Pretty much what the description says. It's in first person POV because I found it didn't seem right in third person. Feedback would be hugely appreciated, so please read, review, and enjoy!
Alexandria, 124 BC
My breath came labored as Bartimaeus carried my body up a flight of steps; every jarring movement of every step I felt deep within my bones. He was wounded -that I could tell- but I didn't know the extent of the damage; I just hoped it wasn't too bad.
Bartimaeus flung the door to what appeared to be a temple open, and, quick as he had opened it, he slammed the door shut with a resounding clang. Darkness briefly overwhelmed the room; then a wisp-light flared overhead, casting weak light into the room.
I took another shaky breath in and out. Even the mild exertion -Bartimaeus had carried me for the most part- was too much for my weakened body to bear; my journey to the Other Place had taken its toll on me. But it had been worth it, to experience what no human before me had ever experienced, and to solidify my bond with my friend.
I could hear the bangs and crashes of the pursuing spirits outside the temple as they worked at the door; we didn't have much time left. If only I had seen my cousin's intent -and the strength of it- sooner. Perhaps then all this loss could have been prevented. Affa, Penrenutet, and many others were dead because of me. Soon the spirits would break through, and their sacrifices would be all for nothing.
Bartimaeus deposited my body beneath the wisp-light and leaned in close. It was growing ever harder for me to breath now; the only breaths I could draw were small and quick, failing to sate my need for air.
Slowly, I raised myself off of the ground using one arm; every muscle in my body protesting heavily.
"Steady," Bartimaeus said, supporting my body gently, "Save your strength."
"I don't need to Bartimaeus," I said weakly, "Not anymore." It was true, I had minutes left at best, before the spirits broke through the door and killed us both. All my fault.
Bartimaeus- who had taken the form of a lion- growled. "None of that talk. It's called tactics. We're having a rest, I'll break us out of here in a minute."
I opened my mouth to speak. Instead, a violent cough racked my body, sending what tasted like blood spewing out of my mouth. I smiled weakly. "To be honest, I'm not sure I can take another of your flights."
"Oh, go on, it'll be even more interesting with just one wing. Think you could flap an arm?"
"No," I was right, he had been injured, and fairly badly too, by the sound of things. "What happened?"
"It was this stupid mane. I didn't see that djinni coming from the side. He ambushed us, got me with a Detonation. That's the last time I wear one as bushy as this."
Tears brimmed in the corners of my eyes. He was ignoring the fact that we both stood no chance, and each of us knew it.
It was then that I realized something. All my notes- everything- I had dropped them in the market. Years of research- gone- and with them the chance to help Bartimaeus- and all the other spirits enslaved here- gain freedom. I cursed softly.
Bartimaeus frowned. "What?"
"Back at the market... I dropped the parchment. My notes on the Other Place," I trailed off.
My cousin truly had won then. Not only would he have my life- and that of my best friend- but my life's work would be destroyed.
The sounds outside still hadn't let up. I wondered how much longer the building would hold out- it would be soon now.
"That's unfortunate, but it's not our main concern."
"But I've not finished my account," I argued weakly, but I knew it would do me no good. Even if they were still intact, there would be no going back there now. "Nothing's left in my rooms but fragments." Fragments which would hopefully survive, and carry on my legacy.
Bartimaeus touched my shoulder comfortingly. "Ptolemy, it doesn't matter."
"But it does! This was going to make things different. It was going to change the way magicians worked; it was going to end your slavery."
I could feel the tears burning in the corners of my eyes, but I held them back as best I could. I wouldn't cry; not in front of Bartimaeus.
Bartimaeus looked down at me. "Let's be frank. My slavery, and my life, are going to end in approximately two minutes."
Bartimaeus's acknowledgment of the situation somehow made it seem all the more real. The tears swelled, almost tipping over the edges of my eyes, but still I held them back. If only there were a way I could save him- And there was. He wouldn't like it, surely, but at least I would be able to rest in peace knowing he had survived.
"Not so Bartimaeus."
The thumping of blows from the outside continued, steady and unrelenting. "I can't get out, but you can."
"With this wing?" Bartimaeus's lion form raised an eyebrow, "You must be-" Realization dawned on him. "Ah, I see." Bartimaeus shook his head firmly. "Not a chance."
A stray tear made its way down my wrinkled face, quickly followed by several others. "I'm technically your master, don't forget," I said, hating even now the implications of that word. If only I'd had more time, perhaps then we would have been truly equal one day. But it was not to be. "I say you can go. I say you will go."
Bartimaeus rose suddenly, made his way to the center of the room, and let out a deafening roar. "In a few moments, they're going to break through, and when they do they'll learn to fear the power of Bartimaeus of Uruk! Anyhow, who knows? I've taken on six djinn at once before now."
"And how many are out there now?"
"Oh, about twenty."
"Right, that settles it." I tried to nod, but my muscles would not respond. Any doubt I had had in my mind was gone now, replaced by a clear sense of resignation. Shakily, I pushed myself up into a sitting position, rasping for breath as I did so. "Help me lean back against that wall," I said, too drained of energy to do it myself. "Come on, come on, do you want me to die lying down?"
I don't know why I wanted to be upright, but it somehow seemed more dignified that way. Bartimaeus bent over and carefully leaned me against the wall, then straightened back up.
Bartimaeus stood in the center of the room, facing the door. From my position I could see clearly where the Detonation had hit him; his essence was still seeping from the wound.
The door was almost done now; it was glowing red-hot and bulging in the center. I prepared the dismissal spell in my head, running through the syllables one last time.
"Don't ask again. I'm not shifting."
"Oh, I won't ask, Bartimaeus," I said softly, taking one last look at him.
I raised a hand, Bartimaeus turned around.
I snapped my fingers and spoke the words of Dismissal, each syllable a weight off my body. Bartimaeus would not die because of me.
As the final words rolled off my tongue the door gave way suddenly, showering the ground with metal. Weakly, I could make out three figures in the doorway, standing tall enough that each of their heads came up to where the top of the frame had been a second previously.
I gave a small salute in Bartimaeus's direction, then allowed my head to fall back against the wall, and the tears I had been holding back to flow freely.
I saw Bartimaeus turn back around and raise one of his paws, preparing to fight off the attackers, but the Dismissal had already taken effect.
As his form grew misty, I closed my eyes and braced myself for the inevitable. Before the djinn's Inferno hit me I uttered one last word. I doubted he would hear it now -he'd be already safe back in the Other Place- but I had to say it, if only to bring me closure. I was enveloped by flames just as the word left my mouth.