The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 17)

The injured troll was a sweep—not one of the smithy scullions. Gael dredged his memory for a name. He knew this one, didn’t he? Hilan? Hyan?

Hew. The boy Gael spared a kind word for whenever he encountered him, because Hew was simple, in addition to suffering troll-disease.

Hew lay curled around his own right arm, groaning and weeping. Gael knelt beside him.

“What has happened?” Gael asked, his voice gentle.

Hew looked up piteously and held out his hand. “Hurts,” he sobbed.

Gael hissed.

Hew’s palm sported a red, blistered blotch with an open wound seeping clear fluid at its center and crusted black at its edges.

“Hurts, hurts, hurts,” pleaded Hew.

Gael took the back of Hew’s hand gently in his own. He was no healer, but he could ease the boy’s pain a touch before they got him to the hospital in the artisans’ yard. First, he needed to be sure Hew wouldn’t startle at the touch of energea.

“I can help you, Hew,” he said. “It may feel a little strange.”

“Hurt more?” asked Hew fearfully.

“It will not hurt,” Gael explained, “but it will feel different from what you are used to.”

Hew thrust his injured hand nearer.

Gael steadied the boy’s elbow. “Keep still,” he said. Upon Hew’s timid nod, Gael closed his eyes and took a long, slow in-breath. On the out-breath, equally long and slow, he opened his inner sight.

The silvery arcs connecting to the lesser node in Hew’s palm shuddered, jangled by the injury. The node itself pulsed more quickly than it should.

Gael drew on his own nodes, sending energea cascading along his arcs and out his palms. It sparkled blue—safe—as it flowed into Hew’s energea. The shivering of Hew’s arcs calmed, and their curvature relaxed and lengthened. Hew’s node pulsed less wildly. Gael heard Hew sigh.

He opened his eyes.

The boy had stopped sobbing, although the tears still stood on his cheeks.

“Better?” asked Gael.

Hew nodded.

“Good.” He saw Hew preparing to shift. “Don’t move!”

The boy subsided.

Gael glanced up to see the scullions still gathered around them, standing silently.

“I need something to make a sling.”

While the scullions turned to one another, muttering and gesturing and coming up empty, Arnoll pulled a canvas sack from beneath one of the counters and started ripping its side seams. A moment later he handed the large rectangle to Gael. Gael placed the center of the canvas under Hew’s arm, passed both ends up the boy’s chest and behind Hew’s neck, where he tied them.

Arnoll joined Gael to help Hew to his feet.

“Can you walk?” Arnoll asked him.

Hew was staring at his own hand, apparently amazed. No doubt the swift diminishment of the pain had bewildered him.

Gael turned to the nearest privy scullion to ask sharply, “Where’s Martell?”

The scullion flushed and looked at the floor. “Latrine,” he mumbled, and then started to explain how Hew had been injured.

Gael cut him off. “Never mind.”

He turned back to Arnoll. “I’ll take this boy to the physicians. Will you send one of your scullions to Keir, explaining that I’ve been detained.” He’d intended Keir to perform the morning’s check-out routine alone. It would hurt nothing for him to start with this evening’s check-in routine instead.

“I’ll take care of it,” said Arnoll. “Go!”

Gael nodded, gripped Hew’s good arm, and aimed the boy toward the cramped spiral stair at the back of the charcoal cellar. A half turn down and out through the kitchen annex would be the most direct route to the hospital.

*     *     *

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The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 18)

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The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 16)

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The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)