Thorüsa: Little Leech Lost
CHAPTER THREE: LITTLE LEECH LOST
BEFORE I CAN follow any of the three giant leeches, however, a very small one stops in its tracks. It whirls around, lifts its head, and sniffs the air. Immediately, it wriggles toward the evergreen and starts climbing. Oh, no! It’s looking for a shade, and has found ME! I try and find the courage to get out of the tree and float away, but I’m so terrified that I cannot. Instead, I can only watch as the leech moves upward. All of a sudden, it opens its two minuscule and beady eyes. Wait a minute. I’ve always heard fiends were blind…
“You’re not dead, are you?”
Fiends can’t speak, either! They can only seize and consume. What in the Abyss is this creature?!
Hesitantly, as it reaches the evergreen branch on which I’m resting, I decide to try and answer it:
“No, I’m not dead. Please don’t take me. Don’t drag me down there, I beg you, because I’m still alive!”
The leech does a backflip. “I knew it! You’re not exactly like me, because I am dead, but at least you’re here and conscious. In fact, I suspected there might be shades like you all along, but I had no proof!”
“Hold. If you’re not a fiend, then what are you?”
“Who are you? is the proper question. My name is Salek’t, and in my mortal life, I was a student. Unfortunately, the arts I tried to master got me killed. I was burned at the stake by this city’s Inquisitors.”
My ghostly mouth gapes. “I-I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say…”
“No matter! On the other hand, it might well matter in your case. Have you heard of the sage, Voranti?”
No. No. No… “I have heard that name mentioned.” Mentioned by Galinicus, in his rare moments of candor.
“When we were both alive, she was my master, as I believe Galinicus is yours.” Startled, I nod quickly. “Voranti wanted to know if the human body could ever change its form. She tried many experiments, and I was her willing subject on many occasions. What we discovered was that our physical bodies cannot, but our souls can! Thus, I spent many days as a bird on the wing, a cat on the prowl, and even a barstool underneath a fair wench.” Suddenly, Salek’t helps me discover that leeches can indeed blush. “Now that I’m a fugitive in Thorüsa, however, I’m almost always a leech. I ask you: what better way to hide from the fiends than to disguise yourself as one of them?” He winks with one of his tiny black eyes, and I grin.
“How clever! I do wonder, however, if you’re…destined for the Abyss once they catch you.”
“That’s the interesting part. I am not! The Inquisitors’ god is not my god, because in their hearts, they worship our Great Foe. They destroy anyone who does not believe as they do, and that’s a wicked act, not a righteous one. When I was burned, the celestials came for me, but I escaped from their gentle grasp. That’s also why I choose a leech’s form. Cèli are particular about where they roam, because they fear corruption. Oddly enough, just as there are weak and strong fiends, there are weak and strong celestials. They continue to learn and grow, as we do. Enough gabbing, however. There are the damned to save!”
I nod, but first ask Salek’t: “How old are you?” Then, even as a shade, I cringe. “That was a silly question.”
“Not at all. When I faced the stake, I was fourteen years old, and it’s been a year since then. My soul is now fifteen, as I would have been were I still alive. You seem to be a bit older, though you’re not yet dead.”
“I’m seventeen, and will finish my apprenticeship in the next year if Galinicus - if he’s victorious in his trial.”
“You mean if he survives his trial.” A pause. “He’s done something to you, put you to sleep, but in a deeper sleep than any other mortal being has endured. Hasn’t he?” Again I nod, feeling my world crumble.
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