Samir had stopped to catch his breath, leaning against the bannister for support. He’d…drifted off. Lost track of where he was for a moment. That wasn’t good.

None of this was good. “So I’m going to give you the bad news now,” he said, speaking to a Varajas who probably couldn’t hear him. “Maybe you can figure out some solution. Because the truth is, I’m not that great at the magic I’m supposed to be good at. I’m not a healer, not really. I was going to get around to figuring that out eventually, but…honestly, you should have come here with Korin.

“Or maybe none of us should have come here. Which would certainly be an easier argument to make if I knew where we were or how we got here in the first place.”

Pushing forward again, counting every step. “Yes, next time, you’re definitely carrying me.”

At the top of the stairs, the door Samir was looking for stood open, and the room seemed to be empty. Small favors. Gently as he could, he tumbled Varajas off his shoulders and onto the cold stone floor.

Samir ventured back into the hall for some chairs he’d seen that weren’t too far gone. Rotten enough to snap easily when he bashed them against a wall, but still substantial enough he could get a decent fire going with a quick burst of magic to start it. He arranged Varajas close to the fire, then closed the two doors that led out of the room.

Which made them as safe as Samir could get them. And meant the next step was dealing with Varajas.

“Most spider venom is either neurotoxic or necrotic,” he recited, kneeling down next to the unconscious man. “Light knows, though. It isn’t like nightmare, magic-eating spiders were ever part of Sheluna’s curriculum. I’ll have to have a talk with her about that.”

He placed a hand over the wound and closed his eyes, reaching into Varajas with his magic sense. He’d never mastered the trick of getting the body to tell him what was different and how to set it right, but that spider had been otherworldly strange. Surely whatever it had injected into Varajas would feel just as strange. Maybe Samir could find it.

And oh god, no sooner had he had that thought than there it was. Pulsing with a nauseating energy, coursing through Varajas’s blood. Samir poked at it carefully with a sliver of energy, and it twined around his power, sucking it in.

Burning it up was out of the question, but its own eagerness to chase his magic presented another possibility. One that hopefully he could carry off without killing Varajas.

He wrestled Varajas to a seated position. “Don’t die,” he ordered, as he used Varajas’s knife to slice open his forearm.

Now he had to work fast. Before Varajas bled to death.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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