My room here at Snail Rock is a step up from my cell at Crevlock Tower—I don’t even resent Ruvan or our father for keeping me under house arrest. And there’s more than enough space to put myself through my paces. I stay gentle with my shoulder, but punish the rest of my body.
I’m on the floor by the time I finish, flat on my back. Fuck, this is good. I’ve been lazing about far too long with this injury. I’ll pay for this later, when every muscle is aching and sore—but I need that. I need this sweat too. I need these gulps for breath.
Of course, this would have been better with a sparring partner. I grin up at the ceiling, imagining myself training Shoch for that part. He’s such a scrawny thing. And he barely knows how to make a fist. I doubt he knows how to hold a sword, either. Still, if he had his tongue we’d all have reason to fear him. That thing inside him would obey his orders.
No wonder Rokofar doesn’t bother teaching their sorcerers how to fight. Why should they, when they can set their wyverns on their enemies?
But that wyvern is killing Shoch. Fuck. My grin vanishes.
I close my eyes and train my thoughts on Veshnic. This isn’t the place for a prayer, I know that—or at least not the position for one. I should be . . . I don’t know what I should be. Either standing at attention or down on my knees. But I stay put instead.
“My Lord, I know you care for those monsters as much as you care for us. But this one is killing Shoch. You need to help me separate the pair of them.”
But Shoch is right. Even if we could separate them, that would just leave us with a wild wyvern on the loose. We don’t have another sorcerer to banish it. And even if we did, we can’t put more human blood on an altar. So how would we hold its attention long enough for a sorcerer to do his work?
No. No, I’m not going to worry about logistics. We all abide in Veshnic, right? He must have a way of solving this. I shut my eyes tighter, trying to remember every part of that vision. The one where I watched Shoch join with that creature. Was there a hint? Something that would tell me how to save Shoch from that thing?
Someone bangs at my door, jarring me from the prayer. I bolt up. “Come in—”
Gael’s already over the threshold. “It’s Shocha, my lord. Some sort of seizure.”
I follow Gael at a run. He didn’t say much more, except that Shocha’s in the royal receiving chambers. Did Ruvan bring him there? Why? Shoch was supposed to be having his measurements taken for a livery, not meeting with my father.
It doesn’t matter why he’s there. All that matters is the seizure, but I have no idea how to fix that.
The hallway is a blur. So are the courtiers and pages we pass. The guards must have cleared a path for us, though, because no one slows us down. We skid to a halt when we reach the inner chamber, almost slipping on the fancy tiled floor.
Gael pushes the door open ahead of me. Málaf! Ruvan and two guards are holding Shoch down on the floor, but he’s still thrashing. His eyes look like they’re on fire, there’s foam dripping from his mouth and his expression—Sages, he’s snarling.
I drop to my knees by his side. “Shoch! Shhh, calm down pet.”
He can’t hear me. Hell, he’s writhing now.
“Shocha managed to squirm out of our grasp twice already.” Ruvan’s breathing heavy, but his voice is hard and determined.
Right. I remember our wrestling match. “Trust me, I know just how slippery he is.”
But we wrangle him under control, at least for the moment. I put my hands on his cheeks and lean in close to him. “Shoch? It’s me, Aric.”
Ruvan looks at me. “Is he breathing?”
I put my hand on his stomach. “Yes. Yes, he’s breathing.” Thank Veshnic. Thank any god who’s listening.
My brother nods, but he doesn’t let go of Shoch. None of us do. Good thing, because after a few seconds he starts writhing again.
Worse, he stinks of holy wood. That cloying scent is clogging my nostrils. That’s the wyvern—is it trying to break loose? What in hell happened here? I keep my hands on Shoch, but I don’t hold him down. I leave that to Ruvan and the guards. Maybe a more gentle touch from me will somehow reach past him and soothe this beast.
No such luck. His eyes roll back as he bashes his head against the floor.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Can this thing get loose? How would we hold it—no, I have to stay calm.
All right, all right. There’s no point talking to Shoch. He’s not the one in charge now.
“Shhh. Shhh.” I fight to keep Shoch’s head still, but I picture myself talking directly to the wyvern—that gleaming white monster I saw in the vision of the joining. “Settle down. Shhh.”
Does that mean anything to the beast? Damn it, I don’t know how to keen or wail at it the way a sorcerer would. All I can do is talk to it the way I’d talk to any panicked animal. And that’s all this is. It’s not some demon. It’s not even a monster. This thing belongs to Veshnic, same as me or Shoch or Ruvan. Same as every horse, mule and burro in our stables. Even if it doesn’t belong here, it’s not alien to us. Not really.
That’s what I tell myself as I switch to the old tongue. “Manes, manes. Shhh.”
Shoch wrenches one hand free and grabs my tunic. Ruvan is already grabbing his arm back, but I shake my head.
“No! Just keep hold of his shoulders.” I turn back to Shoch. His head is steady now, at least. “Can you hear me, pet?”
No, he can’t. He’s staring right at me, but it’s still not Shocha. That’s not a person looking at me. That’s some feral animal. And, all right, Shoch is half-feral sometimes, but not like this.
Well, at least this thing isn’t panicking. Not at the moment. So I keep murmuring in the old tongue, making sure my voice stays gentle.
I don’t know how long I keep it up, but at length it seems to work. There’s a moment when I can see the change in Shoch’s expression—when I know he’s the one looking at me, not the wyvern.
I don’t bother hiding my relief. “Welcome back, pet.”