Eighteen - in which Ord gets betterMature

Ord woke slowly, consciousness crawling back like a fog gradually burning away under the light of the sun. Though his eyes opened the world remained an ill-focused blur. His limbs felt oddly detached, awkward and clumsy as if every move he made happened a second after he willed it to. He managed to sit up and clumsily slap at his face until he could rub his eyes.

Then he waited, listening to the sounds of the room. He could hear little but the gentle crackle of the fire and the slow but steady thump of his own heart beating. Gradually his feeling of clumsiness began to fade and his muscles started to obey more quickly, but with it came a bevy of pains that had been mercifully absent. His shoulder, the back of his head, the bottoms of his feet, his ribs and sides... all of them began complaining in earnest.

His sight also returned to normal, and as he gritted his teeth against the pain he tried to figure out just where he was. All he could tell was that it wasn't the infirmary, since the only bed in it was his. Other than that... well, he was fairly certain he was still in the castle, and judging from the bandages on his wounds he was also in the care of a healer of some description.

"Hello?" he called, hoping one of his caretakers was nearby. The door swung open, and a man in chainmail stepped inside. He looked around warily before fully entering the room, and Ord saw the man's hand linger near the haft of his sword.

"Yes?" the man asked.

"Is there something wrong?" Ord inquired.

"Wrong, sir?" The man shifted his weight, causing the chainmail to make a small cacophony of metallic clinking noises.

"Aye," Ord nodded slowly. "You look ready for a fight. Is the castle under siege?"

"Under siege? No, nothing like that."

"Then I must be under arrest," he guessed.

"Not at all," the man looked surprised. "It's just... well, there was a demon. They said I should be prepared, in case another one came to kill you."

"Ah, I see. Which is why you were outside." The guard looked confused, so Ord clarified. "And if the demon hadn't used the door?"

"Then it would have been in quite a lot of pain, if not dead," another voice entered the conversation through the still open door. The guard shuffled aside, and a woman with long white hair swept into the room. She patted the guard on the shoulder as she passed him by, as if to tell him not to worry. Ord smiled at the sight of her.

"Karina," he said by way of greeting. She was one of the handful of Paladins that had come to the castle with him, and young despite her white hair. No one was quite sure what had caused it, or if it had always been that color, but since she was a mage the usual theory was a spell gone wrong. Others, Ord included, believed it a sign that she was somehow favored by the Gods, along with her ability to cast without speaking the spell aloud. 

"Honestly, Tarsus," she chided him as she came to stand at the foot of his bed. "Do you think I'd leave you completely vulnerable? I warded the window as well as the fireplace. And, if you're in a thankful mood, you can thank me for not being dead. But then," she added thoughtfully, "There may have been a measure of self interest in that. With you gone it would be Rokar or, Gods forbid, Jaxil giving me orders."

"Hmm," Ord hummed noncommittally, then asked the question that was really weighing on his mind. "How bad was it?"

"You were in a state," she admitted. "You're lucky the thing didn't take your arm off. Probably had a concussion, from the looks of it. And your sides were a bloody mess, but it didn't pierce any vital organs. All in all I'd say you got the better end of the exchange. You spent the night under an accelerated healing spell, but only to mend your shoulder. The rest of your wounds can heal naturally, or you can spend another few nights in a magically induced coma. Your choice," she told him flatly.

He took in the information with a nod of understanding. "And I do thank you for that," he told her sincerely. "But I meant the fight with the demon. Did it... how many died?"

"None, thanks to you. Oh, there were wounded, of course, but they'll be fine. With your sword and that iron rod stuck through it the creature went down quickly. They chopped it into bits and then burned the bits." She came around to stand next to him, a look of concern creasing her brow. "I suppose that means the talk of an Incursion at Marsten is more than just a convenient excuse, isn't it?"

"Unfortunately, yes," he sighed. "But there's more to it than that." He gave the guard, still lingering inside the room, a pointed look. Once the man had withdrawn and closed the door Ord continued. "I'll need to be healed enough to travel as soon as you can manage it," he told her. "We've been given a mission..."

The End

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