Friday, March 3, 2023

Dark Armor: Healing

Pallian wasn't certain how long he'd been in the bath before the single bone of his left leg separated, reforming tibia and fibula, patella and femur. It burned, but he gritted his teeth and waited it out, and when it was done he could flex his leg again. Darkest gods, that hurt. He knew how close he'd come being slain by the Champion of Marinul, and the knowledge was sobering. I need to find another line of work, he thought, but unless his father decided to raise him to the court and appoint another to the role of Black Knight, there was little chance of that. He'd done what he could to protect himself, but defying the wizard-king's will was a quick path to a certain death. 

"You seem much recovered," said a voice, and Pallian stirred himself to look at Amedin, who had come into the room and now stood looking at him. 

Amedin had served the obsidian throne for six generations, far beyond the span of his mortal life. What remained of his flesh was wound tight around his bones, withered and decayed; and it was said that only the darkest of sorceries sustained him. Pallian had never seen him eat or drink, and thought of him as a sort of horrible doll that his father the wizard-king summoned for unpleasant tasks and pronouncements. Perhaps the most horrifying thing about him was that despite his appearance he moved like a young man, swift and sure.

"Considering that the Champion of Marinul near severed my leg, I'd say so." Pallian kept his voice even. 

Amedin knelt and placed a hand on his shoulder. Pallian didn't flinch away, but that was a matter of will and training. It wasn't just his visceral disgust at the touch of the half-dead priest, but the fact that Amedin had been responsible for the initiations he'd received at his father's commands, and -- of all the beings in his father's court -- was the one most likely to uncover the initiations that Pallian had undertaken on his own. Still, there was no avoiding Amedin's scrutiny, and any attempt to avoid it would only make it more likely that the ancient priest would look more closely and learn his secrets. 

That was what had happened to his older sister, Tyrya: like all of them, she had undertaken initiations of her own. Unlike her more fortunate siblings, she had been caught with them. Their father had publicly saluted her courage and initiative, and a few months later sent her off to the front lines of a particularly nasty skirmish with the Lord Martial of Ghenesh's moonriders. She had not returned; the funeral celebrations had lasted a paltry three days.

"Good," said Amedin, after a moment. "Strong." He stood again, smoothly. "Tybben brought you the elixir, of course, but even so..."

"The armor did what it could on the way back as well," Pallian observed, settling back into the bath. He needed food, and sleep, but at this particular moment he never wanted to move again. And that could be dangerous too, he thought. 

He made himself sit up. "You think I need additional help?" he asked, "I don't expect the armor to be breached by anything less than what I just faced, but..."

Amedin shook his head. "No. Not yet." He looked Pallian over, then nodded to himself. "Your initiations are coming along fine. They only need time to mature. And adding more would not help you, not with the armor around you."

Pallian nodded. "So be it," he said, and stood, gesturing to one of the skeletons to bring him a towel. It moved automatically to obey. "It will be food and then rest for me," he told the half-dead. "If you need me, I will be in my chambers."

"I will so inform the king," said Amedin, and turned away.

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