The world rocked beneath me, and I was thrown violently from my bed. This event, coupled with the fact that I landed heavily on my wounded shoulder, served to wake me up most efficiently. Shouts of pain and alarm filled my ears.
I threw on my clothes, took my sheathed sword in hand and opened the door. Men and women ran everywhere in a mass of confusion and chaos. "What's happened?" I called, but no one stopped to answer me. I realized that I had spoken in the common tongue, and groped for the words of their guttural language. A soldier stopped and told me to come quickly, as the building had been bombed and could collapse at any moment.
Bombed? I wasn't familiar with the phrase, except in the manner of catapults and ballista. Yet, no ballista could have rocked the building with one shot. What was going on?
Other members of the party were coming from their rooms, and Duragan was taking a head count. "Good, Amagor. The only person missing is Marisa."
I approached him, dodging a frantic serving wench at the same time. "Marisa isn't here? Has anyone checked her room?"
"Not yet. Will you go open her door?" Duragan turned to address Bethany, who was barely wearing a diaphanous gown. The view was supremely impressive, but I hoped she would change before a problem arose with the soldiers. I then made my way to the end of the hall.
It seemed that a polite knock was pointless, but I did it regardless and called out, "Marisa, we're gathering to leave the building. Are you ready?"
There was no answer that I could hear, so I knocked a little louder. "Marisa, are you all right? I'm coming in the room." Still no answer, and I attempted to turn the knob. It refused to move, which meant that she had locked it before going to bed. I gave the tiniest of shoves, and the door frame splintered as the mechanism broke. "Marisa?"
She lay on the floor next to her bed, limbs askew in a pose of unconsciousness or death. I hoped for the former, in spite of her predilection for those dangerous crystals. Either way, I knew their curse had undone her. I gathered her up in my arms, and only then noticed the side of her skull was caved in. Something had fallen, struck her and killed her instantly. Emotions swirled inside my breast, but I fought them down and carried her body into the hall.
There was still chaos, but somewhat abated as an officer had arrived to take charge and usher everyone toward the stairwell. "Achtung!" he cried. "Mach shnell! Shnell!" I took everything in as if from a distance, an impartial observer to the death and suffering around me. I could hear the roar of blood in my ears.
"Do you have a healer?" I asked him, lifting Marisa for him to see. "She needs a healer." I knew beyond all hope that she was already in the arms of the Klia, but for some reason I asked anyway. "She needs to be healed."
The officer stared at me, not understanding a word I said. Instead, he grabbed my arm and tried to force me to the stairwell. "Mach shnell!"
I allowed myself to be herded downstairs, still carrying my gruesome burden. I caught up with Stu, who was breathing heavily as he scurried down the steps. "Stu, do you have any healing magick? Marisa was hurt."
He stared at me, then at the body in my arms and shook his head wildly. I noticed that he had also grabbed his sword and his pack, and they were slowing him down considerably. I paused long enough to throw Marisa over my shoulder, then reached down to lift Stu's pack. "Here, let me carry this for you."
He jerked away and glared at me. "Don't ever touch my books! They're mine, and if you come near them again, I'll destroy you!" One hand stretched out to me in a threatening gesture.
Still distant and unfeeling, I shrugged and hurried down the stairs, outdistancing him easily. I realized abstractly that the ache in my shoulder seemed far away, and I had to make a conscious effort to notice it. Another part of me noted that I was in shock, and would be unreliable for combat for a while. I had felt like this once before at the end of the battle of the Veltaran Gorge, and again when I heard of Ulanor's death. Thinking about Ulanor reminded me of Garras and his betrayal, but I could summon no more than a mild annoyance. Coolly, I contemplated the need to go back and find evidence of his betrayal and murder, to protect Lord Emperor Dynasis from his treachery. The Knights of the Order of Jorun would need new leadership, leadership that I could bring them. But, first things first. Marisa needed a healer. Hang on, Marisa, I said to her silently. It won't be long now.
The stairs bottomed out and I rushed through the door to press through the throng of confused, milling people. I forced my way toward the front exit, aided by my great stature and powerful body. Once I broke through the crowd, a soldier recognized me and called my name, gesturing for me to join him and a few of my party. Bethany was already there, as were Chance, Orthad and Dukoth. I calmly walked over to them and carefully set Marisa's body down. "She needs a healer," I explained. "Someone needs to bring a healer here for her."
The soldier opened his mouth, looked at me and shook his head. He couldn't understand me. He gabbled something I couldn't understand, and tried to put a thick, scratchy blanket around my shoulders. I smiled, thanked him and took it off to cover Marisa and keep her warm. Somewhere in my training, I remembered to keep injured warriors warm. I looked up at the others and said, "Does any one of you have any healing magick? She's hurt, and she needs to be healed."
They stared at me with identical expressions I couldn't read. I scowled and repeated myself. Chance stepped forward and looked me in the eye. "Amagor, please sit down. None of us can help Marisa now, and you're not doing so well yourself."
"I'm fine," I snapped. "I just need to find a healer for Marisa. She needs a healer."
"Amagor, look at her head," Chance insisted. "She's beyond healing now. You're in shock, or you'd know that. Sit down and rest, and let us help you."
"I'm not the one who needs help!" I insisted. "Marisa is! What's wrong with you people? Why doesn't someone find a healer?" I looked around to see if I could find someone that would listen to me.
Dukoth knelt by Marisa's body and began to paw through her clothing. However, as she was dressed for sleep, there was nothing to find. All the same, I drew my sword to come to her defense. "Step away from her, thief! You're not going to rob her while she's incapable of defending herself!"
Dukoth scurried back with fear in his eyes, then frowned in concentration and muttered something. The world went fuzzy around me, and then all I saw was darkness.
When I woke, my shoulder was throbbing, but I noticed that a fresh bandage had been applied. I lay on something remarkably soft, and the ceiling overhead was a spotless white. All was quiet, except for the faint sounds of nearby traffic. For the life of me, I couldn't remember what had happened to me. I sat up to look around.
I was in a room much like the room I was in before, but it seemed from the window that we were even higher up. The pictures on the wall were different, depicting a mountain landscape with a few bright, fluffy clouds above the mountaintops. I was in a new bed with soft sheets, which I moved aside to discover that my clothes were gone. Chance sat in a chair opposite the bed, fast asleep.
I looked for my clothes and sword, and found them neatly piled on a table in the corner. I rose and dressed swiftly, taking care not to wake Chance. I still didn't understand what was going on, but I decided it wasn't urgent enough to wake him. I managed to make it to the door and turn the handle before I heard his voice behind me, "Oh, I must have dozed off. I'm glad you're awake."
I turned and looked at him. His eyes were bloodshot, and he looked as though he needed more sleep than he'd gotten. "You look terrible," I told him frankly. "You ought to be in bed yourself. Why were you watching over me?"
He looked at me oddly, searching my face for something. "What do you remember about last night?" he asked quietly.
I thought about this before I answered. "Not much," I finally admitted. "I remember my room shaking and falling out of bed. I still don't know what did it. I remember going out into the hall and seeing Duragan, who told me that everyone was accounted for except Marisa. I don't remember anything after that, so I suppose something must have happened to me. I feel fairly well, overall. Even my shoulder isn't hurting as much."
Chance regarded me silently for a moment longer, and I started to get nervous. What had happened? Then he said, "Do you remember what happened to Marisa?"
I thought about this again, then shook my head sadly. "Everything is a blank from Duragan until now. Where are we, anyway? I don't recognize this place."
"Marisa is dead, Amagor," Chance stated bluntly. "You found her in her room, and she was already dead. Something struck her skull and it must have killed her instantly. You picked her up and carried her out, and everyone says that you kept asking for a healer for her. I was there at the end when you collapsed on the street."
I frowned and thought hard. Did any of this sound familiar at all? No, none of it did. I knew enough about combat wounds to tell when someone was beyond the help of a healer, so why would I have acted so irrationally? Also, since Narsala had died, there was no one capable of any serious magickal healing. From what Stu told me, magick didn't work right in this world, which is why they had so many clever machines. They got past their lack of magick by being clever. Although bringing Marisa's body out of the building wasn't out of character for me, insisting on a healer was not something I should have done. And I couldn't remember doing either. "You're serious," I said finally. "I did that?"
Chance nodded quietly. "You were completely irrational. You wouldn't listen to the fact that she was dead, you just kept insisting that we had to find a healer for her. Then Dukoth started looking through her clothes and you threatened him with your sword. That's when you blacked out. You've been asleep for fourteen hours."
This worried me greatly. I had been under great stress before, even to the point where my life was in danger, but I had never failed so badly before. Had the Lady made a mistake in sending me to join these heroes? Perhaps she should have let me die at the hands of Ballor the Mighty after all. An ignoble death is better than risking the lives of good people.