Chapter Twenty Three
No, no, please, no! Sarah begged as she raced through the tower, panic coursing through her veins. Please don’t take him away from me!
She could feel Porter’s blood matting her fur to her body as she ran, barely slowing down to turn corners and go down stairs. She could feel where the wood protruded from Porter’s body and pressed into hers, but not a heartbeat.
Porter was dying! The thought was so surreal that she could barely believe it. Her exhaustion weighed on her muscles, trying to slow her down, but she ignored it, racing down the hallways and stairways at a breakneck pace. It wouldn’t matter if Granger managed to beat Vega or not if they couldn’t make it out of the tower before Porter bled to death. He lay perfectly still, not moving a muscle as her paws carried them through the tower. For all she knew, she was already carrying a corpse…
Another wave of terror washed over her, spurring the young sphinx to run even faster
A minute later, Droma managed to catch up to her, his long legs helping him match her pace. “That way!” he ordered, pointing down another hallway. Sarah didn’t question him. He knew the way out better than she did, and they didn’t have any time to waste. Under the giant’s guidance, it took them only a few minutes to escape the maze-like tower.
The storm hit Sarah the moment she charged out of the massive door. The wind almost threw her off her paws, and the rain pelted her like bullets while thunder boomed in the skies above her. It was only by her sheer determination that she was able to continue on her way. She ran across the muddy field towards the forest, where she knew the trees would give them at least a little cover.
The sphinx didn’t stop until she felt they were a safe distance away from the tower. The trees provided a little protection from the rain and wind, but not much. Panting from the exertion, she allowed Droma and Azkular to lift Porter from her back and place him on the ground. His eyes were still closed, and his skin was alarmingly pale. His clothes were stained with blood, and Sarah whimpered when she looked at the javelins again.
“Is- is he all right?” she asked weakly, and then cringed. He had been stabbed through the chest. Of course he wasn’t all right!
Faska knelt down and felt for the boy’s pulse. After a couple seconds, he nodded. “He’s alive, but just barely. He’s fading fast.”
Sarah fought back the panic that threatened to overwhelm her, and turned her attention to Droma. “Why didn’t his armor protect him? It never even appeared!”
The expression on Droma’s face made him look as if he were in pain. “Because he had to summon it,” he explained. “I think Porter was so focused on protecting you that protecting himself didn’t even cross his mind.”
That only made Sarah feel worse. Porter hadn’t protected himself for her sake? She let out a desperate whine, and turned back to Faska, who was still kneeling over him. “Heal him!”
Faska looked from her to Porter, and shook his head regretfully. “I can’t. I barely had enough energy to heal the wound in Droma’s side, and…” He averted his gaze, looking at the ground. “Even if I could heal him, pulling the spears out would kill him before I had the chance.”
Pain stabbed at Sarah’s heart, but she wouldn’t let herself give up. She looked at Ozzie. “Do you still have any of that potion Granger gave you?”
Ozzie paled and shook his head. “I drank it all. I didn’t know he’d need it. I- I’m sorry!”
Sarah looked back at the boy on the ground in front of her. She was able to hold back the anguished sob that rose up in her throat, but she couldn’t hold back the tears.
“There has to be something we can do!” she wailed, looking at all of her companions, begging for them to make a suggestion. No one came forward. “We can’t just let him die!”
When they didn’t respond, she went to stand over Porter. She didn’t know any healing spells like Faska did, and it tore her apart. Right now, she was just as useless as the others. What good was she if she couldn’t even save the one she loved? A tear fell from her face, landing on Porter’s cheek.
“I’m sorry, Porter,” she whispered, trying not to let her emotions take over. “I’m so sorry!”
There really was nothing she could do. Nothing any of them could do. Porter’s wounds were too severe to be healed. All she could do was be there with him when he… to say goodbye. Her body shaking with grief, Sarah leaned down and gave Porter one last kiss. His lips were cold, and he didn’t kiss her back. Still, she relished the moment, knowing it would never come again. Pulling her head back, she sat down and watched him.
“Goodbye, Porter,” she said softly, reverently. “Wherever you go, please wait for me.”
The others muttered their agreement, and as one knelt before him, honoring the passing of a hero. Even Azkular, who was so good at hiding his emotions, had thin trails of blue fire coming from the corners of his eyes.
As she watched, Sarah could almost imagine his soul rising from his body and going wherever it was souls went when they died. Was he looking at her, she wondered? Did he still feel the pain? Was he angry that she hadn’t been able to save him, even after he had saved her so many times? No, of course not. She knew better than that. Porter would never be angry at her for this. If anything, he would have been happy that he was the one dying, and not her. Sarah’s eyes followed the imaginary soul, floating up into the air, past the trees.
Then she gasped.
Sarah scrambled to her paws, a final, desperate hope daring to rise up in her heart.
“Check him!” she commanded. The others looked at her, puzzled by her sudden outburst. “I said check him!”
Again, Faska got up and felt for Porter’s pulse. “He’s still alive,” the elf said miserably. “But he’s almost gone. He’s got a minute or two at the most.”
Sarah shook her head, forcing herself to push the fear and grief aside for the moment. Hopefully she wouldn’t need them again.
“Gwinn told us that there was a way for two people to bind their souls together,” she explained as quickly as she could, remembering the conversation they’d had. It seemed like so long ago.
“Soul chimeras,” Droma said, uncomprehending. “What does that have to do with—”
“He said that when their souls were bonded, they would both get new bodies,” Sarah interrupted him. “They would become mixtures of both their species.”
“Sarah, what are you thinking?” Azkular demanded.
“New bodies!” Sarah said again. “If Porter were to get a new body, the wounds in this one would go away!”
Her friends exchanged surprised looks.
“I have to bond my soul with Porter’s,” she insisted. “It’s the only way to save him!”
“You do not know if that will work,” Droma cautioned her, but he stood up anyway. There was hope in his eyes now too.
“It will work,” she argued. “It has to work!”
Droma paused, looking at her.
“You know what this means, do you not?” he asked softly. “You will not be a sphinx anymore. And he will not be human.”
Surprisingly, Sarah wasn’t at all bothered by this.
“No,” she agreed. “We’ll be the same. We’ll be closer to each other than we ever could have been before.”
Droma offered no further arguments. He knelt down beside Porter’s body and looked at the boy. Azkular and Faska joined them.
“You know how to do it, right?” Sarah asked, suddenly afraid that her hopes had been in vain.
“I know the basic steps,” Azkular said. “But I’ve never actually seen it happen before.”
“What do I do?” Sarah asked.
Azkular stood up and motioned for the other two to back away. “There is an incantation that must be said that will draw both of your souls from your bodies.”
Despite the situation, Sarah shivered.
“It’s a dangerous process,” the djinn went on. “If the person performing the spell were to lose focus and make a mistake, both of your souls would escape, and you would both die.”
Sarah looked at Porter, still lying on the ground, unmoving, and nodded. It was worth the risk. He was worth the risk.
“Then what?” she asked.
“The two of you must come together,” Azkular explained. “A soul binding can’t happen if one of the souls rejects the other. He has to accept the binding, and so do you. After that, your two souls will merge into one, and you will return to your bodies.”
“All right,” Sarah agreed without any hesitation. “Do it!”
Azkular nodded and closed his eyes and spread his arms. After a few seconds, he began to chant. The words sounded strange coming out of his mouth. They were unnaturally loud, and echoed through the forest even over the sounds of the storm. A massive bolt of lightning flashed above them, followed immediately by an earth shaking peal of thunder, and Sarah tried to tell herself that it had been completely natural. The words were filled with power— Sarah could feel them flowing over her body as he chanted. Not just over her body, she could feel it inside her too, in a place she’d never known existed. It felt like the chanting was working its way through the protective shell that was her body, and touching her soul— the real Sarah Heisen.
The magic began to pull on her in a way that words couldn’t describe. Sarah felt herself retreat momentarily into her body, swallowed by darkness, and then suddenly she could see again. She was still in the forest, but things looked different. The colors were sharper, the shapes more pronounced. She could still hear Azkular’s chant, but now she heard it with her entire being and not just her ears.
She was formless. She no longer had eyes to limit her vision, and so she saw everything all around her. Her friends were below her, staring at her and Porter, unaware that she was now floating above their heads. She saw herself, her body an empty husk, sitting where she had been before with a vacant look on her face. Her body wasn’t dead. She could still feel the connection she had with it. If she wanted, she could fight against Azkular’s spell and return to it. She wouldn’t, though. Not until she’d done what she came to do.
There was another presence with her. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel it. It felt good, and comforting, and strong. It felt like Porter. It was right in front of her, just out of her reach, so she willed herself toward it like a cloud of smoke in the wind.
“Sarah?” Porter’s voice asked. Like Azkular’s voice, she heard it with every fiber of her being. If she’d been in her body, she would have squirmed in happiness.
“Sarah, what’s happening?” he asked.
“We have to bind our souls together,” Sarah answered. She had no mouth to speak with, but the words formed themselves from her consciousness. “Just like Gwinn told you about.”
“Bind our souls?” Porter echoed vacantly. “Why?”
“Because you’re dying. If we do this, you’ll get a new body. You’ll be healed!”
Porter was silent for a moment. “Are you sure you want that?” he asked at last.
“More than anything,” she answered.
“You wouldn’t be a sphinx anymore,” he said, just like Droma had. “And I wouldn’t be a human. We’d be—”
“Closer together than anyone else on earth!” she interrupted, trying to encourage him. “We’ll be bound together by our souls. We’ll be in each other’s hearts for the rest of our lives. One heart, one soul.”
Porter was hesitant, but not because he was afraid. He understood what kind of a commitment this was just as much as she did. He didn’t want her to go into it unprepared.
“Porter,” she said, “I want this more than I’ve ever wanted anything else. But we have to hurry. You’re still dying down there. If we don’t do this now, it’ll be too late.”
“All right,” Porter agreed at last, and she felt him move in closer to her. Their souls overlapped, like two bodies of water flowing into the same pool, and suddenly Sarah realized just how close she was to him. She was touching his soul, and he was touching hers. She could see his thoughts, feel his pain. It was almost like she was him, and she knew he was feeling the same way.
“Bond with me,” she said as their souls swirled together above the forest floor. “Become one with me.”
“Become one with me,” Porter said with her, and Sarah realized that it wasn’t just her thinking it— it was both of them. Their thoughts were becoming the same. Their feelings were the same. They, themselves, were becoming the same. Their souls were joining together. No longer two souls, but one single soul. She could feel his love for her burning just as strongly as her own love for him, and it only became stronger as the two of them merged together.
“One heart, one soul,” they thought in perfect harmony. “One love.”
Below them, there was a bright flash of light.
NEXT TIME: Binding their souls?! *dreamy sigh* So romaaaantic! Did it even work, though? Azkular told them he’d never done this before, so what if something went wrong? And if it did work, what’s going to happen next?