Linara and the Blue Gem
If she’d had a hand, she would have used it to smack herself in the forehead. But she didn’t have a hand. She had a paw. Because she was a bear. And not only was she a bear, but she was pretty much the worst bear ever.
Linara shook her head. A brown bear. A giant brown bear and she couldn’t even hit a wizard two feet in front of her. She missed. A wizard. A wimpy wizard. He half fainted at the sight of her transforming into a bear, and she still couldn’t hit him.
As these frustrating thoughts rushed through her mind, all her companions saw was a bear up on its hind legs, growling and pawing at the air. She could hear them talking, about who was going to heal her (since she’d also been brought to near death by green dragon’s breath), who was going to waste a spell to help her. The bear growled. She was not cut out for this. She was not an adventurer. She was a drain on the party’s resources.
“I’ve found something,” said LeShana. “Look in here.”
The party followed the towering elf into a room that appeared to be a library. The bear’s dark brown eyes lit up at the sight of all those books, but she was too weak to return to her normal half-elf body. Of course she still retained her intelligence while in bear form, but not the dexterity (or the hands) to open the book first.
As the group searched the room, Linara noticed several perfectly round gems scattered atop the bookcases. They were each a different color and very pretty. As she moved closer, Linara heard a faint high-pitched humming emanating from the gems. They were also glowing. Did no one else notice this?
One gem in particular seemed to glow brighter than the others. Linara looked directly at this blue gem and felt a sudden pull, an irrational desire to be close to it. Unfortunately it was on the top shelf and she couldn’t reach it. The bear’s natural instinct would have been to scale the shelves with its claws and likely bring the whole library crashing down. Not a good idea. Linara knew she’d have to be smart about it.
The bear began growling. No one noticed. The bear growled louder and stood on its hind legs. Everyone was too busy searching for treasure to notice. It raked its paw across a low shelf, knocking over several books. LeShana turned toward the mess and addressed the bear.
“Something wrong Linara?”
Finally! Not only was LeShana an exacting archer, but she had a fair bit of intelligence as well. She should figure it out. The bear lifted its head and extended a paw upwards. LeShana scanned the shelf and noticed a blue gem (which was not glowing for her). She climbed the footstool and was just about to reach out to touch it when she stopped and waved her hand over it. If the bear could have smiled, it would have. Linara was very proud her non-wizard companion had remembered to magically check the stone before picking it up.
LeShana stepped down and held the blue gem out in her open palm. The bear placed its paw on top of it.
The light in the room dimmed considerably and took on a grayish-blue hue, as though a giant had blown cigar fumes into the library. It was still the library, wasn’t it? Hard to tell. The bear could still see the books and the shelves and the other adventurers, but they all looked different…smaller and far away, somewhat distorted. And they weren’t moving. The bear reached out a paw to try and touch the frozen image of Tessa….
Only….it wasn’t a paw, it was a hand. A graceful, pale hand. Linara’s half-elf hand. She had somehow been changed back. How could that have happened? It didn’t make any sense. As she marveled at her own hand, she saw another hand holding hers from underneath.
It looked like…Linara shook her head. No, that’s crazy..….she lifted her eyes to follow the path of the hand, up the arm, the neck….the face…
But it was.
It was her husband, Aramis.
She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
“Linara? Linara! It IS you.” Aramis smiled widely.
Linara felt tears spring to her eyes.
“My love,” Aramis said, his own eyes shining. “Linara! I can’t believe it. How did you…”
“Aramis?” she whispered, afraid to trust her eyes.
“Yes, it’s me. But how did you get here? You didn’t…” his eyes filled with worry, “…cast that spell?”
“No. I touched….Are…are you real? What is this?”
“My spirit is real, but this…” he looked down at himself. “I don’t know.”
Linara’s eyes searched his image, remembering what they had last seen so long ago. Was he real? He looked real enough, but not quite solid. She could see the bluish hue of the room seeping through his skin.
Aramis placed another hand on top of hers. She could still see her own hand through his. He was ethereal, yet she could still feel his warmth, feel the pressure of his hands holding hers. How was that possible?
“I’ve missed you so much,” he said and sighed. “You are so beautiful.”
Linara glanced past him to the mirror in the distorted library. She did look beautiful. Her long wavy hair was loose….and golden, truly golden, the way it had been before. Her cheeks were rosy and full. Oddly enough, she was wearing pajamas.
“I’ve missed you too. You have no idea.”
As Aramis’ hands squeezed hers again, her mind was suddenly in the past, at the magic college, before.
And then she knew. She wasn’t feeling the spectral image of his hands…she was feeling a memory. When he clasped her hand, she remembered that day at the college, how warm he felt….the winter day he had taken her hand and knelt down in that old-fashioned human tradition. The day they had gotten engaged.
And she was a memory to him as well. He was remembering his beautiful wife. With hair of glistening gold and bright blue, healthy, vibrant. Before…before the ravages of grief had drained the color from her hair…before it had changed her life forever. He was remembering the last time he had seen her…the night he…
“Linara, there is not much time. I’m not dead….”
“Yes I know,” she interrupted. “You weren’t…”
“On the other side. I saw when you died, you know.” He looked beyond her, thinking back. “You and your friends, you all flashed right in front of me between worlds. It was a terrible thing to see…and feel.”
“It’s not fun to watch someone die,” Linara said flatly. “I should know.”
Aramis put his hand to her cheek, and she felt a slight breeze upon her face, but no memory this time.
“If you’re not dead, then where…”
“I don’t know where I am, but I know it’s not the other side. I suspect…” He looked sheepish. “Well….I came across an old spell, a life energy spell, or so I thought. I now believe it was something to do with planar shifting…”
“Planar shifting? But you didn’t shift. You…your body…you were still there.”
“I think somehow my soul planar shifted without my body.”
“But there’s no other explanation.”
“There must be. I’m still trying to figure out the spell. I deciphered some runes…”
“No! Don’t.” His eyes pierced hers. “I mean it. Stop trying to find out how this happened. I believe you can find a way to return me without re-creating the spell. It’s too dangerous. You could end up stuck here too, wherever this is.”
Linara’s eyes lit up. “But I could join you! We could be together.”
“There is no life for you here.”
“There is no life for me out there.”
The two looked at each other sadly.
“Promise me you won’t,” he said, staring hard into her green eyes. “Promise.”
Linara nodded silently.
“Are you…suffering where you are?”
Aramis shook his head. “I am without pain or hunger. I can see and hear, but not interact or communicate at all …until now.”
“How did you get here, into this gem?”
“I don’t know. I seem to continually shift randomly. This is the first time I’ve been able to communicate. There are other souls in here with me. Souls sacrificed to Tiamat.”
“It is. They are in limbo and must be released to the other side. Tiamat gains strength from them while they are between worlds.”
“Release them? You mean…”
“Crush the gems.”
“But if we crush the gems….”
Linara looked up at her husband, who returned a resigned stare. His mouth twisted to the right, as it always did when he was upset. He nodded.
She shook her head back and forth.
“You must,” he said.
“You must. You have to release the souls and defeat Tiamat. That is the most important thing.”
“No it isn’t.”
“It is for now. You can find me afterwards.”
“But where do I start? You don’t even know where you are, how am I supposed to know?”
“There is a library, a huge library…when you find me and get my body back we will go and research our little hearts out, I promise.” His eyes glittered at the thought. “It’s at the southern end of the Sword Coast. I’ve seen some things there that may be helpful.”
“But what if we don’t defeat Tiamat? What if I die again? I’m really not as tough as I look.”
“You don’t look tough at all, my dear.”
“My point exactly!” she laughed, but then sobered. “But what if I can’t find you? What will happen to you? I would rather be stuck with you in limbo than leave you all alone for eternity.”
The bluish hue in the room began receding from the edges, slowly being replaced by bright torch light.
“What’s going on?” Linara asked, panicked.
“I don’t know. I can hardly see you,” Aramis replied, his image getting smaller as the images in the library grew clearer. “We will see each other again soon, I promise. I love you!”
“I love you too…”
Linara blinked her tears away and the library came into sharp focus, exactly as she had left it. Her hand was still on top of the blue gem, but it was LeShana’s hand holding it, not Aramis’.