'I can't believe this is happening,'
'Andrel, sweetie, you need to hold still.' Leaning over her son on the stairs, Mrs Wilthric carefully dressed the wound on his head, her fingers delicately pressing it into place. She smiled and stood up. 'There, all done. Arlamus, how are you doing?'
At the dining table, where he helped himself to a bag of lemon fizzes, Arlamus looked up and down himself, then at Persephone, sitting on his lap with the sugary balls filling her cheeks like a squirrel's. His shirt was splattered with blood, but it was black, rotten and viscous like oil. 'We're both fine. None of this blood is ours.'
'That's good,' Mrs Wilthric sighed. She stretched vertically and rolled her shoulders before moving towards Will, who sat at the top of the stairs, holding the machete in his hand. He ran his finger over the bumpy edge, observing the bad ironmongery that had almost put an end to him. 'Will, let's have a look at you.'
He knew without having to check his reflection that he looked awful. He felt burns tingling on his shoulders and collarbone, as well as the heat from the gash in his arm like the trail of warm, sensual fingers. He was sure he had pebbles of glass in several cuts on his arms and legs, he swore he could feel them move around, itching him unceasingly. The blizzard had finally cleared and the sun met them at dawn, but the porch was carnage. It was hoped that nobody came to visit the lodge that day, not with two corpses and a broken front wall to explain away. With her leather aid box in one hand, Mrs Wilthric sat on the top stair next to Will.
'Does anything hurt especially?' she asked, but Will was silent. He motioned glumly to his arm. 'You were very brave, Will,' she added.
'Not really,' he murmured, then hissed in pain as Mrs Wilthric applied a wet cloth to his arm. 'This was my fault...' She motioned through glances for him to press down the cloth, and he obeyed.
She looked at him sternly. 'None of this is your fault. Do you understand? None of it,'
Will nearly bit his tongue, but in the end said, ‘I should never have come here.’ Again, Mrs Wilthric eyed him as she began removing glass shards from the bright wound with tweezers. She said nothing however as she dropped the glass into a small china bowl that tinkering peacefully.
As she worked, Will noticed that her right shoulder was tattooed with symbols he recognised. There was another on her lower back, her children’s names arranged like thorns around a rose, peeking out from under her night vest.
‘Your tattoo,’ he mused. ‘I’ve seen the same one on the nurses at the Sanctuary.’
She glanced at it as if she had forgotten it was there at all. ‘Oh…yes, I imagine they would,’ she replied absently, ‘they’ll be trained in the same art that I was: reiki. That’s what the symbols mean, it identifies me as qualified.’
Will remembered Andrel saying that his mother had once been a nurse, and also being told about the healing craft, the transfer of energy from one in order to heal the other, a technique often used at the Sanctuary. It had never been performed on Will though, as an Elemental, his body healed too rapidly for there to be any benefit.
When Will next looked, Mrs Wilthric had stood, clutching the bowl of blue-tinged water floating with chips of glass. ‘I won’t treat the burns,’ she added, walking down the stairs. ‘Knowing your body, you’ll be completely healed in a few hours.’
He knew that she was right, he would heal physically without a scratch, but even his advanced healing couldn’t help the pain he felt inside, and he wished that somebody could soothe at least some of it.