Book II - Chapter 57

Chapter 57

 

[Dren]

 

"You are truly blessed, Dren Kaldrake. Though, from the look on your face, I suppose you must disagree with me."

"If I were blessed, I wouldn't be here."

"Ah... so the Priests have told me. Even after all these years, I remember that feeling.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“No, but perhaps you will, in time. My child, all of us here have been through what you are now experiencing. That turbulent place and time, sent from home and placed in the confines of this golden cage. It is often cruel, but such is the way for unwanted sons."

"I'm not unwanted."

"A fifth son is that of God, young Dren. You've heard this, I'm sure. By Church, or by trade, or by rope slipped about his neck. Never do I claim your family holds no love for you, but you cannot go back. Not any time soon."

"I can, and I will."

"I forget myself. You are still young, however gifted as you happen to be, and there are still things you've yet to learn. The ways of the noble houses are not always so kind."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I know all who reside within these walls, young Kaldrake. I know the homes which they hail, the people who have brought them to my doorstep. I know, for I must, that not counting yourself, there are four heirs to your father’s title."

"So, what?"

"It is mercy that brings you here, Dren. Do not mistake it: the house in which you lived, may see blood in the coming years. Of this, I have little doubt."

"My brothers would never harm me."

"No? Perhaps, not as you are now, but the years will pass. There will come a time when you are no longer a child. When you are no longer exempt from the games of men."

"They wouldn't."

"Not even if they fear you? My boy, I do not pass praise lightly, but hear me now: you are gifted. Talented, beyond any other I've taught here in the Monastery, and that is no short measure of time."

"I don't care. I hate it here."

"Hate it all you like, child. I'd rather have your ire, than see you dead. Hear me: you cannot return. Not for many years, and never truly, even then."

"I don't care. I don’t want to become a Priest."

"Ah, so quick to pass judgement. Perhaps, then, you are more fit to be an Inquisitor?"

"NO! Not ever! I'll never be like them."

"HA! Ha- Oh, for someone so young, I must say, you have quite the spine."

"I won't."

"Fine, then. If not a Priest, if not an Inquisitor, tell me: what will you become? If you'd like to live, returning home is not an option. So, what does that leave you?"

"I'll find a way. I’ll do something else."

"Will you? This land... it is not so kind to a lost noble child, my boy. Tell me, where will you go?"

"If I can't go home, I'll give up my name, and become an Adventurer."

"Oh, young Kaldrake… good lord, I've seen many come to find refuge here over the years. Some fearful, some angry- as you, but I've never met someone so talented who was willing to throw it all away."

"I'm not talented."

"No?"

"It's just that what you teach is easy."

"Dren, my child, what I teach would normally take decades. Yet, you who has only been here for a single year... I’ve been told you’re able to mend wounds that should take an entire congregation.”

“Because it’s simple.”

“Simple? First King help us, it is far from simple. You have a gift, Dren. Please, don’t idly reject your calling."

"It's not my calling! I wouldn't be here if I had the choice!"

"In life, it has been said that we always have a choice. There are times, though, when we must admit the choice has already been decided."

"I don't care what they say. I want to go home."

"Home... home. If by some chance, you managed to return... yes. Let us imagine: if by some twist of fate, you found yourself home, on this very night, do you know what might happen to you?"

"If I did, my father would-"

"Quietly welcome you into his arms? Nay, he would send you away again. Back here, or somewhere else. It matters little."

"He wouldn't."

"He already has, Dren Kaldrake. Were you not so stubborn as to realize this, you'd understand it was either this, or providing the small mercy of killing you himself."

"You lie."

"I do no such thing."

"You lie!"

"Much like a mule that’s been twisted in rope, kicking at any who approach it."

"I've learned the stupid chants, I've learned the techniques! I've learned everything they wanted me to know, now send me back home!"

"Why… why in Light's name, would I do that?"

"She told me! She said that when I learned it all, they said when I had, I could go home."

“Who told you?”

“My mother!”

“Ah, so that is why…”

“So, let me go! I order you!”

“Order me? The God of Mankind cares little for titles, Kaldrake. His light makes no distinction for the noble blood you share and loves all his people in equal measure.”

“I’ve done what I needed to-“

“You were misguided, Dren. Until the order of succession has been decided for your family’s name, you are to remain here, regardless of what you learn.”

“But-“

“Hold your tongue, Dren. Don’t cast such a glare, I have begun to see the problem.”

“That I hate it here, and I want to leave?”

“No, you impudent… ha. No, Dren, I believe the problem is that, nothing you’ve seen here has been a challenge. So far as I’ve come to understand, there’s not been a single hymn or casting you haven’t learned in a matter of weeks.”

“Because they’re all simple. I've learned all the miracles.”

“What if I were to show you something that wasn’t so simple?”

“They’ve all said that, all the Priests.”

“Ah, have they? Each expecting you to falter, I imagine.”

“I haven’t.”

“No, you haven’t. Not quite yet, I’ll agree. The spells we teach here are lesser things, of ritual and understanding. To call them miracles is almost misleading. They are gifts, true, but they are not true."

"I don't understand."

"The Church is an order most ancient, Dren. There are deeper secrets known here. Harsher and tremendous things, of powers reserved for only the rarest few and the Gods of old. Even for someone such as yourself, I believe there are still talents to strive towards.”

“… Like what?”

“Tell me, young Kaldrake: what do you know of true Miracles?”

 

Dren concentrated his efforts as the last vestiges of the sermon faded, and the assembled framework of magic crumbled away.

“By the holy light of God’s grace, does the knowledge bring us to this place.

His mantle, is our salvation. His gift, becomes our strength…”

The magic slipped, bit by bit. Fragments splitting off into smaller and smaller portions, like a building of stone being disassembled: shattering into dust until the faintest wisps of mana been carried away.

The spell was over.

Dren sighed, removing his palms from the boy's chest with a motion to Imra, waving her own grip away from the boy's shoulders. There would be no more convulsions from this patient. Far from that, Dren expected there would be no more motion at all. Only the slow rise and fall of wheezing lungs.

He watched as the child lay perfectly still. Their skin pale, clammy to the touch, even with the heat of early noon.

How long had he been chanting for?

Time was a difficult concept, mid-sermon. He knew that the sun seemed higher, and the heat was rising to the familiar afternoon swelter, but nothing more beyond that. Within a sermon, moments often blended together, giving him nothing but the faintest memory beyond the art of his craft. Or, in this case: the failure of his craft.

It was times like these, which Dren found the most frustrating.

"Why have you stopped?" The boy’s father asked.

"There's nothing more I can do." Dren leaned back, until his back managed to find the stone wall. He was glad that was where he’d remembered. However barely within in the shade, its surface cool to the touch.

“Is my son… is he well again?”

“No.” Dren he knew that the first grasps of vertigo would reach him soon. That was the price for going too far. “No, that’s not it.”

“Then… what?” The man persisted, leaning over his son to place a hand on the boy’s clammy forehead. “He seems no different.”

“Because he isn’t.” Exhausted, Dren shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

"What do you mean?" The man’s voice grew louder, more desperate as he looked back up.

“There’s nothing more I can do.”

"You told me you could heal him!"

"No, I said I would try." Dren closed his eyes, sucking in a deep breath. “And, I did just that.”

It was still early morning, but the air felt uncomfortably warm. Soon it would be…

Ah.

Dren grimaced. There it was: first the unwanted heat, then the vertigo, and now? Now came the nausea. Light help him, he could almost hear the lectures, warnings and ridicule. The phantom fragments of red-faced Priests leaning over with looks of both envy and disgust.

"You..." Growling, almost like an animal, Dren opened his eyes to see the man's scarred face contort in rage as he pointed a callused finger. "You're a fraud!" The man’s frustration exploded, as he grew louder. “You’re a light-forsaken fraud!”

"Watch your mouth, lad! This healer went and patched half the bloody street before you showed up.” Distantly, Dren heard voices from the watching crowd as they spoke up in his defense.

“That’s right! There's no fraud here!” Someone shouted. “The nerve of you!”

"Show some damn respect. If you wanted more, you should have gone to the Church!"

“Shut up! You want me to show respect? Only if he heals my son!"

The arguments intensified from there, but to Dren, the shouting had already blurred.

He felt his chest shiver, as that feeling of fever was replaced with chill. Mana sickness was creeping in, and it came this time, as it always did.

Horribly.

The urge to vomit came to him, but Dren swallowed it back down. The action was just in time, it seemed, for a surge of cold to take its place in his throat. A chill that spread into his bones, harsh enough to be painful- as if a frost had taken over his ribs, down into his heart.

Each beat seemed a small agony, worse than the one before.

Clumsily, he fumbled for the water pouch on his hip. It seemed warm, like the air.

Too warm.

Hot, even.

It was just like the air.

"Foolish." Imra had stepped beside him, setting a hand to his shoulder. Patiently, she stopped him just as he began to tip. The waterskin found itself into his hand. "Foolish, but brave, the Great One says."

Dren drank greedily, as the shouts continued. The closest of which, were directed towards him now. Several of the crowd were being thrown aside as the man stood in a fury.

"Heal my boy! Damn you!" He shouted, fist raised.

"Wait quietly.” Imra turned, blocking Dren's view of the man and the crowd behind him, as the grip on his shoulder tightened. Beneath the sleeve of cloth, something warm slipped unseen, passing behind his neck. It carried on down past his shoulder, until the coil ceased its motion: like a band of warm iron around his left arm.

"What is-"

"Be silent." Imra released him, as she turned. “I will deal with this.”

"Do you hear me? Heal my son, you bastard!"

"Enough!" Imra rose up, commanding, as she slammed her spear against the street heavily enough to send up a puff of dust. "The healing is now done. All must leave."

A hush fell over the gathering, many looks of disappointment turning to push back towards the street. Besides the man and his son, there had been many others waiting. Dren set his waterskin down, vision drifting. In the face of so many who needed help, he knew the right thing was to feel guilty. Instead, though, he could only feel relief.

"I'm not going anywhere." The man pointed in Dren's direction. "I'm not leaving until the healer finishes what he started."

“Enough. Take your child and leave.” Imra made a shooing gesture with her free hand, disrespect more than evident. “There is nothing for you here.”

“Got a mean tongue, Spearwoman.” The rage was building on the man’s face, muscles and veins bulging under strain. “Someone really ought to cut that out for you.”

“Any are welcome to try.”

“Really now?” The closest members among the thinning crowd began to move faster to escape, as a sword flashed free from the leather sheath on the man’s hip. The wide curved metal gleamed of polish between the thin pocks of rust and stain. "I don't care if you're from the Church! Heal my son!"

All around him, people backed away and stared, but no one tried to speak.

The atmosphere spread out further, and Dren watched as along the street, things slowed to a crawl. There wasn’t a soul who dared make a sudden motion while the man turned about, pointing his weapon at whoever was unfortunate enough to be within range.

The air almost seemed to vibrate as he did so, growing fiercer as he shouted once more.

"You heard me right!” The sword found itself pointed back at Imra. “I don’t care if you’re from the bloody Church! I don’t care if you’re from the Emperor’s palace! Fix my son, or I'll make it so you’re the one who needs healing, you hear?"

Imra stared at the sword, then at the man.

Beneath the cloth which covered her face, Dren thought he saw her expression change. The disinterested glare she wore like a mask, was gone. In its place, was something… else.

“Oh?” Her spear moved slightly, one foot lightly stepping back. “Try?”

“Wait.” Dren tried to stand. “Both of you, wait.” His foot slipped, forcing him to settle back down against the wall.

Imra glanced in his direction and laughed.

“The healer is worried for you: he is too tired to save your life.” She taunted the man.

“To the blackest pits with you.” The man growled, as he leveled into a fighting stance. “I’m going to-“

Dren watched the spear in Imra's hands blurred, and sparks flared with a terrible sound. The man’s sword arm was thrown backwards by a massive force.

“Try?” Imra asked. “Come, try.”

Half a pace in front of the man’s chest, her spear was resting, motionless.

“You…” The man stopped short, changing his form to level his sword once more with a quick step. It seemed the time for words had run its course.

He shifted once, then again, then again- each time his expression grew worse. A step in, then back- just as quickly, as Imra calmly retained her original posture.

Dren felt the hair on his neck began to rise.

The man was clearly no novice.

Though Dren had never been much with a sword, when he was a child, his father had often taken him to witness duels. The noble courts had long used them to resolve conflicts, most often to first blood. At rarer times, until forfeit, or until death: but the concept of honor and severity were still very much alive between the bloodlines. For the life of him, though, Dren didn’t believe he’d ever seen one that even remotely resembled what was taking place.

The man’s stances flowed well. Perfectly, even. His weapon was clearly well-maintained despite its apparent age, and his body was one of constant use. If he’d been called to champion a duel for someone of the noble families, Dren believed that the man truly might hold his own.

And yet, despite this, he was terrified.

It didn’t show on the man’s face, which was now neutral- focused. It didn’t show in the perfect motions and executed steps- no: it was all of these things put together.

The footwork, the forms: these were the skills of someone trained and experienced enough to know what would lead them towards danger. Someone who had seen combat many times and knew well and how to adjust. Yet, no matter what he did, the man couldn’t find a method to advance. To an ignorant eye, perhaps, it could seem like a one-sided dance, but to those who knew what was taking place: it was horrifying.

Dren felt the words ringing out in his mind, each time. The thoughts of the man behind the sword.

Death.

Death.

Death.

Death.

Every single combination that the man tried, was recognized as a failure that would lead to his immediate defeat. No matter how he positioned, how he tried to attack, it made no difference.

What’s more, is Imra hadn’t moved.

Not a single step, not in her posture, she barely seemed to breath. Instead, she stood perfectly still, but her face…

Compared to the normal calm stare he’d grown accustomed to, Imra's eyes had clearly changed now. They were no longer cold and distant, half-interested with the world around them. With each shift of posture, each step in- then back: this worsened. The Elf watched her opponent with a gaze that could only be defined as hungry.

"I am not allowed to kill you." Imra’s voice slurred, her tone almost too eager. "Be thankful.”

The man froze.

His posture was one of defense, curved sword drawing up to a center guard, barely angled as he readied for whatever strike was to come-

Imra’s spear "snapped."

Or, at least, that's what it seemed.

Imra, herself, barely seemed to move. Only the slightest shift of her shoulders signaled something had changed, but it was as if the spear had taken the form of a whip.

The wood moved so quickly the motion blurred: too quickly for Dren’s eyes to follow.

The man reacted, drawing up and to the right in a desperate shift. His weapon rose, twisting, as his free hand’s palm braced the flat of the blade.

Sparks scattered, as his boots dug in with a grunt of pain.

Along the street, he was pushed back a full pace, simply by the impact itself.

“Oh?” Imra hummed the word. “Will you try again?”

Dren swallowed a lump in his throat.

This was dangerous.

If the man had chosen to defend, it was Imra who advanced. Gliding forward with a perfect step, the spear in her hands “snapped” once more.

This time, an overhand strike- as the man raised his sword up, as if trying to lift a heavy weight. The blow sent dust scattering around him, as his knees buckled with a loud grunt of pain.

“Oh?” Imra laughed. “Will you still try?”

The man made an effort to stand.

She didn’t let him.

Again, and again: the sparks were flying, visible even in the morning sun.

Dren had seen duels before, but now he knew with certainty: that was not what he was witnessing. There was no finesse to this. There was no matching of two equally skilled masters of their weapon.

In place of a duel, it was much more akin to a beating. An endless barrage of shifting blows that her opponent had no choice but to weather.

“Imra!” Dren tried to intervene.

The man let out a shout of pain, as his sword clattered to the street, and the spear spun about. The bladed tip was withdrawn, no longer pointed in his direction.

Dren relaxed, as it lowered. A breath he’d unknowingly been holding in, released in a long sigh.

It was over.

“You… you bitch. You think you can get away with this?” The man held his wounded hand, veins and muscles in his neck straining as the words came out. “You’re dead! You hear me? You’re d-“

“Snap.”

"GAAAA-"

Clutching his arm, the man fell back heavily. From where he'd landed in the dirt, Dren could see a stream of blood running across his brow: a perfectly edged line of crimson.

“You think you’re strong? You-“

“Snap.”

“AAAAAAHG-” His right arm fell limp.

“Oh? You still speak?" Imra stepped like a cat, slowly circling the man as she leisurely swept the man's sword closer with her own weapon. "Come. Try again."

"Gods damn you-" He made a desperate grab towards the weapon.

Another horrible “snap” followed, sending up a howl of agony.

Both his arms.

"GAAAAA!"

"Again?" Imra turned, and though it was difficult for Dren to catch a glimpse of her face among the cloth she'd wrapped about herself, Dren was sure he saw a wide grin. An expression of hunger, as if a creature of the Dungeon, toying with its prey.

"Again." She insisted, once again pushing the sword back to the man. "Try." She pushed the sword closer, still. “Try.”

“You… you…” The man heaved, words quieter now.

“Again?”

Along Dren's arm, the coil stirred.

Imra stopped, frowning as she looked in Dren's direction.

"Fine." He heard her growl. The few members of the watching crowd who had been brave enough to stay fell into her sights.

Most had already begun to back away by the time she stalked towards them, but on her angry shouts of encouragement, Dren watched as they fought overtop themselves to escape. Running, in some cases, down the street. Several prompting confused shouts and concern from the ignorant flow of newly arriving traffic.

Rubbing at his eyes, Dren readied himself, pushing back to his knees, and then placing a hand to the wall behind as he rose further. His knees wobbled, but after a quiet battle of wills, they surrendered to Dren’s demand to stand.

Looking up, Dren could see the sun as it crept out from behind the cover of a tile roof. Squinting as he judged that it was almost noon. Somehow though, it seemed Eveth and Alem were yet to make a reappearance from the building across the street. For better or worse, negotiations were taking some time.

“Let us go.” Imra had returned to place another hand on Dren’s shoulder.

She left it there, for a time, frowning again.

The coil shifted, but it didn’t leave Dren’s arm. It waited beneath his sleeve, slowly wrapping itself further alone. Dren felt Imra’s grip release his shoulder.

“As you command.” Imra almost seemed to grumble, as she pushed Dren forward. “The Great One says one last time, you will heal the boy.”

In front of Dren, the beaten mad and his son lay side by side in the dirt of the street, chests heaving. From appearances alone, at this point the main difference between them, was that one happened to be far more bloodied than the other.

Upon Dren’s unintended approach, the man rolled himself over with a grunt of pain, but he left his sword where it lay.

Inspecting him more closely, Dren could see something different from the person who had first demanded his help. Fine quality clothes, just like the weapon he’d pulled from his hip, but they were dirtied. Roughed and frayed in ways that spoke of their use.

He wheezed, forcing his arms to push against the dirt until he had taken a knee. A callused hand wiped away the blood from his brow and eyes, to resume his glare.

"How many others have you asked for help from, before coming to me?" Dren asked.

The stare continued.

“How many?” Dren asked again.

"No one." The man answered.

"You're sure of that?" Dren insisted. “Truly, no one else?"

The man didn’t answer.

"I think you did."

The man’s expression soured, as he looked down.

Dren closed his eyes, with a long sigh. His arms felt heavy, and his skull ached, but the worst of it was over.

"How long did it take for you to travel here? You’ve come from the East?" Dren asked again, ignoring the look of surprise the question earned him. “I imagine it must have taken some time. Even if you could hire a wagon: from what I understand, it’s not a quick journey.”

“I didn’t-“

“Just tell me.” Dren repeated.

"Two weeks." The man finally answered. “It took two weeks.”

“So, you hired a wagon. How long did you wait, before that?”

“I didn’t wait! You think I’m a fool? I left as soon as I realized. I knew I needed to take him to the Church!"

"Where they turned you away." Dren nodded, as the pieces fit together. “Is that it?”

The man looked down, fists clenched atop his knees.

"What did they tell you, then?"

The silence seemed more than an apt response.

"Your son has Dwarven Sickness." Dren stated plainly. "The disease is not contagious and therefore of no danger to anyone else, but it is fatal if not caught early enough. At this stage, it’s past my abilities."

"I came here, as quickly as I could!"

"I'm sure you did."

"Please!” The man begged. “Try once more, that’s all I ask!”

"I'm sorry, the disease has already spread too far."

"I’ll give you everything I’ve got left!” The man fumbled with the coin purse at his belt, throwing it at Dren’s feet as he undid his harness. “Everything!” A necklace of gold followed after. “Please!”

Dren shook his head, sadly, as he stared down at the boy. He’d tried everything, and it hadn’t worked. At this point…

“There’s nothing-” Dren stopped, words failing him, as the coil on his wrist slipped from his sleeve with a dull “thump” across the boy’s chest.

Dren stared at it.

The man did likewise.

Dren, the man, the Basilisk: the three of them all were motionless for a time, an instant.

No one dared to break the calm that existed between them, astonishment holding the scene in place. Kneeling beside his son, the man watched in wide-eyed horror.

What was someone to do, in this situation?

The dilemma held Dren like a vice.

Was there anything he really could do, other than question why?

No.

No, there wasn’t.

The question cycled on, jammed to repeat eternally in Dren’s tired mind as he started at the serpent.

Eveth and Alem had attested to its intelligence. Imra had called it a God. Tuth had even seemed to acknowledge the creature.

And yet, for the life of him, Dren couldn’t come up with a single logical explanation anyone might accept as to why he’d possessed a live basilisk in his sleeve.

There was not one single way to clarify the smallest portion of this situation.

None.

In fact, there was probably no way it could get any worse-

Dren’s mind went blank.

Almost casually, the Basilisk had pivoted. Its jaws had opened, then decisively clamped down: firmly affixing itself to the man’s nose.

…………………………………..

 

[Snake Report]

 

[HEAL!]

Remember that one time I joked about healing someone to death?

Well, I think it might be in the realm of possibility.

What- No, I didn’t do it.

Seriously.

I didn’t.

Trust.

Really now, I’m not that unreliable a narrator. All I did was [Heal] him a little bit too much.

Miniscule, really.

Listen, he needed it anyways. Imra broke both his arms, and in the case that I actually did mess up something important, I’m pretty sure I would have been able to fix that too.

So, it’s not a big deal.

Well… not in comparison to this other one.

The kid’s having another seizure. Imra! hold his shoulders!

"Understood."

Shoot, blood.

Kid bit his tongue. Tell Dren before he chokes again.

"Mouth, blood."

“Fear not, for the King is always watching among the light.

Let his gaze warm your skin.

Let his will hold back the chill of earth, and death-”

For fuck's sake. This is a real mess.

Dren should not be trying to help right now. I really don’t know if I can handle two people keeling over dead simultaneously.

Ug.

Probably bit off more than I could chew here.

Don’t even- don’t tell me snake don’t chew their food.

I know.

Oh, I know.

The patient is male.

Age of less than ten years.

Caucasian? Don’t really know if that’s a thing in this world.

Symptoms upon their arrival to the Tiny Snake Hospital were as listed:

Pale complexion, slow breathing, visibly underweight. Unconscious, but no visible wounds or bruising.

Upon additional questioning, prior symptoms included exhaustion, lack of appetite, pain, and weakness. Onset began slow, but since has continued since at a more rapid pace. Now, progressing to a complete lack of awareness, in what I can only assume to be a coma.

Additional information of noteworthy value:

Blood type is unknown. Preexisting family history and genetic conditions, are unknown. Food and medical allergies are unknown. The subject of “Dwarven Sickness” has been brought up by several people, but I have no idea what that is, therefore: unknown.

Dren clearly doesn’t know how to fix it anyways.

It’s up to me.

Me.

Doctor Snake.

Only I’m not a Doctor.

Heck, as a human, I wasn’t even good about going to my regular yearly appointments.

Ssss…

It really doesn’t look like we’re ending this venture for candy appals is going to end on a high note.

“Stand strong, for the light is willed within you.”

Dren seems to be wrapping up that last bout of healing.

I know he thinks he’s helping, and while chanting with faith magic might sound powerful to the ignorant, it’s not.

Now that I’ve seen it in action enough, Dren’s method is really inefficient.

It takes forever.

Healing magic isn’t supposed to take a long time while you sing a weird song about it.

No.

It’s supposed to work right away.

That’s the whole point.

For those of you unaccustomed to the mystic arts, maybe that’s not an obvious thing, and I guess ordinary people here don’t really get it either.

That’s what I thought too, before all this.

Healing taking a long time is the correct way: Doctors, surgery, recovery time, physical therapy or something similar.

It made sense, once upon a time.

But, at this point, I’ve healed through certain death so many times my state of mind has come around to a different perspective.

Healing is quick.

You grab the mana, and cast.

Bam.

Maybe you guide it along and tell it what to do, or maybe you hold it active, for the work to complete- but after that?

It’s done.

Completed.

Run its course.

Over.

This isn’t tinkering with the pieces already available and then hoping it will get better on its own. This isn’t physical sutures or mechanical stints, or any of that natural healing stuff.

This is magic.

As in, full-on, mana-induced, synthesis of organic material. Cheating death sort of stuff.

It works quick.

Outside of the times I went and mana-poisoned myself badly enough to need healing through constant damage, there’s only one example where I had to heal for more than twenty minutes. That was when Eveth went and fried a large majority of her central nervous system.

Yeah.

On the list of things to heal, I’m under the impression advanced operations like that are a minority.

So, here I am now, about ten minutes in, and I’m starting to think that maybe- just maybe, this is not good.

Maybe, we’ve got a problem here.

Much as I was confident that I could wrap this up nicely with a Tiny Snake bow and be on our merry way with no one the wiser, I might have overestimated my ability.

This is a lot more difficult than I anticipated.

Maybe it sounds a bit cocky on my part, but I’ve never really run into this situation before. Healing is like my A-game.

Sure, I can’t really use it like Earth Magic, but so far as I know: I’m pretty damn good at it.

Or, at least I thought I was, but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to fix this kid.

It’s starting to piss me off.

Seriously.

Nervous system, checked.

Organs and Bones? Checked.

Muscle/tendons? Triple checked.

What the hell.

There’s nothing wrong with this kid. I’ve gone back over them like six whole times now.

They are 100% physically “OK” by my standards.

So, that leaves what? Infection?

No.

There’s no infection. I wiped out anything that even remotely fit the description.

Some sort of cancer?

No, I’ve been looking for that for the past five minutes. No tumors, no weird growths or spots anywhere. If there was something growing, I’d have seen it.

They’re fine.

Only, clearly, they’re not.

Doesn’t make sense.

I refuse to admit I’m stumped, but it’s times like this that I wish I’d had the motivation to pay better attention back at University. Wikipedia trivia is no longer cutting it in this situation.

Ug.

Frustrating.

I didn’t want to have to do this, as it’s going to ding my Godly image a bit, but…

Imra, ask Dren what he knows about Dwarven sickness.

“The God asks for your knowledge.”

“He does?”

“The God wishes to know the disease you mentioned.”

“Dwarven Sickness?”

Yes.

“Yes.”

“It’s a progressive disease, thought to be caused by a Dwarven poison.”

There’s no poison.

“God says there’s no poison.”

“Of course not, it disappears within the first week.”

Wait, what?

“It’s not understood how the poison works, but if it’s not removed in time, the effects set in.”

Elaborate.

“What effects?”

“They run out of mana, and then they die.”

Mana? Huh… I didn’t think about that.

How do I check that? With Eveth, I remember most of this being in her blood. She’s a Mage, so maybe it’s different for her, but I guess I could start there.

Arteries… veins… normal physically… the blood is…

Wow.

What the crap. Dren’s not kidding. This kid’s got like no mana.

That’s really weird.

Why don’t they have any mana?

Huh…

Never thought about this, but how deep can I go here?

Blood… composition… down a bit more…

Oh.

Ohhhhh…

This is fucking nasty. Dwarves are some real evil bastards.

 

Sssss… Alright, I get it now.

Imra: you and Dren need to step back. I don’t know what’s going to happen if you’re in contact with this kid when I try this.

“God commands us to step back.”

“Why? Doesn’t he need our help?”

Alright, Imra and Dren are clear.

Good.

Now, can I do this?

I’ve never tried anything like this before. This is going to be different.

Is it outside my scope?

There… one.

Okay, no- I can do this.

I did one.

How many are left? At a general scan I’m guessing…

Oh.

Oh, wow. This sucks.

Let’s try two…

Done.

Okay, how about four?

Done.

Sixteen?

Done.

Ssss…

Magic has a form of intellect, all on its own.

I don’t know how, and I won’t deny that the concept makes me a bit uncomfortable, but magic clearly isn’t without some sort of awareness.

It’s not a smart kind of intelligence, mind you.

Not a type I can sit down and talk with. More of a… systematic variety. One that can identify, recognize, and act on some set of criteria. It can learn, as it experiences more.

In my experience, once it has, a spell can start to assume what you would prefer it to do.

Act on your version of the correct choice.

You start from scratch, whatever preexisting foundation happened to be there, and build it up.

Custom-fit magic to your own intentions.

Ranking up

I certainly might want the ground to manifest into a statue, or a pool of water to turn into an ice sculpture, but the tiny details aren’t handled directly by me.

They’re on autopilot.

The more it learns, the more I can allocate for the magic to handle on its own. Which, in this case, is good, because otherwise, I’m pretty sure that this would be impossible.

One by one… I don’t know how many red-blood cells are in the human body, but that might take a while. Only a couple trillion of these things.

Now, though?

Oh, it’s not going to matter now.

Exponential scale is on my side.

Ramping up mana. More… more… more…

There.

There we go.

On the count of three, in the name of the Tiny Snake God:

[HEAL]