Dyritican Annals - The Book of Kings: Marked

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Chapter 3

Bace woke with a start as his dream volleyed another arrow in his direction. He gasped for air and then felt a gentle hand on his good shoulder. The lamp was suddenly lit and the stars from out the window faded. He tried to slow his breathing as the deep movement sent a harsh and painful beating through his body. The more he focused the worse it got. He looked over at the hand again and then followed the arm to the familiar and comforting face of Kale.

“Lie down, Bace. You’ll only make it worse.” Bace pressed his head into the pillow again; finally able to relax his breathing enough that the pain wasn’t unbearable. He craned his neck again to look at Kale who had lowered his brow into a knot of concern. After he was sure Bace wouldn’t try anything he sat back. Bace glanced at the table and saw the glass of water sitting just out of reach. Kale saw the looked of a thirsty man in Bace’s eyes and quickly passed him the glass of water. Bace brought it quickly to his lips and spilled half onto his chest before finding his mouth. He gulped it down and then felt a hand pull at his wrist. More spilled onto his chest. He glared at Kale.

“You need to drink slowly.” He whispered. Bace looked down at the cup and then at Kale who slowly let go of his wrist. Bace forced himself to drink it slowly but then handed the cup back and signaled for more. Kale fumbled with the water jug and poured more into the cup. They repeated this two more times before Bace wiped his mouth and handed the cup back to Kale, motioning that he was done. Kale allowed himself to smile and then tossed a thick cloth onto Bace’s chest. His blanket had already soaked up most of the water but Bace dried his skin with a painful amount of effort.

“Would you like me to call the doctor?” Kale asked but Bace was shaking his head. The doctor walked in a moment later. Bace rolled his eyes. He hated doctors. The doctor smiled.

“It’s always nice to have a warm welcome.” His smile broadened as he tried to think of another joke to cheer up the men. The doctor had often seen Bace throughout the years because learning his great skills came at a cost. Despite Bace’s amazing abilities he had been a rather eventful youth; never afraid to back down despite the odds. This resulted in many visits to the doctor. He had at least managed to mostly grow out of it nearly three years ago. The spirit of a reckless boy had transformed into the heart of a fearless man.

“Ah, Bace.” He said softly, then to Kale, “Thank you for watching him, Kale.” They nodded and Kale rose, sensing that he should take his leave. “Not like I could have stopped him.” He said quietly to Bace as he took Kale’s place.

“Doc-” Bace began but the Doctor took over.

“You’d been near death, Bace. No doctor was left for all had fled to the safety of the King’s Palace. According to your good friends your pulse even stopped on the way home so they stopped and tried to revive you but you weren’t responding. Gave them a good scare, didn’t you?”

“I did the best I could.” Bace replied hoarsely and tried to smile.

“I came the moment I heard and we managed to load you up on the wagon. I couldn’t believe you were dead, I know you too well, but the boys were all putting up a fit. Anyway-” The Doctor waved a hand. “Long story short, I was able to revive you with a shot of brandy and a strong hit to the chest.”

“I know.” Bace rubbed his chest as he was reminded of the bruise.

“A young lad stayed with you over supper and into the evening and then Kale took over into the night. Says you’ve been sleeping fitfully, moving around and such. I assured him it was perfectly normal for a patient on the mend. It’s the ones that lie still you should be worried about.” The room had slowly been growing lighter as the Doctor talked and suddenly the sun burst into the room. The Doctor shielded his eyes. “Ah, the sun and all her arrogance.” He huffed and struggled for a moment to pull the drapes over the window. With the sun came a warm smell from the kitchen. Bace suddenly had an overwhelming sense of urgency come over him. The same feeling that had come when he was lying on the deck outside the motel. He pushed himself up violently.

“The boy, doc. I forgot about the boy.” The Doctor immediately dropped the stubborn drapes as Bace doubled over and fell to the floor holding his stomach moaning.

“Relax, Bace. Speak to me calmly.” The Doctor continued supporting Bace on the floor and making sure he didn’t move around too much.

“Hey, what’s going on here?” It was the voice of Mash. Both the Doctor and Bace managed to look up. Bace squinted as Mash stepped forward and crouched, helping the Doctor pick Bace up and sit him in bed. As they struggled to push Bace down Mash caught his gaze.

“The boy, is the boy safe?” He croaked. Mash looked confused for a second but then recalled what was going on in his companion’s mind. He laughed.

“That’s what this is about? Yes Bace, he’s fine, Scale made sure of that. Sent Keviin to fetch him. The boy is safe.” With those last four words rolling around in his tired mind, Bace relaxed and fell back into the bed, exhausted. He woke only minutes later. The Doctor had stepped outside, Mash sat by the bed. Bace rubbed his face with his good arm and tried not to laugh as he caught Mash smiling at him. Mash leaned his forearms on his knees and chuckled.

“Since when did standing on two feet become impossible. This is terrible.” The men laughed quietly together.

“You look good Bace. Better than the last time I saw you.” Bace stopped laughing and looked over at Mash.

“Well you look horrible.”

“Just glad you’re alive, Bace.” Mash stood and patted Bace on the shoulder. Bace watched him leave and then sniffed as the smell of breakfast woke his senses again. He thought about making a short trip to the lunch room but thought twice when he remembered what happened last time he got out of bed. Bace had spent every day of his life working his body to its max every day and he had seen many wonderful and amazing things so today the white ceiling didn’t seem to be cut out for him. He tried to close his eyes but opened them a moment later. He tried to move to a different position but winced. After struggling with his cup for half an hour Bace finally gave up and let it fall to the ground. He waited another half an hour before the Doctor returned.

“How are you, Bace?” He asked, and sat down beside the bed again. He picked up the cup and then grabbed Bace’s jaw and began examining it. “Something tells me you had a swollen jaw before the arrows.” When Bace refused to reply, the Doctor continued to examine him. Every inch of his body seemed to ache causing him to flinch at every touch. “You can’t be hurting everywhere Bace. Can you at least tell me where it hurts the most?” He raised Bace’s arm and the man winced so he lowered it and now looked Bace in the eyes. Bace returned the gaze.

“You’re a seasoned Doctor. We both know that you are well aware of where I hurt.” Bace replied huskily. The Doctor leaned back and held up his hands in defense. He loved it when patients first woke up. They were always grouchy. “So everywhere, then.” The Doctor stood. “You hungry?” He asked. This was the first thing that seemed to really interest Bace since the incident with the boy earlier that morning.

“Yes.” Bace tried to push himself up.

“Easy now. No use killing yourself over it. This will be a bit of a process, you must understand that.” Bace continued to struggle. The Doctor bent over to catch Bace’s attention. “You are not yourself.” Bace stopped and resigned. The Doctor helped him up in such a way that Bace found caused minimal pain. They managed to pull the bare bones of his uniform on and then they stood together.

“Thanks.” Bace said quietly.

“You okay?” The Doctor asked. Bace nodded, looking at the ground like it might start moving without him. Together they moved down the hallway very slowly. They sat on the nearest bench they found in the lunch room and then the Doctor quickly walked over to the Cook. She was smiling. Bace returned the smile and watched the Doctor quickly gather up everything the Cook had stored separately for Bace. He then returned and sat opposite of Bace as he ate but noticed Bace tiring quickly. He hadn’t finished half the meal before he stopped and looked up at the Doctor. He had grown pale. The Doctor knew the look well and quickly helped Bace to his feet. The Cook heard the struggle and quickly ran for the door. She opened it and watched them pass through. Bace was already much heavier than on their way over and grew heavier still. As they turned down the hallway they heard footsteps behind them. They stopped for a moment and the Doctor looked back. It was Kale. He watched them closely but when he saw the look in the Doctor’s eyes he didn’t hesitate a moment longer. Kale grabbed Bace’s bad arm and threw it over his shoulder. When Bace showed no resistance, Kale felt a sickening feeling grow in his stomach. They reached Bace’s room a minute later, already dragging him, and helped him to bed. They tried to make him lie down but surprisingly he resisted, hanging his head and breathing deeply. Inside he was afraid of lying down and never getting back up again.

“Bace, you need to lie down.” Kale said softly. It didn’t take much to push him down; he didn’t have much strength left. Bace was blinking now, trying to ward off the faint feeling in the back of his head that he might black out. Kale watched as Bace looked around the room like he’d never seen it before but then looked up into Kale’s eyes. It was a foreign feeling for Kale to be pulled away from someone he wished to help. Before Kale was completely pulled from the room he turned to Bace once more.

“You’ll be okay, Bace. Don’t you dare close your eyes!” Before the door closed the Doctor had already cut Bace’s shirt off. Kale resisted the hands that pulled him from the room just long enough to see something that triggered a horrible memory in his mind. Something he had learned in Medical classes. He wasn’t able to get a second look before the door shut him off. He became aware of the voices on both sides of him and a younger one yet behind him. He looked both ways. It was Keel and Destre. They released his arms and he spun around. Stephen stared terrified at Kale, shaking his head. Kale looked down at him.

“Don’t- Stephen!” Kale yelled as the boy turned and bolted out the building. Kale leapt forward but heard a voice behind him. It was Keel.

“Kale.” He turned to face Bace’s friends; looking back and forth at both of them. “Let him go.” Kale breathed in deeply and after giving a moment for his head to clear he nodded and turned slowly, letting his mind turn to Bace again and what it must feel like to have poison coursing through your veins.

“Well, I mean it explains why everything hurt. He literally had poison throughout his entire body.” Keel said quietly to the same five other men he had fought with only days before. Destre was about to speak up but stopped when Kale walked past their table. Some looked up at him but Kale was clearly distracted. He ate quickly and then left the room with Stephen at his side.

“Why can’t I see him?” He was arguing with the Doctor a minute later, Stephen stood behind him.

“Kale.” The Doctor stepped forward. “You can’t see him. Bace is in very bad shape. I’m afraid of what any kind of stimulation would do to him.”

“What do you mean, he’ll pull through, won’t he?” Kale asked. The Doctor stared at him, glanced down at Stephen and then back at Kale.

“Medically, no he won’t. But Bace is a strong man. I can’t see him giving up that easy.” Kale was trying hard not to lose his temper. He forced himself to breathe in and out a few times.

“You can at least tell us what’s wrong. Is it true that he was poisoned?” Stephen stepped forward. The Doctor looked down at the young boy, bit his lip and then looked back up at Kale who had apparently managed to compose himself.

“Yes. There was poison on the arrow. I have done everything we have discovered to stop the poison. It’s up to him now.” Kale nodded and watched the Doctor leave. He stared at Bace’s door for a moment but then felt a small hand wrap around his arm. He looked at Stephen. Stephen was shaking his head gently.

The next three weeks seemed to drag on as the Doctor had grown silent and Bace’s door remained closed. Kale was oddly comforted by this. It meant Bace wasn’t dead yet. He was grooming the prize gelding when Stephen suddenly ran into the barn.

“What are you doing?” He asked. Kale’s shoulders dropped; he had been hoping for news of Bace.

“I’m grooming the horse. Nobody has won him yet so he never gets any attention.” Kale visited the horse whenever he could and simply brought it company or a treat from the lunchroom. It seemed to like him. It only took three days after stabling the animal for the students to settle on a campus-wide name for him: Probably. Anyone who called him any different was usually beaten. He gained the name Probably because whenever someone wondered aloud to their friend about who would eventually win the beast the reply usually came as “Probably Ba-” which was always interrupted with a good beating from their friend who was hoping they would be rooting for them. Kale was determined that if he ever won the horse he would change the name. He had quietly settled on the name Rob which, if ever he needed, he could argue that it was short for pROBably. Occasionally he would baby the horse and switch to Robby when he was feeling fond of it and the horse seemed to like the name.

“Did you just call it Rob?” Stephen asked. Kale looked over his shoulder.

“I know, Stephen.” Kale said shortly and suddenly realized by the look on Stephen’s face that it had come out quite harshly.

“Sorry.” Stephen said loudly, obviously offended.

“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that Stephen. I’m sorry.”

“That’s alright. I understand.” Stephen leaned against the stable door and got lost in thought as the horse started chewing on his hair. When Kale finished, he walked Stephen back to his Section as it was after dark. Stephen peeled himself from Kale’s side but then heard Kale call out to him.

“Chin up. It’s Saturday tomorrow.” Then he turned and ran back to his own Section. He was, after all, still considered a minor and could be reprimanded if caught outside after dark.

The next morning dawned without showing itself. The sky was shrouded in a solid grey cloud which blotted out the sun into a nonexistent state at the back of everyone’s mind. The sky remained covered for the day, casting a gloomy threat of rain on the field. The air was cooler than usual. Most dared to refer to it as brisk. The grounds were empty until Kale came sprinting in. He had taken to Bace’s habit of running on Saturdays but he was first in the lunchroom. On his way in he glanced down the hallway and his eyes immediately found Bace’s door. He stopped. The door was open a crack. He took a step forward but stopped when it opened further. Light spilled out and he thought he heard Bace’s voice. The Doctor stepped out and replied quietly back into the room. When he shut the door and turned, Kale froze. The older man looked up from his paperwork and smiled at Kale. When he disappeared inside his office Kale softly walked forward and stopped outside Bace’s door. Bace coughed from inside, ruffled his blanket and then settled again. Kale was about to reach for the door handle when he heard a motion behind him. He spun and met the Doctor’s gaze. The Doctor raised an eyebrow. Kale released the handle and sighed then continued to the lunchroom. After a short struggle Kale managed to switch his mind over to his one task for the day. Today, all the students would be fighting for the chance to win Probably again. Only this time there would be no interruptions, no instructions from Bace, and no cheating. Kale wanted to be ready. He ate quickly and then began warming up outside and making sure his fingers could last the day without gloves. He was joined shortly by others who had similar intentions. He noticed a few older students eyeing him up but he refused to back down and ignored them the best he could. He was particularly nervous under the gaze of a student named Devon; a young man that Bace had warned him to stay away from. He wasn’t sure a warning was necessary. Kale coughed into his shoulder for the countless time that morning and then spotted Stephen running up to him. Kale could feel him eyeing him up too.

“Would you stop staring, Stephen? I’ve already got enough eyes on me this morning.” He croaked.

“Are you sick?” He asked.

“What do you think?” He coughed again.

“But, how are you going to win then? Do you feel alright?” Stephen was well aware of Kale’s intentions for the day.

“It’s just my throat Stephen. I’ll be fine.” He said and then coughed as the breeze caught in his throat. They heard the first bell ring just as they finished which summoned them to the archery field. Kale suddenly noticed Stephen limping.

“Are you hurt?” He asked. Stephen grinned up at him and winked.

“I twisted my ankle so I can’t compete today.” He replied sardonically. Kale shook his head and Stephen’s grin widened. Kale felt that Archery was going well for him that day. He tried to remember all the instructions Bace had given him last week and felt that they were holding true. He quickly checked his score after his group was done but found himself in thirty-seventh place. He bit his lip and then watched the second set of archer’s fire down the line. When the group finished, Kale had only moved down two spots. When the second bell rang the mass of students, judges, and teachers alike moved to the Thunderfield which was where they trained on horseback. Kale quickly saddled and then rode out to the field with dozens of other excited students. Kale hated this part of the games. It was barbaric in his opinion. The game was a long process of elimination and depending on how big the prize was could pack quite a punch in the Doctor’s Saturday. The students all started by warming up their mounts. They would ride them about the field in a disorganized manner and then when the unexpected trumpet blew the game would suddenly begin. The point of the game was to knock your opponent’s off their mounts. There weren’t really any rules about how you did it so long as you didn’t kill anybody. You could use your boot, shoulder, hand or head for all they cared but when you hit the ground you were out. It was your responsibility to catch your own horse too. The point of the game was to learn to function in a chaotic environment and defend yourself while still keeping your head. The game resembled a safe account of a battle field. Many Knights who were now seasoned in battle declared that the game actually helped when they were thrown into war for the first time which was the exact reason as to why the Academy continued holding the game every Saturday.

Kale was weaving in and out of the hundreds of students and had just reached the west end of the field when the trumpet sounded. He heard a fist swiping for his head with uncanny timing and he quickly ducked to avoid the blow. He quickly countered and swung his foot back into his opponent’s gut. He must have caught him off guard because he heard a loud grunt as the older man hit the ground. Kale caught sight of a lone horse running blindly straight towards his fallen opponent so he quickly planted himself in between the charging horse and the student on the ground. The horses collided but then they sprung away from each other. By then the student had gained his feet. He thanked Kale and then ran after his own mount. Kale, aware again of the frenzied students around him, kicked his mount into action. He felt the failing hooves falter for a moment before kicking up dirt as they tore across the field. Kale and his partner beneath him were well practiced in the art of running through a busy crowd having grown up close to a city but Kale’s horse was slowing down. His reaction time had almost been cut in half since the pressure of training at the Academy took hold. The boys weren’t the only ones who trained at the Academy. The horses worked just as hard and were on a strict diet.

They were half way across the field when they ran into Devon on his much younger mount. Kale’s mount slammed into the rump of the younger horse hard with his chest. These two had specifically hated each other from the moment they met in the barn over a year ago. Their hate escalated so much that they were now stabled in separate barns. The two students watched their mounts ears pin to their skulls and then they bolted away from each other. Kale struggled to regain his reins. His horse felt Kale lose his balance and quickly sidestepped to keep him in his seat. This action quickly removed Kale from Devon’s reach so the younger man’s fist met empty air.

Kale cooed his approval and kicked his mount away, managing to unsaddle a few more riders. He grinned as the crowd suddenly shrunk in size. They made a wide right arc to avoid crossing out of the line and rounded the corner to ride along the edge. As they kept to the side Kale scanned the remaining students and then suddenly caught sight of a familiar figure on the sidelines as they ripped past. A risky three inches was all that separated them. He distractedly tried to glance back felt a heavy foot smack his chest. Kale had never realized how solid his seat was. He felt his head smack his mount’s rump but then he sprung back up again. They turned the corner and he looked back just in time to see the student fly from his horse. He rubbed his chest but then pushed his horse towards the center of the field as the boundaries were brought in so he would have to face his opponent in a much smaller ring. Unfortunately Devon was the only one left on the field. He rolled his eyes and felt his horse kick with excitement as they ran.

Devon didn’t hesitate for a second. He kicked his mount hard in the sides whose eyes flashed white as it tried to obey its master. The two started across the field at a full canter but Kale felt his horse faltering. He realized that they could not return the charge. Kale had seconds so he did the only thing that seemed natural. He had to do the unexpected. He reached forward and patted his horse on the neck.

“Hold.” He said quietly and felt his horse plant its hooves beneath him. The crowd that surrounded the field was yelling as loud as it could; trying to give instruction or cheering on their chosen side. They grew silent suddenly as Devon pulled closer. Some looked away. Kale pulled his feet from the stirrups and let his legs dangle.

“What are you doing?” Someone yelled loudly. Kale didn’t answer of course. He didn’t even hear the voice. He knew that the hit would have to come as central to Devon’s body as possible and he knew he would have to calculate and time it perfectly. Bace, who stood on the sidelines wrapped in a thick blanket leaning on Stephen, watched approvingly. He noted Kale’s calm appearance but he could tell that every muscle in his body was ready. He could see a plan forming in his eyes; could see him calculating. Devon was drawing still closer, his teeth bared. All of the students were suddenly wondering what it would be like to be hit by a charging bull. A few betting hands were being thrown around.

Kale had tuned every part of his body, conscious and not to the task at hand and he took no notice of the crowd that grew silent only moments before Devon closed in on him. At that moment Kale suddenly drew his feet up and pushed himself free from the saddle. He flew a few feet before coming into contact with the older man. They both hit the ground hard but Devon, who was thrown back, hit the ground first. As Kale landed on top of him he managed a sloppy roll which brought him to his feet. He half expected Devon to come at him from behind so he quickly spun on the balls of his feet. Devon still lay on the ground. He rolled over slowly, trying to catch his breath and glaring at the younger man. Applause suddenly broke from the crowd and Kale’s fine-tuned senses suddenly dismantled and he became aware of the clapping. He glanced at the crowd, already forgetting about the familiar face he had seen before. He walked over to his horse and then caught Devon’s and brought it to him. Devon was still glaring and quickly snatched the reins from his opponent as his nose started bleeding. Kale watched them disappear into the returning crowd and then turned and fetched his own horse. He slid his saddle off under the watchful eyes of the judge, unknowingly earning more points, and hitched it to his hip so he had a free hand for the reins. He glanced at the score chart as he walked past and smiled. He was in seventh place.

Kale led his mount slowly and then glanced up at the Main Hall that hosted the hospital, lunch room, and the Master’s office. His jaw dropped when he saw Bace slowly disappear inside leaning on Stephen. He wanted to run over but became aware of his horse again who seemed to be getting worse with every step. He stopped them for a moment and ran his hand down its forelegs.

“Your legs are hot.” He whispered when he straightened and rubbed the horse behind the ears. “Come on. We’re almost there.” The horse snorted in disagreement as Kale pulled him forward again. Kale coughed suddenly and coughed until they reached the barn. He finally managed to pull himself together enough to throw his saddle on the rack and hang up his bridle. Just then Stephen ran in.

“What are you doing here? The next game is starting.” He yelled. Kale coughed.

“I’m almost ready.” He croaked.

“No, you have to go now. I’ll look after your horse.” Kale was about to ask about Bace but Stephen suddenly tossed a sword towards him. He caught it. “Go! Bace whishes you all the best!” Kale nodded, coughed, and then ran out to the combat field, clipping his sword onto his belt.

Bace had a view of the sword fighting from his window. He sat shivering under his blanket but watched intently as the young sword masters fought one on one. Kale did remarkably well. He was much faster than many of his opponents and none seemed to be able to beat him. When the fighting ceased Bace returned to his bed and drew a second blanket over himself. He lay quietly for a few minutes before the doctor came in.

“How was it?” He asked exuberantly. “Do you feel okay?”

“Fine.” He replied. Bace was pale. He had been pale since the incident.

“Well that’s good.” The Doctor had found Bace awake for the first time just the morning previous. He had slept for six days with the Doctor intently by his side. He happened to wake during a rare time when the Doctor had stepped out. He had asked for water the moment he saw the Doctor but still refused to eat. Bace pushed himself up gently so he could sit with his back against the wall. The Doctor took it as an invitation to sit down. They gently worked at removing his shirt and then Bace sat quietly as the Doctor looked over his wounds once more.

“Is there something on your mind Bace?” The Doctor asked as he worked.

“No, I’m just cold.” He replied. This response happened to be the only one the Doctor had heard since Bace had first spoke a day earlier.

“Well, I could get you another blanket.” The Doctor responded with his own same response.

“It doesn’t help.” Bace replied. To many, Bace would have appeared to be acting childish, but in truth he was in a lot of pain. He hadn’t slept since waking because his body seemed to be in a permanent state of pain.

“Why don’t you lie down Bace.” The Doctor said and watched as Bace closed his eyes and lowered himself to the bed. He stretched out and shivered as the Doctor stood and pulled both blankets over the man.

Kale had done well throughout the day. He was coughing madly by the end of it but now he stood holding the reins of his prize happily. He led the gelding over to his back stall and then closed the gate. He walked over to his old mount sadly.

“Well done.” He gently rubbed it between the ears and then walked away. Kale found his bed before supper and slept well into the evening until someone started knocking on his window. He opened his eyes and lifted his gaze to the window. Stephen waved at him. He smiled and motioned for him to meet him at the doors. He quickly threw on a sweater and then ran out the door.

“You missed supper. I had to eat with people my age.” Stephen joked.

“Well, I’m not really hungry.” Kale smiled.

“That’s too bad, because I saved you some of mine.” Stephen then drew a bun and dripping sack of stew from his jacket.

“They gave you that much, hey?” He asked. Stephen grinned. Kale laughed hoarsely and started coughing. Stephen patted his back and then they walked over to the Hall. Kale ate on the way. Many of the students had brought quiet table games which Kale and Stephen joined for the remaining evening. When the students finally started feeling the bruises of the week they slowly started cleaning up and trickling out. Before retiring that night Kale quickly turned down the hallway towards Bace’s room. The Doctor stepped out of his office.

“Kale, are you sick?” He asked. Kale couldn’t help but cough in response. “I’m sorry; I can’t have Bace catching cold now.” Kale held up his hands in defeat and turned around.

“Good night, Doctor.” He said before leaving the building.

When the Doctor rose the following morning to check on Bace he found his bed empty. He walked expectantly to the lunch room but found it empty.

“Marta, have you seen Bace this morning?” He asked the old cook.

“He ate and then left. I thought he was going back to his room.” She said, looking worried.

“Was he alone?” He asked, licking his lips.

“Yes, and he still had that blanket wrapped around him. I hope he’s okay.” She said, seeing the worry on the Doctor’s face. He nodded and then turned away. She watched him walk quickly outside and glance around the grounds, hoping to catch sight of him. He turned suddenly and stormed back in, almost running down the hallway. When he walked past Bace’s room he caught movement in the corner of his eye from beyond the door. He backed up to look into the room. Bace was lowering himself onto the bed. Some color had returned to his face.

“Sorry Doc, didn’t realize you were up.” He said quietly through clenched teeth as he tried to settle into bed.

“And where exactly were you?” Bace glanced around as if the Doctor was speaking to someone else.

“I was-” He pointed down the hall. “I had to use the bathroom Doc.” Bace looked back at the Doctor, looking somewhat offended.

“Sorry.” The Doctor dropped his anger, suddenly realizing how much better Bace looked. As Bace continued to struggle the Doctor stepped forward and helped him into bed. Bace folded his legs so the Doctor could sit down. “You are allowed to sleep in, you know.” He smiled.

“Well, why don’t you tell that to me again when I can actually fall asleep.” Bace leaned his head against the wall.

“Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t sleep, Bace?”

“What good would it do?” He raised his head again.

“How much pain are you in, Bace?”

“Not so much that I can’t handle it.” He replied.

“Bace.” The Doctor warned.

“Alright, fine.” Bace didn’t feel like arguing. “Yes, I am in a lot of pain. Dear Doctor, I can’t sleep anymore because it hurts to lie down. It hurts to walk and breathe and do everything. And I’m cold.”

“Good, now was that so hard?” The Doctor knew how hard it was for a young man to admit a weakness. The Doctor stood.

“Well? What grand miracle do you have to help me?” Bace sneered.

“Nothing.” Bace held up his hands and shook his head. “Now Bace, your body needs to heal. I can give you something to numb the pain but so far you’ve declined every offering.” Bace suddenly grew still. He played with his bed sheet for a few seconds and then looked up.

“Thanks, Doc.” He said quietly. The Doctor sat down and watched as Bace lowered himself under the blankets. He scratched his chin and waited for the young man to settle before passing him a glass of water. Bace drank it and then handed it back. The Doctor talked for the next hour about what Bace had been missing. He was leaned far back in his chair with the front legs off the ground when he was called by the Horsemaster about an injury on the field. He quickly stood and turned to Bace.

“I’ll be right ba-” He stopped. Bace had his eyes closed. “Bace?” He asked a little louder. The young man didn’t stir. The Doctor smiled and then ran out. Bace slept blissfully for the rest of the day and well into the night. He woke when he stars were still shining. He slowly pushed himself up and looked out the window. The Doctor must have heard the bed creaking for he was in the room in a second. Bace looked over to him and smiled.

“Guess you don’t tell very good stories, Doc.” He grinned and rubbed his shoulder. The Doctor checked Bace over and smiled happily. Bace was flushed with color and his eyes shone clear for the first time in three weeks.

“How do you feel Bace?” He asked excited.

“Just fine, Doc. Thanks for asking.” Bace relied sarcastically. The Doctor ignored him and checked his wounds, breathing, and heart rate. He changed the bandages in the silent room and then helped Bace pull on his sweater. He shivered again.

“Still cold?” He asked. Bace nodded and scratched at the short beard that had been growing slowly in the past few weeks.

“Bace, I think it’s safe to say that I would like to discharge you from your room. You may leave in the morning at your leisure but I’d like you to stay out of trouble and you will be excused from your classes until I deem you fit for duty.

“Thank you, Sir.” Bace replied and watched the Doctor leave quietly. He sighed as the room filled with silence and sat for another hour before standing slowly and walking out the door. He found Devon in the stables. They froze when they saw each other. Devon was saddling Kale’s prize gelding. Devon smiled suddenly, realizing Bace didn’t have a chance at stopping him.

“Where are you going, Devon?” Bace asked quietly.

“What’s it matter to you?” He grunted as he mounted.

“I’m not sure whether that belongs to you.” He replied.

“Then I guess you better stay out of it.” He kicked the horse hard like it was his own and didn’t expect such power from the thin legs beneath him. He flew back and the horse fled rider-less from the barn after spooking again and clipping Bace before it ran hard under the stars. Bace slammed into a stall door before dropping to the ground. He was faintly aware of Devon racing from the barn only moments before the Horsemaster came racing down the stairs from his room in the loft. He ran up to Bace who clutched his wounds on the ground. He sat as still as possible, trying to sooth the pain.

“Bace, are you alright?” The asked quietly and then glanced around at the scene and then back at Bace. Bace realized suddenly what it must have looked like. He managed to catch his breath before the Horsemaster thought too hard about the accusation growing inside of him.

“Sir, you have to believe me. Why would I want Kale’s horse? I didn’t do it.” The Horsemaster looked at Bace in the eyes. The man was obviously still trying to control the consuming pain in his gut and shoulder. “Sir, I can barely walk, never mind saddle a horse and mount it.” Bace pleaded. The Horsemaster stopped him.

“It’s alright, I heard your conversation. Who was the other man?” Bace looked away. For once in his life he could truly get back at the man that had caused him so much grief over the years. Now was his chance. He opened his mouth but something stopped him.

“I don’t know.” Bace suddenly relaxed.

“What? What do you mean you don’t know? You had a conversation with the kid.” The Horsemaster let his voice rise a little.

“I don’t know.”

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