Season 2, Episode 7
Written by Tof Eklund
Read by Tawn Krakowski
Sudden horror overwhelmed me as my eyes focused on the blue and green fletching and the needle-sharp barbs of the bolt that had almost pierced my skull. Another such horrid object was embedded deep in my prince’s chest, and blood gushed from the wound. I saw his life arc out into the air, too far, too fast. I stood and wheeled, then teetered with sudden dizziness. There, there—perhaps fifty yards away there were two men on horseback, masked and busy reloading crossbows.
A choking cry came from the undergrowth not far away, and I swiveled to face this new threat as it leapt up with a gleam of steel. A booted foot crunched down on the snow as a figure in muted grey lunged, not towards me, but towards the horsemen.
Geoff. It was Geoff.
I looked back in time to see one of the mounted figures swap his spent weapon for a second drawn crossbow while the other drew his sword and spurred his horse toward Geoff. A second crossbow. I had no time.
I lifted my hand and pressed my index and middle fingers to my bare eyes. If I had had a moment to think, I would have worried about the risk of infection, but in that moment, all I felt was a cold ball of sick rage.
I flicked my hand at the bowman, willing my blurred vision and wrath upon him.
“Damn your eyes!” After pronouncing the malediction, I spat for emphasis, sealing the curse.
The crossbowman screamed and fell forward on the pommel of his saddle. His crossbow went off into his horse’s neck, but I did not see the beast fall because a sudden tumult to my right stole my attention. The sound was horrid, a metallic clank, a rapid succession of meaty smacks, cracking noises, and a sound like fabric tearing, mixed with equine and human screams of anguish.
The other horseman had ridden Geoff down, but he had stood his ground and, failing to land a blow on the rider, had opened the horse’s belly with his sword. The blood and offal spread over the snow about Geoff’s fallen form. The rider had been thrown but was already getting back up. I saw him pull a hunting knife. No time, no time…
I bit my tongue hard enough to pierce it, and spat blood and saliva in the man’s direction. With it went every ounce of ill will I could muster, and all of the fear clawing at the back of my mind. My would-be assassin staggered, then fell to his knees, vomited up blood, and collapsed into the puddle. My eye twitched to Geoff. I saw his hand move to his leg, which was surely broken, but he wasn’t dead—good enough.
I looked back at the other fallen horse. For a moment I didn’t see its rider, but then I caught a glimpse of a figure running and stumbling through the trees. Let him go.
Kaye. What about Kaye?
Kaye was still in the gazebo, his entire body slack. His clothes, the cushion, and the floor of the gazebo were painted with blood. Blood still spurted from his chest, but less of it. That wasn’t good, but at least his heart was still beating.
“Kaye?” I called pointlessly as I staggered toward him. He didn’t answer.
The quarrel had struck him just above his heart. A fatal blow, piercing the great artery there. His eyes were open but unfocussed, and his chest still rose and fell, but almost imperceptibly. He wasn’t dead yet, but he was beyond saving.
No. I would not accept that.
Swallowing the blood in my mouth, I sat at his feet, heedless of the mess. There was no time for caution, no point in thought. What I was about to do would probably kill me and was unlikely to save him, but I didn’t care.
First the quarrel. I reached up and touched the blue and green fletching, now soaked with blood. Whose colors were those? Lord Uombard’s? I used the Power to relax Kaye’s muscles from around the barbs and carefully removed the bolt.
This only increased the bleeding, so I tore a strip from my dress and pressed it against the wound to crudely staunch the flow. Now the true work began. I relaxed into him, sliding my free hand up into his ruined doublet to touch his skin. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before plunging my mind into the hole in Kaye’s chest.
His outraged flesh screamed in my head but my greatest concern was the artery. The smallest hole had been opened in the side of his aorta and it was distended, pounding blood out of the wound. Half a finger’s breadth down and he’d have been dead already. I focused the Power on suturing the hole and then worked backward toward Kaye’s skin, forcing the healing process in that spot while trying to tightly contain the effect to avoid sending him into cardiac arrest. This meant that I had to provide all of the strength needed, and my chest burned from the strain of the sympathetic magic.
Too much blood was collecting inside Kaye’s chest. I began drawing it out through the nearly-closed wound, but I was too slow, and his heart stopped. I suctioned out the last of the bad blood and used the Power to finish suturing Kaye’s wound, but his heart remained still. In desperate haste, I patterned his heartbeat to my own and, with a sharp pang, my heart stopped as well. For a wrenching fraction of a second, we were dying together. Then, with a visceral relief like a breath of air after nearly drowning, both of our hearts restarted.
Kaye wasn’t safe yet. He’d lost too much blood. I opened my veins from the inside, felt the vitality evaporate out of me, carried through and transformed by the ether. I crossed a crucial threshold, went beyond what was safe or wise, but knew that I had to give more. I was slipping away, but if I died and left Kaye unconscious, he might yet freeze to death, and Geoff with him.
Numb grey fog filled me. I couldn’t feel my extremities. Despite a growing chill, I felt hot sweat on my skin. Crimson blossomed on my hand where it pressed against Kaye’s chest. At last, Kaye’s deathly pallor warmed and his eyes focused.
“Yelen,” a bare whisper escaped his mouth, the rasp of a ghost.
“Kaye,” I mumbled. My tongue was thick and unresponsive. “I love you.”
“Love you too,” he replied as I collapsed into him. Hot dark fluid ran into my eyes, stinging and blinding me. Kay would live. The thought entered my mind that I might survive as well, if someone kept me warm and force-fed me fluids and liver. Before this thought could make its way to my lips, I passed out.
I was standing on a rise overlooking a snow-covered field, but all of the snow was stained crimson. I knew this field—it wasn’t far from where I’d grown up. I looked toward the horizon for landmarks, but everything was blanketed in roiling smoke. Flakes of grey ash began falling, raining down like snow.
I turned to Kaye for comfort, but found myself staring instead at a dead horse. Its eyes were glassy as it stood up on its hind legs to show me the slice that opened its belly. Blood slopped out as something inside the dead horse shifted, trying to make its way out.
Panicked, I ran, only to trip and fall into a drift of bloody snow. My ankle was caught on something. Yanking it free, I saw what I’d tripped over: Kaye’s leg braces.
Just then, a voice whispered in my ear, low and spiteful, with breath that smelled like amber and woodsmoke over curdled milk and spoiled meat.
“She’s dead. She’s dead, so go ahead and pray now.”
A flake of ash fell on my hand, then glowed like an ember, burning me. It happened again, searing my bare shoulder. I stood and swatted at the burning ash, but it struck again and again, all over my naked body.
Giving up, I wrapped my arms around my belly to protect it, but the bulge, the pregnant weight I’d expected to find, wasn’t there.
I awoke with a sob to bright light and birdsong. Where was I?
© 2012 Copyright Tof Eklund
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