I felt the fire coming down with a terrible weight behind it. We had
less than a moment. The first time I used my arcane gift, it was try
to save the life of another, and it wasn’t enough. But I had grown so
much since then. This time it would be enough, I would be enough. With
a fraction of a spell, I propelled the girl ahead of the crushing
flame. I had an instant left to say good-bye to Luna, to wish my
companions well, to know the little girl made it.
Then as the air was shoved from my lungs and incinerated before my
face, I felt strong hands pulling me upward out of the fire… no the
water. Something ethereal washed over me as the master of those hands
stood me up to face him. Barnus. He looked at me as though he had
never died, as though I hadn’t.
“William Edrick Australis, welcome back.” Barnus greeted me with such
serenity that he might have been my oldest friend.
I rudely looked around, searching for my mother, my father. He seemed
to sense my intent.
“They are still adrift, my friend.” That didn’t make sense. My parents
were dead. Weren’t they? I didn’t have much a chance to ponder before
Barnus offered me his forearm from the shore and pulled me entirely
out of the strange water. It was night, as it had been the last time I
saw him but I could see perfectly. Light seemed to shine more brightly
from its hiding spots to compensate. Each pinpoint of light felt like
a memory. I could not say how much time I spent there, fixating on
each one I could find. They were indeed memories, but not all of them
mine. Exploring them was absolutely fascinating, or it would be. I
wanted answers. I wanted to know what happened to my friends, to the
girl I saved.
Barnus looked at me with a kind patience as though he had just woken
me for a shortened watch, knowing I was wounded. But I never camped
with him outside the protection of the caravan. Cut-Nose laughed
good-naturedly at my confusion. She seemed to be sharing some joke
with Aberlour and Tain. When did they arrive? How long had I been
transfixed by the lights? I felt so hurried, hungry to experience this
place, but Barnus assured me time was no longer a limitation. He said
that we could venture downstream at our convenience to find the
answers I sought. That when my parents surfaced from this mercurial
stream, we could stroll back together and study my birth, theirs, the
birth of the gods if we so wished. The promise of such experience
thrilled me and Barnus assured me I would never again be limited, be
All of this he said to me on those timeless shores… or maybe he was