By T.K. Wilson (Rated G)
The third in a new series of stories about Evermore. Find the first here.
Caelan the Wulver was a quiet sort of fellow. One that didn’t want to be in anyone’s way or bother anyone, what he liked best was to read and memorize all sorts of lore. He was a skilled healer, and an amiable companion, though he didn’t talk very much. He watched from the sidelines more often than not, working to patch up those who had been hurt, only fighting in extremities, and his best friends, Eardwulf and Cullen, knew that his strength lay in support.
Sometimes it was a lonely place. Caelan knew he was valued, he knew his friends loved him, but he felt the length of their shadows, especially since Selene the Pixie constantly sent meticulously written ballads to Keep Meridian about Eardwulf’s exploits; and Selene was talented enough that he was certain they were being sung.
One morning, Caelan watched as Eardwulf welcomed the elf-friend Katrina down to their home. He liked Katrina, they all did, and she above all liked to listen to his lore. She was hungry to learn about Faerie and the ways of its people, and he was happy to have a student. Though it ignited a longing in his own heart for a dear one like Katrina. He had one, but it was impossible to see her. He was afraid he would never see her again in this world. His Aisling…
“Caelan?” Katrina’s voice called him.
“Mmh? Oh, Katrina, I’m sorry, my mind wandered. Shall we continue with your elvish lessons?”
Caelan escorted Katrina back to the library where it was nice and quiet. Elvish Gaelic was proving difficult for Katrina, but she kept at it, much to her credit. After a few minutes of silent study, Katrina set down her grammar book with a thump.
“B makes the V sound?”
“Yes, usually,” said Caelan. “This is what occurs when a language with no writing system is made to conform to one not made for it!”
Katrina laughed and returned to her book.
A gong sounded twice; Katrina looked up at Caelan, who bolted away. When he arrived in the main hall, he took in the situation. Rosealba tended Cullen, while Eardwulf waved off the other ladies.
“I’m fine, it’s Cullen that needs your help.”
“Are you sure?” asked Selene. “You’re bleeding!”
Eardwulf winced and tightened his grip on his right arm, wrapped in his cloak. “I’ll be fine for the moment.”
Katrina wandered out of the library. Caelan put out a hand to stop her. “Katrina, it’s not pretty-”
She pushed past and ran to Eardwulf.
“Wulf! What happened, you’re bleeding!”
The bleeding was getting worse. Caelan rushed over, unwinding the cape from his friend’s arm.
“Hush!” the Wulver commanded.
“What were you two doing up above ground? It’s the middle of the day!” scolded Rosealba. “It’s a good thing that I noticed your foolish heads!”
“Something tried to attack the Elysium tree, we had to do something.” He hissed through his teeth as Caelan probed the wound. It was much worse than he expected.
“There’s a witch-flint, I’ll have to get my special kit. Katrina, keep still, it’ll move if he does.”
Cullen sat up, having received nothing worse than a bump on the head. “Eardwulf, you might have said-!”
“I’m in no immediate danger, you know that, this isn’t the first time I’ve taken a witch-flint.”
“What’s a witch-flint?” asked Katrina.
“Rose, please explain, I’m off for my kit.”
Caelan transformed into his wolf form and loped away for his kit. Witch-flint, a nasty weapon of their foes, were pieces of flint or black obsidian enchanted to burrow its way to the victim’s heart. Ogres were more resistant to such magic and damage in general, but nobody could hold out forever. He changed back to his two legged form and checked his kit. Yes, all was there – bandages, padding, stardust, liquid Elysium, forceps and other tools. Rosealba had some fresh Elysium flowers for the dressing so there was no need to stop. Too bad Elysium didn’t anesthetize ogres like it did other creatures! He turned back into a wolf and dashed off again, carrying his bag in his mouth.
Katrina dabbed at Eardwulf’s forehead with a handkerchief. Caelan could see at a glance the pain was setting in, but Katrina was doing a masterful job at keeping the ogre still.
“You need to stay still, Wulf.” She ran her fingers across his ringed horns.
Eardwulf looked up at her, smiling faintly. “Kitty, please leave. I don’t want to frighten you.”
“Shh. I’m not afraid.”
Calean looked at Katrina. “There’s nothing quite strong enough to put him all the way under, so he will be semi-conscious and in pain while I fish this thing out. If you would like Rose to take your place…”
“No. He needs me.”
Caelan nodded. “Here, lift up his head so I can give him some Elysium.” He poured out a cup of the magical substance, more than enough to send a human or elf to sleep but only enough to deaden the pain for an ogre. Katrina lifted Eardwulf’s head, he swallowed the juice and shut his eyes.
Caelan pulled a vial of glittering white powder from his bag and poured it on the wound. The grotesque wriggling ceased.
“There, the stardust disenchanted it. Now, I need to get it out.” Caelan swallowed hard and pulled the pair of forceps from his bag. “This is the part that will hurt.”
Katrina grimaced as he dug for the arrowhead. Eardwulf grunted and grabbed a rock, crushing it to pebbles in his mighty fist. Katrina kept her hands on his left shoulder and upper arm, keeping him grounded in reality.
“Yes, here I am.” she crooned.
“I’ve got hold of it, I’m going to pull it out.” advised Caelan. “Rose, get him another rock.”
The dryad obeyed, fetching a chunk of limestone.
Eardwulf took the rock and nodded.
“One, two, three.” Caelan pulled on three. Eardwulf crushed the rock, giving a short roar of pain. Caelan threw the flint into a bucket, then began bandaging Eardwulf’s arm.
“You did well, my friend,” he said. “Though I think it took more out of you than you’re letting on.”
“Aye,” the ogre muttered, sitting up. “Cullen, summon my sisters at Keep Meridian, we’ll need their help.”
As Katrina reached up and undid Eardwulf’s cape, he twitched and flinched away. Caelan narrowed his eyes, to anyone else it would look like pain, like he was sore and didn’t want to be touched, but he knew better. Eardwulf didn’t want Katrina touching him for the simple reason that he didn’t want her to become attached to him. He thought he was dangerous, a horror. However, every last person in Evermore knew that was a lie. He was a gentle soul, who could carry the smallest treefrog to safety with great gentleness despite his great ability to swing his axe.
Cullen left on his errand, while Katrina went with the other ladies to Rosealba’s secluded garden for some fresh air. Caelan folded some bandages into a sling and helped Eardwulf put it on.
“You ought to tell her how you feel.” said the wulver.
“No,” Eardwulf shook his head. “She’s too good and pure for me.” he looked at his calloused hands. “I’m too rough and ugly for someone as beautiful as Katrina. What am I even thinking, even hoping she would love me?”
“She sat by your side while I pulled that flint out of your arm; what do you think that is?” Caelan’s voice took on a snappish sound. He dug his fingers into his tunic. “Do you know how much I would give to have Aisling with me?”
“Take what the heavens have given you, Wulf.” Resignation laced the wulver’s tones. “You don’t know what you have.”
Cullen would be gone overnight to Meridian to fetch Berdine and Eda, Eardwulf’s sisters. And with their commander laid up, it was decided that there would be no patrols that night. Eardwulf convinced Katrina to go home early, threatening to see her home himself. Caelan sat in the library half-dozing over a book, when he felt someone touch his hair.
“My golden wolf…”
“Aisling?” he murmured sleepily.
“I am always with you, always, a rúnsearc.”
“Aisling!” he awoke, startled. He could swear he smelled her perfume. He put his head in his hands. Would he ever see her again, or would he always be haunted by her ghost? But now he knew who was molesting them: the one who had stolen Aisling away years ago.
Eardwulf entered the library with a lantern in his hand. “I heard you cry out. Are you alright?”
“No. But I know who the Wizard is.”