Prologue (Scene 2)

Relief swept over her. Rissa rushed forward to cut him down, but the sheath for the small knife she ordinarily kept on her belt was empty. It had probably fallen out back where she’d come-to. She cursed herself for not checking for it, before, but when Sebastian let out a raspy cry, his eyes rolled back in his head, she gave it up and tried to focus on finding a way to get him down.
He was tied to the pole by a length of leather thong. The knot holding his arms over his head was fairly simple, but the boy’s four stone had pulled it into a tight ball. It wasn’t going to be possible to untie it with just her fingers. And the leather was too thick to tear apart. Then she had a thought.
Working quickly in the growing heat of the early afternoon, she wrapped her good arm around Sebastian’s waist and lifted his weight off of the strap. She used the shoulder of her injured arm to hold him up and pushed against the pole for balance and leverage to keep the majority of his weight from pulling down on the binding.
Rissa felt the world became a darkening tunnel around her as she pulled left-handed at the slight opening between his wrists and the loop of leather. Slowly, she worked her fingers around it and began to pull, using her own weight to stretch it out. By the time the strap was finally loosened enough to slip over the boy’s hands, Rissa noticed he had gone limp.
He was still breathing. But each breath was shallow and labored. She carried him away from the scorched earth around the poles and the smoldering remains of the farm house, and lay him down as gently as she could onto the trampled, ash-covered grass near the front gateway. The shattered wooden gate lay strewn around him, leaving him looking withered and shrunken.
Rissa knelt down beside him. She leaned over him to hold his hands and pray, and noticed just how bruised they were with angry splotches of crimson, purple, and black. She sent a silent prayer to beseech the beneficence of Naiz on behalf of her young master, and bent down to place a gentle kiss on the fingers of both hands.
When she sat back up, Rissa found herself staring face-to-face with a being of living light. She felt its grace settle over every inch of her body, and her mind was released from the strain of fear and pain and sorrow. She knew at once that it was a heavenly archon, come to protect her and Sebastian from any further harm.
Then the light and radiant love were gone as suddenly as they had appeared, and the world went black.


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