For Magick Monday I decided to share a scene from “Sea of Sands” Book 2 of the Tome Series featuring the TaniwhaPori warrior, Maaka, and a witch in the mountains of TuaisceartTalamh. Enjoy!
A voice Maaka did not know spoke in a language he recognized, albeit vaguely and understood very little.  It was a female voice, but not that of the Yugure Junin princess.  It began chanting softly and he felt his clothes being ripped open across his chest and slender hands moving with skilled practice across the gaping injury in his side.  He felt cold water against it, trickling in rivulets along his red and black patterned skin, rippling with the tension of the hard muscles underneath.

The voice continued to speak in tones evidently meant to calm the panic-stricken goblin and comfort the TaniwhaPori standing at Death’s door.  Maaka really had no use for it.  He was not afraid, not even to die though the dishonor of having failed his shadowmancer would surely follow him into the Spirit World.  Neither was he in much pain.  Oh, he felt every movement and every touch.  But pain was something he controlled without even thinking about it and so he reacted very little to.  With his eyes half shut, he gazed at the vague outline of the figure tending to him and offered no resistance, not that he could have if he’d wanted to.

The flat of a hand rested against the yawning wound and the intense heat of fire seared his flesh, staunching most of the blood flow as veins and arteries cauterized.  His muscles twitched reflexively, easing only when he sensed, rather than saw, the healing white light envelope his side.  Then he felt the pressure of a poultice and herbs being applied, their smell strange and unfamiliar.  A hand took his and placed it firmly over it to hold it in place as strong arms then pulled him forward, un-strapping his double-katana and carefully dragging it free of his torso.  Nimble fingers danced along the deep grooves wrought across his back and the tiny shards of white bone poking through where his shoulder blade had been shattered.

Maaka didn’t know how long the being tended his injuries.  He might have dozed once or twice.  Leaning forward, his head resting against her shoulder as she worked, he gave up fighting to maintain consciousness and occasionally lost himself to the soothing oblivion.  On the very edges of awareness, he could hear her voice singing softly as she worked and while he didn’t really understand the words, he comprehended the meaning as a kind of lullaby.  Under normal circumstances it would have seemed very odd to him for anyone to sing a lullaby to a perfect stranger.  An adult no less.  Such a peculiar occurrence should have immediately set him on edge.  However given the present situation, it only eased the constant battle-ready tension that kept him alive in CernZaviest for so long and he wondered if this, like his lack of resistance, was the result of the magick being woven.

Every time he roused from the nothingness, he felt a little stronger, a little more alert.  By the time he felt the flat of a hand pressed to his shoulder and what was becoming the familiar sensation of the healing white light and magickal fire at work cauterizing the worst of the injury, the half-light of dawn was pouring across the ranges from the east.  He remained awake through the unique feeling of a needle piercing his skin pulling a thread through and through across the shallower wounds on his back.

When she was done, the figure gingerly eased him back against the tree roots that’d been cradling him, the thickness of a bunched cloak softening the hardness against his injuries.  Maaka opened his eyes and was pleased to find most of the blurriness to his vision dissipated.  The woman, the witch Kasumi had sent Gbk for, was crouched beside him, her long black hair strewn with feathers falling like a cloak about her shoulders as she leaned toward him.

“Rest easy,” she murmured in Common, though her voice carried the distinct lilting accent of the Tuatha Dé Talamh.  “You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“Thank you for your aid.  I will be on my way.”  Maaka started to try and get up and found a firm hand holding him down by his good shoulder.

“Are you thick?  You’re staying right where you are, at least for the time being.”

She was dressed in the long black robes of a master white witch, the sleeves rolled up to reveal slender arms and hands of pale skin drenched in bright red.  Wiping her forehead with the back of one hand, she turned to Gbk standing protectively near, then to the woods surrounding them as if weighing some monumental decision.

“There are all sorts of monsters in the mountains and at the moment, you’re a sitting duck.  But it’s too dangerous to move you.  With as much blood as you’ve lost, I’m amazed you’re even conscious and while my magick’s done a lot of the work, you’re still badly wounded and they still have a long way to go.  Whatever bit you damn near took your spleen with it.  You need time to heal.”

Maaka watched her, wondering if he should, or even could, trust her.  CernZaviest was a realm that bred caution in its inhabitants.  Living with the constant belief that everyone and everything was out to kill you was what kept you alive because more often than not, they were.

“I think you’ll be safe enough here,” the witch went on.  “I’ll see to that.”

Trying to force the tautness from his body, Maaka watched her motion with a hand to encompass the tiny clearing.  In answer to her unspoken call large, thorny vines rose up from the earth to create a ten-foot, interlocking wall around them.

Terrified, Gbk let out a little shriek, half of fright, half of alarm, and dove under Maaka’s cloak violently jarring his injured shoulder.  Though his expression briefly tensed, the warrior gave no hint to the explosion of pain that ripped through his torso.  He would have reached for him, dragged the goblin out by the ears and tossed him into the nearest ravine, but the witch intervened.

“It’s alright, little one,” she said in a coaxing tone.  “It’s to keep us safe and hidden.  It will do us no harm.”

In response to her voice, Gbk poked his head out to watch in wide-eyed fascination as she proceeded to call forth a small font of fresh water to one side and a crackling fire that filled the immediate area with comforting warmth on the other.  After washing the blood from her hands and pulling the sleeves of her robes back down, the witch filled a small cup carved from wood and offered it to him.

“Here, drink this.”

Maaka only glanced at the water.  Seeing his wariness, the witch drank deeply to show it wasn’t poisoned.  Only then did he cautiously accept it and very soon finished it off.  The moment he did, she refilled it and would do so five more times before his thirst finally began to be sated.

Filling the cup one last time, the witch stood.

“I’m going to fetch some food.  Can you keep watch over him, little one?”

Climbing out from under Maaka’s cloak, the goblin wisely crossed to the other side of their encampment before nodding, his long, pointy ears flapping with the energetic movement.  Bending down, she handed him the wooden cup.

“Use this to give him water whenever he’s awake.  He’s badly dehydrated by his blood-loss.  And make sure he doesn’t get some fool idea in his head that he’s going someplace.  I’ll return as soon as possible.  As for you,” she went on looking to the TaniwhaPori.  “You’re going to stay where you are, you’re going to sleep and you’re going to let my magicks do their job without expending energy needlessly.”

With that, she spun on her heel and stalked from the camp, striding through the mesh of vines that parted before her then pulled shut behind.

Maaka watched her leave with a flicker of shock in his otherwise bland expression.

How did he find himself getting ordered about by an EarthFolk woman?  More importantly, why was he listening?  She’d left his weapon within easy reach.  One-on-one, he could defeat her.  With her gone, he could easily cut through the vine walls.  Despite her aid, he had no real reason to trust her.  For all he knew she was going to get one of his competitors who’d arrived here before him.  If any had.

Yet he made no move to even try and get up.  Instead he turned his gaze and his irritation to Gbk.

“Since when do you obey someone other than your shadowmancer?”

Holding his rusty, bent sword to his chest in one hand and the freshly filled cup in the other, the little goblin had been staring after the witch but at Maaka’s words, he turned back, ears drooping considerably even as the rumble of his empty stomach threatened to incite an avalanche.

Disgusted by the goblin’s priorities he looked away, leaning his head against the woody roots.  At some point he fell asleep listening to the sounds of the mountains in winter.

 
~ Excerpt from “Sea of Sands” Book 2 of the Tome Series copyright AJ Culpepper 2013
~ Image courtesy of whitemagicwitch.com-

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