Zeke was adrift in a warm sea. The water felt so good that he just wanted to lay in it forever. He closed his eyes and reveled in the serenity. The sea was a soft golden color. He could feel its power surge through him. It was a power that was foreign to him, but it didn’t feel hostile. It was just something else there to support him. He didn’t want to over think it, so he cleared his mind and enjoyed the lulling sensation of the small waves.
“Ezekiel,” called a familiar voice. It was the voice of his master.
“I hear you,” Zeke said, eyes still closed. He could feel his master close by.
“I see that you are not in Valora.”
“I’m sorry, master, I’ve been called on a quest of my own,” Zeke said, finally opening his eyes to look for Gresar. He found that he couldn’t move his head to look up. He didn’t mind, he wanted to stay curled up in a safe position. “I can understand if you are angry with me.”
“Quite the contrary, my boy,” Gresar said. “I am extremely proud of you.” His voice carried a smile in it. “You stood up to a high level dark witch and held your own. I lent you some of my power to banish her.”
Now it made sense where that extra energy came from. Zeke was grateful. “Thank you, master, for looking out for me.”
“Always,” Gresar said. “No matter where I am, I will always be there for you.”
“Where are you?”
“I am not at liberty to discuss that right now, but know that I am safe.”
Zeke felt a warm hand upon his shoulder. He knew that it was Gresar holding him. He didn’t realize how much he missed his master until this moment. He was reassured knowing that Gresar was looking out for him, even from a distance.
“You must wake up now,” Gresar whispered. “Your friend is dying. She must drink the potion before her soul leaves her body.”
Zeke nodded his head. “I understand.” He closed his eyes and willed himself to wake up. He hoped that he would be able to converse with his master again soon. In dreams anything is possible. He embraced the warm water one last time before he drifted away to the waking realm.
Zeke awoke in Rafe’s arms. He wondered how long he had been asleep. His body felt heavy; it was hard to sit up. He looked up at Rafe and saw that she was smiling. He wondered when she had gotten there. It was then that he remembered Moralie. He sat up and looked at the bed where she was lying. She didn’t look any better. As he stood up, his body ached. He didn’t remember doing anything strenuous, but using so much magical energy at one time tended to tire the body.
“We got the ingredients you asked for,” Rafe said, standing up as well. “We didn’t know what needed to happen after that, so we waited for you to wake up.”
“Good…” He saw the basket that Rafe had carried in containing all of the things he needed. “I need a large bowl to mix everything in.”
As if on cue, Simon came in holding a medium sized glass bowl. He gave Zeke an A for effort smile as he handed him the bowl. “Got you covered.” Zeke nodded his head in thanks.
Zeke was a whiz at making potions. He prided himself on being able to make the best potions in Valora. That was where he excelled above his master. His potions were more potent than his master could ever manage. When this became clear, Gresar allowed Zeke to handle all of the potion making that the customers needed.
Being able to read his master’s instructions, he carefully added each ingredient into the mix. When all of the ingredients were mixed according to the instructions, he carried the bowl to the bathroom where he could add some water. He then asked the healers in the hospital for a heat source. They led him to their kitchen where their potion master was mixing up some of their own potions. Zeke poured his mix into a cauldron and allowed it to simmer until it was time to bottle it.
With a ladle, Zeke poured some of the potion into a single serving potion bottle. There was more than enough left over that he allowed the hospital’s potion masters to bottle some for other victims of the Reaper’s Curse. They thanked him profusely. Zeke said that he would write down the recipe for them after he was done.
He quickly raced to Moralie’s side where Rafe and Simon were waiting. They looked worried because he had been gone so long. Zeke worried that he might have been too late. He told himself that he would have to try. He handed the potion to Simon who was holding Moralie up. She wasn’t entirely lucid, but she was awake enough to be able to drink. Simon poured the dark red potion into her mouth. When it was all gone, Simon set her back down.
“How much time does it take to work?” Rafe asked.
Zeke didn’t know. The instructions didn’t say what to look for after the potion had been administered. He only shrugged his shoulders in response. They would just have to wait and see what happened.
It was getting late. The sun had set long ago and the moon had come up. The bustling night life of the city was beginning to take hold. People were heading to restaurants and pubs to have a good time. While Zeke thought it would be a good time for the three of them to go and let Moralie rest, he was too tired to think about eating or partying. He just wanted to sleep. He looked at Rafe and Simon and saw that they felt the same way. All of them were too worried about Moralie to sleep. But eventually, sleep overtook them. They slept hard and deep. The healers came into the room to check on Moralie and found them all sleeping on the floor. They left and returned with blankets and covered them.
As Zeke drifted off into sleep, he hoped that he would be able to speak with Gresar again and learn his location. Instead of his master, he dreamt of someone else. It was of a man sitting in a field under the night sky. He was cloaked in black and his face wasn’t visible, only his lips, which were smiling. The man motioned to a wicker basket that was seated next to him. He opened the basket to reveal several sandwiches that Zeke knew to be peanut butter and banana with just a touch of honey. Zeke felt himself desiring one.
“Come join me, young wizard,” the man said. He patted the blue and white checkered blanket next to him. Zeke slowly drifted over to him and sat down. He didn’t have much choice in the matter. It was as if the man had willed it.
“How did you know that I am a wizard?” Zeke asked.
“I know all about you.” The man reached past Zeke and took out one of the sandwiches. “I know you love these sandwiches. Please, take one.”
Zeke didn’t have to be asked twice. He reached into the basket and took a sandwich. He greedily bit into it and chewed happily. This was true happiness. The honey was just perfect. The banana and the peanut butter danced on his tongue and the roof of his mouth. It was then that he wondered if he was really there with the man or if this was just a dream.
“It’s a living dream,” the man said, reading Zeke’s mind. “I have brought your consciousness to me and we are sitting here on Mount Rialto.”
Zeke choked on his sandwich, but didn’t dare to spit it out; it would be a waste of a good sandwich. When he was able to swallow his bite and turned to the man. “Why did you bring me here?”
“I just wanted to know who I was up against.” The man took a bite of his sandwich and munched quietly. “I was surprised that you were able to banish my associate so easily.” This was muffled as the peanut butter was thick and sticky.
A chill traveled down Zeke’s spine as he realized that this man who was offering him tasty sandwiches was affiliated with the dark witch that had tried to kill him. Was it him who was to blame for all of the misfortune he had faced today? He saw that the man in black nodded his head. Zeke sadly lowered his sandwich. Maybe it wasn’t as good as he thought.
“Do not fear, I cannot harm you in dream state,” the man reassured. “I wanted to see you for myself before my forces destroy you. You seem like a nice boy. You are more powerful that I thought you would be.”
“Don’t sound so impressed,” Zeke said, trying to appear tough. “I did banish that witch of yours.”
“Don’t start with the big head. I know you had help from your master.” The man chuckled as he watched Zeke’s ego deflate. “I am currently tracking his whereabouts and when I find him, I will crush him.”
Zeke was glad to hear that the man didn’t know where Gresar was. He hoped that he would stay hidden a little while longer. What was this guy’s deal with wizards? Why does he want them dead? Why was he afraid of them? What does he think they’ll do to him?
“Please continue to eat the sandwich.” The man took another bite. “Don’t worry, I didn’t poison them. You are going to need your strength.”
Zeke begrudgingly took another bite of his delicious sandwich. He wanted to get more information out of the man, but all he could focus on was the sandwich. While admittedly he was hungry, he knew that this was a great opportunity to learn what he was meant to do on this quest. What was the Alta Stone to this man? Why was he willing to kill to protect it? Did he have the stone already or was he looking for it, too? He supposed that if the Alta Stone was on Mount Death and they were currently on Mount Death, it was safe to assume that the man knew where it was.
“Oh, and great work on that potion,” the man said once he swallowed his sandwich. “Your master is a genius. Sooner or later you’re going to have to stand on your own and stop riding on his coattails.”
“Don’t think I should be taking career advice from someone who is trying to kill me,” Zeke commented.
The man chuckled. “I suppose you’re right.” He took another bite of his sandwich, moaning as he chewed.
The two of them sat in silence eating their sandwiches. Zeke felt weird being happy while sitting next to the person who was trying to kill him. The man said that he couldn’t hurt him, but was he lying? He obviously couldn’t be trusted.
The man in black finished his sandwich and wiped the crumbs from his face. “Well, that was pleasant. I’m afraid the meet and greet is over.” He extended his skeletal hand to Zeke in an offer to shake his. Zeke reluctantly shook it. The cold, bony fingers felt fragile in his hand, but they had a powerful grip. “We should do this again soon.”
“Bring those sandwiches and it’s a deal,” Zeke said without thinking. He felt himself drifting away into the night sky. The man in black waved to him as he floated away. Zeke thought that for being an evil person, he sure had a sweet disposition. He was going to be an interesting adversary that he would have to watch carefully.