The Unbound Realm: Vol.1, Chapter 21

It isn’t fair going to set things right find the Rosecraft Blade chase them down to the ends of the—

[Get OFF ME!]  Erany shoves me away. 

I tumble into a blear of apathy, overcome by a wave of despair.  Then a smile blooms and takes hold of my mind, vanquishing indifference with a sweep of contentment.  Oh man, everything’s going to be just fineI was stressing out for no reas—

[Jon!]  Gyrax psychically clamps my thought-form scruff.  [Stop clinging to chaos and struggle!]

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 glimpse a partial picture, but for the most part all I get are vague impressions.  As far as space and time, I have a definite sense of being somewhere

I flex my will and reach for clarity. 

An image appears in my mind’s eye:  the three of us clustered around Nyanti, hands splayed above her body.  We’re all 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?]

[Yeah.]  

He snaps his fingers.  We go swirling into Nyanti’s psyche.

 

———

 

I’m deluged by a flush of random memories.  Laughter, tears, adoration, resolve…they slam into me with unchecked force.  I act instinctively and flail with my mind, weaving information into a linear narrative.

Nyanti was raised in a family of Witches.  During her infancy, 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—

Gyrax’s voice cracks through my brain.  [Enough.  We’re not here to comb through her past.] 

[Uh, right.  Sorry.] 

[We need to undo her points of twist—the blocks and kinks in her auric body.]

[How?]

[Unwind your perception and merge it with mine.]

[Gotcha.  And how do I do that, exactly?]

[Please—hurry.]  Erany isn’t panicking, but she’s straining and pushing.  The tension is palpable through our link.

I turn back to Gyrax.  [What do I do?]

[Stop overthinking—follow my lead through feeling and instinct.]  

He closes his eyes and becomes…blurry is the best description for it.  He’s not concentrated in a single location; his presence is cloudlike. 

[Here goes.]  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 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.  Crazy-ass Iguar, my unquickened sight, Nyanti’s injuries, I can’t believe I’m in a parallel dimension where humanoid warriors fight with swords and spel—

[Jon.]

[Huh?] 

[Don’t force it.  Abide in it.  It will open into something calmer.]

Abide in it.  Right.  Instead of denying my worry and doubt, I acknowledge their presence without trying to fight them or push them away.  I’m a little calmer, but I’m not really sure if…

Something shifts deep inside me—as if invisible weights are dropping away from my head. 

Gyrax responds with an approving nod.  [Now direct your focus on to me.]

Our minds swirl together, like when you’re playing sports and instinctively bonding with the rest of your team.  You know where they are and how to complement their movement. 

[Now reach for Nyanti.  Again, not too hard.]

I build a Nyanti-like feel inside my awareness.  Pretty soon, I can sense her presence:  her dark beauty, her kind heart (I knew she was nice) and the general “Nyantiness” of it all. 

[That’s it.] Gyrax says.  [Now feel for the cracks 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 ears and twist from side to side.  [AAAAAAHH!!!]

Gyrax is talking urgent and fast, telling me to slow down and breathe, slow down and breathe, but I can barely hear him.  Nyanti’s screams aren’t just audible, I become her terror and utter helplessness, I become her frenzy and hysterical panic.

[Gyrax!]  My breath hitches in my chest.  [I can’t I can’t I can’t—] 

She screams again.  This time, I join in.

[JON!]  Gyrax grabs hold of me, wrenching my composure back into place. 

[There.  Better?]  He regards me warily.

[Yeah.]  Man, that was intense.

[You must bear her pain.  I wish there was some other way, but there isn’t.] 

[I…okay.]  I take a deep, steadying breath. 

We merge back together, sharing impressions and sentiments as we swirl and combine.  Once we’re synced, we reach out for Nyanti.  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, [This won’t be pleasant.  Come closer.]

Gyrax and I press closer, 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.

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.

[THREE!]

We swim through her breaks, snapping and cracking them back into place.  Occasionally, we channel pure aggression into one of her traumas, forcing loci to line up with their parent meridians.  Soon enough, it becomes clear this is just a temporary fix. 

[She’s about to unwind.  Rewrite her wounds!]

[Wait—what???]  I instinctively reach for him.  [Rewrite her wounds?  What does that mean?  Why didn’t you tell 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.

This is do or die—go by feeling and instinct, Jon.  That’s what effective here. 

I whisper a prayer and flood Nyanti with my awareness.  As flares of pain erupt through her loci, she meets my attention (the magical equivalent of meeting my eyes) and issues a desperate plea. 

[Jon.  Please.]

My mind steels over.  Nyanti’s my friend.  I can’t let her die.

I charge into her arcane damage, letting desire and will flow over her wounds.  Narrative pours through me, filling Nyanti with support and belief, my unequivocal faith in her absolute wholeness. 

And that’s what I focus on:  not her wounds, but her inherent integrity.  A story not of dissonance, but organic harmony.  I envision her rifts and schisms as golden opportunities:  a chance to weave her back into strength and well-being.  The apologue dances into her being, 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 relax my grip.  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 drenched in sweat.  Some of it plips onto Nyanti’s brow. 

She wrinkles her eyes and raises a hand.  “Jon.  You’re sweating on me.”

“Oh!”  I scuttle to my feet and laugh nervously.  “Sorry.  Didn’t know I was—”

She sits up and groans in relief.  “Be easy.  If not for you, I would still be lost in a maze of agony.  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.  “This 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.  “I must conserve my magic.  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 savior!  My 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.  “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 out to find 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 in pursuit of wounded monsters.  They will fight to their dying breath.”

“I—”

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—collapsed the walls with a majeric wave.”

“We have to finish them,” Nyanti insists.  “It’s only a matter of time before they return.  It will be 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 am 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.