Gentle hands opened my memory like a book, and I saw the events of the past several days, flashing quickly before my inner eyes. Some parts of those memories spawned others, the way a tree branch grows twigs, and in this way Lamma read more of my tale than I would have thought to tell. She could have read the whole of my life, I realized. But it seemed she only looked for the knowledge she needed. I sensed Mahar’s presence in my mind as well, and knew that Lamma was sharing what she learned with him.
When she had finished, she closed her eyes, and sat motionless for some minutes as if absorbing what she had learned from me. My own eyelids felt heavy, as if my body had suddenly remembered the sleep it was missing. It seemed as though it should be nearly dawn by now. But though I felt as if hours had passed, I could see by the moon that Lamma’s search of my mind had taken only minutes.
I see, she said at last. She opened her eyes again, and smiled at me. For one so young, you also see well. I wish to know you better, though there is no time now.
We have much to do, and little time to spare, Mahar agreed. He took a few steps away from the rest of us, and abruptly sank into the earth.
I started to my feet, certain he had fallen into some unseen hole. Do not fear, Lamma said. It is his way, always in a hurry. But he is young.
I wondered, as both of these two seemed older than me, what they considered “young.” Before I could think how to put the question, Mahar returned, rising up from the ground as quickly as he had entered it. This time he carried a cylindrical object, wrapped in cloth.
As he stepped over to the tall man, still fast asleep on the ground, Mahar removed the cloth, revealing a narrow drum about the length of his arm. The drum’s hollow body appeared to be formed from a single piece of wood. The head, made from some kind of animal skin, shimmered like a pearl in candlelight. At first I took this to be a trick of the moon, but the effect persisted when he stepped into shadow.
The drum had a rough leather strap on one side, and Mahar settled this over his shoulder so the drum hung in front of his waist. Go gently, Brother, Lamma told him. Time is short, but our friend is not as strong as he once was.
Mahar nodded. Perhaps, then, if I were to channel the power through Arathel, the strain would not be so much for him? He looked at me expectantly.
After a moment of wondering how he knew my name – but of course, he and Lamma would have seen it in my mind – I realized what he was proposing. The idea frightened me at first. But after all, how different could it be from the way Jann had drawn on my strength so many times? Lamma’s gentle search of my memory had convinced me I could trust these people.
“What would I need to do?”
Mahar directed me to sit next to the man, placing one hand over his heart and the other over the bandaged wound on his side. The most important thing, he said, is to leave your mind open to me. But you are already well accustomed to such things, I can see.
He stood just behind me and I waited, trying to let go of my apprehension. In a moment I heard a soft pattering, like rain on dry leaves. It started slowly and then, as the tempo and volume increased, I recognized the sound as Mahar’s fingers tapping the drum-head. The pattering grew and intensified, until it seemed as if the whole clearing was full of echoing drums.
Suddenly there came a loud crack which I both heard and felt, as Mahar slapped the drum-head with one hand and brought the other down hard on my shoulder. A jolt of raw power flashed through me like a stroke of lightning. Blazing heat shot down both arms into my hands, and I felt it enter the tall man’s body. But the effect on him was different. After leaving my hands, the heat spread slowly, ebbing into his body in time with the steady rhythm of his heart.
(Excerpt from This Dark Road: Chains.)