The man was coughing up dark blood. His whole body convulsed with agonizing pain before he grew still again.
Harin Oudek sank to his knees in the sodden black sand of the beach. He leaned over the broad-shouldered man lying in the surf and gently ran his hand over his chest. Though he was of no Race Harin had ever seen, his ribcage was similar to most others’, and, from what Harin could tell, it was in horrible shape.
From behind, Pro't'hy yelled something in his own tongue that Harin could not understand. No doubt the tall Deon could now see what Harin was kneeling over and was calling for his wife to get help.
Still, this man could easily die due to a wrong presumption.
“Elsira!” Harin yelled as he moved his probing hands up to the man's neck. “Find a physician, now!”
As he worked at the man's tunic front to reveal his heavily bruised, dark brown chest, Harin heard Pro't'hy's pounding strides close in behind him before the Deon stepped around the man's head. When Pro't'hy did not kneel down to get a closer look, Harin glanced up into the tall man's dark, sea-green eyes. The look on his face was grim and clearly conveyed that the Deon held no hope for the man's survival.
Harin returned his gaze to the dying man lying in the rising and falling tide. The bruising on the man's skin and the bulging points in his ribcage spoke of horrible internal injuries that no physician could possibly mend. But the fact that he was still clinging to life gave Harin hope that there might be a chance if help came fast enough.
To get to know a man with such strength would be most intriguing, Harin thought with regret as he began to pull his left hand and right wrist stub away from the dying man.
Faster than Harin's eye could follow, the dying man's right hand shot up and took hold of his arm. The grip on his bicep was full of incredibly surprising strength as he was yanked down to where his nose was almost touching that of the dying man.
Harin stared, wide-eyed, into a pair of fierce, incredibly pained, shock-white orbs.
“Ssoa dozhlun!” Harin thought the man's gurgled words were a question, but, not understanding, he could only blink and shake his head.
When he did, the man grimaced with an agony that seemed only half due to the physical pain he must have been feeling. Then his eyes snapped open again and the fierceness in those glowing white orbs was even stronger than before as he released Harin's arm, reaching up to touch the back of Harin’s neck just above the shoulder-blades.
Harin felt his whole body jerk with the sudden flash of energy that lanced through him. Originating from where the man touched him, it spiked down into the center of his chest and spread through his whole body. The man lifted his left hand and pressed his fingertips against Harin's forehead.
The beach, the man's touch, and the surf against the lower half of Harin's body all disappeared. Almost instantly they were replaced by the feel of a strong wind and the spray of the sea on his bare torso, the rolling motions of a ship beneath his booted feet. Of its own accord, his head turned to look at a woman clad in a flowing blue gown, leaning against the railing off to his right.
A white-hot flash removed the scene, and suddenly he was standing on the white sand of a beautiful beach bathed in sunset reds, a vast jungle rising up on one side. He held the woman gently in his arms as he gazed down into her beautiful sapphire eyes.
Another, smaller flash and – feeling a deep sense of foreboding – he was staring up at a colossal pillar of rock rising over seven-thousand feet into the air.
The blinding flash of white light came once more, and the smell of boiling blood and burned flesh invaded his nostrils. He turned, and searing, white light lanced from his hand to vaporize a monster that leaped at him from the shadows before him. The woman was several yards away, slashing with a pure blue blade at another monster. In a language he didn’t know, yet somehow understood, she yelled for him to flee. A regretful sense of duty and a flood of shame tore through him as he burned down another monster and turned to run.
Another blindingly white flash and Harin realized that he was reliving the dying man's memories – if only a select few – as he was suddenly back in his own body. He was breathing heavily from the rush of having had the man's memories forced rapidly into his mind, but he recovered quickly and waved Pro't'hy back when the tall man touched his shoulder.
Harin looked down at the dying man when he sighed and let his hands splash back into the water. The man fumbled in the pouch at his waist and pulled out a four inch by five inch, bright green fol'ty box with strange runes etched onto its surface. He handed the box to Harin before he seemed to lose the last reserves of strength he was holding onto.
The man lay perfectly still, breathing shallowly as his eyes developed pupils and stopped glowing. He stared at Harin, his gaze pleading, tears pouring freely from his now normal-looking – at least in the fact that he now had irises like a Sagri – silver-flecked, brown eyes.
“Zheen siotsy kodzeezhay ufomseeth.” Harin was only partly surprised at the realization that he could make out the words as roughly meaning 'please don't let my sacrifice be in vain.' Though he doubted that was the properly accurate translation, the meaning was there.
Harin nodded, trying to convey through his eyes a promise that he had no idea how to keep. The man gave a barely perceptible nod in acknowledgment, but the shame and loss that Harin could now recognize on his face did not leave as he turned his eyes skyward.
“Khyotzat doadyzeen kssyo.” He expelled the words in an anguished sigh and did not breathe again.
Harin slumped back on his haunches, wiping away the tears in his eyes with the stub of his right wrist and the back of his left hand. He let Pro't'hy close the man's remorseful, sightless eyes and looked at the box he had been given.
'Forgive me, Dyzeen, my love,' the man had said with his last breath – or at least that was the basis of what Harin understood of his words. He could feel residual memories that were not his own of the woman the man had begged that pardon from.
As he stared at the box resting in his only hand, Harin promised himself – with a conviction that surprised him – that he would find a way to fulfill the mysterious man's dying wish. And even as he did so, he knew that decision would change his life forever. . .
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