An ounce of that resin was worth more than a tailor made in a year. Luckily, a good healer only needed a few grains of it to make everything better for a dying man. Niro qualified for that.
Closing his eyes he let his mind drift through the folds of weightless intoxication. It was a reassuring thing to know he wouldn’t spend his last moments knowing only pain, and as long as those pesky guards let him lie there in peace—
“You shouldn’t be awake,” a voice said, followed by the crack of a closing door, and footsteps closing in on him. So much for peace and quiet. “Which either means you are almost resistant to opiates, or I used the wrong dosage. That didn’t happen to me for the last 350 years, so I’m guessing you like to frequent the dragon baths?”
It was a pleasant voice, one that sounded like an old, wizened woman wearing her white hair proudly and comforting her grandchildren with soft, wrinkled hands. Niro carefully opened one of his eyes to look at the owner of the voice. She was not old, at least she didn’t look like it. There were crow’s feet in the corners of her eye and her cheeks looked a little bit saggy, but had she been human and not Lamia, she would have been in her forties, fifties at the most.
“Who are you?” he whispered through numb lips, dragging out the words like a drunkard. Secretly, he didn’t care who she was. The numbing resin had taken all of his worries and fears away, but it didn’t kill the mild curiosity he felt for that exotic woman.
The Lamia didn’t answer his question instantly, and for a little while he thought that maybe he hadn’t spoken at all, only thought about it. She walked closer, carrying an earthen bowl with her, and sat down on a small stool next to the hard bed he was lying on.
Finally she spoke, once again surprising him with her aged voice. “I am Gusmerja, your healer,” she explained patiently, setting the bowl on the small table next to his head. It contained a few strings of thick, black thread, wicked looking, hook-like needles, a few rolls of bandages and a handful of small clay pots. Gusmerja picked up one of the clay pots, opened it and sniffed the contents.
“I am not allowed to talk to you, youngling, and I do not care for the sounds of your pain. I will give you more of the poison root to send you back to sleep,” she then explained, pulled out a spoon from underneath the bandages, and filled it with a viscous, brownish liquid from the pot.
Not allowed to talk to me? Niro wondered idly. Who would give such a strange order concerning someone who was dying? On the other hand, why would anyone send him a healer who obviously planned to stitch him up again? His drugged mind grappled with the clues like a drunk with a door grip, and when he finally opened his mouth to speak, Gusmerja shoved the spoonful of sticky goo into his gullet before he could ask anything.
It tasted horrible, burning all the way down his throat and in his stomach, and the tingling sensation followed soon after. He tried to form the next question, but his lips only twitched and no sound came out. Then the world blacked out once more.
Gusmerja sighed, put the spoon away, and poked her finger against Niro’s closed eyelids to make sure he was out. “You younglings and your games, I will never understand,” she huffed at the shadow creeping in the doorway and shaking her head. “At least promise me this isn’t your work.” She pointed at the ghastly wounds criss-crossing all of the human’s back.
Rhysling leaned against the wooden door frame and shook his head smilingly. “No, Nan, but you should know that. This is a brute’s work on a fine peace of art, and I can only hope you’ll be able to work your magic and keep the damage contained.”
“So you can mark him yourself?” Her wise eyes glittered knowingly.
Rhys smiled like a boy caught with one hand in the cookie jar, then pulled a satchel from his belt and threw it carefully at the lower end of the small bed with the unconscious form on it. A soft, metallic sound came from the contents as it landed. “Maybe,” he purred, and turned away. There was no-one more capable than his old nanny, and nobody else he would have trusted with the care of his newest charge. By tomorrow, most of the damage would be taken care of, and he would finally be able to meet the boy he had bet on. He could only hope he had been right about him.