Chapter 2: Noble
A rotund, balding man with his left boot off sat on a cot in Dr. Sangre’s clinic. Nobleman Thaddeus Gumble had left the mayor’s house during the fourth night of a week of parties. His enormous nose beamed red from nights of too much ale, and his pale, thin lips gave him a carp-like appearance. He complained loudly to his servant while she swiftly organized his belongings.
Sarah Tanner, his servant, efficiently folded his heaped clothes in the corner of a room. Sarah’s sinewy frame, caramel skin, and effortless efficiency contrasted the nobleman’s crass behavior.
“Sir, this is the best doctor in all of Haynis, not to mention the only one open at this time of the night,” said Sarah, knowing her logic was likely wasted on Thaddeus.
“Most likely this ‘medicine man’ wouldn’t know proper healing if it bludgeoned him in the face,” Thaddeus muttered.
“Well said, sir,” replied Sarah.
“This is the worst case of firefoot I’ve ever had. He’s lucky I have such an incredibly high pain tolerance. Sarah, did I ever tell you the time I fell off the front steps a few years back?”
“It was last year, and yes, several times.”
“Yes, well, there I was minding my own business. I had recently received a fine new pair of leather shoes as a gift. I was about to go outside, and some worthless servant had forgotten to salt the top of the stairs in the middle of winter if you can believe that.”
“I had salted the stairs, but in your genius you went outside in a snowstorm in new shoes as a challenge,” Sarah answered too quietly for him to hear.
Thaddeus continued, oblivious. “And do you know what happened then?”
Sarah straightened one already perfect corner of the pile of clothes and waited for him to answer his own question.
“I fell down the entire flight of jagged stone stairs. If not for my incredible pain tolerance, well, I could not have made it back up those two flights and back into my house where the doctor came in and rushed me off for immediate surgery.”
“It was three steps, sir, you just skinned your knee—”
“’Barely clinging to life,’ they said. The surgeon himself said if I had not had my nearly inhuman tolerance for pain, why, he did not know if he could have even performed the surgery.”
Dr. Cameron Sangre heard the nobleman’s bluster while descending the ladder from the roof. He took a long drag from the wineskin flask and then put on his stethoscope. In the corner of his shop, he saw two tiny pixies fluttering and chatting among themselves. He winked at them on his way down the steps, and they both broke into giggles.
Cameron always loved pixies, though he had not seen any in years, and never in Haynis. Since the city was located in the northwest corner of the country of Tenland, a country almost entirely composed of humans, their presence in his small clinic seemed odd. He would have to find out what brought them here. But first, he had to make his way to his waiting patient, who was not waiting patiently.
“Hello, sir, how can I help you?” asked Dr. Sangre.
“How can you help? You can find me the doctor or the soothsayer or whatever you imbeciles call the healer in this bloody rattrap of a city,” answered the nobleman.
“I’m Dr. Sangre,” Cameron said.
“You are the ‘doctor’ here? You couldn’t be more than thirty years old. Have you even tended an ill person before in your life? What are your qualifications?” said Thaddeus.
“My most important qualification is that I’m the only doctor you’ll be able to see before tomorrow noon. My other qualifications include seven years spent at Vladimir University. If you need further proof of my abilities, your servant can drive your team of horses the twenty-seven day journey to the University, where I’m sure they’ll be glad to help you,” said Cameron.
“I have a rare and unique disease that you probably have never heard of. You see, I have what is called-”
“You have firefoot, or gout,” said Cameron, examining the nobleman’s red foot. “It can be quite painful, especially if you indulge. Been to any parties recently?”
The nobleman glared at him. “Actually, yes, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
Cameron continued, “Your life of excess seems to be catching up with you, but I can help you nonetheless.”
Sarah held in her laughter. No one ever condescended to Thaddeus. She watched his face change to a dark shade of red. She had been hired as a servant years ago. Gumble paid well because no one could tolerate him.
“Marie, could you grab some indometh and a gout poultice, please?” Cameron said in the direction of the back room. To the nobleman he said, “My nurse will be right in with some medicine. I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you.”
Cameron walked to the back of the clinic where Jayde sat quietly, sipping some hot chocolate Marie had provided. Her bright green eyes darted, taking in the surroundings. She seemed content, but then again, she had just been dangling from a rooftop.
“How are you holding up, Jayde?” he asked.
“How do you know my name? I never gave it to you,”
“Do you always answer questions with questions?”
“Fair enough,” Cameron conceded. “You were talking to yourself while dangling on the ledge. I was listening then, remember? Now how are you holding up?”
Cameron noticed her trembling hands as she sipped.
“Excuse us a minute, Jayde,” said Marie. Cameron got up and walked to the counter.
“Our noble patient has taken the indometh and the poultice is set. Why don’t you just heal him and get him out of here, his royal fatness really just rubs me the wrong way,” Marie whispered.
“Why’s that?” he asked.
“He takes sadistic pleasure in the discomfort of his servant. I just want to punch his blubbery face through the wall,” she said.
“Why don’t you?” he asked.
“Why don’t you take another drink and smile for him?” she retorted.
“You think that he would even notice anything if I did?” Cameron asked.
“He wouldn’t, but his servant is sharp. Just heal him, and get him out of here. Did you notice the duo on your trip down the hatch?”
“The pixies? I did. It’s a long way from Suliad. We’ll ask them after I get ‘Nobleman Gumble’ out of here,” he said.
Dr. Sangre returned to Gumble who was complaining loudly about the terrible service, and how he could not wait until he got back to Grandeur, where they had competent doctors.
Cameron ignored him as he applied the poultice to the puffy red side of Gumble’s foot. After securing the salve in place, Cameron held his hands over the joint and concentrated.
Slowly Cameron willed himself into the nobleman. He felt what the nobleman felt. He saw through Gumble’s eyes. As he had done many times before, he allowed himself to feel the pain and know what truly flowed through Gumble’s body.
“A poultice? You think a poultice is going to heal me? No one has ever used a poultice before, you idiot,” said the nobleman.
Cameron’s eyes glazed over as he relaxed. He felt Thaddeus Gumble’s foot and sensed a mild tingling pain along the first metatarsal. No fever, no infection, just gout. He delved deeper, concentrating only on the joint, magnifying and increasing his sensation of the area until that was all he felt and all he knew. He could sense the small, nearly invisible crystals that caused the gout.
Cameron released a small, focused portion of his will and pushed energy into the inflamed joint. The nobleman’s face relaxed. Cameron felt the inflammation oozing out of the joint. He felt the small crystals dissolving.
The inflammation dissipated. The warmth and redness disappeared. The entire process happened in about 15 seconds. The nobleman looked at Cameron with a wide-eyed stare.
“It’s . . . it’s gone.” The nobleman’s voice betrayed his disbelief. “That is the most amazing poultice ever! How did you do that?”
“Your foot should not bother you for quite some time; however, you need to cut down on the fatty foods and ale or it will return,” said Cameron.
“Maybe you aren’t a quack after all,” muttered Gumble as Cameron walked away.
“That’s a beautiful necklace,” Marie said to Sarah. “Pixie made, right?”
“Yes,” she answered, offering no more in the way of conversation. Sarah paid Marie and caught up to exiting Thaddeus Gumble.
“Come back if your gout returns,” called out Marie from the front door. She watched as they walked down the street toward the mayor’s house and the weeklong party still in full swing.
“Now onto the next problem. What to do with the little girl?”
“What do you mean? She’s a clever girl, she’ll be fine. She goes back on the street and disappears into the crowd,” replied Cameron.
“We’ve waited years for something to happen, maybe this is it. She’s what? Fourteen years old? And someone hired a triad of assassins to take her out?” said Marie.
“Marie, they were after me,” Cameron insisted. “They had to be. It’s the only logical conclusion.”
“Maybe. But a triad? We’ve been keeping an eye on many people in this city. You have your suspicions about everyone, and I know that girl was one of the ones you mentioned as having quite a bit of potential,” said Marie.
“Not our problem, Marie. Just because I healed one Seer, and she paid for her treatment by divining our future, does not mean we have to uproot all of our hard work over the last ten years because one girl fits the description. We’ve been silent caretakers for how many street urchins? I have enough difficulty staying out of trouble without help from a Seer’s vague predictions,” he said.
“I know you felt it. You felt the same flux of power I did the second she came into the shop,” she said.
“She has Talent, that’s for sure. You’re better than I am at judging that, though. So you want me to try to avoid trouble with one person,” said Cameron, looking out at the nobleman walking away, “and then you want me to invite in trouble with another.”
“Fat, pompous noblemen can solve their own problems. I have a soft spot in my heart for homeless little girls. Especially one fleeing for her life who happens to be brimming with Talent,” she said.
“Fine. What should we do with her?”
“Excuse me!” came a protest from behind them. Jayde had snuck up on them. “I can take care of myself. Thanks for the drink, but I’m getting out of here!” Jayde then pushed her way between them and through the door into the street.
“Problem solved?” Cameron asked.
Marie peered out the door as Jayde disappeared into the rainy night.
Two creatures whizzed by in a flash.
“Thank you for the delicious chocolate beverage!” chirped one of the pixies as they flew through the open door. They turned in the direction opposite from where Jayde had vanished.
“I think our problems are just starting,” answered Marie.
Coming out in 2015