They resumed their trek through the volcano after resting for a few minutes. The ground shook again. This time the left wall split open and a large chasm formed in front of them. Lava gushed into the opening, splashed against the side of the crevasse, and hit James and Daniel.
James screamed in pain as the magma seared his forearm through the gray sleeve of his tunic. Daniel felt a sting where the magma pocked the back of his right hand, but he did not cry out.
Evan watched the lava to see if it would exceed the confines of the fissure. When it appeared that it wouldn’t, he turned to his companions and took out his first-aid kit.
“These aren’t serious wounds, fortunately,” noted Evan.
James winced. “But it hurts like a bee sting.”
Iriel opened her pack. “I have a salve for burns.”
“Let’s use it on James. He’s got the more serious wound,” commented the priest.
Iriel pulled out a small round container from her pack. “Daniel, have you no pain?”
“No, I channeled the pain away,” replied the teen.
“That’s a Qua’ril technique, isn’t it?” asked the bard.
Daniel nodded his head. “Yes. I control the pain and focus to stop the ache.”
James stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Sounds like something everyone should learn.”
Iriel opened the container to reveal a white cream. She applied it to James’s burns and Evan wrapped the wounds with cotton gauze. Then, turning to Daniel, the priest took the teen’s hand and covered the back of it with a bandage.
When Evan was done, Daniel flexed his hand.
“Something wrong?” asked the priest as he put away his first-aid kit.
“No, I’m just testing my hand’s range of motion.”
“The bandage shouldn’t interfere too much.”
“How long do I need to leave this on?”
“A few days, at least. I can apply a new bandage tomorrow.”
Looking around, Evan saw Brashani standing by the edge of the gorge; he approached the mage.
“Know any way to get across?”
“Yes, I think so. I can cool the lava so that a strip of it hardens, essentially creating a bridge for us to walk across.”
“Won’t that act like a dam and cause the lava to overflow the chasm and flood this passageway?”
“It might. But I don’t think we have any other options — unless you want to wait for the lava to cool on its own.”
“No, I want to keep going.”
“Thought so. Then I’ve given you your choices.”
Evan ran his right hand through his hair. Neither option Brashani had outlined was ideal, and Evan did not want to risk everyone’s safety in the interests of getting to Jormundan’s workshop as quickly as possible. But the sad truth, Evan realized, was that risk was part of his job. He was always taking risks when confronting necromancers, and this time was no different … with one exception: his companions this time were not Michaeline knights or priests; they were civilians and unused to this type of danger. But given the options Brashani had proposed, there was really only one choice.
“All right,” agreed Evan. “We’ll try your plan. Let me know when you are ready.”
Evan explained to the others what he and Brashani had discussed.
“Sounds dangerous,” said James.
“It could be,” conceded Evan. “But if we move across to the other side quickly, the lava shouldn’t overflow the fissure. If I’m wrong, though, be prepared to run; we should be able to outpace the magma.”
“And if other traps wait for us ahead?” asked Iriel.
“We’ll face them and figure out something when we reach them.”
James frowned. “I have to say, I’m not thrilled with this idea. We could die.”
“That’s true,” Evan acknowledged. “But I don’t see another way. If you’ve got any better ideas, I’ll listen to them.”
James shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t.”
Evan looked at Iriel. “I don’t either,” said the elf.
The priest gazed at Daniel. “I have no preference. I just want to reach Aure as soon as we can,” the lad added.
“I understand, Daniel,” said Evan, smiling. “We’re doing the best we can.”
“I know, but it feels as if we are moving in molasses.”
Evan was about to respond when the wizard said, “I’m ready.”
“All right,” said Evan to the others. “Get ready. We’ll proceed single file and go as quickly as we can until we reach the other side of the passageway.”
Brashani concentrated, raised his arms, and then lowered them so that they were parallel with the river of molten rock. Evan watched and saw no change in the lava at first. Then the river’s speed seemed to slow. A thin black line appeared on the surface of the lava. The line widened to form a crust, which hardened and solidified.
Evan looked at the fire mage. Perspiration covered his face. Through clenched teeth Brashani rasped, “Go!”
Instantly Evan bolted across the blacktopped lava. It didn’t feel very sturdy, but it held his weight; for that he thanked St. Michael.
Daniel, Iriel, and James followed Evan over the magma, while Brashani moved slowly, lowering his arms completely as he began his journey atop the bridge he had created.
Evan reached the far side of the chasm and, as he did, he glanced at the lava. It was higher now, and rising. He turned back and saw James, Daniel, and Iriel approaching. Brashani, however, was only a portion of the way across and walking slowly. If he didn’t start running soon, the lava would envelop him. Then Evan realized that Brashani probably couldn’t maintain the spell and run at the same time. Perhaps giving thanks to a supreme power had been premature.
Iriel, James, and Daniel stepped off the magma crust. As they did, Evan pulled Iriel aside.
“You probably know more about fire magic than I,” he said.
“I might, but I only studied the most basic fire spells.”
“Am I right in guessing that if Brashani loses his concentration, his spell will collapse, the magma will soften, and he’ll fall into the river of lava?”
“What you say is true if he breaks his concentration on his spell.”
“Will the lava kill him?”
“I would think so.”
“But you don’t know for sure. As a fire mage, he might be able to withstand the heat of the lava or he might even be immune to the types of burns James and Daniel suffered.”
“I’ve heard tales about fire mages being immune to fire. But won’t the flow of the lava sweep him downstream and separate him from us?”
“Probably,” replied Evan. “But he’d be alive and so would we. That might not be true if he maintains the spell much longer.”
“But we’ll need Magus Khumesh. Who knows what other obstacles are in front of us?” the elf pointed out.
“I realize that and I don’t want to split us up, but there may not be any other way.”
“But you are only guessing that the lava won’t hurt him. If you are wrong, he could die.”
“And if he maintains the spell much longer, we could all share that fate.”
“Evan,” cried James. “Look!” He pointed at Brashani.
The Michaeline priest followed James’s finger. Out in the middle of the lava bridge, Brashani stood, wobbling, as if he were dizzy. The stress of maintaining the spell for so long appeared to be catching up to him. A portion of the bridge behind him broke away, and the force of the trapped lava behind the hardened magma swept it away.
Evan racked his brain trying to think of a way to help his friend, but before he could devise a plan, the remaining surface of the bridge became shiny and slick. At the same time, the section of the magma Brashani stood upon rose higher in the air so that it became a ramp, which the wizard promptly slid down. As the fire mage moved, the blackened lava broke up and only Brashani’s momentum kept him ahead of the disintegrating stone.
James and Evan saw the wizard approaching fast and braced themselves to catch him. But it wasn’t necessary: Brashani glided to a halt just before colliding into them.
“Did you do all that?” asked James.
“Yes,” replied the fire mage, panting. He wiped sweat from his face. “I could feel myself losing control of the magic I used to hardened the lava and realized I needed a quick way to get across. So, I made the magma slick so I could slide across it and then elevated my end of the bridge to create a slide. It worked perfectly.”
Evan smiled and clapped him on the back. “Nicely done. I was afraid you weren’t going to make it across.”
“Who, me?” asked the wizard. “It takes more than a little lava to slow me down.”
“Well, let’s move on,” said Evan. “There’s no telling how much farther we have to go and there’s no point delaying here.”
“Actually,” said Brashani, still breathing hard. “If you could give me a moment, I’d appreciate it. Maintaining that spell was very draining.”
“All right,” said Evan. “Let me know when you are ready.”
“You’ll be the first to know.”