakes. How do you feel?”
I looked at the woman who stood over me now and searched for an answer to her question while she took my pulse. “All right, I guess. How long have I been sleeping? What happened to my face?”
“You’ve been sleeping for twenty-three days now, and you took forty-two stitches in your face when you fell. Don’t worry; there won’t be much of a scar. You just lie still now and I’ll go tell the doctor you’re awake.”
I lay there and stared at the ceiling. I thought about the thing I had done. It had been mindless and uncalled for. I wondered how many of them had died simply because they had shot at the most dangerous thing in the room.
The doctor came in then and saw my serious expression. He rested a comforting hand on my arm. “The emperor and his family are fine. Captain Wilson is fine too, all because of you. You did a very brave thing.”
I harrumphed. “I laid waste to an entire company of Imperial High Guard. There was nothing brave about it.”
“But if it weren’t for you, our beloved emperor could well be dead now,” said the doctor.
I threw the covers aside and sat up on the edge of the bed. “The emperor was protected. I didn’t have to do what I did. I’ve become too dangerous.” I dressed myself and left the room slinging my sword belt around my waist. I had no destination in mind, but my feet kept leading me upward.
Eventually, I stepped out onto the roof where the emperor kept his private lighter. Rain pounded down and I turned my face up to it.
Brian caught up to me before I reached the door to the control room. “Where are you going?”
“Nowhere, this place will do.” I opened the door. “Move the lighter to another landing field and take everyone with you,” I said to the crew inside.
To their credit, they looked to their captain for confirmation. Brian took one look at my face and waved them ahead.
I moved to the middle of the rooftop while the men scrambled into the lighter and took off. There were only enough seats for two men. The other three had to crowd in between the seats and the engine. Brian had followed me. “Go back down stairs, Brian. You can’t afford to be here right now.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Just go, Brian.”
I didn’t move until I saw him close the door behind him, then I drew my sword and began to dance. This dance was different from any other I had ever done. Never before had I been filled with such fatalism. This wasn’t a water dance. It was something much deadlier.
I didn’t know that Brian still watched and he didn’t realize the danger until it was far too late. I was not drawing on my Water Magic, I was drawing on the lightning above the storm and I was drawing with all of my might.
Connor took my charred body back to my mother. They all thought I was dead; I certainly should have been, but my father couldn’t resist opening the coffin. I was still charred, but he saw a slow but distinct pulse in my throat.
They took me to the house infirmary where I was hooked up to multiple IVs and my burns were dressed. My father called Haines to ask what to do; he had been there for my last hard recovery and this one could be so much worse. Of course, his advice was to bring me back the fastest way they could.
The first time I woke up, we were still underway, but I was in so much pain that I could barely identify my surroundings. All I knew was that I had failed. Pain tells you of life and I had sought death. I tried again, but obviously, I didn’t succeed that time either.
I’m told it took the crew four days to make the necessary repairs and then the rest of the trip went without a problem since I wasn’t aware enough to do any more damage.