Dusk (7)

04/13/2015 § Leave a comment

Enis Cay wipes the sweat from her brow with the back of her physician’s glove, before handing it off to her apprentice. She can feel, in the heat and glow of the roaring hearth, the strain leaving her body like a parchment burning to cinders. She allows herself to relax. Drops her shoulders, lets her hands fall to her lap. Breathes in, and then out—as freely as she dares, given the chocking stench of a man who has spent years in wilderness alone, Lady only knows how.

Her work here is done. And it is the perhaps the best work she has ever done, since taking the Oath. Her patient, laid out on a worn wooden table wiped clean of soldiers’ entertainments, should be a dead man but for her involvement. Still looks like one, truth be told, stark naked and pallid as candle wax.

He had two knife wounds to his left side: one below the armpit, and another between the ribs, third and fourth. The former was only a graze, blocked by the bone, but the latter… She knows she has averted death, this day. Pried its bony fingers off a man’s life, one by one.

Enis doesn’t feel pride, looking at what she has done. More accurate to say she cannot. Not just yet. She needs to come back first, recover her own strength.

Having put away her glove and tools, Jamie, her quick-witted apprentice, offers her a cup of wine. Enis accepts it and drains it in gulps, unmixed. Cheap red wine, all bitterness with no redeeming quality whatsoever, fetched by the Watcher to wash the wounds. Normally she would have savoured it, or pretended to, to make a show of modesty and culturedness that’s expected from a fully guilded physician. The first lesson for all would-be-physicians: perception matters, when you handle others’ lives by profession. Especially when you are a woman, as she is, and have enough… to incite desire in others, as she has. She knows a great many colleagues, blessed with their male organs, who affect at old age by dyeing their beard and temples grey. It is harder for her, for obvious reasons. Takes more work, more subtlety, to achieve the same effect. But she is too weary to care about that, just now. Too far gone.

“So,” the fair-haired justiciar speaks from across the room. “Will he live?” He peels himself off the wall where he has been leaning all this time, arms folded, waiting. Takes a step toward the table.

Enis lifts her palm at him, stops him in his tracks. It startles him, she sees, her bluntness. Feels no amusement at that—she’s still coming back, a long way.

She gives Jamie a sidelong glance, who refills her cup with more wine. She drains it, too, and holds out the cup for a third. Mixes it with water this time, swirls it under her nose, and takes a careful sip.

“I have done all I can,” she says. “The rest is up to the Lady.”

“That is not an answer.” The justiciar snaps.

“What would you have me say, then, messere? Shall I fake certainty where there is none, and make a liar of myself? The laws that govern my art are nothing like those you impose. If you knew anything at all of the oath we swear—”

It is Jamie who reminds her, coughing into his fist, their agreed-upon sign for when she is losing her temper with a patron. Enis stops herself at that. Purses her lips for a moment. “Forgive me,” she offers, murmuring. “The work has exhausted me.”

“It’s no matter,” the justiciar says, after a time, magnanimously enough. “But I still require an answer.”

“You have the only answer I can give, justiciar.”

He glares at her. Green eyes, brightly lit by the fires in the room, unworthy of such an expression. They have started off on the wrong foot, she and the justiciar, having had to share a horse from the city to this place and a… discomfort, during that ride, between them. Should she have pretended not to notice? But that, she thinks, with a flicker of amusement, would have been another kind of offence. Perhaps a more grievous one.

Next to the justiciar, the Watcher, mask and helm off, too has questions in his eyes.

Enis sighs consent.

“I can say that it is no small thing that this man still draws breath. After how much blood he lost?” She shrugs. “I give no assurances, but if I were to make a bet, I would not make one against his living past this day.”

“Can you not wake him, then? I can hardly pardon an unconscious man.”

No patience at all with this one! Enis bites her tongue, keeps the words in check.

“I cannot. Would not, even if I could. He would be in excruciating pain, if he were to regain consciousness before due time. It would undo the work I’ve done here.”

At that, the justiciar throws up his hands. Laughs a short, bitter laughter. “Then this has been a complete waste of my time.”

He turns toward the Watcher.

“Send for me when the exile is awake and well, won’t you, Watcher Lowe?”

“Sir?”

“I think I should be the one to pardon him after all, having witnessed… his struggle here.”

With that, he casts a furtive glance at Enis. An acknowledgement, if not quite an apology. She nods at him, eyes downcast.

“Yes, justiciar,” says the Watcher. “I apologize for your time.”

“No need for that. You acted appropriately.”

The Watcher hesitates for a moment, then speaks up: “Might we not alert his kin, sir? We have his name. It should not be too difficult to find—”

The justiciar shakes his head.

“Out of the question. Someone made an attempt on his life. Outside the walls, this close to Nightfall. That is… unprecedented, to the best of my knowledge. I believe we will risk further attempts, if his whereabouts become known.”

“Even here, sir?”

“Best not find out, don’t you agree?”

The Watcher nods, reluctantly, his expression disturbed.

“I will take my leave, then. Doctor.” He gives Enis a curt bow, and then steps out of the room.

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