“I brought your clothes.” Vlada pointed at the neatly folded pile on the bed table.
The clothes had a fresh, clean smell hinting on them having been cleaned not with soap and water but with magic. Their whole history - starting from Kuldaganian sand, dust, and blood - had been erased; they looked like new.
Suddenly, Kangassk realized what his clothes being there meant: he was naked under his blanket! That made him blush so deeply he was sure no tan could hide it.
“Rest today and don’t volunteer for being a donor tonight,” said Vlada. “Don’t let Flavus do that either.”
“You must be hungry. What would you like to eat?” asked the ancient being, the very worldholder that referred to global magical disasters as ‘splashes on the River of Time’.
“Eat…” Kan rose his eyes to the ceiling, thinking. “Something with hot meat in it?” he suggested.
“Here you go,” Vlada handed him a bowl with a fried chicken and a couple of baked potatoes. “I have to leave you now. Enjoy your breakfast and be a good boy.”
“Where do they always get things from?” thought Kangassk, looking at Vlada’s fried chicken and recalling Sereg’s ancient tome. “Even with magic, you can’t just make objects out of nothing!”
He lifted his eyes; Vlada was nowhere to be seen. Without sparks and flashes, she just vanished into thin air. Kan envied her magical mastery for a moment. He knew he would never be that good…
Kangassk wasn't alone in the tent hospital. The bed next to his was occupied by an old Hunter. Judging by his looks, he had been very ill for a long time. Right now he was sleeping but his dreams weren't peaceful; the mage kept muttering and tossing in his bed. Another patient lay on the bed on the other side of the spacious tent. It was Flavus, who was sleeping like a log. No human being sleeps this way unless they have been knocked out cold by a kick to the head or a good dose of sleeping draught.
Kangassk sat on the edge of his friend's bed and called Flavus by name hoping to wake him up so he could have breakfast too. But no, the young Hunter didn't even stir.
Soon, a healer visited the silent tent to check on the patients. His name was Tredius. He was young, so his soul hadn't yet burned out at work; it was full of kindness and compassion. He checked the old Hunter's pulse and changed the bandage on Kangassk's hand.
"Vladislava the Warrior treated your hand herself, Apprentice!" said Tredius, pure awe in his voice. "If it wasn't for her, you would've lost your fingers to the frostbite. And I... my task here is small. Half of your hand is new, it needs some time to regain its strength. My simple potions and spells only make your recovery easier…" he muttered as he changed the bandage.
Self-reflection is a curious thing. With Vlada or Sereg, Kangassk felt like a helpless child; with Tredius or Flavus, he felt strong and important: a warrior, someone with experience and stories to tell…
He asked Tredius about what had happened last night and finally got to see the whole picture. The old Hunter who now slept there had suffered a heart attack just before the demon's onslaught; his old age had suddenly decided to catch up with him, at the most unfortunate moment possible. That left his Seven weakened. Flavus, that dutiful young man, took his place as a donor. He wasn't quite up to the task, with only a year of magical training, though. No wonder he ended up knocked out cold just like Kangassk did.
Looking back, Kangassk saw how stupid both his and his friend's sacrifices were. There were two worldholders nearby! Two! No way they couldn't have handled a small weakness in the perimeter. Also, that realization made Sereg's actions look especially mean. Would he hurt a mortal for no good reason? Kangassk could easily imagine it now…
As pink as late Kuldaganian dawn, his rebuilt hand was so fragile and sensitive that it did indeed need a bandage. Tredius carefully wrapped it in soft cloth that smelled of herbs and whispered a healing spell over it. The spell shared the same core with the one Kangassk used to stop his headaches, so it was easy to learn. Good! Another magical trick up his sleeve! He couldn't wait to surprise his master with it.
Of Flavus, the healer didn't say much. He was in no danger and just needed a couple of hours of deep, untroubled sleep to get back to normal. The sleeping draught Tredius gave him was to make sure the young hunter slept well. Actually, he gave the same potion to Kangassk; it just wore off sooner than he anticipated. Kuldaganians, Tredius explained, reacted to some potions differently. He decided against giving Kan another dose, though, and just told him to stay in bed. Then Tredius left the tent.
The feeling of emptiness in his chest aside, Kangassk was fine. Physically, he was well-rested and healthy. His muscles, numb after all those hours of inactivity, begged for action. Finally, he gave in. He found a place wide enough to throw somersaults and do sword katas with a broom handle for a sword and had some much-needed exercise. Alas, while his body was overjoyed with finally seeing some action, his soul felt even more miserable now.
With a sad sigh, Kangassk sat by his sleeping friend again. The guy he met just yesterday. Friend… Both Kan's mother and the old smith that took him as an apprentice used to scold him for being too trusting to strangers. But he was either very lucky or did have some talent that allowed him to see into people’s hearts. Either way, no stranger he befriended had ever hurt him. They talked to little Gassy, taught him something they knew, and… left him, often forever. Traders were the only ones who visited Aren-Castell regularly. They brought Kan books and treats but never stayed in the city long enough to become his true friends. As to the locals, they couldn’t even imagine being friends with a freak…
Kangassk didn’t let the old grudge carry him away this time. He recalled Kuldagan because of Tredius’s words: healing potions affected Kuldaganians differently, like that sleeping draught that had worn off sooner than usual. That fact added up with Le’Rok legend so well!
It seemed reasonable: every worldholder creates their world as a system where all elements work together as a whole. If you take a part of one world and throw it into another, it won’t fit, won’t make sense, it will be an anomaly. Is Kuldagan an anomaly? Is it a piece of another world? And why do the legends of its origins appear so contradictory? The exchange between two worlds could have looked like a terrible catastrophe, maybe even with victims. For once, the conflict between the legends seemed artificial to Kan, as if someone had created it on purpose. If so, then why?
Time passed - seconds, minutes… The longer Kan sat there alone, the more he doubted his sudden idea. He had no proof, nothing but him not reacting to the potion properly and the healer’s comment about that. He wished he could discuss it with Flavus but the young Hunter still was fast asleep.