Emery knew he was sleeping. He knew it was a dream. That didn’t make it seem any less real, however. That didn’t keep him from crying out in fear and closing his eyes against what he saw. He knew this man. He recognized the worn, decrepit form before him. “Hello, again,” the monstrous being said.

“Go away,” Emery said softly. “This isn’t real. You… the spell was interrupted. You died.”

“I left my body and then had no place to return to,” the man corrected. “My soul remained… still searching for a new body.” He floated over to Emery, and the boy slid back in the bed. His back came firmly against the wall. The chill of the wall seemed real enough. “This is no dream, boy. I intend to finish what I started.”

“No,” Emery hissed. He tried to stand but his legs became tangled in the blankets and he fell to the floor. As the form floated closer, he closed his eyes firmly and screamed.

Then he was in a dark room and the man who wanted to take his body was younger. He stood handsome and erect, looming over Emery, a snug grin on his face. “Now all there is for me to do is push your soul out of my new body.”

“No,” Emery repeated, forcing himself to his feet. “This is my mind. This is my body. You get out.” He felt more than saw a door behind each of them. If either was pushed out the doors, the other would take the body. There would be no second chances, Emery was sure. He needed to win or this monster would take his body; his life.

The man reached out to him and Emery ducked under the reaching arm, catching the man on his shoulder and continuing the forward motion; propelling him toward the door. His opponant skidded to a stop and spun back toward Emery.

Both were crouched with their hands out, but Emery knew his own stance was more defensive than offensive. The man was taller and stronger. He hand more reach in addition. All of these added up to a distinct disadvantage on Emery’s part. There was also the fact that Emery was certain the man had done this before. He was experienced in fighting in someone’s mindscape, where Emery was not.

The man approached slowly, not gaining enough momentum for Emery to use it against him, slowly forcing the smaller man back, toward the door. Then he gently caught Emery by the shoulder. All he needed to do was push and the boy would tumble through.

However, Emery shifted his weight and kicked out with one leg, catching the man unaware and knocking him off his feet. Emery rolled with the man and landed not far away, bouncing to his feet and turning back to his opponent in one smooth movement. “I’m not going to make this easy for you, old man,” he snapped.

“Where would the fun be in that,” the man said softly. Again he was moving slowly across the mindscape toward Emery. This time, the boy kept his eyes on both doors, careful not to back toward them. He gasped in surprise when his foot encountered insubstantial air.

“Getting a little anxious, boy?” the man said.

“You can move the doors,” Emery hissed. “Because it’s not real. It’s in my mind.”

He thought back to something Miles had told him. “Magic and imagination are inexorably connected.” Emery had always been more hands-on than his brother. Where Miles pictured the glyphs in his head, Emery traced them on tablets or wands.

He needed to think more like Miles, if only for a moment, if he hoped to win against the man. Emery closed his eyes, imagining the doors spreading all around them. Now there were no walls. He’d have to be even more careful but he might take the man by surprise. Then he felt a shove on his shoulder and he was falling.

“This is my mind,” he snapped, wishing his brother or Hassett was there to help. Suddenly a strong hand caught his wrist and he stood on firm ground again. Emery opened his eyes to see Miles standing beside him. “Mi?” he asked in shock.

“How did you summon your brother?” the man asked, just as shocked as Emery was.

“This is my mind,” Emery repeated. He closed his eyes and imagined the platform dividing and shrinking until they were parted by a huge gulf of emptiness. The man couldn’t attack him. A reckless lunge would send them both tumbling over into oblivion. “I told you, get out.” He dissolved the platform beneath the man and closed his eyes as the man fell into the emptiness.

When he opened his eyes, he was once more in his bedroom. Miles stood in the doorway. “You were calling for help, Brother. Are you alright?”

Emery nodded and sat up. “Thanks for the rescue,” he said softly. His smile broadened at his brother’s baffled look but he only shook his head. “Never mind, Mi. Just thanks for always being there.”

Advertisements