A little growl blew out the side of his mouth, followed by a grimace. He gasped. “I fear to convey to you,” he said with deep pants, “that my thread of magic leads me not to the Well of Souls, as I had expected.”
“If not for the Well of Souls,” she said, “then what for? There is nothing else in the whole countryside worth having.”
He grinned, but he bowed to one knee as if his leg had buckled beneath him. “If I had tasted your blood and had died outright, I could conclude that the Well of Souls was my destiny, for that is where my spirit would have gone, still following the thread of magic. But the thread of magic prevents my death even after having drunk of the most dangerous, snake-coveted poison in all the continent. The reason is that the thing the thread of magic brought me to was you.”
“What business do we have with one another, holy mage?” she said, wings twitching. Her face twisted up with all the confusion bearing down on her mind. “I am a druidess of demon blood. Let us part paths at once so as to spare one another painful deaths.”
“Really, Abigail,” he said, coughing with bronchioles full of mucus, “don’t tell me you didn’t see this possibility coming. Are you actually that stupid? This is all going to suck if you really are that stupid.” His eyes now had bloody veins that rippled through his pupils on either side and bled into his eyelids and nose. He looked up, but the effort caused tremors in his neck and trembling hands that struggled to push himself to his feet from atop his knee.
“I don’t understand what you want. I gave you a drop of my blood, and you broke my chain. And then you ate it—you idiot. But can you not estimate the freedom poured into my cup? I have been fettered to this plot of land since birth; now I possess the freedom to walk the earth unimpeded.”
“Far be it from me, Abigail, to issue edict to what you ought to do with your life. But if you had any inclination—and I’m not presuming that you do—toward accomplishing any goal in any aspect of life with your new freedom, I would suggest to you—and I don’t presume that you are inclined to gravitate toward this possibility—that lack of friends with experience, loyalty and a general knowledge of the near-infinite world outside your humble valley might be the limiting factor of your reach in life.
“Therefore, I surmise—and I don’t concede that you would necessarily surmise the same—that it would evince prudence for you to take any hand of friendship which might be offered to you, wherein that friendship might prove to possess experience, loyalty and general knowledge, and not necessarily in that order. If a person, hypothetically speaking, were to offer you such a dear possession of amicability, what answer would you, hypothetically speaking, give to said person?”
“Are you going to die?”
“No,” he said, “I’m not going to die. Are you deaf? Did I not just say that?”
“If you’re not going to die, then I’m leaving.”
“Shit,” he said. “Don’t forget what they said about Icarus.”
“Who cares?” she said, then she took to the sky as a dragon’s child free from its egg and desiring more than food or water to beat at empty air and claim the royal sky for herself.
The magic thread woke him from his half-dead, half-drunken state. The ebony shadow of a dragon’s wing shaded him from the fading red light of the blood moon. She was taking off, leaving, making her escape from the Judean hills with the haste of a stampede of goats with a mountain lion in tow.
“All right, you bitch,” he said. He wiped the blood bead that ran down his mouth, then scrubbed the slobber from the other side. “We’ll see who has the last fabled laugh. I am no mage of the order of the holy magus for nothing.”