6 The Life Lines*
When Phillip, Anna's husband and Rassa's father, finally received the news and returned to the village, Anna was already waiting anxiously in the doctor's front room.
"What happened?" asked Phillip, stepping forward to comfort his pacing wife.
"I...I don't know," Anna admitted, "I just sent him off to play with the village children and...about an hour later Diggory came running saying that Rassa was trapped in a cave and needed help. We went to find him but...there was no cave, and Rassa, he was unconscious and barely alive on the ground, his shirt ripped off and his back..."
"What about his back?" asked Phillip.
Anna shook her head, "I...I can't explain it. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. Phil...is he going to be okay?"
Phillip drew his worried wife in for a hug. Rassa was her only child, and she'd nearly died giving birth to him. They had not been able to conceive since, and had been told only a few months before that it was unlikely they ever would. It had pained Phillip to see his Anna so heartbroken. He had wanted to give her a peaceful and long life ever since he'd met her. He'd given up everything for Anna, and had never had any regrets about it despite the negative views of his family. In the end, Rassa had been their anchor. The one thing that confirmed for them that this life was possible, and that they could live peacefully together all their lives. To loose him...despite her inner strength, Phillip wasn't sure if Anna could take it. He wasn't even sure he could take it.
Just then, the doctor emerged from the back room, closing the door behind him. Anna turned expectantly, but the doctor's expression...he looked confused.
"How is he?" prompted Anna, "How is Rassa?"
"Well...he's alive, though I have no idea how," the doctor admitted, "His heart rate is far too slow, and he is far too cold and pale, but there are no other signs of distress. He isn't sweating, his breathing isn't irregular, he even appears...healthier than before".
The doctor shook his head, "I've never seen anything like it in person".
Anna turned to look up at Phillip, then back to the doctor, "So he'll be okay?"
The doctor sighed, "For the first time in my very long life, I have no idea. We can only wait and see if he wakes up".
"Can we see him?" asked Phillip.
The doctor nodded, ushering them through to a back room where there were a few beds. Rassa was lying on one by the window, a sheet covering him. As they approached, he rolled over, and Phillip paused at the sight of his son's back.
Black lines curled and crossed from his lower back all the way up to his shoulders, at first glance there appeared to be no particular pattern or design, it was chaotic. But Phillip approached his son slowly, then ran his fingers over his son's skin. The lines seemed to be a part of his son's skin, as if they'd always been there, and as Phillip watched his son, he realised the longer his hands were on the mark, the more his son seemed disturbed. Phillip removed his hands, and the boy relaxed, continuing what looked to be a peaceful sleep.
"Phillip?" asked Anna.
"They...they look like life lines," Phillip said slowly.
"Life lines?" asked Anna and the Doctor. Anna was confused, but the Doctor seemed to connect the logic.
"They do I suppose, though I haven't seen them in person I have seen images," the Doctor admitted, "But-"
"But life lines are usually white or silver in colour, not black," Phillip finished.
"What are life lines?" asked Anna, looking between the Doctor and her husband. Phillip sat back as he looked at his son's sleeping form.
"I've only seen them once, when I was still in training," Phillip admitted, "Life lines are marks upon the skin of any individual who possesses magic. They tell the story of an individual, and give the individual power, giving them a direct line in accessing not only their soul, but the energies of our world. Humans don't possess them unless they become magicians, but races like the elves and dwarves possess them naturally from birth. But, like I said, their life life lines are white or silver, never have I seen or even heard record of black life lines".
"So...Rassa possesses magic now?" asked Anna.
"In theory...though I have no idea what that magic could be," Phillip admitted.
"Is it normal for him to seem so...disturbed, when someone touches them?" asked the Doctor.
Phillip nodded, "Life lines are that individual's connection to their soul, their very existence mapped out on their skin. Touching it...I know amongst races that possess them from birth it's taboo to do so by anyone but a life partner or blood relative".
The adults were silent as they all watched the sleeping Rassa, then Phillip spoke, "We need to put a shirt on him, don't let him see it at first. It'll scare him. He needs to be calm, or this new power of his might very well lash out to protect him. Whatever it is. Just treat him normally, comfort him. When he is ready, he will ask on his own".
The Doctor nodded in agreement, and Anna did so as well, scared for her only child.
"I...I know it's not the right time yet, but when it comes...should the Academy be notified?" asked Anna. She had no experience with the great and powerful entity herself, after all, no one in the village had ever received life lines.
Phillip was silent, then shook his head, memories of the darker times in his life coming to the forefront. He spoke in one of the most firm and commanding voices Anna had ever heard him use then, "Not unless absolutely necessary".
Anna stopped herself from asking why. Something told her she would rather not know.