Saturday, July 9, 2016

Smithy - Chap. 2

    Tristan could hear something. His name? No, it had to be the sound of his heart. His heart was so loud! He was dying. He had to be dying, if he wasn’t dead already. The world was already black, it was only a matter of time til the beating stopped and then…
    His eyes snapped open with a start to see Hagon kneeling over him. The sight of his mentor reassured him, but his breathing was coming in rapid gasps. Surely his heart would give out any moment. It was only a matter of time.
    “Easy, boy. Easy.” Hagon said, cupping his hand under the back of Tristan’s head. “Breathe slower.”
    The world around him was spinning, blackness playing on the edges of his vision.
    “I…I…I ca-ca-ca-…”
    “Yes, you can, boy. Close your eyes and hold your breath. You know that’s helped before.”
    Hagon’s hand came across his face with enough force that Tristan was shocked he didn’t black out again. He felt his chest tighten threateningly and a shock jolted through his body, but nothing came of it.
    “Don’t tell me ‘no’. Now hold your breath, boy. Then breathe deep!”
    Tristan felt his chest convulsing and his breathing becoming even more erratic as he thought about holding his breath. He was probably speeding up his own demise. What if he didn’t take another breath? What if he killed himself trying to…
    Another slap, this time even harder.
    Tristan almost sobbed as he sucked on the air. His hands and feet were tingling as if a thousand needles were playing across his skin. They were cold and clammy, soaked with sweat. Mustering all his might, he drew in a breath and held it.
    “Good. Long as you can and then slow back out.” Hagon said, his voice softening.
    Tristan coughed and sputtered after a second, choking on the very air his body screamed for. But he did it again, this time with a bit more control. A little slower. A little deeper. Hagon said nothing more as he watched.
    Each breath was better. The deep breaths made his head spin even worse, but they made the tingling in his hands stop and his heart too began to slow in his chest. Minutes dropped away as Tristan tried his best just to focus on controlling his breathing.
    After a long while, the feeling of dread started to fade.
    “You alright?” Hagon asked finally, staring down at him with concern in his eyes.
    “I-I…Yea…” Tristan said with a weak nod, his mind still focused on trying to control his breath.
    “That’s the third one this week.” Hagon said matter of factly. “They’re getting worse.”
    Tristan nodded again but said nothing.
    For the last few months, Tristan had been struck by ‘attacks’ as they called them. Without real warning, he would be gripped by unprovoked terror. They struck hard and fast and were absolutely debilitating, leaving Tristan gasping for air and feeling like his heart was going to explode. Some were longer than others, but they always passed leaving him feeling exhausted but no real worse for wear.
    The first time it had happened, Hagon had thought that his apprentice was dying. Now, he more readily recognized what was happening even when Tristan couldn’t. Often, it was Hagon who helped to bring Tristan’s mind back from the brink of fear and madness.
    Like many times before, Hagon pulled him up out of the mud that was forming beneath his sweat soaked body.
    “We need to do something about this, boy. We’ve already tried the village doctor. You need to travel to Whitecrest. They’ve got specialists. Magisters.”
    Tristan couldn’t bring himself to look at Hagon but nodded in agreement. They’d had the conversation more times than he could count since he had gone to the village doctor three months ago. The doctor could find no reason for the attacks, implying perhaps that Tristan had been cursed or angered some magical being since he showed no sign of severe injury or disease. The response had rightfully angered them both, but Tristan had never had the will to keep searching for an answer.
    “I know.” Tristan said weakly, his voice shaking and quiet.
    Hagon stared at him for a long time. It only made Tristan feel more weak and small in comparison to his mentor’s hard gaze and imposing figure in the darkness.
    “Tomorrow. For now, bed.”
    Tristan didn’t argue. He didn’t have the strength. Instead, he trudged his way inside with Hagon in tow to make sure he didn’t collapse again. Once he was safely to the little room he called his own, Tristan fell to his bed and closed his eyes. He was still focusing on controlling his breathing when he passed into an uneasy and restless sleep.


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  1. Tough love at its very best. And the need for that tough love is beautifully expressed and explored too.

  2. Have to suck it up and push on through.

  3. Not being able to breathe is a bad feeling. Nicely done.

  4. Ooh, this is great. I've experienced panic attacks that felt very much like this. Poor Tristan...