This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

The Portals Of Hell – Snippet 12

“For instance, God’s Power is definitely a form of energy, but it is not like sunlight. It can pass through anything. It cannot be easily felt or sensed directly, and most Gifted do not experience any sort of contact as they use it. It just is. But through the grace of Deos, it exists, to the benefit of us all.”

“The resonance?”

“It’s a bit like a faint vibration, or drum-beat, only . . . ghostly. Almost like a reflection of another world. I cannot really say if I hear it with my ears or my mind, and I can’t explain it any better than that. Except to say if you have a Gift, I will sense it.”

There was a knock at the door, and Father Josephus sang out for the petitioner to enter. In a moment the door opened, Father Josephus again issued an invitation to come behind the table, and Davin could hear the tentative advance of another visitor. Eventually a blond head peered around the piled-up table, and Davin was looking at one of the rare female students at the University.

She appeared about Davin’s age. Where Riala was only somewhat below Davin in height, and Aliceia equally as tall, she was tiny, a head shorter than Davin and positively dwarflike compared to the professor. She smiled at the professor and announced that she was the novice he had requested.

Father Josephus welcomed her, standing to take her hand over Davin. He motioned to Davin to assist with the two chairs, and together, they wrestled them around the far end of the table to join a third by the desk. Without ceremony, Father Josephus shoved piles of debris from the center of the office under the table, so that there was a moderately clear area in the middle of the room. He placed the three chairs in a crude three-cornered arrangement and motioned the students into seats.

As the professor made arrangements for the test, Davin and the young woman surveyed each other. She was very pretty. Not lush and dark like Riala or a blue-eyed honey-blonde like Meara, but petite and very fair-skinned. Her hair and eyes were a startling contrast, short blonde locks so light as to be almost white and eyes a dark, steely gray, much like Davin’s father and older brother. She was very shapely, with a tiny waist cinched with a broad silver belt, dividing the cream-colored blouse from a deep green woolen skirt. She wore several lavish rings as well.

The young woman, returned his gaze with initial curiosity, but her expression quickly indicated that she had seen far more interesting prospects. Sure that he was flushing, Davin turned his concentration to Father Josephus’ work.

Seating himself to Davin’s left, Father Josephus placed the copper and iron frame on the floor in the center of the chairs. He turned one face toward Davin, with the corners of the opposite face adjacent to himself and the young lady.

“Davin, this is Edora MacIlvane. Edora, Davin Blackthorn.”

Recognition flooded her face — everybody knew, or knew of, the Blackthorn family. Her name meant nothing to Davin. He nodded with a soft “Hello.”

She spoke directly to Davin for the first time. “You must be the brother of Colonel Kel Blackthorn. He is a very good friend of my father, although I have never met him. His regiment is north of Kee City, stationed there to keep the peace because we have the most Breakthroughs of any area in the north.” Her voice was soft and musical, the most pleasant he had ever heard.

Edora was from the very northern edge of the Nortes Republic! Davin was about to ask about Kel, and Hellport Breakthroughs, and the Great Glacier, when the professor, with a chuckle, reminded them of the test.

“More than enough time to talk when we are done,” he said with a good humor. “First to work . . . Edora, your Gift is extensive, possibly even a Talent, and you can use the Power at will for many forms of healing. Correct?”

She composed herself, nodding seriously and adding, “I cannot direct a flow, as my Gift does not run that way. I can visualize cures, and help those who are ill. Not life-threatening wounds, yet, nor serious illness, but mainly those normal ills that afflict us all and can weaken the old and threaten the vigor of the very young.” Her soft voice was so exquisite that Davin almost lost the thread of her words.

“And you can set the resonance.”

She nodded. “Father Krom has been instructing me since I arrived. The main requirement is concentration, and I have always been good at that.”

“How long have you known?” the priest continued.

She smiled slightly. “About my Gift? Since I was a child. I cured my mother’s lung congestion with a prayer. A brother’s sprained ankle, a friend’s sore throat. I was blessed by the priests when I had seven years.”

“And your goals in coming here?”

Her eyes darted to Davin and back to the priest. “I have a great desire to be a strong and capable healer. This university is known for its expertise in training Gifted. My father strongly urged me to attend.”

Hearing Edora’s clear goals, Davin felt ashamed of having been so at odds with the General’s wishes, and so purposeless by comparison. He wished dearly to finish the test and return to his room.

Father Josephus nodded approvingly. “Well-directed, Edora. I support your commitment. For now, however, we must accomplish the test. How do you Connect?”

“It has always been easy for me,” she said, “as though the Power is nearby. I relax, and when I feel the slightest tingle on the back of my neck, I direct my attention to the task.”

The priest’s smiled broadly at Davin. “You see? How little we know, I mean. I said to you earlier that the Power cannot normally be felt, and indeed for most it cannot, but there are always exceptions. Some few recognize the Touch, and Edora is a lucky one. All right, Edora, embrace the Power. When you have it, nod.”

She blinked once and slumped slightly in the chair, her gaze defocusing. After a hesitation, she took a deep breath and nodded twice. “Good. Now concentrate on the blue orb in the frame. Make it the only thing in your vision. As you concentrate, begin to feel your own pulse, beating within you, like a drum beat pulsing with the Power. Make that pulsation part of the Power that flows within you. Can you do that?”

After a moment, she nodded again. “Make the Power pulse. My beat. My heart.” Her voice became a monotone, as though she were in some sort of trance. Davin watched her closely, looking for evidence of Power, but saw nothing at all.

He tried to increase his concentration and for once, his natural curiosity got the better of his trepidation. Forgetting his concerns, he tried to get the slightest sense of the Power which must now be coursing through Edora’s body. Still, he felt nothing. Indeed, the only thing that he could feel was the beat of his own heart, pulsing strongly in the side of his neck and his left wrist. He glanced at the priest, who was still concentrating on Edora. After a moment, the priest shifted his gaze and focused on Davin.

“All right, Edora has called the Power. Now it is your turn. Concentrate on the orb as well. Do not try to feel the pulsation; that is my job. What you must do is make the orb your universe, make it all you see and all you consider. Lean over if that will help, and get the frame in your full view. Shut out everything else from your mind.”

Davin bent slightly in the chair, gazing at the stone in its bright copper clasp. He did his best to shut out distractions. But it was difficult, as any number of soft extraneous sounds interrupted his focus:

Two students walking by outside, talking loudly,

The soft tick-tock of a clock on the wall.

And the priest’s own body, twisting in the chair and causing it to creak annoyingly.

Davin’s brow grew wet with perspiration as he tried to concentrate, his eyes watering and the muscles in his neck twitching. He longed to move, scratch, cough, to do anything to break the tension. His eyesight wavered, the blue egg becoming hazy and diffuse. Two tensions fought within him: the desire to do well, to please this priest who seemed so kind and friendly, and the temptation to fail, to assure that no possible Talent on his part could be sensed. The tension grew until he thought he might explode.

The priest stirred. “Relax, Davin. This is not an examination in one of your courses. There is no passing or failing. We are simply trying to determine . . .” he paused, scratching his head. “Nothing. I thought for a moment . . .”

He was silent, surveying the testing device. Raising his eyes to Davin, he said softly, “I know that concentration is difficult. Try once more. I should have gotten a clear impression by now, but there was a moment when . . .” Again he bowed his head and closed his eyes.

Davin returned his focus to the pale blue egg in its clasp, fixating so on it that he seemed to be going cross-eyed. He shifted in the chair, shifted again, finally sighing loudly enough that Father Josephus looked up in surprise.

Davin and the priest locked eyes. “Nothing?” Davin asked.

The priest shook his head. “Not…” he appeared perplexed. “Not exactly.” He sat back in his chair. “Relax, Edora. Let me make one change.”

Edora’s eyes blinked open, and the priest stood up with the tester. Disappearing behind his junk-covered table, he reappeared with what seemed to Davin to be a different tester, even older and rustier on the outside. The inner stone and clasp, however, were as bright and shiny as the first, and the egg-shaped stone was identical.

“Let’s try this one. It is the tester I use the most, although I try to rotate the devices.” The professor placed the metal box in the same place in the floor and gestured at their female companion.

She nodded, slumped, and in no more than two or three beats of his pulse, nodded once more.

“And you, Davin.”

Davin forced the stone to become his sole concern. Once more, his tension rose, perspiration forming on his brow.

“Relax, Davin,” Father Josephus didn’t even open his eyes. “Remember, this is not supposed to be an ordeal. It is simply an exploration for your potential Gifts.”

Davin forced himself to lean back and relax, letting his eyes stray from the iron-and-copper frame to the young woman seated to his right. Her eyes were closed, her demeanor such that he and Father Josephus could have been snatched to the bowels of There and she would have paid them no less attention. He had to admire her ability to focus on the task.

Angrily Davin straightened in the chair, then bent farther over, until the frame and its precious stone took up nearly his whole field of view. (“You have a Gift, Davin.”) He shook his head angrily, trying to ignore the tiny voice that whispered Donaia’s prophecy.

Yet, the thought came irritatingly that he was avoiding his own future, dodging his destiny, if he did not honestly try as hard as he could. What are you afraid of? he asked himself. That you do have a Gift? What would be so bad about having just one thing that the General could be proud of you for? Furiously, he bound his whole consciousness to the frame, shutting everything from his awareness but the bird’s-egg blue stone, bound in its tiny copper-iron universe. His heartbeat. If only he could shut that out, if only it wasn’t pounding in his ears, if only the pulse didn’t threaten to . . .

“No!” With a yell, Father Josephus stood straight up, his bound so energetic that his feet left the floor. The priest’s eyes were filled with anguish. “Not a resonance! What is it? Deos, the pain!” He screamed, his face twisted, voice strangled and hoarse, as though his breath were being cut off.

He spun around, as though to run. Davin tried to help, but he couldn’t move, his head roaring and the beat of his heart thudding like a sledge hammer. He turned to Edora to appeal to her, his body feeling somehow attached to the chair. Eyes open, she was staring straight ahead, seeming as paralyzed as he. To his horror, he realized that Edora’s face and neck — indeed, her hands and all the bare skin that he could see — were glowing a faint, creamy white.

A gasp brought his attention back to Father Josephus. Davin watched as the priest grasped his head with his hands, trying to take a step. Then he cried out and crashed to the tiles as a dead man.