The Well of Life is the source of all magic on Majaos. Its location has remained a mystery since the time of Merlyn. Eilidh must work with her friends to solve this Ancient puzzle and race to find it before Nilstiar does.
Most of Eilidh's friends are back, but how can she make them stay? People are not exactly her forte, but she knows she can't do this alone. Can she find within herself the skills she needs to keep her party together?
Elsewhere, the Knights of Balance are preparing to rescue the fallen Callie but it will all be for nothing if Loric can't pass his trials. The dragon predator stands between them and time is running out. They must save their silver friend before she reaches Death's Door or she will be gone forever. Is Phaer's strange condition an illness, a curse, or something else?
As the past catches up with them and secrets are revealed, Eilidh must open the door and find the truth. In the end, it's all about her: Eilidh's choice.
Eilidh, Toli and Granite were once again in the presence of the Wise One. Eilidh had decided that they should stick with just the three of them. After all, if the prince was to be believed, only they had been `invited` and they didn't have time to travel all that way, only to be unable to find the Wise One's hut because they were trying to bring along uninvited guests.
Of her assembled friends, only Rochelle was particularly disappointed, but she cheered up when Eilidh commended her on her extraordinary literary find. Given a second source of information, it made sense to take advantage of both simultaneously, and there was no doubt that Rochelle possessed a mind that could cut through the extraneous knowledge and discover answers to some of the important academic and philosophical questions posed by this situation.
The Knights were preparing for action - not that they were ever unprepared - but Eilidh wanted to give Hannah as much time as possible to recover from her injuries and trauma. The Paladin insisted she was `fine` but she would probably say that if the roof of Shakaran Castle fell on her head. Dark Knight Officer Sir Quentin Marr had placed himself in charge of overseeing her healing, cracking the metaphorical whip at the first perceived sign of anything less than perfect efficiency on the part of the royal healing staff. Bernice Ardra - Bunny - seemed to have developed quite a bond with Tanya, the easy-going Knight of Balance, and had attached herself to the Knightly trio; an interesting match, to be sure.
* * * * *
The sumorityl had proved instrumental in Hannah's healing. Some of the chaos creatures apparently secreted some kind of anti-coagulant and the Clerics were unable to permanently stop the bleeding. They would staunch the flow for a while, but the wounds would always open up again.
Out of the blue, Bunny said, "I can do it. I can stop the bleeding. It won't be pretty, but I can do it. I was created from a vampire, remember?" she explained, when the others asked, "and I've got some of their abilities. One of them is the ability to control blood clotting. Vampires can prevent clotting while they're drinking and rapidly close a wound when they want to save a snack for later." She paused, noting some of the horrified looks.
"OK, maybe that was too much information," she considered. "Let's just say it's a little trick that comes into play during vampiric conversion."
When that drew more horrified gasps, Bunny just rolled her eyes. "Oh, for pity's sake! Look, I'm not going to turn her into a vampire!"
The others seemed unconvinced.
"Fine, forget it!" She pushed angrily through the others, intending to storm off, but halfway to the door, she rounded on them, employing all of her self-control to keep her vampiric form from surfacing in instinctive response to her rage. "Y'know, it's really charming!" she complained. "Here I am offering, as a valuable member of our team, to do something decidedly unpleasant to save our friend's life, and all you lot can do is stand there pulling faces! I saved a bunch of children from a burning building, just like Loric. Only he's a heroic dragon and I'm a vampire with ulterior motives! I rescued Phaer from the dark elves - after he went blabbing about Niltsiar. I'll bet he'd be welcomed if he came back, but all I get is suspicion. I faced down a basilisk, put my life in considerable danger and I came back here to fill you in on what you've been missing, but you still don't trust me! I could have gone anywhere, but I chose to come back here because I believed - believe - I can help! But you still! Don't! Trust! Me! Why?"
She let her accusation hang in the air for a moment before continuing, "OK, so this is almost certainly the safest place in all Mythallen right now, and I'll admit saving my own skin is pretty high on my list of priorities. Is that so wrong? What have I done to deserve this treatment?" She asked.
"Tell me!" She demanded, her scream reverberating around the high-ceilinged chamber.
The others just looked at one another, shifting uncomfortably.
"Doesn't anybody around here trust me?" Bunny persisted
"I do," volunteered Tanya Nightingale.
The others stared at her in disbelief.
The Knight spread her arms in an elaborate shrug. "Well, I do!" she insisted.
"Apart from her," Bunny dismissed with a smile.
Tanya giggled - not a sound one would ever expect to hear from a typical Knight, but Lady Tanya Nightingale was anything but a typical Knight.
Calming down, Bernice tried again. "I believe I can close Hannah's wounds. You can let me try, or you can put your faith in the Clerics to suddenly come up with a cure at the last minute."
"It seems to me," Eilidh said, trying to smooth things over. "That this is Hannah's choice. You know what she's like for following the rules of her Order, although I doubt there's anything specific about allowing a sumorityl vampire to heal a Knight of Paladinia."
So they proposed it to Hannah who, once she was assured it did not involve magic, agreed to the unorthodox treatment.
"Just one thing," Bunny told Tanya and Quentin, taking them to one side. "This is going to involve me drinking some of Hannah's blood. Not much," she assured them when Quentin got that look again. "Just enough to activate the necessary glands. I don't make a habit of it - at least, not anymore - because I can start to lose myself and get a little...`excited`. Pure blood - pure human like all you Knights, pure elf, whatever - is particularly intoxicating. So, if I seem to be acting strange and drinking more than necessary, you'll need to pull me off, because in Hannah's current condition that would most likely be fatal. If it does happen, I won't come quietly, but I'd really appreciate it if you didn't kill me or break any bones when you knock me out."
"Thou art serious?" Sir Quentin wondered.
Tanya raised an eyebrow.
"Sorry," Bunny apologised with a sheepish grin. "Bad choice of words."
Bernice prepared herself, mentally, and all visitors left Hannah's bedchamber except the other two Knights.
She began to drink what was necessary, bracing herself for the jolt, the horrific pleasure of this vile act. When it came, she knew she had to resist like never before. This was important - to Hannah and to Bunny herself. She wanted to prove that her vampiric abilities and sumorityl nature could be put to a positive, constructive use. This was her chance and it was vital she did not succumb to her base, predatory instincts that would soon kick in... Any moment...n--
As it turned out, however, the `now` never happened. The very absence of a shock was a shock in of itself. It was a bit like someone bracing themselves to dive into a lake or pool that they were convinced would be freezing cold, but when they hit the water, it was actually very pleasant and not at all like they expected. So Bunny was able to keep enough control to do the job without the need for violence.
It was puzzling. Her self-control wasn't even all that stretched. Had she really come so far? It was a dangerous assumption and one she was reluctant to believe. Like a man who becomes addicted to certain intoxicating herbs, the greatest danger of relapse was in that moment when he considered himself cured. In truth, there could be no cure for Bernice Ardra. She was what she was and that would never change, but she could - and did - aspire to higher things. Redemption she had once called it. As good a word as any, she supposed, but in truth what she wanted was nothing more or less than a place in civilisation. She was different, certainly. Unique, perhaps. But was she not also equal? So she was created in a laboratory, not a mother's womb. Did that negate her right to exist? To live her life? Did the life of Lady Hannah Collins - pure blood human and Knight of Paladinia - automatically have a higher value than that of a force grown human-vampire mongrel like herself? Way back in her father's cage - a lifetime ago from Bunny's perspective - she chose to believe that was not true. Should people - and she chose to believe she was a person, not an animal - be judged by what they are or by what they do? She believed the latter.
Her right to life and freedom was as valid as any elf's, but she knew full well that however far she thought she had come, she still had a long way to go before she could earn her place in civilisation...assuming there was a civilisation left after Niltsiar and her pet monsters had finished with it. Still, for today she had achieved what she set out to do: Hannah's wounds bled no more and Bernice was in control of herself.
Tanya moved over to Bernice to check she was alright, shattering her introspection. "Adds new meaning to the phrase, `licking your wounds`," the Knight remarked.
Bernice grinned, although doing so in vampire mode with blood around her mouth didn't quite have the desired effect.