Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 26
Zethurus collapsed down upon the chair, his limbs weak. Shiloh yanked at the sleeve of his robe, ripping the thin fabric up to his shoulder. The wound oozed thick, dark blood. The cut into the mage’s muscle was obscured by the secretion, but the surrounding skin had taken on a dull purple hue of a bruise.
“You never thought to tell anyone of this?” Shiloh’s eyes met the mage’s.
Zethurus bared his teeth. Charlstine drifted through the doorway, her robes flowing behind her. “It is no ordinary wound, is it?” The Arcanus announced her arrival. In her hand, she held a sheet of folded cloth and a ceramic pitcher that sloshed with the sound of water. Shiloh stepped back from Zethurus while Charlstine yanked on his arm.
The woman tossed the white linen in his lap before pouring a splash of the liquid over the wound. Zethurus flinched, attempting to pull his arm away. “Hold still, it’s just water mixed with some ash. The burning may last for a while, but it should flush out any bad energies in the wound.”
Shiloh leaned his head around to see the water bubbling and melting away the rancid blood. “Why has the wound continued to bleed?” He asked. “It was almost two weeks ago since he received it.”
“Are you familiar with the term ‘mage blood’ Mr. Shiloh?” Charlstine avoided the question and glanced back quickly from Zethurus.
“Of course, it’s… any people born of the magi race, able to perform spells and such. All of those whom you represent under the Order.”
“Correct, but only partially so.” Charlstine said while nodding slowly. With the cloth in her hand, she carefully dabbed away the excess liquid from Zethurus’s wound. “The blood that runs in our veins, mage blood, is different that that of your own, Mr. Shiloh. It is the source of our power, traveling throughout our bodies. It allows us to summon that which is in our heart; the scorching heat of fire, the coldness of ice, the torrent of wind and lightning.”
“Or if one’s heart contains an umbra of darkness?” Shiloh posed, catching Zethuru’s glance over Charlstine’s shoulder.
“Indeed.” The Arcanus stared down at the freshly cleaned wound. Surrounding the fine incision where Zethurus had been nicked by the sword was a dark lump of mutated flesh, pulsating slightly. “What do you remember of the moment you received this wound, Zethurus?”
The mage looked up into her eyes, blinking rapidly. “Nothing.” He muttered. “It’s all a blank.”
Charlstine dug her thumb into the bruised flesh around the wound. Zethurus flinched in response, unable to pull his arm away. “I remember…” Zethurus finally spoke. “…darkness… just darkness, and the cold. When I came to, that knight… the one called Mandabus… had collapsed on the ground. One of the others attacked, and I was forced to flee.”
“Such a convenient tale.” Shiloh scoffed.
“It is hard to say so, Mr. Shiloh.” Charlstine rebutted. “I don’t feel the darkness in this man’s heart. Cowardice, perhaps, but not darkness. That knight, on the other hand….”
Shiloh tapped his foot loudly and avoided eye contact with the other two. “Explain.”
“The dark energy likely originated in that man.” Charlstine began to explain, staring into Zethurs’s eyes. “It doesn’t take magical blood to sense that. However, it was likely your very own magical blood and conducted the energy, causing you to react violently.”
“I pray you’re doing this to protect your own kind, Lady Arcanus.” Shiloh paced around the small room.
“Have you ever seen lighting strike the point of a tall building, Mr. Shiloh?” Charlstine asked, glancing back at him. “Magical energy wants to find the shortest path to another source. It seems that… Mandabus, and Zethurus were a perfect match for each other.”
“Zethurus, would you be so bold to confirm this?” Shiloh looked down at the mage, who bit his lip as the cleaned wound continued to burn.
“Would you really accept my word at this point?” He said, seething.
A loud knock came to the door. Chin pushed his way inside before a response could come. “Charlstine, we must discuss the nature of what has taken place.”
Loudly, the Lady ripped a strip of cloth from the linen and wrapped it tightly around Zethuru’s wound. “Please be patient.” Charlstine said without offering Chin a look. “We shall be down at the hall shortly.”