Pain and Hope
“Alright, Ihloden. Who is he?” Nurilah asked. He had slung the man over his shoulder and carried him to Nurilah’s house. Nurilah took one look at the pair as they walked through the door and headed to the sick room. “Get in here,” she said shortly while she began stripping the sheets off the bed and heading back into the kitchen to full bowls of water and gather extra sheets. Ihloden placed the man down as gently as he could on the mattress. Together they went to work swiftly; striping the body for the torn and blood soaked clothes. Ihloden took in a deep breath as the sight of the man’s body. There was six large and deep puncture wounds extending from the ribs down to his hip; in a lazy curve. What was worst was that they were oozing a thick dark stream of blood.
Nurilah whistled softly at the sight and nodded for them to switch places so that she was at the puncture wounds. “You take care of the rest of wounds,” she said in a low grim voice, “I am going to see what I can do about these.” Ihloden tried not to look as Nurilah flicked out a small knife and began cleaning the holes. It was getting him nauseous. As he began to explore the rest of the man’s body; he did not feel any better. Whatever had happened to him; it was clear that the Fangor had gotten an easy meal.
There was huge and nasty gash behind the man’s head, extending from ear to ear with part of the scalp ripped off. Ihloden swallowed back down the bile as he wiped the black blood off the ragged flesh. When he was done with that he placed a thick bandage behind the head and started to attend to the smaller gashes on the man’s face and arms.
“I think he was whipped by branches as well,” he said, as he yanked out splinters of wood from the man’s hands. “These cuts all have grass and twigs lodged in them.”
Nurilah glanced up at him, “Looks like he was trying to grab onto something with the wood stuck into his hands. His finger nails are also broken.”
Ihloden winced when he saw the broken remains of the man’s fingers. They looked like raw red stumps. “It must have happened when he got caught by the Fangor,” Ihloden mused, soaking each finger before he pulled out splinters from under the man’s nails. Nurilah was already back to her work, “Thank goodness that he is unconscious,” she said. They both shared a brief ‘You know what this would have been like if he was awake,’ look and then went back to their grisly tasks.
Nurilah finished finally and wiped the sweat from her face with her sleeve. Ihloden rubbed his head too, only then realizing how hot and sweaty he was. He saw Nurilah staring at the man.
“His ribs are broken,” she said softly. Ihloden swallowed hard. Nothing was said while she held the ribs carefully and wrenched them back into place. The man jerked every time she yanked and there was one heart stopping moment when the young man stopped breathing and the carefully set ribs got moved out of place again while Nurilah applied her chest pumping actions to get his heart back beating. Then they worked back to set the ribs and then bind them tightly, re- checked the man’s many gashes and finally the head wounds; then they set out medicines for the fever watch. All that was left was to see if he would make it through the night.
“I met him in Overed,” Ihloden said sitting down wearily at the table, “He insulted me in the streets. That is all that I know of him.”
“Well he is travelling as someone he is not,” she mused, sitting opposite to him, “His clothes says ‘ordinary traveller’. However his face and body says otherwise. ‘Nobleman’ but not very likable nobleman since he has some old scars on his body. And apparently he has to be able to defend himself, because his body is well defined for a noble life, or maybe he just has a whim to know how to fight.”
“I guess we will know when he gets up,” Ihloden said passing his hand roughly over his face. He glanced out the window; it was already heading well into the dusk-dark of the evening, “I am going home to tell my folks that I will be staying here for an indefinite length of time. Then I will be back.”
Nurilah smiled a little and nodded; “Ihloden, what you are doing it is for the best.”
Ihloden got up and headed for the door, “But it does not make doing it any less easy or makes me feel any better. I am after all, still being a liar.”
“You and me both,” she replied. He nodded and sighed and closed the door behind him.
It did not take much to convince his family to let him stay over at Nurilah to help with the night watch. “Be careful Ihloden,” his mother said laying her hand on his shoulder. He could see the worry in her eyes. He knew that the memory of his own fevered nights were still fresh in her mind. He reached over and hugged her.
“I will be careful mother,” he said into her hair.
Shila also patted his shoulder, “I wonder why he was here,” she mused, “It is a long way from Overed.”
“I was wondering that as well,” Ihloden admitted, “But we will have to make sure he stays alive in order to find out how he got caught by a Fangor.” They both nodded and waved to him as he left the house and headed back up the road to Nurilah’s.
The first two days went along as well as could be expected. They were able to keep the fever from rising and the only real problem was that the young man kept tossing and as a result the wound on the back of his head kept opening up. They spent more sheets on his head than on any other wounds. He had felt the Griffin seeking him out through that weird contact that they had now and he sent an ‘I am alright,’ feeling along their contact. He tried not to let any other emotion go through, since he did not want to worry it and risk it being seen if it decided to come and look for him. He then put the Griffin out of his mind and went back to the task of trying to keep the man alive. It was on the third night that things came to a head. The man had grown still during the day. His skin color had changed almost drastically from his normal, sick pale white, to an almost deathly pale white. His lips were also very pale. Nurilah had not left his side at all, but sent Ihloden to get everything for her. When he had gotten back from washing and hanging up the sheets the man’s breathing had become fast and shallow. Nurilah looked up and him and shook her head. “It does not look like we are in for a good night,” she mused.
The young man was tossing fitfully on the bed. They sat on either side of him sponging water over his body and wiping it down, the cloth warming up after only a few swipes. Ihloden tried not to look at the dark red stain at the head of the mattress where the young man’s blood had formed an almost permanent stain. He winced every time the man turned his head from side to side, and a fresh streak of blood was seen. He stopped long enough to open the bandage and re-tie it firmly around the wounds. Nurilah had the dismal task of keeping puncture wound under control. The holes were starting to turn a greenish color and the smell of them was enough to make him gag every time he got wind of it. He didn’t know how Nurilah was standing being so close to them.
It was hot and stuffy inside the room, despite the fact that all the windows were tied open and the door was also open. Ihloden tried to shrug off the beads of sweat that rolled down his back and chest. He saw Nurilah wasn’t doing any better than he was. Nurilah looked at Ihloden, “I may have to clean these again,” she said. He nodded as she began to peel the skin off when the young man suddenly gave a soft but high pitched scream and his body shot straight up from the bed. Ihloden rocked back on the chair falling over. The man began to convulse.
Nurilah dropped the knife and shouted, “Ihloden get up and help me get him down!” Ihloden sat there in shock for a few seconds, the convulsing body sending shivers down his spine. He then shook himself and sprang up from the floor and grabbed the man. The man’s body was stiff and almost too hot to hold. He strained against the man to push him back down on the bed. He heard Nurilah grunt herself. The man then gave a strangled sigh and flopped back down. Unfortunate they were both still holding the strain against the man. They collapsed on the man with short grunts. They sprang off the man quickly and Nurilah gave an exasperated cry and beagn feeling along his ribs. “They are out again,” she sighed and then while Ihloden held down the man as best he could; she set back the ribs. They both sat back on the chair and looked at each other. “This is going to be a long night,” Nurilah sighed again.
Dawn found them both still trying to help the man fight for his life. They paused long enough to try to rub the sleep from their eyes before emptying the warm and bloody water from the basins and refilling them. Ihloden tried to speak to the trees in a moment when he had a few seconds to himself, but they were strangely silent. He shrugged and went back into the house, to find Nurilah rubbing her face vigorously. “You should go out and take a walk,” he said. She nodded and stepped out of the room. The young man had stopped moving now. His breath was still shallow and quick while his lips remained dry despite the water that they fed him. It was not a good sign. He reached over and began to wipe the man down again. Suddenly a wave of question and concern rolled over him.
“Griffin!” he exclaimed. The Griffin butted up against the window, it head was too big to fit in it. “Sorry I did not come to see you,” Ihloden apologized, “I was a bit busy.” He moved aside for the Griffin to see the young man on the bed. “He was attacked by a Fangor. We don’t know why he was in the wood.” He said in reply to another wave to questioning emotions. The Griffin watched as he went back to wiping down the boy. A few minutes passed then the Griffin sent a wave of emotion to him. He felt compelled to go to the Griffin. He looked back at it, but it was not looking at him. Its gaze was focused on the man. The emotion came stronger. He looked from the man to the Griffin confused. The Griffin kept its gaze on the man, sending the compelling emotion again.
“You want me to bring him to you?” Ihloden asked incredulously. The Griffin affirmed his sentence. Nurilah walked in just then.
She started then gave a short laugh, “Griffin what are you doing here? It is not very safe you know.”
“He wants me to bring this guy out to him,” Ihloden said.
“Why?” she asked, moving to the young man and checking his temperature. Ihloden shrugged. The Griffin gave a short screech and a wave of annoyance ran through Ihloden. “He really wants us to do this,” he said.
Nurilah shrugged this time, “Well let’s take him then.”
The Griffin sent a strong wave of relief through Ihloden, enough to make him feel almost dizzy. Nurilah held the man under the armpits and Ihloden took his legs, and they walked gently, step by step moving the young man out the house and toward the Griffin. They laid the man down on the grass in front of the Griffin. The young man’s breath was coming faster now and even shallower than before. The Griffin turned to the side and spread its wings over the young man and sat down, so that the wings covered the man, from head to foot. Suddenly Ihloden knew what it was doing. It was the same thing that the Griffin did for him that night when he was attacked by the Lady and the blue fire. It was healing him.
“Ihloden…” Nurilah began but Ihloden reached up and patted her shoulder.
“It will be alright,” he said smiling, “He knows what he is doing.”
Nurilah looked him then at the Griffin and nodded. Just then the Griffin raised its wings and got up. Nurilah knelt as the young man’s side as the Griffin stepped aside. Ihloden walked to Griffin and patted its head. She looked up at them surprised.
“His fever is broken!” she exclaimed. The Griffin nodded to her and gave a smug screech. The young man gave a low groan and his eyelids began to flicker. The Griffin gave another short screech and began heading back quickly into the Forest. Nurilah and Ihloden equally quickly, took the young man up the way they had before and carried him back into the house.