Adriel licked his lips, his tongue felt heavy and slow, the taste of copper filled his mouth. The sky above was a brilliant blue, he’d never noticed how beautiful it was, or how big. He lifted his head slightly, looking down his body. Pools of dark crimson welled up on his stomach, filled to their brims and drained down his sides, soaking his black and silver Thiefbane duster. He rested his head back on the hard dirt. He’d been stabbed before, but never repeatedly, or this severely. He closed his eyes and felt himself drifting, floating, falling.
They'd raided a cave belonging to Roland, a kingpin local to the area west of Caemlyn. A joint operation with the Thiefbane and Andoran Army. Things went smoothly at first, entering covertly through the hidden hill door to the south and storage room access to the north, catching the brigands unprepared. They worked their way deeper into the tunnels, quietly dispatching bandits as the advanced, eventually arriving at the intersection of Roland’s quarters.
Adriel unrolled a leather satchel on the floor before a massive oakdoor, torchlight blazed across the clean metal of the lock picks within. He knelt before the door, slipping two picks into the polished brass lock. The men around him waited silently, watching him work with his ear pressed against the wood.
Sweat dripped down his face and into his eye, he blinked away the salty sting. The lock was an expensive one, well made, designed to keep unwelcome visitors out. Before joining the Thiefbane, Adriel had made a name for himself by breaking expensive, well made locks. He twisted the pick and felt the faint click of the last pin slipping into place.
He stored his picks and gave a nod to the Captain behind him. As the Captain stepped forward the oakdoor exploded.
Debris flew through the air like arrows and Adriel was lifted off his feet by the force of the blast.
He landed, hard, against the far wall. The air was filled with dark smoke and dust, and the heavy stench if sulfur stung his nostrils.
Coughing, he waved a hand in front of his face. A group of men had emerged from the smoldering ruin of what had once been the oakdoor. A finely dressed man at the head of the group looked over the room.
Andoran soldiers were strewn haphazardly throughout. Some groaned and held their heads or shrapnel wounds, and others lay motionless on the cold stone floor. The man's eyes settled on Adriel, “Kill the thieftaker.” He turned down the eastern corridor, fading into the darkness.
One of his men broke off, drawing a long dirk as he approached. Adriel struggled weakly to draw his dagger, his head still ringing painfully from the blast. The man knocked Adriel’s dagger from his hand and stabbed.
Adriel looked down at the dirk, buried to its hilt, in his stomach. He fumbled weakly at the rogue’s hand but was pushed aside with ease. The rogue grinned, while stabbing him repeatedly.
Voices drifted from the western corridor, more soldiers making their way through the compound. The rogue straightened, dirk dripping with blood, then kicked Adriel over and followed Roland down the western tunnel.
Minutes later reinforcements arrived. Adriel worked his mouth but no words came out, just a warm stream of blood spilling onto the floor. Someone shouted over him, “I got a critical one here!” Two soldiers spread out a cloak, rolled him onto it, and carried him out the southern hill door to line him up with the other wounded.
Edith followed her mentor down the line, watching the Wisdom kneel briefly at each body. Most, she simply shook her head and continued on to the next, occasionally waving one of the apprentice forward with quick instructions to wrap, set or ointment injuries.
“See the burns on this one? The captain says it was a massive stockpile of fireworks. We’re going to have some ruptured ears and a lot of burns. This is the reason we haul around all this medicine, don’t ever fool yourself thinking you know what to expect.” Standing, the wisdom made her way to the next body, a man in a torn black and silver duster, a large pool of blood spreading in the dirt beneath him. Edith could see the quick movements of his breathing, sharp and fast. The wisdom moved to the next patient.
Edith stepped forward, “Wisdom, he is still breathing...”
The Wisdom knelt and began her next assessment, “This is the point of triage, apprentice, he is passing.”
Edith wrung her hands, the man was younger than the soldiers, he was probably closer in age to her than his own companions. She couldn’t imagine what had happened in that cave, the horrible sound of the explosion, the angry bleeding punctures that riddled his stomach. The wisdom was watching her, “Very well, do what you can. I'm afraid this will be a hard lesson for you girl.”
Edith hurried forward, dropping to her knees next to the injured Thiefbane. She felt the cold wet of his blood soak through her dress. She closed her eyes and collected herself. Remember your training...
She opened her eyes and set to work, sponging the blood from his stomach. The punctures were ragged, almost torn cuts, revealed only a second before fresh blood spilled out, camouflaging them in a coat of deep red.
Edith took out her needle and thread and set to work, feeling the punctures as much as seeing them. Pushing the needle through, pulling taught and repeating until the tie.
The sun beat down on her as she worked, losing track of time while she focused on her task. Covered in sweat with her arms stained red past her elbows, she finished the last stitch. She reassessed her patient. His breathing had slowed to a shallow, ill timed wheeze.
Edith placed a shaking, petite hand on his chest and looked pleadingly for her mentor, but the wisdom was focused on another soldier who was twisting and howling in agony.
The young apprentice's hand fell still, she looked back at the man before her. His mouth laid open with a thin line of blood running out. Her heart sank and a deep sadness fell over her. The tears she been holding back came, running down her smooth cheeks.
She struggled for what to do next, but knew the Wisdom had spoken true, he had passed. She pushed a strand of hair from his face and pressed her cheek to his, whispering, “I'm sorry...” Her heart aching and her head swimming, she felt a thin breath against her ear. In shock, she squeezed his head, willing with her entire being, impossibly, for him to live.
The pain that had engulfed him felt far away. A distant memory, floating further and further from recollection, nearly gone. He felt comfortable and at peace, not knowing or caring where he was drifting. A voice whispered through the void, “I’m sorry…” Then a shock washed over him, like being plunged headfirst through the ice of a frozen lake.
Adriel jerked awake, gasping for breath. A beautiful woman kneeling over him pulled back. She stared in wide eyed disbelief for a moment before turning to shout, “Wisdom!”
Adriel finished his third plate of salted ham and potatoes, licking his fingers clean. He stopped in embarrassment when he saw Edith watching him. “Uhh, sorry, it’s really good…”
She grinned and he was struck by her beauty for the hundredth time, “That's what you said about the beef stew.”
“Well… that was really good too…”
“And the boiled offal?” She made a face.
Adriel paused, “...I’ve had worse.”
Edith shook her head, “I can't imagine worse than boiled offal.”
“Cold fish eye soup from Falme? Jellied elk nose from Kandor? Fermented horse milk from Tear?”
Edith gagged and waved for him to stop.
Adriel laughed, “Ok ok. Not a woman with a taste for the delicacies I see.”
She picked at her dress, “Have you really been all those places?”
“Yes.. but I'm afraid it wasn't for the food.”
Edith’s eyes flicked over his body. His arms were decorated in the aged white scars of countless knife fights and his chest and stomach were covered in a white linen wrap, but they both knew the wounds that lay beneath. The mishmash of angry red slits that riddled his stomach.
Adriel continued, “But I wouldn't mind going back to try it… a pretty Wisdom in tow-”
A hard voice interrupted him, “I've no intention to go gallivanting with a boy half my age, and Edith here is hardly a Wisdom.”
Edith shot out of her chair like she’d been burnt, her cheeks turning bright pink, “I'm sorry Wisdom Minna, I was just finishing my rounds.”
Minna harrumphed, “Best be finishing then, apprentice.”
“Yes, Wisdom.” Edith stuttered, as she fled to the next bed, shooting a rueful look to Adriel.
Adriel flinched as Minna pulled him forward, harder than usual, and began to undress his wounds.
“You should be resting, young man, not harassing my apprentices.”
“My apologies Wisdom, she's just…” He watched the young apprentice from across the room, “Astonishing.”
Minna snorted and laid him back down. Looking over his wounds and tapping a finger against her lip, “She’s something.. I'll give you that.”
“Where are you going to go?” Edith whispered.
Adriel was being released from the Wisdom’s care in the morning, just four weeks since he’d been admitted. It was what the Wisdom’s called an ‘extraordinary recovery’.
He watched Edith’s face carefully, in the flickering lantern light. She had taken to visiting him after hours when the Wisdoms were less likely to extinguish their conversations.
“Anywhere you want.” He replied.
“Don’t tease, I want to know you’re going to be ok.” She looked down, refusing to make eye contact. “I mean, I did spend all this time fixing you up.”
Adriel took her chin and tipped her face to his, “I’m not teasing you.”
She bit her lip nervously, “I can’t just leave.. My training.. My family..”
“Then I’ll wait. I’ve nothing worth pursuing that I want more than you.”
Edith blushed but pulled away, “I have to tell you something.”
Adriel leaned forward, “Tell me everything.”
“On the hill, when I treated you.. The Wisdom says what happened was more than medicine can explain…”
“Was it... love?” Adriel said with a roguish grin.
Edith jabbed him, “I’m serious! She said that I used Saidar.”
Adriel sat back with a whistle, “Fallen for an Aes Sedai. That would be my luck.”
“I don’t want to be an Aes Sedai. The Wisdom said there are some in her order who can help.”
“Good, I don’t want to be a warder. So, we are back where we started, I’ll wait for you.”
Edith gifted him a small smile, “ok.”