I stared in surprise at a moment before rushing over to Salleem. "Salleem, what happened?" I asked in the gentlest tone I could muster. He didn't move; he didn't even acknowledge that I had spoken. Frowning, I closed my eyes and peered into his memories.
What I saw had me reeling back. I could never have expected this, not once in my wildest dreams...or blackest nightmares.
"That explains something," I whispered through numb lips. "I know where you went, Salleem...and I'm amazed you made it back alive."
"What happened?!" Engle demanded, looking almost mad with worry.
"He went to a place that only dark things should ever go," I murmured.
"WHERE?!" Engle practically screamed.
"The Dark Realm."
Dead silence met my words. After a few moments, Engle said, "The Dark Realm? What is that?"
"It is the source of my powers," I explained. "It is the single most concentrated source of dark energy that will ever exist. Terrible beings live there, ones that will not only kill their prey, but forcefully tear out their souls and bind them for eternity."
Salleem shuddered and seemed to pull into himself in a desperate attempt to avoid my words.
"What can you do?" Engle asked me.
His question stopped me short. "You want me to help you? The one that you would barely trust to polish your armor?" I snorted. "You must truly be desperate."
Engle winced, and I instantly regretted my harsh words. "Sorry. That was a bit cold, even for me. Sorry."
"Can you help Salleem?"
I shook my head. "I don't know...the Dark Realm does strange things to a human mind. It twists it, warps it into something less than human. Salleem's mind must be incredibly strong to have fared as well as he did, but I don't think he could withstand another plunge into the depths."
"I can," came Salleem's fragile voice. "I made a promise, and I intend to keep it."
"No promise is worth the punishment for treading on forbidden ground," I said sharply. "Are you absolutely certain you want to do this?"
"Yes," he replied, his voice much stronger than before. "I want to, and I can. Just try to stop me."
"Well, you can't handle it alone. I'm going with you."