Chapter 7 - 'The Awakening'
Matt stepped from the star-path and into a rough-hewn underground tunnel. A large pair of double doors stood before him, they were inscribed with a twisting, gold pattern. He dashed to them and leant his back against one, pushing with all his strength until the door began to creak open. He slid through backwards and moved to the side, where he lay Jason down. Jason had stopped breathing.
"Sir! What are you doing here?" a startled voice came from behind him. He turned his head distractedly and looked over his shoulder. A confused guard, dressed in ceremonial garb and holding a long pike in his hands, had leapt to his feet from where he was sitting on the other side of the door.
Matt turned back to Jason. He gently slapped his face, trying to waken him. "Shit, Jason. Don't do this to me." He felt Jason's neck for a pulse and frowned, finding none. He tilted Jason's head back and leaned down to perform CPR. After two deep breaths, he leant back and placed his hands in the middle of Jason's chest. He began counting out loud with each compression.
When he'd done fifteen compressions, he leant forward again and breathed deeply into Jason's mouth. He felt for Jason's pulse again. He still couldn't find one.
"Sir, do you need help?" The guard asked nervously from behind him.
"Just stand back!" he snapped.
Matt grabbed handfuls of Jason's shirt and ripped it apart with both hands, revealing his muscular chest. "Come on Jase, just hold in there a little bit longer."
He brought his hands to his mouth, as if cupping water and began to gently blow into them. Wisps of white light sparkled as they flowed out of his mouth into his hands. He cupped the light gently in his hands and breathed more into it as it grew in brightness. Sweat began to form on his brow as he concentrated. The light began to send out small tendrils into the air and Matt closed his hands over it to keep it from escaping. Still, light streamed through the cracks in his hands with the brightness of dawn.
He held his hands in a ball and pressed them against Jason's stilled chest. He opened his hands at the back and willed the light into Jason's body. The light vanished into his chest and Jason gasped suddenly. His back arched and his limbs stiffened.
He opened his eyes and looked up at Matt's face. Matt was breathing heavily and he sank sideways so he was leaning against the wall. Matt was out of breath and seemed to lack the strength to speak properly.
"Quick... Jase, you have to walk it..." his eyes flicked over to a gold line carved into the floor of the cavern. "Before your strength wears out... it's only temporary..."
The guard stepped forwards, "I'm sorry, sir, but I can't let him do that. The Council has forbidden him to--"
"Fuck the council!" Matt snarled at him. Then to Jason he said, "Jason, you have to walk it. If he tries to stop you, knock him out of your way!"
The guard grimaced and gripped the pike in his hands. "I don't want to hurt you, but I can't let you do that."
"Shut up!" Matt spat. "If he isn't awakened soon, he's going to die." Now the guard looked nervous and uncertain.
Jason stood up to walk to the line and the guard moved to block his way. Matt slapped his arm out in the air and the guard was thrown against the far wall of the cavern, his ceremonial armor crumpling under the force of the impact. Jason looked uncertainly back at Matt.
"Do it!" Matt gasped. "Whatever happens, don't stop and don't step off the line." Matt pleaded him with his eyes as he slumped against the wall.
Jason stepped forward and put one foot on the line. Immediately, blue sparks shot out from under his foot and he nearly backed away. But Matt's words came back to him and he took another step. The sparks again shot out from under his foot.
His feet felt like they had weights tied onto them, but he struggled forwards and the sparks shot higher with each step. The line spiraled across the cavern, the line doubling back and folding along itself. Jason realized he was walking a labyrinth, a type of maze with only one path. As soon as the realization came into his head, he hit an obstacle.
He raised his foot to take a step forward, and it suddenly felt like he was trying to step through jelly. Mindful of Matt's warning, he pressed forward and his foot once again found the path. He pressed his whole body forwards into the wall and the sparks shot up to his knees suddenly. They sprayed around him, changing from blue to white. He felt them wash over his legs like a breeze. He struggled forwards five steps through the thickened air, and then stepped out.
His next step met no resistance, but the sparks didn't die down, they continued to flow and flicker about him. Jason breathed deeply in relief and kept walking. He glanced back at Matt and his foot almost missed the line. Matt was slumped on the floor, not moving.
Jason wanted to run to him, but forced himself to keep walking. Jason was now about two thirds of the way through the pattern and after a few more steps he pressed his foot into a second invisible barrier. This one was even harder. It was like pressing his foot through rubber of melted tar. When his foot touched the floor again, the sparks raced up to his waist as they turned suddenly, a flaring shade of yellow.
Jason felt sweat dripping down his face and he grimaced with determination and pressed forward. Each step was like torture on his muscles. He strained and put a hand out in front of him as if to force a way through. Five straining steps and he was through, he breathed deeply. The centre of the labyrinth was in sight and he quickened his pace to reach it. He looked worriedly back at Matt and then noticed that the guard had disappeared while Jason had been in the second barrier. Now he redoubled his efforts to reach the centre before the guard returned with whomever he'd left to find.
Jason turned onto the final bend, now right at the centre of the pattern and the sparks shot up to neck, a blazing hew of red. His foot entered the third barrier and he almost came to a full stop. It was like pressing against a sheet of metal. His foot barely moved in the air and he threw all of his weight against the invisible wall. His veins stood out on his skin, but ever so slowly, his body inched forward, as if the metal sheet were caving in. His foot touched the floor again and the sparks shot up to his chin. Warm air washed over his chest and limbs as each spark touched him. Each step he took brought the sparks higher. When they reached his eyes, he closed them tightly and blindly continued to force his way through.
He made agonizingly slow progress against the wall. But after what seemed like hours to Jason, his foot finally breached it and touched the ground without meeting any resistance. He took another step and placed his foot on the central point. The sparks died out without any warning, and Jason was left standing, exhausted. The large doors at the entrance to the cavern burst open and a dozen guards burst through. Miriam, the Chairwoman of the Council, came hot on their heels. Her eyes darted to Matt, who was still lying, unmoving on the floor and them focused on Jason, standing alone in the middle of the pattern. Her eyes blazed with anger
"Kill him!" she screeched at the guards.
Some of them swung crossbows from their shoulders and armed them. Jason was out in the open, with nothing to hide behind and no way to protect himself. The five guards with crossbows took careful aim on him and then as one, fired. Time seemed to slow, and Jason watched in horror as the bolts sped from the bows across the room. The pattern underneath his feet began to glow an angry red as the bolts few over it. Suddenly, five bolts of ruby lightening darted up from the pattern. Each crossbow bolt was reduced to cinders in mid air. The guards seemed as shocked as Jason was by this turn of events. Jason couldn't help but laugh at them as they starred in wonder.
He felt a searing pain in his feet and he looked to the ground. The pattern was still glowing an angry red, and getting brighter by the second. Before he could react, a cracking red bolt crashed down from the ceiling and drove into his chest. It went straight through him into the floor and he was lifted off the ground. Energy crackled through him and his muscles stiffened. He threw back his head in a silent scream as tiny shots of lightning danced across his skin. The lightening retracted back into the ceiling and Jason was dropped to the floor on his knees. He fell forwards onto his hands and silently retched.
* * *
Matt opened his eyes and struggled to sit up. He was leant against the rough cavern wall. Miriam stood to his left with a dozen guards. They were staring in amazement at the centre of the room. Matt followed their gaze. Jason was on his hands and knees in the middle of the pattern. Jason raised his head and looked at them, grinning manically. Matt looked into his eyes and they blazed with white fire that licked at his eye sockets. And then he was gone. There was no noise, no bright flash or any smoke. He was just, simply, gone.
Miriam rounded on him. "You!" she almost shouted. "You did this!"
Matt looked up at her and smiled, "I sure did." He only hoped it had been the right thing to do.
She screeched at him and then brought her foot down onto this face. Matt's world disappeared, swallowed up by blackness.