Sunday, August 16, 2015

Flesh and Blood

We buried Ar-Alam. It was a sad occasion for me. I remembered burying my father. This was... different. I had watched Ar-Alam die. I knew he was at peace. In some ways, that made things better. In some ways, that made things worse.
"How could he just surrender like that," I snapped.
"We have gone over this before." Dran's only previous experience with mourning had been rather quickly interrupted. He was not the most gentle of companions. "He considered himself a liability. He sacrificed himself for the greater good. Some people consider that sort of thing heroic. Maybe one of us should write a poem about it."
Dran didn't wait for my angered response. His eyes returned to his cast-iron cauldron. He was working on a potion to dampen the pain in my sister's leg. "Where is some whistleroot when you need it?"
I was angry about Ar-Alam's death. There was no need to express that anger at Dranarius Caesorium. I went to bed.

Dragoneyes considered Ar-Alam's grave. Just a simple stone. Dragoneyes had shaped it himself. It didn't seem like enough...
No. He shouldn't do that. Dragoneyes was only indulging himself, looking for an excuse to practice his own magic on another man's grave. Not what Ar-Alam would have wanted.
So Dragoneyes picked up a pebble off the ground. If he couldn't transfigure Ar-Alam's tombstone, he could at least turn this stone to gold. So Dragoneyes imagined the True Name of gold. And the True Name of stone. And he tried to see how they were the same. How stone could become gold. He began to walk the rock through its transformation. It didn't work.
It was too difficult. Dragoneyes could barely hold the two Names in his mind at once. It felt like his head was bursting at the seams. It was just too difficult.
Dragoneyes did not give up in the face of difficulty. He did not have that luxury. He needed a simpler place to start. Dragoneyes produced a small lump of iron. He did the same thing. He held the two names in his mind. They were more similar. They fit together. But still... focusing on two things at once. Trying to see the relationship between them, and impose that relationship upon a small lump of metal. It was too much.
Dragoneyes paced around the camp, trying to persuade iron to become gold. "Are you still awake," Dran asked. "More precisely, why are you still awake? Go to bed."
"You are still awake."
"I am trying to make sure that Cassinder can walk tomorrow. You should make sure that you can walk tomorrow. I sure won't be slowing down for you."
Dragoneyes knew the younger mage was right. He went into his tent. He shut his yellow eyes. He tried to sleep.
It was impossible.
He saw the blood flowing through his eyelids. Behind that, he saw his tent. He watched as the fabric ever-so-slowly decayed into dust. Behind that, there was an ocean of air. Shifting eddies, currents, and vortices. And what's more, the air was alive. Awash with everything from birds to insects. Behind that, the stars. Each one, transcendent in its glory. Each star, perfect and vast in its ancient power. How could Dragoneyes sleep under the blinding light of a thousand thousand suns?
Sleep is important, he told himself. It is necessary. How will you become strong if you do not sleep? You will waste away, and die, and not do the world the slightest bit of good.
Dragoneyes considered swordcraft. He had already passed countless nights by the forge, creating blades ever sharper, ever more deadly.
No. No, that was a distraction. The blood in his eyelids, decay of his tent, the ocean of air, the blinding stars, all of it was a distraction. Dragoneyes walked to see his true concern, and gazed upon it. "Cassinder."
"You are in pain."
"I know."
"I can fix it."
"I know you can."
Dragoneyes gazed upon Cassinder's flesh. Torn and torched, it was still flesh. Dragoneyes looked long and hard. Above him, the stars traced their arcs across the night. Dragoneyes paid them no heed. He looked upon Cassinder's mangled body. He could see every detail, every pore and every one of the bizarre substances of which the body is composed. And for a brief moment, he knew it. He knew the True Name of flesh. He spoke it, and Cassinder was healed.
Dragoneyes stood in silence. He didn't ponder the magnificence of his achievement. He didn't think about how he had worked magic not used since the time of the Shapers. He simply sat in silence. Eventually, he made his way back to his tent, and fell into a deep sleep.

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