Palace of the Three Crosses
A loud, obnoxious soldier on the other side of the room loudly expressed his feelings about the recent war and the funeral. “I think things’re going to get a sorry sight worse now that Theodric’s left us. Those boys of his couldn’t rule their way out of his crown. Joachim may be a small site better than his brother, Brandan, but I still think we’s in serious trouble ’fore things get better. Only Asha knows what’ll happen in Mahorg, ’specially if they send the whelp Brandan back there. He's already betrayed his family and Crato and run away with his tail tucked ‘tween his legs. Who's to say he won' do it again? Sides, I heard tell he was in bed with Sidramah along with his minion Waldrom and those dirty little Mantions. Yessir, this country's headed for trouble with those boys running it.”
Visibly incensed, Brandan stood up, took a swig of goll, and marched over to the blowhard. “You should watch what you say and where you say it. Your job and life could be called into question.”
“And who are you to question me, whelp? Maybe you should run back to your mother’s skirts and leave this business to us grownups.”
“Do you know who you are talking to, soldier?”
“Get on with you, back to your mummy.”
Brandan reached for his sword, but Joachim grabbed his arm before he could draw it. Brandan swung around and knocked Joachim to the floor. Joachim came up swinging and hit his brother in the jaw. Brandan punched him in the stomach and pushed him into the bar. The soldier grabbed a walking stick leaning against the wall, raised it over his head, and brought it down on Joachim's right arm. White hot pain screamed through his body as Joa slumped to the floor only vaguely aware of the action around him. He cradled his injured right arm with his left hand. Lukan came up behind and grabbed the man’s arms. He pinned them behind his back while Brandan hit the soldier in the stomach. The barkeep came out from behind the bar, seized the walking stick, and threatened to hit anyone who moved.
“Lukan, you had best take your guests home.”
Lukan released the drunken soldier. “Oliver, it’s time you get home to your pregnant wife. You don’t know whom you have insulted here, and if these boys want, they could see you lose your job or your life, for what you have said and done here tonight. This is Prince Joachim and Prince Brandan you've attacked.”
The barkeeper bent down and looked at Joachim. “Lukan, better get a healer here fast. He's not looking too good.”
Lukan ran out the door and soon returned with Rupert, who immediately bent down and examined the injured arm.
“Sire, I think we need to get you to a master healer. Your bone appears to be shattered, and there is extensive bleeding from the gash in the back of your head. You need the attention of someone who can do more than I. Lukan, carry him to his horse. Brandan, come on and help out here.”
The agony in his arm intensified with the movement, and Joachim welcomed the darkness of oblivion.
* * * *
Lukan left the room carrying Joachim, with Rupert and Brandan following. Once outside, they found a wagon parked in the alley beside the tavern and gently laid Joachim in it rather than heave him onto his horse. Lukan got in the driver's seat.
Rupert patted the horse and directed him toward the palace. He turned to Brandan. “What happened? What are you even doing out here without an escort? Have you no sense in your fool head? Your brother could be crippled for life and all because of some foolish plan of yours.”
“No, Rupert, it was Joa's idea to come here. He needed to get away from the gloom and doom of the palace. He invited me to come along. That big oaf, Oliver started mouthing off about how we couldn’t even rule our way out of Father’s crown like we were a couple of spoiled brats without the good sense Asha gave us. I couldn’t listen to it anymore. I tried to convince him to be quiet…then Joachim came over. I pushed him out of the way to protect him from Oliver, and he came back and hit me. I pushed him away again. Then that crazy Oliver grabbed a walking stick and hit Joa as his arm landed on the bar. Lukan grabbed him and stopped everything. It was only then I realized how badly Joa was hurt and sent Lukan to get you.”
Watching Rupert’s silent reaction, Brandan was relieved. He had dodged another swipe of the sword.
When they got back to the palace, they found Joachim already in his quarters being tended by the royal healer with Maeve at his bedside. When Brandan came in, she ran over and hit him on the chest. “What were you thinking? How could you do this to him? He may never be able to use his arm again.”
“I didn't do it.” Brandan grabbed her wrists. “It was a drunken soldier who started everything. If he had kept his big mouth shut, none of this would have happened. This isn't my fault.”
“How can you say that? Even if you didn’t hit him, you caused this. He was probably trying to keep you out of trouble. You are so good at deflecting blame and not taking responsibility for your actions. I think you should leave.”
“He’s my brother. I have more right than you do to be here. You aren’t married to him. You're a Kningrad, no more; maybe you should be the one to leave.”
Master Adept Rupert stepped between the two of them. “If you don’t stop this bickering, both of you will leave. Let’s wait and see what the healer can do. In the meantime, you both can remain…but quietly.”
The prince took a seat in a nearby chair. Maeve went back to Joa's bedside, but soon moved a bit farther away to allow the healer more room to work.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the healer moved away from Joachim. “I have done all I can. The radius and ulna bones are shattered. I’m not sure whether he will ever regain full use of it. There is too much damage for me to repair it all. Fortunately, for him, he’s left-handed; so once his right arm has sufficiently healed, he’ll still be able to fight along with other things requiring arms.”
“Are you sure there is nothing more you can do, not even some magic?” Rupert asked.
“No, Master Rupert. You should know better than to ask. I have done all that is humanly possible. He’ll live, if that is the will of Asha. I cannot do magic requiring extraordinary measures that go beyond ensuring his survival. If Asha wills it, then the arm will heal properly, but it is not for me to say or do.”
“You’re right, and I know it. Wishful thinking on my part. He will live, and that’s what is most important. The rest is up to Asha.”
The conversation did not satisfy Brandan. Why couldn't they perform a little magic and heal Joa's smashed arm? If Sidramah were in control, he would heal Joa's arm and make him better than ever. How could the healers settle for only partial recovery? Why didn’t they want it all?Brandan stood and stalked out of the room.