(Immediately following the showdown with Bairne last week.)
Meanwhile (Part 1)
“How are you holding up?” Eithelena made no effort to mask the concern in her voice. Her gaze continued to drift upward to remain on the larger druid’s face as he grew closer.
“Aside from the fact everything has a bit of a smoky flavor, I’d say I’m alright.” D’Arsano replied dryly. The way the seared skin at his mouth pulled tight with every word made Eithelena wince, and wonder how he managed to even speak at all.
“I suppose that’s what you get for biting into things that are on fire, old man.” She gave a heavy sigh, and her eyes trailed over him as he passed her. He was still clad in his leathers, charred as they were. And Eithelena did not know her mentor to stay clothed longer than absolutely nessecary. That meant whatever was on his mind was far more troubling and important than his own comfort. No wonder he wasn’t phased by the pain.
She didn’t know where he was going, but she wasn’t about to let him leave so easily. “Sit.” The command left her throat in something a little harsher than she intended, and her hand outstretched to seize his thick arm by the wrist.
D’Arsano paused. For the first time since they had returned to Nighthaven, he looked at her. Directly. Something crossed his expression, as if he meant to protest. However, he must have noted the intensity on her gaze, for the old druid relented.
Eithelena fell to her knees beside him, the whole while investigating the severity of the burns that marred the entire lower half of the man’s face, disappearing down the neck of his jerkin. Her brows furrowed and her teeth grit. “You’ve let it set too long,” the druidess chided, and began to tear away the brittle leather. It exposed a greater wound, blistering the better part of his chest. It trailed down his arms and to his hands. The look she shot D’Arsano contained everything she wanted to say, and it wasn’t one that was fairly pretty.
“I can take care of it,” D’Arsano grunted, averting his gaze with a roll of his golden eyes. “Later.”
“We take care of it now. You’ve let it go long enough.” Eithelena tossed the ruined leather to the side, and gingerly took his chin in hand.
“I had more pressing things to take care of.”
“More pressing?! That’s just like you, isn’t it? Putting everything else before yourself…”
“I’m not important -”
Pain shot through D’Arsano’s jaw, coupled with a resounding crack. The old druid gave a roar of pain before glaring down at Eithelena with a near murderous intensity. But the younger woman held his stare with a trembling lip. Her free hand was still poised from the slap she’d landed, as if it had just become aware of what it had done.
The silence that came over them in that moment was tense, but short. It was Eithelena who broke it, but only after D’Arsano softened his gaze.
“That was bold of me, Shan’do. I’m sorry.” She heaved another sigh, and pressed her hand to his chest. Her fingers were warm, but soothing against his scalded skin, and her palm began to glow and spark with soft, green energy.
“It’s fine,” D’Arsano murmured. His hand came to cup hers that still rested at his face, his hold reassuring.
Again, a hush fell, but this time it was welcome, and comforting. Eithelena’s brows knit with concentration, and D’Arsano let her work, uninterrupted. The spell worked its magic, softening the older man’s wounds, smoothing the flesh back to something that might as well have been untouched.
“Where is he…?” Eithelena dared to ask, after a long moment.
“He’s taken care of.”
“Dead, I hope.”
“Might as well be. He’s in Chrissinne’s tender care.”
Eithelena gave an involuntary shiver at the thought, and rocked back to rest on her heels. She gazed at her mentor with an expression that seemed to voice the question she couldn’t find the right words to phrase.
A slight smile forced itself at the corner of D’Arsano’s mouth. “I need him alive a little longer. Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.”
Eithelena exhaled deeply. “I sure hope so.”
“Do you doubt me?”
Another roll of D’Arsano’s eyes put the topic to rest. “Now what about you?”
The druidess smiled faintly. “I’m better, now.”
With that affirmation, any tension either of them harbored melted away into the rising dawn. Eithelena sank against D’Arsano’s chest, and his arms enveloped her in a tight embrace. And there they stayed until sleep took hold.
But their relief did not last for long. The nights to come would be fitful ones, and they were not clear of the forest, yet