Bleed for Me

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Chapter 12 - Calix

It’s very early morning when they find me, barely conscious and crusted with blood in the narrow alley where I was deposited.

As I am carried tenderly back to the ship, there are gasps and shouts taut with anger. My muddied and humbled mind picks out Athro Tiernan’s voice, Rorik’s, Soren’s….

Sharp pain cuts across my body as I am laid in the sickbay. One of my eyes is swollen shut.

“Lay back, Calix. You’re safe now, you can sleep.” The Athro’s voice is rough and low as he stands above me. I vaguely see the ship doctor hustle over. She slips something between my lips.

“Swallow.”

I do. I sleep.

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It feels an eternity in the darkness of broken dreams. A vague rocking of the ship holds me fast in the scape of my imagination, hypnotic.

When the world sweeps me back into reality, it’s warm. A haze of candlelight rides on the air. Before I move I’m cozy, snuggled in soft, warm sheets. But as soon as I take a breath, the ravaged wreck of my body rears its head.

My chest sears with the first deep breath I take. Reaching up instinctively, I cry out. My wrist throbs and pain rises swiftly up my back, seeping into my head.

“Aurmumgh,” I groan, trying to ease the pain.

“Lay still.” A woman stands from a chair in the darkened corner. Gently, her hands tenderly but firmly push me back onto the sheets. “I’m going to get you something for the pain. Rest, and be still.” She strides from the room.

Athro Teirnan follows when she returns.

“Calix.” He pulls a stool to my bed. The ship doctor searches through a shelf of ointments and jars of herbs. She selects one and joins Athro Teirnan at my bedside. Deftly, her fingers rub a cool ointment across my forehead. Blinking, I sigh in relief. The coolness seems to radiate, flowing into my wounds, easing the fire in my ribs, the throbbing of my wrist.

“Better?” The ship doctor smiles.

“Yes,” I gasp, relaxing into the mattress.

“I’m Aleria. Call me if your pain worsens again.”

“Thank you.” Aleria leaves. I look to the athro. Sudden tears spring to my eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper.

“Calix,” his hard face has turned sympathetic. “What did they do to you…?”

“They….I was coming back to the ship. Somehow they recognized me as - as a Warrior Dancer. An official, I assume…. He told them to lay off. To get me back here safely. But as soon as he was gone they…. They were all over me.” I pause. “I tried to stay awake, to…. Athro. I won’t be able to dance, will I?”

The athro looks at me for a long time. “No, Cal. I’m sorry. Not for a long while.” A stone falls into my stomach. It feels as if liquid lead is closing over my lungs, encasing them until I am frozen mid-breath. “I -”

“I won’t let you, Calix. If you’ve a hope of recovering to dance out the rest of this war, you need to stay here on the ship, resting.”

I can’t keep back the tears. “Athro, I - I -”

“Calix you will stay in this bed if you know what’s good for you.” His serious manner returns. He stands and looks as if he’s about to reach out to touch my shoulder. But he turns to the door and leaves.

I try and calm my tears, holding them to small hiccups. Every spasm shoots pain up my chest, lancing through my body, making me gasp. Tears squeeze from my swollen eye and I gingerly wipe them away.

I stare into the face of endless weeks ship-bound, danceless, and teamless.

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Tiago is at my bedside when I wake. I shift positions painfully. My muscles are stiff.

“I brought you a bit of food,” he says roughly and hands me a plate of meat smothered in gravy.

I take it with my uninjured arm. “Thank you.” A second flops by. “How is everyone?”

“Well,” sighing, Tiago tells me about the others. Their anger at the attack. That night when the athro had to call the crew members to hold the team back from storming the streets for the commoners that did it.

“Athro Teirnan is furious. As soon as he was assured by Aleria that you were taken care of he went to the authorities of Rushes.” Tiago stops.

“And?”

“They’ve refused to apologize. Refused to compensate us for - anything. The chief actually…. Well, he actually said you deserved it. That it got you, eh, ‘out of the way.’”

“What?! I didn’t do anything! I - ”

“I know!” He lays a hand on my arm, trying to calm me.” This province of Icenäe doesn’t want to be involved. That’s why we were treated so well up north. They figure if we’re treated well we’ll dance and leave.”

“Tiago, I can’t dance anymore. For a while. Maybe…. Maybe ever.”

“Cal,” he softens. “Cal, you’re going to be fine. You’re going to dance again. What, you’ve got a few broken ribs and some bruises?” I don’t correct him. “Five or six weeks from now, you’ll be back out dancing with us.”

I smile a little and give a minimal nod.

“Get some rest, Cal.” Tiago tilts his chin in respect and walks out.

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