The sun played lightly across Sangwine’s face through an open window as he slowly woke, the muslin curtain flitting gently in the breeze and creating a back and forth of warmth and solace that he found extremely pleasant for the act of regaining consciousness. The sunlight brought with it a day spent under the boughs of Schloeffelonian trees, lying in the leaves of grass and blithely observing the way the light passed through the fabric of his childhood coat. Just for a moment, he fell back to a time when the weight of the world didn’t lie grotesquely heavy on his mind, and remembering this he recalled how quick it was that joy would appear, like a playmate, flitting in and out of his life with free abandon, completely unrestrained by weightier matters.
This recollection passed by him like a shadow; he could only touch it briefly before it was gone, and the crushing weight of his life duly informed him that he had only been grasping at smoke. It left him to wake fully with a sense of deep longing that reached all the way inside of him and made his pulse ache with sorrow.
As it was, it took only a few moments before the years of strength in Sangwine bolstered up beneath the strain and stood mostly unmoved beneath the burden. In this way he was like a tree. In this way he could bear life.
He inhaled, feeling the wound at his side nearly entirely gone. The healer who had been sent was fairly talented; she’d gradually worked her way into the wound, taking it away a little bit at a time. He supposed he should be happy to be alive.
Strangely, he wasn’t. He opened his eyes, and she was sitting beside him.
“How are you?” she asked, pleasantly. She was a somewhat young human with flaxen hair and an expressive countenance. He studied her in his disparaging state, taking brief solace in her human beauty, which he found to be not less than elven, really, but simply different. There was a sort of perennial rosy flush to her cheeks and lips that was nearly mauve in hue and her hair, though very poorly pulled back, tended to fall around her face in small, messily endearing tendrils. Around a human woman there was always this sense that something was about to happen, although what that could be Sangwine couldn’t fathom, but whatever it was, she would meet it head on and it would suffer dearly for disturbing the status quo.
She noticed he wasn’t bothering to reply and gave him an amused, yet indulgent smile.
“You’re still not talking to me?” she asked with good humor, then began changing the dressing on his side.
Sangwine briefly considered engaging in conversation with her, but stopped short as he was overwhelmed by his thoughts. She’d given up by then, anyway, and he instead engaged the ceiling in a telepathic conversation regarding himself.
The problem was, Sangwine realized he simply couldn’t bear this anymore. His life had to change. The idea of trying to change something in Schloeffelonia was still far too painful and terrifying to consider, but he knew he had to do something besides stay here. He had to go. With that thought, he sat up abruptly.
The healer gave a little annoyed sound as her work was interrupted by his sitting up all of a sudden. She looked at him with surprise.
“What are you doing?” she asked him.
He cast his eyes over her face, and in his state of action found the idea of answering rote questions unbearably dull.
“You’re actually beautiful, did you know that?”
She looked surprised, rightly not expecting that particular answer, and gave him a sort of incredulous sidelong look.
“Thank you, I think,” she replied. “Are you feeling sick?”
“Not really,” he said, and offered nothing more.
“Because you sound ill,” she added, somewhere in between a smile and a worried look.
“Is something wrong with my voice?” he asked.
“Not at all,” she answered. “Now let me finish with you.”
In reply Sangwine buried his present sense of anxiety and lay down. Her hands were comforting, and he had to force himself not to enjoy it more than was appropriate. He resumed his telepathic conversation with the ceiling, which only served to further augment his frustration. She seemed to notice, for her hands slowed and then came to rest on his abdomen as she turned her full attention onto him.
“Your brother will be glad you’re recovering so well,” she said.
Sangwine felt a sharp spike at the mention of his brother.
“How do you know my brother?” he asked her stiffly.
“He sent for me,” she replied.
“My brother wants me dead. He wouldn’t send for you. He would have watched me die,” he said to her, and then added an afterthought: “Probably with relish.”
Her eyebrows raised in curiosity.
The last thing Sangwine wanted to do at the moment was explain, so he did nothing but turn his gaze to the window where the muslin curtains were rising and falling lightly in the breeze. He wanted to escape into his earlier waking moments but the sun, which had moved and was no longer in a position to touch his face, reminded him that moment had passed.
She finished bandaging him and paused. Her voice came more softly.
“It should only take one more session for me to heal it entirely,” she told him. “There shouldn’t even be a scar.”
Sangwine regained his sense of civility, perhaps spurred on by his own vanity, or perhaps because of her efforts on his behalf.
“Thank you,” he said, turning his head to look at her. He suddenly felt horribly sorry for his self-absorption and he rose onto his elbows. “Is there anything I can do for you? Have you been paid? I don’t even know your name.”
She smiled and said, “I don’t know yours, either. Don’t worry about it; your brother paid me well.”
Sangwine wanted to tell her there’s no way it was his brother who had anything to do with this. He knew that, but he had no idea who it could have been otherwise, and denying who it was meant he would have to explain to her why it couldn’t have been Fang. The desire not to explain anything to her won over and he decided just to go along with it.
“Very well,” he said with insincerity. “Good for him.”
She tactfully let everything drop with a smile and rose, and he felt a small wisp of loss.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” she said. “Don’t go anywhere, or you’ll never be fully healed.”
She turned before closing the door and added, “That means scarring.”
It drove the point home nicely to an elf; Sangwine wasn’t going anywhere.
Not yet, anyway.