Pallu laid in her bed with her father’s letter held before her as she reread the communication. What troubled her most was that her father had not written this himself. The person who wrote it was a woman by the delicacy of the penmanship. Apparently her father was wounded in defending the king and could not write himself, but all told he was still fine. She was to stay put until he wrote again which should be in no more than three days.
The young woman sighed heavily. If he was alright, then why couldn’t he write himself? Why couldn’t she come home? What if this was a trick to get her to come home so the person who wrote the note could use her against him? What if they wanted her to stay so they could come after her?
Other than the handwriting, the note followed her father’s usual style. He never signed or named her in the letter, only called her “Love.” His tone was normal. It was only the handwriting that scared her. He must be seriously wounded or otherwise indisposed to write. Neither of the two prospects sat well with her.
Two days had passed since the night of the festival and neither produced a letter. All told, her three days were up. She wrapped her hair tightly in her scarf and donned her cloak and weapons before moving to the stairs. Standing before the barkeep was a person dressed in messenger green. Her spine tingled warning as the barkeep nodded and pointed at her standing at the top of the stairs. No sooner had the owner showed the messenger Pallu than a small crossbow concealed in the person’s cloak was aimed and fired at the young woman. She had no time to draw her sword. Only her mind could block so quick an attack. Her mind caught the bolt a few feet from her chest and dropped it harmlessly to the ground. Gasps rose from the few people in the common room at the sight. A chair went hurling towards Pallu without anyone’s throwing it.
Sardena and Yunin walked in at the moment the chair was heaved at their new friend.
“Pallu!” Sardena warned.
Again, her mind caught and dropped it. Pallu winked and the person’s hood fell back to reveal a red haired man in his thirties. The man laughed as Yunin came at him with sword in hand.
“Yunin, no!” Pallu rushed down the stairs, and knowing she could not reach him physically, she pushed Yunin as hard as she could with her mind. He fell to the ground as surely as if someone shoved him. Pallu was too late, the dagger that threatened to take her friend’s life was embedded in his right shoulder. At least it was not his heart.
Pallu’s eyes never left this messenger who was now blanching at the young woman. To move people was the work of a master. His mouth began to open and close as if gasping for breath. He clutched at his throat.
“Who are you?” she rasped, trying hard not to break her concentration.
His face told her he would say nothing.
Her mind squeezed harder on his throat. “I asked you a question.”
From a concealed pocket he produced a dagger and smiled. “You’ll never know.” The man plunged the weapon into his stomach.
Pallu shook her head as she released his throat. “Fool.”
The entire room was on their feet and backed as far from the pair as possible.
“Sorceress,” pointed one.
“Witch,” accused another.
After the messenger was found to be dead, Pallu moved to her friends. Whether or not they still considered her friend was a matter to be reckoned. Sardena had her cloak holding in the blood. Both looked at her as if she were some beast and they her prey.
“I have to take it out,” she whispered as she crouched before them.
“Don’t you touch him, Witch.” The barkeep ran to defend fallen Yunin.
Pallu rose and looked upon the man with eyes injured. “I am no witch, Sir. I do not conjure spells or slaughter animals to tell the future or whatever it is they do. And unless you all are able to care for wounds, I suggest you let me care for Yunin.”
“Let her be, Nil.” Sardena pulled on Pallu’s sleeve. “Help him.”
Pallu nodded, not daring to hope Sardena would accept her. With an upturned head to Nil the barkeep, she said evenly, “I’ll need some hot water, cloth, the strongest liquor you have…”
When Nil did not seem to be inclined to move Sardena verily growled, “Do as she says or my Pa will have much to say.”
“She’s responsible!” The man pointed at Pallu.
“She’s not, you fool. That dagger was aimed true and would have killed Yunin, but she did something to stop it and not kill him. She saved his life. Now do as she says before he bleeds to death.”
Pallu paid the man no heed as she met Yunin’s pain filled gaze. “You ready?”
“Aye.” He braced himself. “I think it hit the bone.”
Pallu nodded for Sardena to move. “This will feel a little weird, Yunin. But you must trust me.”
“No weirder than being pushed when no one’s around,” he chuckled.
She blushed horribly and held him down with her mind. A headache began to sneak its way to the front of her mind, but her hands wrapped around the blade and pulled with all her strength. The blade pulled free, sending Pallu falling to her haunches and Yunin screaming. She was on her knees the next second and pressing the blood soaked cloak to the bleeding wound.
Sardena had the weapon in hand and touched the part of the blade that was not crimson. “It’s wet here.”
“Aye, it’s poison,” Pallu said calmly as she ripped open Yunin’s shirt and noticed his sparkling eyes. “Don’t get any ideas, Yunin.”
“Just rather amusing.”
Nil arrived with all the requested items and Pallu set to working on Yunin.
“What do you mean ‘It’s poison’?”
Pallu looked at Sardena briefly. “Exactly what I said. It’s Olimin.”
Yunin’s sister blanched to a deathly shade of white. “No. No. It can’t be—”
“How do you know?”
“It’s the only thing that sticks well to blades. It’s what assassins use.”
Sardena nearly broke down in tears. “What?! What do you mea—””
“Sardena, stay calm. You’re not helping me with your hysterics.” Yunin’s hand went over his sister’s. “I’m not afraid…”
Pallu looked up at the weeping young woman. “Go get my bags out of my room, will you?”
“I’ve the antidote. Go get my bags.”
As soon as Sardena was gone Yunin forced a smile. “You don’t really have it, do you?”
“Of course I do.”
“Don’t lie to me, Pallu.”
She poured a bit of liquor over the wound which sent him writhing in pain. “I am not lying. I carry it with me.”
“What sort of person carries the Olimin antidote with them?”
“The kind that has weapons when not armed,” she teased.
“Then why didn’t you mention it before?”
“Because there has to be a certain amount of poison in your system for it to work. If there’s not the remedy will kill you.”
Yunin’s eyes widened. “How do you know when the time is?”
Sardena came back with Pallu’s bags just as she said, “I don’t.”
Pallu found the vial and uncorked the bottle. From the corner of her eye she saw Yunin clutching his stomach. She lifted his head onto her lap and ran her hand through his cropped hair. “You ready?”
He looked to his sister and squeezed her hand. “In case this doesn’t work…”
“Don’t say that. It’ll work.”
He took the vial and drank it with one gulp. No sooner had the remedy touched the back of his tongue than he went unconscious.
“He’s dead,” Sardena wailed. “He’s dead.”
“He’s not dead! Look!” Pallu put Sardena’s hand to her brother’s neck to feel the pulse. “He yet lives,” she said soothingly.
Just as Pallu’s words escaped her Rasda came running in with several people in tow. “My boy!” She fell to her knees, pulling Yunin to her breast. “No, you can’t…”
“He’s not dead, Rasda.”
The woman’s eyes flared at Pallu. “You did this. You killed him, you witch. You killed him with your magic.”
“No, Ma. She didn’t kill him. She saved him…”
“Hush, Sardena. Don’t interrupt me.”
“You weren’t here! I saw it with my own eyes. That man came in and was trying to kill her, and Yunin tried to protect Pallu. That man threw a knife that would’ve killed him, but she made Yunin move and the blade hit his shoulder instead of his chest.”
“Lies! Get out of my sight, you Sorceress! Leave my boy alone.”
“The blade was poisoned, and she gave him medicine to stop it.”
“It’s not working. It’s that girl’s fault. Don’t believe her lies,” screamed Rasda.
Pallu nodded sadly and rose to her feet, bags in hand. “Sardena, here.” Pallu handed her several coins. “This enough to buy a few more vials. You’ll have to go to Aysre to get it. The shop’s name Tegra.”
“We don’t want your filth.” Rasda spat at Pallu’s feet.
Yunin’s eyes fluttered open. “Ma, can you not be so loud? I was having a wonderful sleep.”
Rasda nearly dropped her son. “You’re alive!”
“I will be if you stop shaking me.”
Sardena’s eyes grew bright behind the tears, and her arms wrapped around Pallu. “You did it. It worked.”
Pallu smiled at the young man who was trying to stave off his mother’s embraces. “Good morning, Sunshine.”
He laughed as best he could and moved unsteadily to his feet. “Thank you, Pallu.”
She tilted her head. “I was just telling Sardena about where to find more vials of the antidote. Shop’s called Tegra, and it’s in Aysre.
There’s coin enough to get a few more. You’ll be alright for a few days without it, but you must have another one in four days. You really should be looked after by a doctor.”
“Aren’t you a doctor?” He swayed on his feet but put a steadying hand on the table.
“No,” she laughed. She stepped towards the door when another man dressed in messenger green entered the inn. Everyone save Sardena, Yunin, and Rasda backed away from him with bated breath.
“I’m looking for Pallu.”
Her sword was at his throat the moment she heard her name. “I am she.”
The man’s eyes went large at the sword and the blood on the floor. “I have a letter for you.”
“The last messenger had a message. Is yours made of weapons or paper?”
His face went from red to purple to white all in a matter of seconds. “Paper, ma’am.”
“Put your hands in the air above your head.”
He obeyed without question, and as soon as he did, he found he could not move if he wanted to. Pallu searched for the letter, found it, and read it. When she was done, she shook her head ruefully. “Please, put your hands down. I’m sorry that I had to do that but that man,” she pointed to the fake messenger, “tried to kill me. And my friends here.”
“It’s alright. We get that all the time.”
“By way of an apology, you can have my room for the night.” She handed Nil a few coins. “And warm meals.”
His face was held at surprise. “That is not…”
“It is. I’m sorry. Go rest and good day.” She bowed to those around her. “Stay well, Yunin. Lady Rasda. Good-bye, Sardena.”
As she walked to the door of the inn, Sardena stopped her. “Where are you going?”
“Home. My father has fallen ill and requests I come home immediately.”
“Where is home?” Yunin asked.
“Let us come with you,” Sardena offered. “You could use the company, and you could show us where all the stuff for Yunin is.”
“Sardena!” Rasda hissed.
“Well, it’s true. We must go there for him anyway. If we don’t get him more antidote he’ll die, won’t he?” She looked to Pallu for confirmation.
“Aye. He will.”
“And with the king’s death the roads won’t be as safe to travel alone. She has done so much for us already, Ma. At least we can travel with her to repay her.”
Rasda eyed Pallu as if she were not to be trusted. “Where will you stay while you are there? We have no family there, no money.”
Pallu looked down. “It is not safe to travel with me.”
“And it’s safe here?” ventured Yunin. “I must go to a doctor as you say. We are going.”
“How will you pay for the doctor? The room? How will you get there?”
“I’ve a cart,” offered Turinum from the back. “If Pallu speaks true and your son needs a doctor in a few days, it’d be best to get him there before the death of the king spreads too far. Bandits will hear and take advantage of travelers as they did before.” He rushed out of the inn.
“My father has a doctor who is a close friend. Especially after he hears of the story I’m sure he would see your son,” Pallu told her.
“And my father and I will look after them. They could stay with us. There’s plenty of room.”
Rasda looked hard at Pallu. “If you do not keep them safe…”
Pallu’s eyes met Rasda’s with anger matching her own. How dare she speak like that to her after she just saved her son’s life. “I do nothing for you. But for them.”
Turinum stepped in front of Pallu. “My cart is just outside. Your horse is saddled, and all is set for your journey.”
He put an arm around Yunin and helped him hobble out to the cart. Once the young man was comfortable and Sardena was at the head of the cart, Turinum helped Pallu into her saddle. “Take care, Pallu of Aysre, daughter of Nimshi. Pay no attention to Rasda.
She is in shock.”
“Thank you, Turinum.” She did not know why she added, “I’m not a witch, you know.”
He nodded. “I know. You’re just like your father.”