by Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
The old wizard was dying, and with him the preservation of his arts. There had been a time when his kind were revered, but now the magic was nearly lost, hunted almost to the point of extinction. Miclibah’s only hope was the Healer, and the prospect of asking for the young man’s help was anything but promising.
Mativo was stubborn, and had been always so. Like Miclibah, Mativo was the last of his kind, but the use of his powers—those same powers that had brought him eternal youth—permitted him to remain unworried as to his own fate. Forever young, Mativo had risen to be the greatest of all the healers that ever had been, immortal and fearfully respected. Still, Miclibah knew that Mativo had reached a sort of mystical plateau, unable to rise further without the aid of Miclibah himself. It was for this reason that Mativo had responded to the summons of the wizard.
The wizard’s chamber was lit dimly by a single torch positioned upon the wall, yet Mativo was missed not as he entered into the room. Miclibah reached for his staff, and his long, matted beard trembled with exertion as he pulled himself from the bed. Mativo observed the wizard quietly and remained still as Miclibah struggled for breath. When Miclibah was quiet once again, the Healer spoke.
“You have weakened much, old friend,” the Healer said. “Any other would have perished already.”
“I am fortunate, indeed,” Miclibah replied breathlessly, “but without you, I will die before the moon sets. My magic cannot hold back death much longer.”
Mativo came closer to the dying wizard, and his eyes searched those of his companion as he asked, “Why have you sent for me, Miclibah? Your death is too near—I can do nothing for you.”
“Ah, but you can!” the wizard replied. “You can! It is not too late. You know how to rebuke death, and there is life in me yet if only you will help me.”
Mativo smiled, amused. “The great Miclibah, desiring aid from a healer?” he said, laughing once. Miclibah met his gaze, and when Mativo saw that the wizard’s eyes were still clear, he continued with more seriousness. “We were enemies once, you and I,” he said. “You hunted me like any other, and I gave you away many times. What is this now, Miclibah, that you pretend a truce?”
“It is not pretended, Mativo,” Miclibah replied, forced to sit once more upon the bed. “I am old, and I am dying even now. I mean no trick—I’ve no more energy for games. I was once as great as you—some would say even greater—but only you are now immortal. Do you not realize that you alone have the power to manipulate life, to cast out death itself?”
Mativo looked at Miclibah cautiously and tasted the meat of the wizard’s words, then answered, “Why do you resist eternal sleep? You ache for it—I can sense it.”
“I do ache, but I resist for the same reason that you have made yourself forever young,” Miclibah said. “I resist because there is much that yet I might do in this world. We were once enemies, but if you help me, I offer you a way to become as immortal in name as you have become in body.”
Mativo furrowed his brow, intrigued. “How do you mean, Miclibah? What riddle do you hold inside your head?”
Miclibah gathered his breath a moment, then replied, “You are a healer, Mativo, the greatest of your kind. Yet, there will come a time when they will hunt you again, and you will have then no rest. You will wander as I have wandered, alone, condemned for what you are. If you heal me and make me immortal, I will teach you what you need to learn in order to survive. I will show you the rest of my magic, and it will make you greater, great enough to keep you safe. They will speak your name, but you will live in peace.”
“You would teach me your magic?” Mativo smiled, “The same magic you refused to teach for nearly four hundred years? You truly are desperate, aren’t you?”
“What else do I have to offer you that might give me life?” Miclibah asked. “I admit, Mativo, you are very clever. You ignored me until your power ceased to increase. You turned away from me in your first youth and did not return until now. You know I am the only one who is your equal—you would have killed me if you had not respected my arts. I cringe at the thought of teaching those arts to one as venomous as you, but there is no one else left.”
Mativo waved his hand toward a second torch upon the wall, and a flash of bright light momentarily flooded the little chamber as the torch began to burn. “You needn’t make me sound as dreary as this cursed room, Miclibah,” Mativo scolded. “I do remember some of your lessons, after all. I admit I crave more of them. Yet, if I am the only immortal, the only one who can determine life or death, why would I want to share such an honor with you? I could wait until you were dead and learn your magic just the same.”
“There is magic held only within me, Mativo,” the wizard said. “Let me die, and the magic dies with me. When I am gone, there will be no one to whom you can teach your arts. You have not found a pupil yet, have you, even after all these years of searching? You will be immortal, Mativo, but what shall it profit you? It will become nothing to you once you are alone You will wish me alive years from now, if only to have someone who can speak of the centuries and the magic with you.”
Mativo was silent. He hated the truth of the wizard’s words, but Miclibah could tell that the Healer’s mind was whirling as he considered and thought.
“All right, Miclibah,” Mativo said after a long while. “I will let you live—you shall have your immortality. Yet, I warn you, the charm is difficult on the body. If you die before I have finished, the blame will not be mine.”
Miclibah nodded, and Mativo urged him to lay back upon the bed. The moon had just reached its crest when Mativo finished, and Miclibah’s eyes continued to widen as his body lurched with the gasp of new life. This, he knew, was only the beginning.