A rock splashed into the lake, off to her right. Another skipped across the water, closer. A third clipped Jana’s shoulder, and she stumbled.
The stone-tipped spear whistled past her ear, where her neck had been a mere moment before, and she gasped a curse, followed just as quickly by a prayer of thanks to Korotiku. She snatched up the weapon.
Though she wasn’t as good with the spear as Brynne, the bigger girl had taught Jasna a few basic moves. But she had the spear, not the gnoll. That was Koritiku’s fifth rule: The enemy’s weapon in your hand means it is not in his. She combined it with Korotiku’s third rule: The enemy that cannot catch you cannot hurt you.
She bit down on the growing pain in her side. It would not be much further along the shore until she came to the Fisherman’s Bridge. Even the gnolls would be wary of charging into the fishing village in such small numbers.
She kept running.
* * * * *
“I never thought I’d say this, but I wish Justin were here,” Katarin said.
“We don’t need him, or his lantern,” Brynne said. “You can make light.”
“You know how it tires me.”
“We’re not dwarves. We can’t see in the dark. Can’t you at least try?”
Katarin sighed. She had no affinity for the Sphere of Energy, and creating light always left her fingers tingling, and her head feeling as if a swarm of bees had decided to make it their home afterwards.
“They could be hurt. What if the statues--”
Katarin took a breath, closing her eyes. She supposed she really didn’t have to. After all, it was already dark. Find your focus, Magia Saoirse instructed, be it breath, the beating of the heart, a remembered note or scent or image. For Katarin, it was the smell of the village fields after the first rains of spring.
Let it be your focus, embrace it, let it enfold you, and then allow yourself to fall into it.
The first few times she’d done it without distraction, she’d been afraid, and unable to open her link to the Spheres. The threads were there, barely visible, but she could not grasp them.
She took another deep breath, ignoring the taste of the rocks and brackish tang of the snowmelt, the smell of lilacs that lingered in Brynne’s hair even after the long days’ trials.
The fields, after the first spring storm. She breathed in the earthy smell, let it spread all about her, spread her arms, and fell backwards….
There was a tingle of anticipation, as she tipped past the point where she could no longer catch herself, but she pushed that spark of panic aside.
The sense of being off balance vanished with the fear of what it would feel like hitting the uneven ground behind her. She opened her eyes, saw Brynne, standing next to her, her brow furrowed, biting her lip like she did when she worried -- and she always worried.
Glowing white filaments surrounded the girl, streaming away from her as if wisps of cobweb or tailor’s threads. The threads shimmered, red and yellow and blue and green and white, a dizzying array, each thread a blend of all the five Spheres. As Brynne breathed, the threads pulsed blue, and threads of red crisscrossed the girl’s features as she noticed she was being watched.
“Stop staring, already. We have work to do.”
Right, Katarin thought. Work. She reached out, willing her hand between the blending of threads that made up the world around her, bending her focus towards the wispy tendrils of Energy beyond the Making, drawing them through and into the Prime.
But the threads would not obey, and slithered from between her fingers.
She glanced down, her own sigh of frustration a thing of blue and red threads. And her gaze settled on the red crystal upon her breast.
She picked it up, turned it this way and that. It shone brightly, in her power-enhanced vision, the facets at once hard and smooth yet at the same time striated so finely as to only appear smooth. At once a bundle of red threads, and yet totally ordered and structured.
She stared into the stone, and rather than reaching through the Making to retrieve threads of Energy, she reached through the stone….
… as she had, she realized, when the statue had been about to attack her Brynne.
Not so much, she admonished herself. A pinch, not a great seething handful. Just the tiniest bit.
Energy sang through her, and a scent, like the earth, warming under the first sun after spring’s storm rose up around her.
“Hey,” Brynne said, giving the girl beside her a shake. “What are you smiling for? Look!”
Katarin blinked, squinting, willing the squirming, streaming threads from the Spheres from her vision.
The globe of light in her hand was about the size of a large apple, its light about the same color. Not a watery, wavering ball of light, but shining clear and steadily as Justin’s lamp… before it had been so knocked about.
The light fell on jagged, unworked stone, the crevice running far deeper than they remembered it when they’d entered the temple the first time.
Another five or six paces, and then the jagged crevice closed to just a finger-width crack in the hillside.
“Where is the hallway?” Katarin asked.
There was not a trace of worked stone or speaking carving to be found.