The royal physician for the Galhirim was tall, thin, dark skinned and unbelievably intelligent. He’d come from Magadar originally, and studied medicine in several different countries before settling at our royal court and becoming like family. Such ill luck it turned out to be.
I walked into the doctor’s tent; “Boitumelo!” The lamp was lit, so he couldn’t be far. “Boitumelo! We have need of you!”
The three men ducked inside behind me and made for the cot Boitumelo kept in the corner. It hadn’t taken long for Boitumelo to prove his worth to the Circus Master—he’d quickly been given a larger tent which divided into two rooms. One room was outfitted as Boitumelo’s hospital, the other his quarters. I went to the cabinet where Boitumelo stored his medicines and started rummaging loudly. “Boitumelo! What do I give to numb pain? Was it the hornwort extract or the chocolate? And what do you use to sew limbs back on?”
Shuffling and then a thump sounded on the other side of the wall. A moment later Boitumelo burst into the hospital side of the tent, breathless and with his clothes askew. “Don’t you rummage, Mbali!” he gasped.
I smirked and straightened. “I brought you a patient.”
Boitumelo’s eyes grew wide, “Is that blood? Are you alright?” He came forward, straightening his shirt.
“I’m fine, but he’s not,” I pointed to the cot where Balleck and Remko had set the archer.
The archer was sitting with his head down, shot leg straight in front of him, wounded arm dangling. My cloak was twisted haphazardly and the bow lay at his feet. He looked like a much loved ragdoll set on a shelf. A very muscular ragdoll in dark leather armor with light mail peeking out around his throat.
“Oh dear,” Boitumelo hurried to the archer’s side. “Remko, help me get him on the table.”
The archer, who seemed to be losing strength quickly now that we’d arrived, looked closely at the doctor and then allowed the men to help him onto the table.
“Lay back now,” said Boitumelo kindly. “We’ll get this all sorted.”
“I’d be grateful,” grimaced the archer, sinking to his back.
Boitumelo set to work immediately, and since I was standing there he set me to work, too. Balleck didn’t leave either so Boitumelo sent him to boil water. We stripped the archer’s armor and what remained of his shirt. I pointed out the dart in his calf and Boitumelo fussed over removing the archer’s boot safely. Balleck returned with water and Boitumelo’s little hospital swung into full motion.
Remko and Balleck were tasked with keeping the archer still while Boitumelo removed the dart and cleaned the wound. I busied myself mixing salve on the other side of the room for that part. It had been a long time since we’d had to do something like this, but I hadn’t forgotten my way around Boitumelo’s hospital nor the sickening gore of removing weapons from the body. The archer took it well—Boitumelo had some medicine and a towel for him, but I was still impressed with his silence. When it was over, I helped Boitumelo clean and dress the rest of the archer’s wounds while the men kept us supplied with clean water and salve. None of us could have left if we wanted to—Boitumelo was like a sea captain in wartime and we didn’t dare but help.
By the time the king stepped into the tent the archer was clean, stitched, bandaged, and sleeping from the medicine Boitumelo gave him. I ran to my father and was swept into the arms of Zam Caspian the Great, rightful King of Galhara.
“Zare! Where have you been?”
“Here, mostly—at least once I got back. Before that I was getting back.” I stepped back and started to roll my sleeves down. I tipped my chin toward the table, “He needed help.”
Boitumelo was standing over the sleeping archer and inspecting the dart he’d removed from the archer’s leg.
The king’s eyes narrowed. “Who is this?”
I followed him to the table and explained, “There was an attack on Narya’s soldiers in Gillenwater tonight. This is one of the men who attacked. I pulled him out of the river.”
My father inspected the archer. We’d rolled him onto his stomach because of his leg wound and his otherwise handsome face was squashed awkwardly into the table. He had brown hair, I noticed, now that I wasn’t up to my elbows in his blood. He couldn’t be more than a year or two older than me.
“You could have been captured.” It sounded like an obligatory reminder rather than actual worry.
“Balleck wouldn’t let that happen,” I replied, then added, “And I was careful…and he was careful,” I gestured to the archer. “He’s very clever for someone with an arrow in his leg who blocked a sword with his arm.”
The king grunted.
“Zam,” Remko cut in awkwardly—he was still unused to calling the king by his first name, “Look at his armor.”
My father turned to the small pile of dark leather armor in the chair. Remko handed him the chest piece and he studied the inside thoughtfully. He pursed his lips. “It is well that the circus is leaving this place.” He turned to me, “We leave at first light. Zare, don’t be long.” Then he strode out of the tent.
“I will get you clean clothes, wait here,” said Remko, setting down the armor and following my father out.
I looked at my bloody sleeves. The blood was mostly dry now, thinned in places from where I’d splashed water while helping Boitumelo. Getting the blood out would be a beast. Maybe it would be easier to dye the shirt.
Balleck set down the tools he’d been drying and came over to me. “Zare? Are you alright?” He touched my arm.
“Yes,” I nodded, extremely aware of his fingers, and of all the things I wasn’t supposed to tell him. Then memories of the square and my panic rushed in and I stammered. “I stained my tunic.”
He smiled. I blushed.
“I can’t really go around explaining what happened tonight to everyone who thinks I’ve been stabbed,” I laughed.
Balleck nodded. “True enough…I should get back to my tent. It’s going to be a short night.” He turned to go.
“Balleck,” I caught his hand, “Thank you. For the square…”
He squeezed my hand, smiled broadly, and left.
I wrapped my arms around myself and stared at the tent flap until Boitumelo cleared his throat. “Here and I thought you wanted him to leave so you could look at the armor,” teased the doctor.
Even if my cheeks weren’t scarlet, my smile would have betrayed me. I wished that Balleck could have stayed, that’d I’d invited him to wait with me, and that he could actually be told the whole truth about the Galhara family—more than the obvious refugee part. Someday. I spun around, hurried to the chair and picked up the chest piece.
Embossed on the left side, over the heart, was a golden river encircling a gemstone. It was the royal insignia of Dalyn.