"Hold him still," Shalu ordered. "It may break off when I pull it."
Roget had carried Conar into the cavern, shouting at several men milling about the entrance to find the man who had tried to kill Conar. He had gently laid his leader beside the fire on a pallet Kym had rushed to make ready with layers of borrowed furs. Kym slid her legs beneath Conar, cradling his head in her lap, her soft hands sweeping back the thick mane of loose blond hair.
"What if the shaft does break, Papa?"
Shalu grimaced. "Then I cut it out, girl!" His words were staccato rasps of anger. He grasped the six inches of protruding shaft and glanced at the men who held Conar down. He knew they would do as he asked. Taking a deep breath, thanking every deity he could name that Conar was still unconscious, he slowly pulled on the shaft. He felt it give, sweat popping out on his face. His lips moved, praying again that the shaft would come out intact.
That wasn't to be.
As the quarrel came free, Shalu cursed. The head of the shaft was still inside. "d.a.m.n, d.a.m.n, d.a.m.n!" He swung his fierce gaze to du Mer.
Roget had been told to heat a dagger just in case this happened. He had also prepared a needle and thread. If Shalu had to probe for the shaft's head, Roget knew the only way to properly close the wound would be to cauterize it and suture it closed. He drew the dagger from the coals beside him and held it so Shalu could gingerly take the wrapped grip.
Gritting his teeth, Shalu brought the dagger to Conar's exposed wound. He felt like screaming when he saw the dark eyes flit open. They were dull with pain, but they were conscious of their surroundings. His hand poised, unwilling to inflict any more pain on the man beside him.
Conar's eyes cleared. He saw the knife. He swept his vision around the men holding his arms and legs. This was too much like his nightmare for him not to be aware of it. Sweat poured from his flesh. He felt the telltale signs of Labyrinthian Fever crawling over him with sticky fingers. He felt cool hands on his brow and flinched, his head tilting back to get a look at who was above him. He saw Kym Taborn's tearful face and almost smiled. Not quite like his nightmare, he thought fleetingly. Turning his gaze to Shalu, he nodded.
Shalu took another deep breath. Before he could lose what nerve he had, he wedged the hot knife through the puckered slit in Conar's hip, feeling the rigid muscles tense with pain.
Conar's neck arched back against Kym. He ground his teeth to keep from crying out. It felt as though his entire left side raged with an internal inferno. He saw pinpoints of light behind his tightly closed lids.
"Oh, Papa. You're hurting him!" Kym cried, her fingers threading through Conar's hair to keep his head still.
"Shut up!"several men shouted at once.
The cords of Conar's neck stood out sharply against the pallor of his skin. He was barely aware of Kym's tears falling in his face, her hands pressed tightly on his scalp.
Shalu's face glistened in the glow of the campfire. Not a sound, save the labored breathing of the man lying at his mercy, penetrated the silence. He was aware of the men watching from the shadows of the cavern, could feel Roget's intent gaze on his hands as he probed the wound. He could feel the obstruction of the steel quarrel tip and felt it move as he slid the knife deeper.
The thing was wedged tightly in the flare of Conar's hipbone. Blowing breath over his upper face, Shalu eased the knife deeper, hearing Conar's gasp of agony.
"Faint, boy!" he begged, unaware he had spoken aloud. "Dammit, faint!"
"Papa! Please! You're hur-" Kym felt a heavy hand on her shoulder and looked up into Thom's face. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he kept his huge hand on her, warning her not to speak. She cradled Conar's head tighter to her. Shalu wasn't aware that Kym had spoken. It was doubtful he would have heard an explosion going off in his ear. His total concentration was on the quarrel tip. He was oblivious to the men crowding closer, didn't hear Tyne Brell telling Chase Montyne that they had found the archer, his throat slit by some unknown accomplice.
"One of ours?" Grice asked.
"Never seen the b.a.s.t.a.r.d before. A nomad." Tyne glanced at Conar's straining face. "A Hasdu, I think."
Shalu wasn't even aware that Conar's gaze was glued to him. He eased the dagger to the left, felt it give and held his breath.
Conar's lower jaw trembled. His head shook from the awful effort to keep quiet and as still as possible. He saw the exact moment Shalu found the tip, although the pain was so intense he didn't feel it dislodge.
Slowly, Shalu began to drag the steel back through Conar's side. He eased the knife out of the wound and his face fell. The very tip of the missile was still inside the bone. There would be no way to retrieve it short of surgery, and there was not a surgeon among them. Even if there had been, there were no instruments, no medicines to utilize.
Everyone knew that. So did Conar.
"Close it," he said softly.
"But Conar..." Shalu began.
"You've done all you can. Close it and be done with it." Conar's voice was weak, hoa.r.s.e and his face was flushed with what Shalu recognized as the onset of fever.
"I won't do it!" Shalu shouted, coming to his feet in one lithe bound. "I'm not hurting you anymore!You do it, du Mer!" The Necromanian King began to sob, his face crinkling, and he ran from the cavern, his roar of misery echoing through the cavern.
Never would Kym have imagined her father doing such a thing. The man had always prided himself on his detachment, his control. Necromanian men did not cry. Not even for their dead. She looked at Conar. She wasn't surprised to see them staring up at her.
"Not a sign of weakness," he seemed to need to tell her.
She nodded. She knew it wasn't weakness. Her father must love this man very much to feel for him the way he did. She caressed Conar's fevered face. She managed a wavering smile when he turned his cheek into her palm.
"Are you ready?" Roget asked, kneeling beside him, the glowing blade of another dagger held in his hand.
"As I'll ever be," Conar a.s.sured him, keeping his gaze on the lovely young woman above him. When had her short crop of tight black curls relaxed and grown so long? When had she gotten older? When had her dark complexion lightened to a creamy perfection of Oceanian ivory and Serenian rose? When had the brown depths turned emerald green?
"Relax, Beloved," he heard a faint whisper drift through his fevered brain. "Relax and feel no more pain."
The red-hot dagger was thrust into the wound. But he didn't feel it. Instead, he slipped slowly over the edge of consciousness.
"Sleep, Dearling," the same voice crooned.
He had the uncanny feeling that he could smell the sweet scent of lavender wafting above him as his world spiraled into blackness. It was a scent he had grown to hate.
Charlotte Boyett-Compo is the author of more than two dozen novels, the first ten of which are theWindLegends Saga. For nearly three full years, Charlee has remained-first with Dark Star Publications, and now with Amber Quill Press-the company's most popular and best-selling author. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the HTML Writer's Guild, and Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. Married thirty-two years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she is the mother of two grown sons, Pete and Mike, and the proud grandmother of Preston Alexander and Victoria Ashlee. A native of Sarasota, Florida, she grew up in Colquitt and Albany, Georgia, and now lives in the Midwest.
Most any fan of electronic books-or fans of dark fantasy and suspense-has at least heard her name mentioned, if not purchased at least one of her many offerings. This prolific author has not only managed to gain multiple nominations and awards for her work, but better still, has built a fan base whose members border on the "fanatical."
Currently, Charlee is at work on at least several books in her various series and trilogies.
Amber Quill Press, LLC.
Also by Charlotte Boyett-Compo.
At Grandma's Knee.
In the Heart of the Wind In the Teeth of the Wind In the Wind's Eye NightWind Prince of the Wind ShadowWind Shards Anthology WindChance WindFall
The WindLegend's Saga Book I: Windkeeper Book II: Windseeker Book III: Windweeper
Book IV: Windhealer Book V: Windreaper Book VI: Winddreamer Book VII: Windbeliever Book VIII: Winddeceiver Book IX: Windretriever Book X: Windschemer
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