Title: I don't break the rules
Chapter 13: Strange reunion
We did not enter the camp unchallenged, but no encounter proved a barrier to my Bending, not even when the level of resistance increased with the rising rank of the men. From the lowliest sentry to the most battle-hardened troop leader, every soldier that spoke to us found himself immediately overcome with compassion by the two weary travellers beset by bandit, who were now seeking protection from their noble commander.
And then we were there at last, at the opening of Fyrelix's tent. Our latest and highest-ranked escort entered before us, starting a conversation that steadily increased in volume and excitement until the commander himself burst through the tent flaps.
For the space of several heartbeats, everyone stood stock-still, as if I had frozen time.
And then Eryksa lowered the hood of her cloak.
Fyrelix narrowed his eyes, but otherwise gave no other reaction. After another few heartbeats, he stepped forward and said but one word, "Eryksa."
Admittedly, I had been expecting something slightly less mundane, but at least that showed that he recognised her.
With downcast eyes, Eryksa murmured, "Abang."
He took another step forward. "Kenapa kau datang?" He said the words carefully, as if testing a blade that was rusty from disuse.
From his tone, I knew even without Bending that he had asked her why she was there. I felt that everything hung on her answer, because there was a palpable tension in the air.
"Sebab aku… rindu."
I applied my Bending. I miss you. Not the most touching words in the world, but still, good enough to soften his sombre expression.
Closing the gap between them, he gently ran the fingers of one hand down the side of her face. "Tiga setengah tahun tidaklah begitu lama." When he reached her chin, he lifted her face to look into her eyes. "Namun Eryksa… begitu menawan sekarang."
He hadn't seen her in three and a half years. Apparently, she'd grown much prettier in that time.
He put his other hand proprietarily on the small of her back. And then he pulled her closer, lowered his head … and kissed her full on the lips.
That wasn't what brothers were supposed to do to sisters. It took every last shred of my self-control to keep from making a sound, or to tear her out of his embrace.
Yet Eryksa herself gave no resistance to the kiss. However, when he drew back, she did not kiss him back, though she let him enfold her in his arms. A tremor ran through me at how perfectly she fit inside the curve of his arms, like they were made for each other.
"Kau datang seorang?"
She took the opportunity to break away from him, switching to the Shared-tongue to say, "Freyl, this is Brook. We met during the journey. He's been such a great help to us!"
I had Bent myself to appear as an old man, as I always did when I was forced to reveal my hair colour—the one thing I cannot Bend. But apart from a startled little jump when she saw my face, she gave nothing away.
I made a small bow to Fyrelix, which he acknowledged by inclining his head slightly.
Addressing Eryksa, he asked, "Who is this 'us' that you speak of?"
Eryksa hesitated, and he read that small action with uncanny precision. "Myveka? He's with you?"
She nodded. "We hid Myka in a cave not far from here. He's hurt… very badly."
He was already issuing orders even before she said the last two words. In less than the time it took to drink a tankard of beer, there was a small troop of men assembled; even a physician, complete with two boxes full of the implements of his craft.
On Eryksa's recommendation, the entire party proceeded on foot, with Eryksa and Fyrelix in the lead. No one paid me any attention when I attached myself to the end of the line of men.
As soon as I was near enough, I discretely removed the illusion from the cave entrance. The size of the entrance encouraged the remainder of the group to stay outside, but I insinuated myself inside together with Eryksa and Fyrelix. In the security of my illusion guarding the entrance against intruders, Myka was sleeping, back towards us.
When our eyes had adjusted to the gloom, Fyrelix was the first to make a move. With a sharp intake of breath, he dashed to Myka's side.
I was startled by his enthusiasm, to say the least. That turned into surprise when I saw the tenderness on his face and how his hand was trembling as he reached out to touch Myka's face, and finally full-blown amazement at the result of him doing that.
"Freyl!" Myka sat bolt upright, injury seemingly forgotten, and threw his arms around the older man's neck, clasping him tightly to himself as if afraid he would disappear. We couldn't see his expression, but the shuddering of his shoulders betrayed just how distraught he was. I was speechless; nothing that Eryk had told me about their relationship had prepared me for this.
Over Myka's garbled rambling, Fyrelix was speaking as well, though we could only catch snatches of what he was saying. The only words that I could hear clearly were "Don't cry," and "I'm here." There was a curiously hypnotic quality to that voice, so much so that I felt myself being lulled incomprehensibly into a state of calm. It had the same effect on Myka, who gradually quieted into a quivering silence, still clinging desperately to Fyrelix.
In the stillness that followed, we heard Fyrelix's words clearly. "I'm here now. Whatever happened to you, we'll face it together," he said, transfixing Myka with a piercing gaze.
Myka nodded numbly and stopped clutching at him at last. As Fyrelix rose to get the physician, Eryksa pulled my head down towards her by a handful of my hair, making me yelp with pain.
She whispered urgently into my ear, "I'll distract Freyl. You Bend the physician so that he doesn't tell Freyl the real reason for Myka's injury."
I was still suffering from her savage yank. "Wha….t?"
"Bend the physician so that Freyl doesn't know what they did to Myka!" she hissed. And then she ran off after Freyl, leaving me with a stinging patch of scalp and wondering just how she expected me to accomplish that feat.
The physician was a middle-aged man, thin and bearded. He gave me a wary look as I approached him.
"Are you the one that did this?" he asked, gesturing at the bandage.
"Ah… yes… it was nothing at all of course… so far below your craft… but we were desperate," I said, putting just the right amount of deference into my ingratiating tone. "I just did what little I could, y'know, with my one arm and all. I am so very grateful he has the care of a skilled physician now."
That mollified him somewhat. He asked me what I had put on the wound, and I listed out the herbs as he removed my handiwork.
"That isn't too shabby a selection, except that Canker root and Bergamot annul each other's virtues," he told me.
I thanked him profusely for his wisdom. And so I began my Bending, by leading his thoughts to his superior skill and corralling them there rather than considering what could have caused an injury of that nature. He rummaged in his boxes and produced a length of twine. I frowned. I didn't like where this was leading.
The physician did not notice. He snapped the twine and explained, as if I were an apprentice, "We don't want him struggling too much when we clean up."
I could see panic in Myka's eyes. "Oh, we won't need to tie him up, with your craftman's touch. I could just help you hold him down," I said, my fawning tone hiding a strong bolt of Bending.
He shrugged. "As you wish, but you'll find it isn't as easy as you think."
I settled Myka's head on my lap, facing outwards, and held his wrists firmly. Though he said nothing, his face told me that he was putting his trust in me. I tried my best not to let him down, even though I knew it would be quite a strain, Bending three things all at once—Myka's pain, the physician's thoughts and my own appearance. My arm began to ache again, but I hung on.
As befitting a physician, the man worked fast and efficiently; but he was none too gentle, being used to treating hardy soldiers who saw an admission of pain as weakness. In spite of my best efforts, Myka had to grit his teeth several times to hold back a cry, especially when the physician produced a needle and fine silk thread, and proceeded to use it on Myka's torn flesh.
It seemed to us that the ordeal lasted forever, but finally he straightened with a satisfied smile.
"That was one of the worst stab wounds I've seen in some time," he said. "I'll speak to the commander about moving him into camp. He shouldn't stay here in this filth. As for you… well, I haven't the splints to do up your arm here, unfortunately."
He began to pack up his tools. When he had finished, I accompanied him out of the cave with copious amounts of humble gratitude. He left with the parting words of "If you drop by my tent in camp, I'll fix your arm for you."
When I turned back to Myka, he was ashen-faced, but composed. Even so, I gave him a long hug. Fate had not been kind to him, but at least I could offer him whatever small measure of solace I had.