Henry lay still until Fiona had finished tending to him and gone to help somewhere else. Then he sat up, as slowly and quietly as he could manage, and set his feet on the flagstone floor, keeping his eyes on the Alt-Mage as he did so. He did not want to be caught and pushed down again; he might not have the strength for another try.
Cautiously, he eased himself off of the bed and onto his shaky legs. As he stood, all the blood seemed to rush from his head, and he nearly swooned. He would have to be quick. If Alasdair didn’t stop him, his own body would.
The distance between his cot and Simon’s couldn’t have been more than five feet, yet to him, it seemed vast. Every silent step left him drained and nearly panting, and with each passing moment, his feet grew heavier. By the time he had made it to his twin brother’s bedside, he felt on the verge of collapse. He sank to his knees and leaned against the mattress, the thin fabric of his infirmary nightshirt clinging to his sweaty skin.
You cannot do this, Henry. You are much too weak. The effort will kill you!
He glanced upward again, looking into Simon’s face, bathed in the faint blue light of the magic still coursing from Alasdair’s fingertips. It occurred to him that this stream of power was the only thing keeping his brother alive. And even the Alt-Mage of Murkintsen couldn’t afford to drain himself of energy at such a rate for much longer. At some point he would have to give up and let Simon die.
Henry reached out and grabbed Simon’s hand, a sudden and unfamiliar sense of determination welling up inside him and pushing him forward. He knew that he must proceed with this. If he had to die so that Simon would survive, so be it.
As he thought about it, the idea grew more appealing—frightening, yes, but not entirely undesirable.
No one would call him a coward again.
He would not run.
Henry grinned at this. It wasn’t in any way a happy smile, nor a wry one, but one of satisfaction and perhaps even relief. It was the expression of a man who, at long last, knows he is doing something right.
Stop, you idiot! Just what—!
“No!” he practically shouted, and as Alasdair looked over to him in alarm, as Mialina jumped into wakefulness, as Fiona started to run back down the aisle of cots with a scream of desperation and fear, Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund, seventy-fourth Lord of Carvil, murderer, mage and lifelong nervous wreck, gathered up all his magic, all his life-force, all his hopes and dreams, and forced them out through his hand and into Simon’s. It hurt worse than anything he had ever before experienced, but his grin only widened. Perhaps this was euphoria, this knowledge, this wonderful realization that he had the capacity for good, that he could be someone other than the person that he had thought he was.
That he had not run.
But just as he felt the last vestiges of his life begin to run down his arm, ready to leave him entirely, the connection was broken. Someone had seized him and pulled him away.
“No…” he moaned, reaching out to regain his grip on Simon’s hand. But it was too far, and he did not have enough left in him to struggle free.
He had failed.
Yet, only seconds away from falling into the looming blackness, he happened to rest his wandering eyes upon Simon, and even in the torch-lit dimness, he was able to see that he had been wrong. His brother was stirring. Slightly, perhaps, scarcely more than a twitch, but still—he was alive. Simon would live.
Lord Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund, seventy-fourth Lord of Carvil, murderer, mage and lifelong nervous wreck rode a wave of pure joy into the abyss of unconsciousness.