Beasts of the Four Kingdoms: Healing
“GIVE HIM SOME SPACE!” Iris said, pushing her way in. She looked at the man carefully. A long thin cut, spilling blood was on Julius’s head and his arm was slightly burned. His face looked so peaceful, as if he was finally at rest.
“You’re not going to give up on me that easily,” Iris whispered. “Pika, go get my satchel!” The boy rushed to her tent, with its singed edges and smell of smoke. He retrieved the satchel and returned it to Iris.
“Here,” he said.
“Thanks,” Iris blurted, “Now I need a wet cloth, some water and space. Everyone but Pika and I shall see him, now go!”
The men reluctantly turned away and walked off, their heads hanging on their chests and their eyes blinking. Cad, however, stayed and watched as Iris tended to Julius. She worked so quickly but Cad noticed that Pika was the main physician. Rushing here and there, reminding Iris which herb was the most useful. Finally, after an hour of tending to him, Pika let Iris have some sleep until dawn while he watched Julius.
When Iris was walking up to Cad he could see her fingers shaking and her eyes blinking. She was biting her bottom lip and said in a quivering voice, “I don’t know what to do. The healer in our tribe never got to teach me much…” Her voice slowly started to crack and her eyes began to water. “I’m, I’m scared.” She gasped and started to silently sob.
Cad, not knowing what do, just put his hand on her shoulder, as a reassuring sign of comfort. He’d seen a wolf sit down beside a grieving alpha, just sitting there was good enough for the leader. But maybe she needs more.
“Listen, you get some sleep. I’ll help Pika take care of Julius,” Cad said.
Iris nodded and took tiny steps toward her tent. Then she turned around and whispered in a hush voice, “Thank you.”
He gave a slight nod and went off to sit with Pika. The boy was kneeling in front of the lying Julius, placing several wet leaves upon the man’s arm and a cold cloth on his forehead. He didn’t even glance when Cad kneeled down next to him.
“He can’t die,” Pika said.
Cad was surprised at the passion of Pika’s voice. “Why?”
“Because, even though he was mean to me and Iris and never understood orders, he is still a part of the troop, the band. And I think the men couldn’t go on with this journey without him.”
“That’s a lot of wise words for a boy of your age,” Cad said.
“It’s not so wise when there’s a world out there of danger and evil. Aunt Willa always used to tell us that we are Zavia’s last hope, but Iris told me once she didn’t believe her. I think she didn’t want the full responsibility for a whole nation, but I think she’s right. There must be others to join our little army.” Then he said cheerfully. “I’d like to be a healer!”
“Oh really? But what about your sister?”
Pika waved his hand. “Nah, she’s doesn’t know the difference from a spider web to a raspberry.”
Cad silently chuckled, not wanting to be happy during this time of sadness. But he couldn’t help but think of what Pika had just said. Others destined to set free a nation of evil pagans and corruption? Could it be possible that another army of Warriors for the Almighty shall rise? Cad didn’t see the meaning of all these questions and tried to put them out of his mind.
But they were still there.
For the rest of the night, Pika and Cad stayed by Julius’s sleeping side. When dawn’s fingers spead over the sky, Iris’s sleepy figure strolled over the two boys.
“Did you sleep, much?” Cad asked.
Iris shook her head. “Pika, I think you should get some sleep.” Pika nodded, his drowsy head falling on to his chest. Cad picked him up and carried Pika back to the tent were he’d sleep for till they were ready to move on. When Cad returned, Iris was sitting, applying new leaves on Julius’s arm.
“I prayed all night that he’d live,” Iris said abruptly. “It didn’t feel like anything would happen but I felt a peace as I laid there.” She turned to him. “Oh Cad, what will happen to me if he dies.”
“He won’t die,” Cad declared. “Because I won’t let him.”
They waited, the two of them, like silent wolves, waiting for the prey to awake. Finally, when all the stars had disappeared and the sun shined upon the lea, Alaric awoke to see if Julius was getting any better. He found instead a sleeping Iris and an almost asleep Cad. Feeling this to be very awkward, Alaric hesitantly nudged Cad with his boot. The lad sprung up like he’d just been stung by a bee and Iris shook too, who had been sleeping on his hand.
“Oops, sorry,” Alaric said, watching them. “Anyway, is there any progress with the man.”
“Well, his burns getting better,” Iris said. “But… he hasn’t shown any signs of awakening.”
“No,” said a wavering but firm voice. “I just wanted to hear your little love talk. ‘Ooh, I won’t let him die-” The voice was interrupted by a cough in which erupted a mass of cries of joy.
“Julius!” Cad exclaimed. “You’re awake!”
Julius nodded, then coughed once more. “Don’t you think I know that?” He spat on the grass. “Tell me the color of that dragon and I’ll kill it by tonight!”
“Rest, lad, rest,” said Alaric. “You’re going to be alright.”
Julius gave him a cross look, “Of course I’m going to be alright! I’m the strongest, fittest warrior out here.”
“Oh stop your whining,” Iris scowled, though Cad could see her face growing more colorful and less pale. Walking to the other men while Iris and Alaric tended to Julius, Cad pushed Stilicho back and forth until he finally woke.
“What’s the matter with you, lad?” Stilicho demanded, shooing him away as if he were a fly. “You look like you haven’t slept for a season and have seen a ghost at the same time.”
“I have!” Cad cried. “It’s Julius, he’s up. We were talking and he was suddenly up! It’s a miracle!” He went on to the other men, leaving Stilicho to leap off the ground and rush to the lea. When Stilicho saw Julius, sitting up a little and drinking some water, he was so relieved he almost breathed. But, being the leader he sauntered over to them and said:
“It’s good to see a warrior awake.”
Julius nodded. “It is good to be back, Baron. It is.”
The Baron stated that they would wait until Julius was well enough to travel, so they decided to leave the next morning. Cad was sitting on the edge of the hill, overlooking the city of Ezra. The city looked so beautiful as the sun sank low behind the tall buildings, shining it with its last purple drops and magenta drips while the moon rose over to take leadership of the sky.
Cad was just about to wait and see if the sky turned to colors again. He didn’t know why but he just had the urge to see them change shape and color and to shine like the brightness of day. He felt a tap on his shoulder, and Pika stood behind him watching the sky also.
“What is it, Pika?” he asked the boy.
“Julius said he wants to see you,” Pika answered. “He said he wanted you as soon as possible. Actually
I made that part up, but you understand.”
Cad gave Pika a short smile. “Alright, I’ll be there in a minute.”
When Cad reached the lea, Iris wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Cad suddenly got nervous. Without a witness, Julius could throw him any threats, about getting him almost killed or even about killing him one day. Any thing could be said and nobody would know. He stepped slowly towards the resting Julius, a large stone propped up against his arm like a pillow and a deerskin blanket.
“Ah Cadmar of Nora. Last I saw you was by my bedside. Or was it when I was blow five feet away?”
Cad breathed out. “I’m sorry Julius if I distracted you.”
“Don’t apologize. I’m sorry.”
Cad almost slapped himself. Julius just apologized. Is a bloodsong red? Or is the sky blue? Julius cough and wave his hand.
“I know, it hurts me the most. I usually hate apologizing; but I had to ask for your forgiveness. When I heard Pika say he didn’t want me to die-”
“You heard that?” Cad exclaimed.
“Not fully, just some words. I was going in and out of consciousness. I could have wakened anytime but for some reason I was able to hear how important I was to this Brigade. I never thought of it before. I only came to get away from the parish, away from my disappointed grandfather. But when I heard Pika, Iris and even you say you didn’t want me dead I was shocked. And so, I had to apologize for my teasing, my jests and ridiculing.” Julius paused and looked Cad dead in the eyes. “Will you forgive me?”
Cad sighed, and rubbed the back of his neck in nervousness. Should he forgive him? The near lynching, the burned hand, the mocking, why would he? Then, a sudden thought burst into Cad’s mind and remembered the words of the Almighty:
“I have forgiven you. I always have and always will as long as you ask for it.” Cad felt an abrupt feeling of guilt of even thinking of un-forgiveness when the Almighty could have struck him dead in seconds.
Cad cleared his throat. “It will take some time to trust you as a brother, but yes I forgive.”
“Thank you Cad.” Julius croaked. He clasped Cad’s hands in his and let his head rest on them. Cad felt wet tears on his fingers as Julius whispered. “Thank you.”
The next morning, the band regrouped and journeyed down the hill and into the town of Ezra. While Cad walked beside Iris and Pika, he could feel the excitement and bubbling feeling Pika felt.
“Can you believe it, Cad?” he said, jumping so much that the pans in his pack were clanging. “A real town, with fairs and gypsies and horses and-” he gasped. “Do you think that the ladies will ride their air mares?” Before Cad could answer Pika went off on another imaginary adventure about rescuing a fair maiden from the claws of a dragon and riding her away on an air mare.
“That boy,” Iris said shaking her head. “The strangest child I’ve ever seen.”
“Why?” Cad asked. “If I were his age I’d love towns too, especially seeing those beautiful creatures. I heard once that the queen purchased an air mare for two-hundred lailin!” He noticed Iris had a scowl on her face, which was surprising since she was mostly cheerful now that her first patience was now walking in clean health. “What’s wrong?”
She sighed. “It’s just. Well, I’ve never really enjoyed towns since we were taught that the King lived in a big town, the Civic. And since the King is our main enemy, I just…”
“But now is the time to enjoy ourselves,” Cad said. “Just try being happy for once,” he teased. “It’d do you some good.”
Iris smiled and nodded. “I’ll try but I’ve got to keep up with my standings. I can’t let Alaric think I’m actually happy sometimes!” They both laughed and ran to catch up with the royal Pika.
Cad stared in awe. All around him, the roofs, the steeples, and balconies were banners and flowers and ribbons of every color. Girls were prancing up and down the cobblestoned streets, calling out for someone to buy their flour, strawberries and tomatoes. Grown men and boys shouted and asked if the ladies would like to try their silk scarves, jeweled circlets or leather bracelets. Iris purchased two scarves and a diadem, unnoticed by Alaric. She stood in front of the peddler’s booth and watched herself in the mirror as she undid her plain pelt version and placed the jeweled diadem on her forehead.
“Does it look nice?” she asked Cad who stood watching.
“Very. I mean, you look pretty in it.” Shut up.
Iris blushed. “Why thank you.” Then when she had paid the peddler, she straightened up her tunic and stated. “Now, let’s not hold them up for long. She looked Cad over and pointed to his pouch of coins next to his sword’s scabbard. “Will you do me a favor and hide the new diadem in there; just until Alaric can see me in it?”
Cad sighed but nodded.
“Excellent!” She said. “I don’t what you think but I think you were right. The town is wonderful.”
“And look,” Cad pointed to a Brigade of people standing in a circle, “There seems to be a show there.
The two strolled down the street to an alley were a lad was showing everyone his bird. The crowd wasn’t that big, about ten or thirteen or so. The boy acted as if he were performing at the King’s court. His hair was bright blonde, almost the color of ripe wheat and his cheeks were rosy. Compared to Ca and Iris, he looked pale and nervous but his voice was strong and clear.
“Come, come now everyone! Lend me your ears, your eyes and your voices. Watch as my falcon, the magnificent Shira dares to fly through the ring of Death!” The ring of Death was a normal round wooden ring that the boy held in the air. The bird swooped down from the balcony of one of the houses and soared through it in a heartbeat.
“Creyaah!” it screeched, passing over the crowd. The audience clapped, though some said the show was a waste of time.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, Shira shall fly through the hoop, while it is set on fire!” The boy slipped a thick glove on his hands, poured olive oil all over the ring, and then sit the ring on fire with a stick. The ring was inflamed in seconds; Cad could feel the heat and squinted under its bright glare.
“Fly, Shira!” the lad shouted. “Fly!”
The bird swooped down one more time, and as soon as it passed through the hoop, it was engulfed in flames. Cad was certain the bird was dead, but then was surprised and cheered with the crowd when it flew into the air, spun around, raining small and pretty showers of embers before swooping down to land on the lad’s arm.
“Had a nice flight, aye Shira?” the lad asked. And what the bird did stopped Cad’s heart.
It held up it right wing, and raised its left talon, a trick only one could have taught her.
That show falcon was Cad’s phoenix, Ember.