PART THREE: MANIPULATING MAGIC
Eya's world had turned into a living nightmare. Time had become irrelevant. She no longer knew how long she had lain, prone and paralyzed, on the floor of Dek's house. It could have been minutes or days, the space of a few heartbeats or the turning of the season.
Each wave of unbuffered power that racked the community tore through Eya with crushing force. Emotion was wrenched from her and put to use in whatever madness had settled upon Falnora. Had she been capable of it, had every muscle in her body not been frozen into immobility, she would have wept, or screamed, or both.
With the body in such torment, the mind did not function clearly, but Eya had made a few deductions. First, the source of her malaise was magical in nature, as was the disaster plaguing the settlement. Second, since Lora had been traumatized, the draining of emotion was not confined to Apaths. Finally, the delirious Dek appeared to be at the center of the catastrophe, which meant that in some sense, he had to be a wizard.
For the moment, things had quieted down. Eya's breath no longer seemed heavy in her lungs nor did her mind scream with anguish the way it did every time emotion was leeched away. Given a respite to reflect and consider, she formulated a plan.
Magic did not require physical mobility so, through its use, Eya was not helpless - or at least she hoped she wasn't. There was no telling what the series of emotional violations had done to her ability to control and channel energy.
Concentrating, she sought the fear and pain the attacks had engendered. It was a surface emotion, with little depth and no roots, but she hoped it would be sufficient for her purposes. After all, she wasn't trying to move a mountain, just her own body.
It was then that she noticed something strange, something she had never experienced before. For the first time, she was aware not only of her own emotions, but of those of Lora and Dek, as well. They did not seem as potent as her own, and she found it difficult to fathom many of them, but they were there, laid bare to her, open to her use.
If her own emotions were vivid colors, brightly exposed under full sunlight, theirs were pastels, wreathed in shadow. Their lack of substance was caused by the tenuousness of her link with them, but it was a link that had never been there before. Every time when she had sought to use magic, the only emotions she had been aware of were her own. Now, suddenly, she could sense those of others as well. Physical proximity had something to do with it, because beyond Lora and Dek, she noticed nothing.
Eya pulled away from the others and focused on herself. Not only would she not touch their emotions, she found it difficult to accept her newfound awareness of them. They were not hers; she had no right to them. If she used them, it would be theft - theft and desecration, exactly what had been done to her. How and why this was possible were questions to be resolved in the future, but Eya suspected that it could not be a good thing.
Turning her concentration inward, she began the transformation, using the resultant magic to breathe vitality into her unresponsive body. Minimal effort was required. Whatever the cause of the paralysis, it was neither deep nor complex. Movement and sensation returned quickly, starting and her toes and fingertips and spreading to the center of her body, until she again felt like a warm human rather than a slab of wax.
No sooner had she finished than she felt the distant emotional tremors starting again. In her heightened state of awareness, it was obvious that they were emanating from Dek and that he was reaching out to steal from her and Lora to furnish the madness of his outbursts. More than that, she sensed that in some way he was siphoning off emotion from others beyond this house, people she had been unable to connect with.
She surged to her feet and stumbled over to the bed. "Dek, stop!" she cried, shaking him violently even as the pressure started to build within her. This time he wasn't seeking small amounts of energy. He was reaching for her whole essence, attempting to drive her to Burgeoning Apathy.
"Stop it!" she screamed, slapping his face, but to no avail. If Dek in his delirium was aware of her, he showed no sign of it. His invisible assault continued, escalating, the force of his will impossible to resist. She was aware of beginning to scream even as she reached out to implement the only solution she could arrive at...
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