Well that was an interesting break. I ended up spending the entire week for Christmas and after sick like you wouldn’t believe. Sure there is the cold floating around that is hitting everyone in various ways. So yeah, I got hit with that. And then it all went into an infection as well. I had a couple days where I spiked around 101 degree fever and all that. And through it all I just couldn’t seem to get any better. I finally ended up at the doctor for him to tell me, “it’s either the cold or an infection. It should have cleared up by now so let’s try a round of antibiotics and see what happens.”
You really have to love such astute diagnosis. On the plus side within a day of the antibiotics I was already turning to the bright side of life. Now I just have the lack of voice from the damage it has all done to my system. But at least I don’t feel like death warmed over anymore. And if you haven’t noticed, none of this has anything to do with what is important right now.
Back on track…
With today’s installment of the Black Medallion we find ourselves in the next section of the story. It’s been an interesting run so far and it is going to do nothing but go deeper into the strange as we move forward. or something…
As always you can follow the links provided to find the earlier installments of this beast. In case you wonder about the arrangement, the first links take you to the first part of the earlier sections (within each section you will find all the links for that section).
Tisdan followed her lead through the entryway and then further into the home. Rich woods inlaid with gems and crystals of different sizes and colors marked their passage through the hall. Lights pulsed to life before they were needed. They hovered and from no where and everywhere at once. She motioned for him to step ahead of her into a sitting room. One wall had book shelves that extended from the floor to the ceiling. Off to the side was a bar, ten feet long with a few stools in front of it. The center of the room had two couches and two wing back chairs with matching ottomans. Piles of papers covered a large oaken desk placed in front of floor to ceiling windows.
He felt a need to go to the desk and dig through its papers. He had always had a strong instinct to guide him but this was something more. A pull at his body beyond conscious thought. He fought against himself to maintain his composure.
“Make yourself at home,” she said as she stopped behind the bar. Clinking glassware belied her hands hidden by the wooden counter.
He went to the window, his view lost to the darkness outside. For him, it was an excuse, a chance to move closer to the desk without appearing to do so. “I imagine it’s a great view.”
“Yeah. I forget about it most of the time.” Her voice felt distant, distracted as she worked behind the bar.
The papers on the desk were a jumble, little in the top layer he could make sense of. The feeling drew him to the desk, told him what he sought would be found deeper, within the stacks themselves.
Jillian nudged him with her elbow, and knocked him back into the moment. “A night cap,” she said as she swirled the amber liquid to release its heady aroma. “Relax, you’re safe here.” She moved to the couches motioning for him to follow.
He sat in one of the chairs, facing her on the couch. The distance gave him comfort, a safety net. Part of him remained at the desk.
She watched him, a slight smile at the corners of her mouth. “They don’t know what it can do yet,” she said. “The amulet, the runes on it aren’t shaper magic.”
He said nothing. The amulet remained in his sash. It’s presence had become a part of him. It’s pull to search the desk scratched at the corners of his mind.
“It was coming to me,” she said. “The scribe was on his way to me, so I could get it out of the city.”
This was something he hadn’t expected. He forced himself to remain blank and calm. “That day on the train, you knew I had it?”
She no longer looked at him, her thoughts turned to the past. “He had discovered something about the amulet, something he was unwilling to let fall into shaper hands.” She took a long drink from her glass and finished it off. “Do you know how shaper magic works?” Her attention returned to him with physical weight.
“I know it has something to do with the crystals,” he said.
“They need a focus. The crystals enhance and focus the aether.” She stood and walked to the bar. “The shapers control their power by control of the crystals. Only they have access to them.” She poured brown liquid into her glass.
“What does this have to do with the amulet?” He shouldn’t have asked it. He mentally chided himself for saying too much. He was drawn into the story and didn’t like it.
“It’s a key,” she said. “Only a couple people know this. It can open the aether.” With her drink in hand she sat down on the couch facing him. She looked into his eyes, expectant, waiting. When he said nothing she pushed on. “It’s believed it frees the wielder from the need of the crystals.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “What does that mean?”
“Shaping without the crystals, means that there would be no controls over what the shapers could or would do. Their power would grow with nothing to stop it, at least for one shaper.” She paused with a deep breath before she continued. “With nothing to hold them back they would use their power with abandon. The crystals keep them in check.”
“And they would do anything to get it back?” he asked. “This doesn’t tell me what part you play in all this?”
“What’s your intention with amulet?”
He stood up, the amulet in his hand. Its blue fire shone brighter than the aether lights in the room. “It is mine. It is a part of me.”
She did not move, transfixed by the glow. “Do you control it? Or is it controlling you?”
He looked down on her; she was small, frail. She would be broken easily. She would break, faster even than the assassin. She did not have his training. A small voice in his head came through. Stop. Enough. She does not have to die. The glow from the amulet tapered off. He could hear his own voice in his head. An inner battle of crashing waves between himself and the other voice. And then a light, calming, soothing him back to himself.
She stood next to him, taking his free hand into her own. “The amulet has its own agenda. It wasn’t chance that you stole it. It wanted you to find it.” She stroked his hand soothing him, pulling him from the edge. “It is becoming a part of you, but at what cost?”
“I killed him,” he said. His eyes, his vision lost to the distance. He saw the battle with Jak, the clarity of truth breaking through the clouds in his mind. Jak took him in and helped him. He killed him without even a thought. Broke him with his hands, snapped his neck and his back as if they were twigs. All the while the blue glow had filled him.
“We can fix this,” she said. Her words pulled him back into the room. “I can free you. This doesn’t have to control you anymore.”
“I don’t think there is time left to fix this. I have lost which voice is mine and which is the amulet.” Even as he said it, he felt a distance from the moment. A separation between him and his body as he looked down on the room from above.
“I brought you back. I know what it can do.” She walked over to a cabinet on the wall and pulled out a few trinkets. “Put the amulet away for a moment.”
He returned it to his sash. She slid a ring onto his ring finger. The ring had a band of red crystal inlaid through the middle of the circular band. It began to glow with an incandescent red light as she whispered soft words into it. The light faded with the warmth of her breath on his fingers.
“This will only work for a little while, if at all.” She looked into his eyes without humility. She was expectant, waiting for his response.
He could no longer feel the heartbeat of the amulet. A part of him was now missing, an empty house with a dead body in it. His mind was quiet and still, while screaming at the same time. And then it hit, like a bandage had been torn from an open wound. Searing pain knocked him to his knees. He could not move, could barely breath. His vision had become a red blur. Pain filled his body past the breaking point. He fell to the floor, unable to move.
She stepped over his body and pulled the amulet out of his sash with a gloved hand. After dropping it into a pouch she stepped away from his body, her gloves falling at his waist. “Easier than I had expected,” she said. She left the room, he remained on the floor where she had left him.
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