After he aided Gabriella in smearing the salve on Fiona’s arm and rewrapping it, he helped attend to Derrick. Although Derrick’s wounds manifested tamer qualities than Fiona’s arm, Rick knew their severity outmatched hers. Gabriella explained that the Kin’keska blade had sliced to the bone and that with providence and prudence, Derrick’s sword arm would heal correctly. She poured that stinging medicine on both of Derrick’s wounds, forcing Rick to wince as he watched Derrick’s jaw flex stoically and hiss with pain through clenched teeth. If only they were at home, they could have rode in ambulances to the hospital and Fiona and Derrick would be good as new. Course, if they were home, none of this would ever have happened in the first place.
Wordlessly, he watched as Gabriella drew down the bed fur just enough to reveal the dreadful wound on Derrick’s hip. She removed the bandage and competently smeared the salve into it. Training his attention on Derrick, it perturbed him awfully to witness someone as huge and… formidable almost, as Derrick laying there writhing in pain, his fingernails leaving imprints in the flesh of his calloused palms from not screaming.
Suddenly the connection between life and death had assumed a whole new significance for Rick, cringing in sympathy. Before, death loomed as only some vaguely imagined event that took place ideally at about age ninety-eight or so, after an entire web of family had been spun and retirement had commenced. You golfed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, played tennis on Wednesdays, fished on weekends, played Bingo on Fridays, visited with your children and grandkids on the holidays, traveled through the summer months with your white-haired, conservatively dressed wife, and when you finally went, it was by heart attack, or, with luck, in your sleep.
But this – just an inch up and over on that hip wound, and they would have dug a grave yesterday. Or two, from blood loss, if Andrew and Elise hadn’t been so quick on their feet. Any of them could have died, before they were even old enough to vote. Vote! Elise wasn’t even old enough to attain her restricted license, much less vote! Elise, however, was lucky - she had a Get Out of Deep Shit Free card – Fiaz. But even Fiaz couldn’t halt a chance arrow.
Rick mutely placed the bandaging and salve up on the shelf (Gabriella explained that the purpose of the salve was to keep wounds from scarring). She gave the bloody bandages to Elise, who had positioned herself well away from Derrick’s bed while Gabriella attended to the wound on his hip. Rick had teased her yesterday about the quite palpable shade of scarlet her face turned when he and Andrew started to pull off Derrick’s bloody shorts and boxers to clean him off; she had rather hastily retreated to the kitchen, much to their amusement.
Gabriella directed Elise to take the bandages far, far into the forest and burn them, and then meet them behind the stable. Rick knew the reason for the journey into the deeper part of the forest – to deter wild animals from sniffing around too close to home.
Calling Andrew to her then, Gabriella outlined her plan to clean out the Kin’keska wagon they’d left behind the cabin yesterday. As Rick began to follow them out the door, Gabriella turned to him and said,
“You I would like to make some more of the herb bread that we made last evening.”
Chagrined, and slightly disgusted, Rick tried not to sulk. “I had planned to help you unload the wagon.”
“No, lad. I would not see you injure your sword arm further,” she returned gently.
But the best thing for a sprain is strengthening, as his coach always preached, Rick thought. He’d sprained his wrist a thousand times since Little League and all Coach ever did was wrap it tight and throw him back out on the field.
“It won’t get hurt,” Rick told her firmly, and was glad to see Gabriella hesitate. “The best thing for it is work,” he reinforced in his coach’s words. Standing his ground, he looked into her contemplative jade eyes and saw surprise along with hesitation and recognized his triumph. She permitted him a quick nod and breezed out the door, tossing her braid over her shoulder, leaving him to relish his small victory.