She awakened a little at a time. She was warm, almost too warm, and she felt as though she’d lain in the same position for marks. She found that her eyes remained reluctant to open. Sounds of movement around her forced her to peer through her lashes a little at a time finally, mainly because she didn’t know where she was, nor hardly who.
It looked like a cabin. There was a woman with long red hair, plaited in a braid down her back, with wisps framing her face. What was her name? The woman turned around and looked down at Fiona. Recognition yielded to memory. Fiona looked down at herself. There was a strange bandage on her left arm, a thick one, she saw as she examined it more closely.
“A nasty wound,” said Gabriella as she approached Fiona and knelt down to examine the bandage herself. “Knife wounds are always nasty.”
Fiona hissed with sudden pain as Gabriella turned her arm over gently and untucked the strange bandage. Unwinding it just twice revealed bright splotches of blood; she stared at it dazedly. Had such a severe injury ever been dealt her before? The fog which engulfed her discouraged lucid comprehension. She didn’t believe so, though.
She glanced up at Gabriella, who seemed to be pondering something.
“It’s time to change your bandage. Can you hold your arm just so?” Gabriella asked.
Fiona nodded and watched Gabriella disappear into the kitchen. Why was everything so hazy?
“Hey, you made it.”
Fiona looked up as a shadow crossed her sunlit bed furs. Rick stood above her, with a bandage of his own wound around his right wrist. He squatted down next to her then, as if he knew that his having eclipsed the morning sunlight coming in from the window hurt her eyes.
“We were wondering about you. We thought you were stoned on something til we saw you needed bandaging,” he teased gently.
Fiona smiled wanly, but privately wondered what had happened to make them think that.... Of course! The fight, the fight with the Kin’keska people. It’s a knife wound I’ve got, she realized in mild astonishment.
“Actually, come to look at you, you might be stoned after all,” Rick grinned as he cocked an eye and peered into her face. Goodness knew, she definitely felt stoned. “You’ve been out since yesterday, you know.”
Fiona groaned as she attempted to sit up. Stiff as a board. And hot. She pushed half of her bed fur off with her good hand and looked helplessly at her bandaged arm, still posed in the air where Gabriella had left it.
“Move the covers? No problem,” Rick pulled the other half back. Ahhh, air… that felt so good. Just then, Gabriella returned, with strange absorbent material in her hands. She squatted down next to Rick and began unrolling it.
“What is that stuff?” Fiona asked.
“Doeskin,” Gabriella replied vaguely, as she handed it to Rick. She tossed her braid over her shoulder and gently began unraveling Fiona’s bandage, revealing a bright splotch of blood that spread wider in circumference with each unwinding, some dried, some fresh. Fiona found that her arm started to sting, increasing in intensity as less and less pressure covered it. Finally, Gabriella revealed the last layer of bandage covering her wound. Gabriella eyed Fiona speculatively.
“Do you faint easily?”
Faint? I’ve never - well, yes I have fainted, come to think of it, thought Fiona, recalling a hazy memory of her twin brother laying in a pool of blood…. Was that easily? Did she shake her head or only think she had?
“Then hold very still. This is going to hurt,” Gabriella instructed her frankly. She turned to Rick. “Have you prepared the salve?” When Rick nodded, producing a small earthenware pot, Gabriella directed her attention back to Fiona. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” she replied apprehensively, wondering why this was going to hurt so much. She watched as Gabriella grasped the last layer of bandage and painstakingly peeled it off, a little bit at a time.
Pain lanced through her arm – the bandage had stuck to her wound. She gasped in pain and screwed her eyes shut. She could feel the bandage pulling the wound open again, causing blood to well forth. Something soft blotted it, absorbing the blood. Fiona opened her eyes cautiously and peeked down at her arm. What she beheld took her breath away.
She was, after a few moments of stunned scrutiny, reminded of the summer her sister had broken her arm. While awaiting a doctor’s attention, they sat in the waiting room, where Fiona came face to face with her first heroin addict. His arms looked like hers did now - raw and gaping and discolored. She carefully took a breath and swung her narrowed gaze away, folding her lips in with resentment. She had seen enough.
“Now I’m going to pour some of this in your wound,” Gabriella informed her. “The Kin’keska blade bore only traces of poison on it. Had you been exposed to more than that, you would be in extremely grave condition, for the poison spreads quickly and while I possess some of the Healing arts, I am neither Adept nor even Master; here in the Illyth, my skills are limited indeed. Make no mistake, this will burn, but it will counter-affect the poison and infection.”
Fiona nodded curtly, for already she burned inside for this encroachment, this infringement, this... abuse of her body, her life had been treated with complete reckless abandon. How could people be so rash, so callous with other people’s lives? What kind of person so easily killed for no reason? A poisoned blade…. She would have continued to smolder, had the medicine that Gabriella used then not seared through her hotter than her anger itself….