As Sangwine fell, Al’bert watched him fall. He was disguised with a rustic cloak of ill-woven kersey wool, and it scratched him in the most distracting and irritating of ways, but that was all forgotten as he saw what must be come to pass. The boy (as Al’bert saw him, and always would see him) was motionless, and apparently unconscious as his blood flowed from him into a puddle on the floor of the cage. It was a lovely color, if one could disconnect, and at that moment he looked truly sanguinous, as was his namesake. The wound was probably mortal, Al’bert thought, and if it wasn’t, the poor care he’d receive at the hands of these human peasants would kill him by and by. To Al’bert’s chagrin and, in some small measure he didn’t want to dwell on, to his freedom, his mind fell open, as if some window was lifted in a stale corner of his thoughts and a pale, spring wind flighted through. How refreshing it was and terrifying at the same time. He pitied Sangwine; freedom came next, both his and Sangwine’s. Sangwine would no longer live the life of a domesticated bird left to degradedly fend for itself in the wilds, and Al’bert would be relieved of the leaning, heavy shoulder of Fang. The relief fell through him, and he saw that it was empty. He knew instinctively that Fang would require him to do worse things yet, and as it was Al’bert wasn’t entirely certain he could live with this. Sangwine was dying, and Al’bert realized he didn’t want him to die, though he should. There was something worth preserving in Sangwine, even if Al’bert didn’t quite know distinctly what it was, which he found to be rare and refreshing and somewhat like a vein of gold in an otherwise plain and ordinary rock.
No, even if he must die, Al’bert couldn’t let him die like this, lying amidst plebeian humankind with his blood red for all to see. He shut himself from his thoughts and pushed those who blocked his singular purpose aside with a brusque hand.
“Stand aside,” he commanded.
All turned to gape at what newcomer spoke with such supposed authority over the body of this fair and dying creature.
“And who are you?” demanded Gilden of Al’bert, looking something like a man protecting his own property.
“I am his brother,” Al’bert lied, staring down Gilden as if possessing true brotherly wrath. Al’bert assumed within himself that in some sort of roundabout way he was vaguely some sort of “brother” to Sangwine, and that made it quite easy to lie very convincingly about the matter. He decided he’d forget about that as quickly as it became convenient, but later.
“Bring me bandages!” exclaimed Al’bert, and several someones began scurrying around in various directions as he pulled at Sangwine’s clothes to inspect the damage. The pixie’s blades had sunk deeply into him, and cut a clean swath through his midsection. It looked horrible, and he cursed beneath his breath at the sharp heat of pixie blades, even though Fang had used the pixies as an effective tool to further his cause. Al’bert refused to think fully about what he was doing right now, for he was absolutely certain that if Fang caught wind of any part of it, Al’bert would be a dead man.
A few humans had procured bandages of varying types. Al’bert snatched the most promising and begin wrapping Sangwine to staunch the blood flowing from his side. Once that was done in a vaguely suitable manner, he instinctively pointed to the prettiest girl in the surrounding crowd.
“You,” he said, “Carry his sword.”
Rising, Al’bert took Sangwine into his arms and carried him forthwith out of the arena, saying clearly with his silently dark demeanor that Sangwine would never be back.
He took great pains to be certain he was well-hooded on the way to Sangwine’s room, even though he was nearly absolutely certain no one would recognize him or know just how horribly disloyal and treacherous he was. Most were simply so confused by the elf he was carrying, and the sword-bearing girl who followed close behind, that they didn’t think to look at him until they were long past.
Upon reaching the room of Sangwine, there was an awkward scene of finding his key upon his unconscious person, but by and by Al’bert had him reposed upon his bed as the girl watched in tense silence nearby. Al’bert took the sword from the girl and placed it upon a close-sitting table.
“Go to the high terrace and ask in the apothecary after a healer,” he said to her. Following her nod, he gave her a list of herbs, hoping within himself that humans had the sense of mind to keep all or most of them in stock. “Assure them that no expense will be spared.”
With that, the girl flitted away like a bird’s shadow, and Al’bert was left uncomfortably alone with his thoughts and a vigil over the defenseless body of the man he was supposed to be killing. He shifted his weight and fell wearily into a chair beside the bed, more from mental weariness than the physical sort. Regarding Sangwine, he felt wry.
“Prince of Schloeffelonia, how far you wander from home,” he began, feeling a certain empathy, as Al’bert’s own family was also everything he held dear. Fang, he wondered on. As he knew Fang, and had known Fang from the very beginnings, he understood Fang’s motives and how it had come to this. He understood one side, and he understood the other, but yet they were entirely different worlds. They were two sides of a coin that could never face each other without pulling apart the seams of reality.
“You have no home,” he addressed Sangwine. His voice stirred the leaden silence of the room and made him feel exposed, and so he spoke more quietly, “Not anymore.”
Al’bert stared out the window, mostly, until the girl returned. As she came, he rose instantly, eager to quit the guilt and anxiety of this room and find somewhere else where he could think clearly and of other, more pleasant things.
“There is a healer, and she is coming,” the girl said, handing him a bag of healing herbs and salves. He put it on the table straightaway along with a generous number of coins and turned to the girl.
“Come and find me outside once she arrives,” he said to her, then, sparing her a gentle, grateful glance and a few coins of tribute, he cloaked himself with thorough precision and left, closing the door very carefully.