Month 1, Day 17, Sunday 9:00 p.m.
As was becoming routine to her, Sebastien went first to the Silk Door, where she took up the name Siobhan along with her real body. This time, she rebleached the front section of her hair, again using the color-change spell rather than an alchemical concoction, and tied it in a severe bun. Noticing that the rest of her hair wasn’t just dark, but actually an iridescent blue-black, she fixed that, too. ‘Another difference between Siobhan Naught and the Raven Queen. Or rather, between Silvia Nakai and the Raven Queen.’ She again wore the fake horn-rimmed glasses Katerin had gotten for her when she was doing the street-corner flag wards throughout the Verdant Stag’s territory. She didn’t wear the red lip cream. Being Sebastien was out of the question for this, but hopefully, she could just be Silvia, a nondescript healer’s assistant, not the Raven Queen.
Once upon a time, her name had felt like something intrinsic, a thing that held meaning when describing her basic identity. If someone had asked her who she was, she would have answered, “Siobhan Naught,” without hesitation, and meant it. It was a label that encompassed all that she was. Now, if someone asked her that same question, she would have had to check what skin she was wearing and what role she was playing before answering. The only thing left of her was her insides—her mind and her magic—and of course no human remained unchanged over time. All living, growing beings were in a constant state of slow metamorphosis. ‘There will come a time when I am different. But, I hope, never a time that I no longer recognize myself.’
She took a roundabout path to the address Oliver had given her. She slipped through the back door, which had been left unlocked, into the back room of a shop where the normal supplies had all been moved to one side of the room. The shelves were stocked instead with potions, bandages, and a few basic medical artifacts. Two large, square operating tables sat within, and one wall was lined with cots.
The room was empty. Something about being alone in a strange place, in the dark, made her feel like she was being watched from the shadows.
“Hello?” she called, her voice weak enough that it wouldn’t travel very far.
No one responded.
‘The healer must not be here yet.’ She closed the door behind her, found a light crystal, and began to set up, organizing her own potions and familiarizing herself with the prepared supplies. The operating tables both had a large Circle engraved on their smooth surfaces. One had a pentagram and pentagon within the middle, and the other a hexagram and hexagon. With those four options, the tables should be enough to cover almost all of the basic healing spells.
The minutes stretched on, and Siobhan found herself pacing back and forth in an attempt to release some of the nervous energy building up inside her.
When the distant sounds of fighting reached her, the healer still hadn’t arrived.
A few minutes into it, when she was wound so tight she felt like a string that might snap, frantic pounding on the door made her jump.
There were no back windows, so she had to open the door to see who it was.
As soon as she did so, two men pushed past her, one supporting the other.
The injured man was badly burned. The skin across his head, neck, and one arm was already bubbling up, and he smelled uncomfortably like burnt hair mixed with roasted pork.
“You’re the healer, right?” the uninjured man asked, puffing from the strain of supporting his almost insensate teammate.
Siobhan shook her head. “No. I—”
Behind them, a woman followed, her battle wand out and her eyes scanning the street for danger. “Is this the wrong place?” she asked demandingly. “We were promised there would be a healer here.”
“It’s the right place,” Siobhan said. “But the healer hasn’t arrived. I—”
The burned man sobbed pitifully. His face was badly blistered, one eyelid melted into the surrounding skin, and his ear on that side mostly burned away.
Siobhan swallowed past the nauseating smell and pushed her shoulders back. “Get him onto the table,” she ordered, pointing to the one with the pentagon and pentagram. She couldn’t cast any of the real healing spells that required a hexagram, anyway. She strode over to the shelf of potions. “I’m not the healer, I’m an assistant. I can’t do everything, but I can help.”
The man and woman worked together to heave the burned man onto one of the tables, which only drew out more pained sounds from him. “Fritz,” he mumbled.
The man grabbed his hand and squeezed it. “I’m here, buddy. I’ve got you.”
Siobhan tied on a full-body apron and returned with a potion and a jar of salve.
She uncorked the potion and fed it slowly into the good side of the burned man’s mouth. “This will help with the pain,” she told him. “You’re going to be okay, I promise.”
He swallowed obediently, shivering slightly from what was likely shock.
She followed that up with one of her newly brewed regeneration-boosting potions, letting him drink it rather than trying to pour it evenly over the huge swath of damaged flesh. This way, he could heal from the inside out.
“Turn him to lie on his good side. Someone hand me a pair of scissors and a pair of tweezers.” She fished the chalk out of her pocket and walked around the table writing glyphs. Her secret Conduit was pressed between her calf and the upper shaft of her tall boots, creating a painful indentation in her calf, but she couldn’t reveal it, so she pulled out the one loaned to her by Professor Lacer. It wasn’t likely to be recognized, and there was no way to track its use. She cast a simple, improvised spell to slowly draw some of the heat from the man’s burns, which would keep him from continuing to slowly cook.
The high strength pain-relieving potion kicked in as she worked, and the man let out a long breath of relief, tension easing from his body. His breathing deepened as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Fritz returned with the tools she’d requested, which Siobhan used to cut and pluck away her patient’s clothes from his burned skin. “What caused his injuries?” she asked.
“Fireball spell,” the woman replied succinctly.
Siobhan hummed thoughtfully. “Any coughing or liquid in his lungs?”
‘Probably no internal burns, then.’ “Did the fireball blow him away? Did he smash into anything?”
“No. It wasn’t concussion-modified,” the woman said. “Just heat.”
“That’s good. He’ll have scarring if he cannot afford to pay for the strongest healing spells, but he’ll live as long as I can keep his skin on his body.”
Fritz swallowed audibly. “How likely is it that you can’t? Keep his…skin on his body, that is.”
Siobhan scowled down at the sweeping burns. She couldn’t get all of the cloth and ash out of the wounds, but figured that was a job for someone more skilled, anyway. As long as he didn’t die right away, she’d done her job. “I don’t know. If the healer ever arrives, I’d say it’s quite likely he’ll come out of this with some scarring. If not, I’ll at least be able to keep him alive through the night. For the rest…” She shrugged, perusing the wound-cleansing potions on the shelf for a brew mild enough not to tear away the burned skin.
She found a bottle and poured it liberally over the unconscious man.
“Do you have any idea where the healer might be?” Fritz asked. “It’s just… It looks like you’re all alone here. Our orders were to drop off any wounded and get back to the battle, but maybe we should stay. You might need protection.”
Peering at the pieces of dirt, ash, and cloth that were flushed out by the gentle bubbling of the potion, she said, “You can stay for now. I might need an extra pair of hands or two when we get more injured. One of you should guard the door in the meantime.”
Siobhan had cleaned her hands while waiting for the healer to arrive, but still rinsed them again in a basin of strong alcohol she’d poured in the corner. All the healing books she’d read had been rabidly paranoid about the possibility of infection, which often could not be treated without true healing potions or spells, and were a leading cause of delayed deaths. Infection had long been thought to be caused by bad humors, but according to Professor Gnorrish and the latest medical books, it was actually caused by tiny animal-like creatures too small to see with the naked eye, which would breed within a person like maggots in a piece of meat. Bacteria. Alcohol killed them.
Assured that she wouldn’t be infecting the man with her touch, she dipped her finger into the fresh jar of burn salve and began to gently daub the gooey substance over his burned skin. She’d only covered a couple of inches when shouting from down the street drew her attention.
The woman’s battle wand was in her hand as she peered out the door, but whatever she saw made her relax slightly. “Allies, carrying injured!”
Siobhan took a quick glance outside, turned around, and said, “Help me move him. I’m going to need the operating table, and he isn’t in critical condition.” Being as careful as they could not to jostle his burns, they moved him to one of the cots just as the new group hurried in the door.
They brought more burns, a broken leg, and what she thought was a punctured lung from a broken rib.
Siobhan slipped into a fugue of focus, rattling off orders, questions, and prioritizing the injuries as well as she knew how.
The punctured lung was the worst, but other than her blood magic flesh-mirroring spell, she didn’t actually have any way to fix it. She gave the injured fighter a whiff of a strong anti-coughing philtre, then cast a modified version of a simple sinus-clearing spell on him. “Do. Not. Cough,” she warned.
The spell drew up globs of blood and phlegm, which spilled out of his mouth in a horrific, lumpy mess into the bowl she had waiting. The man tensed, holding his breath in an attempt not to hack at the disturbance to his lungs.
She held up the anti-coughing philtre again, letting him get another soothing breath. “Breathe shallowly.” She gave him a blood-replenishing potion next. “Does anyone have a lung-sealing philtre?” she called. She had bought some for the Verdant Stag at the secret thaumaturge meeting, but there were none stocked on the shelves.
“I do!” a man belatedly volunteered, fumbling it from the half-stocked utility belt around his waist. He dropped it, but with quick reflexes, Siobhan managed to catch it before it hit the floor and she delivered it safely to the patient.
The man took as deep a breath as he could, and the philtre did its job, coating the inside of his lungs with a seal that would add pressure to the wound and help to keep him from drowning to death in his own blood.
Siobhan sent him to one of the cots in the corner. “You’re still bleeding. We’re waiting on the healer. If you feel your lung start to fill up again, ring the bell and I’ll come clear it out for you. No talking, no coughing, slow breaths,” she ordered, shoving a cheap brass bell she’d pulled from one of the shelves into his hand.
‘At least we’re well-stocked,’ she consoled herself.
Everyone with burns piled their affected parts or their whole bodies onto the table and she drew the heat out of the burned flesh, then removed any large pieces of debris or cloth from the wounds, repeating the same process as the first time. Those who were the worst off got enough pain-relieving potion to knock them unconscious.
She made Fritz rub down with alcohol, then put him on burn salve duty. “It’s too simple to screw up. Dab, don’t rub. Be generous with the salve, we have plenty. Clean your hands thoroughly between each patient.”
She turned her attention to the man with a broken leg. The leg wasn’t exactly mangled, but a jagged edge of bone was jutting out of his shin, and the limb was bent unnaturally at the break. Judging by the pallor of his foot and the rotten grape-purple bruising all around the wound, she doubted blood was flowing properly past it. ‘He’s going to lose that foot if I don’t do something. Maybe I could knock him unconscious with a pain-reliever, take him into the main room of the shop and send the others away, and see if I can at least get the bone in place and the blood vessels reconnected with the flesh-mirroring spell? These people might be suspicious of the secrecy, but they’re not healers. I could make up a plausible excuse…’
She was contemplating the wound while the pale-faced patient stared at her.
“Can you fix it?” he asked.
“Of course I can!” a man barked from behind her.
She turned to see Healer Nidson, the same man Oliver had taken her to when she got Will-strain.
Nidson was guarded by three men with wands. His white shirt was splattered with blood, his hands, knees, and shoes covered in what looked like a mixture of mud and blood.
Siobhan almost collapsed with relief. “Thank the stars above,” she muttered.
Nidson looked around with a critical eye, then turned his gimlet stare on Siobhan. “You’ll brief me while assisting. Go get the wound cleanser! Strength five. And I need a sink and some alcohol. Find me a clean apron. And be quick about it!”
Siobhan pointed him to the wash basin in the corner, gave him a fresh bottle of alcohol, then scurried around to retrieve the rest of what he’d requested, explaining the injuries she’d assessed and what she’d done to treat them as she went.
He was ready and up to date a few minutes later, just as another wave of injured people arrived.
There were people from the Stags and the Nightmare Pack, but also unconscious men wearing the red of the Morrows, and even a few civilians. The wounds were worse.
“Morrows were prepared,” one of the men gasped. “Half of them had overpowered blast wands. Took down the side of a building on us. Civilians got caught up in it. We grabbed who we could. There are more there, some dead. There’ll be—” He stopped to cough violently, then croaked, “There’s more wounded on the way, as soon as they can get here on their own or we can fetch them.”
Nidson initiated a quick diagnosis of that man using an artifact that sent out a pulse of light and sound, and then read its dials and scales for the result. “No obvious internal bleeding. You’re good to go.”
The latest batch of people were wounded in ways that were beyond Siobhan’s ability to help directly. She could deal with cleaning wounds of the pieces of wood and stone that had been embedded in flesh by the concussive blasts, and she knew enough to give the proper basic potions. But she could do nothing about caved-in abdomens, shattered skulls and pelvises, broken spines, disrupted internal organs, or internal bleeding…not even simple concussions. For those, she gave pain potions, blood-replenishers, and revivifying potions, just trying to keep them all alive long enough for the healer to see to them.
It was honestly amazing to watch Nidson in action. He had been brusque before, but seemed unpretentiously competent. Now he was like a snappish, efficient whirlwind. He used telekinetic spells to move bones and flesh into the proper position, tossed around minor healing potions like they were water, and even broke out some components from the Plane of Radiance to cast specialized healing spells on the particularly grievous wounds.
He bossed her—and anyone else who stood nearby for a little too long—around with rapid-fire instructions, sending uninjured men back out into the fight. Their cots quickly filled up, and anyone who was conscious or stable enough to move was relocated to the main part of the shop and laid out on the ground.
In this way, they worked through the wounded even as more poured in.
Some died, or were already dead when they arrived, carried by people who were exhausted and often injured themselves.
Siobhan realized that she had been wrong to think that normal healing potions were inefficiently expensive. Being general purpose and simplistic was their greatest strength. She could dose people on the edge of death with one general healing potion instead of a series of different specific potions and spells, providing what they needed much faster. She could use a healing potion without taking the time to diagnose the injury as thoroughly, leaving specific problems until later. Some of those being brought in had already taken one of the mild healing potions the enforcers had been supplied with, and in some cases it had saved their lives. Even civilians with no medical training and no skill in magic, their eyes blurry with blood and their hands shaking, could use one.
Siobhan had also never considered that someone could be so severely injured that they might literally not have enough room in their stomachs for all the specific-purpose potions they would have otherwise needed.
There was a fire spreading from one of the battle sites, caused by careless use of a fireball spell. They were getting more civilians with burns or smoke inhalation, so many that Siobhan worried the previously excessive stock of burn salve would actually run out.
It was worse than Siobhan had expected. Not worse than she could have imagined, but it still rattled something deep within her. The darkest moment came when a grandmother with a mangled stump for a hand begged her to save her grandson, whose legs had both been blown off. The woman had tied the stumps with strips of her own clothing, using just her good hand and her teeth, then ran the whole way to them with the boy on her back, following directions from the Nightmares—Nightmare Pack enforcers—who had been fighting in the street around her.
Siobhan thought the boy was dead, to look at him, but Nidson pronounced his heart to be still beating. “He’s lost too much blood, though. I don’t have any of the more powerful healing potions left, and anything else will take too long.”
“Humphries’ adapting solution!” Siobhan cried, lunging over to the shelf where she’d placed the large bottles earlier that evening. She shoved two into his hands.
“Are these still fresh?” he asked.
“I brewed them myself just yesterday,” she assured him.
Nidson wasted no time placing the boy on the operating table. Using a fountain pen with a thick ink, he drew out the modified piercing spell, centering it precisely over his pale arm. He used a tiny needle to barely prick the skin at the center of the array, then pressed the wax-covered mouth of the bottle over it and began to cast, forcing the liquid directly into the boy’s bloodstream.
Five minutes later, three liters of liquid had been transfused into the boy’s body with minimal waste, and he was breathing normally. His color hadn’t recovered from the deathly pallor, but that was because the adapting solution wasn’t red like blood.
Nidson moved on to the boy’s leg stumps, but Siobhan took an extra moment to look at the unconscious child’s face. ‘He’s alive because of me. I did better, this time.’
Nidson was almost finished sealing the boy’s stumps when the guard at the doorway screamed in alarm, shooting a spell from her wand before leaping out of the way.
Half a second later, the doorway exploded.
The open door was blown off its hinges, and the blast edges caught those closest, tossing them off their feet and peppering them with shattered pieces of brick and shards of wood.
Siobhan reacted in time to cover her face with her arms, flinching back from the blast and shrapnel. She was far enough away that it only rocked her back on her heels and left her with a handful of bruises where she’d been hit.
Nidson had reacted even faster than her, pulling the boy off the table onto the floor and shielding him with his own body.
A mixed group of Nightmare Pack and Verdant Stag fighters had been by the door. Some of them had moved in time. Those who hadn’t were lying on the floor, injured or unconscious. The concussive blast spell had been a little off-center, impacting more against the side of the building than directly through the doorway, which had probably saved their lives.
Siobhan’s ears were ringing from the pressure of the shockwave, and people were screaming in fear and pain, but she still heard the female guard who’d gotten off a return shot shout, “Morrows!”
‘They must have followed some of our own people,’ Siobhan thought. “Get away from the doorway!” she screamed. “If anyone has a shield, raise it now!”
People were crawling or being dragged away. The female guard stepped past them, falling to one knee in the doorway with her fists, wrapped by knuckle guards, held in front of her.
Another concussive blast hit, this one more on target, but a circular shield flared out from the woman’s fists, wider than the doorway and almost as tall, blocking the blast and allowing the injured to make it farther into the safety of the room. The woman let out a grunt past gritted teeth from the strain of the impact as she absorbed a second attack, this one a fireball that spilled around the edge of the shield, licking at the ceiling and the walls and singeing the woman’s skin.
“Give back our men!” screamed one of the Morrows from the street. “I want Andrews and Jacob or I’m going to collapse that building on top of you!”
Siobhan grabbed one of the stone operating tables by its leg and heaved it toward the doorway. “Step back!” she screamed at the guard.
The woman shuffled out of the way, her fists still raised with the faintly glowing shield.
From the corner of her eye, Siobhan saw one of their attackers release another spell. With a heave, she tipped the table over in front of the doorway and fell to the ground behind it, knees to her chest and her arms around her head.
The table cracked with the impact of the attacking spell—another concussive blast—but didn’t shatter completely.
The woman was kneeling over Siobhan, her fists still raised. She’d reinforced the table with her shield artifact, keeping it from breaking, but the table also protected her from the brunt of the blow.
Siobhan crawled to her feet. ‘We’re trapped in here, like rats in a box.’ She popped her head up above the edge of the table for less than a second, taking in the attackers scattered around both sides of the street, some peeking out behind doorways or the corners of alleys. She scrambled for her bag.
Some of the civilian patients were running to the front of the shop, hoping to escape out the main door, but many more were unconscious or not stable enough to move.
Some of the enforcers still well enough to fight headed that way, too, and Siobhan hoped they were going to circle around and attack the Morrows from the side or behind, not simply escape. She hoped, but she couldn’t depend on them. She’d run scenarios like this through her mind several times since Oliver asked her to help with this operation.
‘Do I have any effective long-range attacks except for the makeshift slingshot spell I used against the Morrows last time?’ The problem was, the Morrows were scattered, not grouped together under a single shield spell, and if she moved to the doorway to attack them, they were much more likely to hit her than she was to hit them. The barrier of the operation table would only hold for so long. It would be suicide.
She could slip out the front of the shop, circle around, and try to surprise them, but it still left the problem of being one against many, with them scattered about and difficult to hit.
No, she needed an attack that could cover a wide area all at once.
And she had prepared just the thing.
She carried her bag back to the doorway, fishing out a philtre of stench. There wasn’t enough wind to push the debilitating cloud toward their attackers, but she had a solution for that problem too.
She selected one of her paper utility spells.
The table, reinforced by the woman’s knuckle-guard shield, which was beginning to falter, took another hit. An arrow from a forearm-mounted crossbow shot through the doorway, but the shooter had terrible aim and it embedded itself harmlessly in the back wall.
Three other fighters were now helping the female enforcer, ducking down to shelter from attacks and then popping up to send out return fire. It seemed to be helping, reducing the rate at which the Morrows could sling spells at them.
The building around the doorway had taken several more blows as the Morrows’ aim deteriorated under the pressure. None of the Morrows seemed eager to come closer and make themselves a more obvious target.
Siobhan threw the alchemical bottle into the street, where it shattered. The stench expanded outward in a vaguely visible, sick-looking cloud.
As quickly as possible, she ducked back down and placed the paper spell array for her gust spell against the inner side of the table, using a bit of moderate-strength glue to paste it on. The Circle bound a spherical area under her command, which in this case meant that she also controlled a section of air on the other side of the table’s surface. The side facing the street.
She realized belatedly that she needed a power source, and as she turned to look for one, the healer said, “Here!” and tossed her the beast core he’d been using to perform healing spells.
Siobhan wasted no time extracting energy from it. She was exhilarated by the deep well of potential she could feel within the small vessel. It was like holding a miniature sun, or a bolt of lightning, or all the crushing power of the world’s largest waterfall.
She only needed a fraction of that power, and she used it to create wind. The Circle for this spell was small enough that she was able to create some real force from the gust.
The philtre of stench blew down the street, and though some of the Morrows had been smart enough to pull up their scarves or cover their face with an elbow, it wasn’t enough to save them. The particles were small, easily filtering through cloth, and no one had thought to cover their eyes.
The philtre was more than just stench. It was also an irritant to any of the more delicate mucous membranes and a minor emetic.
Siobhan adjusted the angle of the breeze several times on the fly, using only her Will to change the spell’s output in this simple way. She kept her head below the edge of the table for the most part, only popping up occasionally to readjust her aim.
The Morrows were dropping. Some vomited violently in the street. Some were blinded by their streaming eyes and hacking out mucus. Some decided that attacking the emergency healing center wasn’t worth it after all and ran away.
The shielding artifact the female enforcer had been using gave out, and a spell chipped the table, sending some fragments of broken stone flying at Siobhan’s face. Thankfully, her fake glasses protected her eyes.
Some of the enforcers who had escaped out the front of the shop did indeed circle around, taking shots at the escaping Morrows.
Siobhan tried to be careful not to send the magical stench at her allies, but it was hard to control, and they couldn’t get too close without being affected.
The philtre ran out after a few minutes, letting off only a trickle of fumes rather than a billowing cloud, and Siobhan released her gust spell.
“Guard the doorway,” she said to the fighters still inside. She went to the wash basin in the corner, wetted some bandages, and then tied them around her face, covering her mouth and nose like some kind of partial mummy.
One of the unconscious patients on the cots had a battle wand lying next to him. Siobhan took it.
The overturned operating table was mostly broken by that point, so it was easy to drag one side of it out of the way.
Siobhan stood in the doorway for a minute, clearly visible and ready to dodge aside, channeling every bit of reflex that Professor Fekten had managed to drill into her body.
No one attacked her.
Still ready to drop to the ground or lunge out of the way at a moment’s notice, Siobhan stepped into the street. The lingering stench was horrible, forcing her to choke down a gag. She’d never been particularly squeamish, but there was a reason part of the process of brewing this potion required a protective barrier around the mouth of the cauldron.
Quickly and methodically, she stunned every Morrow she could see until the wand ran out of charges. A few more tried to escape, but the enforcers from the Nightmare Pack and the Verdant Stag that had circled around stopped them.
She grabbed hold of the closest unconscious Morrow and dragged him toward the makeshift infirmary. Her allies picked up on the idea quickly, and helped her haul the others in. Oliver wanted hostages, after all.
Inside, Healer Nidson was already on his feet and working again, using the second table.
Waving for the enforcers to follow her, she dragged her prisoner into the main part of the shop, dropped him, and used a spell to remove any extra liquid from his mouth, throat, and lungs. ‘I don’t want any of them to die from choking on their own vomit.’ She repeated the process on their other new prisoners, then quickly checked to make sure none of them had potentially fatal wounds.
Her fingers were trembling around her Conduit, and the room swayed a bit when she stood. One of the Nightmare Pack enforcers, a man with two curling goat horns springing out of a mop of tangled hair, caught her elbow.
Siobhan nodded her thanks to him, clumsily pulling the damp bandages away from her face and wiping her streaming eyes. “Check them for weapons, then tie them up securely. Re-stun them if you have to. We cannot afford to waste pain-relieving potions keeping them unconscious.”
She returned to the back room, blinking away tears and suppressing the urge to cough. She felt like she’d rubbed her eyeballs and throat with a slice of onion. Staring around at the wounded lying on cots, and on the floor, those still waiting for treatment, and those already dead, she felt a buzzing sense of detachment for a moment. ‘This cannot be what Oliver had planned, can it? Something must have gone wrong. Is it even safe for us to stay in Morrow territory? What if they win the fight and come to kill us all?’ She pressed her hand to her chest, where her heart was beating too hard. She hadn’t thought she was afraid, but the burning in her veins and the lifting of the hair on the back of her neck was undeniable.
She looked around wildly, sure that something dangerous was in the room with her.
“Girl, are you listening?” Nidson barked.
Siobhan jerked back to awareness, turning to him belatedly as the irrational fear receded.
He fished in the pocket of his jacket under his now-filthy apron and tossed her a small bottle. “Take that and get back to work. I need three lung-sealing philtres and some liquid stone.” He turned to point at a group of patients. “When you’ve done that, dose those three with a regeneration-booster, and him with a mild healing potion. I’m worried about cot number three, he didn’t move when the first blast went off. Check his heartbeat and his eyes for dilation. And I need my beast core back.”
The healer continued to rattle off instructions, and one part of Siobhan’s brain catalogued them while the other focused on the vial he’d prescribed her. The scribbled label on the side named it a wit-sharpening potion.
Wit-sharpening potion did not in fact make you any smarter, but it could make you temporarily more aware and improve performance in situations that required multitasking, as long as you didn’t take too high a dose and become overwhelmed by sensory input. It was also addictive.
She took the single swallow remaining in the vial and tossed the empty bottle in the box where all the other empty jars, bottles, and vials were piling up. Almost immediately, she felt her focus tighten, her brain organizing the steps she needed to take to complete all her tasks as efficiently as possible.
‘There is no time to waste, and I will not leave these people to die.’ She felt for the battle wand she’d secretly slipped from one of the captured Morrows’ insensate fingers while taking them captive, now tucked in one of her inner pockets. The glyph next to its activation lever told her it was filled with only stunning spells, nothing more powerful, but she was pretty sure there were a few charges left. ‘If more enemies come, we’ll fight them off, too.’
The Bonus Omake Poll winner: “Thaddeus POV from chapter ‘Sirens’ Aberrant incident (exploring a low-level Aberrant and the workings of the Red Guard more directly)”
I’ll be brainstorming the idea over this next week, and writing it the next. The short story will be available, at least at first exclusive to patrons, by the first or second week of October, depending on how quickly the process goes.
Want to get an email with links as soon as a new chapter comes out? Sign up here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/q4b8d8
Trouble accessing a chapter? Troubleshooting tips: https://www.azaleaellis.com/trouble-accessing-chapters/