(Part 24) For the complete list of this series, please go here.
Twyla frowned as she propped her broom in the back corner of the kitchen. She heard someone burst through the front door of the inn and now there was a lot of commotion in the common area. She wiped her hands off on her apron and went to see what was going on.
“What be all the fuss…” Twyla stopped, her jaw dropping in surprise.
Everyone in the common area was surrounding the table. A variety of odds and ends that were on the table had been knocked onto the floor. Twyla pushed her way through to the table where Locke laid, bloody and battered, upon her table cloth. Aerissa stood over him, frantically asking someone to help heal him. Aerissa looked up and found Twyla's familiar face amongst the crowd.
“Oh Twyla! Twyla, please help him! Somebody, anybody, please… he's been hurt,” Aerissa's eyes were glassy with tears as she pleaded for help.
Twyla scanned Locke's limp body with her unseeing eyes, nodding slowly as she stepped backwards. The crowd filled in the gap where she had just been. “Hold tight, Locke. And Rissy.”
Someone appeared with a stack of rags. Aerissa and several others began working on bandaging Locke's wounds. The bandages Aerissa applied when she first found him in the woods were soaked through with blood. They were removed and those wounds redressed. Aerissa pressed her hand to Locke's neck, feeling his faint heartbeat. She leaned over, cupping her hands around his head.
“Please hang on, Locke…please…” she whispered into his ear. Aerissa felt a small tug at her mind, but no thoughts were exchanged with him.
After a few minutes, Twyla returned with one of the apothecaries. The apothecary was a Forsaken woman like Twyla. As she approached the table, she shooed much of the crowd away. She moved her bony hands over Locke, examining his injuries. After a lot of nodding and making odd noises with her mouth, she withdrew a syringe from her smock. Before the needle could penetrate Locke's skin, Aerissa clamped her hand over the apothecary's wrist.
“What are you doing to him?” Aerissa demanded, her voice heavy with concern.
“Tesssting,” she hissed through paper thin lips. Aerissa withdrew her hand, watching as the apothecary extracted a sample of Locke's blood.
The apothecary held the syringe needle pointed upward and left the inn swiftly. Aerissa and the other patrons of the inn returned to cleaning and bandaging Locke's wounds the best they could in silence. No one said anything to Aerissa, but most of them were there when she ran from Tranquillien. Aerissa was grateful that no one questioned her actions, but was stunned by their helping hands.
Within a few hours, most of the patrons had returned to their rooms or went about their business. This left Aerissa mostly alone in the common area. She paced around the table, watching Locke like hawk for any sign of movement. But he continued to lay still. Every couple laps, Aerissa would stop and lay her hand against his ribcage. Locke's breathing was so shallow it was hard to tell if he was breathing by just looking at him.
“Rissy, ye be needin' rest,” Twyla said softly, standing clear of Aerissa's path.
“He needs me. I must watch over him. I didn't before and…” she winced, clenching her fists. Aerissa stopped, standing before Twyla.
“Rissy, ye did right by bringin' ‘im back.” She patted Aerissa's shoulder.
“Twyla, I-I'm sorry. I'm sorry for-” Aerissa stifled a yawn.
Twyla shook her head. “No need ta be sorryin'. We'll talk more later. Right now, ye need rest.” Twyla motioned towards the couch by the fireplace. “Rest. I'll watch ‘im fer ya.”
Aerissa gave Twyla a small smile and obliged the directive. She slipped off her boots and drifted off to sleep within moments of stretching out on the couch. Twyla sighed, looking from Aerissa to Locke and back. Twyla shuffled closer to the table, lightly placing her hand on Locke's muzzle. Twyla bowed her head, murmuring a prayer she had not said in years.
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