Spell Caster Chapter 21
The peep slammed shut. Locks clicked behind the heavy inner gate, and it swung open. They entered a cobbled yard laid out before a wide, four-storied house. A woman came out of the front, obviously the lady of the manor in a brocaded, beaded dress, and with a jeweled clasp holding back her flaming red hair. Cheber’s knees buckled. The bloodstain on his shirt had grown. The woman rushed over to kneel beside him while guards from the wall gathered round. She put her hands on Cheber’s cheeks. “Oh, dear. What happened this time?” “Family issues,” Cade said. “Again?” The woman looked up at Cade. She stood and told the guards, “Get him inside. Quickly.” “Mama,” Garret said, getting her attention as the men from the house picked Cheber up and carried him across the yard. “He can’t pay you this time. And Tajor’s making wild claims again about you owing him.” “Don’t worry about that right now,” she said to him. Then she called up to a balcony on the second floor where a few women had gathered to peer at those in the yard. “Lily, we need your healing skills!” One of the women disappeared. Jerryck followed after Cheber. Some of the men eyed him sideways, until Cade joined him and said, “He’s all right. Let him in.” “Is he a new client?” The woman asked behind Jerryck. “Or is he here to help?” “To help,” Garret told her. Jerryck entered the house, and the voices were of those still in the yard were cut off. The vaulted ceiling of the entry gave the feeling of spaciousness. Settees rested beneath artwork on the walls. A large book that look like a registry lay closed on the table next to a vase of marigolds, likely harvested from Zinrish Dell. The parlor that opened to the right had velvet upholstered furniture and shimmering curtains draped around a giant picture window. Boots clumped on the hardwood floor as the men carried Cheber up the broad, banistered staircase on the left. At the landing on the second floor, the men turn left down a wide hall with several doors on each side. Small, square tables sat outside each door. Some of them were decorated with vases of flowers, each a bouquet of a single variety. The men carrying Cheber turned into the first room without a vase of flowers by the door. A canopied, four-poster bed took up most of the large room. A vanity, bureau, and a wardrobe fit along the walls without crowding or covering any portion of the glass paned window. The rest of the floor was covered with thick rugs that stretched from one wall to the next. The woman with the red hair pushed past everyone and stripped the bed. A couple of other women rushed to put layers of towels on the mattress. The men laid Cheber on that. Jerryck elbowed his way through the people to reach the bedside. All the color had drained from Cheber’s face. His eyes were unfocused, and had sunk into the dark circles under them. His breath came shallow and fast. The other men left the room, shooed out by the redhead woman. On the opposite side of the bed from Jerryck, Cade took out a knife and cut away Cheber’s shirt. He grumbled while he worked. “I told you to go with your sister’s plan.” “I would never be in to work in the city again.” Cheber’s words were breathless and faint. “You won’t be able to work at all if you’re dead,” Cade said. Cheber tried to help peel the shirt away. His hand shook. The small effort left him gasping. Jerryck gathered some energy, shaped it with the words that would put Cheber to sleep, and released it. He went limp, and his eyes fluttered shut. Cade grabbed Cheber by the shoulders. “No, no, no!” “I did that.” Jerryck brushed Cade’s hands away. “He’ll use less air, need less blood if he’s sleeping. And right now, he needs to function with less blood.” “He needs stitches,” one of the woman said, digging into a leather satchel of the style that medics favored. “Or magic to seal the wound.” Jerryck bent close, examining the injury again. The man had definitely torn it open when he lurched to the side. The redhead folded her hands in front of herself. “We don’t have a magician on the premises.” “You do at the moment.” Cade put a hand on the medic woman’s shoulder. “Lily, let him work. It’s faster, and less traumatic. You can keep him healthy afterward.” “No, I could use help now.” Jerryck dabbed at the wound with the loose edge of one of the towels. “I need someone to keep this clear and clean so I can see.” “I’ve never heard of a healing magician that needs to see what he’s healing.” Lily kneeled beside Jerryck and worked at clearing the wound. “I’m not accustomed to working on injuries that are purposefully inflicted,” Jerryck admitted, gathering energy again. This time, he used the words that formed it to medical purposes. He visually examined what was bleeding most and began there. He spoke the words that finalize the magic and cast a piece of it, knitting the flesh back together in one tiny spot as a kind of bandage. Then he cast another piece at a spot just next to the first. Over and over and over, he examined and knit, examined and knit, methodically, following the same line where a medic would apply stitches. All the while, Lily cleaned and washed with water at consistently timed intervals, keeping it clear enough for Jerryck to see what he was doing. “I thought you said this would be faster,” someone said. Their voice sounded like a child, until it cracked and dropped an entire octave on the third word, then back up again before the sentence finished. Jerryck spared half a second to glance up at the adolescent boy who had spoken. Large build and red hair, he reminded Jerryck of someone he didn’t have time to stop and think about at the moment. “It is going faster,” Lily said. “He hasn’t had to sterilize equipment, or thread a needle, or snip and tie, or anything like that. He’s getting the bleeding to slow down faster than I could. Give me that water now.” The boy set a full bucket down on the floor between her and Jerryck. “Mama said Cade’s going to need you when you’re done here. She’s trying to calm him down, but he’s pretty upset.” “You can tell me that later in private,” Lily said with a snap in her tone. “Remember discretion. Always.” Jerryck tuned them out, focusing on his work. Magicians with better healing skills, or more practice could probably do this in half the time he was taking, and with some method that was more efficient. Regardless, this worked. The worst of the blood flow had long since stopped. The rest tapered off enough that it clotted properly. Now that the man wasn’t in danger of bleeding out, Jerryck focused on speeding up the healing process. He used magic to probe for liquids that had spilled into body cavities, and manipulated the body to reabsorb them. The clean water Lily was using, he filtered through magic that increased the oxygen content. Cloths dipped in that, were laid on Cheber’s skin. Then his body was magically convinced to absorb all that liquid. The process was repeated until the absorption met resistance. A small adjustment to the magic got the body to convert most of the oxygen-rich water into the bloodstream. Finally, Jerryck closed the outside of the wound, taking care to knit together the flesh so well it wouldn’t even scar. As he finished up, his focus on his work was slowly replaced with an awareness of an ache in his knees. He looked down to where he knelt on the rug. Had he been on his knees this whole time? He must have. He grabbed the nearest of the four posters on the corners of the bed, and pulled himself back to his feet. Lily offered a hand to help. He politely declined. “I’m all right. I just need to eat and rest.” “Preston,” Lily said to the boy who’d been helping her by running in and out and fetching whatever she demanded. “Take our guest to get something to eat.” The boy headed out the door, gesturing for Jerryck to follow. “This way.” They went back downstairs. To the left of the entrance, opposite the sitting parlor, they went into a dining room. Preston pointed to the chairs with padded seats around the long table. “Go ahead and take a seat. I’ll be right back.” He ducked back out. Jerryck shuffled over to the closest of the chairs, sank into it, leaned his elbows on the table, and let his eyelids droop closed. He did a lot of healing magic, but not usually so intense or so long. Preston returned with a plate of food and some wine. He set them down before Jerryck. “There’s no charge, so eat as much as you want.” “Charge?” Jerryck dug into the food. He needed it, charge or not. “You normally charge your guests for meals?” “Usually, along with all our other services,” Preston said. He sat down across from Jerryck, the chair creaking under his large frame. “Mama said she’s not going to charge Quil… Um… Cheber for any of this. Garret and Cade are trying to figure out payment anyway. Tajor says it can be the favor we still owe him, even though this doesn’t really help him directly. She’ll probably tell them that the tab is settled if they convince Cheber to go with his sister’s plan.” “I go with my sister’s plans most of the time,” Jerryck said. “She’s smart. What’s stopping Cheber?” “He could never work in the city again,” Preston said the same thing that Cheber had. “And the right chance, I guess. It is not like he’s going to go murder someone. He has to wait for a body to come along that would pass for him.” Jerryck choked slightly on the bite he had just swallowed. “What?” “Dead bodies happen all the time in the wrong neighborhoods,” Preston said as nonchalantly as an old man discussing the weather. His voice still cracked some, going from the high octaves of a child to the lower tones of a full-grown man, then back up again. “He has to wait for one that people could claim is him. He can’t fake his death as easily if there’s no body.” “Preston!” Jerryck and Preston both jumped. The redhaired woman strode into the room, Garret right behind her. She stopped at the end of the table, hands on her hips, her lips pursed into a frown. Garret said to the boy, “Go out to the woodshed and wait.” Preston blanched. He slowly stood from his chair. “But you said he won’t remember people, or their names, or a lot of what was said.” “Doesn’t matter,” Garret said. “Never break discretion. Go outside. Now. And be glad your papa isn’t here.” Preston’s neck disappeared into his hunched shoulders. With a chagrined look at Garret and the woman, he left the room. The woman took a deep breath through her nose and patted her hair, the exact same color as Preston’s. “We haven’t had proper introductions,” she said to Jerryck. She placed a hand on her chest, just above the low cut of her dress. “I’m Marigold, the mother here at the Flower House, and we’re very pleased to have a member of the king’s household under our roof.” Jerryck looked past her to Garret. “What was the kid saying about needing a dead body?” Garret sighed. His eyelids fluttered in a slight roll. He said to Marigold, “Can you give us a few minutes, please.” “Certainly,” she said, and swept from the room. Garret took the chair Preston had vacated. “Cheber was sent to live in Bershent Fortress by the Prince of Shontarra to try and keep him safe. It’s not working.” “Obviously,” Jerryck said. “Why would Prince Sanbralio care, anyway?” Garret smirked at him. “If I told you, would you remember?” The humor faded quickly, and he leaned forward on the table. “His sister suggested the next time he come across a dead man that’s the same build is him, he fake his death to stop the assassins. He’s been rather resistant to the idea.” “Has he reported this to the authorities?” Jerryck asked. Garret raised one eyebrow. “Of course he has. Why else would we be involved?” “And you know who’s sending these assassins?” “Yes,” Garret said. “The source is being closely monitored. Right now, as closely as possible. But you shouldn’t worry about it. Sorry we involved you. Cade was just worried that if Cheber didn’t get healed up, he might not get the chance to heal on his own.” “Cade was right,” Jerryck said. Garret nodded. “As usual.” “You’re not worried about involving your family?” Garret waved that away. “They’re already involved.” Jerryck didn’t want to talk about this anymore. He finished off the plate of food. He’d eaten it much faster than normal, just like he always did after heavy magic usage. He looked around the room while Garret watched in silence. “I had no idea your parents were wealthy enough to afford a house like this,” Jerryck said. “They’re not. And the owners are not my parents.” “Your family just works here for the owners then?” Garret cocked his head to one side, humor sparkling in his eyes. “Haven’t you heard of the Flower House? I thought every nobleman had.” “I’m not a nobleman,” Jerryck said. “Oh, wait. That’s right, I am.” Garret burst out laughing. Jerryck pushed his plate away and glared at the guard. “It’s not really all that funny.” “Yes it is.” Garret wiped tears from his eyes. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you about it. You might not want to know.” “So I have no idea what someone is talking about if they ever bring it up?” “You think you’ll remember if they do?” Garret’s laughter tapered off, but the smile remained on his face. “This is a high-end whore house.” The food turned into a lump in Jerryck’s belly. He passed a hand over his eyes. “Oh, no. This isn’t right. Leanne is going to be so mad at me.” “It’s not like you’ve betrayed her,” Garret said. “Besides, if you don’t tell her, she’ll never know. Discretion is strictly enforced here. Currently, there are five clients in the house. Have you seen even one of them?” “No.” “And they won’t see you,” Garret said. No one will even know you were here. Besides, it’s not like sex is their only business. Every person in residence here has a secondary skill they market.” “So people come here for other business reasons?” Maybe Leanne would be all right with this after all. “All the time,” Garret said.