Samir reached back into Varajas with his magic, creating a map in his mind of Varajas’s body and the venom flowing through it. Moving with the blood, and Samir had just created an outlet for that blood. Now all he had to do was coax the venom out.

Starting at the top. Brain, lungs, heart, in that order, he needed to clear. Before they were damaged beyond repair.

He wanted to hurry, but he couldn’t hurry. The part of him that was aware of time ticking away, of the venom spreading and Varajas bleeding out—he had to shut that down. Impatience would lead to a mistake, and he couldn’t afford any mistakes.

That same cold focus descended as it had when he’d been facing the spider. With it came a sense of calm, his emotions a vague, distant awareness. This was the place in which he could work.

In brief bursts of magic, he teased his way into Varajas’s head. Like tiny, glittering lures, he could feel the venom turning, chasing. Trying to feed. With careful precision, he led it down and away, clearing as much as he could and drawing it into the blood that was rushing out of Varajas’s arm.

Lungs were more of a challenge. Diffuse and delicate, the venom had spread faster here. Like trying to pick through tangled strands of the most delicate thread. How many seconds passed? How long did he have?

No. He turned away from those thoughts, let them float away. Neither he nor Varajas could afford them.

As Samir coaxed the lungs clear, Varajas’s breathing deepened and strengthened. A hopeful sign, but Samir couldn’t let himself be distracted by hope any more than by fear. Not when the hand resting on Varajas’s forearm had gone slick with blood, and even the stronger breathing was too fast, too shallow.

Stop. Focus. Fix this.

Samir moved his attention to the heart, which was struggling. Irregular, weak, and infused with the strange, sickening feel of the spider. Here the venom was doing…something. Something Samir couldn’t identify, but it seemed to be almost cocooning itself within the walls of muscle and less eager to follow the bait of Samir’s own magic.

Fear and panic were a distant pulse in Samir’s own body, but he had no time for them. He pushed his awareness deeper, focused smaller and smaller. Bit by bit, molecule by molecule, he focused on the invasive wrongness.

Something else was happening. He didn’t have attention to spare to figure it out, but it was like Varajas’s own body was trying to help. As Samir drew the venom away, the cells and vessels and strands of tissue seemed to strengthen and solidify. Making it harder for the venom to get back in.

Time had lost any meaning, so Samir had no idea how long he’d spent here. All he could go by was the fact Varajas’s heart was still breathing; his lungs were still working. It hadn’t been too long yet, but he didn’t know how close he was to that line.

He started to calculate “good enough.” Focusing on the other organs. Ignoring the venom becoming more and more diffuse in the rest of Varajas’s body. Time dragged on. Too long, he thought distantly, except that now his efforts weren’t the only thing working against the venom. Varajas’s body was absolutely fighting back, which was more help than Samir had anticipated.

Varajas groaned and his arm twisted beneath, his hand clamping on Samir’s forearm. Samir didn’t let that distract him either.

Until he’d done all he could. All he dared. He stitched Varajas’s arm back together with clumsy energy. No better than a needle and thread, but it would do. Finished, he opened his eyes.

Saw Varajas looking back at him.

Varajas had been helping him. Samir was certain of it. Using magic, even if it wasn’t in a way Samir recognized. “Who are you?” Samir murmured without thinking. Without remembering that his magic, his awareness was still sunk into Varajas and this place was strange.

Which was how, once again, he got sucked into Varajas’s vision.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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