Thomas knocked on the door. Urgency made him want to rush, but he forced himself to stay calm. There was still time.
The door opened revealing Rebecca behind it. “He followed Julia, just as you said.”
“Good.” Thomas nodded. “Are you ready?”
The glare Rebecca gave him was pure ice. “You have been asking that question far too often lately. Considering how little you’ve told me about what is going on, I think I’ve been very accommodating. The least you could do is stop questioning my competence.”
“Fine. Let’s go.”
Thomas turned to walk toward the stairs and nearly crashed into Jason.
“Where are you rushing off to?”
Jason was his equal in many ways, but too carefree for his own good. Thomas envied him, but resented him, too. He never took anything seriously.
“We are trying to prevent something bad from happening.”
“No time to explain right now. Maybe later.” Over his shoulder, Thomas called back to Rebecca. “You know where David is?”
“David?” Jason interrupted. “If you’re going to see him, could you give him this?” Jason held out a white crystal that was a little longer than his hand. It glowed brightly.
A feeling of dread spread throughout Thomas. “What is that?”
“It’s the special power crystal you asked me to make for him.”
“Why doesn’t he have it already?”
“Took longer to make than I expected, but it’s done now. Why do you look so upset?”
“Rebecca! Show me where David is. Right now!”
For a moment, Rebecca said nothing. Maybe she was taken by surprise. Maybe she was getting ready to chastise him again. His urgency, however, had boiled over, and there was no time for niceties. David needed that crystal. Now.
“It’s one of Julia’s pocket spaces. An outdoors one. Hard to pinpoint, but use this. It should help.” She handed him a glass vial with a strand of hair in it. “I need it back.”
Thomas nodded and began to focus on the hair. Julia was better at this than he was, but a piece of his target helped make up some of the difference. After a couple of minutes, he had a link to David. Another minute, and a portal opened. He grabbed the crystal from Jason. “Let’s go,” he commanded, and stepped through. Rebecca followed and immediately held out her hand for him to return the vial.
They found themselves in a grassy clearing at night. About fifty feet away, a figure was holding up a hand that was wrapped in flame. It took a moment before Thomas recognized David, but before he could say anything, a creature leapt from the night, wrapped itself around the younger mage, and dragged him to the ground.
A sense of terror knocked Thomas to his knees. He hadn’t been able to find the source of the danger no matter where he looked, and now he knew why. Mage devourers were impossible to detect with magic. Now that it had David, Thomas knew of no way to get it off him. What was worse, he didn’t know how to stop the creature after it was done with his first victim. David was supposed to stop it somehow, but Thomas didn’t know how that might be accomplished. It had something to do with the crystal Jason had made. That he hadn’t given to David.
“Cool.” Jason walked up next to Thomas. He must have come through the portal as well, though Thomas hadn’t seen him arrive. Before Thomas could reply, Jason had snatched the crystal and began walking toward David and the devourer.
“Jason! What are you doing?” Thomas tried to follow him, but couldn’t manage to get back on his feet.
“Probably what you should have asked me to do in the first place.” Jason’s voice was matter-of-fact with no hint of accusation. He kept walking. As he neared the downed mage, the devourer let go of David and immediately sprang at Jason, who didn’t even try to avoid it. The crystal in Jason’s hand began to glow brighter and brighter. The explosion knocked everyone back.
Thomas must have lost consciousness. When he came to, he heard crying from a little ways off. Looking around, he saw Rebecca stirring a few feet away. In his terror and confusion, he had forgotten about her part in this.
“Rebecca. Did you …?”
“Yes. Now quit yelling. My head is killing me.”
Another survey discovered the source of crying. Julia was holding a body in her arms, rocking back and forth. It had to be Jason. He stood and walked over to her. The body had indeed been Jason. There was no sign of the devourer anywhere.
Julia looked up at him, her eyes red from grief. “You did this. You killed him.” He knew that, if she had more control over her emotions, she would have destroyed him then and there. Instead, she turned back to the burnt out husk of the only person she seemed to care about.