Shaping (sample from The Arbiters)

The bone stuck through the flesh of his calf.

He gritted his teeth, forcing his reeling mind to slow, to calm. He was no stranger to pain. Soon his awareness narrowed to a focused point, ready for the shaping.

He pressed the splintered bone back into his leg, setting it against its other half. Then he tugged the strands of muscle back into place. Inky throbs of agony accompanied his every movement, and his vision swam, but he eased his awareness away from this distraction.

With his free hand he clutched the paired talismans around his neck, drawing on their elemental properties to aid in the alchemy.

Then he exhaled — once, slowly — and began to shape.

A steady buzzing started at his center, growing louder and more insistent as he accelerated the flow of energy throughout his body, ever higher and higher, threatening to vibrate him asunder, until it pierced through crescendo in a steady squealing point.

Then he spread his awareness through the wounded area, alert to all that was out of place. He sensed the bone fragments spiking through his flesh, felt how the tendons had been lacerated and yanked out of alignment. His mind hovered in the divide between the broken bones. His body knew what must be done, and he simply increased its natural rhythms, coercing the healing process towards its instinctive conclusion, for he knew full well that shaping was an act of trust in the primal capacities of one’s own body. And his tattered flesh began to weave together.

The only complications were the fragments still lodged inside the wound. He focused on them, driving the excess energies into each one until it crumbled and liquefied, mingling with the plasma, and was swept away.

As the breach in his leg closed he pulled his fingers free so they didn’t get stuck between the swiftly knitting strands of flesh.

And then, quite suddenly, it was done.

All that remained of the wound was a fresh pink scar, hot to the touch.

His companions stood transfixed, jaws agape, for the miracle they’d just witnessed had lasted but several heartbeats. Even Shacruna couldn’t stop a wry smile sliding across her ebony features, savouring the way he’d mastered her training.

He released his grip on the two talismans. Their once hard surfaces were now pitted and cracked. The slightest of frictions caused them to crumble and trickle away between his fingers. The first of the pair, a pouch of silicate crystals, had amplified the potency of the shaping energies, and thus allowed him to achieve the same result at a fraction of the effort. The second one, fleshy banebark shavings soaked in Shacruna’s blood, acted as the organic sacrifice, fueling much of the process and lessening the amount of energy drawn from his own lifeforce. Together these tools spared him from suffering the full brunt of the shapersbane.

But, inevitably, some of the void energies still slipped through, as they always did. The Shaper steeled himself, for he could almost feel the void shears of the Soul Eater snagging on his insides. He’d have to pay the full price of this shaping sooner or later.

But not just yet.

He rose, shakily, between his companions. He met their gaze, eyes weary but burning resolute.

“Let us continue,” he said, and then set off into dunes. His companions did not hesitate, and followed him into the endless unknown.