A short post for now, but I will have more this afternoon...
The loss of blood had left him weak and drifting in and out of his senses, but he was aware of the blade being put to the fire. Biting down on the stick of wood that his father placed in his mouth, he closed his eyes and braced himself, praying for the treatment to be quick.
A muffled cry escaped him as the hot iron was put to his wound, cauterizing it. He could feel his body shaking as he tried to absorb the pain, knowing in his mind that he had to endure it. What right had he to complain, when Simon was suffering so, and could possibly die before they could get back to the palace?
While his shoulder was bandaged, he looked over and saw his father, Lucien, Rene, and Simon’s father preparing to care for Simon’s wounds, which were ghastly. They would have to hold him down as they put the fire to his injuries, and Owen found he could not watch.
What a strange twist of fate that had befallen Simon. His father had brought Rene into the war effort, and the choice had proven to be an auspicious one. Simon’s enemy had become his ally by saving his life, and Owen listened as Basil and Guy talked.
“He must be taken back to the Palais de la Cite.”
“Then you will accompany him,” Basil replied. “The army must push north, and I must follow.”
“We will see him cared for. You have my word.”
The two men clasped arms. Then, Basil turned to Rene.
“I owe you a great debt. You have proven your worth, and I will see you rewarded for it.”
Rene nodded. “I have merely done my duty, your grace. For the first time in my life, it seems.”
“I hope it will not be the last.”
A wave of pain drew Owen’s attention back to his own situation, and to the fellow soldier who was bandaging his wound. When the deed was done, Owen was handed him a vile and urged to drink. He tried to refuse it, but was encouraged to partake.
“Sir Guy has ordered you to have it. It will ease your pain.”
Too weary and hurt to refuse again, he put the vile to his lips and drank. The liquid was warm and sweet. One of his mother’s concoctions, most likely, and he gave a silent prayer of thanks for it. His mind soon began to drift, his pain easing as the medication did its work.
They seemed to arrive quickly at the palace, and soon he heard Evie crying out and sobbing at the sight of her husband in such grave condition.
“Simon!” she screamed. “Oh, God!”
Guy held her back as Cassia looked at Simon, then back at Guy, her eyes shining with fear.
“Is he dead?”
Lucien, holding Thea in his arms, answered grimly. “He yet clings to life, but by only by the barest of threads. We must get him inside, quickly.”
Cassia called for a litter, and then she saw Owen’s state of being, and as he climbed down from the cart, she touched his cheek and fussed over him.
“Oh my darling! What happened?”
“It was an arrow, Mama. But I will be well. Simon is in greater need.”
“But you are wounded,” she insisted. “You must be in great pain.”
From within the castle, Owen heard the sound of a familiar voice. A voice that stunned him with its suddenness.
“Mama, we will aid him. Evelyn and Simon are in need of you.”
It was William who spoke. Owen shook his head, his mind clouded with drowsiness. Surely it could not be his brother. But looking up, he saw that it was indeed him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. “And what about…”
Isabella, he wanted to say. But William would not allow further questions. Drawing Owen’s arm around his shoulder, supporting him, he helped him inside.
“Do not speak,” he said. “Conserve your energy. Explanations will do for another time.”
Owen soon found himself resting in a corner on the floor. Exhausted and hurt, he wanted nothing more than to sleep. But the sound of another voice – a woman’s voice, soft and gentle – made him raise his head.
I am delirious, he thought.
It could not be Isabella. She was far away in Spain, with her family. But from the shadows she seemed to appear, kneeling by his side. He felt her small, soft fingers stroking his forehead. William left them alone for a few moments, and Isabella spoke to him in a low, gentle tone of love.
“Dearest Owen. I am happy to be so near you again.”
Shaking his head, he tried to wake from what he felt was surely a dream. “My mind is playing tricks on me. You are a fantasy - an illusion.”
“I am no illusion,” she insisted.
“You cannot be real.” He studied her, his eyes searching her lovely face, taking in the sight of her beautiful brown eyes and golden locks of hair. Then he felt her hands gently touching his cheeks. Her lips pressed to his, warm and soft.
“Does this feel like a dream?”
His heart swelled with joy as he realized she was indeed real. She was at his side, caring for him. The pain he felt seemed to fade away for a moment, eclipsed by the thrill of her presence.
“If I am dreaming,” he said, “Never let me wake.”
She smiled at him. “It is I, Owen Gisborne. I have returned to you…”