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Inhuman Chapter 3
Valary Gets Legs
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In the past, magic ruled the world before weapons like cannons and rifles came into existence. The world still held lands filled with monsters like those in her tomb and ghouls walked amid the living as part of the dark gods' plans. However, human ingenuity allowed armies of commoners to overwhelm the royal forces helped by mages. While sorcerers carried even more powerful magic, they remained too rare to affect large standing militaries. Some said that magic would soon become a lost art.
Valary witnessed the aftermath of battles when her Musketry Cavaliers fought a band of sorcerers in the Rudia highlands. They were powerful enough to destroy people, animals, and equipment. The only saving grace for those without such strength remained the fact that spells could not extend beyond a few paces. No creature, or human for that matter, carried the ability to store or use aether beyond the confines of the natural order. In the end, science continued to win over the capabilities of sorcery.
Using a flint and steel starter to light a campfire in the remains of a shallow pit, Grym brushed away the pine needles covering the forest floor around Valary. When he finished, the man scanned the dark area outside of the campfire light. The woman thought he could see into the shadows by the way he acted. Grym picked up the wooden bucket by the horse and dumped out the husks of oats still inside before he grabbed his rifle and left. As she lay on the ground, Valary kept replaying the man's words over in her mind as hunger suddenly overcame her. It was a sensation not experienced for many months. Now the pain started to overwhelm her thoughts.
When Grym returned with the bucket filled with water, she asked him a question about food, but he ignored her. Instead, he bent over next to her after pulling a knife from his belt and dug into the soil. He created two rows in the dirt about the width of his hand before going to the closest pine tree. After hacking off several branches, which he placed on top of the rows of turned earth. Finally, Grym picked up the bucket and poured the water over the branches.
Valary could not understand what Grym hoped to achieve by his actions. The man dropped to his knees and held his hands over the mud and tree branches while chanting an ancient verse. Valary recognized some words, for she used another Summara dialect in her healing spells. Those she knew bothered her the most. They came from an illegal tome called Manteía, suppressed during the Great Awakening. Having such a book in your possession meant death to mages.
What does he think he's doing?
From what she could determine, the combination of healing and alchemy chants focused on creating a type of covering for wounds. But when Grym laid his hands upon the branches, she saw the pine needles instantly dry up and fall away while the sticks wound together. The moist ground lifted under his hands and bubbled through the sticks, covering the long mound with a clay-like material. Gradually, the mound elevated under his hand until two long tubes formed where branches once lay.
The smell of Sulphur filled the air as Grym stopped his work, then picked up one end of the clay cylinder. He dragged both of his creations around Valary's lower body, pulling away the cloth covering her body and exposing her leg stumps. Before she could ask his intentions, she felt the burning sensation coming from one leg as he pushed one of the clay-like tubes into the raw stump of her thigh. She screamed out in anguish as the substance burned into her flesh. Grym stuffed the edge of his filth covered cape into her mouth.
"Bite down and endure it. I have to attach the other."
The next tube of clay pushed into her other limb with the same effect. A muffled cry again erupted from Valary. Slowly, an eerie quiet settled over the campsite as the healer slowly recovered from the torturous events. Her breathing finally calmed as Grym stepped over to the ends of the earth cylinders and cut off the excess with a knife. Then he molded the moist ends into rudimentary feet. When he finished, the inhuman placed a hand on each foot and looked up at the sky. After a couple of deep breaths, Grym lowered his head, and a strange red and yellow glow gradually filled his hands.
Immediately, Valary sensed her lower stubs starting quivering. Lifting her head to look down her body, the woman could only see the sorcerer's upper body. His arms trembled like the man was pushing his entire weight into the soil. The campfire light showed glimpses of his chest, bones, and flesh where his shirt opened from his excursion.
Suddenly, a flash of searing pain swept through Valary's lower body as she felt her muscles, flesh, and nerves melding together with the golem legs. When Grym finally finished and stood, he felt lightheaded. Going behind Valary, he helped her to a sitting position, where she saw her new legs for the first time. It did not impress her.
"Those don't look like legs. It looks like brown muck you've changed into a form of a Golem."
He released the woman, and she fell back. Her reaction caused her strange limbs to kick up in the air.
"You must relearn your walk. I embedded the casts I created with your muscle and bone. With work, you'll feel these legs."
"Impossible," she replied.
"Right, everything is impossible until you try," he mocked her with a glare. "Those limbs will do until we reach the next place. You're nothing more than a burden at this point. Learn to stand." He walked to the horse and untied a pan and a bag from the back of the tall saddle.
Valary frowned, then rolled over to her side. With difficulty, the woman focused her mind on her lower extremities. At first, she simply tried to move her rudimentary feet. The feeling shifted from pain to numbness as her body tried to understand the foreign limbs. After a while, the woman finally made a foot jerk at the end of one leg.
Paying no attention to his slave, Grym worked on a simple meal. He put dried meat and beans with water in the pan and brought it to a boil next to the fire. Using his knife, he stirred the mixture around occasionally while staring at the fire.
Valary's struggle to gain control of her legs continued. Sweat covered her face as the noise of her gasping finally brought the inhuman from his trance.
"When you can stand, you can eat," he advised.
"Curse you! You could help."
"Why? Are you not the mystic healer trained by the Priestess of Eternal Knowledge? I've seen children do a better job of learning. Focus some of your aether into your new legs to help you."
Grym went back into his trance as Valary stared daggers at him. After a moment, she finally realized what he meant. Her power came from the flow of her aether, most often using healing spells that went into the bodies of the injured. Her role in the Musketry Cavaliers required incantations to counter magical spells of the enemy. Also, she could stop bleeding or lessening traumatic injuries using her aether. Grym told her to change her thinking about sending aether into an inanimate object.
The whole idea goes against everything she knew!
Healing magic worked on living tissue, but only to a limited degree. A blade run through the heart or a bullet ripping into the brain killed. No amount of aether or training prevented that. While no healers could rebuild bone or regrow limbs, Grym wanted her to flow her aether into the golem-like legs.
It's crazy, adding aether to his dark spell to make her body control her legs.
She glanced over at the man again. Nothing in her experience or training showed Valary such a thing was possible. She noticed he was carving on a piece of wood with his knife now. Finally, she took a deep breath.
What choice do I have?
The woman cleared her mind and gradually focused her thoughts on a small spark glowing like a candlelight that always came to her. Instantly, she calmed down and felt the glow disperse as she looked down on her body from above. In her vision, the flow of the aether moved to the strange limbs attached to her body.
Valary suddenly felt the twitch. She opened her eyes and looked down to see her one foot like an appendage move. At first, the action seemed to be a fluke. Then, using her will, the other limb moved. It took several more tries before the woman's new golem legs finally understood the commands. By the time she got to her knees, Grym came out of his trance.
"I'm tired of this. You need to crawl over by the fire, and I'll feed you. Then, you can use the tree to stand and learn to walk again. In the morning, we'll be riding to the next destination."
"What about my arms?"
Only one leg bent at the knee when she lost her focus, causing her to fall back to the ground.
"You get arms when I trust you. We both know that a healer, especially a hero with some luck, can still overcome a standard slave spell. Arms wouldn't do much good now if you can't even stand." His condescending tone made her look over in anger.
After a while, Valary finally got her legs under her, and she awkwardly crawled over by the fire. Grym put the knife into his belt, then walked over to pull the bubbling bucket away from the fire. In his other hand, he stirred the contents with a crude spoon he made from the wood piece.
"Alright, open up!"
The hot liquid immediately burned her mouth, and she turned her head, spitting out the contents.
"Cursed idiot, that hurt!"
His face drew close.
"Do you want to do it yourself?" He growled.
"Try burning yourself or give me arms and hands," she shot back.
He remained close, his glare chilling her, but she remained defiant even as her stomach growled. Grym pulled back, and she expected the man to leave her. Instead, he stirred the liquid in the pail.
"I'll let it cool first," he told her. "You are still human, I guess."
She watched him for a moment, trying to get a read on his impassive masked face.
"You can always taste it yourself," she replied.
He shook his head and continued stirring. Valary watched him for a while, growing hungrier at the smell filling the surrounding air.
"That should be fine now," she stated.
The next spoonful was too hot, but Valary refused to react as she gulped down the salty broth and beans. The woman nodded for more while trying to speak between bites. A few minutes later, she looked down at a nearly empty pail.
"Aren't you eating?"
"That's a ridiculous question," he stated as he rose.
She waited for a more, but Grym picked up the rifled musket and walked away from the camp.
What is he doing now?