The next sensations Shay felt were warmth, and softness. Clean, lavender smelling linens cocooned her, and a gentle light shone through the lids of her eyes. Her name was being called in a very commanding voice, and had obviously been repeated many times. She felt like she was hearing it from a great distance. As she focused and drew further into wakefulness Shay connected the phrase together and recognized that Kane was speaking.
“Shay, I need you to wake up, now.”
She responded with a non verbal, affirmatory noise. She sensed that Kane relaxed a little to wait as the full effects of the potent Ranger’s concoction wore off.
Shay shook herself and slowly shifted into a sitting position with her legs draped over the side of the bed, feet planted firmly on the ground. She had not yet opened her eyes, because she could feel the remnants of a poultice dried across their surface.
There was another shifting feel from Kane, who was sitting across from her, and a warm wet rag was placed in her hands. Accepting it gratefully, Shay cleaned her face. She opened her eyes, and breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Oh, oh, I can see. I can see again.” She whispered. She felt a nearly overwhelming surge of gratitude. At the pond she feared she might never fully regain her vision. She had not allowed herself to worry about what that meant for her future. But it had nagged at her.
Kane nodded and replied, “Dyn Hysbys said you’d be fine. He rubbed that stuff,” Kane indicated the remnants of a reddish brown mixture on the rag, “across your eyes twice a day for three days. He said when you woke up you’d be right as rain.” He paused for a moment, then asked, “Are you?”
There was a subtle intonation in Kane’s question that indicated he wasn’t asking only about Shay’s vision. Before replying Shay took a look around. She started by looking down at her hands. Though the chain had be knocked off, the manacle on her left wrist was still in place. It had been cleaned and her raw and bruised wrist tended to. The manacle looked like a strange iron bracelet. Shay wondered briefly why it hadn’t been removed with the chain. It looked as though it had been left on purpose.
Observing her other surroundings, she discovered that she was in the Terrasylvan Infirmary. It was across the street from the Garrison and had been fashioned after a Viking longhouse. It had a crisp, clean, military feel, with nothing fancy to warm up the environment. Behind her a curtained partition separated her from the rest of the room. Shay also noted that Kane had his rapier drawn and balanced across his knees.
Something was clearly amiss in the Village, and Shay was being debriefed by her Captain, not asked after by her friend. Her awareness and senses flipped into a state of heightened attention. Shay recognized this internally, and had experienced it often in training, but more especially on the battlefield. Some people referred to this as ‘soldier sense,’ she simply thought of it as ‘Shay Mode.’ Kane was now Captain Driscol, and obviously in his version of the same condition.
Ignoring his question Shay asked, “Kane, where is my family? Are they alright?”
Driscol held up a hand indicating her to stop, “They’re fine, Shay, they’re safe.”
“Where are they?” Shay asked before Driscol could finish, “Why aren’t they here?”
“They’re close, they’re excited to see you,” Driscol carefully explained, subtly placing his hand on the hilt of his sword “but I have to ask you some questions first. And Shay, I need you to tell me the truth, no matter what.”
His response did little to calm her nerves, she’d seen his hand shift to his sword, and sensed his growing unease. Shay felt completely bewildered that Kane should see her as a threat. Evanlyn too, at the pond, had felt a need to ask the scale mail question three times, as though Shay were a danger instead of in danger. Evanlyn had aimed an arrow right at her. Something was very amiss. She simply nodded to her captain, indicating that she would obey, that she would tell the truth no matter what.
Giving her a moment to collect herself, Captain Driscol commanded, “Start from the beginning, tell me what happened the night of the fire.”
Shay explained it all, starting with the uneasy feeling in the middle of the night that had awoken her, and ending with Evanlyn and the vile of Ranger concoction. Occasionally, Captain Driscol would ask a clarifying question. He was particularly interested in the exact order in which Westmont had been unchained, asking her to repeat it immediately after she explained it the first time, then interrupting her half way through the telling of the weeks at the pond to restate it again, only backwards.
He seemed uninterested in the efforts expended to gather wood, build a rock anvil near the pond, and the subsequent breaking of the iron chain. He behaved as though he already knew those things.
When she finished her explanation, Kane relaxed back in his chair. He placed his rapier on a nearby table then handed Shay a cup of his homemade ginger tea. It had gone a little cold while Shay had given her report, but it had been liberally mixed with honey and she gratefully gulped it down.
“Captain,” Shay began unsure what to ask first, finally settling on, “What’s wrong? What happened to make you and Evanlyn distrust me?”
Kane sighed, and responded, “The fire in the smithy was started deliberately. We found remnants of a clay pot filled with pitch in the back of the stable where the hay was kept. The heat from the fire had cracked it but it was clear what it was.”
He stood and began to pace the room as he continued, “When you ran into the bakery we set up a bucket line to assist you. Then we heard you scream. I sent Veron and Edward to pull you out of there, but they couldn’t get through because of a collapsed beam. We counted you as dead. It took two days to put all the fires out. Three days after that we began the clean up, we searched for your body, and Westmont’s.” He shook his head recalling the grim task.
Then he stopped his pacing, and turned to look directly at Shay. He fished something from a hidden pocket up his sleeve. “We found only this.” Kane said holding out the key that Shay had released Westmont with, then thrown into the fire to prevent him from escaping.
The key, blackened by the flames, was bent and misshapen from the heat of the fire. The top part that connected to the leather cord had nearly been completely melted, the cord was gone entirely. The teeth were in fairly good condition however, and looked as though they could still work, with a little help.
Shay didn’t reach for the key, she instead met Kane’s eye, and stated what clearly pained him to speak. “Naturally, you suspected me. You found Westmont and I missing, and thought that I had helped him to escape.” Shay smiled softly, and nodded. “I can see why you would think that. You couldn’t possibly have know that I chained him to my wrist before I unlocked his feet. Of course it looked like I let him go.”
“We found your rapier and Evanlyn’s dagger the next day. We didn’t know what to think.” Kane said shrugging his shoulders. “The Rangers volunteered to take a look. Ten days after the fire they found you and Westmont working together near that pond. They didn’t know what to make of it, and they didn’t want to put you in further danger. Rather than rush in, they reported back and, since you’re under my command, they deferred to my judgement. I’m a blocker in my fencing and I take that attitude into my command, my default position is to watch and wait. So that’s what we did. We needed more information before we made a decision.”
“So you saw everything, everything we went through to break the chain. You couldn’t understand the motivation, so you waited to see what we would do once we were free.” Shay logically concluded.
“Exactly.” Kane agreed. “And we needed to better understand Westmont as well.”
“I can appreciate that.” Shay said. Then she asked, “Have you decided about him?”
Kane shook his head in the negative.
Shay continued, “Why didn’t you let Evanlyn shoot me? If you thought I was a traitor you should have let fly the moment you found us.”
“I left the decision to Evanlyn. I trusted her judgement.” Kane responded, matter-of-factly.
Shay perfectly accepted his answer. “I love Terrasylvae, I pledged an oath to Order. I’m a swordsman forever. I will never betray it.” Was all Shay could think to respond.
Kane simply nodded.
“Can I ask you one more thing?” Shay began.
Kane opened one hand in invitation to go on.
Shay continued, “Did you throw a funeral for me when you thought I was dead?”
Kane laughed, and replied, “No, Shay, we wouldn’t have dared. Your ghost would have haunted us all forever. There is a little white rock outside the chapel for you though. I’ll send one of the sergeants to take it down.”
They laughed together for a moment then Kane let out a low whistle with two ascending notes that sounded like a bird, but not one from England, or anywhere Shay had ever been. She suspected it was from the New World where Kane had commanded French troops in New France. There was a shuffling on the other side of the curtain then the sound of a door opening and the quick steps of several feet.
The curtain was drawn back and Shay was surrounded by her family smiling and laughing, hugging and crying. When the hubbub subsided Shay noted that several chairs had been set up for listeners on the other side of the curtain. Two were still occupied, one by Evanlyn, rapier drawn, the other by a securely bound and gagged Nevin Westmont. Shay could see the leaders of Terrasylvae exiting the the building at the far end.
Miren stood waiting her turn for reunion behind Shay’s adoring family. She had obviously been in charge of corralling them outside the Infirmary during the debriefing. Shay silently thanked the heavens for Miren Folley, faithful friend and apprentice. Then reached out to her for a hug.
Kane watched with a small smile for Miren. Shay caught his eye. He gave one brief nod that spoke his approval louder than any words, then he and Evanlyn escorted Nevin Westmont out of the Infirmary. As she passed by, Evanlyn winked encouragingly at Shay. Nevin also nodded but his was one of farewell. Shay bid him goodbye similarly.