Fireblood Page 2

Tyrus swung his fist around and then saw her. It was Merinda. The Druidecht was alive?

“Tyrus?” she gasped. Her face was white, her robes soaked in blood. Dead leaves were tangled in her hair. Her left arm pressed against her side at an awkward angle, likely broken.

“Merinda,” he said in amazement, stopping. “Are you…are you alone?”

She nodded in exhaustion, her eyes fluttering.

“Are you really Merinda Druidecht?” he demanded, studying her face. He could not trust anything right now, least of all his senses. The black ring on his finger burned with heat.

“I am,” she answered and the ring throbbed. “Who did you think I was? Your sister?”

There was pain at the word. He clenched his teeth, trying to control it. “She died long ago, Merinda. Long ago. Do you know where you are?”

Merinda nodded, approaching. She doubled over in pain. “I am weak, Tyrus. But I know how to escape. I know the way out. But they hunt me. They are coming again. I lack the strength.”

“Where is Aboujaoude?” Tyrus asked. “He would not have left your side unless…” He choked, unable to say it. Aboujaoude was a Bhikhu. The most talented Bhikhu in a generation, a natural with any weapon or with his hands and feet alone. Surely he would have survived the Scourgelands. Tyrus had assumed Merinda would have fallen first.

“Dead,” Merinda said flatly. “I am tired, Tyrus. So tired. Will you…will you walk with me a ways?”

“I am hunted as well, Merinda,” he said, pained by her plea. If he slowed for her, they would both die. He had to live. He had to live to describe what they had found. Perhaps someday, another Paracelsus would read the words and see something that he had not seen. The claw wounds would heal, though they were poisoned. He knew the cures for poisons. The guilt would possibly drive him mad. Yet one of them had to survive. One had to warn the Arch-Rike of the next Plague that was coming.

“I know, Tyrus. I can help you if you help me. I know the way out. I can help you escape. But you must promise me. You must help me.”

He wanted to laugh, his mind giddy with dread. A way out? “Where, Merinda?” Tyrus asked, listening for the sound of their pursuers. The howling had stopped. That was not good. It meant they were still on the trail, trying to box them in. They would attack from three sides at once. “What is the way?” Tyrus seethed, grabbing her shoulder and shaking her.

Merinda looked back at the woods, her face twisted with grief. “They come.”

“Tell me!”

“You must not look,” she said. Her voice came as a whisper. “They live in the trees. Inside them, Tyrus. Inside these sick trees. You see their faces and they make you forget. You must not look at them, Tyrus. Walk south. Look at the ground. Do not look at the trees. The faces—you will see them. And then you will forget. They rule these woods. The faces. So beautiful. So twisted. They hate us, Tyrus. Especially our blood. Yet they will help us. Only us. Please…I have shown you the way out. It is the way of the Druidecht. It is our lore. You would not know of it. Do not write it, Tyrus. There are secrets which cannot be written. Please…you must save me. You must…”

His heart pained him. He tried not to feel it or let it influence him. “I cannot save you, Merinda. I may not even be able save myself. If I stay with you, they will reach us, and I cannot protect you from them. They are without reason. They hunt and they kill. Even fire barely hurts them.”

“I know,” she said, nodding like a puppet. “I will stop them. I will unleash all of the magic. I will save you. I will sacrifice my mind. But you must save me.”

“There is no way to cure the madness!” Tyrus hissed, trembling with fury. “I could not save Missy and I cannot save you from it. Have you unleashed it already? Are you already lost, Merinda? Say it!”

“No,” she answered, and the ring on his finger pulsed with life again. “No, not yet. But I will. I will to save you. You must…in return…save me. Not my mind, Tyrus. Not for long. You must save my body. I must live…longer.”

His heart skipped when he realized what she meant, and the pangs of guilt hit deeper. “No…Merinda…is it true? I had seen you and Aboujaoude look at each other, but never more than that. I never suspected…”

She reached and clutched his tunic front with her free hand, the one that was not angled crookedly against her side. “We were careful that no one knew. We were wed in Kenatos by the Arch-Rike in secret. We did not want anyone to know, least of all you. I am with child,” she whispered. “His child. He sacrificed himself that I might escape. Now the madness will take me so that you will escape. But you must save me, Tyrus. Not for my sake, but for the child’s sake. There are so few of us, and our blood is sacred. It will save many during the Plague that comes. The Plague that we have caused by coming here. This forsaken land. This wilderness of our wrongs. Save my child, Tyrus.”

Loading...
Prev Next