Reviving Maric from torpor is beginning to become a habit. Well, If twice can be regarded as a habit anyway. I must be learning, since this time, it was achieved without anybody getting their limbs ripped off.
I went to the Vaults, and ordered then closed to all and any visitors. Nobody was to come in without permission. I had already dressed in my best mail armour, just in case, and for additional safety, gathered the chains we had used last time.
Down in the vaults, I cleared a space, and working very carefully, bound the monstrous form that was Maric as best I could, enough, I hoped to hobble his limbs and maybe secure him to the fabric of the castle.
As I was preparing a flask of my blood to feed him, using a pipette, an idea occurred to me. I had other options, another shape I could use. The bat might be more manoeuvrable and better able to evade Maric’s grasp, should he frenzy. I shifted shape and experimented with my hind limbs to see if I could operate the pipette with reasonably good aim. That seemed to work, so I filled it and flew up, positioning myself above Maric’s jaw as best I could and squeezing the bulb of the pipette. The first drops landed on his face, sitting there, beading on his stone-like skin for a few moments before soaking in and disappearing.
He came to with a roar and scream that rattled the very walls of the castle, sending me skittering upwards out of reach, the sound nearly rupturing my ears. Below me, I could see his body wrenching and writhing in pain and anger. His eyes were as red as I had ever seen them and again and again, he roared his anger. His claws dug into the very stonework and all my efforts with the chain seemed in vain as they snapped like twigs under the strain of his monstrous limbs. I flew higher, relying on distance to keep me out of reach of those enormous claws. I directed more blood onto his face, again, watching it soak in as soon as it touched. I did not have much left and did not dare risk flying lower to refill it. I should have put the flask up high on one of the beams, but it was too late now.
Another idea occurred to me – perhaps I could steer him towards the flask. I stayed up high, but directed my aim to one side, trying to lead him towards where the flask was. To my relief, and considerable surprise, it worked. He followed the trail of blood droplets, grabbed the flask and gulped it down in one go. I felt the power run through him and the mental link flared to life, but it was a white-hot ball of pain at Vedis’ destruction that almost stunned me and I fell, desperately clinging on to one of the wooden beams until the pain passed. I tried to project peace at him, to no avail. He roared again, fighting for control and he looked up, his eyes locking onto mind. I felt his pain flaring out, shaking the castle, and that gave me an idea. I projected the idea of the castle as shelter against the weather, his pain beating at it like rain in a storm, running down the roof, the guttering and safely into the ground.
Between that and his own efforts, somehow he regained control. He fell to the ground, shifting into his more human form as he did so, but as he fell, his gaze fell on the space where the mirror portal had been, and I felt his shock, the realisation of what had happened to Vedis. “What have I done?” he asked before collapsing to the floor.
I judged it safe to return to my human form, remembering to land on the ground first. I told him that he had done what he needed to do to protect the castle and his people. I said the Dyisi had given her essence to complete what needed to be done to drive away the corruption. There was nothing else we could have done.
He sat up; gathering himself together and I felt the shields go up as if trying to protect me and the rest of the castle inhabitants from his emotional turmoil. “Was there?” he asked. “Was there no other way?” He was clearly trying to rebuild himself into the person we knew. He thanked me for reviving him yet again, being thankful that this time, I was in one piece and his men were not half-dead. It was not normal for him, he said, to be in such situations this many occasions in such a short time, but we did live in interesting times. What must I think of him, he asked.
I answered his question about the alternatives first, being a little surprised at his reaction. I may have been a little harsh on him, telling him that he, of all people, who had been a warrior for many more years than I had even existed, should know that there are not always any easy choices. Somebody who had warred as much as he had should know that sometimes, there were going to be casualties. Much as I regretted the loss of Vedis – I had known her a long time and considered her a friend – we had to concentrate on the here and now. I couldn’t quite believe I was the one giving the war is hell pep talk, but fortunately, I was interrupted. I sensed a disturbance at the vaults entrance, possibly Aoibheann. Just as I was saying that, a guard called down from the laboratory door, asking if it was ok for Aoibheann to go to her chambers. She was apparently somewhat agitated and, I found out later, concerned that the whole village might be destroyed if they didn’t let her in.
For myself, I felt the immediate danger was past, but checked with Maric, since he was now awake, and therefore in command. He looked at me a little uncertainly at first, and then seemed to regain himself. Yes, he said, Vedis and I had been good friends. He had picked up her memories and emotions and she had considered me a dear friend. He considered me a dear friend too, and was forever grateful for my loyalty, even having seen him at his worst. He stood up and finally seemed to notice that he was naked, grabbing the blanket I had thrown over him on the night of the ritual. He said that Aoibheann could go to the chambers, escorted, but he was in no fit state to see her. I realised that I had worn my cloak over my armour when I came down here, so I passed that over to him as extra covering and said I would send some of his clothes down. He bade me leave him then, so he could rest. I needed to go anyway, to stand down the alert on the vaults and to deal with any aftermath from his emotional outbursts. Fortunately, at least, there was little of this. Either they did not reach the upper levels, or the castle staff are used to such things.