He had fallen asleep in a chair beside his bed where he had tucked me after splinting my legs and tending my hurts as best he could. He’d had to cut off the scraps of clothes I had been left with; his claws made short work of the task. The material was filthy, caked with my blood, sweat and tears and not worth saving anyway.
I was as clean as he could make me; I appreciated his efforts and his clear embarrassment on my behalf to make me so. He had found a shirt, butter soft with age and comfortable with use his frame so large compared to mine the shirt had slipped over my head and would have fallen to my knees or past if I had been able to stand. He had put a sleep spell on me for the worst of the splinting that had to be done, and immediately tipped a foul tasting herb concoction to dull the pain down my throat as I came to wakefulness.
We had not spoken much since my arrival in what were clearly his personal chambers. I had roused in his embrace when the temperature had changed. He had moved through the snow and ice into some sort of dwelling, a Legion house from the glimpses I caught through the material of his cloak. He had taken the servant’s stair up more than one floor and slipped carefully into the room we were in now. He had settled me on the floor before the fireplace and ignited the logs within with a snap of his fingers and a word of command.
He left me to my self then, cautiously slipping out the door and returning what seemed like an eon later with a steaming washbasin, cloths, bandages and towels. He knelt beside me, a sincerely apologetic look in his eyes.
“There is no one else but me. May I?” he had asked in the old tongue holding out his hands to me in a gesture that simply said that he meant me no harm. I swallowed hard, as a Cleric and a healer I understood better than most that when it came to the wounded there was no such thing as modesty, I was comfortable with what need be done, but I could tell this man was not. I trembled from exhaustion and my injuries as I nodded attempting to spare him some of the more unpleasant tasks by trying to slip the rag of my beloved’s shirt over my head, the pain and effort to raise my arms was too much. He furrowed his brow at me and reached forward carefully peeling the cloth away from my skin where it stuck to my body in patches of dried blood. He considered me a moment and gathered the folds of the spoiled cloth in his claws and tore, the material coming away from me with a sound of protestation. Reflexively my arms covered my chest, modesty winning out after all. He stared hard into the fire grate, color rising in his cheeks. I averted my own gaze to the rich rugs that covered the floors.
Once he had divested me of my breeches, this time to the accompaniment of groans of pain that I could not prevent from escaping me, he got a true look at my hurts and his expression became grave. He dipped a cloth into the herb infused water he had brought and swabbed carefully around an abrasion to my ribs. I closed my eyes and tried hard to stay very still. It hurt, and the antiseptic tincture he applied stung fiercely. He asked me nothing and I spoke not at all. I watched his face as he ministered to my injuries; it was clear when his concentration shifted from any previous discomfort to the task at hand, and though he was no healer he was knowledgeable in the rudimentary aide required for most of what had been done to me.
It took three basins of water and many cloths to tend the cuts and burns, it would take more for my legs which he seemed afraid to go near for the time being. When all that he could do for me had been done and I was covered by the borrowed shirt, he considered my extremities carefully.
“This will hurt.” He finally said. He searched my face and whatever he saw there made his own expression soften. He took one of my hands gently between his own, carefully so as not to hurt me with those formidable claws.
“I would like to spell you now. It is a spell for sleep, so you do not feel what I have to do.” I searched his face which looked weary now, and nodded slowly trusting in him and in Aion, I gave him consent. He eased me to the floor and placed a cushion beneath my head and shoulders. He searched my face one more time and whatever he saw there must have satisfied him because he uttered a word of command and it was the last I remembered until I woke to find him sleeping soundly beside me.
I lay there, and watched him until the light from the fire dimmed too far down for me to make out his features in the dark anymore. The longer I looked, the more familiar to me he became, but I could not place where I knew him from. Finally I slipped my hand into his where his arm rested on the chair, closed my eyes and fell into a light sleep myself.
I sat atop the low wall and watched Claire laugh at something Elethor said. He smiled, very pleased with himself as they walked towards me. I crossed my knees and waited for them. Lessons were done for the day and we had an hour or so before evening prayer. Elethor’s expression darkened and his face grew solemn as he neared.
“When are you going to give that pluma brain what he deserves?” he asked me. Claire frowned at me as well.
“Want me to knock him around? I have four brothers; the likes of him don’t scare me.” She reached out and tipped my chin to get a better look at the spreading bruise on my face.
I shook my head at the both of them. “No, there isn’t any point to it. He will grow bored eventually; he’s just an overgrown child.” We spoke of a fellow student in my staff mastery class. For no apparent reason he had taken an extreme dislike towards me and took every opportunity he had to hurt me for it.
Elethor’s look darkened further as he raked fingers through his unruly hair. He considered me carefully, scrutinizing. His eyes narrowed and he pursed his lips the aristocratic mask he wore slipping into place and hiding his true feelings as always. I knew better. He was scheming, and whatever he had planned I did not wish to know about.
My body convulsed once, shuddering as my conscious mind swam to the surface. Twin points of soft red light shone down from above me flashing off then on as the stranger blinked at my hand in his. The fire was a mere glimmer of embers on the hearth and I could not see beyond that, though the stranger had no trouble it seemed. He squeezed my hand gently once, and slipped his own free from my light grasp. He rose and stretched, and uttered a word once twice, and three times over, a point of light igniting, punctuating each one through out the room. Oil lamps lit along three of the four walls and with a final utterance and a flick of his wrist the fire in the hearth rose illuminating the room quite well.
“Thank you.” I said easing back into the pillows mounded at my back. He considered me before inclining his head gently. I watched him as he stepped to an armoire in the corner. He selected clean garments and stepped behind a screen. His voice startled me when it came.
“Who are your people Sirona?” he asked. I watched the fresh clothing disappear over the top of the screen and the soiled take their place. I remained silent, suddenly cautious and unsure. He came back around the screen dressed well in rich blue that brought out the dusky undertones in his skin and with the light better I studied his face for the first time clearly. He smiled, but it was not a happy one when the dawning struck my own face, my eyes widening mouth opening in a slight little ‘o’ of surprise. I knew how ridiculous I must have looked but I could not help myself.
“Don’t look at me like that.” He snapped. I closed my mouth. He just looked so different, the same… but so different, not at all like Evensong had so many months ago at the Eastern Shard. Tears welled in my eyes and he stepped closer, uncertainty in his step if not on his face. I covered my face with my hands, it would have been better had he remained a stranger… I covered my face with my hands and whispered his name.