I find the quiet of the library to be quite soothing. Not many people come here, and it’s far from the popular areas of the Guild. I find peace here; the thoughts of other people have grown louder in the last few months, though I’m not sure why. It’s become increasingly difficult to tune them out. I need more practice, but I’ve been far too busy.
I’ve had my finances linked to my Guild membership so that I wouldn’t be withdrawing from Kaitlyn’s account. I don’t have nearly as much as she does, but a century of savings is nothing to sneeze at. With it, I bought a laptop. I had Kaede help set it up with his internal internet securities before I began my search. Much to his surprise, I’m not as technologically illiterate as many of those who live here. I’ve lived through the boom of computers and I like to keep up with the times. Now, I curl up on a couch in the ever still library, a cup of tea on the side table and my laptop on my lap.
I have nearly a dozen tabs open on Chrome, each one displaying a newspaper archive from different parts of the world; the USA, Mexico, India, China, Africa, Australia, South America, the list goes on. I turn to the lists of missing and deceased. Preferably those with pictures. With their faces, I can usually attune my powers to their fate. It doesn’t always work and sometimes it causes me a migraine. Still, it must be done. How many mages has Mortecai taken? How many has he killed? How many could there be?
Markus tried to hide it from us. I still don’t know why. I avoid him these days as his thoughts are confusing and frustrating. I don’t understand how he could still care for his brother after everything he’s done. I need more information before I bring it to the others. With the drama between Kaitlyn and Heath, I think it best not to add more to their plates. Besides, Kaitlyn and Andrei have gone to the past, leaving the mess of Heath for us to clean up.
The door opens and I’m bombarded with the voice of Caroline’s inner monologue. I flinch. Between her and the water, it’s incredibly annoying. I almost don’t hear the words she speaks.
“Nik said you’d be here. Have you seen Andrei or Kaitlyn? I can’t seem to find them anywhere!” She storms straight across the library, toward me.
“I imagine you wouldn’t. They’ve gone to the past,” I reply, taking a sip of my tea.
“What!? Well, that’s… just great,” She sulks.
I nod, “A rather irrational decision on his part, but I suppose he didn’t think he could escape the lava any other way.”
“Wait, so you know? About Heath?” She asks, taking a seat on the edge of the chair opposite me.
I blink slowly. “Do I know?” I ask sarcastically. “I hear him halfway across the Guild some days. It’s awfully annoying. Sometimes I’m tempted to put him to sleep if only to have a moment of peace.”
“That’s a rather selfish way to put it,” Caroline frowns. “I’m worried about him.”
“I can see that,” I muse. “The Guild is blessed with several capable Guardians. I told them from the beginning I did not want to get involved. I don’t have time for petty dramas… However, it seems to have escalated.”
“No kidding. I found him trying to kill himself in the shower yesterday. There’s got to be something we can do to help him. The way he speaks, the lava I mean, it’s frightening. The water is warning me to be cautious,” She coughs slightly, raising a hand to her mouth.
I study her a moment. Something seems off, but I can’t quite place it. Perhaps it’s a cold. “I see. He seems to be quite intent on violence. I was not aware of the incident which he told you about. That is concerning.”
“It is. I… don’t know that much about how our magic works, the voices and all of the elements, but… do you think there’s something perversely wrong that is affecting Heath? Something that is causing him to act out in this way? And, is there any way you think we could stop it? I was hoping to ask Kaitlyn and Andrei about it, but… well,” She shrugs, “They’ve gone and run off.”
“For their own safety,” I state pointedly.
“Right, that’s what I meant,” She corrects.
“If Kaitlyn knew how to fix it, I imagine she would have done so. She is limited by her physical strength and her immunity to his ability. However, the fire seems to work against her. She cannot control him alone,” I tap my nails on my cup. “I cannot think of any way that your elements would be useful in this sense, other than to disable him. We must work from within.”
She hums, “He mentioned that the water made the voice stop. He was running the shower on cold and just laying there. I can see how that might weaken the voice but, I think it’s too dangerous. It also weakens Heath to a point where he’s more susceptible to the lava’s whims. At least, that’s what I witnessed last night.”
“Yes, well, harming himself may work in the moment, but it is not a long term solution. The trouble is we need Heath to be willing to fight the lava. At the moment, he seems torn. For all my wisdom, I’ve never quite learned how to fall out of love,” I sigh. “We’ll have to find some way to help him there.”
“Wait, are you saying this is stemming from both Heath and lava being in love with Kat?” Caroline asks with great surprise.
“Essentially yes,” I nod. “It may sound silly, but love is a powerful motivator. Particularly for men. Not least a man who has never known love before.”
“I see. This seems impossible, but I don’t want to give up on him. I want to help. In a way… It reminds me of Andrei when we first met. I can’t stand seeing others in such pain,” She leans back in the chair, memories of the past flitting through her mind.
“I can only offer a temporary solution,” I sigh. “You won’t like it.”
She frowns, “Why won’t I like it? What do you have in mind?”
“I think I can contain the power, for a time,” I frown. “I don’t know how long, and it depends on the power of the lava versus my own. He will not be happy about it and it may put me at risk when he breaks free. Not to mention, it will cut Heath off from his magic during that time.”
“Wait, so, you’re suggesting we separate him from magic, temporarily? To save his sanity? But, when you can’t hold it apart anymore… Lava would just come back and be twice as angry, no? I don’t see how this will help anyone,” She sags against the back of the chair in frustration.
“Maybe. Who’s to say? Lava may calm down, though I doubt it. It will give him a new target for his rage when he returns, giving Andrei and Kaitlyn some time. The purpose would be to help Heath’s focus and resolve without the influence of the lava’s voice,” I explain simply.
Her mind whirls, debating the risks if the lava comes for me afterward.
“Don’t worry so much for my safety,” I wave at her. “After all, he can’t really kill me. Once he figures that out, he’ll get bored.”
“I guess… Still… Are you sure that it’s a wise plan?” I can tell she still has her doubts about it working.
“Have you a better plan?” I ask bluntly.
“No, not really. I want to help in any way I can, so… Just let me know what I can do,” She leans forward in the chair, a new determination in her eyes.
I consider it for a moment. “Hold him down with your water. Keep the lava from being able to take form. I’ll need to touch him to do this and I’d rather keep my limbs.”
“Alright. I’ll help. Do you…” She hesitates, “Would you happen to know what might happen to someone if you separate their… magical counterpart?”
“I’m not going to take it out of him. I’ll merely lock it away within him,” I correct her. “It won’t be gone, it just won’t be able to influence him, and he won’t be able to use it.”
“Right,” She nods in understanding. “Okay, I see. So, when should we do this?” She asks.
“The sooner the better,” I shut the laptop. “We know where he is now. Gather some water and we will go there.”
“Oh, now! Alright then. He’s with Nik,” Caroline stands, moving around the chair.
I wave my hand and the laptop rises into the air as I stand up. It floats along beside me as I make my way out of the library. “Where will you need to go to find water? Cold is best.”
“Well, the ocean is the coldest still, but that’s pretty far. Perhaps… the pool. The water itself is heated but the source must be cold. I could go to the pump room.”
“I suppose a tap wouldn’t do?” I raise an eyebrow.
“Well, that’d be slow, but where is there a tap near the training rooms right?” She asks.
“The bathroom. You don’t need much, only enough to bind his arms around the chest. The cold will prevent him from transforming. Maybe the legs, if we don’t want to chase him. Then again, Nik can always hold him down too,” I think out loud.
“You’re right, and, I could cool the water further if we need to. Okay.” She begins to think about how best to approach the situation without alerting the lava within as we walk.
“Occam’s Razor, Caroline,” I interrupt her thoughts. “The simplest solution is often the best. Nik will distract him while you bind him with the water. He will hold him down and I will do the rest.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll follow your lead then,” She pouts.
I wait outside the bathroom as she gathers the water, making it hover in the air like a ball about the size of a basketball. I warn Nik mentally before we enter. Once he’s got Heath’s attention turned away from the door, I push it open slowly. Heath doesn’t notice our entry, so I give Caroline a nod.
The water shoots across the room in ribbons, wrapping around Heath’s chest and legs simultaneously. Nik catches him, laying him down so he’s not injured as he falls. Heath gasps with shock as the pain hits him, and confusion reels in his mind as Caroline and I approach cautiously, her focus on the water, keeping it cold.
“Is this… some sort of training?” Heath asks, shivering.
“No,” I answer softly as I move around to his head.
“Then… Why- ” His expression shifts to one of hatred as he glares up at me, eyes aglow.
“Yes,” I reply grimly to unspoken thoughts. “This is for his own good, not yours,” I kneel by his head, placing my hands on his temples. “Hold him still.”
“And what could you possibly do to prevent me from burning you?” Lava growls.
“Caroline,” I call to her. Heath’s hands clench as the lava desperately tries to heat up. “I believe he is feeling a little warm. Cool him down, would you?”
“On it,” She says, shifting into water form. She kneels beside him, taking his hands in hers, covering them in water.
“Now,” I stare into his deep blue eyes, “I believe it’s time you took a backseat.”
He grits his teeth, plans of revenge already forming behind those dark eyes. I close my eyes, delving into his mind. I push further, past the mind, into the spirit, where the lava resides. I create a cage around it with my own magic, bars of shimmering light surrounding the black figure of a man. He fights back fiercely, screaming profanities. He’s no match for me now – Not here. The spirit is my domain, after all. He bats away one or two of the bars as they start to form, but he’s not fast enough. They fall into place like the pieces of a puzzle until he’s surrounded on all sides, unable to escape. His voice begins to fade, and I check every angle twice, giving it as much strength as I can spare without passing out.
“You will pay for this….” He hisses before he falls into silence. I wait an extra moment, to be sure, before I retreat. Heath lets out a gasp, his thoughts confused and surprised, but relieved.
“It is done,” I breathe, falling back on my rear. “I can’t promise for how long, but for now, you should feel relief.” Caroline holds on a moment longer, but the water no longer seems to cause him any pain. I notice the black stain on his fingers has also disappeared.
“What did you do?” Heath asks weakly.
“I sealed the power of the lava away, temporarily,” I answer. “We hope it will give you a chance to regain your strength of will, and your sanity.”
He stares at the ceiling, doubtful.
“Heath, for the time being, do not try to call on your magic, or you will risk releasing him.” He nods from the floor.
Caroline sits back on her heels, holding the water in a ball as Heath sits up, staring at his hands. “He’s really gone… it’s so… quiet,” He says softly.
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” I advise. “I suggest you practice meditation and rest. I can instruct you, if you wish.”
“You would do that, for me? After what I did?” He asks, voice full of doubt and guilt.
“You did nothing, child. You are as much a victim as she,” I wave dismissively. “The darkness is not your doing.”
“How can you be so sure?” He looks down at his normal-looking hands with disbelief.
“Have you the desire to do those things again, now that he is gone?” I ask pointedly.
His thoughts fill with guilt and regret. “No… I- I don’t want that,” He says, almost inaudibly.
“That is how I know,” I state simply. “Let us go to the library. It’s quiet there. Good for resting the mind and body,” I suggest. He nods, keeping his eyes on his hands.
“Should we leave you two alone?” Caroline asks.
“No, that’s no necessary. You are welcome to join, if you wish,” I sigh, looking to Nik. His eyes linger on me, concern on his mind.
“Are you alright?” He asks.
I nod, “I’ll be fine. Help me up, would you?”
He shuffles over, taking my arm and pulling me to my feet. “You should eat something,” He frowns.
Caroline offers a hand to Heath to help him up, covering her mouth as she coughs again. I narrow my eyes. “Have you been coughing a lot lately?”
She looks to me, shaking her head. “No, must just be a cold. I usually get one in the spring around this time,” She shrugs. “I’ll see if Kaede can get some cold medicine.”
“I advise you seek out Gwen as well,” I hum. “It doesn’t hurt to have her look you over.”
“Sure, but it’s just a cold,” She says dismissively.
“I didn’t know you were also a doctor,” I muse, heading for the door with Nik on my heels.
“Geez… Never had a cold before?” She thinks sarcastically.
“Many. I’ve also had Spanish influenza, smallpox, the black plague, and polio,” I retort. “What’s your point?”
“No point. Just saying it’s nothing to get in a huff over, but if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll see Gwen,” She rolls her eyes.
“Good,” I smile. “Remember, I’ll know if you don’t.”
“Right…” She groans inwardly.
By Krystyna Yates