Quickly stilling herself, Netra went beyond, surprised at how easy it was, not just to get there, but to dive past the cloaking mists, down to where she could see the flickering golden glow of his akirma, spiked with red. It was sputtering, beginning to rupture along one side. He would not live much longer.
Over him towered the nebulous whitish glow, streaked through with gray and black – the thing’s akirma. The black things were swarming over it in a frenzy and it would not be long before they forced their way in, but it would not be in time for her savior. If only they could get inside the thing faster, if there was some way she could redirect a flow of Song, use its energy –
A flash of memory. The eloti touching her, sharing with her its past. A lesser Shaper of the Circle of Life, it had once molded the flows of LifeSong the way a master potter molds clay. Shaping LifeSong was not so much a matter of strength, but of will. The will came first, the LifeSong flowed through, and then it was redirected, pushed this way and that.
She stared at her hands and focused her concentration, ignoring the chaos and gathering her will. Selfsong rose within her. Her hands began to glow. She poured more and more of her Selfsong into her hands and the glow increased. Dizziness rose in her and blackness crowded the edges of her vision. She had been too weakened by her flight. She couldn’t do this.
Netra gritted her teeth and forced the dizziness back. She could do this. She would do this.
Near her was a flow of Song. It was a feeder line, as big around as her arm, with smaller, finger-sized flows branching off it. She grabbed it…
And cried out. The surge of energy that burst through her knocked her back several steps. It felt like fire raced through her veins. She wouldn’t be able to hold it long. It would tear her apart.
Somehow, Netra fought through it. She regained her balance and fought her way toward the thing.
In the instant before she lost control of the feeder line she jammed it up against the thing and released it.
The power contained in the flow surged forward, spearing into and tearing a rent in the thing’s akirma. It screamed in pain and slapped Netra backwards.
Netra rolled over onto her side. The black shapes were clustered around the rent she had made. The monster screamed and staggered backwards, beating uselessly at itself. It screamed again and again as it toppled over onto the ground, half into the pool from which it had come. Great, jagged wounds appeared on its skin and it flailed its huge arms. It gave a final cry and went still.
Breathing hard, her pulse racing, Netra stared at it, sick at what she had done. Again she had killed. And while this thing was an alien creature, still it had clearly been alive and it had been terribly old.
What frightened her though, was that mixed with her sickness was a savage exultation. She had been attacked, and she had destroyed her attacker. She wanted to stand over its body and scream her own battle cry.
Then she turned and saw her erstwhile savior lying motionless on his side. It looked like he had been trying to crawl back into the battle. On his face was still the same savage smile.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Netra growled, suddenly furious with him. “You’re not going to die on me too.” Still tingling all over from her contact with the feeder line, she walked over to him. She stood over him and looked down on him. Briefly she considered just letting him die. He clearly did not want to live. But her old stubbornness reasserted itself and she dropped to her knees beside him.
“Why didn’t you run away?” she whispered. “What’s wrong with you?”
His wounds were grievous. Blood poured from a dozen different cuts and leaked from his mouth. When she laid her hands on him she gasped, for it was the wounds inside that were truly frightening. She could see the Life-energy pouring from the cracks in his akirma. He did not have long. But he was not the only one too stubborn, too driven, to give up.
Netra reached down inside herself and gathered the faint remains of her Selfsong. Once again her hands began to glow. But the glow was fitful and weak.