Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 47
Cyrus woke, chest heaving, sweat pouring down his temples, in a large stone room with a vaulted ceiling. He didn’t know it. Voices, distant and muffled, were shouting, arguing maybe, all animated and each with a purposeful tone. Turning his head hurt, but he managed it.
Adjacent to him was a group of robed priests, all frantic moving over an elevated bed. An arm fell limp between two of them. Cyrus would know Brisa’s smooth, flawless skin anywhere.
He tried to yell but as air moved through his throat, fire erupted behind his voice box and choked him. Tears welled up at the corners of his eyes as he gasped for air, his neck constricting and expanding rapidly. Sitting up became a priority but as he started to move, eyes still on the bed with his Brisa limp upon it, a forceful hand pushed him back down. The hand came to rest over Cyrus’s throat and a shiver ran up his spine. Was he about to be killed?
A soothing, low voice sang in a language he couldn’t understand. Blue light burst upward from the hand. His coughing and sputtering stopped. Cool air began to blow through his throat. He closed his eyes.
Cyrus woke, chest heaving, sweat pouring down his templates, in a small room with large wooden beams crossing its ceiling. He had never seen it. One voice, low and soft, was speaking to him.
“Young man,” it was calling to him. “Young man, can you hear me?”
“Yes,” he said, eyes still shut. His throat didn’t hurt anymore. He sighed. “Yes, I can hear you.”
“Good. I am High Priest Oliver with the Chamatri Temple.”
“Where am I? The Temple in the Capital?”
“No, I’m afraid.”
“Where?” Cyrus asked, letting out a cough. His voice grated against his airway. A small burning sensation accompanied every word.
“Millewhist, or just outside of it. The Waring Woods.”
“How?” Cyrus asked, going into another coughing fit.
“Get him some water,” the old man said. “And help him open his eyes. They aren’t going to clear that junk by themselves.”
Cyrus was eased into a sitting position. A wooden lip touched his and cool, refreshing, clean water rolled down his throat. The burn went with it. Another soft hand started to massage the corners of his eyes. He felt hard crust break. His eyes opened.
The sunlight was bright through the stained windows. He snapped his head away from the light once its searing glow reached him. His vision was blurred. He stared at the grey stone floor.
“It will take time to adjust, young one. You’ve been out a long time.”
Cyrus pulled his head up and squinted to the area of the room where he guessed the priest sat. Oliver was a male feline, beige fur with graying hairs at his temples, just below his triangular ears. His eyes were a dark green and deep set. He wore a warm, genuine smile. The priest’s robes were green and gold, with a tawny sash. His feet were bare, crossed at the ankles.
“Can you make me out yet?” the priest chuckled.
Cyrus affirmed with a nod.
“Good. We are your friends here.”
“Brisa,” Cyrus choked. “Brisa, where?”
“In due time, young one,” he replied, smile faltering somewhat. “Go tell Soilturner, we have a name for the girl.”
Footsteps echoed loudly in Cyrus’ ear but he didn’t turn to the sound. Someone closed a nearby door.
“May I ask your name, young one?”
“Cyrus,” he replied.
“That’s a strong name. A noble one.”
Nodding, Cyrus closed his eyes and brought hand up, squeezing the bridge of his nose.
“What is your relation to the young girl?”
“She’s my,” he began and then stopped. “I was her...” he tried again. Finally, “I’m her guard. A job I failed to perform.”
“Her guard?” he said, raising an eyebrow.
“Then that would make her...”
Oliver groaned as he stood, robe hem falling to cover his feet. He began a slow walk to Cyrus’ bed side.
“Is she okay?” Cyrus asked, eyes opening wider as they became used to the light.
The priest was tall, so tall that he had to squat to come to eye level with Cyrus on the bed. “I will let the man that brought you here answer that. He’s been trying to help her for too many days to count.”
With that, the priest stood and walked towards the door in the room, Cyrus’ eyes following him. “Can I see her?”
“Not just yet, young Cyrus. I will send someone in soon. I’m afraid I cannot tell you what you need to know.”
After the priest had left, Cyrus started to try to push his legs out across the edge of the bed. The process took ages, his body sore, stiff, and weak. Once his feet were touching the cold floor, he pushed himself off the bed, wobbled a few moments, and then fell back down.
“I’d take that slower,” came a voice different from Oliver’s.
Cyrus looked over his shoulder. Another priest, his robes as grey as the floor, closed the door. His face was young and sharp, very handsome. He smiled at Cyrus, his many perfect teeth flashing in the sunlight. His gate was wide and confident. Cyrus watched the man as he approached.
The priest held out a hand. Cyrus clasped his own over it and let the newcomer do all the shaking work. “I’m Priest Soilturner. You can call me Gareth.”
“You don’t look Chamatrian.”
Soilturner laughed. “Goodness no. I’m Humboldt.”
Cyrus tilted his head. “Then what are you doing here?”
The new priest pointed to Cyrus’ throat. “I brought you here to heal that.”
“What, my neck?” Cyrus replied, reaching up and feel the skin on his throat. A large half ring of scar tissue met his probing finger. “Oh, right.”
“I found you and the girl.”
“Did you find anyone else?”
Soilturner ignored him and walked to the chair in which Oliver had been sitting earlier. He dragged it across the floor to the edge of Cyrus’ bed, where he sat with a grunt. He shook his head. “No, I saw no one else. Were there others near you?”
Cyrus sighed and nodded in answer. “The Emperor. His wife. They were my responsibility.”
The priest stared at him. “Cyneweard? There were a lot of your fellows dead in the streets.”
“Where were you? Did you witness what happened to my party?”
“A little of it. I was gardening. Priest Dumdhall asked me to do so. All of a sudden, dozens of armed people pour out of the garden door and jump the garden fence. I was nearly trampled. Then some archers started to fire near me. I was caught in the middle of that attack. I believed Dumdhall meant me to be killed in that milieu.”
“How did you get away?”
Soilturner sighed. “I jumped the fence and hid. I am not proud of the act. When the noise was done, I ran down an alleyway, trying to get away from the mass of armed Resisters. That’s when I found you. And her. I... did my best to get you two away from what was happening.”
“What was happening?”
“Rebellion soldiers, everywhere, killing every one with any hint of wealth or nobility. And Dumdhall had let them camp in our church,” answered Gareth, his face contorting into a grotesque snarl. “Murder, is what it was. Aided by the House of Humboldt.”
“How am I alive?”
“I saw both of you, still breathing. Shallow but still life there. I used a cold spell to keep the girl in the state she was in, trying to prolong her life as best I could. I closed your wound but could not cure the internal damage you had suffered with the magic I knew. For the journey out here, I forced breathe into you with a spell I’d probably get in trouble for knowing.”
Cyrus yawned and fell back on the bed. “Thank you,” he breathed, a heavy wave of drowsiness hitting him. “Brisa?”
He heard the priest sigh, breath wavering. “I need to be honest with you.”
“How is she,” Cyrus asked, staring up at the rafters. “Bad or good, I will hear it.”
“Okay,” steadied Soilturner. “We have saved her life.”
Cyrus let out a long shaky breath. “Good.”
“But we cannot cure what has happened to her.”
“What has happened to her,” Cyrus asked, wincing.
“The knife tore chunks of her skull off and drove them deep into her brain.”
“And you can’t remove them?”
“Not without killing her,” Soilturner choked.
Cyrus turned his head. The priest was wiping at the corner of her eye.
“We’ve tried everything. We cannot... return her normal functions.”
“What do you mean, normal functions?”
The priest was fully crying now, eyes starting to tinge red. “I tried, as hard as I could. So did Oliver. So did his other priests.”
“What is wrong? Tell me!” Cyrus was fully up now, getting angry at the holy man’s excuses. “What is wrong with Brisa?”
Gareth wiped his eyes and stared hard at Cyrus. “She has lost most basic function. She will not walk. She will not speak. We don’t know if she’s hearing us. She does not respond to stimulus. She simply lays there, staring ahead. She breathes. She eats when we feed her. But all hints of a personality...gone.”
Cyrus slammed a fist into the bed. The wooden frame buckled, snapped, and fell. He was forced forward off of the mattress and fell face first onto the stone floor. He felt nothing but the cold.