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It was around mid-day almost a week later that Greer Keep came into view at long last. Exhausted both physically and mentally, Eros toppled out of the saddle and closed Glory into one of the Order’s stables before making his way up the slightly sloping path and into the keep.
His intended destination had been one of the beds in the infirmary but he didn’t quite make it there, his knees giving out on him just inside the doors. The pain of his beaten body slamming into the tile floor barely had time to register before a shadow fell over him and gentle hands came down to help him to his feet.
“Eros,” Luciella’s green eyes regarded her husband with a mixture of relief at his return, annoyance at his unexplained absence and concern at the sight of the extent of his injuries. “You’re a mess! What happened?”
“I took on an unplanned assignment,” he explained, unable to do much more than lean his weight against her as she helped him limp over to a bed. “On my way out of Bielnja I ran into a young woman who had escaped from a village bordering the Hoia Baciu Forest; when questioned she told me that the people there had been being terrorized by a Vampire for almost a year and from her description I realized that the one responsible was none other than Bleak Heart himself.”
“You fought with him?”
“Fought with him?” he could feel the scabbed over wounds tearing themselves open again as she helped him down into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. “Luciella, I killed him.”
The expression on his wife’s face was now dominated by concern, though he could tell that it now extended beyond just him. “Killed him?” she repeated, brushing the long red curls back away from her face. “That explains so much.”
“So much of what?” when Eros tried to get back up she gently pushed him back down again.
“Speak to Cerdic on the matter when he returns; it shouldn’t be more than a few hours now. For the moment, tending to your injuries is what is most important.” Luciella knelt down beside the bed, her long white dress belling slightly out around where her knees met with the tile floor, eyes now the color of rain-drenched moss as they met almost pleadingly with his. “But you must promise me that, no matter what he tells you, you will recuperate before you get involved. You’re a great warrior, Eros, but you’re still mortal and if you keep on like this I fear your body will fall apart at the seams.”
The fact that she would feel the need to ask such a thing alerted Eros to the fact that the news he would be receiving would not bode well, and though he wanted to stand at the battle front regardless of his wounds he found himself, like so many other times before, unable to deny her.
“I’ll do my best to rest, then, if that will make you happy.” Though the smile that she showed him then didn’t entirely reach her eyes, he was relieved to have most of the worry gone from her face. “If I might ask, just where is everyone? I barely even saw the stable hand when I arrived.”
“A number of them are out on missions,” her soft hands were cold as she undid the buckles on his armor and pulled off his tattered shift. “And Cerdic is leading the rest of them in a search for you. Once I’ve seen to your wounds, I’ll go up and ring the bells for you to call them back.”
The bandages came unwound to reveal the cut on the side of his neck, slashing through the length of the Rune, the massive bruise splattered black and yellow across his chest, the blisters coating his arm and the dark red claw marks running over his shoulders and down his back. He flinched when she touched them with a small hiss of pain.
“These wounds don’t look like they were caused by a Dhampir.”
“We know that, like their mother, the seven Lords can shift their forms. Aser’s other body was that of a dragon; he got me with both his claws, tail and flames.”
“After I’ve applies the Laguz Rune,I’ll give you something for the pain.” Leaving the bedside, Luciella walked to the small table scattered with bowls and flasks and numerous dried herbs; picking up a small clay pot, she returned to him before pulling off the lid. “You worry me, with how reckless that you are. Each time you leave, I’m terrified that like so many of the others you won’t come back.”
“I know. And for that, for worrying you, I’m sorry.” He watched her dip her fingers in the dark ink, shaping it into the form of the Rune of Water against his skin. “I know that it doesn’t seem like it, but I do take precautions.” Eros watched, numb to the sharp stinging sensation which radiated outwards up his arm as the blisters leaked a clear amber fluid and deflated to about half of their normal size. Applying an herbal ointment to them as well after carefully wiping the humor away, she bandaged his arm with fresh cotton gauze.
Her hand traveled down his side, pressing lightly, and he recoiled. “Your ribs are broken. At least three of them.” This time soft cracks were heard as the compromised bones set themselves properly, the enormous bruise yellowing out.
Moving around to the other side of the bed, Luciella cleaned out the deep cuts and applied more of the ointment before placing a third and final Rune between his shoulderblades. A burning itching sensation spread outwards along his injuries as the skin began knitting itself back together,the light bleeding which had resulted from his collapsing carelessly onto the mattress halting and much of the redness fading away; by the time the spell was finished the claw marks looked well on their way to being fully healed. “They’ll definitely leave scars, but that’s hardly a first for you.”
“Another badge of honor: another war story.” Eros accepted the deep blue pain draft and downed it quickly, paying no regard to the acrid aftertaste that it left behind and setting the wooden cup aside once it was empty before kicking off his sabatons and stretching out on the thin mattress. “The Angels know that these things are the furthest thing from comfortable, but I don’t think I can make it back to our room so I’m just going to sleep here.”
The smile that she flashed him this time was a real one, her fingers parting his flaxen locks as she ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll wake you up when Cerdic gets back. Try to get some rest.” A sleepy grumble was all of the response that she received.
By the time Luciella had left the room Eros had already dropped off into a deep sleep.ns22.214.171.124da2