Lex shivered in the cold apartment.
The electricity seemed to died with Soraperion, and now that he was gone so was everything in the apartment. Even the heat and phone had ceased to work.
As tired as he was it had taken him an hour to get through the front door. Soraperion had never seemed to lock it, but apparently there had been some fairly heavy-duty magical seals on the door and more protecting the apartment. The ones that were still functioning would prevent people from finding Lex, but he didn't know how long they would last.
Everything magical connected to Soraperion was disintegrating. The more complex it was, the faster it dissolved. The car wasn't working any more, and the voice in his head was hanging on by a thread.
That was really odd. He'd thought it was Soraperion controlling him. The voice sounded like Soraperion. It had his knowledge, but it wasn't Soraperion. Soraperion didn't seem to be afraid of dying but the voice was terrified of slipping away.
Lex had been carrying around the shell pendant for two days, since the night that Soraperion raided the witches mansion. If he even thought about setting it down, the voice would freak out. There were deep marks on his palm now from the rough pattern on the outside.
We should get moving again, the voice said.
"Fuck that," Lex murmured.
You'll get your second wind and be fine.
"I'm already on my fourth or fifth wind. Can't I just go to sleep already?"
If you go to sleep, I might not be here when you wake up.
"'s fine with me."
You don't mean that.
Lex sat silently, thinking curse words at the voice.
You don't mean that either. I can see your underlying emotional patterns as well as your thoughts.
Lex groaned, and slowly pulled himself to his feet. His head was blurry and his muscles ached. He hadn't slept in more than forty hours now and he was feeling bad, despite all that the voice had tried to do for him.
Lights, the voice said.
Lex sketched the symbol, and murmured the word. Light filled the room, and spread across the bookshelf.
The shelves were perfectly visible. It was plain wood, and thicker than it needed to be. It was a normal piece of furniture except for the rows of still shadowy books that were untouched by Lex's weak light. The shadows not only prevented Lex from touching the books, they'd knocked him over onto his broken arm, giving him shooting pains for hours.
The voice was trying to get a book off the shelf. It seemed to think that as soon as it got the book everything would be okay. Lex could feel how desperate it was getting.
We're going to try Leomachand's Unbinding, the voice told him, and provided the symbols.
Lex began to carefully sketch with his left hand, but he wasn't nearly as dexterous as he was with his right.
Ach, the voice said suddenly, and the symbols suddenly tattered and faded away into nothingness. You let your hand drop and it skewed the horizontal line there. Let's try it again.
"You haven't explained how a book is going to help us here."
It will help, it said again for the sixth time. It didn't sound conceded or bitter, just worried.
He started sketching again, but screwed up again almost immediately. The voice said nothing, but Lex could feel how upset it was.
Do you want me to take over for a moment?
Lex paused. They'd had to do that to get into the apartment, eventually. The voice had surrendered control as soon as they were through the door too. It wanted to be helpful, because it needed Lex's help if it was going to last much longer.
"Let me try again."
He tried, but with only one symbol to go the entire thing flared and vanished.
Uh-oh, said the voice, and suddenly the darkness spread out from the books and into the room. It grew tentacles of mist like substance and started waving them around.
"Uh-oh?" Lex echoed, but the tentacles were reaching out for them.
Quick, you need to cast . . .
It was already too late to sketch something though, so Lex just reached out with his other abilities and grabbed all of the writhing tentacles and held them together in a bunch.
Oh, the voice said. That works too, I suppose.
After a few moments, the tentacles evaporated.
"What was that?" Lex asked.
Security, I suppose.
"Shouldn't you know?"
Why would I know?
"Aren't you Soraperion?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I'm just a fragment of himself that he split off and left behind. I don't have most of his memories, just a bit regarding magic. I'm more you than him at this point anyway.
Lex shuddered. "You mean you're feeding on my soul, don't you."
I don't know. . . . Are you still going to help me?
"Yeah, why wouldn't I?"
It's just that I don't think that most people would be comfortable with something else feeding on their soul.
Lex shrugged. "I'm not using it."
Can we try again?
"Sure," Lex said, but he didn't raise his hands. "Do you know which book you need?"
The voice paused, and Lex could feel him considering the shelf. The black one on the third shelf, fourth from the left.
Lex couldn't see the color of the cover in the shadows of the magical bookshelf, but he could see which book the voice was indicating. He frowned.
"The spell keeps me from taking books off the shelf, right?"
Lex frowned, concentrated, and gestured. The book rocked back and forth and tipped slowly off the shelf, falling outside of the shadows. It was indeed a black book. To Lex, it looked like a big version of one of those Bibles that people leave in hotel rooms.
Well, the voice said with a surprised tone, I wish you'd mentioned that you could do that before.
"What do I need to do?" Lex asked as another wave of exhaustion crashed over him.
Open it, the voice pleaded.
Lex took an unsteady step forward but the room swam. He got down and crawled over to the book, and flicked the cover open.
Can I speak? the voice asked.
Lex relaxed a little bit and let the voice come forward.
"Transference," his voice said, although he wasn't the one talking.
The books pages seemed to move of their own accord, flipping quickly through the pages until they'd reached the correct section.
The pages were full of complex runes and symbols. Lex thought he recognized some of them, but most of them were phenomenally complex. He felt something tug on his arm and realized that the voice was silently asking for his permission to take more control. Lex let him . . . it further in until it had the control it wanted.
His hand flickered up and began to sketch complicated magic runes that corresponded to some of the symbols in the books. They would glow for a moment, and then some of the shrank down and some of them expanded. It took Lex a moment before he realized where he'd seen something similar. The shell device had looked like that, with multiple layers of magics all working together.
He was so tired though, that he couldn't bring himself to be concerned about what the voice was doing, and he didn't want to distract it by asking.
The voice was working so quickly, not bothering to explain itself to Alex as it went. Alex tried to listen to the voices thoughts, but the voice seemed to be holding three or four things in its mind at once.
. . . where the source is isolated from the origin by a dimensional differential . . .
. . . paralinear translations are possible, although difficult, but require the influx of additional focii as well as a stable destination matrix . . .
. . . into a recursive collapse loop, which is avoidable through the addition of a superintendent actuality . . .
. . . structured to utilize the helicoid pattern, as well as the radial ties . . .
The forming shape looked like a flower, with petals of delicate blue glowing veins.
Alright, it's done, the voice told Lex. Just stick your hand in the middle of it.
"Should I say something?"
I'll do all of that for you.
Lex took his hand and placed it in the middle of the pattern. It fluttered like tissue paper in a faint breeze.
The voice took his mouth again and began to speak. Only a few words into it he felt a huge rush of power, just like the one when the spell had hit him the first time. Pain seared through ever inch of his body, running along his nerves into the tips of his fingers, his toes, and even down through his optic nerve into the edges of his eyes.
The voice was trying to tell him something, but he slipped again into a blissfully dark sleep.
He woke up slowly. There was light coming through the slats of one of the window blinds. There was a memory of pain, and the voice shouting something at him.
Lex sat up. "Hello?"
"You're still there," Lex said, relieved.
Lex paused, and then realized something was different.
"I can't hear your thoughts anymore."
Nor I yours, I'm happy to report. I thought that this might make it easier on the both of us, so I made it so that we weren't so closely tied together. I'm still here, and you can still talk to me, but we aren't quite as mixed together as we were.
"What was it that you did? I remember something about transfering something . . ."
I was Soraperion's spell, which meant that I started to unravel when he died. All I did was move myself so that I'm your spell now.
"Oh. OK. Does that change anything else?"
Lex pulled himself up and looked around. He tried to look at the wards that surrounded the apartment, but he couldn't see anything there.
"I can't see magic like I could last night."
You can see it just fine. The wards have completely unraveled now, so there's nothing there to see. Oh, and I think it was two nights ago. You were exhausted.
Lex sketched a blue circle in the air, and it hung there gleaming in the faint sunlight. "Wait, if the wards are gone . . ."
We aren't protected anymore. If you have anything you want to take, get it and let's get out of here.
The voice only wanted Lex to take a couple of books. He took his dirty change of clothes, stuffed them into an old backpack that he'd found in the hall closet, and then they went out the door. He didn't look back at the apartment once on the way out.