Nycaise glanced at her sister in disgust. "She is not dead yet Brix! Someone get the jar on the top shelf, and bring it to me quickly!"

To her surprise it was Hadrian who quickly grabbed it for her. Brix only curled up in a ball by her nurse and sobbed.

Nycaise found it was much more difficult to grind the herbs with only one good arm.

The sorcerer and the knight quickly volunteered to carry the woman up to the tower. Nycaise followed a few moments later, a basket full of medicines and an empty bowl balanced on her one good arm. Hadrian intercepted her halfway up the stairs, and quickly relieved her of her burden and helped her up the stairs. Brix did not move from the apothecary, and Nycaise did not make a move to help her. Brix was in perfect health and needed to pull herself together. Emma's poisoning was no excuse for inactivity during such a critical time.

Nycaise acted quickly as soon as she reached the tower. The knight left, returning to battle hastily, but Hadrian stayed in the tower. He went to the window and looked out anxiously.

Finally he sighed, "There is nothing more I can do."

Nycaise rolled her eyes, "You could help me if all else is beyond your capacity!" she shouted.

He jumped, as if coming out of a trance and hurried to her aid. She ordered him boldly to mix herbs together for her, and like an obedient puppy, he followed her directions without a word in protest.

One the emetic had been administered to poor Emma, Nycaise examined Char. He had a large cut on his forehead, and it seemed that he had sprained an ankle. The boy was whimpering pathetically, but his injuries were hardly fatal.

Nycaise managed to prepare a salve for his forehead, while directing Hadrian to turn Emma so she could throw up the poison which was in her system.

Somehow, Nycaise had overcome her normal shyness and had commenced to order the sorcerer around. She did not notice this change in herself, but only acted on it, sending him on one errand after another until all that had been possible to do had been done for Emma.

The boy was not in any serious danger, but the nurse was in critical condition. Only time would tell if she would live.

Meanwhile, battle was raging down below. Nycaise didn't dare more than glance occasionally from the high tower window. Each time she braved to look, there seemed fewer men standing than the last. She tried her best to concentrate on her patients.

Before long, injured men were flooding into the Great Hall and Nycaise was forced move her practice down the stairs.

She found Brix laying catatonically in the apothecary, but Nycaise ignored her. There was no time for silly tantrums now, she was frustrated beyond words with Brix. Hadrian, however, was a great help. He acted as Nycaise's arms and followed her meekly, simply doing what she told him to do when she wanted him to do it. She told him which herbs were needed, and how to bandage injuries. She never had to tell him anything twice.

In the Great Hall, Nycaise saw that she had many patients. The battle had been won, it would seem, but not without massive casualties.

She moved about swiftly from person to person, all the while dictating to Hadrian what needed to be done. In the absence of two functioning arms, she had to rely on the dark-haired sorcerer to tend her patients.

He did what she said without question, and Nycaise forced herself to be strong in the face of gruesome maladies of men fresh from the field. Brix managed to eventually make her way down to the great hall, where she walked from knight to knight, whimpering softly.

Nycaise ignored her the best she could, knowing that Brix was not in the mindset to be useful.

At one point, Brix screamed, apparently brought out of her trance.

Nycaise turned quickly, wincing as her arm sent jolts of pain through her body. Another man had been brought in, this one clearly dead. It was the duke, the man she had called father.

Closing her eyes, Nycaise took in a deep breath and approached the body. He was not covered in numerous wounds, but only a cleft, as if from an axe that split his skull in two. He had not been wearing a helmet of any sort.

Brix threw herself to the floor once more, sobbing hysterically. Nycaise had to fight the impulse to do similarly, but when she saw Hadrian at her side, she swallowed hard and began to hear the pained cries of the many injured men all around her. She could not abandon the lot because of her benefactor's death. There were lives that she could yet save.

All through the night and into the next day Nycaise worked diligently, never letting her mind stray to painful topics. Her arm grieved her terribly, although Hadrian had forced her to swallow a bit of pain medication. She was afraid to take anything too strong, lest it cloud her judgment.

Emma had been improving quite a bit, and it looked as if she would live to see another day. Many of the others who had seen battle did not fare so well.

Finally, when the dying had abated, and those who could survive were in stable condition, Nycaise bid Hadrian help those that he might, "I must rest just a little," she insisted weakly.

"There is another injury that I might have some skill to remedy," he said softly, glancing at her arm.

Nycaise nodded dizzily, her previous loathing of the sorcerer completely forgotten.

Hadrian pressed Nycaise against one of the new stone walls and positioned her arm delicately against her chest. "Take a deep breath, and try to relax," he said softly.

Then he pressed hard against her arm, setting the bone. Nycaise gasped but did not scream, biting her lip hard with the pain of it. She let him bind her arm carefully.

"I would say," Hadrian added when he had finished, "that a moonsbane draught would do you some good."

Nycaise opened her eyes widely. "How do you know that?" she asked suspiciously.

All night she had been ordering him around, and he had been complying, skillfully, but with her careful instructions.

"Do you not think I also possess the gifts of healing?" He asked with a slight smile.

"And I have been wasting my time telling you what to do!" Nycaise exclaimed angrily, furious at being tricked at such a crucial time.

"Relax, there was nothing you could have done without my hands to help you, but there was not a chance of you sitting still. I must admit, I am very much impressed with you methods. Perhaps we may discuss them sometime. However, now you must rest, you have had a long day, and you proved yourself brave and true beyond all reckoning."

Hadrian insisted on escorting Nycaise up to the tower, though she protested, where she slept soundly beside her nursemaid.

As soon as Nycaise woke, she hastened to the great hall. Her arm still hurt a lot, but her focus was not on herself. After she had made sure that Hadrian had all of the injured men taken care of, she went off in search of Brix. There was nothing more she could do for any of the injured warriors, it was time that she dealt with her own pain.

She did not find her in any of the usual places, but just when she was about to give up, she was approached by Sir Uldric.

"Have you seen Brix?" Nycaise asked, forsaking formality.

He nodded. "She has finally fallen asleep. She was horribly affected by the loss of her father. I sat with her though much of the night, poor thing."

Nycaise sighed. "I will not bother her, if she is sleeping. I am glad that you have been there to comfort her, I could not spare a moment to grieve until now."

Uldric nodded, but made an excuse to depart, leaving Nycaise to wander back to the great hall, helping where she could.

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The days passed slowly after that. Nycaise did not much enjoy being an invalid, her arm prevented her from doing anything she normally would have no problem with. Many more men had died, but the survivors were beginning to prepare to leave the manor. Emma had made a full recovery, but upon hearing that her lord had perished, had chosen to depart for the home of her brother, who lived in a nearby village.

Nycaise found the manor very lonely, despite the abundance of people occupying it. Brix would not talk to her, since it had happened, and without the Duke there to assure her position in life, Nycaise felt the world beginning to press in on her.

There was talk about what was to happen to the manor. The consensus was that it would belong to Brix, as her dowry upon marriage. Uldric, in particular, seemed quite insistent upon these terms.

Nycaise had been reduced to waiting on the guests constantly. Even with her hurt arm, she was frequently summoned to bring ale, or food or other amenities. It was often a bit of a struggle to perform such duties one handedly, but Nycaise was willing to work to accomplish such things.

Even when Nycaise came across Brix, she seemed to be very unwilling to talk to her. This made Nycaise uneasy, for the two girls had always been very open and honest in the past.

It was Sir Uldric that announced his engagement with Brix, one night while drinking.



"She will be coming back with me to Terwandel where I shall make her my bride," Uldric said heartily. "I will pick up the manor at the same time, so it is a fair bargain. Granted, I do not want to keep the old place. I plan on selling it immediately, I already know of one who will be interested."

Nycaise nearly dropped the bottle of ale she had been holding. It would have crashed to the floor if Hadrian's arm had not shot out to catch it. Nycaise jumped, not realizing that the sorcerer had been behind her.

Hadrian took the bottle and rotated it slowly as he spoke towards the celebrating knight. "What about those living in the manor?"

"They will have to leave, of course. I mean, that is the way things are done. I certainly am not going to employ servants for a place that I will not dwell. Neither will I have anyone living on my property without supervision," Uldric droned sleepily. "I suppose that everyone will clear out in a few days. That will give us time to strip the place of everything of value."

Nycaise turned, almost knocking over Hadrian, and dashed towards the cellar room.

Brix was there, humming quietly and playing with her hair.

"Brix, we need to talk," Nycaise said in a voice that was more calm than she really felt.

Brix stood up. "I actually promised to meet Uldric…"

"No," Nycaise said, blocking the exit. "I need to talk to you now. How come you did not tell me that you are going to marry him?"

Brix shrugged. "Things are just different now… you wouldn't understand Nycaise."

Nycaise noticed that Brix would not look her in the eyes. Rather, the blond girl was pacing the room, looking everywhere but at the girl she had once called sister.

"How are they different?" Nycaise asked sadly.

"Oh, I don't know… do you really want me to tell you the truth?" Brix asked suddenly, sounding a bit upset. "You did not even care when father died. He took you in and cared for you for all of these years and you did not even stop to look at him!" she screamed suddenly.

Startled, Nycaise took a step back. "I wanted to talk to you about it, but you were avoiding me."

"You have no heart!" Brix called passionately. "You do not even care about me, or about father! I am glad you are not my real sister, because if you were I would be ashamed to call you family. After all that he did for you…"

"I did care for him!" Nycaise yelled back. "Just because I did not want to throw all those other lives away to mourn over something I could not change does not mean I did not love him!"

"Oh, don't give me that! You are just an ungrateful little orphan. Soon you will see what life is really like! You had better marry fast, Nycaise, before you get left behind," Brix called, her voice suddenly changing.

Nycaise shook her head. "You don't mean it, Brix…"

"I do mean it! I hate you! I wish you would just leave me alone!" Brix yelled, walking across the room as she spoke. She finally shoved Nycaise violently and slammed the door to the cellar behind her.

Nycaise stumbled but did not fall. She had tears of her own running down her face and did not intend on staying in the manor for one more moment.

Running as fast as she could, Nycaise sprinted through the great hall and up the stairs to the tower. She wanted to get away from the manor as fast as she could, knowing that there was no place left for her. Yet, even in her misery, Nycaise was not foolish enough to go out into the cold without any sort of precaution.

She burst through the doors of her old room and began instantly to rummage through the wardrobe she had shared with Brix. Nycaise selected a thick winter cloak and some fur lined boots and quickly clad herself in the weather appropriate gear.

Hastily, she turned to leave and noticed that she was not alone. Hadrian sat on the bed, eyeing her curiously.

"You are not leaving so quickly?" he asked softly.

Nycaise paused for a moment but then turned to the door, not even wanting to talk.

Swiftly he leapt in front of her, cutting off her escape route. "Don't be foolish, Nycaise!" he hissed.

"The only foolish thing I have done was to convince myself that I have a right to live here," she screeched, trying to push past him but failing.

"There are outlaws and worse out there. You would not survive on your own. Leaving here now, in the winter is a death wish," he said calmly.

"Well, there is no other place for me," she answered, still feeling very panicked.

He laughed, a strange sound to Nycaise. "Don't be rash. You would be welcomed at Terwandel as the companion of Brix and the ward of an important personage."

"Brix does not want me to come," Nycaise whispered, coming to the point where things were the most painful.

"Yes, well the world does not revolve around that blond beauty, though some would believe it. Sit down. I will give you your tower back, but only if you stay and have patience. Brix does not hate you, even if she says it. Grief does strange things to people. She would regret it more if you went out to your death in the cold. Stay here and feel free to cry your eyes out in privacy, for I am surrendering this place to you," Hadrian said softly.

Yet, despite his promise to desert the room, he did not leave until he saw that Nycaise had removed her cloak and shoes.