Kangassk woke up with a start; the last thing from his dream he remembered was falling from a great height. His heart was racing, he gasped for air. The moment he opened his eyes he knew there would be no good night.
He had slept through the alarm. The grey mages were already on their way to their combat positions. Kan put his pants on but didn’t bother with shirt and shoes. Barefoot and shirtless, he followed the grey cloaks to the perimeter. The windless cold of the night couldn’t touch him in his battle-ready state. His feet, not used to walking without shoes, got cut and bruised quickly, his pants were wet up to the knee from the dew on the tall grass… he felt nothing as he ran through the sea of grey cloaks, watching Iven wake up around him, lamps and Lihts flaring from all sides, and felt the cold obsidian touching his chest over his pounding heart.
The demonic wind howled beyond the perimeter, gathering strength and looking for a breach in the protective ring. The shield was already in place; in every Seven, a duo of protectors floated in the air above their donors frozen in motionless, silent agony below.
He felt and knew one thing: something wasn’t right with one of the Sevens. But which one? That, the cold obsidian wasn’t going to tell him for some reason.
Kan took a good look at them… They were the elite: tall and strong, experienced and fearless but also often very old men and women. Old. Old and grey-haired… The only young man among them stuck out like a sore thumb. He stood among the other donors, bent with an invisible burden. His eyes were shut tight as if in pain; a trickle of blood ran from his bitten lip. Fair hair; black brows… Flavus…
“Get back to your tent,” said the commanding voice behind Kan’s back. Unseen and unheard, the Grey Inquisitor had approached him. “Don’t get in our way…”
He was wearing his uniform and had his staff with him; the vitryanik’s attack hadn’t got him by surprise this time. Having given his warning, he forgot about Kan the next moment and returned to watching the perimeter. If the mortal knew what was good for him, he’d take the chance to get away, surely...
“Sereg!” Kangassk gave out a yell no one could ignore and demanded fervently: “Set me as an extra donor to this Seven!”
The worldholder slowly turned to the obnoxious mortal. Sereg’s angry eyes shone with uncanny blue fire on his marble-white face…
“Oh, you want to see what it’s like to be a donor?” he asked with a dark sneer. “Then who am I to stop you?”
He grabbed Kangassk by the shoulder and pushed him toward the flawed Seven. There was a splash of silent magic Kan didn’t recognize and a surge of pain, not physical pain, no - worse… Kan felt his very soul being torn apart. There was no escape; the unknown spell held him as firm as if he was a fish on a fishing hook.
Very soon, he fell to one knee because he could no longer stand. His left hand touched the ground to stop the fall, his right clenched on the Liht sphere he still had with him. It hurt him, freezing his fingers to the bone, but that was a good pain, very real, very simple, so unlike the pain of the soul-rending spell. It helped Kan to stay sane and conscious until the end.
After everything was over and the invisible hook that held him prisoner had vanished, he felt a brief moment of freedom and joy that ended in the starry sky doing a somersault before his eyes and numbing darkness swallowing him whole.
There he lay sprawled on the dewy grass, his eyes dark, unconscious but still wide open. The fading Liht rolled out of his frostbitten hand…