The Way of the Word

27. October 2010

The Gatherers – Chapter 38

Both wizards stopped fighting. Together, they stared at the lethal beauty of the spectacle unfolding before their eyes.

“We did that,” Terek said.

“We only speeded it up,” Bolwyn replied. “That mountain was acting up since before we arrived. It would’ve erupted anyway. We only made it go a bit sooner.”

Terek took a breath so deep it visibly expanded his chest. He let it out slowly.

“You are right,” he said. “Now what do we do?”

Ghenni looked from the wizards to Habbassin. The djinn’s eyes narrowed to tiny slits. Spreading his fingers as wide as they would go, he moved his hands in small sweeps in front of him. Ghenni thought she saw a glow that resembled a small net, but the glow faded so quickly she wasn’t sure. She was sure about the smile on Habbassin’s face, though; sure, and glad she wasn’t either of the wizards. She didn’t like that smile at all.

“There’s only one thing we can do,” Bolwyn said. He started to move his hands in gestures Ghenni had learned to recognize as working magic. “Cut our losses and get out of here.”

“I fear you are correct,” Terek said, sighing. He began to move his hands in a fashion similar to Bolwyn’s. “Until the next time, then.”

Terek began to fade out, but he didn’t make it all the way. He was about halfway gone when he stopped fading. He screamed, like a man in terrible pain, resolidifying at the same time. He collapsed. Beside him, the same thing happened to Bolwyn.

“What happened?” Bolwyn said, recovering first. “That spell always works. It’s so simple it’s foolproof, dammit”

“I have no idea,” Terek replied. “It felt like running into a barrier.” He struggled to his knees. Turning his head, he glared at Habbassin. “You! That was your doing, djinn. You are the only one powerful enough.”

“Gee, you found me out,” Habbassin said, his flat voice belying the flippancy of his words. “You know, I figured it’s not fair. You trigger that volcano, and after you do you run off, leaving these people to die. I thought you should do something about the volcano.”

“Get real,” Bolwyn said, rising to his feet. “That thing’ll probably tear the entire island to pieces.” Bolwyn pulled the lamp from a pocket and shook it at Habbassin. “Whatever you did, I command you to undo it.”

Habbassin went to Bolwyn. He took the lamp from the wizards hands. Without looking, he melted it until it was a puddle at his feet.

“Get real,” the djinn said. “You didn’t think I’d give someone like you power over me? I won’t lift my anti-teleportation spell until after we’ve saved this island. Get it?”

“That wasn’t … You weren’t …”

“For someone so smart, you are certainly not very intelligent,” Habbassin said. He turned his back at Bolwyn. “Now you two can help me stop that volcano, or you can crawl into a hole and die. Your choice.” Habbassin turned his arms into wings. Flapping them, he took a running leap off what was left of the cliff. He circled, gaining altitude. When he was high enough, he flew toward Wakano’s Throne.

“We’re doomed,” Bolwyn muttered. “We can’t get away from here. We’re dead.”

“On the other hand, we are both very advanced magic users,” Terek said softly. “The djinn is obviously even more advanced than we are. He may even be as powerful as the both of us together. If we pool our abilities, we may succeed with this mad scheme.” He smirked. “What have we to lose by trying? Either we succeed, and live. Or we fail, and die. Or we do nothing, and die.

“I do not wish to die just yet.”

With that, Terek spread his arms. A cold blue light enveloped him as he rose into the air, following in Habbassin’s wake.

“They’re crazy,” Bolwyn said to nobody in particular. “Nobody’s ever stopped a volcano. Nobody.”

“What do you have to lose by trying?” Ghenni said. Bolwyn looked at her, surprised as if he had forgotten she was there. Which, Ghenni conceded, he probably had. “This is all your fault,” Ghenni continued. She coughed. The air was quickly filling with smoke and dust. It was getting difficult to breathe. “If you hadn’t come, nobody would’ve gotten sick. If you hadn’t come, none of this would’ve happened. Now see what you’ve done.” She gestured at the land around her. “Look at what you did here. This used to be a beautiful place, but you and Terek destroyed it. What for? Nothing! As if that weren’t enough, you make Wakano so angry he’ll probably destroy the entire island. Hab– The djinn thinks you can do something about it. So go and do it. If not, you’re welcome to die here with us. Welcome to? Hah! You deserve to die with us!” Ghenni spat at his feet, which triggered another coughing spell.

Bolwyn looked at her as he would look at a strange rare specimen. Rubbing his chin, he looked at the volcano.

“You can’t get away,” Ghenni reminded him. “You can die here, or you can try help save everyone.”

“No choice, really,” Bolwyn said. He actually smiled, although it was kind of sad. “I really don’t wanna die just yet.” He spread his arms wide and faded from view. Ghenni gasped. Had Habbassin’s spell stopped working? Had Bolwyn somehow managed to teleport himself to safety?

Ghenni looked at the sea. She could try to run, but she knew it wouldn’t do her any good. If the three magic-users failed, she was too far even from the village to reach it in time. Sure, she could jump into the sea and try to swim to the next island, but she knew it to be too far. Her strength would abandon her before she ever got close enough to even see it.

Remembering her viewing crystal, Ghenni took it from its pouch. She whispered the magic word. Sitting down on the ground, she wondered what she should look at. Her family? No. She knew what they would be doing. The entire village would be getting into the boats and try to row away to safety. Her parents would probably worry about her.

She decided she really didn’t need to see that. Chuckling, she shook her head. So much had happened during these last couple of days. She hadn’t realized how much it had changed her. Looking at the Throne, Ghenni wondered if it was an adult reaction to calmly accept whatever the gods had planned for one. If so, she reflected, she had probably become an adult these last couple of days; in spirit if not yet in body.

Ghenni concentrated on Bolwyn. The crystal cleared, showing a clear picture of the rotund wizard flying above the volcano, side by side with Terek and Habbassin. They were circling, all three, apparently searching for the best way to calm Wakano down. They hovered a moment. Were they discussing how to proceed? Ghenni couldn’t tell. She supposed they had when she saw them split up, each trying a different approach to try and calm Wakano. Ghenni’s mind’s eye, through the crystal, followed Terek first.

Terek flew toward the village, but not very far. He landed just ahead of the flow of lava. No, he didn’t land. Instead, he levitated a couple of inches above the ground. Ghenni could well understand why. The tremors would have made keeping his balance alone a nearly impossible task. He would have been so busy standing up, he would be unable to work any useful magic.

Terek raised his face to the sky. Raising his hands, he shouted something Ghenni couldn’t hear. His hands glowed. The light sprang from his hands, turning into what looked like a giant wall, only made of stone instead of wood. The light wall turned solid and sank slowly to the ground, right in the lava’s path. Ghenni chewed her lip. Would it work? Would the wall stop Wakano’s fire? She didn’t think so.

Neither, apparently, did Terek, who retreated a few hundred yards. Again, he raised his face and hands to the sky. Again, his hands glowed. This time, the glow became a giant crystal, smooth and nearly flat. Ghenni recognized it; Habbassin had shown her something similar. A lens, he had called it. The lens glinted with sunlight, gathered it, focused it, until it released the sunlight as a single coherent powerful beam that cut into the ground, carving a wide and deep trench.

Wakano’s fire was stopped by the wall Terek had conjured up before. Still, it was obvious it wouldn’t hold. At best, it would slow Wakano’s fire down, buying more time for the people to escape. Which, Ghenni thought, was probably what Terek had in mind. The trench he dug in the lava’s way would slow it down even more.

Ghenni sighed. Terek wasn’t accomplishing much, in her opinion, but at least he was doing something. What were the others up to?

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