Meah brushes her hair as she sits on the bed she shares with Ime. Ime was gone when she woke up, but she knew where he went and understood why he didn’t wake her. Laying the brush on the bed, Meah pulls her hair back and ties it up with a ribbon.
She thinks back over the past few days, remembering the celebrations with a smile. She remembers Gaeren wishing her and Ime a prosperous future together and welcoming them to his lands any time they wish.
But Meah can’t help the small feeling at the back of her mind. Aryd Candok still presented a small threat to the lands freed from Klaeon’s rule. Pilian Grout volunteered to send some of his men to watch the borders in case Aryd attempts a land grab. Gradyen Hutch added some of his men to the watch as a sign of support.
Standing, Meah crosses to the bathroom to put her brush away. She gets halfway across the room when everything goes black. She reaches for anything to grab, but her hands only grab air. She falls to the floor, but her vision remains black.
“Daniil! Kylii!” Meah screams, panicking. She hears loud banging and thuds before footsteps race towards her. The door slams open and she feels hands grab her.
“What’s wrong?” Daniil asks.
Before Meah can answer, a rush of magic surges through her, knocking the brothers away. Meah’s vision returns, but instead of seeing her room, she see a circle of men standing around a body wrapped in clothe. Standing behind the circle is Altan and Ime, watching from a safe distance, but with the surge of magic, they’ve stepped closer to the circle, eyes wide.
Her vision turns to face Lyrrel and Meah realizes she’s inside the body of one of the Seers of Eraunel. Lyrrel’s eyes are wide and glowing red instead of their normal blue. Slowly he raises his eyes to stare straight ahead.
“Killing my vessel wasn’t enough for you, Fire Mage?” the voice coming from Lyrrel’s lips is cold and distorted. “Now you pull me from the Source to trap me in the body of your Seer?”
Stepping forward, but being careful not to enter the circle, Ime stares at Lyrrel with a guarded look. “We have unanswered questions Klaeon didn’t provide for us.”
Lyrrel’s head leans far to the side. “That isn’t a question.”
“Where did you come from Blood Magic?”
“I have a name, Fire Mage.”
“As do I. But that isn’t the answer to my question.”
“My brethren and I came from the dying magic of men.”
“What do you mean dying magic?” Ime asks.
Lyrrel’s lips curl up into a smile. “Mankind is proving itself unworthy of the Source’s gifts. In order to punish you, the Source selected the powerful mages of old to be reborn as living magic. Our goal is to cleanse the magic from men, but we were trapped by one of our own. One who believes mankind is worthy of magic.”
“And that’s why you need the body of chosen individuals to roam free,” Altan says, keeping away from the circle.
Lyrrel’s eyes snap to Meah and her breath catches in her throat. Does he know she’s watching?
“Yes,” Lyrrel says, sending a shiver of fear through Meah. But Lyrrel looks at Ime. “But once they die or are killed we return to the cage that holds us. Unless we are destroyed by those who know how.”
“You’re speaking of Life Healers,” Ime says.
“Not only Life Healers. There are others, but those aren’t the questions you want answers to. Ask me the one question burning in your brain.”
“Where is the Source?”
“Far away, safe in lands you can never reach.”
“You underestimate us.”
Lyrrel laughs. “You overestimate your own abilities, Fire Mage. The Source has already made its judgment.”
Taking a deep breath, Ime moves closer to the circle. Meah feels the Seer she inhabits tense. One thought repeats in his mind, don’t enter the circle.
“It seems the Source put a lot of responsibility on you and your brethren. Once you were trapped, how did the Source decide it would cleanse mankind? Especially, I’m assuming, with how many times you’ve all failed even when able to escape your cage, as you call it.”
“You don’t need me to answer that question. The Borrower knows and if she isn’t too weak after resurrecting so many, the Life Healer knows.” Lyrrel leans forward even though Ime is far from him. “Or perhaps you already know and you just want to hear it out loud as confirmation.”
Ime steps closer to the circle, within arm’s reach of the closest Seer. “I’d like to hear it from you. It may give me reason to allow you to return to your cage instead of destroying you.”
The expression on Lyrrel’s face twists into rage. “You can’t destroy me, Fire Mage. All you will do is kill your Seer.”
Ime turns his head to stare at Meah and she realizes he knows she’s watching. The smile on his face makes her heart drop into her stomach and she tries to shake her head. No, don’t enter the circle. Don’t enter the circle. She tries to scream the words, but they only echo in the mind of the Seer.
Placing a hand on the Seer closest to him, Ime enters the circle and magic fills the room with immense pressure. Altan falls to the ground, covering his head as the walls shake with power. Lyrrel’s eyes shine bright, blood red and Ime is forced to his knees.
“You’re a fool, Fire Mage! This circle was to protect you. No one can save you from my hunger.” Lyrrel raises a hand at Ime and dark shadows race towards him.
The shadows wrap around Ime and force him to his feet. He struggles, but the magic is too strong. He’s slowly dragged towards Lyrrel.
“Magic will fade from mankind. The Source is retrieving what it gave and eventually you will all be powerless once again. Once that happens my brethren will break free from our cage and feed freely on the Source and gain its power. Then we shall rule over mankind as gods.”
Life Healer now is your chance. The voice of the Seer Meah inhabits echoes in her mind.
As if woken from a dream, Meah sits up in her room and is greeted by Kiphy’s smiling face. “Time to go,” the old man says. He takes Meah by the hand and suddenly they’re in the cavern with the Seers, Ime, and Altan. Ime is almost in front of Lyrrel and Altan is unconscious.
“Destroy the Blood Magic. I’ll take care of Altan,” Kiphy says, rushing to the fallen leader’s side.
Meah runs into the circle, the magic weighing her down and nearly causing her to stumble. Lyrrel’s red eyes lock onto her and he raises his other hand. Shadows fly towards her, but she fills herself with her magic. Wherever the shadows grab for her, her magic burns them away.
Running to Ime, Meah destroys the shadows holding him and steps between him and Lyrrel. Meeting the now fear-filled red eyes, Meah walks towards him. Her magic grows and she can feel the Blood Magic trying to force its way from Lyrrel’s body. But Lyrrel is still aware and conscious deep inside and holds the Blood Magic from escaping.
Meah places her hands on the sides of Lyrrel’s face and stares into his red eyes. She concentrates and a new figure appears before her, a man wearing clothes from a time long past. A twisted crown sits on his head and blood stains his skin. His red eyes stare down at his form and recognition fills them.
“You…can’t heal me,” the man says. “I don’t want to be healed.”
Meah shakes her head. “No, but I can free you.”
The man glares into Meah’s eyes. “The Source will only choose another to take my place.”
“And we will fight them, too.”
Magic rushes down Meah’s arms and into the man. He screams as light erupts from him. He fades, but Meah feels something slowly cutting her off from a connection she hadn’t realized was there. Before the connection is completely gone, she reaches her magic down it and feels an immense power. She can’t tell where it is, but she knows it senses her and she is thrown back into her body.
The Seers collapse to the ground and Ime pulls Meah away from Lyrrel. Lyrrel falls, unconscious and breathing heavily, light from the crystals fade and the pressure of magic lifts from the cavern.
Kiphy and Altan approach, being cautious when they step over the Seers to enter the circle.
“Did it work?” Altan asks, his eyes unfocused.
“The Blood Magic is gone,” Meah says. She looks at Ime. “Though I thought you were only going to be asking him questions, but since Kiphy was at the ready to bring me here, I guess you had other plans.”
“We couldn’t let it return only to be placed in a new vessel. The only way to stop it was to destroy it,” Ime says.
“We’re sorry for the deceit, Meah, but there was no other way. The information it provided was useful though, correct?” Kiphy asks Ime.
Nodding, Ime stares at Kiphy, gravely. “It’s as you feared. The Source, or at least something claiming to be the Source, is pulling magic back.”
“Why do you think it’s something claiming to be the Source?” Altan asks.
“Let’s talk about this back in the Great Hall. Right now, I think we should help Lyrrel and his Seers get to some fresh air,” Kiphy says.
“What about Klaeon’s body?” Meah asks.
Altan shakes his head. “He can’t be buried here.”
“We’ll burn his body and bury his ashes in the mountains far from here,” Kiphy says.
Meah eyes Ime, pleading. Understanding what she’s asking, Ime says, “Burn his body, but save his ashes.”
“Why?” Altan asks, shocked.
“We’ll discuss it in the Great Hall.”