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December 2007



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Supernatural Magic Dean

jinxedpoet in blackwaterstory

More Cold Enough to Break

Theo scratched his head, looking around. “I need those crystals,” he pointed at a slightly glowing barrel. “Well, I don’t need them, but the guy that does is too damn lazy to get them himself. Also, there’s a bounty on, uh, Thaelis the Scary or something.”

“Thaelis the Scary?”

Theo nodded, “Yes. That must be it since he’s clearly scared the guards into sending fodder after him.” He picked up his vest and pulled it back on. “If you’re coming, stay close. I don’t think they’d,” he tilted his head toward the remains of the city, “notice or care that you’re helping.” He raised his bow and fired at one circling the crystals, drawing it away from the crowd.

It wasn’t long before they found someone that looked enough like the sketch on the poster that Theo figured the head would pass. The Wretched all looked so similar that he wasn’t sure why anybody even bothered to remember their names. Guilt stabbed at him as soon as he had that thought and he forced his thoughts elsewhere before they could fully form.

But then he heard her voice. “Theo? Oh, Theo! Please help me.” He didn’t think it was real until Aeron turned to see. Panic flared, chasing everything else from his mind. He spun around, praying it was trick but knowing the Light wasn’t there for him anymore.

It was her. Her once shining red hair hung in thin, dull tangles around her face, her features made sharp by impossible emaciation. Her clothes were dirty and the sword on her back was stained and ill-cared for. He stumbled back, grabbing Aeron’s hand.

“Run,” he whispered.

Faline moved closer, still graceful. A dangerous smile played at her mouth. “Don’t go, little brother. I found something amazing. You’d love this. It’s ecstasy.”

Aeron slowly drew a dagger with his free hand. Theo shook his head. “No. No. Just run.” He finally got his feet to work and had to drag Aeron for the first few feet. Aeron didn’t know, couldn’t possibly understand, how bad this was.

They didn’t get very far before Theo saw a flash of gold and Aeron’s went slack in his. He spun around as Aeron staggered to his knees. Faline ran towards them, light surrounding her, and an ethereal hammer dropped down on Theo’s head.

“The time has come, Theo. I’m offering you something incredible and you’re running from me?” She pulled the sword from its sheath and pointed it at him. “Is it because of him? A human?”

Theo was stuck. He wanted to keep running from her, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave “Don’t do this,” his voice came out as a pathetic plea.

She grinned. “I’m trying to save you.” An explosion of glitter from her left him feeling like something was missing. She lowered the sword and got close enough to run a hand down his cheek. “It’ll be better once this is over.” Before he realized what was happening, she lunged down, burying her sword deep inside Aeron. He screamed as the blade pierced through and hit the ground in front of him. A small trail of blood dripped down the metal to the grass.

Theo’s vision flashed red and the world cracked. He yelled and pulled the dagger from his side, stabbing her in the chest before he could give himself time to think about who she was and chicken out again. She gasped, a look of betrayal setting into the twisted features of what used to be a welcome face. She jerked back, freeing herself of his blade.

“You’ll learn, little mongrel,” she said. He charged in for another attack that she easily dodged. A glowing bubble appeared around and she shook her head. “Not today.” She ran.

He let her go, turning his attention back to Aeron. Aeron coughed, splattering more blood on the ground. Theo took the hilt in his hand, “I’m sorry,” and pulled the sword out, drawing another scream from Aeron.

He gathered Aeron’s body up into his arms and snuck back into the city.

“You promised, Aeron. You promised and you can’t leave now.”

He couldn’t take him to anyone here. The sting of abandonment was still too fresh for any of the healers here to help. Theo wracked his brain, trying to come up with a better plan, but he just kept coming back to the one he knew was bad. He couldn’t take Aeron to any of the Alliance territory because he wouldn’t make it past the guards. He didn’t speak enough common to make them listen. Plus, they were all too far away.

He had to do it. Undercity was the closest, if he could sneak Aeron through Silvermoon. He felt a stillness settling into Aeron’s body and he knew they were also the only ones who could help now.

Seventeen years of finding all the hidden places in Silvermoon served Theo well. It was easy to get to the Court of Sun and, from there, to Undercity. Undercity, however, was almost completely unfamiliar to him. Luckily, the guards were brain dead enough to give him directions without asking questions. He felt like he’d been walking in circles by the time he found the Apothecarium. He followed the slithering hallway until it opened into a large room with a vaulted ceiling. There were tables stuffed with bubbling beakers and everything smelled of rot and spices.

Theo wrinkled up his nose, falling back against the wall. He wasn’t used to carrying a whole other person across cities.

A man with hard, glowing eyes and flesh hanging in strings from his face approached him. “You don’t belong down here, elf.”

“Please,” was all Theo could manage.

The man took a step back and looked at him for a moment before holding his arms out. “Give him to me.” Theo gently handed over Aeron’s barely breathing body and collapsed to the floor. His throat ached with the strain of not crying.

The man brushed some books and papers to the side before lying Aeron down on a table. “Not much time left,” his voice was wet and thick. He grasped a quill in the remaining two fingers of his hand and began writing. “Bring me seven stems from the Gloom Weed plants. You’ll find them outside Bril.”

Theo pushed himself back to his feet, “You mean Doom Weed by the open graves?”

“No, I said Gloom Weed.”

Theo shook his head, “I’ve been here before. You sure you don’t mean Doom?”

“I will if you don’t stop arguing with me.”

Theo nodded and closed his mouth.

The man handed him a list. “Bring it all. No substitutions. And quickly.”

Theo didn’t even look at the list. He turned and ran all the way to Bril. He knew he had to do this fast before he could think about what a bad idea it really was.

Theo trudged back down to the Apothecarium. One more shirt that needed replacing and a broken dagger that he tossed away in the green ooze. He shoved the bag at Grandfather Bones, happy to get the oozing thing away from him. He wasn’t sure what it was, but something in there had started leaking something that looked frighteningly like blood.

Bones took the bag with his shriveled hands and rummaged through it. “You got it,” he said with a note of surprise. Theo nodded and wiped sweat from his brow, still breathing heavily from the fight he’d gotten into with a darkhound that’d followed him most of the way sniffing at the dripping bag.

The man sighed, a dry and crunching sound through his rotted lungs. He turned and hobbled to the table Aeron was lying on. “It’s too late.”

There was a sound so loud in Theo’s head it blocked out every real noise. He blinked and noticed his vision was blurry so, he blinked again. His ears rang. “What?”

“It’s not so easy to bring people back from real death. He died a few minutes ago.”

Theo didn’t think he moved, but he was suddenly at Aeron’s side. He laid his hand down on him, feeling the cooling space inside his chest. “This is an entire city of people who came back from the dead. Don’t give me that crap.”

“He wasn’t infected—“

“Then infect him!” Theo’s voice had a dangerous, desperate edge.

The old man smiled crookedly, showing off his crumbling teeth, “That won’t come so easily, elf.”

“Tell me how.”

His smile grew and he leaned close. When he spoke, his breath was hot and stinking against Theo’s cheek. He laughed at the shock on Theo’s face.

“I can’t do that,” his voice cracked.

“Then he stays dead.”