Keening: Part 6 – Again and Again

“Has anyone killed us yet?”

Lorcan jumped, whirling around. William stood there, the same cheery smile, the same sleepy eyes, just as he had been moments ago. Lorcan turned to his side, and Lucan, looking equally frightened and confused as he himself felt, stood nearby, clutching at his throat.

Lorcan looked back to William, his eyes wide, and his heart pounding. “William,” he gasped. “You’re okay.”

William’s smile turned uneasy, and his eyes flickered back and forth between Lorcan and Lucan. “Umm…yes? I think?” He raised his eyebrows at Lorcan. “Should I not be?”

Shaken, Lorcan looked at Lucan, who was still rubbing his throat, gulping nervously. “We’re back. Again.”

Lucan nodded. His eyes were wide, and he was shaking slightly. “That was horrible, Lorcan. I don’t know how it happened, they were just there, and-” He gulped again. “Are we doing this all again?”

William, who now looked rather alarmed at their behavior, was stepping back slowly. “I think I’m going to grab Dorian,” he said. “Not sleeping for a bit has gotten to you two.”

Lorcan leapt forward and grabbed his arm, startling William and making him stumble. “Lorcan, what-“

“We have to get out of here, now!” Lorcan turned to Lucan. “The Morrigan said that we would be hear until we succeeded, or we surrendered. That means that we do this over and over again until we reach one of those conclusions.”

Of course that’s what had to happen. The Morrigan had phrased everything so particularly. They would stay here, dying over and over again until Lorcan could save everyone and get them all out of here. The thought of it galled him, twisting his insides with fear and revulsion. He had killed several men, and died himself, after watching all his friends and brother be slaughtered in front of him. In the Order of the Rose, he had fought alongside his fellow soldiers, and he had witnessed many die, but this, this was somehow far worse.

Lucan’s face fell into an expression of dread. “I…,” he paused. “I don’t know Lorcan. I felt it. I felt the blade cut me, felt myself bleeding and dying. I…I don’t know if I can do that again.”

Lorcan let go of William, who started back down the stairs behind him, hastily walking and looking back at the pair over his shoulder. Lorcan stepped back toward his brother and grabbed him by the shoulders. “I know, I know, I felt it too. This is absolutely horrible. But…” He bowed his head. “I…I have to do this. I failed them all once, and I’ve had to live with that all my life. If you don’t want to do this, I understand, I really do. If you want to stop doing this, or want to find a place to hide yourself while I do this, please do so. But I need to do this.”

Lucan thought to himself for several moments, contemplating what he needed to do. If he went ahead with this, he might die, again. Several times, perhaps. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about the lives of these men, and he certainly cared for his brother, but he worried. He’d seen men who came back from war, or even a day in the mines, men who had seen death before them, and known that they could be next. That empty look in their eyes, that pain that seemed to cling to them, that constant fear that made some men cry out in their sleep, that made others see and hear things that weren’t there. He could face that, staying here, and what he experienced could follow him for the rest of his life.

Whatever may have been said of Lucan as a young boy, arrogant, selfish, bullying, and small-minded, whatever anyone could have said of Lucan being frightened, thinking of himself, or what any possible enemy of goodness could say to belittle or destroy those who seek to be Good, let it be declared that Lucan showed greater bravery and strength in that moment than many men together may find in the course of their lives. Afraid of death, certainly, expecting pain and suffering, definitely, fearing that this ordeal could leave him a broken man, or that he may never see his wife and child again, absolutely. He had nothing to lose by backing away from this task, and only suffering to find by helping his brother. While compassionate, he did not know the men that Lorcan wished to save, and could not feel the same obligation and compulsion that Lorcan did. However-

“I’ll do it.” Lucan pulled Lorcan’s arms off his shoulders. “May God help me and protect me, but I’ll do it.”

Lorcan looked up at him, tears brimming in his eyes. “Lucan, I didn’t know this would happen, I can’t ask you to-“

Lucan held up his hand. “I know. I know. I’m not doing this happily, you know. I know full well what I’m risking, and I know why you’re doing it. I can’t fully understand your drive, or the pain that makes you do this, but I can support you in it. I’ll do my best to help you.”

Lorcan paused for a moment, looking incredulously at his brother. Then, tears streaming freely down his face, he embraced his brother tightly. “Thank you.”

They held the embrace for a moment longer, then broke apart. Then, Dominguez called over to them from the nearby parapet. “Oye! That’s very sweet, whatever you’re doing, but if you don’t mind, I-“

But he was cut short, and arrow whistled up from beyond the fortress wall, and struck him on the side of the head, dropping him instantly.

“NO!” Lorcan cried. He stood there for a moment, dread settling again in his stomach, before Lucan pulled him away toward the stairs.

“I’m sorry Lorcan, but we can’t save him!” Lucan called to him, as he pulled them both along. “We have to try to save as many as possible.”

Lorcan shook his head, trying to clear it. Lucan was right. Perhaps they would die again and again, but if they had to go through this several times, they had to try to save as many people as possible. He allowed his brother to bring him away from the wall, and down the stairs. They collided with William, who had been rushing back up with Dorian and Baylor following. They all had worried expressions.

“Lorcan, William says-” Dorian began.

“Dominguez is dead, we have to go, NOW!” Lorcan cried. He shoved his friends back down the stairs. They protested slightly, but turned and began running as commanded.

As they came to the end of the corridor at the end of the stairs, they came to an intersecting hallway. Lorcan edged out in front of the rest and turned to the right, charging down the hall to the bolted door that he knew Lexaeus would emerge from. Right on cue, a door at the back of the hall far behind the group burst open, and raiders began pouring through it, intent on slaying the priests. Lorcan smiled grimly. They had been faster this time, so the Vikings were further behind them than they had been last time.

The door in front of Lorcan began to open, so he grabbed it and pulled it open faster, leaving a baffled Lexaeus standing in the doorway with his sword drawn. “Everybody inside, go!” Without hesitation, the whole group pushed past Lexaeus into the next hallway. Lorcan followed them in last, bolting the door behind him.

Lexaeus began to speak. “Everyone, the monastery is overrun. The raiders have already slain so many of us. We have to leave.”

Lorcan nodded, speaking quickly. “Agreed. All of you, my friends, I need you to trust me tonight. I’m going to do all I can to get us out of here. I’ve…” he contemplated what to say. None of them would really believe the situation he was in, despite the Morrigan obviously having altered a few things so as to include Lucan. “I’ve…seen what’s going to happen. If we don’t leave now, we’re all going to die. Please.” Lorcan looked individually into the eyes of all his friends, who all had the same expressions of terror and worry. “Please trust me. I’m just as frightened as you are, but if we stay alert, we can get out of here, I promise.”

Everyone’s faces seemed to relax a little. Having someone sound confident and like they had a plan seemed to spread confidence to the rest as well. Lorcan turned to Lucan. “I left you all last time, and you got ambushed. This time, we’re staying together.” Lorcan remembered the feeling of casting rune magic. He hoped he could do it again.

Lucan nodded to his brother. “Let’s try it.”

Lorcan looked to Lexaeus. “I’ll lead for now, but I need you to serve as a rear guard. If anyone gets too close, let me know, and we’ll hold them off. Otherwise, stay with the group. We can’t leave anyone behind.” He turned to the rest of the group. “I know that as priests, we are men of peace, but we cannot afford to be tonight. Lexaeus and I will fight to keep you alive. If you see weapons on the ground, take them, and defend yourself. You don’t have to kill, but defend yourselves.”

The bolted door shook, the sound of muffled shouting and clanging growing louder. “It’s time to go,” said Lorcan. With that, he began running down the hall in the direction he’d seen the group go last time. His friends followed close behind him as they fled the sounds of bloodthirsty killers pursuing them. Lorcan did his best to remember the route he had followed last time to find his friends before they’d been killed. They ran the risk of finding the same group of Vikings as last time, but it was still their best way out.

A question burned in Lorcan’s mind as he twisted and turned down cold stone hallways. The brute, the red haired, scarred man that had killed all of his friends. Lorcan had killed him, stabbed him in the chest with a broken sword, but he had returned, not so much as a scratch on him, and had killed them all. Lorcan’s chest tingled with phantom pains from the memory of a warhammer smashing his ribs. Was the brute some part of the Morrigan’s spell? Was he meant to be unkillable? But then, everyone else had seemed to stay dead after being killed, so why not this one? Lorcan recalled, as he had stabbed the brute, the knowing, arrogant smile he had held on his lips as he died. He had known something, and that something, whatever it was, appeared to be the reason he could be killed and come back to fight again.

Lorcan almost missed the turn to the hallway where he had last fought the Vikings who had killed his friends, and skidded to avoid running past it. His friends stumbled slightly to follow him, but obediently did so. They made it about halfway down the hall before Vikings started to appear in front of them. They roared in excitement, clanging their weapons on their shields and charging forward. It wasn’t the squad that had killed Lorcan’s friends last time, so it seemed that not picking a fight earlier had given them a slightly different situation.

Lorcan reached into his mind again, searching for the barrier that held back magic. “Please, please, please…” He breached the barrier, and felt the power rush through him again. Lifting his hand into the air, Lorcan used his index finger to draw the Ice rune again. It felt easier now, knowing he had already done it. Thankfully, the lines of white light remained in the air as Lorcan drew them, forming the rune Isa.

The Vikings stopped in their tracks, recognizing the rune. Understanding and fear grew in their faces as the light of the rune reflected off of their armor. With a flash, the rune burst to life. A frigid, howling wind surged past Lorcan, and the rune shattered, much more powerfully than before. Thousands of small crystals formed in the air and flew toward the attackers, whistling as they went.

The raiders turned tail and fled, but not before several of them were struck by the shards of ice, which quickly grew and enveloped them. They stood frozen with looks of terror etched on their faces. The rest turned a corner at the end of the corridor and vanished into the distant sounds of chaos.

Lorcan’s friends stood dumbstruck, jaws agape at the frozen warriors before them. They stared at Lorcan with wide eyes, and Baylor seemed to be muttering something to himself, whether curses or prayers, it was unclear.

Dorian spoke first. “Lorcan, what was that? That….t-the Vikings… they just-

Lorcan held up his hand. “There are several new things I can do. You need to trust me, I can get us out of here, but we need to go. Stay behind me, and stay at the ready.

Those of the group that had weapons lifted them uncertainly, and the rest squared their shoulders. That would do. Lorcan gestured over his shoulder at the diverging hallways at the end of the corridor. “Let’s go.”

And so they ran, as quietly as they could, down the seemingly endless hallways of the monastery. Despite the frightful sounds in the distance, they were able to pass undisturbed through the darkness. Soon, they came to a large, circular room with statues lining the walls. They ranged from all kinds of creatures and men: knights, hags, a dragon, a priest, and a king. Each member of the group, sans Lucan, instinctively moved toward the statue of the priest.

Dorian ushered everyone toward the space behind the pedestal the priest stood on. Hidden behind it, invisible in the dimly lit room, was a stone door. William and Lexaeus shoved at the stone, which creaked and groaned, but finally gave way, opening up into a pitch black, roughly hewn passageway. Whoever had ruled this fortress before the priesthood had arrived here, they must have been exceedingly paranoid, as they had ordered a small secret passage out of the castle, leading out to the grounds, where one could break for the woods. It was where Lorcan and Dorian had tried to escape from the first time this had happened.

Lorcan gestured into the passage. Alright, everyone in. Go, make for the-“

“Well, well, look at this.” A hollow, reverberating voice echoed around the room.

Lorcan spun around. At the entrance to the room stood a tall figure cloaked in black. They had an caped overcoat, like that of a surgeon, black gloves and shoes of polished leather, and a red cravat, tied neatly. Most noticeable however, was the raven mask they wore under a hood. The figure had an almost ghostly look about them, with a black aura immediately around their frame. They seemed to flicker and fade back and forth, making it uncomfortable to look at them. The figure strode forward, making no noise as their feet touched the floor. They stood in the center of the room, staring at Lorcan and the group, head cocked to the side as if regarding some kind of oddity.

“I didn’t think you would make it this far,” said the figure. “According to my visions, you were all to be picked off individually throughout the castle. Perhaps I gave you too much credit in assuming you would all stay behind to rescue the others. Curious…”

Lorcan held his sword aloft. He called over his shoulder. “Go.” He hadn’t the slightest idea who this thing was, but there was clearly something confident and powerful about this…man? He assumed whatever this apparition was, it was at least taking the form of a man. He wasn’t going to let it hurt his friends, not when they were so close.

The group hesitated. To their credit, none wanted to leave Lorcan behind, but Lucan had the sense to start pushing them all through the passage. The masked man raised his hand, as if to tell them to stop.

“I think not.” He brought his hand down with a jerk. Suddenly, the whole room went cold. It felt as if all warmth and moisture had been sucked out of the air, and Lorcan could have sworn that he heard the sound of a distant, high-pitched scream. With a cry, every member of the group save Lorcan dropped to the ground, dead.

Lorcan cried out in shock and grief. He turned back to his friends and checked them. No heartbeats, glazed eyes. That spell, whatever it was, had killed them all instantly. He leapt to his feet, a shout of rage roaring from his lips. He lunged at the hooded man, rapier out stretched. The figure made no move to dodge the blow, allowing Lorcan to plunge the blade into his chest. No blood escaped the wound, but steam began to form around the blade impaling the man. Suddenly, it broke away, most of the blade having been melted away instantly. Lorcan reeled back, holding his ruined sword. The man just continued staring at him, as if observing a wild animal. Lorcan raised his hand, drawing Isa in the air again. The rune formed perfectly, but the figure just waved his hand, and the light dispersed.

“Doubly curious,” said the man. “I had not considered the possibility that you might have learned to harness your powers already. You are still quite weak, but it is impressive you have accomplished this much so quickly.” Lorcan made a movement so as to attack the man again, so he raised his hand. “Please, allow me to demonstrate real magic for you.”

His hand flew as he drew three runes in the air. Earth, Fire, Ash. As soon as the runes materialized, he reached out and grabbed the runes for Earth and Fire, and slammed them together. They formed a ball of molten stone in the air, which the man slammed down into the ground. Hot lava began spreading across the room, filling it with heat and noxious fumes. Lorcan had to retreat quickly to avoid being burned. Next, the man aimed his palm at the Ash rune. He seemed to focus on it, pulled his arm back, and pushed it. Suddenly, the air began to fill with ash, making it impossible to breathe. Lorcan stumbled back, nearly tripping over the statue pedestal behind him, coughing frantically in the ash. The figure strode on top of the lava as if it was nothing more than regular stone. He stood over Lorcan, who lay coughing on the floor.

“I’m sorry about your friends. I can only imagine the shock and frustration it causes you, but let’s face it, we both know they were dead men anyway.” He offered out his hand to Lorcan. “You have much yet to learn, and I admit that my plans will have to change somewhat, but if you join me now, I can show you everything I know.”

Lorcan crawled weakly away from the figure, back toward the passageway. “Absolutely not, you madman.”

The man was undeterred. “A madman? Perhaps. I am not the man I once was, but something entirely different and I suppose…unhuman. You need not take the same steps I have, but I may still show you mysteries beyond the understanding of ordinary men.”

Lorcan turned in the direction of his friends, who lay sightless in a pile next to him. Lucan lay there staring at him with unseeing eyes, his final look of panic frozen on his features. Lorcan snarled up at the unnatural figure before him. He lifted the remains of his sword in a last show of defiance, turned the blade around, and plunged it into his own heart.

The man in black lunged forward. “NO!” But he was too late. Perhaps aided by whatever enchantment the Morrigan was using to replay the night, Lorcan had no longer than a moment for pain to envelope him before he was snatched away, back into that gray void he had explored moments ago.

A lurching motion, the sound of wind, cold…

“Bury me.”

Lorcan gasped for air, clutching at his chest. He felt as if an enormous man had punched him in the chest. It was almost as if his heart still wasn’t beating for a moment. Mercifully, the air came, and with it, his heartbeat. Lorcan breathed deeply, relieved he hadn’t done something irreparable.

“Has anyone killed-“

“Quiet!” hissed Lorcan. He turned to an affronted William. “Not a word. We need to get out of here. Now. No questions.” Lorcan beckoned William and Dominguez over. He brought them close and whispered, “Both of you, go down the stairs. The others are below. Find the quickest and quietest way out through the back. Don’t stop for anything or anyone, no matter what happens. Go!”

With a shove from Lorcan, William and Dominguez started off down the stairs, concerned looks on their faces as they looked over their shoulders. Lorcan turned to Lucan. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

Lucan shrugged, a pained smile on his face. “I’ve been better.” He looked down, shuffling his feet. “Lorcan, I made a promise, and I plan to keep it, but…” he looked back up, not quite meeting Lorcan’s gaze. “Do you think there’s a chance to win here? I mean, I know there are some complications, but, this is three times altogether, and…well, nobody’s survived. Not even…you. You know what I’m saying?”

Lorcan started angrily. “How could you-” He exhaled slowly. “No. No, you’re right to think that, I’m sorry. If you want to leave, there’s no one that could ever blame you. I dragged you into this.” Lorcan grabbed Lucan’s shoulder and guided him to the stairs. As they descended, Lorcan continued, “I thought I’d be able to do this so much better. I thought that at least now… I’m sorry, but I have to keep trying. I have to.”

Lucan nodded. “I figured you would say that. Well, let’s keep trying.”

So they did, meeting failure again and again. They walked down the stairs, finding their friends dead just a few corridors away.

A pull, wind, cold.

“Bury me.”

Lorcan led the group. Death.

“Bury me.”

He went on ahead to clear the way. Death.

“Bury me.”

Magic. Swordfighting. Alone. Together. Left. Right. Death.

“Bury me.”

“Bury me.”


Lorcan dropped to his knees. Beside him, Lucan sat down, groaning as he lay back against the wall. Lorcan felt weak. He felt like he had plenty of energy, but his spirit forbid his body from using it. They were all dead. There was nothing for it. How many times had he tried now? Twelve? Thirteen? It all felt the same. The same faces, the same sounds, and blood. Oh, why was there always so much blood? He looked over at Lucan, who was shivering where he sat, glistening with sweat in the moonlight. He looked briefly up at Lorcan, then looked away.

“Oh, what have I done?” Lorcan looked up to see William approaching him, again. Dominguez staring over the wall, as he had done time and again in this unending night. “What have I done?”

“You alright, mate?” William kneeled next to Lorcan, staring at him worriedly.

Lorcan laughed weakly, shaking his head. “No. No, I’m not alright.” He pointed at William’s chest. “You’re dead.” He pointed at Dominguez, then Lucan, over his shoulder at the stairs, “dead, dead, dead,” and he pointed at himself. “And, dead. We’re all dead William, several times over. Nothing I do has changed that.”

William laughed nervously. “Come on Lorcan. This is no time to wax philosophical.”

Lorcan grabbed William’s collar, pulling him close. “I’m. Not. Joking.” He let go of William, who stumbled back a little. Lorcan smiled hopelessly. “Old friend, we’re all going to die, again. I’ve been through this night more times than I want to count. I’ve done everything I can to keep you all safe, but…” He sunk to the ground. He pounded the stone with his fist, enunciating his words. “I! Can’t! Save you! I can’t do it William! The first time I was here, I was close with saving Dorian, but now we can’t even make it outside! And you…” he gestured over to Lucan, who winced at Lorcan’s movement, “you, I dragged into all this as some kind of promise to save your son. I just…” Lorcan collapsed. “I’m so sorry. I can’t save you. I could never save any of you.”

Lorcan lay there, waiting for someone to try to comfort him, the whistling of arrows, the inevitable cries of pain. He waited…..and nothing came. The entire night was still. William did not move or say anything, no raiders roared, no crashing, no terror.

“Get on your feet, Raven-Son.”

Lorcan froze. He looked to the side at Lucan, who sat, unmoving, against the wall. Lorcan lifted his head slightly. William was gone. Dominguez had similarly vanished. He twisted his head back and forth. Nothing moved.

“Stand before me.” The voice came from directly above him. Whispered, but resonant, echoing around him.

Lorcan stumbled to his feet, looking up to see the Morrigan. She looked like a specter, her red dress rippling in an absent wind, her eyes black, cold, and calculating. He groaned piteously. “What do you want? Are you here to gloat?”

The corner of the Morrigan’s mouth twitched, but whether it was amusement or irritation it was impossible to tell. “Boasting is for feasting. Gloating is the tactic of the unworthy. I have done neither. Your trial is ended. You have learned enough.”

Lorcan snarled. “What do you mean, ‘I’ve learned enough?’ All you’ve done is killed me and my friends time after time! What lesson could there possibly be? Are you trying to teach me the world is cruel? Death comes for us all? There is no mercy for those who cannot fight? What do you-” Lorcan’s throat suddenly closed off, leaving him gagging, falling to his knees again, his eyes streaming.”

“Do not speak to me as if I were some petty noble, boy,” the Morrigan snarled. She descended to alight on the stone in front of Lorcan. “I am the goddess of war, and there is none who understands the cold world you live in better than I. I have made it so, and it will remain so. I have given you a gift, son of man. Learn from what I have given you.”

The force gripping Lorcan’s throat left him, and he choked back some frigid air. “What..can…I…learn?” he spluttered. He coughed hard, a slight taste of iron starting in the back of his throat. “Goddess, what could I possibly learn from this? I’ve scarred my brother, I’ve watched my friends die over and over again, and I’ve gained nothing but a reminder of just how useless I am. Nothing has changed. Nothing…has…” Lorcan broke into quiet sobs, his body shaking softly in the silence.

He sat there for several long moments, weeping quietly. It wasn’t fair. No matter what he did, he couldn’t succeed. Others seemed to believe in him, even followed him from time to time, and the Order of the Rose had taught him confidence. A lot of good that had done him now. He couldn’t save anyone. Not with magic, not with skill. Lorcan MacBroin couldn’t help anyone.

The Morrigan drifted to the ground in front of him, lightly touching his head with her palm. “Child,” she whispered, “you yet have much to learn. You have yet to decide your destiny, and so there are hard lessons you must be taught, so that you might learn wisdom.”

Lorcan stiffened. His mouth filled with bile as his mind turned bitter. “What was the point of this, then?” He stood, shaking the Morrigan’s hand away. “What wisdom could I possibly learn from such senseless violence? Does every god or spirit wish to meddle in my life? What do you WANT?” He shouted the last word to the expressionless Morrigan.

Thunder boomed overhead. The ravens hovering in the sky, the only things that seemed to move, scattered, as a bolt of lightning crashed beside the Morrigan, blinding Lorcan. He blinked hard, trying to banish the dancing lights from his eyes, focusing on the now blurry outline of the Morrigan. She was holding something out to him, some black thing that glowed lightly. After a few moments, Lorcan’s vision cleared, and he saw what the goddess was holding. It was a mask, a black plague mask, almost exactly like the one the sorcerer that had conjured runes wore.

Lorcan stumbled back. “It was you! You were the one that caused all this!” He reached for his rapier, but was unable to pull it from its scabbard. It seemed to be stuck in place.

The Morrigan shook her head. “The one you saw was a being that seeks to shatter the natural order of the world, twisting life and death into some abomination. It was he that caused this attack to happen, all those years ago, which ended the lives of all those who lived here. Everyone,” she paused, staring intently at Lorcan, “except you.”

Lorcan squinted at the goddess. “You don’t think…I…had anything to do with this?”

“No. Take comfort in the knowledge that you did not cause this. But, that Necromancer, it has an interest in you. You seem to have a part to play in whatever it has planned.” Thunder boomed again. “That plan must not be allowed to come to pass. Thus, many like myself have also taken an interest in your potential. This,” she gestured broadly to the rest of the frozen monastery, “cruel though it may seem to you, is given to you as a gift. Learn from it. No lesson worth learning is meant to be easy. Take this experience, ponder on it, and you may yet find the forgiveness you seek.”

Lorcan stepped tentatively toward the Morrigan, and her outstretched hands which bore the mask. “Alright, fine, I’ll…see if I can ‘ponder’ on this, assuming I can even recover. But, what of the mask? Surely, this isn’t-” He nodded at the mask.”

The Morrigan shook her head. “This is not the same mask as the one you saw. The other was utterly defiled with old, dark magic. The power that lies in this is old, yes, but not corrupted. This mask I give to you as a gift. This can save the young boy you seek to help.”

Lorcan started. “This mask has the power to heal?

“It does. There is immense power that can be channeled through this mask. But, be forewarned. Old magic is powerful, but unforgiving. It cannot and should not be used to stop or reverse death.” Her black eyes bored into Lorcan’s with deadly severity. “Where there is Death, there will always be Death, for he will not be robbed.” She held out the mask to Lorcan.

Lorcan took it gingerly, inspecting it closely. Up close, he could tell that this was indeed not the same mask as that of the Necromancer. This one did not exude the same feeling of sickness and decay that the other did. The overall feeling he got from it was awful solemnity, as if it was watching him, judging him. “I will…use it carefully.”

“Be sure you do. No magic should be trifled with, especially when it deals so closely with the natural order. However you use it, do not ever believe that you control it, or that you can overcome the consequences of your actions. Before you know it, you will find yourself exactly like the one who is responsible for the deaths you have seen here.” The Morrigan stepped back from Lorcan, beginning to hover again. “Farewell, Raven-son. May your path bring you peace.” The goddess drifted away into the sky, which began to swirl and churn.

A fierce wind suddenly screeched across the plain toward Lorcan, ripping at his clothing and blinding him. He held his arm before his eyes to shield him from the wind and dust being hurled at him, but it was no use. In moments, everything became obscured to the point where Lorcan could no longer tell where he was.

After several moments, the wind began to die, allowing Lorcan to open his eyes. He was precisely where he had been standing before the Morrigan had sent him back in time. The monastery lay in ruins around him, the sky a miserable gray. Lucan still sat beside Lorcan, shivering quietly.

Lorcan quickly knelt beside his brother, shaking his shoulder lightly. “Lucan. Lucan! It’s over. I’m sorry for everything I put you through, but it’s over.”

Lucan looked back at Lorcan, his eyes wild and frightened. Lorcan had seen that look on many faces. Several knew recruits in Woodland got that look after their first combat, or after seeing a comrade fall. ‘Poor Lucan,’ he thought. ‘He never should have seen what he did.

Lorcan’s eyes fell downward to his hand, where he still held the doctor mask. It pulsed lightly, as if excited. Lorcan stared at it a moment, then looked back up to his brother, who was still shaking violently, eyes now averted from him.

Lorcan stood, handling the mask a moment. He whispered, as if to himself, “I’m sorry brother. Let me try to fix what I’ve put you through.” Smoothly, Lorcan placed the doctor’s mask over his face. Instantly, the mask fastened itself around Lorcan’s head, pulsing with grayish white light. Lorcan felt the mask vibrate as it settled. It seemed to almost welcome him.

Lorcan stretched out his hand toward his brother, who seemed oblivious to him. He reached into the depths of his mind, searching for the font of magic within. He found it almost instantly, and shattered the barrier that kept him from it, shocking him. The mask, shivering, reached into Lorcan’s mind, finding his magic, and began drinking it at it hungrily. Instantly, Lorcan understood what the mask did. In place of the energy the mask had taken from him, it granted him an instinctive knowledge of some of its workings. True to the Morrigan’s word, the mask did heal wounds, both of the mind and body. The mask ceased to vibrate and sat still, as if a hound awaiting its master’s word.

Lorcan focused on Lucan, and turned his thoughts entirely to the trauma he had just put his brother through.

“Heal him.”

A surge of magic leapt from the mask, roiling forward like a heavy fog, wrapping around Lucan. Lucan jerked and twisted, trying to bat away the energy, crying out in fear. Ignoring his efforts, the fog entered Lucan’s mouth and nose, flowing into his body and making his eyes roll back. All the fog disappeared, absorbed into Lucan. Lorcan’s brother slumped to the ground, unmoving.

Alarmed, Lorcan tore off the mask and threw it to the ground. He leaped to Lucan’s side and lifted his head off the ground. “Lucan? Lucan! Speak to me, please!”

Lucan shivered, his mouth opened, and he breathed out the silver fog. The cloud rose past Lorcan and rose into the sky. After a few moments, Lucan’s eyes fluttered open. His eyes came slowly back into focus, and he looked at Lorcan. “W-what happened? It got dark and I thought it was going to storm, and I-” His brow furrowed. “Lorcan, are you okay?”

Lorcan breathed a sigh of relief. He helped Lucan to his feet. “It’s…it’s a long story. I was…” he looked toward the greater parts of the ruins, which were growing over with moss and vegetation. “I was…granted a vision. It’s complicated, but, I think I’m done here.”

Lucan shook Lorcan’s shoulder a little. “Are you sure? I feel like we just got here, and we haven’t found anything that will help-” He looked past Lorcan. “What’s that?”

Lorcan snapped out of his thoughts. He could think about what had happened here later. He turned to look back at the doctor mask, which sat silently on the ground, devoid of light or movement. He walked over and scooped it up, turning to show it to Lucan. “I can’t explain everything right now, but at least we can walk away with this. It has powerful magic.” He looked meaningfully at his brother. “I think this can save Lysander.”