Episode 4: Water Flows Away From Resistance

 

"Are they weakening?" Victana asked, as Amos passed his hands over the sigils.

"No," Amos said. "I can't draw power from anything. The fire is disrupting my connection to the lifeforces."

"It's staring at us," Victana said. "But its not moving."

"I can feel the Guardian Tree," Amos said. "Very, very faintly. I think it's causing the flickers. Hold my hand!"

"I don't think this is the moment," Victana said.

"I need to feel your connection to the lifeforce," Amos said. "I think if I throw everything we both have at it during a flicker, I can get us out."

He grasped her right hand in his left. His thin fingers were white as he crushed her hand and she stifled a cry.

"Almost," he said. "Just. Need. One. Push."

Victana could feel the magic flowing out of her. She had felt magic before, during the Guardian Festival. But then it had been floating in the ambient, as distant as another person. Now she could feel something like fingers scratching at her mind, desperately looking for something. She could feel Amos' panic. Somewhere else, more distantly, she felt a blazing heat. Something was burning and smashing everything in its path. She could feel pure joy emanating from that heat. Somehow, the more she noticed it, the stronger the heat felt.

"Don't concentrate on that!" Amos said. "That weakens our defenses."

"You know I don't sense magic," Victana said. "What do I do?"

"Find the little green flicker," said Amos. "That's the Guardian Tree. Try to concentrate on that."

"I can't feel anything," Victana said.

"It's ok," Amos said. "I think I almost have enough power...there!"

They stumbled forward a few paces. Victana hadn't been aware that she was bracing herself to run.

"Did the sigil release us?" She asked. When he stumbled, Amos had released her hand. This made her suddenly free of all magical sensation. The fires had grown more intense in the minute or so since they had encountered the sigil. She could feel pools of sweat soaking through her smock.

"We're free," Amos said. "But I don't know for how long."

"Run!" She said.

They ran, back down the hill and across the causeway, the way they had come only a few moments before.

"Is it following us?" Amos asked. "I can still feel its presence."

"I don't see anything," Victana said. "Help me push the duvkanan out to sea!"

"The ocean's rising into a storm!" Amos said.

"Would you rather drown or burn to death in unholy fire?" Victana asked. "At least in drowning we know what we're up against."

"I..." Amos gasped the last few words. He staggered as if he had just been hitting by club. "It's dead."

"What is?" Victana asked.

"The Guardian Tree," said Amos. "It's finally, completely died."

"Quick!" Victana said. "Get in the duvkanan."

She had clambered aboard, holding the craft on the shoreline with her paddle.

"I'm going to collapse," Amos said as he sloshed through the surf. He fell against the gunwales.

"I can't lift you and right the craft!" Victana said.

Amos had righted duvkana since he was old enough to walk. Pulling himself into a beached one should have been easy, but it took several heartbeats before he was sprawled on the keel, a sick expression on his face. Victana shoved off with a sigh. The swell was growing, but not beyond her skill to navigate out of the cove and into the open water. As soon as she was done, she looked back.

On the hilltop stood the stranger from the village. He was framed by the smoke of their dying village. He raised a hand towards them, fingers spread but thumb tucked behind forefinger. A bolt of gray-blue energy shot from his fingers. It flashed through the air until it passed the beach. Over the water, it suddenly curved downwards and dissipated in a shower of green sparks. It tried again, but the bolt fell short once more. It watched them round the cape and head out to the shoals, the sickly grin still visible even at the great distance.

"They're all dead," Amos said. "I can feel it. Everyone is dead."

"Hush," Victana said. "Not now. You need to get us some protective magic or we're going to sink in this storm."

"I don't have permission," Amos said.

"Get it," Victana said. "I'm not ready to die. Yet."