Winds of Change

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“Mix the moonshadow and the honeyclover with enough water to make a paste and add a pinch of each of these,” Gabriella set four or five earthenware jars of herbs down on the wooden table. “Make sure they are evenly distributed before you apply the poultice.”

“Me? Apply it?” Fiona squeaked. Putting a poultice on a human was one thing, but a zary’andu?

“It will staunch the blood and help to prevent infection,” Gabriella explained impatiently. She was pulling her heavy gloves back on.

“But – where are you going?” She didn’t want to be responsible for all this herself....

“To the stable. I must secure it and make sure the iros are supplied with enough feed to see them through the blizzard. Hurry up,” she snapped as she left the kitchen.

Fiona jumped and began to mix equal parts of the moonshadow and honeyclover together. Numbly, she blended the mixture together. It was so shocking to see Fiaz wounded... he was so strong and imposing. A nasty wound slashed down his shoulder but how he had received it, she didn’t know. Fighting with a limba, apparently.

Abruptly the water began to boil noisily behind her. She grabbed the kettle from off the hook, trying not to burn herself in the process. Hurriedly Fiona assembled the last of the poultice mixture and carried it with the rest of the water to the hearth.

She set everything down in front of her patient, who was stationed before the fire, drying his fur and licking his less significant scratches. Taking a deep breath, Fiona peered closely at the wound and felt her stomach grow queasy. Sharp claws had raked deep through his black fur into his shoulder. Vaguely, she wondered why Fiaz had allowed that; most of the forest creatures seemed to bow in respect and awe to him.

He turned his massive head to gaze at her. She looked into his amber eyes and saw there a strange combination of pain, patience, and pity. Quickly, she looked away, her cheeks flushing. Undoubtedly, he knew what a bumbling amateur she was. She took another deep breath and tried to assume Gabriella’s brisk attitude as she wrung a warm wet doeskin cloth free of water.

Striving to keep her hands from shaking, Fiona applied the cloth to the wound, wiping away excess blood gently. Damn! Her hand was still shaking. Well, small wonder. He could bite her head off and hardly notice.

“What happened?” she murmured, hoping to distract her mind from thoughts of mauling.

“A limba. She thought that because we were in her territory, we lured one of her cubs away,” Elise explained.

“Mmm,” Fiona replied vaguely, wondering why Gabriella was taking so long. She rinsed the cloth and continued. “So she attacked you.” If she kept them talking, maybe they wouldn’t notice how inept she was, how badly her hands were shaking.

As they told her the story, she cursed Gabriella for taking so long. It looked as if she would have to apply the poultice herself. She closed her eyes briefly and prayed for composure, trying to slow her racing heart and shaking hands.

Taking yet another deep breath, she rolled up her sleeves. Okay. She hadn’t dealt with a major wound like this before, just scrapes and bruises, and a sprain of Rick’s in the fall. Blood, however, was a different story, blood was a reminder of Cedric....

Oh, no you don’t! Not here and not now! Steeling herself, Fiona gently sponged a small amount of the poultice mixture into Fiaz’s wound. Had he flinched? She couldn’t tell; the zary’andu turned his head away. With luck, Gabriella would get back in time to take over for her. More blood oozed out of the wound. She wiped it away. She had to keep talking – she couldn’t give in to fear. Above all else, she couldn’t faint, like she had after the Kin’keska attack. Strangely, she didn’t feel light-headed at all, which she counted as a blessing. But she had to keep talking. Fiona tried Elise’s sardonic approach.

“So you played the hero and rescued her lost cub for her at expense to your own life. How gallant of you. And naturally you get all the praise and glory,” she said with a small smile. “Males will do anything for a good ego trip.” Sighing dramatically, she dabbed more of the poultice mixture into the wound.

-- You see how she expressed her gratitude... rather typical of females, don’t you think? -- Fiaz’s rich voice resonated through her mind, faintly amused. She smiled in return for the comment and for the fact that the job was almost over. Actually, she quite admired Fiaz. He could have simply killed the limba, gone home to a warm fire, and so what about a lost cub out in a blizzard, but instead he calmed the mother out of her hysteria and joined her search for her lost cub, even after sustaining this gruesome wound in front of her. She found that if she concentrated on one small part of the wound instead of the entire thing, she was much calmer....

Fiaz flinched – this time for sure – causing her to smear the mixture on his fur. She didn’t care to know just how painful this was for him; she only hoped that what she was doing didn’t hurt any more than strictly necessary.

“Stop moving,” she murmured to Fiaz, aware of everyone watching her. At least her hands had stopped shaking so much.

Fiaz turned his head to look at her just as she applied more of the mixture to the worst part of the wound.

“Stop moving,” Fiona repeated – all that movement was breaking her dearly won concentration.

-- Have you, perchance, had this concoction poured into a wound of your own? -- Fiaz inquired sourly.

-- Could you, perchance, stop moving? I don’t want this to hurt you any more than necessary. -- Fiona replied absently. Just a little more to go, no thanks to Gabriella. How hard was it to feed a few beasts and lock up a stable?

-- It stings, -- came Fiaz’s somewhat sulky reply.

Ah. Fiona relaxed, having covered the entire wound. Now the only obstacle remaining was to place the doeskin over the mixture, which would keep the wound covered without allowing infection to set in. Yet in a way this was worse, for she would have to apply pressure.

“Fiaz,” she said, the name sounding strange on her lips, “this is definitely going to hurt.” No use trying to sugarcoat the obvious.

He looked back calmly at her as though she had told him she’d been out for a stroll. Well, okay. Did zary’andu ever faint, she wondered offhandedly. Fiona took a deep breath and pressed the doeskin gently but firmly to the wound. Fiaz, thankfully, didn’t move, though his tail lashed once.

Was she done? She let out her breath slowly, not having realized she’d held it. She was done. May I never have to do that again, she thought.

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