It isn’t fair going to set things right find the Rosecraft Blade fight them all chase them down to the ends of the—
[Get OFF ME!] Erany shoves me away.
Despair sweeps through me—I tumble into a blear of listless apathy. Then a smile blooms and takes hold, vanquishing indifference like the morning sun clearing the fog.
Oh man, everything’s going to be fine. I was stressing needlessly over—
[Jon!] Gyrax takes hold of my psychic scruff. [Stop clinging to chaos and struggle!]
I don’t know that means, but I’m guessing it’s a poetic way of saying “relax,” so that’s what I do.
Almost immediately, my mind stops racing.
[Whoa.] I perform the disembodied equivalent of pressing a hand to my heart. [Where are we?]
Erany projects, [Between solid focus and immateria. Mages refer to it as the Twilight Effluvium.]
I stretch out with my senses, the equivalent of looking around in this hella weird state. I don’t really see stuff as much as feel it. Sometimes, I catch a fleeting glimpse of a partial picture, but for the most part, all I get is a vague impression.
As far as space and time go, I have a definite sense of being somewhere…
I flex my will, reaching for clarity. An image appears in my mind’s eye: the three of us clustered around Nyanti, hands splayed above her body. We’re each painted in psychedelic blaze—a photo negative brimming with chroma. At the edges of my vision, colorless tines prickle and move in a dreamy, tidal rhythm.
[Hurry. UP.] Erany emotes the impression of clenched teeth.
[Whoop. Sorry.] The psychic essence of flustered dork boy washes through me.
[Time runs thin.] Gyrax raises an eyebrow (or projects the feel of it, to be exact). [Ready?]
He snaps his fingers and we go swirling into Nyanti’s psyche.
I’m deluged by a flush of random memories. Laughter, tears, adoration, resolve…they slam into my mind with unchecked force. My mind flails at first, then begins to weave the information into a linear narrative.
Nyanti was raised in a family of Witches. During her infancy, before she could talk, her parents communed with her through Primal energies—a tug of emotions and subtle urges. When she was able to speak and walk on her own, her mother enrolled her in Shylan’s School for the Magical Ar—
[Enough. We’re not here to comb through her past.] Gyrax’s voice cracks through my brain.
[Uh, right. Sorry.]
[We need to perceive her points of twist—the blocks and kinks in her auric body.]
[Unwind your perception and merge it with mine.]
[Gotcha. Aaaand…how do I do that, exactly?]
[Please—hurry.] Erany isn’t panicking, but she’s definitely straining. The tension is palpable through our link.
I turn back to Gyrax. [What should I do?]
[Focus on me. Stop trying to intellectualize it—follow my lead through feeling and instinct. Now do as I do.]
He closes his eyes and becomes…blurry is the closest I can come to verbally describing it. He’s not concentrated in a single location; his presence is…cloudlike.
[All right. I’ll give it a try.] I close my eyes and still my being. (I stifle a giggle as I think of Happy Gilmore, where Kevin Nealon tells Adam Sandler to “be the ball.” God, those ’90s SNL movies were stupid as hell, but they were so damn funny.)
Gyrax senses my wayward thoughts. [Jon.]
[Yep, yep—sorry.] I try to relax but it ain’t happening—I’m stuck in a quagmire of past reflections: the Iguars, my unquickened sight, Nyanti’s injuries, I can’t believe I’m in a parallel dimension where humanoid warriors fight with swords and spel—
[Don’t force it—abide in it. It will open up into something calmer.]
Abide in it. Right. I stop denying my worry and doubt; just acknowledge their presence without trying to fight them or push them away. I’m a little calmer, but I’m not really sure if—
Ah. There it is.
Something shifts deep inside me. Like invisible weights dropping away from my head.
An approving nod. [Now direct your focus on to me.]
Our minds swirl together. The best way to describe it is when you’re playing a sport and instinctively bonding with the rest of your team. You know where they are and how to augment their movement.
[Now reach for Nyanti. Again, not too hard.]
I build a Nyanti-like feel inside my awareness, allowing my impressions about her to fall into place. Pretty soon, I can sense her presence: her dark beauty, her kind heart (or so I suspect) and the general “Nyantiness” of it all.
[That’s it.] Gyrax says. [Now feel for the breaks along her aura.]
I open a little more and pull back immediately. Jesus—everything inside her is crooked and mangled. If she were a trauma victim, her bones would be broken in a hundred different places.
[Easy, Jon. Relax into—]
And then I hear her—like talons scraping a massive chalkboard.
[AAH!] I clap my hands over my ears and twist side to side. [AAAAAAHH!!!]
Gyrax is talking, urgent and fast, telling me to slow down and breathe, but I can’t do it; Nyanti’s screams aren’t just audible, I become her terror and helplessness, I become her frenzy and hysteria.
[Gyrax!] My breath hitches in my chest. [I can’t I can’t I can’t—]
Nyanti screams again. This time, I join in.
[JON!] Gyrax grabs hold of my convulsing being, wrenching my composure back into place.
[There. Better?] He regards me warily.
[Yeah.] Man, that was intense.
[You have to bear her pain. I wish there was some other way, but there isn’t.]
[I…okay.] I take a deep, steadying breath.
Once again, he lets himself blur. I do the same. We merge back together, sharing impressions and sentiments as we swirl and combine. After we’re synced, we reach out for Nyanti. Instead of bracing or trying to resist, I open myself up as much as I can.
She crashes into us like a ton of bricks. For a split-second I try and fight it, but then I relax even further—laser in on staying calm.
Gyrax says, [We must realign her. It won’t be pleasant. Come closer.]
Gyrax and I press together, linking idea and thought, intention and motive. As we blend and fuse, Nyanti’s screams tear through our mind. Me/Gyrax relax a bit more, coiling into a ball of spring-loaded purpose.
[Deep breaths, Jon.] He becomes completely still. To the point where I can’t help but wonder if he’s even conscious.
I breathe deep. Once. Twice. Hold it.
And then we arrow into the broken Witch, grabbing hold of her dislocated mind. Her piercing wail cleaves my brain; she tries to buck away with fight-or-flight strength. We grab everything we can and pause for a brief, nerve-jangling moment.
[On the count of three.] Our focus becomes wire-tight.
[One.] he/me says.
[Two.] me/he breathes.
We dive deep into her wounds, snapping and cracking them back into place. Occasionally, we have to channel pure aggression into a trauma, forcing loci to line up with their parent meridians. Soon enough, it becomes clear that this is just a temporary fix. Gyrax floods me with the realization that I—as in me, Jon Dough and no one else—have to fix her aura. I’m going to have to rewrite her injuries.
[She’s stable for now, but she’s about to unwind. Write her into place!]
[Wait—what???] I instinctively reach for him. [Why didn’t you warn me before we—]
[You would have overthought it! Jon, do it NOW! She’s starting to loosen!] Sure enough, I can feel her slipping.
[Can’t. Hold. Much…LONGER…] Erany grits her teeth.
Everyone’s counting on me. Breathe, Jon—you can do this. (I hope.)
I flow into Nyanti. As flares of pain erupt through her loci, she meets my attention (the magical equivalent of meeting my eyes) and issues a desperate plea.
My mind steels over. This is my friend. I can’t let her die.
I charge back into her arcane damage, letting my desire and will flow over her wounds. Narrative pours from me in an elated rush, filling Nyanti with my support and belief, my faith in her wellness.
And that’s what I focus on: not her breakage, but her inherent wholeness. Her story sluices through me—a story not of dissonance, but organic harmony. I envision her rifts and schisms as golden opportunities, as chances to weave her back stronger than ever. The apologue dances into and through her, bringing her slowly but steadily back into alignment.
[Jon.] She stares at me, astonished. [How are you—]
[Shhh.] Sweat pools and drips off my brow (in the imaginative sense). [Not finished.]
I continue envisioning her as she deserves to be—singing, dancing, laughing, playing. A minute later, I break away. I think I’m done.
[Good job.] Gyrax psychically pats me on the shoulder. [Let’s get back to our bodies.]
[Thank Ishay.] Erany breathes.
I open my eyes and gasp in shock. My clothes are completely drenched in sweat. Some of it plips onto Nyanti’s brow. She wrinkles her eyes and raises a hand.
“Move back. You’re sweating on me.”
“Oh!” I scuttle to my feet and laugh nervously. “Yeah—sorry. Didn’t know I was—”
She sits up and groans in relief. “Be at ease, Jon. If not for you, I would still be lost in a maze of pain. You saved my sanity if not my life.”
“Right. Of course.” I let out an awkward snort-laugh and immediately hate myself for it. “No worries—all in a day’s work.”
She regards me with a smile. “When I first heard about the Prophesied Traveler, you are not what I expected.”
Erany rises, rubbing an eye with the heel of her palm. “Do you truly believe that Jon is the one?” She’s still woozy from our psychic kumbaya.
Gyrax dusts himself off. “Now more than ever. That was Laiddinic power, as steel is sure and water is wet.” He looks around, puzzled. “Where are the others?” Ren and Elier are nowhere to be seen. Lucky’s half-lying, half-sitting against the wall, apparently asleep.
“Lucky!” Gyrax reaches over and taps his cheek.
“Uh?” His eyes flutter open.
“The others. Where are they?”
Lucky shakes his head, groggy, then scoots up on his palms and butt. “They’re searching the castle, hunting down the remaining Sytíshí…” A pained moan escapes his lips. “My cursed leg…”
Nyanti kneels beside Lucky. “Here.” She extends her hand and moves it slowly down the length of his thigh. Her fingers glow with a dreamy sparkle. “That should help.”
He grunts in acknowledgment. “Thank you. It feels better already.”
“A partial healing, but it’ll do for now.” Her eyes stay fixed on his leg as she reverses directions, moving her hand toward his hip.
“What? No!” Lucky glares at her. “Finish the job! My leg is—”
She cuts him off with a level stare. “We are trapped in a castle with two Sytíshí, not to mention—”
“I am wounded!” Lucky snarls. “And I am not being paid to be a soldier or demon-hunter! The agreement was to travel with the Wolven and watch his back, not fight off a pair of gods-cursed Whisper Fo—”
“—the horde of Iguar crawling through the city,” she continues calmly. “I can’t afford to waste my magic. If I heal your leg, I’ll shrink our chances at gaining the hexflow.”
“This is absurd,” Lucky grumbles.
“You’ll get what you’re owed.” Gyrax pats himself down, checking his gear and weapons. “I’m going after Ren and Elier.”
“Me too,” I say automatically.
“No,” he unslings his ax and gives it a cursory examination. “You’ve done enough, Jon. The Sytíshí are not to be trifled with.”
“I saved your life, man! Everyone’s life! If not for me, then—”
“This is different,” Erany says. “We are going after wounded monsters. They will fight to their dying breath.”
Suddenly, the door slams open. Elier and Ren come staggering in, leaning heavily against each other. Ren lowers Elier onto the floor, then collapses beside him. Erany and Gyrax run out into the hall, weapons ready, but Ren calls them back.
“We’re safe,” he says. “We chased them into the lower catacombs—had to collapsd the walls with a majeric wave.”
I almost ask what that is, then common sense catches up with my brain—he’s obviously talking about an offensive spell.
“We have to finish them,” Nyanti insists. “It’s only a matter of time before they return. It will be much, much worse if we let them go.”
“Agreed.” Gyrax nods. “Nyanti. You, I and Erany will search the castle and—”
“What about me?” Ren asks heatedly. “I’m no stranger to orphic combat. If you leave me behind, you’ll—”
Gyrax shakes his head. “Guard our injured. Elier and Lucky can’t fight off an Iguar, much less a pair of Sytíshí Whisper Folk.”
“I can still kill Iguar,” Elier mutters.
“My point is—”
Before he can finish, the room floods with violet-black mist.