Dragonheart - Page 7

He glanced meaningfully over at the burnt child in her mother's arms, gave me a moment to listen to the rasping sounds of the child's soon to be final breaths, then asked, “How much worse than what she already suffers could it be?”

I turned away from them because I had to. “Her suffering is great, yes,” I conceded in a voice barely louder than a whisper. “So great, in fact, that it has rendered her almost completely insensible, which is why she is so quiet . . . and still she suffers.”

I heard the child's mother sob at that, and I knew without looking that she was resisting the urge to press her daughter's raw and tortured form even tighter against her chest.

“But unlike mine,” I continued. “Her suffering shall know an end. My touching her could . . . change that, spread my corruption to her soul, and I still would not be able to heal her.”

The mother continued to quietly sob, and the father was unable to find his voice for a long moment. “But you are not certain,” he ventured at last.

In an utter rage at his persistent stupidity, I whirled about to face him. “I'm certain enough that I'm not going to make the attempt!” I snarled in a voice that had once cowed the great and small alike, a voice that had once stopped a dozen raging berserkers dead in their tracks.

It proved . . . less effective in the face of a desperate and loving father, however.

“You are 'certain' about a great deal, aren't you?” he asked me with a compassion and understanding I knew I didn't deserve.

This only infuriated me further. “Don't you dare question me about things you are incapable of understanding!” I screamed as the flame came unbidden to my right hand and formed a flickering halo that cast grotesque shadow parodies of our forms about the cave's wall.

The husband put a comforting arm around his wife, and stood unflinching in the face of my fury. “You are 'certain' that there is a blight upon your soul so great that you can damn with but a touch,” he persisted. “Yet it is clear to me, ignorant as I am, that this is something you fear, not something you know. In light of that, even if it is the last thing I do, there is something I must ask. Is your 'certainty' that you can no longer heal born of knowledge . . . or is likewise merely from fear?”

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