That One Time I Went On A Quest

Kastor applied for a job he wasn't qualified for and got it. His employer? A woman known throughout the Realms as the greatest dragon slayer in the world.

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42. Rutherford's Wish (3)

As my fingers close around her shoulder – so thin now, so frail – the world turns white. Open eyes, close eyes – no difference. They burn anyway. The inferno swirls around her upraised arm, pouring endlessly into Kaishen’s blade.

Pain, then beyond it. My fingers are burning upon her skin; flesh, bone, gone in a flash. In my skull, a stampede, a wild buzzing that grows louder and louder. Can’t think. Can’t feel. Only one thought left, the lowest of the low, baser than instinct.

Run!

Run!

But Kathanhiel isn’t moving. Her voice, speaking so very faintly:

‘Help…me…’

 

During those nights on the highway, as the six Apex candidates had her immolated, I was cowering in Oon’Shang’s shadow and dozing off. When she found me in the aftermath, under the rain of ash, she should have struck me and called me a worthless scum. That’s what I deserved. Instead, she gave me the Bane of Dragons.

 When Talukiel had slit my throat at Iborus, it was supposed to be the end. As he charged at her – the toughest opponent she has ever faced – she threw Kaishen away to keep me alive. What else did I do that night? Lying on a bed. Riding a horse. Watching people give their lives.

And now, at the final stretch, all I can think of is running away.

No.

I refuse.

 

She’s burning. I am too. Kaishen is bucking wildly, as if trying to flee from her grip. Reaching up against the intolerable heat, I put my hands around hers.

The heat. The weight. The scouring of everything inside my body, the influx of a thousand red-lettered words smeared all over my head. Let it go let it go it screams – no, me. I’m screaming.

Kathanhiel’s knees buckle. No, she can’t fall now, not when her wish is right here, right in front of her. Got to take more of the heat. Got to tell Kaishen to put more weight on me instead –

NO! ARE YOU CRAZY?! DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!

Am I laughing out loud? I am, aren’t I. That thought is so childishly inept. 

‘Is this what you want, Kaishen?’ I yell at the sword. Everything’s so bright, so loud. Can’t even hear myself. ‘For Kathanhiel to die the same way you did?! Then give me the heat and let her live!’

Ah, it listens.

My body, ripped apart. Rutherford’s flame turns it to ash. Then, in that very instant, Kaishen puts it back together. Incineration. Restoration. Dying and returning over and over again. Of course there would be cracks on the skin – it’s like putting together a shattered vase. Cracks are a part of the process.

The heat. Unbearable. How many times have I said that? How many times have I said that then bore it anyway?

Kathanhiel is amazing, to have withstood this purgatory of death and rebirth all by herself. There are no ghosts of past heralds coming out; they are nowhere to be seen. Ah, I get it now – that’s why she calls it Kaishen, so in moments like this she would not be alone.

But she’s alone no longer. I am here.

‘She’s not alone!!’

Am I thinking or yelling? Screaming or whispering?

‘I’m here! I will always be here!

 

Now this is a painting of heroes: two little humans, bathed in the ocean of fire spilling from the dragon’s jaws, their hands entwined upon the magical blade and raising it high in unwavering defiance, declaring to all the evils that be their will to live. 

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