Chapter 3 “The Pearl” 47

With his sleeve, Dion wipes the sweat dripping from his forehead as he leans over the second filter, rebuilding it for the third…no fourth time. His fatigue from lack of rest and the rate of mana depletion causes him to momentarily lose balance and step into the pool.

“Demons!” he cries, quickly jumping back and regaining balance. The damage is done as the taint drains him further and the spell collapses.

“Focus Dion, focus,” he admonishes himself as he leans back over and restarts the casting.

“Dion,” he hears Nevieve call out weakly. “The filter…”

“Yes, dear Oracle. I’m rebuilding it. The taint is growing stronger and is breaking my work at a far greater rate now,” Dion replies while maintaining his tenuous grip on the spell.

In another part of his mind, he considers the weakness of her voice, an indicator or her slipping strength. It seems only moments before, he had shared with her mana from the third orb. Yet, she is being depleted faster than the filtering spells are draining him, he acknowledges.

Focusing again, Dion completes the spell and is rewarded with a draining sound as the essence of the taint is separated and sent through the void barrier.  That should hold for now, he thinks to himself as he steps back from the filter.

The feeling of an oncoming headache has him absentmindedly reaching for the fourth mana orb. Now looking at it in his hand, he considers consuming it but then defers. Not yet, he thinks. I may need it later.

“No, Dion,” Nevieve’s voice feebly calls. “The filter…”

Looking over, the god realizes that the Oracle is pointing to another failing filter. Sighing, he lays the orb by his feet and crosses to the other side of the pool by her.

“Thank you, Nevieve,” Dion says while looking over the failing filter. “It’s easier to fix these before they fail completely like the other one.”

Bending over, the god is able to make a quick repair to the spell, strengthening it, and is satisfied as the sound resets to working order. Taking advantage of his close proximity to the Oracle, he reaches a hand out to her to gauge her level of distress, her beautiful face turning to him in response to his touch, her expression feverish and absent. As the glow of her white eyes dims and fades, he senses her slipping into delirium. She looks at him in confusion for a moment, as if unable to recognize the handsome god. Then, her white gaze flares suddenly and she rises from the water, arms stretched out to wrap around Dion, her need speaking louder than reason. Gripping and holding him tight, the full weight of her body pulling on his, she holds his face in her hands and presses her lips against his, in a desperate, draining kiss. Stunned and unbalanced, he cannot stop her deadly embrace as she drains his mana and pulls him into the tainted pool, taking him into darkness with her.

As his flailing ceases, silence falls around the pool with only the sounds of three working filters, and a now-failing fourth, filling the air.

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