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Chapter Eight
At Rail's Bedside

     Hospitals were the same no matter which world you were on.  Lina rubbed her nose as the astringent smell of antiseptics tickled her nose.  She never had been very good with sickness; it wasn't an enemy that she could battle.  Xellos, on the other hand, had never looked happier as he strolled down the corridor. Lina poked him sharply in the ribs.

     "Don't you feel any shame?" Lina asked Xellos sharply.

     A sad expression drifted over his expression for a second. "Lina, I don't enjoy their pain anymore and I would take it away if I could, but I truly do not think they would mind strengthening me to help save their world if they knew the danger."

     "You're right, Xellos, I'm sorry.  This place puts me on edge."  Lina looked at an old man with blank eyes sitting listlessly on a wheelchair and shuddered. "I don't like hospitals."

     Xellos considered Lina for a second and then steered her down another corridor.  There, a woman was hugging a child with a large grin on her face.  "Did you hear that sweetheart?  You're brother is going to be just fine.  Thank you, Doctor."

     As they moved back towards Kain and Canal, he told Lina,  "The strange thing, Lina dear, is that there is a lot of joy here as well.  We just tend to focus on the negative."

     Lina smiled at Xellos. "You surprise me, Xellos, you've come a long way since our meeting with Melee. What's next?"

     Xellos leaned over, slinging an arm around Lina and looked her straight in the eyes.  Lina's breath caught as Xellos' face neared hers and she could feel his warm breath against her lips. `But Xellos doesn't breathe' a part of her brain gibbered.

     "Now that Lina dearest is..." as Lina's eyes darkened, Xellos finished, "something I really don't know."

     Lina caught herself giggling, not even noticing as they arrived at their destination that Xellos had left his arm over her shoulders.   

     "We're here, just keep to the back and let us talk to Rail.  The doctor said he's very confused," Canal told Lina and Xellos.
     Lina nodded.  "Let Xellos take a quick peek in the astral plane first to see if there are any links to the lost ship."

     "We really don't have time for that," Kain protested

     "It'll only take a moment," Xellos replied as he popped out of view with a finger waggle.

     Canal blinked in amazement.  "It's that easy for him?"

     "The astral plane is his home, more so than our plane.  In our world, there were very few that could match him in battle and since our power up, even they would fall in front of him.  Underestimating Xellos is always a bad idea, especially if you're his enemy."

     "I'm starting to believe that," Canal agreed thoughtfully.

     "Well folks, I'm back," chirped an overly cheerful voice behind them.

     "Xellos, how many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on me?" snarled Lina as she took out the mace.

     "Lina, Lina, calm down," Xellos said lifting his hands up in the air as he backed up. "Don't you want to hear my news?"

     "Make it good, fruitcake," Lina shot back.

     "He hasn't contracted with a monster or lost ship, but there is a connection that is slowly draining him. It isn't a control link so it should be pretty easy for the two of us to sever it.  We'll have to be close enough to touch him, though."

     "If he's being incoherent, that connection is probably the cause then," Kain observed.  "You two do your thing first, then Canal and I will talk to him.  Will it bother you if we watch you two do it?"

     Xellos gave Kain a sharp look and shook his head. "You're really going to have to watch your phrasing a bit better." As Kain flushed, Xellos continued, "But yes, you may observe the procedure. Don't interrupt us though, it would be dangerous for your friend."

     Kain and Canal nodded in agreement.  When they entered the room, they saw a good looking man in his late twenties lying in the bed with his eyes closed.  The man was muttering about evil and lost ships.  Kain shook his head sadly; Rail was far from being the cocky Universal Guard that had conned them into so many low paying jobs.  

     "We'll have to let Neena know where Rail is," Kain told Canal quietly.

     "Already done. I also told her we'd let her know how he is when we're done visiting," Canal answered.

     Lina and Xellos took positions on each side of the bed, Lina taking a moment to glance at the spell book.  "This will work better if I disentangle the threads within him while you cut off the link off in the astral plane," Lina suggested.

     "Sounds good, Lina dear.  Give me a signal when you're ready and I'll give them a yank," Xellos answered.

     "What type of signal?"

     "Just shoot me a beam of your love and admiration," Xellos told Lina wistfully.

     "Fruitcake," Lina shot back,  "I'll have to draw power from my sword; if you've activated the chaos diamond, I can contact you."

     "Sure, take the easy way out, that's not as fun," answered Xellos as he vanished to the astral plane.

     Lina stretched out. "Now you two, if I'm interrupted, not only will I have to start over but from the location of the anchors of this drain, I'll hurt your friend here.  Canal, is there some way you and Kain can barrier this room?  I'll have to teach Kain some barrier spells later but that takes too much time for right now."

     "Yes, a modified psychobarrier will do it, but it will be very draining for Kain," Canal answered with a worried tone.

     "It's important. Do it," snapped Lina.

     Lina took out her sword as she stood by the bed.  This was not going to be as simple as she had made them think; instead of one line, there was a tangle of threads leading to a hundred different points.  It was a very effective way of draining a person's life energy but it was going to be difficult to untangle them all.  Calling on the Mother's power, Lina felt her sword transforming into a golden ball.  She could feel Xellos nearby and sent a wordless message to him that she was about to begin before disengaging the first filament.   As each thread was removed, Xellos gently pulled it into the astral plane and destroyed it.  It was tedious work but they were slowly getting to the end when what Lina feared the most began to happen.  Whoever was responsible for the link began to fight back.

     Lina sent a voiceless cry to Xellos, worried that he was under attack, when she received a sense of the threads trying to reattach themselves.  She gritted her teeth, drew more power and worked faster. Soon, it became a battle to see if she could remove the threads faster than they could attach themselves with Xellos slowing them down as much as possible.  When at last the final thread was removed, Xellos sent a flash of power down the line destroying the ends completely.

     As Xellos rematerialized, Lina slumped to the floor, exhausted.

     "I don't want to do that again," she told the others in a tired voice.

     Canal looked at Xellos and Lina and then at Kain who had taken a position on the floor as well. "If this tires all of you out so much, how will we ever survive destroying Darkstar?"
     Lina smiled. "Canal, surely you are old enough to know that destroying takes much less power than healing."

     A groan came from the hospital bed.  "Where am I?  Why are all of you here? I don't have any jobs for you today, Kain."

     Kain smiled.  "Maybe not, but you do have something else we need, an explanation."

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