The Tale of a Mage (part 27)

Cassandra felt terror well up inside her. She gripped the edge of the sinking vessel until her knuckles turned white. Her head spun and she tried to focus on slowing her breath. In the back of her mind, she admonished herself. She should be better at this by now. After spending the better part of seven years as a guest in Queen Cerise’s dungeon she should be stronger, better able to handle adversity. Izzy didn’t appear to be afraid of anything, Livia and Drucilla seemed much the same. Even Nyx who did at times noticeably display fear was resourceful and usually able to act in spite of it. Cassandra had thought her magical mastery had improved significantly but in this moment it failed her. As horrifying as the prospect of being eaten alive was, Cassandra found herself overcome by an increasing melancholy that threatened to overshadow her fear. In this moment, the thought that she was about to die without having proved herself anything beyond useless caused her more distress than the prospect of her impending demise. A sudden sharp pain interrupted her musings as a piece of falling debris collided with the back of her head. Her eyes shot open, instinctually, searching for the source of the pain. Her head swam, the chaotic world before her began to blur and then fade. The experience was almost one of peace. If any of the people she loved survived this they would be free, they would no longer need to risk themselves for her. That offered a measure of comfort.

When Cassandra awoke the first thing that invaded her consciousness was pain. Her head throbbed, her throat burned, her whole body ached. It took several attempts to pry her eyes open. She was greeted by Izzy learning over her. Her face marked with a combination of relief and lingering concern.

“Thank the Gods you’re alive. You were so close to death…” Izzy’s skin was pale and clammy, her eyes glazed. “I used all the magic I could muster, I wasn’t sure it would be enough.” Her voice was shaking. Cassandra ran her gaze about her surroundings. It appeared they were on a beach. She refocused her attention on Izzy.

“Are you okay?” Cassandra pulled herself to a sitting position and reached for Izzy her discomfort temporarily forgotten.

“I… I don’t think so Cass.” Izzy trembled in Cassandra’s arms. Cassandra gently guided her to a lying position. Izzy’s eyelids flickered for a moment and then fell closed. Cassandra leant over her. She was still breathing but her breaths were weak and erratic.

Cassandra froze a sense of horror overwhelming her senses. This couldn’t be happening. Izzy had always been the strong one. The one who had kept her sane all those years she had been trapped in the Queen’s dungeon. Izzy had saved her in so many ways and now it appeared she might pay for it with her life.

Cassandra shook herself. No! She couldn’t let this happen, wouldn’t. She lay shaking hands on Izzy’s chest. Closing her eyes, she focused on the feeling of magic welling up inside her. She visualised Izzy waking, healthy, as she cast the healing spell she had practised many times before. Izzy remained motionless her breathing becoming weaker as the moments passed. A regular healing spell wasn’t going to work. Healing spells repaired the flesh and there was nothing wrong with Izzy’s body. Izzy’s problem was magical depletion. A mage’s magic was connected to their lifeforce. Reaching the end of their reserves could kill them. It was a rare occurrence. Usually, spellcasting failure occurred long before a mage reached this limit.

Cassandra pushed down the rising panic. There had to be something she could do, a way to fix this. She would not allow Izzy to die for her. She began going over her training in her head, every spell she had practised, every historical text Izzy had sneaked into the dungeon for her during her captivity. At last, she remembered something. An ancient scroll, recounting events prior to the mage purge, had spoken of dark mages who strengthened their magic by syphoning magical energy from other mages. Surely, if it was possible to steal another mage’s magic it was possible to give some of one’s own to another. Cassandra felt a measure of uncertainty. She had no idea how to do this, had never practiced it, wasn’t even sure anyone before her had attempted it. However, she was out of options.

She took a deep breath and focused. She imagined her magic building up in her body, slowly reaching her hands, passing through her fingertips, into Izzy’s body. At first, she felt nothing but she continued to visualise the magic following its path from herself to the woman before her. After what felt like a lifetime she began to feel a warm tingly sensation deep within her chest. Slowly the sensation dispersed throughout her body, working its way down her arms to the tips of her fingers. The magic poured through her into Izzy. She felt her lifeforce entwine with Izzy’s. She could feel Izzy’s heartbeat, weak at first, it slowly steadied. All uncertainty was gone, instinct took over as if on some level she had always known what to do. When she felt Izzy’s strength returning she pulled back, severed the connection.

Cassandra had expected to feel drained, but she didn’t. In fact, she felt invigorated a stark contrast to how she had felt when she first awoke. Izzy’s eyes flickered open and she stared up at Cassandra with a combination of astonishment and awe.

“That should not have been possible… Everything I have read on the topic of magical transference suggests it should have killed you…” She fell silent for a moment then a look of recognition dawned on her face. “The prophesy…” She whispered.

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