In the Woods – ending…

I’d like to thank my sister for helping me out with a few of the details, as well as listening while I plotted the story out loud to her.

**

When they arrived at the community center, Timo told them what had happened and who they suspected was behind it.  The moment that her name was mentioned, it was clear that the elders knew her.  “She’s not among the local council of elders,” one said.  “However, she does live in the community.”

“If you’d please, wait in the community hall, while we summon her,” another added.  “She has a right to speak for herself in the face of your charges.”

“Of course,” Darius said.  They headed into the large community hall, where dinners and events were usually held to wait.

It was during the week, so the hall wasn’t in use.  However, there was always coffee or tea that could be had.  After all, the elders were there every day, no matter what else might be going on.

“I wonder what she’ll have to say for hers-” Timo started, braking off mid-word.  Sofia screamed and Nora called out his name.  Darius spun to face him and gasped.  Elder Kyander was standing behind Timo.  Her lance was buried in Timo’s back with the tip coming out of his chest.  Timo was gripping the weapon with both hands, preventing the elder from either removing it or banishing it.

Darius met the elder’s steely gaze and summoned his mace.  Behind him, he heard both Nora and Sofia summon their weapons as well.  “You think we’re cowards,” he breathed.  She blinked and he laughed.  “You kidnapped us while we slept and left in a forest to be attacked by vampires.  You attack us from behind without any warning.  You haven’t once faced us directly and we’re the cowardly ones?”

Kyander released the lance and Timo dropped to his knees.  “You don’t have any idea what I’ve been through,” she said, her voice faint.

“No,” Nora said, shaking her head.  “We’ve only survived one massacre, while you’ve survived three.”

“How?” Timo rasped.  He was still gripping her lance with both hands, but he was pale and trembling.  It was clear that he was only still alive because Defenders weren’t normal humans.  “How does a Lance survive three massacres when their Hammer doesn’t survive any?”

“He’s right,” Sofia said, her voice soft.  She shook her head.  “You weren’t even in town when the attack happened in North Pass Haven.”  She gave a small laugh that held no humor and said, “What?  Did you Hammer say that something was going to happen that you’d been through before?”

Darius blinked when Kyander took another step back.  “He did,” he whispered, repeating what the wind had said.  “The boy warned you and you ran away!  You didn’t warn anyone – not even your own family – what he meant and they died, while you lived.”

“Everyone died,” Sofia breathed, shaking her head.  “My family barely made it out because I was able to warn them in time, but you… you could have saved so many and you only saved yourself!”

“And we’re the cowards?” Nora said, her voice strained.  She shook her head.  “Was it the same in Havensburg?  Did your Hammer warn you then too?”

“No,” Timo breathed.  He gave a weak laugh and shook his head.  “The Elder Hammer did.”  He turned to face her, holding the lance with just one hand and using the other to support his weight.

Darius nodded.  He’d heard the message that the wind had brought them as well.  “She said the same thing that your Hammer would repeat years later,” he whispered.  “You, alone among the elders of Havensburg, survived.  You heeded the warning and never explained to the others what it meant.”

“Did they ask?” Nora asked, although they knew the answer to the question.  “They did!  They asked you what she meant and you lied to them – said you didn’t know.”

“And twenty-seven people survived of the hundreds that called Havensburg home,” Darius whispered.  He shook his head.  “We’re the cowards because we survived.  That means we must be cowards.  After all, that’s how you survived.  Right?”

“Shut up,” she screamed, holding out her hand to summon her lance back to her hand.

Timo gasped in pain as the weapon started to vanish.  He summoned his own weapon and lashed out with the last of his strength, striking her outreaching hand.  She withdrew, as if she’d been slapped.

Suddenly, music filled the room.  It was a song that Darius had only heard one other time: when the Elders in Haven-Shepherdtown feared that his brother had been tainted.  They’d sung him into a sleep to keep him from fighting them.  Kyander’s eyes widened briefly.  Then, she slumped to the floor.

“Timo,” Nora cried, as he crumpled to the floor.  Kyander’s weapon was already dissolving into nothingness.  A young woman rushed over to him as well and Darius turned to find that his young brother was there, along with some people he didn’t recognize.

The young woman kneeling beside Timo began singing the healing song and Darius heaved a sigh of relief.  He gave Mykolas a weak smile.  “You aren’t meant to even know that song,” he said, his voice soft.

“I know a lot of things that I’m not meant to,” Mykolas said, stepping over to him.  He hugged Darius and then gave Sofia a weak smile.  “Hello,” he said.  “Mykolas Balchunas, the Balchunas Cross.”

“Sofia Skalas,” she replied, extending her hand.  She shook her head.  “How did you know to come?”

Mykolas shrugged.  “The Koskinen Hammer knew that they’d need me,” he said.  “They swung through on the way from Georgia to get me.  I’ve learned not to argue with Hammers, so… here I am.”

“Good thing, too,” Nora said, her voice soft.  She patted the Koskinen Cross on the shoulder as she healed Timo.  Then, she got to her feet.  “Thank you, Darius,” she said.  “If we’d just gone home…” she trailed off, shaking her head.

“Kyander is grieving and feels guilty,” Darius said, shrugging.  “In her fear, she acted to save only herself and… now, she’s all alone.”

“The Council of Elders will punish her,” Mykolas said, grimacing.

Whatever the punishment was, Darius got the distinct impression that it was something else Mykolas knew when he shouldn’t.  He just nodded silently, watching as the local elders came to gather her up and bring her out of the room.  Then, he glanced at Timo.  He was asleep, but the wound was closed.  He would be fine.

“Time to go home,” Sofia said, her voice soft.  She hugged Darius and then stepped back.  “Don’t be a stranger.  Right?”

“I will write,” Darius said, nodding.  He glanced at Nora.  “That goes for you and Timo as well.  Yes?”

“Without a doubt,” Nora said, giving him a weak smile.

Darius stepped closer to Nora and added, “You should ask him, if he doesn’t seem inclined to ask you.”  He shrugged.  “If your elders won’t allow a union, come up to West Virginia.  Our elders are far less strict about marriage between families.”

Nora flushed and glanced at Timo.  Nodding, she said, “I may just do that.”  She hugged Darius and kissed his cheek.  Then, she joined the other members of Timo’s family as they headed out.

“Let’s go home,” Mykolas said, patting his brother on the arm.

Nodding, Darius fell into step behind Mykolas as they headed out of the room.  Sofia fell into step with them.  “I’m surprised that Petras let you come here without any Defenders,” he said, frowning.

“I didn’t exactly clear it with him,” Mykolas said, shrugging.  He gave his brother a playful wink.  “There wasn’t time.”

The Answer

Zack started to speak, but Mykolas made a hushing motion.  Then, he moved towards the knocking sound with Zack close behind him.  When the knocking came again, he poked his head around the door.

The little black cat froze.  It stared at him with wide eyes before going back to pawing at the broom.  The sound of knocking floated through the kitchen.

“Dark,” Mykolas snapped, stalking forward.  He lifted the cat into his arms.  “You don’t belong in the kitchen.”  He brought the cat to the window in the dining room and set it down.  “Stay there,” Mykolas said firmly.

Rather Unnerving, Eh?

The scene repeated itself twice more, until Zack arrived.  By then, Mykolas was on edge.  He nearly jumped out of his skin when his co-worker shoved the kitchen doors opened and headed over to the sink to wash his hands.  As it was, he dropped the spatula he’d been using to stir the macaroons.

“What’s up?” Zack asked, frowning as Mykolas retrieved the spatula.

Mykolas flushed.  “Nothing,” he said.  “Just… jumpy.”  He tossed the utensil in the sink and retrieved a clean one.  Then, he tried to focus on his work.  He spun to Zack when there was another knock.

Who’s There?

Another series of drabbles for this month…

**

Mykolas was humming softly to himself as he mixed the ingredients for the kugela.  Once he was done mixing them together, the ingredients would cook for nearly two hours.  That would give him plenty of time to prepare some of the other dishes for the day.

He was just putting the dish in the oven when he heard someone knock at the door.  He frowned and shut the oven.  Then, he stepped over to the door and peered out.  No one?

Maybe the knocking was at the kitchen door?  He went inside and looked into the dining room.  No one…

The Whole Truth

This little story was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.

**

“You only heard his side,” Mykolas Balchunas said, his voice strained.  He slapped fisted hands down on the table and shook his head.  “You don’t know the truth.”

Detective Hale frowned at Balchunas.  Normally, he was such a mild-mannered person.  He ran a café.  He baked cookies and made regional food.  He should be the last sort of person to have repeated run-ins with the police.  Yet, somehow, here he was once again.  This time, he was even sitting in an interrogation room.

Actually, it was showing Detective Hale a side of the quiet baker that he’d never imagined.  Blachunas might be placid and easy-going when he was dealing with customers at his café.  However, when he felt like there was an injustice going on, he wasn’t the sort to back down.  He was not a push-over and he wouldn’t allow anyone to run rough-shod over him.  He was quiet, but he had nerves of steel.

“I haven’t heard your side of things,” Detective Hale said, nodding.  His brows furrowed.  “Your side of the things is more truthful than his is?”

Balchunas clenched his jaw and seemed to take a moment to center himself.  When he spoke again, it was in his normal, gentle tones.  “There are things he doesn’t know,” he said, shaking his head.  “He told the truth as he saw it, but… it wasn’t the whole truth, because he didn’t see what he thought he saw.”

Detective Hale frowned at Balchunas for a moment.  Then, he leaned forward.  “What is the whole truth, then?” he asked, his voice soft.

For a moment, he wasn’t sure that Balchunas would say anything.  Then, the young man released a shuddering breath and nodded.  “If you need to verify what I’m telling you, contact Henry Shepherd with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” he said, his voice soft.  “It’s something that sounds… insane, actually.  That’s why I’m telling you to verify with him.”

“Fair enough,” Detective Hale said, nodding.

Balchunas closed his eyes.  “There are, in this world, demons, Detective,” he said, his voice soft.  “There are ghosts and spirits and a host of incorporeal beings that are not visible to everyone.  Of those, demons are the most dangerous.”

He looked up at Detective Hale, meeting his gaze.  “Just as there are beings of evil, there are forces of good that are called upon to counter them,” he said.  His brow furrowed and he shook his head.  “I didn’t kill anyone, Detective Hale.  I also didn’t hide any body so that there wouldn’t be evidence of a murder.  What Mr. Jones saw was a demon inhabiting a corpse.”

“What?” Detective Hale said, frowning.  “Like a zombie?”

For a moment, Balchunas chewed at his lip.  Then, he shook his head.  “Zombies are corpses animated through the magic of a wizard,” he said, his voice soft.  “These would be more properly termed revenants, although we call them Singers.”

“So… you killed the demon?”

“I damaged the corpse, so that the demon had to repair it before it could continue its attack,” Balchunas said.  He shrugged.  “Then… I purified the corpse of the evil inhabiting it.  The body is gone because the act of purification is so powerful that the corpse was consumed.”

“And the demon?”

“Is in the Abyss, Detective,” Balchunas said, his voice faint.  He shook his head.  “I didn’t kill anyone because the person Mr. Jones says he saw me attack… was already dead.  The demon killed him by ripping out his heart and consuming it.”

Detective Hale stared at Balchunas for a moment longer.  Then, he said, “Wait here, Mr. Balchunas.”  When the young man nodded, he stood and left the room.  For some reason that he couldn’t quite explain, he believed the story.  As insane as it sounded, it made sense.  The man Balchunas was supposed to have killed had been missing for a week.  Jones had said his clothing was torn and blood-stained on the chest.  Not only that, the man had been, by all accounts, a gentle person who fed ducks and birds in a local park.  Why would he have attacked Balchunas in the first place?

He grimaced at his partner and nodded.  “I believe him,” he said.  When she smiled weakly, he said, “I’ve got to call Agent Shepherd and get some verification, but I believe him, Miriam.”

“I’ll wait until you’ve got the verification you need before I go and speak with him,” she said, folding her hands on her desk and watching him expectantly.  Detective Hale knew that Miriam had believed Balchunas couldn’t be a murderer from the beginning.  It made him wonder what she knew that he didn’t.

No Reasonable Choice

This little story was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.  This story… is kind of an alternate universe of the world with the Cross families.

**

Konrad skidded to a stop as he came around the corner.  He could see a figure in front of him, but he couldn’t make out who it was.  It was simply too bright him to make out those kinds of details.  He held his breath, waiting for some hint as to who he was facing: friend or foe?

“I’m sorry, Konrad,” a soft, familiar voice said.  “I can’t let you get away.”

He released a shuddering breath and shook his head.  “Miriam?” he said, his voice cracking.  She stepped closer to him, moving into shadows deep enough for him to see better.  She was holding a rifle in both hands, pointing it at him.  He stared at the barrel of her gun as he fell to his knees.  “You don’t have to do this.”

Tears stung her eyes.  She breathed deeply, aiming the rifle at his skull.  “I wish that were true.”

Konrad squeezed his eyes closed and bit his lip, bracing for the sound of the gunshot.  Would he feel it when she shot him?  He wasn’t certain.  Actually, he wasn’t even sure he would hear the gun go off.  It might be so quick that he wouldn’t have time to register sound. He released a shaky breath when she called for the others, rather than shooting him.

In moments, he could hear other people arriving on the scene.  A part of him was relieved, but he was also frustrated and angry.  He felt someone set a hand on his shoulder.  “Get on your feet, Konrad,” Henry said, his voice gentle.

“Teva, please,” Konrad said, his voice cracking.

Henry sighed and then strong arms were pulling Konrad to his feet.  He didn’t struggle as he was guided back towards the holding area.  He stumbled when he was pushed through the doors of the cell and into the stone room he’d so recently escaped.  The door closed with an ominous sound.  His fear gone, Konrad whirled around.

“This isn’t right,” he protested.  “Teva, you know this is wrong!  I haven’t committed any crime or broken any laws!”  In a softer voice, he added, “None of us have.”

“Give it time, Konrad,” Henry said, his voice so faint that Konrad could hardly hear him.  The problem was, they didn’t have a lot of time.  Konrad could feel it: Johannes needed him.  He was alone out there, without his defenders to protect him and Singers chasing him.

Konrad cursed softly and sat down on the ground, not caring if he got his clothing dirty at that point.  What did it matter? He was already covered in dirt and dust.  “Locking us up won’t stop them,” he said, his voice cracking.  “We’re the only ones that can stop them and we can’t do that from in here!”

He cursed again when no one answered him.  He squinted through the bars of the cell where he was being held.  At least it was dim enough here for him to see fairly well.  Petras was in the cell across from his.  From what he could tell, his elder cousin was still unconscious from when he’d been captured.

More

Are You Kidding Me?

This little story was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.  This was a fun story to write…

**

“Mykolas Balchunas,” a low voice said.

Mykolas whirled around and found a tall, beautiful woman standing at the door to the dining room.  In an instant, he knew who she was.  “Charlotte,” he said, stepping back from the counter where he’d been chopping vegetables for the day’s soups.  “You’re in prison,” he said, shaking his head.  “How did you get here?”

She chuckled softly and moved away from the door, striding across the room towards him.  “Did you think that a little prison could actually hold someone like me?” she asked, shaking her head.

At those words, Mykolas knew what she was.  It explained the viciousness of her attack on Konrad.  It explained why she was coming after him now.  “Stay back,” he said, holding out the knife.

Laughing, she lunged at him.  Mykolas didn’t think.  He simply reacted.  She fell back with an angry cry and Mykolas scrambled back from her, seeking space and an escape route at the same time.

Charlotte straightened and looked down at her chest.  The handle of the paring knife was pointing out from her chest, a spreading bloodstain around it.  She pulled the knife from her chest and smiled.  “Was that supposed to hurt?”  There was a taunting tone to her words as she spoke.

Mykolas gave a weak laugh and stumbled back a few steps, shaking his head.  He hadn’t actually expected it to hurt her very much, but he’d expected more of a reaction that he’d gotten.  “I… just figured it would prove that you were what I suspected,” he said, his voice tremulous.

More

A Bad Idea

This little vignette was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.

**

“They told me you’re the guy to see.”

Petras locked the door to his apartment building and then turned around.  The man standing on the sidewalk was wearing an expensive suit and sunglasses.  He was the tall, dark and dangerous type.  He was the sort of man who was used to telling someone to jump and watching them do it.  Arching his brow, Petras said, “For what?”

The man looked around quickly.  Then, he lowered his sunglasses to the tip of his nose and locked eyes with Petras.  “Murder,” he said, his voice soft.

Smirking, Petras shook his head.  “You are mistaken, neighbor,” he said, as he turned away from the stranger.  He didn’t know if the man was honestly trying to hire him or if he was trying to trick Petras into agreeing to a job, so that they could prove he was an assassin.  Either way, he only took missions from one person: Velas.

“You’re not Domovoi, then?” the man said, his voice hardly more than a whisper.

Petras glanced over to find that the stranger was following him down the walk.  Scowling, he shook his head.  “Are you the madman?” he said, laughing.  “I am no domovoi.  They are ugly, hairy old men who live in equally old houses in Veligrad.”  He waved down at himself.  “I am not an ugly old man and I do not live in an old house or in Veligrad.  The hairy part… that is debateable.”  He brushed his hand over the scruffy beard on his chin.  He shook his head.  “I am no domovoi, neighbor.”

“That’s not what my information says,” the stranger persisted.

Rolling his eyes, Petras shrugged.  “You information is wrong,” he said.  He stopped and turned to face the stranger.  “Perhaps I find out from you who you are and who you are wanting dead and go to police, yes?”

Scowling, the man turned on his heel and stalked back to a rather expensive-looking black vehicle.  A man hopped out of the driver’s seat as he approached.  He opened the passenger door for the stranger and then hurried back to the driver’s seat.

As the car sped off, Petras made a mental note of the license plate number.  Then, he headed off down the sidewalk once again.  As he reached his brother’s café, he smiled.  Mykolas was writing on a little chalk sign in front of the entrance.  He was advertising the special of the day.

Just as Mykolas was standing up and turning to wave at him, Petras felt the prickle of dread.  “Down,” he snapped, leaping at Mykolas.  He was just pushing his younger brother to the ground when the shots rang out.  They’d been aiming at him, but he was certain that Mykolas would have been caught in the hail of bullets that peppered the wall above his head.

“Petras?”

“I’m fine,” Petras said, sitting up slowly.  He looked up to see a black vehicle speeding off.  Then, he looked down at Mykolas.  “Are you hurt, Kolas?”

“Just shaken, I think,” Mykolas said, his voice faint.  He sat up slowly and looked around and then sighed.  “He couldn’t do that again if he tried.”  Incredibly, there was no damage to the shop windows or the chalkboard sign on the sidewalk.  Only the woodwork bore testimony to what had happened.

Amber peered out through the shop door and scowled.  “Are you two all right?” she asked, her voice tremulous.

“Fine,” Mykolas said at the same time as Petras.  Giving a weak smile, Mykolas said, “Is everyone inside all right?”

Heaving a sigh, Amber nodded.  “By some miracle,” she said.  She gave a shaky laugh.  “Bricks stop bullets, apparently.”

“Thank the Father,” Mykolas said.  He moved to his feet and then hurried inside.  Without looking around, he swept over to the telephone behind the counter.  He smiled when he saw that Zack was already talking to someone.

“I’ll ask,” Zack said, nodding.  He looked at Mykolas and then Petras.  “Did either of you get a look at the car?”

Even as Mykolas shook his head, Petras scowled.  “A black high-end sedan of some kind.  It had a Virginia license plate: HKL 2358.”

Nodding brickly, Zack relayed the information and then said, “No one seems to be hurt, but… yeah, I kind of expected you’d be sending units down here.  You need to, like, talk to the witnesses and gather the evidence, right?”

As Zack hung up, Mykolas turned to the patrons of the café.  “Free cookies for everyone,” he said, shaking his head.  “We need to… I don’t celebrate that no one was hurt.”

“Absolutely,” someone agreed.

As Amber and Zack got the cookies together for the patrons, Mykolas turned to Petras.  “You couldn’t have seen that license plate,” he breathed in Leituvan.

“A man approached me when I was leaving my apartment,” Petras murmured.  “He wanted to hire me to kill someone.  He knew of my past, though I cannot say how.  I denied everything and threatened to call the police.”

“Petras,” Mykolas breathed.

Petras shrugged.  “Honestly, I was thinking he was police and trying to trick me,” he said.  He sighed and hugged Mykolas.  “I’m just glad that my instincts still work the way they once did.”

“You and me both,” Mykolas breathed, nodding.  He sighed when Petras kissed his brow before releasing him.  As he turned to the door, it opened and Detective Hale strode into the dining room.  Smirking, Mykolas said, “Coffee, Detective?”

**

License plate is totally made up (to the best of my knowledge).

The Right Conditions

Just a random story… kind of a continuation of the cozy mystery that I wrote for the Genre Stretch.

**

Mykolas wasn’t a warrior.  Generally, he left the fighting to his brothers and his younger cousins.  After all, they were his defenders.  It was there job to protect him when Singer attacked.  He hadn’t been lying when he said that he wasn’t afraid of a fight.  It just wasn’t something he relished either.  At the same time, given the right conditions, even the most gentle person will fight.  He had never encountered that circumstance for himself, until that day.

It was a relatively normal day.  He was delivering coffee and a box of pastries – donuts, ironically – to the police station nearest his shop when he sensed a Singer.  Normally, he would have retreated to his car and raced to wherever his nearest defender was.  What stopped him from doing that now was the presence of a familiar face.

“What is that singing?” a soft voice with a lilting accent asked.

Mykolas gasped, his heart hammering in his chest.  “Detective Stanton,” he rasped.  He saw her eyes glaze over as the Singer’s melody ensnared her.  Biting off a curse, he began singing the counter-melody.  Even as the detective shook herself, he saw the figure of the demon come into view.  It smiled at him as it walked towards them with slow, deliberate steps.

Detective Stanton spun to see what Mykolas was staring at and breathed a curse.  “Stay back,” she snapped, drawing her weapon.

A part of Mykolas wanted to tell her that wouldn’t help.  Singers didn’t, generally speaking, stop very long from gunshot wounds.  In fact, all it generally succeeded in doing was making them angry.  However, he was still singing counter to what the demon was trying to do, so he couldn’t warn her.

Mykolas did the next best thing.  Still singing, he raised his hand and summond the power of the sealing ring he wore.  As far as he knew, there were only three that were still in the hands of their True Crosses and only his had been fully activated.  He mimed drawing back a bow and a glowing arrow flared to life.

“What the…” Detective Stanton rasped.

For an instant, Mykolas stopped singing to say, “Down!”  As Detective Stanton dropped to a crouched position, he released the arrow.  It sank into the Singer’s body.  It fell with a strangled cry and Mykolas sang the purification song.  As the demon vanished in a shower of light, Mykolas breathed a sigh of relief.

He looked at Detective Stanton and said, “Are you all right?”  She’d asked exactly that at nearly the same moment.  Laughing wryly, Mykolas nodded.  “I’m fine, Detective.  That… was a demon that we call a Singer.”

“I’d heard of them, but I’d never seen one,” she said.  She stepped over to him and smiled.  “Given the circumstances, I think you can call me Miriam.”

“Kolas,” he said, offering his hand.  As she took it, he kissed the back of her hand gently.  When she arched her brows, he shrugged.  “It’s my father said we should greet a lady,” he explained.

“And what does the lady do in return?” Miriam asked, smirking.

Mykolas gave a weak laugh.  “If you’re very lucky, she doesn’t slap you across the face,” he said, shrugging.

“I would say that you were most fortunate, Kolas,” Miriam said, her voice soft.  Then, she crossed her arms over her chest.  “You are also just full of surprises.  I wouldn’t mind hearing more about those arrows… over coffee?”

“I know just the place,” Mykolas said.  He smiled and offered Miriam his arm.  Sometimes, it wasn’t such a bad thing to fight.

To See the Truth

This little scene with Johannes, Dorian and Mykolas was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth: “With our own eyes we see”.  Dorian is from Dragon Age: Inquisition.

**

“Let me,” Johannes said, dropping to his knees beside the injured man.  He held his hands, palms down, over the injury and began to sing.

After a moment, Dorian could see the wounds knitting back together.  He stared in surprise when the young man took a deep breath and then moaned.  “You healed him,” Dorian said, touching Johannes lightly on one shoulder.

Nodding, Johannes ended the song and gave Dorian a weak smile.  “The elders keep telling me that I can only heal members of my own family, but… I figured he’s our cousin.  Even if he’s another True Cross, he’s still related.”

Dorian nodded.  “It seems that you were correct,” he said.  He frowned slightly at Johannes, trying to figure out if the boy had pushed himself too far.  He seemed to do that rather often.  After a moment, he turned to the young man that was just waking.

“The Singer,” he breathed.

“I purified it,” Johannes said, his tone brisk.  More gently, he said, “Right before I healed you.  Are you all right, Mykolas?”

“You… of course,” he said, nodding.  He laughed and shook his head.  “That means I could have healed Frieda after all!”

“That was almost two years ago,” Johannes said, getting to his feet.  “Don’t worry about it now!”