Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Kirsten Explores: Anatomy 101 for Wizards
"Wanda? Are you okay?"
Wanda stood frozen, her eyes locked with those of a dead man. A murdered man. He was on his back, the stones smeared with the dull, dark stain of his life. His vacant eyes still projected his last memory: the terrifying despair of the realisation that he would not overcome his attacker.
A gentle hand settled on her shoulder. "Wanda?"
She flinched, breath returning in a sudden gasp. She realised that she had raised both her hands to her head. Where was the lantern she had been holding?
With the flinch, her senses threw her brutally into the present all at once.
"SHHHH!" Kirsten had hissed.
Malmir uttered a low curse in his native tongue.
The lantern was just completing its crazy rocking, like a spinning coin finally reaching rest, the metallic grind of its base against the gristly stone echoing off the walls. Fortunately, it settled upright, its light intact. It couldn't have made more noise if she'd hit it with a hammer.
"Wanda? It's okay."
The impact of the lantern on the floor had thrown open its shutters, revealing the room in all its gory detail. Bodies, violently dispatched, lay strewn over broken furniture.
Somewhere, in the back of Wanda's mind, she realised earlier that she had considered the rational chance that she might come across death tonight. They were pursuing a criminal gang, and criminal gangs set about murdering each other with furious delight, if the rumours were to be believed. But the rational acknowledgement was powerless against the emotional onslaught caused when an innocent city woman come across the bodies of murdered men. Rational thought didn't compensate for the reality of a man's shirt slick with his own blood, his life wrenched out of him with a blade. Rational thought offered nothing for a dead man's hopeless stare.
Did they have families, she wondered? Was there some woman somewhere, wringing her hands with anxiety because her husband hadn't returned yet? Worried that some evil had befallen him, and that he may never return?
"Wanda." The hand lifted. Johann scooped up the lantern and pushed it into her hand. "They're dead. You're safe. We really need you to hold this lantern now, okay?"
He turned and moved back to his position against the wall before she could make eye contact.
Later that evening, or perhaps the next day, she would realise that wasn't strictly true. Any of them could hold the damned lantern. But, just then, it was true for her. She had a responsibility to this group. One hundred crowns of responsibility, to be precise.
Best you start earning that, girl.
The others had already set about resuming their contributions to the exercise, continuing to explore the room.
What an idiot they must think I am! Still - time to learn, dear. Time to learn.
Wanda set her jaw and resolved to search that body. To touch the thing. She knew that Heironymus had done some anatomical research with cadavers before. Granted, they were a thousand miles from the bloody victims here tonight, but if she was serious about becoming a wizard, she would have to work with dead bodies at some point. She wondered if this is how he had started his magical career?
Wanda knelt next to the body, carefully avoiding any blood or other mess. Breathing deeply, she reached out and gently closed its eyes.