“I’m not going.” The Wolf curled up in the corner of her room, on the floor.
“You need to be healed so you’re going.”
She scowled at him. “Can’t make me.”
Vakann cracked his fingers. “Really? Would you like me to put that to the test?”
“Go right ahead, scales-for-brains.”
There was another harsh word from the mage and suddenly Defy’s arms and legs were bound with rope. He then lifted the tiny wolf and began walking out of the house.
She screamed, and began twisting, trying to bite him.
“Bite me and I’m beating you again before the healing.”
“I hate you.”
“Really? I had not noticed. You are simply too good at hiding your emotions.” Vakann shot back in a biting tone.’
“When I’m through with you, your carcass won’t even be worth carrion.”
“Have you considered the possibility of getting further in life if you don’t immediately threaten all your problems with violence?”
“Have you ever considered the possibility of shutting your damn mouth?”
“The only reason I keep talking so much is because I must keep arguing with you. Why I keep indulging is beyond me.”
Defy glared at him, but fell silent.
Finally, lets see if I can get her there before she tries to kill me, again.
Liazar answered the rather insistent knock on his door. “Good afternoon. How may I help you?”
Defy twisted, her face twisted in terror. “Help! I’ve been kidnapped by this man and he won’t let me go!”
“Shut it you.” Vakann growled. “I think calling the afternoon ‘good’ would be stretching it healer. I need her healed.”
“You need me tamed, more like.”
Liazar looked from the Dragon to the bound Wolf behind him. He jerked his head toward the infirmary. “Bring her inside.”
Vakann dragged the slave inside. “I thought we had arrived at an understanding.” He growled at her.
“That understanding didn’t extend to… Phoenix scum looking me over like some bit of horseflesh.”
“Defy it seems once again we must indulge in a thinking exercise. Why can I not afford to wait for you to heal naturally?”
Lilian looked up as the commotion neared the infirmary, and stood upright when she saw the Wolf. “I’m well enough to work around the house now, sir,” she said loudly.
“Perhaps because you’re a bastard.” Defy shot back, before glancing over at the Rabbit, a sly smile on her face. “May I have a knife, Dragon?” Lilian closed her fingers around the sharp rock she’d snatched earlier, edging away from the other slave while keeping her eyes on the door.
“And trust you not to stab me? Did you perchance break into my wine cellar while we were at the house?” Vakann paused. “And no the reason is not that ‘I am a bastard’ it has not been the reason for anything I’ve done yet and that is not changing anytime soon.”
“You want your obedient little dog, and giving me favors hastens the process.”
“An excellent theory, but no.”
Defy rolled her shoulders, frowning at the rope. “Let me go.”
“Do you promise to behave?”
A wolfish grin grew. “I am not a dog.”
“I certainly hope not. A dog would be useless to me. However I don’t know that I trust you enough to release you.”
Liazar walked back into the room, holding a vial. “You may not trust her, Sir Dragon, but I will be unable to cure her as long as she remains bound,” he said mildly. He turned to Defy. “Lay down on the bed nearest you, please.” To Lilian, he instructed, “There is a jar in the cabinet in my backroom labeled “Eferlom”. Please bring it to me.”
Lilian gladly left the room to get the jar, dawdling as long outside the infirmary as she thought she could get away with.
Vakann himself stepped backwards to create more distance between himself and Defy before muttering the word that released the ropes. Defy scrambled back against the wall, glowering at the Dragon. “Tooth-bit magic,” she cursed.
Liazar moved carefully toward Defy. “Lie down, please,” he repeated.
She looked at him without making eye contact, and glanced hastily around the room. “No.”
“There are two options here,” Liazar said, an edge creeping into his voice. “Either you continue to resist and put even more strain on your already overtaxed body, or you lie down and let me heal you.”
Defy tilted her head down, her shoulders stiff. Taking a deep breath, she edged to the nearest bed, eyeing the ground the entire time.
Vakann was gaping at Defy. “...How….”
The Wolf’s head shot up, and she snarled.
Liazar looked over at Vakann. “Apparently, you agitate my patient,” he said evenly. “I must ask you to leave. We will discuss payment once she is healed.”
Defy glared at the Dragon, and sat on the cot, suddenly small. “I don’t want to lie down.”
Vakann shrugged. “Who am I to protest? I certainly can’t get her to listen to me.” Then the mage turned and left. Defy watched him leave, relaxing once he had gone out of sight.
Liazar tuned back to Defy. “All right. This will sting, but please, be still. I need to be precise.”
Defy turned her head down and away from him, her far hand tightly gripping the cot’s blanket. Liazar poured a few drops out of the vial onto a rag, then placed it on her shoulder, where the cuts were deepest and most prevalent. She stiffened, a tight cry escaping before Defy bit her hand to stifle the sound. Liazar repeated the process - another rag, another few drops, another stab of pain on her back. Tears filled the Wolf’s eyes, and she remained tensely still.
Lilian entered the room, to thrust the jar she had been sent for at her owner, wary eyes on the Wolf girl.
Liazar nodded absently. “Thank you, Maria. That will be all for now.” The Rabbit scampered out, finding a quiet place to make the rest of her own preparations.
The Phoenix dabbed a few fingers into the jar. “This won’t hurt as much,” he told Defy, “but it will feel rather odd.” He drew an outline across the bruises on her shoulder. The girl began shivering slightly, her head twisting to look at what he was doing.
“Stay still,” he said severely. She turned back sheepishly. As the healing salve began to work, she relaxed, her muscles unknotting and smoothing out.
“I can give you a soporific, if you like,” said Liazar softly. “Your body needs rest before it can finish healing.”
“What’s a soporific?” Defy asked meekly.
“It will help you sleep.”
The girl’s eyes cut to the door. “What about him?”
Liazar didn’t turn around. “I can keep you in the infirmary until you’re fully healed. After that, I must discharge you into his care.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
“Maria?” he called. “Please get the bottle labeled “Sleep” from the cabinet.”
Defy tensed slightly at the sight of the Rabbit, and glanced at Liazar, who was finishing with the bruise salve on her back, before turning back to the floor.
Lilian dragged her feet again bringing him the bottle sullenly. “That one’s crazy, sir,” she said, glaring daggers at Defy. “And you’re crazy to treat with her.”
Defy tensed, cutting her eyes up to growl at the Rabbit.
Liazar didn’t look up. “Thank you, Maria, that will be all.” Lilian left, relaxing when the Wolf was out of sight.
Defy swallowed tightly, and dropped her head again.
There was a small cup on top of the bottle Lilian had brought. Liazar filled it halfway with clear liquid, then offered it to Defy. “It does not taste pleasant, but it does not taste awful, either. Drink it all when you are ready.”
She sniffed it, eyes narrowing. She hesitated, and nodded deeply at Liazar in a gesture of probable thanks, before downing the odd tasting medicine. She wobbled on the edge of the bed, and shivered again, the medicine and salve both taking full effect. “C’n I lay down?”
“Of course,” said Liazar gently. “That’s what cots are traditionally for.”
She cracked a small grin, and lay on her side, still refusing to meet his eyes. “Thank you.”
He looked back at her, but she was already asleep.
Liazar went out to Vakann, who was meditating on the front step. “She’s sleeping right now, but she will be fine. I’d like to keep her overnight, but she should be fully healed by sunrise.”
“Duly noted.” Vakann responded, not moving. “I suppose one night of her staying here will not hurt my time frame. Tell me healer, would you happen to know anything about the dragons behind the council currently?”
Liazar shook his head. “Not well, I’m afraid. My time spent with the council tends to be brief.”
Vakann stood shakily. “A shame. Yet another dead end.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of any help. I do have the ear of Councillor Jarkin, if you think he could assist you…”
“Perhaps. But I think not. And you have been of help healer. It would have taken far too long for my servant to heal on her own.” The mage bowed deeply. “I thank you.”
Liazar bowed in return. “You are most welcome. My fee is fifteen silver; you can pay when you come for her tomorrow if you wish.”
Vakann nodded, before turning and leaving.
The sun had set before Defy’s eyes snapped open, instantly wary. She sat up, rolling her shoulders and finding, to her surprise, that she was only mildly sore. A smile rose unbidden to her face, her feet already taking her silently to the doorway of the infirmary.
Several smells conflicted with each other, and the infirmary made determining the location of the various members of the house nearly impossible. After several moments, Defy picked a direction and began exploring, searching for a kitchen or pantry to steal from.
Lilian jumped when she heard footsteps. “‘Ere, I can’t do my bushy work if you’re always looking over my-- you.” She took several steps back when she saw Defy, not dropping the adopted dialect.
Defy stared at her blankly, eyes glowing in the dark. “Yes?”
“Stay outta my way, Wolf.”
“Or what, flufftail?” Defy growled. “You don’t have your pet owner minding you now. What’re you gonna do?”
“You fink he’ll protect you from yours next time you’re all beat up if you go breaking his stuff?” Lilian demanded. She had no idea if Liazar would care about Defy taking a chunk out of her, but she didn’t intend on being there long enough to find out.
Defy laughed ferally. “Mine would be happy I did something.”
Lilian’s smile twisted. “Happy you did something, sure, that doesn’t take you off his leash.”
Defy moved quickly, pinning the slight girl up against the wall painfully. “Say that again, I dare you.”
Lilian moved her hand up to press the point of the sharp rock against her captor’s collarbone. “I don’t take dares from dogs. Stay outta my bushy way, or I’ll give mine a new spill to mop up.”
“Maria? What’s going on in there?” Liazar’s voice called from the direction of his workshop.
“I told you she was crazy, sir,” came Lilian’s furious voice. “Bewhiskered dog’s trying to kill me again.”
Defy glared daggers at the Rabbit, maintaining her silence.
Liazar came into the kitchen, looking more annoyed at the interruption than anything. “I assume you two know each other?” he asked wearily.
“Only from her previous attempted murders, sir. You might know about those from the mess you cleaned up on me when you bought me.”
Defy said nothing, but looked away from them both, focusing on the floor, one arm still pinning the girl against the wall.
Liazar sighed. “Put her down, please.”
The Wolf released the girl abruptly, stepping back from both the healer and the slave. Lilian fell gracelessly to the floor, quickly curling her fingers around the rock before her owner saw it. She waited until Defy was out of arm’s reach before standing. Defy shuffled further back into the shadows, head tilted down.
“Maria, I’m sorry for the trouble my patient has caused you. You may go.”
Lilian nodded sharply, and left the room, giving the Wolf a wide berth. Defy kept staring at the ground self-consciously.
“Look at me, please,” said Liazar, not unkindly.
She glanced up to meet his eyes for a moment, her yellow clashing with his brown, before focusing on a point right beyond his shoulder.
“Maria works for me,” said Liazar. “While you are in my care, I will not allow you to harm her. Do you understand?”
Defy glanced away, returning to her careful examination of the wooden floor before nodding.
Liazar examined her critically. “How long has it been since you’ve eaten?”
She shrugged. “Not that long.”
He continued to stare at her. “You’re lying.”
She tensed, and nodded.
“How long has it been?”
“I don’t know, sir.” Defy’s head hung lower, and she tensed.
Liazar nodded. “I believe you. Go back to the infirmary. I will get you something.”
She nodded, walking meekly back to the infirmary and curling up in one corner, watching the door. About ten minutes later Liazar entered as well, carrying a tray with a steaming bowl on it.
She focused on the counter across from where she was sitting, and curled up tighter.
“It’s all right,” she heard Liazar say. “I will not hurt you.”
She looked over at him and the tray distrustfully, uncoiling herself to stand, her back pressed against the wall.
“If you need anything, I will be in the next room.” Liazar placed the tray carefully on the counter and left. Defy waited until he had left before diving at the soup, pausing only to breathe. In less than five minutes, the bowl was empty, and the girl bit her lip. Quietly, she grabbed the bowl and walked into the other room, eyes flicking over the various oddities scattered around before tapping the bowl on a countertop to alert him to her presence.
Liazar looked up, smiling wryly. “That was certainly quick.”
The girl’s face twitched, and she held out the bowl, while focusing on a gyroscope on a bookshelf.
“Very well. Go back to the infirmary.” Liazar narrowly avoided chuckling as he took the bowl from her and went back to the kitchen. Defy ignored him, and began mutely exploring the office. The books were thick, and she ran her finger over the smooth pages before losing interest, the black scribbles meaning nothing to her. Next, she focused on the gyroscope, gently sending it spinning.
“Please don’t touch that.”
Defy backed several steps away, bunching her shoulders up. “I wanted to see what it does.”
Liazar stood in the doorway. “It’s mainly a curiosity, but it’s very fragile. Be careful.”
She nodded, sliding further away from the spinning top, her eyes deliberately avoiding his to focus on it. “What’s it do?”
“It’s mainly used to measure angular orientation.” Seeing her blank expression, he simplified: “It spins.”
The Wolf mouthed the words ‘angular orientation’ to herself, still staring at it. “You bought it to spin?”
Liazar chuckled. “As I said, it’s a curiosity. Sometimes watching it… helps me think.”
The girl nodded. “What do you do?”
“I… heal people, as you’ve seen.” He gestured towards the infirmary. “And I also look for ways to heal people more effectively.”
She nodded, seemingly to herself. “Would you like me to leave, sir?”
“Well, you may not be in pain but your body still needs rest to complete the healing cycle. You should lie down. I will bring you some more food, and another dose of Sleep.” He left again.
Defy stared at the gyroscope for a long moment, and set it spinning again. She stared at it until it slowed, and then returned to the dark infirmary, this time choosing to sit on the bed farthest from the door.
She stared quietly into space, examining a jar of salve that was outside of its cabinet. It was viscous and a deep, intimidating black. The smell, while not unpleasant, reminded her too much of blood for her comfort. She covered the jar with its lid just as Liazar came in with another tray.
She made a quiet, happy sound, and stood, setting the jar on the table to examine the soup. Liazar indicated the small cup beside it. “Take this when you are ready to sleep,” he told her. “This is a slightly larger dose; it should work until sunrise.”
She examined the syrup, frowning. “How does it work?”
“The chemistry is a bit complicated, but it essentially tells your brain that it wants sleep.”
Another mouthed word, and Defy smelled it. “Wormwood and baby’s breath?”
Liazar’s mouth twitched upward. “That’s right.”
“Just mix them together, they tell my.. My brain? My brain to sleep.”
“There are a few other agents in the solution, but yes, that is essentially how it works.”
“Seems easy.” Defy began draining the soup, frown tugging deeply at her features. “Hate masters.”
Liazar nodded. “I understand. Were I in your place, I believe I would hate masters as well.”
“Wants to make me a pet. Don’t want to.” She smirked, “You’re like him. Can’t complain.” She drained the rest of the bowl, and downed the medicine.
Liazar gave her an odd look. “No, I suppose I can’t, can I?”
She eyed him. “What d’you mean?”
He looked away. “It doesn’t matter. Rest well.” He stood and left the room. Defy stared after him, eyes slipping closed.
Defy looked warily at her owner as she crouched in the back of the infirmary. She glanced around, and stared him down. “You came back.”
Vakann stared back with what may have been an amused smirk on his face. “Well, I had to eventually now didn’t I?”
She blinked, and nodded. “You gonna beat me again?”
“That would be especially pointless. You’ve done nothing to earn it. Your punishment has been served. Unlike some I’m not pointlessly violent.”
Defy’s eyes lit up with anger, but she looked down and away, saying nothing.
“Oh, pardon me. I was talking about other owners. Not you.” Vakann replied, his apology seeming stiff and awkward.
She tilted her head at him, eyes narrowing. “An apology from you? What do you want?”
Vakann stared at her and blinked once. “It is an apology. It is to express remorse isn’t it? I must admit I am somewhat inexperienced in these matters.”
“I can see that.” Defy slid to her feet. “What would you have me do, Dragon?”
“Well we’ll have to start training soon after we get back. Why are you not trying to rip my throat out? I feel as though I have stepped into one of the parallel dimensions the Mad Mage at the academy spoke of.”
Defy didn’t answer, her head hanging a bit lower.
Vakann said nothing. The confusion on his face was visibly increasing. The wolf risked a glance up, and back away again. “I’m not your dog, okay?”
“So you’ve said.” The mage replied, still obviously confused. “Several times. How does it apply to this conversation we are having here?”
Defy’s jaw worked, and she scowled. Through gritted teeth, she said. “I am your slave. It would be stupid to kill you, if only because it ensures my own death.”
“Yes, not that the fact has stopped you from trying yet.”
She refused to meet his eyes. “Learned my lesson.”
Vakann sat on the cot. “You aren’t used to spending any amount of time with other people are you?”
Defy squirmed, shaking her head.
“Believe it or not. I understand that.” The dragon said quietly.
She looked up at him, before returning to examine the floor. “Seem to be doing all right to me.”
“I ran off to the mage academy the first chance I got because I hated the world of politics and the tiny, pointless, moment-to-moment intrigues my family engaged in. Now I’m perhaps the only one of my family left.” He looked up at her his eyes blazing. “They weren’t much but they were mine.”
She nodded. “You want me to kill them.”
“I want you to kill some of them. You’re sorely mistaken if you think that there isn’t a portion of them who will suddenly and mysteriously catch fire.”
Defy smiled, baring her teeth. “As you say.” She stood, and made eye contact. “Since I am your slave, what do I call you, Dragon?”
“Nothing that will point anyone in my direction when you’re out in the field. Beyond that I don’t give a damn.”
The wolf scowled, but nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Just then, Liazar entered. “Ah, Vakann. Good. Defy, are you ready to leave?”
Defy’s head dropped, and she nodded. Biting her lip, she looked first at Vakann, then the healer. “Healer Liazar? Can I ask a question?”
Liazar nodded. “What is it?”
“Could you teach me?”
He blinked. “Teach you what?”
“How to…” Defy deflated more, and gestured to the various medical tools. “That. Heal.”
“Hmmm... I think Vakann has more say than I.” Liazar turned to the Dragon.
Vakann looked over at Defy. “Oh by all means, please explain why this will be useful to me.”
“Less suspicious to have a slave that can heal minor injuries than to be running to every healer except those of your own Totem every few days. I get hurt, and I can heal myself, rather than waiting on someone else.”
“Fair point.” He looked over at Liazar. “How much?”
“For lessons?’ Liazar considered. “It depends on what materials I use, but I'd say... three silver a day. Depending on how much of an aptitude she shows.”
Defy frowned, and eyed the man. “I’ll run errands for you if you make it one silver.”
“That may not be wise.” Vakann pointed out. “We’ve yet to work out a schedule for your other training.”
“I can do both.” Defy insisted.
“If you think so. I just want you to remember that you are the one who said that.”
Defy scowled, but fell silent.
“I will not charge you for the first few lessons,” Liazar offered. "Help you get your bearings. Healing can be very difficult, and not everyone can do it."
Defy looked to Vakann. “Is that acceptable to you? I can arrange not to be seen.”
Vakann nodded. “Sounds reasonable.”
Defy smiled widely, and returned her gaze to the floor. “Thank you.”
Liazar inclined his head. “You are most welcome.”
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.