|The Healer in the Hills
Author: jj1027 PM
A man seeks a legendary healer , and finds him.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Horror - Words: 1,529 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 09-12-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2951750
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
They say there is a man in the north, a healer of skill unseen in the Lower Cities. They say he lives in a hut, and can sew flesh to health, no matter the damage. Rumors fly over what he is. A true healer, or a demon of strange powers. No answers are given , but still, they speak of the Healer in the Hills, day and night.
Well, they speak much of rubbish in The Lower Cities, or so Joseph of Wright had said often. Fairy Tales and bait thrown to the hopeless street dwellers. Those who spread them, in his experience mostly the more well off folk, likely would do so in hopes that the urchins would see him, and die in the searching. How bitter the words tasted now as he ate them, trouncing through knee-deep snow on some damned mountain, looking for a man he did not believe in.
His body ached, and he cursed the Lords of Aiden for striking his guide dead of cold less than a day's walk from their destination. In his state, sickened to the point of dying himself, he was within a stone's throw of health, or so the stories said. Despite this, the hand of fate withheld no cruelty. Tired and feverish, he fell to a knee and lay on his back to wait for death. A blackness deeper than his own closing eyes overtook him, but he was not yet dead. He had time to reflect on why he had take the fool's errand upon himself.
In his mind's eye he saw the tavern, the Silver Stag, a poor and filthy pub full of equal parts poor drunks and rich fools, with Joseph falling somewhere between, being a rich drunk not foolish enough for the liking of his peers. As such, he sat alone in some empty table between two larger groups, and listened to their talk, their voices made loud and vulgar by drink. His sort of place. AT least, it had been. He hated it now, for it was the setting of what came next.
It was a blur mostly. A fight started, as is hardly uncommon. The man called him out by name, an impressive feat when one considered how drunk he was. He said, in a slurred way, that the Son of Wright had bedded his wife, and made a fool of him when the truth came to be public knowledge. When Joseph asked him to be more specific, as he had bedded a great number of wives and disgraced as many husbands, the fellow must have taken it wrongly for he broke a bottle and came at Joseph with it. The Sons of Wright were never known for speed or athletics, but Joseph was proud enough to keep in one piece, at first at least. A few minutes in, however, his arms and chest were cut, and blood soaked his shirt.
Taking no more, Joseph managed to grab his enemy's arm, and forced it behind his back. The man struggled, and soon the nobleman was forced to restrain him on the floor of that filthy pit of a tavern. His cuts burned as the dirt and filth of both the man and the floor both. At last he reared up a bit, and slammed all of his weight onto the man's body, smashing him into the floor. He rose, and the man was still, knocked senseless. Joseph, full of fire from his scuffle, thought nothing of his wounds, and left for his father's Manor. When, days later, he grew sick, he cursed the name of that damned bar and the man who'd attacked him.
Infection was no small matter, and the doctors who would have helped had business on the battlefields to the west. Without treatment, life would be unpleasant, and likely short. Neither prospect pleased him much. He things progress for another two days, hoping to improve, and when that failed, he cursed his own gullibility, hired a refugee Hill Walker as a guide, and they went into the mountains, to search for a legend. As he reflected on what were surely his last moments, he had to admit he expected little else. Perhaps he should have rotted away slowly, like a proper drunkard. Maybe taken arms in a tourney, and die like a proper noble. This was surely the single most pointless end he might have. Oh well, he thought. Not long now.
A though then struck him, that he seemed to have lingered overlong for a dying man. He should have passed what felt like hours ago. But even as he thought, he felt himself growing ever so slightly stronger. His limbs had feeling and his head cleared. Through half closed eyes he could almost make out light. Stranger still he heard the breathing and movement of some other being near. Standing over him in fact. He could not see them, but they had a somewhat sour smell, and a loud breath, so he guessed an elderly soul. He knew without thinking that it could be only one person. A hand, more bone then flesh and with heavy, jagged nails, bushed his cheek, and a whispering voice filled his ears as if coming from within them. "Another sickly fool I see, coming for help from an old hermit. We shall see, I suppose. Open not your eyes, for you wish not yet to see." Though curious, Joseph obeyed. The man's voice was haunting and eerie, like a ghost. He was quiet, yet Joseph did not doubt that anyone he spoke to could hear him clearly from a great distance.
"Where am I, strange hermit? I aught be dead, but I take it I am not. Care to explain?" A guttural, mirthless chuckle met his question, but no more answer was forthcoming. He heard the man shuffling into some distant corner, until Joseph could hear him no more. At first the silence was absolute. It was stifling to him, and seemed almost to stop his breath. But, as he lay there still, he began to hear things. Strange murmurs hardly audible at all, coming as though from the walls around him. He shut them out, and focused his strength into trying to move the arms he now felt. Suddenly, he found that he was utterly paralyzed, as if his body were leaden.
It was then that he felt the strangeness of himself. His body was not just heavy, but wrong. It felt twisted and unfamiliar, with an arm too long, and a leg bowed badly. He struggled hard against his unnatural weight, and eventually turned on his stomach, facing the floor. He could take no more, he opened his eyes, and looked at his gnarled and discolored hands. He was scarcely able to believe it. "You tricked me!" he shouted, hoping the healer would hear him. "You are no healer at all!" Just then the sound of the healer's steps returned, along with his awful laugh.
"A trick little fool? You sought me. You came to me to heal you. And so, you are healed." Joseph struggled to lift his head, and when at last he saw the healer, he screamed. He was certainly no demon. Demons would surely flee before him. He was more or less the shape of a man, but his legs were twisted to the point where he should have not walked, and his arms were long and thin with spindly fingers. His whole body, or what could be seen against his white rag of a cloak, was neither dark nor fair as it should be, but was the color of mountain stone, a cold, smooth grey.
He grinned with pointer teeth as he walked toward Joseph, locking him with eyes the color of sunlight. "You feel no pain, and you are alive. You ask too much if that is not enough. You did, after all, cause this trouble yourself, little fool." Joseph tried to shuffle away, but the man picked him up with one hand. "The skills I learned from twisting your frame will suffice as my payment." He walked across the cave he lived in, and Joseph heard the murmurings again. Suddenly, the healer tossed him into a dark pit.
"You are not able to walk, so I will keep you here, for now. Enjoy the company of my other patients." All around him, and beneath him as well, squirming forms he could hardly imagine had once been human reached for and touched him, murmuring senselessness. He caught only a single word. "Run!" He reached for the light of the healer's cave. He saw the thing looking down at him. " Worry, not new guest, you are healthy. I am sure you will live a long, long life. You are welcome." The healer turned and walked into the cave. Joseph heard a grinding sound like a rock being pushed over stone, and the darkness became complete.
Only now did he remember a crucial detail of the Healer's legend. No one had ever met a patient who had returned from the healer's care.