By dabeagle - Chapter 6
Our mouths hung open as we stared at William, who sputtered and made small groans of displeasure. He tried to sit up and flinched as if in pain, so I placed a steadying hand behind him to support him, wishing I could do more. I studied his trembling form. He appeared to be very cold the way he shivered. I cast and drew the water molecules under him for comfort, and I reached out tentatively and grasped his hand. It was indeed cold. How could I solve this? He needed warmth, yet we had no blankets and I couldn't make fire, and even if I could I would be too afraid that I would burn him. The thought of sharing body heat crossed my mind, but I decided I needed to be practical for the time being.
I know about molecules and such, even if I didn't particularly like science class, so I decided to try adjusting the spell to see if I could force the water to heat. I stared at the spell and began to make minor adjustments to it, moving the pattern in small ways. Water seeped from one end of the mattress and I reversed my change, sealing the leak. Again I adjusted the spell and concentrated on moving the water inside the mattress. I placed my hand on the water and found that the temperature was rising slightly and went back to staring at the spell configuration. I saw that by adding the air and water together in a particular balance gave you options, such as moving them on a small scale which caused them to behave as if they were in a pot or something so that the water heated by racing the molecules about. The trick was turning it on and off to keep the water from getting too hot, so it didn't look like it could be left unattended.
Satisfied that he would not freeze I stood, knees popping, and knuckled my back, which was now sore. I rolled my neck and only then realized that I was being stared at.
"What?" I asked.
"The spell, you changed it a way I have never seen. It was difficult to see at best due to my weakness with water, but still it could be seen. You moved the temperature of the water but I don't understand how it was done. Please," he said gesturing as he made a small water globule, "How did you do it?"
"I cry your pardon, but has anyone noticed that William made noise? There were sounds coming from his mouth!" Roland interjected.
"Yes, it was startling to say the least," Asmodean said, intent on the water globule.
"Doesn't that interest you?" Roland asked.
"Not really, I have seen it before," Asmodean said dismissively.
"Well, could you please explain it to me?" Roland said with a touch of exasperation in his voice.
Asmodean seemed to struggle to pull himself away from the water, however he did so and gave Roland his attention. It was obviously hard for him to delay learning a new skill.
"As you know related strengths cure one another best, fire to fire and so forth and so on. However, when that is coupled with other items, the effect can be magnified. Sometimes to the point of curing things that were not intended to be cured, in this case the repair of William's vocal cords. I daresay they shall be tender for a few hours, but soon we shall hear his sweet voice again, and once again he will be the warrior prince," Asmodean said in a lecturing tone. He turned to face me, "Continue, please."
"Wait, what other items did you refer to?" Roland asked. Asmodean looked back at him well and truly irritated.
"Love, dense child. For one so destined for power and possessing such intelligence, I often wonder if a goat could be placed in your stead, Prince Regent," Asmodean said, now his voice showing agitation.
"Love? What has love to do with it?" Roland spluttered.
Asmodean levitated onto a cushion of air about three feet off the ground, and began to lecture once more, the water globule forgotten for the moment, apparently. I sat quietly and listened.
"Love is the oddest of human emotions. Some are predictable; anger and sadness come to mind as examples. One can predict what might cause these emotions to occur, and therefore some form of logic may be applied to them. Love, on the other hand, is very unpredictable and springs forth only when it chooses and no other. Quite often the one in love has no control of the emotion.
"Love acts as a magnifier for magic, or the physical state the emotion places the person so affected, or afflicted as the case may be. In this case, wounds that had healed in their own natural fashion were undone and the skin re-sewn as if they had never existed, and that only happens when the emotion, the love flows solidly both ways.
"When it is all one way, or mostly so, the power is increased from one end or the other. Just think, Roland, if you did not guard your heart so well your own scars from training would be gone, small scars from childhood would be no more than a memory," he finished with a flourish leaving a reddening Roland and the rest of us to contemplate the obvious meaning. Asmodean turned back to the globule again and nodded at me to proceed. I was a little shaken, all but William knew of my feelings, although he surely would upon waking thoroughly, and I have to say not having people freaking about it was weird to me. Kinda cool, but weird as well. Besides they all seemed to be focused on Roland, at least Kody was.
"Don't stare at me so!" Roland cried out, "I have responsibilities! I cannot fall in love with you, no matter how much I may wish to let that happen," he said turning and beginning to pace the room.
"A king must have a successor, must have a child to ascend the throne, one of royal blood," he recited as he walked, "And besides that it is dangerous to be so closely associated with a future king, very dangerous to ones health, don't you see that?" he said as he came to a stop and spread his arms imploringly to Kody.
"I think I can make my own decisions about what happens with my life," Kody said clearly, "Too bad you are too frightened to make those decisions for yourself."
"Me? Frightened? The very idea! You go to far!" Roland spluttered some more and actually took a swing at Kody, which he dodged and then they tumbled to the floor. They twisted back and forth and seemed evenly matched until Kody seemed to simply stop, and then Roland gained advantage although he was assuredly stronger anyway. He drew back his hand as if to strike Kody and Kody lay limp, allowing Roland to do as he would. We waited with baited breath for the Prince Regent to make his decision.
"I can't love you," he whispered, a silent plea. "The things I must do, the responsibilities that I must carry out, they are a heavy burden. I cannot."
"Cannot or will not, Prince?" Kody asked softly. Roland stood and looked down on the prone figure on the floor at his feet.
"What is the difference?" he moaned.
"The difference, my lord, is what your heart says, not your mind," Kody replied softly.
"I cannot," he mumbled, "It cannot, must not be done. Too much danger," he mumbled as he walked away from a forlorn Kody. "I alone bear what must be done, I cannot be responsible for entangling any others," he said sitting heavily on the ground next to William and stroking his fine hair.
"Already it has nearly cost me my dearest William, who is now squarely in harms way again, it would seem," he said softly.
Asmodean stood from his pillow and walked to the portal, the twin silver pylons gleamed with a mellow light and with an expectant air. He hesitated for a moment and then turned to face us as one. Kody looked at me heart achingly, no doubt searching for help.
"A king is a large person, he must take care that he does not sit in the wrong place and squash his subjects." Roland continued to look down at William but he was nodding his head.
"A king, however, does not rule alone. A king needs someone as much as, nay, more than other men. For a king's load is so great that he may have need of assistance to carry that load," he eyed Roland who looked at him with haunted eyes.
"Even a king deserves love, Prince Regent," he murmured before slowly turning and murmuring a spell so guttural that seemed to hang in the air like a physical force.
The twin silver rods gleaming, gaining a light of their own until a gateway opened between this portal and another room, one that looked very much like the room they had left in the future. Asmodean came back to where the fallen William lay and formed air to lift and carry him through the portal, and we were obliged to follow.
Roland kept sneaking looks at Kody, and when Kody caught him at it he'd blush and turn away. It was very cute, and interesting to see Kody being the aggressor. Such a change had come over him! Now what would I do with William when he woke? And what would he say with his newfound ability to speak again? Things were getting interesting, but there was also the concern brooding on the horizon of Roland's father storming the Keep, and of the war that would ensue.
After passing through the portal, it shimmered then winked out of existence. William was comfortable on a bed of air and Roland was sitting cross-legged over his brother, the warrior prince. Kody had settled for a spot in the corner of the gilded room, tucking himself neatly away to rest. Asmodean beckoned me to the other side of the room and I walked to him with a question mark on my face.
"Teach," he said, forming the water globule again. I tried to concentrate on the water, but thoughts of William kept intruding on me, that and Asmodean's words. Love? Is that what I felt for him, this desire to be around him and to wash away his pains? Perhaps. Then maybe it was only infatuation, as the old song went. But he said for the healing to have gone so well, William must love me in return.
"You are distracted." Asmodean said, statement more than question. I looked at him and saw that the globule between us had formed a heart. My cheeks reddened and the water dissipated.
"You have questions," he stated as he resumed his comfortable cushion of air, cross-legged, and appeared to wait for me to ask.
"Well, what you said about William...Is it true? Does he...Could it be?" I asked, unable to give voice to the thought lest I be laughed at or have it's magical quality diluted by the merest of mentions.
"I do believe that is the case. Matters of the heart make it difficult to concentrate, and I would be sure in saying you are definitely afflicted," he said wryly as he eyed me. I felt my cheeks growing hot.
"I don't know how to name the emotion I have, Asmodean." I looked at him in the eye, "It frightens me a good deal. But I was also questioning whether he could possibly... maybe feel the same way?"
"Then it is indeed love, for nothing can be more frightening than losing one's heart to another. Surely nothing, to a man, is more difficult than giving over to something he cannot control no matter how he twists, squirms or protests. Love is what it is, when it is and how it pleases itself to be. No more, no less," he said smirking maddeningly.
"But I don't want to be in love, Asmodean. I'm frightened of all that is yet to come, this fighting, this taking of lives." I looked up from my feet into his piercing eyes.. " I am not sure I can do it again.
"Ending a life is like dismembering a universe, throwing away all that person was, their hopes and aspirations. The people that loved them will never have access to whatever it was that made that person loveable to them. The future of a man cut short, for war? For what? Why is this fight happening?" I asked with an edge of desperation in my voice.
"The answer is not difficult. Power. Orund desires it, has more than his brother, but lusts to have more, to crush him utterly. King Corvan, while no saint his mother will tell you, is a good man. His vision is to unite the warring states with one another, eventually driving out the madman who rules to the south. He'd rather have Orund at his side, but the brothers are dissimilar in so many ways." Asmodean sighed, "One would marvel that they did spring forth from the same woman."
"I still don't think I could do it again, the...the smell and the screams. It's an awful business," I said.
"That is very true, killing a man is almost never an easy thing to do. Sometimes our hand is tipped and we have no choice. For example, William will kill quite efficiently; it is his role in the war and as his brother's protector. The Warrior Prince leads the troops, he learns from the masters of strategy and combat, and he has proven himself quite powerful on the field of battle.
"You had best come to terms that men fight, and when they enter the field of battle they know they may give their life, that the fields will run red for days from the combat. But mark this well!" He hissed, "When there, they are trying to do that to you because they believe they are right and if you don't cow-tow to their beliefs then you must die. So speak not of the difficulties that will be asked of you, think instead that if you fail to act your William may lose more than his voice, for surely he will want you at his side. You must not fail him!" he stated with a terrible finality. "Besides, it's hardly torturing someone, in deference to you, try to make it swift and with as little discomfort as you can manage."
"Oh, sure, kill them on a battle field to protect someone I am in love with that is putting himself out there to unite people that don't want to be together? Do I have any choices?" I asked harshly.
"Of course," Asmodean said, and I saw the Air spell being cast and felt it tighten on my throat, "There are always choices to be made." I glared malevolently as my throat worked to breathe, and finally I was reaching stupidly for the air as if I could stop this slow death. Black spots danced before my eyes and a shuffling could be dimly heard. My oxygen-starved mind giddily examined the noise and tried to place it, missing half it's wits of course.
"Asmodean." Came a raspy voice, "Break the spell." And I felt the air rush into my lungs and I dropped to the ground coughing and drawing ragged breaths of air. Kody was by my side. I felt his hands as he tried to steady me and I heard his anger, his never before heard anger.
"You bastard! He's my friend, he helped you! He...you son of a bitch!" Kody screamed and I felt the strength of his cast, although I didn't know what it was. I looked up to see a solid line of flame leaping from his hands and at Asmodean, as thick around as a tree trunk and so hot I could feel its intensity from here. I watched as Asmodean blocked with a wedge of air at the last possible instant and then Kody slumped bonelessly next to me, a grim Roland behind him.
"Bastards." I intoned before the black spots before my eyes claimed me.
"He's coming around, easy now. Give him a bit of room."
I felt myself returning to consciousness, and it hurt. My throat was scratchy and sore, the muscles in my neck were sore and it felt as though a clamp were on them, much like the air that had so nearly strangled me. I slowly began to open my eyes, a dim light filtering in that was still too bright. I squinted and tried to swallow which sent my throat into open rebellion and me into a coughing fit. God that hurt! My throat surged and felt raw as if sand paper were tearing at the tender walls. I tried to sit up and felt a restraining hand and then heat on my chest that instantly moved into my throat. My eyes flew wide as I saw William standing over me, rainbow hues flowing into my chest and his benign smile floating above me. I could barely enjoy the sight as my throat convulsed, the healing light from William combating the damage to my throat.
My throat began to loosen and my coughing fit passed allowing me to swallow, if scratchily, and my breathing began to slow, making wheezing sounds until it gradually calmed to that of normal breathing. The hues danced before my eyes and sparkled in their individual brilliance, showering me with gentle warmth. I felt as if I were coated and glowing with this bright, healing light that washed me clean.
Slowly the light began to fade from my vision, the sweet warmth began to fade from my body and I felt a new, oily feeling boiling up from my throat and then I was coughing out black smoke, belching these awful plumes of dark smoke which I rationally knew were the hurt that had been driven from my body, but the mindless panic that arose from seeing it flowing from me was uncontrollable. I felt warm hands on me, comforting hands.
I stopped coughing and slowly opened my eyes again to see Kody leaning over me, looking at me upside down from behind where I lay. William looked at me pensively with guarded hope on his face. I looked back at Kody.
"Are you ok?" I mumbled, some soreness remaining. He nodded, a smile crossing his face.
"I was kind of pissed," he said.
"Never knew you cared," I said, or grunted more like.
"You're my best friend ... my only friend, Aaron. I'd do anything for you," he said with a most painfully serious expression, making a small face. "I'm sorry I never said it before," he began as he came around to the opposite side of me that William was on. "This place has brought me closer to death, closer to realizing how much I need to say things, before it's too late," he said with a murmur of regret. I felt my cheeks reddening at his admission and then felt William grasp my hand from his side of me.
"Now that I can speak again, thanks to you, I shall speak what is in my heart as well," he said. But to say that he just said it is to do him a disservice, it was not merely musical, but like sweet waves washing over you, sounds with nuances and ripples that did not register in most voices. It was peaceful, idyllic and yet full of hidden strength and power. The only thing I can think of to compare it to is lying on the waters edge, feeling the soft embrace of the tide and the hidden power it held were it to climb too high and deprive you of oxygen. If only he could be separated from Roland and Asmodean.
I sat up like lightning had singed me and began looking wildly about for Roland and the wizard. Kody placed a restraining hand on my shoulder, but I was not to be deterred. I was off the table and between Kody and William scanning the room for the other two in a panic.
"Aaron, they aren't here. It's ok," Kody said while holding me gently from behind. "They are out scouting around, trying to find a way to reach Roland's father."
"Why? So we can be captive there rather than here? All they care a bout is conquest, destruction! And if you don't see it their way they'll destroy you too, don't you see that? I said to Kody, but I kept an eye on William, oh yes because he was one of them. He was on their side, and I knew that now.
"Please, it's not what you think Aaron, please," William said quietly, showing me his empty palms, but I knew he could do much more without the use of his hands and I didn't give an inch. "Just talk to me, let me explain," he said soothingly.
"Oh sure, Asmodean nearly strangles me, Roland pops my friend in the back of the head and it's all supposed to be easy, explained away? FUCK YOU! I understand real clearly, you guys just want us as weapons, nothing more. Well I won't do it! You hear me? I refuse to kill people for you!" I broke down then, seeing the screaming guards, smelling the burning flesh in my minds eye and sank to my knees.
"I won't kill for you." I whispered.
"But I will kill for you," William said as he knelt in front of me. " I know you love me, you loved me with my flaw, with my failure fresh and didn't care, and I shall never forget that for I love you as well, and I want you with me always, Aaron, always," he said, kneeling in front of me and taking my hand in his. He lifted it to his cheek and gently moved the back of his hand across his cheek and I raised my heavy eyes and heavier heart as I realized in my heart of hearts that I would follow him wherever he lead me.
I could only pray I could withstand the nightmares.