Episode 1 Chapter 36


“Stop squirming,” the medic said. He was an older university mage, with green robes and a drawl in his voice. “Sooner I get this over with, sooner we go home.”

Theodore tried to lie still as the medic stitched his chest wound. When the battle had ended, Fritz and the other knights carried him from the Fount and laid him on a cot by the bonfires. There was a lot of blood, but he was alive. The numbing spell took care of most of the pain, but it was hard for him to watch another man thread his skin with a needle. He tried to think about something else but his head was still foggy.

“Where’s Oboe?” He said, his throat hoarse.

“Who now?”

He sat up. “The faun I came with!” He felt a sudden rush of panic. “She was in the battle! Have you seen her? She was hurt. You need to help her!”

The medic sighed and forced Theodore back down. “Son, I got my hands full. You just worry about yourself. Now shut up and sit still.”

Theodore tried, with difficulty, to distract himself. He wondered how he would find his glasses now that they were lost in the Fount and his vision was a soft smear. It then occurred to him that was not the only thing he had lost. His luggage, including several unfinished library books, was still sitting on the floor somewhere back at the Bureaucracy Dome in violation of office policy.

“There,” the medic said, dressing the wound. He dropped a bottle of pills into Theodore’s lap. “Green ones are for the pain. Black ones are to flush the magic out of your body. Take one of each a day, or else you’ll wish you died instead.”

Theodore nodded.

“Could’ve been worse,” the medic said, gathering his tools. “Devil missed your vitals. If he played with you any longer I don’t think I would’ve had anything to sew together.”

“What were you thinking?” Fritz said. The Lieutenant sat on a tree stump nearby, scraping his sword with a whetstone. “We had everything in hand. All you had to do was stay out of the way. Nearly got yourself killed like a damn fool.”

Theodore glared. “You would have killed all of those creatures.”

“Yeah? So?” Fritz said. Theodore couldn’t make out his face, but unimagined it to be insufferable. “Did you forget that every one of those monsters was a wanted criminal? Do you know how many times they attacked us? You know how many friends of mine they killed?” Fritz held out a handful of fingers. “They’re wicked! A threat! And you let them run free! You think they’re going to play nice because you decided to coddle them? Just a matter of time until they start picking fights with civilians now. We were gonna pull them up by the roots, but you tied our hands! If we hadn’t stepped in, you would’ve got what you deserved!”

“Lieutenant!” Captain Redriver said, shrill as a kettle. She put herself between them. “That is your superior you are speaking to! You will respect King’s law or I’ll smack it back into you!”

Fritz went quiet. “…Yes sir. Apologies, sir.”

“Get out of here.” She pointed. “Go watch the perimeter with the cadets. That’s an order!”

The Lieutenant surrendered a grudging salute and left. The medic took the cue to slip away as well, leaving Theodore with the watch Captain and the soft crackle of the fire.

Myra sat next to Theodore. She did not look at him. For a moment, all she did was stare off.

“We’ve eliminated leadership for the Red Caps,” she said. “Their organization will be in shambles for some time. We should be able to harvest magic without problem, but we will need to stay vigilant. The outlaws were let go on a promise of good behavior.” She glanced at him. “I hope you know what you are doing, Grayweather.”

Theodore wished he did. “Yes,” he said.

She stood. “This is your problem now. It’s the Ranger Deputy’s job to keep order in the Whirlwood. You just made a lot of big promises to a lot of dangerous creatures.”

Whatever pride Theodore felt started to wilt, leaving a lump in his throat. “Yeah.”

Myra offered him a salute. “Good luck, Deputy. You’re going to need it.”

She marched off, her boots crunching on the rocky ground into the night. Theodore was left to watch the fire and wonder whether he had done the right thing. He wanted to solve this without violence but let Silas die. He saved the creatures, but what if some were worse than Silas?

Theodore wondered what his father would think. Would he be proud? Angry? Both? Why did he care? What would he even have wanted his father to think? He shook his head. The numbing spell was starting to wear off, and Theodore felt like mush sewn up with string. He wanted to sleep, but his mind buzzed with worry about what tomorrow would bring.

Someone stuck something on his face, and his vision snapped into sharp focus. He looked up to find Oboe leaning over him with a smile.

“You need these to see, right?”

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