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Nicodemus opened his eyes. For a moment he could not remember why he stared out from a strange mirror at such terrible destruction; then memories started to trickle forth into his mind. Skade. Espen. Michael. Terrin escaping.
He touched his chest and saw his body, lying forlorn and forgotten in the midst of debris. They had left it behind, of course--the survivors were more important--but he still felt a bit lost that they had left him behind. How would he go to his Queen, when he did not know where Espen lived?
He thought he might be able to follow the portal, if Skade had not set barriers that kept him trapped in this mirror. He doubted she'd had time to form anything in the way of a cage; Terrin's spell had eaten her strength even as she saved his life one more time.
Of course, she could be dead already, and perhaps Espen would never return for him. Perhaps he would haunt Leysan's halls forever, or until Teluride returned as its King.
If Teluride returned.
A movement near the door caught his eye, and Nicodemus watched as a dark lump on the floor crawled into the light of a dying torch.
Evidently he wasn't the only survivor.
At first, Nicodemus didn't recognize Terrin's partner, for Cathan's face was streaked with soot and blood, and the look in his eyes was far from sane. But when he realized Nicodemus watched him from the mirror, the look in his eyes chilled what was left of the Ghost's soul.
Cathan spat blood on the ground and pushed himself to his knees. "They left you behind as well, I see."
"I would prefer to be left behind if my Queen's life is saved in my stead," Nicodemuswhispered warily.
"If Terrin infected her with his spell, she's as good as dead," Cathan replied, and saw Nicodemus' body lying five feet in front of him.
A strange look passed over his face at the sight. Nicodemus tensed, waiting for him to do something unspeakable, but Cathan merely stared.
"She will not die," Nicodemus whispered, refusing to court the thought.
Cathan laughed. "Everyone dies."
Without bothering to ask permission, he set about undressing Nicodemus' body until it lay naked and bare on the rubble-strewn floor.
"What are you doing?" Nicodemus asked. Cathan didn't bother to reply, and in a moment, when his exposed skin started to shimmer, Nicodemus realized what he planned to do. "No!"
Cathan smiled and stared at his new reflection in the mirror. "What will happen to you if I break that mirror?"
Nicodemus couldn't tear his eyes away from Cathan's new face. "I ... I don't know." If he knew where Espen lived, he'd try to go there now, to warn her, to...
Cathan's fist lashed out, but the mirror didn't break. Nicodemus cringed away from him, entranced despite himself. Had his face ever shown such hate? He braced himself for another blow, but Cathan paused.
"Wait. I might need you, if this works." He patted down his pockets, cursed, then disappeared into the hallway, limping slowly past Nicodemus' body. A moment later, he was back with a crystal pendant swinging from one clenched fist. "I should be happy he had a spare."
"A ... a spare?" The sight of Cathan's face cast a strange sense of deja vu over Nicodemus' mind. Had this happened before?
And then he remembered. Cathan had worn Michael's face in Iomar to steal him from Skade, and now ... now he wore...
Cathan knelt beside Nicodemus' body and sliced one flaccid arm with a small dagger. Sluggish blood seeped out--blood that shouldn't have seeped anywhere if he were truly dead.
Nicodemus couldn't breathe. He watched as Cathan smeared blood on the crystal pendant and his free hand, then struggled to his feet. He watched as Cathan approached the mirror to place a bloody handprint on the glass.
As before, Nicodemus felt himself drawn to the crystal, but that was not the only source of blood in the room.
He had split himself in two before, in essence, to keep an eye on two things at once. He drew upon that skill to save himself now, and pushed as much of his ... spirit ... into his body as the crystal drew the rest of his spirit into its prison.
Coldness chilled his soul. Blackness threatened to suck away what little life remained in his body, but he held right to consciousness and felt his wounded heart begin to beat.
He watched through slitted eyes as Cathan stowed the crystal away, and felt the velvet folds of a familiar bag close over part of his sight. The larger part remained, but living eyes were no match for ghostly ones. He did not know low long he could stay in his body ... or how long he had to live with Terrin's spell eating away at his very limited strength.
He only knew he had to try to warn Espen and his Queen that Cathan now wore his face ... before it was too late.