The storms came earlier this year to the city who took her name
from them, Strompoint. Winter had hardly given way to spring before
the dark clouds settled over the port again, few had been the day
that the sun had been able to break through the clouds. The winds
howled through the street and the little drizzle of rain seemed all
but endless, trapping all but the most industrious, foolhardily
indoors from all but the most necessary of errands. For the past week,
not a ship sailed from the harbor into the rough seas, not even Lord
Oregk's magnificent Stardancer stirred form her moorings. A pall had
settled over the city as the continued rains seem to drown the
people's sprits in the small rivulets that had sprung to life along
Stormpoint's cobble-stone streets.
The wind whipped the rain against the young woman's cheeks as she hurried her way home from one of the small hovels on the outside of the city. Her dress was stuck to her skin from the pounding squall and her hair was soaked. Bottles rattled in the leather bag she carried with her, full of medicines and bandages and other necessary tools. A handfull of people in the poor section of town had contracted a fever with this weather and the healer did what she could to make them comfortable, though the illness had to run its course. She hurried as best she could, slipping and sliding on the wet cobblestones, feeling water splash up over her ankles as she slid into the deep rivulets that ran through the streets. It was pitch black, but for the blinding flashes of lightning that tore at the sky. Structures loomed up ahead of her in the nearly deserted streets. Just another few blocks and she would be back home again. She had just to get around the corner, and she would be there.......
Out of a shadowed doorway that the healer had just passed,
something stirred, as if a bit of the shadows had broken free of its
earthly moorings and taken on a life of its own. Quickly as a cat
would pounce on a wayward mouse, the shadow moved up behind the rain
soaked woman. A gloved hand darted out closing around the healer's
mouth as the figure pulled her back into the shadows of the doorway.
She was pressed up against the rough wooden wall as she felt the
sharp point of a dagger rest against her ribs through her rain
soaked clothing. A rough feminine voice whispered into her
ear. "Don't be foolish and try anything.." To emphasize her words the
dagger point pressed inward just a hair. "Are you the healer from the
The rain-soaked healer nodded in the affirmative; she was from the clinic, Cymbyliene. The person that held her was only a little larger than herself, but stronger. Cym didn't fight; it would have been foolish and would not get anything accomplished. She was unnerved, and her heart raced but she was not afraid enough to try to flee. If this stranger had wanted her dead, she would be dead already and her tiny bit of money, stolen. She was wanted for a reason. She twisted her head just slightly, to breathe better, breaking the seal that her captor's hand had over her mouth. She murmured softly, "Let me go, so I can help you." She was unsure whether her soft voice would be heard over the throbbing of the rain on the pavement.
There was silence that hung in the air as the figure considered the
healer's words. "Scream and you will be dead before the first echo."
The hoarsely whispered warning satisfied that at least the healer was being
cooperative. The gloved hand slipped from Cymbeline's mouth, but the
dagger never wavered. A moment later a strip of black cloth dangled
in front of the healer's eyes. "Cover your eyes and make sure to tie
it proper.. I will be checking."
Cym uttered a little sigh of frustration but put on the blindfold as directed. Her longing thoughts turned to the warm fire that was burning in the hearth at home. She was wet, and cold and tired. She tied the blindfold snug enough to really do its job without giving her a headache. Once done, she put her arms back down at her sides quietly. "I'm not going to scream. I would help you, even without that dagger." Her hair was sticking to the side of her face and she brushed it aside, feeling calm enough now, but frustrated, knowing that she was about to be dragged back out into the rain.
The dagger disappeared as she was turned around, Cym could feel the light fingers brush, testing the blindfold. "I trust the dagger," was the whispered response that came as stranger glanced about, happy to see the roads still deserted. "Come."
Lightly, a gloved hand took hers and glided the healer back out into the street. The rain had not lessened as it quickly soaked the blindfold. She was lead through the streets through a quick series of turns designed to disorient the healer as to where she was going.
She went along quietly, now officially lost, but knowing that she was still in the city. The streets had no scent anymore, being washed clean. Usually, she could tell which part of the city she was in, based on how it smelled; coal smoke or wood smoke, the smell of the bakery, or the wafting smell of cooked meals, refuse or the clean smell of the forest on the outskirts. None of these smells were present in this kind of rain. She had reclaimed her small bag of medicines and tools. It was lucky she had it. Heaven only knows what was waiting for her. In the spirit of an uneasy trust, she followed willingly the lead of the hand that held her strongly, but not cruelly.
There were on a few pauses when her captor would push both the
healer, and herself against a wall or into a doorway till some
traveler had past them. The rain continued to pitter-pat down on them,
seemingly to keep its time as it was hard to tell weather minutes or
hours passed from behind the blindfold. Slowly the lingering smell of
salt and fish that would not allow itself to be washed away so
easily, announced that they were somewhere near the docks when they
finally stopped. The healer could hear several raps on what she had
to guess was a door, followed by whispered voices. A moment later
something creaked open and Cym was lightly pulled into some building
and finally out of the rain.
The areas near the docks were not safe places to be alone, and she knew it. There were several people inside the structure she entered; she could feel them. But she was not sure how many. It was starting to become more clear to her what she was about to be dealing with. Her hand clutched tight on her bag, flexing and releasing in the same pattern as her breathing. Her shoulder hurt where she had been rammed into the stone side of a building, presumably to avoid being seen, but she didn't complain. She had bigger things to worry about now.
A young but definitely male voice sounded to the healer's right. "Kerri are you sur..."
But suddenly he was cut off with a hiss from the captor standing behind the healer. A gloved hand untied the blindfold, letting it drop from her face. Cym was in a warehouse, or what used to be one since the building was clearly in disrepair. Cob-webs and dust clung thick to the corners and walls. Water dripped from numerous holes in the roof above them, falling into rain barrels set to collect the water. Even though several fires dotted the floor, there was still a cold wetness that hung in the air, and the unhealthy smell of dust and mildew. Around the fires set smallish figures huddled together for additional warmth. She could see their young faces turned to watch the trio that stood by the door. Tell-tale coughs and sniffles broke the rhythm of the water dripping from the broken ceiling.
The young man who had spoken stood in front of her watched the healer wearily through bright blue eyes. Unruly blonde hair framed a face that would one day become that of a handsome man. He wore dirty rough clothes and his hand rested on a dagger tucked into his belt as he look between the healer and the figure standing behind her.
Cym took a look at the blue eyed young man before her for a moment,
but did not turn to observe her captor. Instead, she perused the big,
dirty space she was in. The air was filled with mildew and dust; it
was a mess. Between the unwholesome air and the dampness of it all,
the place was a breeding ground for every illness one could imagine.
She figured that the fever must have struck here as much as the other
places in town. The faces around the small fires were undernourished
and unclean. She did not see proper bedding or food, or any place for
washing, on first observation.
With a small sigh, she said quietly to the young man, "My name is Cymbyliene, as your friend behind me knows. I'm a physician. How many sick do you have?" She raised her brows slightly.
Even as the young man opened his mouth to answer her questions the gruff voice behind her cut in. "Nearly all of my people are sick, this trice blasted weather is not helping. Toral here will assist you, and if you need anything from your clinic ask and he will see that it is gotten for you. We have no desire to injure you... so do not do anything foolish, and you will get to go home safe and sound." She heard the door creaking open again and the sounds of the rain outside renewed. "I'm going to see what food I can find.. you're in charge till I get back Toral."
Cymbyliene blinked as the person holding her was gone quickly. She was left with this person, Toral, to help her. She took another assessing look around and then leveled her gaze on him.
"This is going to be a lot of work. I hope you're ready. First of all, let me know who will go to the clinic. I'm going to need a lot of my things, and I need to give a key and instruction as to where to locate those items." She thought briefly about having a stranger running into her clinic with a key unsupervised, but there was no help for it. She didn't have anything that important in there anyway; not more important than these people's health.
He appeared to be listening, and so she proceeded. "I additionally would like some help moving the fires into more strategic locations. Some tarps to cover up some of these gaps in the ceiling boards and we need to move the little fires into more strategic locations....I need some boiled water, and cups for the tea I'm going to make. As clean as you can find, even if you have to get it from the stream in the forest outside the city. No rain water." She thought about this a minute. "I suppose you have no cups.....we can get them from the clinic. Come to think of it, I'll just be wanting my big hanging cauldron."
She looked around at the gaunt faces in the building. Each and every face was filled with either fear, hopelessness, or both. "We will make an area specifically for the sick ones and those who are well will not be encouraged to be too near them, unless I need their help." She sighed. "Do they know why I have come?" Toral glared at the healer for a moment, he was not used to anyone beside Kerrigan giving him orders, but he remembered his instructions. Aside from letting her go, the healer was to be obeyed without question. The young man knew better than to go against Kerrigan's commands, least not if he valued his continued health. He nodded at the healer's words, letting her finish before answering. "Aye.. They know why you are here, and will do anything you instruct." He thought about the list of items she had rattled off. It would take him and a couple of the older boys to get it all. Softly, he shook his head with a sigh, and reached out taking the key from the healer. "To get everything you asked for, I will have to go myself with couple of the others to help me. Till I get back, Tayla will help you get things started here." Toral nodded towards a pale girl that was leaning against a staircase just a few feet away.
The girl met the healer's eyes with a small nod and a weak smile. Her ashen features were so much like Toral's, aside from the hint of coppery red that ran through her blond hair. Even at a casual glance, it was clear the pair were twins. She was dressed in rags similar to the rest except for what was clearly a crude bandage wrapped around her stomach. Her left hand cradled her side, almost hiding the rust colored stains of dried blood on the soiled linen wrap. "I know this may sound hollow after the way you got here, but thank you for your help." The girl whispered softly as her brother gathered his helpers and disappeared out of the abandoned warehouse. "My name is Tayla, where do you want the fires moved to? I don't know what we have in the way of tarp but I am sure we can manage something. That seems a trait of our little group here.. making do." She chuckled softly then winced as a sharp, stab pain passed though her injured side.
It had been a good day, better then Kerrigan has had in weeks. One of the stores that supplied the caravans traveling north had been
closed due to the weather. It was simple enough to smash open the
front window then grab all the food she could carry, stuffing bread,
cheese, jerked meats, and dried fruits into packs she also acquired
from the store. The get away had been close though, she had barely
rounded the corner from the shop before hearing alarm whistles of a
Watch patrol that had discovered her handy work. Not waiting to see
if she had been spotted, the thief raced through the wet, empty
streets till she was sure that the Watch had neither seen nor
followed her if they had. She hid in the shadows of doorway, relieved
to be out of the rain as she had the chance to catch her breath. Her
eyes constantly watched in the direction she had come till she was
satisfied that she had escaped safely. From there, Kerrigan clung to
the alleyways and back streets of Stormpoint until finally she
arrived at the place she called 'home'.
Kerrigan paused to stare at the run-down facade of the wooden warehouse she had claimed for her little band. She let her thoughts wander for a moment before a shiver ran through her, reminding the thief of her rain-soaked clothes. With a sigh, she shifted the weight of the packs she carried and slipped across the street. She paused at the front corner of the building towards the side entrance her people used. She watched the alleyway next to the warehouse with a frown at the increased activity of Toral's band returning with the healer's supplies. She glanced around, hoping that she was the only one who had taken notice of the people coming and going from what should be a empty warehouse. The thief was silently pleased that she was still the only person who had ventured out in the relentless drizzle that had held Stormpoint in its grip for better part of three days now. "Perhaps this thrice blasted weather will work in our favor for a change," Kerrigan muttered to herself as she dropped the five full packs of food at her feet and crouched down against the building. She wrapped her arms around herself trying to catch a little heat while she constantly scanned the street for any unwelcome passersby to appear.
Kerrigan kept watch by the front of the building till Toral was
finished taking in all the supplies the Healer needed. "Did she ask
for her whole frelling clinic?" She grumbled as she stood, stretching
limbs that were sore after being crouched for so long. Utterly cold,
wet, and miserable she lifted the packs back to her shoulder and gave
the street one last glance.
Then without a sound she slipped around the corner of the warehouse to the rickety staircase that ran up along the rear of the building. It lead up to a second story office she had taken for herself. She took the steps as quickly as her load allowed, eager to be out of the rain. Reaching the landing she drew a dagger from behind her back and slipped it into a notch in the door that was all but invisible if you did not know where to look. With a quick motion of the dagger she popped the latch that held the door, then pushed the door open with her shoulder. The office was a single room with a small pile of bedding in one corner, which she gave a longing glance at, trying to remember the last time she had gotten decent rest. There was an old desk next to the only window, which over looked the floor below. She used the desk more as a dresser for her personal things than for the purpose for which it was originally designed. There were also close to a half dozen pails that caught drops from the leaky roof above, some already close to overflowing.
Relieved to be out of the miserable weather, Kerrigan let the packs slide from her shoulder to land on the floor with a noticeable thud. Giving a tiny groan, she rubbed her sore shoulders and back. It was a small price to pay though, to make sure her people had full stomachs for at least a couple days. She took a few moments to empty the pails outside of the door and to change into dry clothing. She hung her wet things on rusted nails that jutted out of the wall to dry. Feeling a touch more human in the fresh leathers, Kerrigan's violet eyes glanced out the window towards the activity below. She frowned softly as her pride was pricked by the fact that someone else was giving orders in her house, but she fought it down. It was necessary and her people were more important than her pride. With a sigh she smoothed her raven-dark hair back, and gathered the packs from the floor. Kerrigan stepped out of her room onto a second set of stairs that led down a wall inside the warehouse. Silently she made her way down without being noticed, with everyone's attention focused on the Healer. When she was near the bottom of the stairway she stopped and tossed the packs the rest of the way down. They landed with a loud thud turning everyone's attention to the sudden appearance of their leader.
Kerrigan's eyes narrowed, and her lips pulled down into a frown at
the healer. Many eyes watched their guild mistress waiting for her
reaction. For once Kerrigan bit back her first dozen venomous
responses as she took the last steps down to the first floor. "You
heard the healer...get moving." Kerrigan barked giving Toral a light
shove towards the cauldron. Like a snap people who had seemed to be
frozen in place started to scurrying about. "You and you.. See to the
food and don't be stingy." She pointed to two young girls then to the
packs at her feet. "I want everyone with a full stomach, and if I
find anyone hoarding more than their share they will frelling well
answer to me." Kerrigan folded her arms across her chest and she
watched the one's that were able, hurry to the task at hand, but her
eyes never strayed far from the healer.
Talya shook her head softly watching Kerrigan, relieved that she had held her tongue for once before turning her attention to Cymbyliene. "I am all yours..." She replied weakly giving Cym a friendly smile and tried to push herself away from the stairs where she had been leaning for support. She managed only a single staggering step before she gave a strangled cry, and doubled over.
Kerrigan was there in an instant to catch Talya before she could fall. There was a snarl on her lips, and in her voice. "Don't be a frelling fool. You're likely to rip the blasted stitches out and be bleeding out again, would serve you right too." Without waiting for a response from the shaking girl in her arms Kerrigan looked up to the Healer. "Where do you want her?"
The way that their leader spoke to the injured girl rankled Cym's nerves, but there were bigger battles to pick at the moment. She said, shortly, "Any place private and at least somewhat dry." She looked up the stairs, "Maybe a room up there. I need some light, and some of the hot water that they're getting ready, and a few bandages. I'll get those myself....." She looked at her, with the girl in her arms. "Your hands are full."
Most of the people in this building were barely more than children, including their leader. Broken, hard children, and most of them suffering. Cymbyliene had a few things to say to the leader, but there would be no point. There was a culture to poverty and a culture to crime and Cymbyliene couldn't do much about either one. She also knew better than to upset or challenge the organizational system within a group like this. It wouldn't be good for anyone. However, once they were alone, Cymbyliene was going to have a private word with the one that the boy had called 'Kerrigan', when he was speaking to another of the boys. The linen bandages were clean and she had a vial of ointment. With her things, she waited to be led upstairs.
Kerrigan followed the healer gaze up to her room and nodded as she held Tayla upright. Looking back down she caught Toral moving next to her clearly concerned about his sister. "Toral, the Healer said she will need plenty of light so see to it that some candles are sent to my room immediately. Bring the water once it is ready, and then you can check on your sister, but not before. Someone still might have seen you bring in the healer's things. I want you to stay here in case something unexpected happens... Don't worry I will make sure Talya is fine. Clear?" Kerrigan commanded sharply as she caught his eyes.
Torel's jaw tightened before he nodded to Kerrigan, lightly reaching out to touch his sister's cheek. "Clear." Came his soft response, before he turned and walked off.
Kerrigan did not give Toral a second thought as she grunted lifting the injured girl into her arms. Her eyes found the healer again, her arms full with the tools of her trade. "Follow me," the guild mistress said sharply as she turned, and started up the stairs to the second floor room that jutted out from the inside wall.
© 2004 Stormpoint Writers Guild
All rights reserved