Being Enslaved is really awkward. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t want to go along with Xander’s invitation to join him at the church, but was it my own will or me bending to the suggestion of an order? It just felt weird, second guessing my own intentions. But either way, there I was, walking down the street with Aase and Mercedes.
It was one of the side street thoroughfares. Well traveled enough for there to be shops with, oh, that thing in the window is cute. But nothing really nice, meant to get the attention of traveling merchants or the like. Just a mid-sized town’s market avenue, trying to entice people’s wallets on their way to the church. Not doing a very good job of it judging by how beat up the exteriors are, though. And not all that much foot traffic today, except for a knot of people.
Huh. It’s almost like they’re gathered around, gawking at something…
People are breaking off, with new people joining in, so I wasn’t able to see what was on the ground until the three of us were within eavesdropping distance of the people.
“You didn’t hear? He got in the way of some of Nigeman’s group.”
“No helping him then. You’d think people’d learn.”
Huh? Sounded strangely like… Oh, I hoped I was wrong.
“Pardon me,” I said to the crowd, trying to push through without jostling anyone. “I’m a Healer, could you let me through, please?”
I heard an exasperated chuckle from Aase behind me as she moved ahead of me and started pushing people out of my way. I was a moment away from thanking Aase when she cried, “Xander!” and dove forward. I used the hole Aase left behind to dive in after her.
“Oh, Goddess,” I whispered.
I took in Xander’s entire body in one expertly trained glance as it lay there on its back, and it was horrible. Xander’s face was covered in a mixture of dirt and his own blood, with discolored dirt pooled around his head. Xander’s face was nearly unrecognizable, his nose was smashed flat and his jaw was obviously broken in at least two places. There also seemed to be dents in his skull. There was a lack of blood around the rest of Xander’s body, but there was extremely heavy bruising present on his arms, defensive wounds which may indicate bone fractures or clean breaks, and boot prints all over the torso, which could mean a dozen different extremely dangerous types of injuries to the internals.
But those could wait, the head and spine came first.
“Don’t touch him,” I snapped at Aase as she was dropping to probably try and shake Xander awake. I’ll apologise to her for it later. “We can’t move him until I have him stabilized, so just hang back for a bit.”
Aase stammered something about a stretcher as I got down on my knees over Xander and pulled out my gloves for treatment. First thing to do was to sense the condition of the spinal column, because any damage there would be the most difficult to heal. I touched Xander’s neck lightly to make physical contact for the sensing, and the quartz diagram on the back of my gloves instantly overloaded and shattered.
“Oh, no,” I mumbled to myself. I looked around, startled, panicked to make sure no one heard that, especially Aase. The fastest way to a medical disaster was if people thought there’s something wrong with the healer. It’s why we have to pretend to be in control at all times. Thankfully Aase was haranguing the nearby people to bring a door, but none of them looked like they were going to cooperate. Okay, while Aase’s still distracted, let’s pretend things were still fine.
I made physical contact with Xander again, and focused more than I would normally have needed to to check the condition of the spine. No apparent damage. Well, at least that’s some good news.
“What can I do to help,” asked Aase, who got on her knees on the opposite side of Xander. Aase was probably emotionally torn up, I could see worry, fear, and probably some anger in her, but she was still instantly looking for a way to help the situation. Haaa, I really wish I could be that capable.
“Please stay on standby, I’m still diagnosing,” I replied, trying to sound firm.
I moved to the skull next. Normally I’d be able to sense the entire head with a single scan, but without a working pair of healing gloves everything was more difficult, more time consuming, and requires more magic for every act. But the expenditure was worth it, as I got a good look at the damage to the skull.
“Oh, Goddess,” I muttered absently. Six breaks, and a seventh where the bone splintered. There would definitely be secondary damage there. I instantly focus on the worst break and it’s surroundings, focusing my eyes there as though I could see through the blood matted hair of Xander’s head. In a way, I could, and I always regret doing so. I could see/feel/know the damage the splintered bone had done. The shards that had lacerated the skin from below to pool blood under the surface to create pressure which deformed the flesh and formed the bruising patterns only I could see. Worse were the shards that had penetrated downward, cutting into Xander’s grey matter. I had to push my magic into each individual shard and guide them back out from the brain, back into place under the scalp. It felt like an eternity, and I could already feel sweat beading on my forehead. I’d gotten down to the last shard when Xander hacked up some foaming blood and began shuddering, his hands twitching like they were trying to grab onto something.
“Hold him down,” I told Aase without looking at her. “By the shoulders, I need him steady!”
I took a harder grip of Xander’s head to keep it from flailing while I finished the task. But it felt like the shard was hooked into something. I really didn’t want to think what it was, but I had to sense it, find that one point, and then pushed against it with my magic to get the splinter free without tearing. When I did, Xander’s eyes fluttered, and there was blood pooled in his left eye beneath the swollen bruises. His eyes were unfocused, but they somehow moved around, almost like Xander was taking stock of his surroundings, and then they looked at me.
The splinter came free and I pushed it back into place with my magic; Xander’s eyelids snapped shut again. I exhaled a shuddering breath, taking note that Xander was no longer convulsing as I did so and used my magic to re-fuse that part of the skull back together. It was a costly expenditure of my magic, but I couldn’t let the bone penetrate the brain again. Speaking of, I used more magic to treat the brain matter under the break, making sure that the damage was reversed and there would be no lasting effects.
Oh, Goddess, please let there be no lasting effects. I’d die of misery if I was the cause of someone’s lasting brain damage.
With that done I did some pinpoint scans of the brain under the other cracks in the skull. I couldn’t feel any more brain damage, short of low level bruising. If Xander takes it easy over the next few days without undue stress, that much damage will just heal itself. One last check, and then I’ll move on from the skull. I wasn’t happy with the other cracks, but I had to choose my battles, at least until I’d finished with the full work up. I lightly turned Xander’s head out of some misguided muscle memory, thinking I needed to actually see the injury site with my eyes to see it with magic. When I did, a trickle of blood flowed out from Xander’s ear.
“Intracranial hemorrhage,” I said to myself, horrified.
Aase said something, or asked something, but I couldn’t listen. I refocused myself to sense blood and blood vessels. Feeling the flow of blood is harder than sensing tissue, because tissue isn’t in constant motion. It took time and effort to find pockets of blood that were pooling, that weren’t going where it should. It took even more time to trace that blood back to the vessel it leaked from. Time and magic, both of which I was running short of.
After I heard another of Xander’s coughs, expelling foamy blood from his mouth, I found the ruptured vessel. The fix was easy and fast, with very little expense of magic. The clean up was going to be the hard part. I didn’t have any tools, especially not a drill. I couldn’t tap the skull to relieve the pressure of the blood, and leaving it there to slowly dribble out into the ear canal was not an option.
“No way around it,” I muttered. Aase asked what I was talking about, but I couldn’t spare the time to respond, I’ll have to apologize later.
I refocused, and let the world around me fall away. There was nothing to me but myself and the accumulated blood in Xander’s head. I dug deep inside myself, inside my magic reservoir, and my magic moved. It felt like I was radiating light, and I probably was, as I moved the massive amount of magic I needed in order to perform the procedure. I enwrapped and infused the blood with my magic as I formed the spell. And starting from the edges of the pool, encroached upon it more and more. The physical nature of the blood was changed. The blood was no longer a fluid liquid under pressure, I forced it to become an intangible gas that could flow through solid structures without sticking to or harming it in any way. I could see it happen, the blood shining like a ruby and breaking away in a crimson steam, lifting up and being caught by the wind, to be swept away to the far corners of the world. When the last of the hemorrhaged blood dispersed, I let the world flow back into my consciousness again, and sagged a bit, drained magically and physically from the process.
In any normal triage center, this would be the time when healers would switch places, giving the exhausted healer a chance to rest while the fresh one took on the rest of the operation. But I didn’t have that luxury. There was still more to do.
More slowly, almost sluggishly, I looked over Xander’s head again. The bleeding from the cuts were not serious enough to require immediate healing, and as long as treatment was administered within the next forty eight hours, there should be no scarring. The nose was worrisome, it had been nearly flattened and still had some blood trickling from it, but on the list of priorities, it was still low. The jaw, too, was worrisome, but the torso was much more important.
I started with a scan of the rib cage and the collarbone. There was no damage to the collarbone, but the ribcage was heavily abused by whatever happened. Breaks and fractures everywhere, but oddly, none of the ribs had punctured anything important. Thank the Goddess for that at least, but how did it happen?
Maybe it was a subliminal plea from my body for me to take it easy on my magic reservoir, but I spent a little time analyzing Xander’s condition instead of moving onto the next scan right away. Almost with a start, I noticed that the footprints on Xander’s shirt were almost equally spaced out. Whoever did that to Xander, it seemed like instead of focusing their assault on individual locations, they aimed at places they hadn’t kicked yet. Maybe it was a subliminal act, striking at the parts of Xander’s white shirt that had not yet been dirtied by their boots. Whatever it was, it thankfully spread the damage out instead of accumulating it to a positively fatal degree. And as long as it’s not fatal, I could work with it.
Xander hacked up some more foamy blood from his mouth.
Ah! Tissue scans!
I had to make sure the organs were not too damaged. Accumulated soft tissue damage could cause major organs to rupture and go septic. If that happened, treatment would turn into a war of attrition that I would almost certainly lose. I have to catch those problems before they spread!
Xander hacked up some more foamy blood before I’d finished. Being without my gloves was causing the process to be more difficult and time consuming than I’d feared it would be. But the internal damage to the organs was only minimal to moderate, all within acceptable treatment measures. They would hurt like hell, but that was what painkillers were for.
Xander coughed up more foamy blood, and then more. The frequency was increasing?
“That’s not right,” I said to myself. I shouldn’t have of course, I was tired, and Aase audibly became worried. But it wasn’t right. There were no ruptures or punctures in the lungs. But if Xander kept coughing like that, there was a very real danger that his lung spasms would cause a rib to puncture them. I had to find out where the blood was coming from, quickly. But my magic reservoir was going dry, fast. I didn’t have enough to do a thorough scan of the windpipe to find the leak, I was going to have to make some educated guesses.
Using only my eyes this time, I couldn’t spare the magic to scan, I trailed up from Xander’s chest, which I knew was not causing the problem. There was no indication of damage on the throat, and the first scans of the spine showed no damage. If Xander had been struck in the windpipe, there would be indications. No, moving on.
The jaw was next. The jaw was obviously broken, meaning there was a high likelihood that there were further wounds in the mouth caused by the break that were leaking blood into the airways. I unhesitatingly placed my fingers on the jaw, and started guiding the bone back into place, and fused the materials together. I couldn’t spare the magic for a full re-fusing like I had with the skull before, but I bonded the jaw together in a way that there shouldn’t be any long term complications if Xander takes it easy. I can of course come back later for full treatment after I’d finished healing the ribcage, but that might take a while. Hopefully this will take care of the problem.
Xander hacked up another batch of foaming blood.
Okay, I’ll admit, I was panicking a little bit now. My reservoir was nearly dry, and I still hadn’t fixed it! I can’t lose this patient, not after all this! What was left was- the broken nose!
I bent down, directly into Xander’s face and looked fiercely into the nostrils of Xander’s broken nose. I couldn’t hear any air moving through the nostrils, but with a broken nose that didn’t really mean much. The secondary swelling from a break could entirely shut the pathway. But then again-
I looked hard at the blood stains on Xander’s face. Some of them had definitely come from the nose, and not all of the blood there was dry. I tentatively lifted Xander’s head forward, and a drop of fresh blood leaked out onto the upper lips.
Good enough for me.
I dug for the last of my magic, and put it into Xander’s nose. The cartilage of a nose is far easier to heal than bone, probably because it’s so much less dense, so I was able to reform the entire nose in one go. Xander’s nose swelled back into shape like a slowly filled water bladder. For some reason, I made 100% sure that the nose wasn’t bent or crooked as I fused the broken cartilage back together. Well, I mean, it’s a nice nose. If I can make sure it’s not ruined, I will. Besides, it wasn’t a waste of my magic at all, as the secondary effect of the spell infused the soft tissues and healed the damage to a healthy extent. With this, Xander should be in the clear.
Xander suddenly convulsed, hacking and coughing.
“What,” I cried aloud. I couldn’t help it! It happened so quick, the very moment I finished healing the nose! Was it connected? It had to be connected! I healed the soft tissue that was swollen and bleeding- swollen?
Oh, Goddess! I removed the swelling that had held back a pocket of blood, and it all drained right into Xander’s airway!
Xander was convulsing more rapidly now! If I couldn’t stop it, then he’d definitely puncture his lungs! I had to get the blood out of his system! But how?! I couldn’t turn him on his side, not with those ribs. I didn’t have any tools to intubate him with. I didn’t have any magic to remove the blood with. Am I just going to have to watch Xander die?!
“What’s happening, Daphne? What’s happening?”
The insistent plies of Aase grabbed my attention and I found myself looking wonderingly into her fearful, panicking face. Then my numbed mind had the idea. If it’s her then…
“Aase,” I said, taking her hand. “Can you give some of your magic to me?”
Aase was confused by the question? That’s not good.
“Xander did it once before, when I was low on magic. He just, he kinda put his hand on my shoulder and put his magic into me. Can you try that? Take my hand and just give it a try, please?”
Aase did a sort of triple take, from me, to Xander, to me, and then took my hand.
“Okay, what do I do now,” asked Aase.
“You’re asking me? I dunno. Just, try?”
Aase nodded her head, closed her eyes, and her face looked like she was trying very hard. And from my hand came… nothing. I didn’t feel anything like I did that time with Xander. “Are you trying,” I asked, even knowing I shouldn’t.
“Yes,” exploded Aase. “I’m trying! But I don’t know what I’m suppose to be doing! Don’t you have any tips or study notes or anything?”
“I’m sorry,” I sincerely apologized. “It was a long shot, I guess. A- a shortcut.”
Oh, Goddess. Xander’s going to die. There’s nothing left I can do. I can’t magic the blood away, intubate, move him, or anything. The last thing I can try, that’s even more of a long shot, is trying to keep his lungs filled to try and slow the rate of coughing. Oh, Goddess, please, I needed a miracle at this point.
I used my already blood stained sleeve to wipe the fresh blood away from Xander’s mouth, pinched his freshly healed nose shut, and gently pressed his chin to open his mouth wider. Then I sealed his mouth with mine and blew. Xander shuddered and coughed again. I pulled away before any could spray into my own mouth, but I spat anyway to be sure.
…Was that my imagination?
Next breath, next breath!
I sealed Xander’s mouth with my own again, and breathed. Xander coughed again, but… I felt it. I definitely felt it. I pulled back to keep the bloody phlegm from striking me, but this time… I was sure I felt that same sensation when Xander transferred his magic to me. I was feeling it from making contact with his mouth? Every other part of him I’d touched didn’t have anything like that feeling. Was it because it was the mouth? Because it was technically the inside of his body? Did magic work like that? Did it work like that this time only because it was Xander, with that massive amount of magic he had? You know what? Questions for later!
I sealed Xander’s mouth again, but this time I didn’t pinch the nose shut first. This wasn’t medical treatment, it was a kiss. It was a pressured, blood tasting, nasty circumstanced kiss, where, against my best judgement, I inserted my tongue into Xander’s mouth to maximize my contact with him. And just as I was expecting, I was feeling that same sensation leeching into me from that time Xander had purposely transferred his magic.
My Aunt Cressida was the one who taught me magic, and one of the things she taught me was that magic was as unique as the person who used it. Different people could be trained to produce the same magical effects, but there would always be subtle variations based on the minds and personalities of the people who cast that magic. Aunt Cressida said that she thought that a person’s magic power itself was influenced like that as well. I had completely discounted my Aunt’s stories since those days. That was why I had thought I had just imagined that feeling the first time, that what I’d felt from the man that has just beaten a room full of people into submission was wrong. But now, feeling it from this horrible kiss a second time, I knew it was true.
As Xander’s magic leaked into me from the kiss, I could only describe it as being a ferociously gentle kindness.
…I can’t let the person with that kind of magic die!
I pulled away from Xander’s mouth and, pausing only a fraction of a second to check my reservoir, I refocused my senses on Xander’s windpipe, on the blood inside it. I let the world fall away. The ground beneath my knees, the crowd milling about me, the outraged ejaculations coming from Aase’s mouth. I pulled every last drop of magic from my body, concentrating it on the invasive blood that was choking Xander. Almost instantly, I knew there was not enough magic left in me to make the blood completely intangible. So instead I made is gaseous, a little at a time, and pulled it up and out through Xander’s mouth and nostrils. It might have been my imagination, but I think I heard Xander releasing a refreshed sigh as the vaporized blood left his throat.
This time the world didn’t creep back into focus after I’d finished. It twisted and lurched back, throwing me off balance. I was starting to fall forward, to land on Xander, but Aase grabbed and held me up by the shoulders, supporting me. In my diminished awareness, I looked down and saw that Xander was breathing without troubles, though he still had a look on his face as though he was in pain. For now, that was enough. I had pain killers in the medical wagon I could administer later.
Aase eased me back until I was sitting on the dirt road instead of kneeling on it, and a minute later Mercedes arrived directing two soldiers from the platoon who were carrying a door from the inn between them. Aase said that she’d had to shake Mercedes out of a stupor to go fetch them after all the people around us had ignored her.
“Good thinking, Aase. I’m glad you thought that far ahead,” I said, before turning to the two privates from the 78th platoon. “Put the door down right here. Kyl, lift the legs by the thighs. Zent, lift him by the shoulders. I’ll support the head. On three. One. Two. Three! Alright, let’s get him back to the inn and in a bed.”
As we were all leaving the street where Xander had been left for dead, I turned to look behind us, at the people milling about. None of them seemed relieved to see that a man had been saved. They all just seemed annoyed and bored.
I am still collecting questions for the Q & A, so I will accept questions here as well.