Lisle swung her legs off a ledge of grey rock where she sat at the mouth of the tunnel leading into Guardian Mountain. She stared out at aqua blue sky stretching out over the tops of pine and scrub brush dotting the mountainside. It was an inspiring view, but Lisle felt anything but inspired. She hadn’t wanted to stay out on the mountainside after meeting Tim and thinking about that Guardian. It left her with a distinctly uneasy feeling in her stomach. Yet she wasn’t ready to face anyone else. Her emotions were still raw from Gareth’s angry rejection of her and her fears for him.
Her thoughts slipped back to that meeting on the mountainside. The boy seemed nice enough, but that dark Guardian was out there. Somewhere close enough that Tim came walking up the side of the mountain. She searched the sky before her looking for black wings against the blue, but saw nothing. She was not reassured. Could Tim be that Guardian’s Contracted? If that was true, what did it say about Tim? She hadn’t felt any malice from him, just the opposite. But how could she really know? She couldn’t, but she did know someone who might. Lisle leapt down lightly and traced her way back into the mountain to find her own Guardian.
Coming up the hallway she saw a slowly moving figure at the far end. Getting a little closer she was surprised to realize it was Gareth. He held onto the wall with one hand, pushing himself along and using a crutch under his other arm. In this way he made halting progress toward her. Closer now, he looked up at her and stopped, lifting his hand from the wall in a tentative wave. Relief at seeing him up and moving warred with her anger and hurt. Lisle took a deep breath and huffed it out, then walked up to him. She looked him in the eye. As so often before the words stuck in her throat and she said nothing.
He held her eyes with his, then shrugged his shoulders and looked down, “I’ve been a fool Lisle, thinking only of myself. I know. I’m sorry. What matters is that you and Ell, Terris and Moss all reached Guardian Mountain.” He hesitated, then looked up at her, “How are they?”
Lisle stared at him, one side of her mouth curled in exasperation. “T…Terris and Moss are g…good. E…Ell is g…g…getting better.” She stared at him. “Y…You?”
“I’ll get better now. You’ll see.”
Lisle nodded, mouth pursed, then stepped around him and continued down the hall. She knew he was watching her go, hoping for some sign from her that she forgave him. She could feel his eyes on her back. Lisle had already forgiven him, she was so relieved for his change of heart, but she wasn’t ready to give him what he hoped for just yet. Let him stew for a bit.
She had others things to do, she needed to find Ell.
Healer Deloren entered the small room that was Gareth’s, wrappings and balm held in her hands. The same as she had every day since Gareth and the others came to Guardian Mountain. Only now there was a difference. The corners of her mouth twitched upward as she thought of Gareth. He was improving rapidly. His lanky figure was a common sight now, determinedly exercising his leg, walking up and down the many tunnelways throughout Guardian Mountain. His recovery was so rapid that Deloren could only watch with amazement.
She entered his room to find him sitting up on his cot, wrapped leg extended before him while the other rested, knee bent, foot on the floor. A clutter of wood shavings covered his lap, pale white curls scattered over the cot and the floor beneath him. He looked up at her, his hands stilled. One hand held a small knife. The other, a wooden object, that he quickly hid behind his back. Deloren ignored his actions, so like a younger caught doing something he shouldn’t. Obviously, he didn’t want her to know what he was working on, although the evidence of it was all around him.
Without preamble she entered and began to unwrap his leg. She was glad to see that the wound now healed cleanly. Deloren looked up at Gareth. “Looking better. It was a near thing. That arrow penetrated the bone.” She could leave off the wrapping today. The leg no longer needed it and the air would do it good.
Gareth smiled. “You’ve tended me well, Deloren.” A mischievous gleam lit his eyes which crinkled at the corners. “I do seem to be a target for every stray arrow that comes my way. So, I may need your tending again.”
Deloren chuckled half-heartedly, inwardly cringing. He had not been the easiest patient to work with. “For now, you’re well enough so you no longer need my help. I’ll be off to see about those that do.” Deloren turned to leave.
“Wait. I’ve made you something.”
Deloren turned back, curiosity arguing with her desire to get on to her next patient. Gareth stuck out his hand toward her. On his palm rested a miniature Guardian. At least she thought that’s what it was. It was a bit misshapen. The body was squat, with evidence of a tail curled about it, and there was a short neck with an over-sized head perched atop.
“It’s your Guardian, Loren.” Gareth tilted his head, pulled his hand back and peered at the figure seated there. “At least that’s what it’s supposed to be.” He stuck his hand out again still looking at it critically. “It’s the best I could do.” Then he looked her in the eyes. “I know I didn’t make it easy for you. I’m sorry. I am grateful for your care.”
Deloren smiled and inclined her head, accepting his offering for the peace token it was.
Then she left him to return the unused wrapping to the stores. She mused upon Gareth’s sudden recovery after so long not healing. She had seen it before. A person who should have healed and didn’t. No matter the care of her tending, nor the healing prayers of the Guardians, if a person didn’t want to heal, they sickened. A person’s will is a powerful thing, thought Deloren. I’m glad that one decided to heal.
Deloren arrived at the stores and replaced the still fresh wrappings. There was another whom she must tend to, a kitchen attendant laid low by a sick of the seasonal variety. She knew what was needed to ensure a rapid recovery and gathered the herbs from the cupboard. Thoughts of Gareth’s recovery stored away, as she had just stored the unused wrappings, the Healer moved off to tend the one who now needed her.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44
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