The Red Hand Part 20
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twenty Painful Lessons
I spend the rest of the day in what I guess is their version of a hospital. By old healer I thought he’d meant Maebh, instead I’m looked after by a hunched over old lizard woman. She gives me a strange little bud from a plant to chew on and I spend the rest of the day drifting in and out of sleep. When I’m awake I feel like I’m melting into the bed. Sleeping, I dream of little moth people crawling up my bedroom wall. When I finally wake up its dark. I’m not sure what time it is but I’m the only one in here. The old healer isn’t around. I get out of bed, deciding to head back to my room. My body reminds me of the beating I took. A painful jolt runs through my side as I stand. I let out a meek cry of pain. The air feels cold on my skin. I realize I’m not wearing anything except a flimsy robe. Hope nobody sees me in it. These lizards might not care about nudity, but I do. Limping out of the hospital area I don’t see anybody about. Maybe everyone is sleeping. After a little wandering I find my way to my room. I strip out of the robe, chucking it in the corner. The act of pulling it over my head is excruciating as my side erupts in spasms of pain. I clench my feet, riding them out. Looking down at my nude body I see somebody cleaned me up pretty good. I remember being caked in blood from my bleeding nose. My nose. I reach up tentatively to check it. A light little touch is all I need to know it hurts like hell. In the pale light I make out splotchy bruises on my stomach and side. I look like a spotted cow. I’m getting experienced at getting my ass kicked. When I get home I might be able to earn cash as a punching bag.
I ease myself into bed. Lying there I feel too much pain to sleep. Whatever the bud was I wish I had another one. I try to get more comfortable, but every movement sends some kind of pain shooting through my body. Frustrated I get out of bed. I dress in some spare clothes Tenth gave me. So I visit Maebh. As I figured the old woman is already awake. Maebh knows everything I’ve been up to in last couple of days. From training to getting the crap knocked out of me again. She doesn’t have any of those plant buds. Instead she has some of that stinky salve. It feels better then it smells at least. We talk a bit over tea. After, I head back to class. I don’t tell Maebh this. I’m sure she’d want me to stay off my feet for another day or so. But I’m tired of feeling like her patient.
I walk into class finding the same scene I did yesterday. My fellow tyros are sitting in a circle. I think it might be a type of meditation. I do my best not to look like the walking dead as I enter struggling to sit down due to my injuries, lowering myself down like an old granny. Sixth shoots me that infectious smile of hers. A couple of the other tyros give me angry sideways glances. Guess I’m not welcomed by all of them. After a couple of endless minutes Ganor enters. He looks us over, his eyes stopping on me before he addresses the group. Today’s class he tells us will be about guerrilla tactics against a larger force. Something that’s important with the war on now. Afterwards Ganor demonstrates some take down moves with First Tyro. As he walks back to the group I catch First giving me a dirty look. Another fan. The class thankfully goes by quickly. With him taking it easy on us. Is that because of me? Or just the luck of the draw.
Soon I get into a rhythm, going to class every day. My body is healing at a fairly good rate. I’m also pretty adapt with the Vokr. A short battle ax that can be thrown as well lop somebody’s head in two.
We break right after training for lunch. I start having my lunch with the other tyros. We’re served a few different meals for lunch. My favorite being a stew with a delicious meat similar to beef. I really don’t want to think about where it came from. Along with it are various vegetables in a thick spicy gravy. I listen to my fellow tyros chatter. In class none of them speak unless Ganor asks them a question. Outside of class most are like Sixth. Eager and friendly. Except for First Tyro and a couple others. First is always acting superior to the others and talking down to them. I’m not sure what his problem is but I’m hoping I get to face him in The Rezar. He walks around with a smug look on his face I’d like to remove with my fist. In fact everything about this kid makes me want to smack the hell out of him. And I’m actually okay with that. Most days he sits at the very end of our table and keeps quiet. Today when Third and Sixth are talking about the progress of the war he interjects himself into their conversation.
“I’m sure weaklings like you two won’t even make scout, much less warrior. Which is a relief because I don’t want to go into battle with you in my unit.”
I can see the hurt in Sixth’s face as his words sink in.
He turns to Sixth. “You got beat by her.” He says pointing at me. “How could you possibility hope to hold your own against the enemy. You’re a fool to think otherwise. It would have been a mercy to the rest of us if you died in your egg.”
I’ve sat here before during his little tirades and kept my mouth shut. Mostly because I’m scared of what I’ll do if he gets me pissed. That and I’ve been healing. Seeing Sixth’s sad face sets me off.
“Would you shut the hell up?”
“It speaks.” He says. “Usually you’re good at holding your tongue, pink skin.”
“Why don’t I rip yours out?”
I launch over the table at him, not thinking. Next thing I know I’m hammering his face with fists. He gets in his share of hits before the other tyros pulls us apart. Every profanity and then some spill out of my mouth as he shrugs off the tyros holding him. He spits blood at me before leaving.
“I guess I got to him?” I ask.
Later I’m sitting in Maebh’s room. I watch as she works on a potion. The incident at lunch doesn’t get mentioned by me. Fine by me. If she don’t know, I ain’t telling her. Looking around I notice a total lack of Hallie buzzing about.
“Where’s your little friend?” I ask.
“On a mission.”
“One involving you know what?” I press.
She gives me a stern look. “Serena, you know the answer to that.”
“Don’t you think you should tell them about it?”
“And we both know what they’d want to do with that knowledge.”
There’s no convincing her. The old woman is probably right, but if The Reint finds out she’s been withholding info, something crucial like The Red Hand, what would he do? To her? To me? Is he above using torture? Not something I want to picture, that’s for sure.
I fiddle with some of her stuff as I watch her work. Wish I’d taken those books Mr. White gave me back in Kuma Torth. The written word may be Kryptonite here, but I could go for a good book to pass the time.
I hear the fabric of the curtain move. I look up in time to see Tenth enter. I haven't seen her since I was dumped off in Ganor’s class. My anger over it has softened a bit. But there’s still a little resentment buried in me. Despite that I smile upon seeing her.
“Well, hello there stranger.” I say.
“You look good little sister.” She says. “I can see your training hard.”
I wish I didn’t feel the way I do. She’s my friend and she’s out there facing death on these raids. But the hurt is still lingering in my heart.
“How goes the war?” I ask.
“Our enemy is numerous and deadly but I believe we’ve given them a reason to fear us.”
“Kind of wish I could help you.” I say. Is that the guilt talking? “How’s your brother?”
“He is doing fine. He’s waited for this day for some time. His heart is made for battle. He’s dreamed of getting revenge for our people’s exile all his life.”
“He and Seventh are in the same squad now. Ninth’s was nearly wiped out taking on a caravan of enemy supplies. Their mission failed but they found out the supplies were crystals. We now have a good idea where the enemy’s main crystal mines are. If we were to capture that, we might get an advantage.”
“Those guys we fought in the city, they didn’t have any crystal weapons.” I say.
“No. The Elite guard are only allowed to use them. If you’d faced them you’d not have returned.”
The thought of what these Elites are like gives me a shiver.
We talk for a little while. Tenth wanting to hear all about my training. I tell her a glossed over version of what I’ve done so far. Leaving out my rage quit on the first day, the beating I took to get back and my attempted murder of First earlier. I’m not sure how she’d react to it all. With everything she was to worry about, I just don’t want to add anything to the pile.
We get something to eat before she has to leave, talking mostly about the war. Which is manly me asking her details about what’s happened so far. We reminisce a bit about our first meeting. When I found her swimming. It seems like so long ago, years ago. Tenth goes after, wishing me luck with the rest of training. I can’t help thinking I should say I’m sorry for being mad at her. What if I don’t see her again? But like always I don’t.
I go to The Rezar to burn off my anger. I’m angry at myself for being an asshole. I practice with the Vokr ax. First my stances and then throwing. My body has betrayed me. Going from curvy to a bit hard. When I flex my arms I can see the start of little muscles now. I work up a good sweat, my body aching. My wounded shoulder lets me know it’s time to give it a rest. I turn around to see three figures standing in the entrance. First Tyro stands at the head of the three. The two behind him are classmates, Second and Fifth.
“What do you want?” I grumble. More annoyed then scared. I’m pretty certain they want to kick my ass. “You shouldn’t sneak up on a girl with an ax.” They could very well want to kill me.
“I am First Tyro for a reason. I’m the first and the best. The other tyros know their place. Do you need to be taught yours?”
“Look. I’m tired. I’m going to bed. Would you mind if we do this tomorrow?”
I turn and throw the ax at the target. The ax hits it, sticking in. I turn back to First.
“Now, I don’t have a weapon. If you want to jump me go right ahead.”
“You care about the weak.” He says. “That makes you weak.”
I push past the three of them headed for the entrance. First’s eyes turn to thin slits as he glares at me. The three of them feel like a pack of dogs as they watch me. If I show them any fear or weakness they’ll attack me.
“Live in fear.” He calls after me.
I walk down the tunnel breathing hard. My heart racing from a combination of anger and fear coursing through me. When I reach the large community area I lean against a wall. Damn. I’m a fool. First knows my weakness. When I attacked him at lunch. My temper. The little bastard was trying to get me to attack him just now. It was a risk. Me with the ax in my hand. But the second I’d made a move they would have been on me. Would they kill me? Or was their plan just to cripple me? I head back to my room, wishing I’d taken the ax with me.
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