7. Medicine for the Heart

A stout figure, entirely clad in black, cautiously opened the door to Emelasuntha’s bedroom, silently walked over to the sleeping queen and laid a hand upon her mouth. The queen woke.

“Quiet, it’s me,” the dark figure whispered.

“Sobrathi… you… finally.” Emelasuntha smiled. “Anaxantis?”

“Anaxantis is fine. He’s alive, he’s free, he’s healthy. Quick, get up, there will be time later for all of this.”

“You’re right. But I had to ask,” the queen said while she got out of bed.

“Of course you did, dear,” Sobrathi said.

She slid a backpack from her shoulders, opened it and handed over a pair of pants, a tunic and a mantle, all of the deepest black.

“I trust you have a shirt and sturdy shoes?”

“I think they brought my riding boots with the rest of my clothes,” Emelasuntha said as she removed her nightgown and let Sobrathi help her into the pants.

A few minutes later she was fully clad. Sobrathi retrieved a belt with two daggers attached to it out of her rucksack and handed it over. Emelasuntha went over to a cabinet and came back with a small box.

“Some jewelry. Can you carry them in your backpack?”

Sobrathi nodded and held the backpack open while Emelasuntha emptied the contents of the box into it.

“Who’s with you? The Sisterhood?”

“No, the Tribe of Mekthona. The Sisterhood is searching for you, but they are still far from finding this place.”

“Astonema be thanked.”

The two women left the bedroom silently, and Sobrathi leading the way, they made their way silently through the deserted hallways until they reached a stairway that led to the battlements. Emelasuntha saw immediately that they were at the back of the castle.

“This is Taranaq Mountain, isn’t it?” Emelasuntha asked, whispering.

“Yes. Didn’t they tell you?”

“Nothing. They told me nothing.”

From out of the dark three men, also clad in black, appeared.

“Your Majesty, Lady, everything all right?” one of the men asked in a barely audible voice.

“It went exactly as I thought,” Sobrathi whispered back. “They have concentrated all their guards at the front of the castle. This side is deemed impregnable.”

“And it is,” Emelasuntha said. “For an army. Look at how steep the mountain is and on this side the walls literally stand on the edge of a cleft. But that wouldn’t stop an experienced mountaineer like you, would it, Sobrathi? Remember when we climbed—”

“Yes,” Sobrathi interrupted her, “but then we were twenty years younger and I was forty pounds lighter. Anyway, we’ll reminisce later. First, let’s get out of here before they notice that you’re gone. Do you think you’re still up to it? We’ll have to descend these walls by rope and then manage the cliff.”

“Don’t worry,” Emelasuntha answered. 

When they heard steps, the little group hastily went back through the door that led to the stairways. Moments later a lonely young guard appeared, slowly walking alongside the parapets.

“Shit, he’ll discover the rope hanging down the wall,” Sobrathi said.

Emelasuntha removed the cap of her mantle and shook her long blond hair loose. Before Sobrathi could stop her, she stepped onto the wall walk. The guard, a young man of barely twenty years, startled.

“Your Majesty, what are you doing here? I don’t think you’re supposed—”

“Just taking in the night air, soldier.” Emelasuntha smiled.

The soldier was young and Emelasuntha was a striking woman.

“Come here,” she said smiling invitingly. “I want to show you something.”

“What is it you want to show me, My Lady?” the young man asked, smiling back as he came nearer.

“Your entrails,” Emelasuntha answered, as she slit his belly open with the razor sharp dagger that appeared from under her mantle.

The young soldier grabbed with both hands at the mass of blue-gray guts, faintly steaming in the cold night air, that protruded from his abdomen and tried to push them back with a look of both surprise and indignation on his face. Emelasuntha turned him around and let him lean against her as she lowered him softly, carefully, to a sitting position. He turned his head and looked at her, questioning her with his eyes. He seemed to not fully understand what had just happened.

“In the end they all turn into boys, and they look for their mother. Never their father. Always their mother,” she thought as she tenderly took his head in both her hands.

“It will be all right, love,” she whispered soothingly, and she yanked his head sideways with a swift, brutal movement until she heard a sound like a breaking, dry branch.

She lowered the body on the ground and stood up.

“Hurry,” she said in the direction of the little door, “before he is missed and they come looking for him.”

“The rope can only hold two safely at a time,” one of the men said. “Ladies, you go first. Baroness, you know the road. Don’t wait for us. We’ll catch up.”

“Go, dear, go,” Sobrathi urged the queen on. “I’m right behind you.”

At first he had wanted to go on his own, but both Hemarchidas and Iftang Busskal had protested vehemently. Then he had proposed that he would go, accompanied by Hemarchidas, which had quieted the Cheridonian, but not the cavalry general. At long last it was decided that he would take, besides Hemarchidas, his guard with him. After Lethoras had protested that he felt left out, he and Bortram were included.

“That’s a fucking invasion army. I don’t want to make a fuss,” Anaxantis had said. “We’ll buy some simple tunics, also for the soldiers of my guard. I don’t want to parade around with my crest in full view.”

“But even rich merchants don’t venture out on the streets without a highly visible retinue,” Hemarchidas had said. “Look at our host. And you’re the lord governor, by the Gods.”

“Yeah, well, I want to be able to look at the shops and walk around without everybody staring at us.”

Since he wouldn’t budge from this last stance, Bortram and Lethoras had taken it upon them to buy neutral tunics for all of them.

Anaxantis felt all his senses attacked at once in the narrow, busy streets of the center of Dermolhea. The unfamiliar sensation of having to wrestle himself through throngs of people, the smells of fresh and dried fruits and exotic spices, the sounds of stall keepers yelling the praises of their wares, and the rumbling sound of thousands of people conversing, arguing and bidding, it all was new and extremely exciting for him. When he saw a shop that sold books and made a beeline for it, Hemarchidas knew that he had to intervene.

“Anaxantis, no, we’ll be late,” he said, laughing. “We can always return after we have visited this physician Tollbir person.”

Eventually they reached a little square that was rather quiet although not far from the commercial district. Hemarchidas looked doubtfully at a house that once must have been distinguished and imposing but now was in urgent need of repairs.

“This should be it,“ he said hesitatingly.

“Okay, you guys go to that tavern on the corner,” Anaxantis said, “and I’ll meet you there when I’m done here.”

“Oh, no,” Hemarchidas replied, “they can go to the tavern. I come with you. You never know who or what lurks in houses like this.”

“Oh, by the Gods, first Mother, then Ehandar and now you. I wish you all would stop treating me like a baby,” Anaxantis muttered, but he couldn’t suppress a smile.

“Did you come for the doctor?” an old woman asked, when they had entered the hall.

“Yes,” Anaxantis said, “he’s expecting us, well, me.”

“He’s with an important patient now. When he’s finished he’ll come and get you. Meanwhile you can sit there.” She pointed at some ramshackle chairs that stood forlornly in a dark corner.

“An important patient, an important patient,” Hemarchidas grumbled. “First he makes you come here to him. Then he makes you wait.”

“I could as well have brought Ehandar,” Anaxantis sighed.

About twenty minutes later a farmer with his arm in a sling came out of a door, followed by a smallish, gray haired old man.

“You can take that off in a day or two,” he said to the farmer. “And let your arm rest. Don’t try to lift things with it or something stupid like that. Give my regards to your wife and thank her for the chickens and the vegetables.”

The farmer mumbled something and left. The little old man peered in the direction of the dark corner and scratched his beard.

“You next?” he asked and without waiting for answer he walked back to the door he had come out of.

Anaxantis and Hemarchidas followed him. The room they entered was dominated by an enormous table, with an array of strange instruments, bottles and flasks of all sizes and mountains of books and parchments. Near a window, looking out over an inner garden, stood a smaller lower table, covered with a cloth. The old man sat down in an enormous easy chair and motioned them to do the same on two chairs.

“Your maid said you were treating an important patient, but we only saw a peasant with his arm in a sling leaving this room,” Hemarchidas said gruffly. “Do you really think that the lord governor is less—”

“That man has a wife and four children,” Murno Tollbir interrupted him, “who depend upon him for their food, clothing and a roof above their heads. They think he is pretty important.”

He blinked.

“But—” Hemarchidas started.

“And he pays me in fresh vegetables and chickens from his own farm,” Murno Tollbir interrupted him again. “I think he is pretty important. And who are you, by the way… no, don’t tell me…”

He stood up and went over to the table and retrieved a scroll of several parchments out of one of the mountains.

“Let me see… oh yes, the young lord governor. Well, my good sir,” he said blinking at Hemarchidas, “let’s see what could be wrong with you. People are worried about your health, this document says. Several times over, in fact. Before I stick my finger up your behind, maybe I should ask you if you really want your page to witness that?”

He nodded in the direction of Anaxantis.

“What?” exclaimed Hemarchidas.

“I would think the question was simple enough.” Tollbir shrugged. “But if you don’t mind, neither do I. Otherwise,” and he turned to Anaxantis, ”go away you, there’s a good boy.”

“He’s the lord governor, not I,” Hemarchidas said tersely.

“In that case, you go away, there’s a good boy. You know where the door is. It’s that thing you came through a minute ago.”

He rifled through the parchments.

“Take your mantle, tunic and shirt off and lie down on the small table there, on your back,” he mumbled.

“Listen old man, you can’t treat—” Hemarchidas started.

“Why are you still here, annoying man? Didn’t I tell you to go away? Are you deaf?”

“Oh, in the name of the Gods, Hemarchidas, please, do as he says,” Anaxantis said, “or we’ll be here forever with you two bickering.”

“Humph,” Hemarchidas snorted. “I’ll be waiting outside then.”

“Is he always like that? And you, come on boy, we haven’t got all day. At least I haven’t,” Murno Tollbir said, when the door had closed behind the Cheridonian.

“Listen, doctor, I’m not a stickler for ceremony and etiquette, but I do appreciate common courtesy.”

“Courtesy, courtesy, fiddlesticks.”

After having removed his mantle, sword, tunic and shirt, Anaxantis lay down as instructed.

“Hm,” said Murno Tollbir, “I have a letter here from your brother and a separate account of the state of your health through the years and particularly the last months. Probably by your mother.”

“Let me see that,” Anaxantis said. “I doubt that it is from my mother.”

Tollbir handed him the parchments.

“Yes, the letter is written by our scribes. The three other parchments are in the handwriting of my brother.”

“Your brother?” Tollbir said surprised, taking the parchments back. “Well, if your brother ever wants to change careers, he should come and talk to me. I could make a half-decent doctor out of him. Your brother is complete in his report, he has attention for detail, a good eye for what is important and it is all written down in an orderly and logical manner. Well, well, your brother, eh… So, had a good trip?”

“Now that you mention it, the same brother wasn’t all too happy that you refused to come to Lorseth when the lord governor told you to.”

“Fiddlesticks. Didn’t I explain in my letter? No, I probably forgot. Anyway, to get a good idea of your state of health I needed you to make some light, but unusual and sustained effort. A three-day trip on horseback fit the bill perfectly. And, how do you feel?”

“The first day my muscles were a little bit cramped, but now I’m all right.”

“Not feeling abnormally tired?”

“No, not really.”

Murno Tollbir proceeded with prodding the prince all over his belly, laying his ear upon his patient’s abdomen and chest and tapping with his fingers upon various bones and joints. Meanwhile he kept asking all kinds of questions which Anaxantis answered as well as he could. The doctor seemed to be satisfied with what he had found or didn’t find. He scratched his beard.

“Good,” he said. “Now, turn around, sit upon your knees, lower your pants and drawers, and lean forward upon your chest. With… eh… your behind to the window. I need the light.”

“Are you serious?” Anaxantis asked, exasperated.

“Quite serious,” the doctor replied. “I have to check inside to make sure there are no ulcers or other deformities and that there are no swollen glands or signs of hemorrhoids. We can skip this, of course, and you will probably be all right for the first fifteen, twenty years or so, but if anything is wrong, we can probably correct it easily now. If you wait, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of pain and no guarantee that you will ever be cured. Believe me, pain in the butt is a… well, just that. Your choice. Besides, do you really think I like sticking my finger up the asses of boys, even pretty boys like you? Now, if you were a pretty girl that would be a whole different story. But then you wouldn’t have been wearing any clothes for some time now.”

Tollbir chuckled while he rubbed his index finger with oil. Anaxantis sighed and reluctantly did as he was asked, though his face became fiery red. The doctor kept mumbling approvingly while he introduced his finger. Then he touched a certain spot and to his utter devastation Anaxantis felt his member rising.

“Good… good…” Tollbir mumbled, “no abnormal swelling and the reaction is as expected. Hm, while I have you in this position, let me feel… Yes, both testicles are fully dropped, and the tubes don’t seem to be entangled.” He placed his fingers behind the scrotum and rolled the balls gently, using his thumb. “No hard lumps and they feel firm. Theoretically the dynasty is safe if ever it would have to depend upon you.”

“Are you deliberately trying to embarrass me?” Anaxantis complained.

“What?” the doctor asked absentmindedly, while scratching his beard with the hand that he hadn’t used to examine him. “Well, that didn’t hurt, did it? You can pull up your pants and sit upright on the table, please.”

He went over to a basin and washed his hands vigorously.

“Well,” he said pensively, “just as I expected, you’re a boy—”

“Is that your conclusion?” Anaxantis sneered. “You’re really brilliant. I could have told you that. While keeping my pants on.”

“Let me finish, will you. You’re a boy in perfect health and absolutely normally developed for your age. Oh, by the way, don’t overdo it.”

“Don’t overdo what?”

“Let yourself be entered or put things up there yourself, whichever it is you do,” Tollbir said, clearly with his thoughts elsewhere.

Anaxantis again became fiery red in the face.

“Why would you think—”

“Oh, dear boy,“ the doctor interrupted, “if you don’t want your physician to know such things, then you should groan a little or at least show some signs of discomfort when he sticks his finger up your butt.”

“I’ll remember the next time,” Anaxantis grumbled.

“But, that’s not important,” Tollbir mused. “Your brother wrote that your mother arranged Zyntrean doctors for you. They’re quite capable in Zyntrea, in fact the school at Torantall is famous. So, the question is, why would they think it necessary to put you on medicines? Your brother also writes that your medicines were lost shortly after your arrival here. That is — what? — somewhat more than half a year ago, and yet, you’re in better shape now than then. Very strange, don’t you think?”

“What are you implying? That I was poisoned?”

“Poisoned is a strong word. You’ve taken those herbs and pills for years, and you’re obviously not dead. Right after you stopped taking them, how did you react?”

“At first I became very sick. My throat started hurting and then the pain changed places as it were, to one of my ears. A few days later I started heaving up. Really bad-tasting stuff. I never have tasted anything like it before. It looked a bit like sticky, slimy threads.”

“Yes, I see. That was your body evacuating long-term waste products. Your stool, how was your stool?”

“You really have a knack for abashing people, haven’t you?”

“Oh, fiddlesticks. Don’t be such a baby. Your stool?”

“Watery the first days. Then hard, eh, difficult and painful to pass. It returned to normal after about ten days.”

“The hard parts were waste that had been in your body for far too long and had petrified. Good riddance. Could have caused a lot of problems later on. Diet?”

“For months mostly gruel and bread. Some butter, vegetables and once and again a little meat. Strangely enough, I don’t seem to tolerate food in great quantities or when it is too rich anymore.”

“That’s perfectly all right. Most people dig their graves with their own teeth as it is. So, for months you lived mainly on grains. A sober diet, let’s say. That’s probably what gave your body the opportunity to cleanse and heal itself. Remarkable. Open your eyes wide, please.”

With his fingers he held Anaxantis’s eyelids spread apart.

“Look up at the ceiling. Yes, like that. Now try to look at your belly. Okay. Open your mouth.”

“So?” Anaxantis asked when the doctor had finished.

“Well, you’re boringly healthy as far as I can tell. The question remains, however. Why did they give you herbal concoctions when it is clear they did you more harm than good? You wouldn’t happen to have a sample of those medicines for me to examine?”

“No, I’m afraid everything was lost.”

“A shame. Knowing what was in them could have told us a lot. Ah, yes, the sweets your mother sent you were lost at the same time, your brother writes. Good. Don’t eat sweets. They’re poison. The body isn’t made for them. And don’t drink milk. Not too much and not too often at any rate.”

“I usually don’t. But is it really bad for you? That’s the first time—”

“Are you a calf?”

“Excuse me?”

“The question is simple enough, I would have thought. Why does everybody insist that I ask them things twice? Are you a calf?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then don’t drink milk. Milk is for calves. It is designed to make a beast the size of a very large dog into something enormous within the year. You’re far from enormous. And it took you sixteen years to reach even this stage. Don’t drink milk. Oh, some milk in prepared dishes is quite all right. Easy with cheese though. Too salty.”

“Any other advice?” Anaxantis asked with sarcasm bleeding through in his voice.

“Yes. Never lie to me. I will misdiagnose you, and that could be dangerous for you. More importantly, you would be wasting my time. As for the rest, keep doing what you are doing. Enjoy your food, but eat sparingly. Indulge yourself from time to time if you must. If what your brother writes is true, you’re getting plenty of exercise in the open air, which is excellent. Oh, yes, if you have to fart, fart. Don’t keep it in. Very bad for you.”

“You really don’t mince your words, do you?” Anaxantis said, becoming red for the umpteenth time. “Lucky for me, I’m not gassy.”

“Fiddlesticks. You’re a boy. You’re sixteen. You’re gassy.”

“Hm. But basically I’m all right?”

“You’re in perfect health. You could live to be a hundred.”

“I’m in perfect health. I could live to be a hundred.”

“According to that insolent quack,” Hemarchidas sneered. “Has he at least examined you thoroughly?”

“Oh, yes, I dare say he did,” Anaxantis replied. “Believe me, he was thorough enough. He wouldn’t let me pay him, you know? He said he had stopped asking money from his patients almost fifteen years ago, on account of that he had enough of the stuff, and that it permitted him to choose who he wanted to treat. But he seems to accept presents, like he did from that farmer.”

At the first shop that sold them, Anaxantis bought fifty live chickens, to be delivered immediately to the good doctor. He sent two of his personal guards with the shop owner’s sons, to help and keep an eye on things.

“Just drop them in the hall and be sure to tell him that they’re a gift from Anaxantis,” he instructed his men.

“Fifty chickens?” Hemarchidas shouted. “How much did you pay for them?”

“Two moltar, I believe,” Anaxantis replied.

“Two moltar? You little fool. You’ve been robbed blind. Do you even know the value of anything?” Hemarchidas said, vexed.

“I think I know your value,” Anaxantis laughed. “At the moment you’re priceless. Come, there was a bookshop somewhere here.”

Later, when Anaxantis’s guards told their colleagues, Ehandar’s guards, about their trip to Dermolhea they met first with total disbelief and then with envy, when they recounted excitedly how they had visited a tavern in broad daylight in company of the young lord governor and his friends, how they had delivered fifty chickens to an old physician’s house and let them loose in his hall, schlepped more than thirty heavy books from Dermolhea to Lorseth and on their last evening in the city were given permission to visit the local taverns and had received a nice sum of spending money.

Serving Anaxantis seemed a lot more fun than serving their own master, Ehandar’s guards concluded downcast.

“The difference is,” Sobrathi said, “that the Sisterhood immediately began systematically searching all the eastern provinces and that we sat down to think first. Since he surrounded your arrest with such secrecy, it followed automatically that Tenaxos wouldn’t keep you in a place where you would be drawing attention. That eliminated all castles near cities and those with much comings and goings. He wanted you not only secured, but also as inconspicuous as possible. Even so, it took us a while before we began to suspect that you were kept on Taranaq Mountain. But the more I thought about it, the more I became certain. All the while I had to make sure not to blow my cover, or arouse the suspicion of the Sisterhood. That’s why I informed them first when you were arrested.”

The two women sat together where they couldn’t be seen from the road. The men kept an eye out for pursuers, although by now they had left the Ximerionian border several miles behind them. This gave the queen and the baroness some privacy.

“Where are we going?” Emelasuntha asked. “I hope not to Zyntrea.”

“No, of course not, dear. Although Kurtigaill wouldn’t have minded, even if it would have meant trouble with Tenaxos. But I doubt he can assess all the consequences. He occupies himself more with his garden and his boy-toys than with the actual government of his kingdom.”

Emelasuntha sighed. She knew her brother.

“What is it this year?” she asked smiling. “A new rose variety?”

“Strangely enough, no. This year he has planted leeks. Don’t ask me why. Believe me, as far as he is concerned the day that he can abdicate can’t come soon enough. At least in that aspect our plans are still intact.”

“He’ll have to hold on to the throne a little while longer,” Emelasuntha mused. “There is still so much to be done. And I am in a worse position now to control events. First the Devil’s Crown, then the throne of the House of Mekthona. No, I can’t let him adopt Anaxantis just yet.”

“To answer your earlier question, we are going to Soranza,” Sobrathi continued. “We have bought a vineyard in your name.”

“A vineyard?”

“Yes, it’s ideal. The grounds are very large and there are extensive buildings that can be used for housing task forces. In the center is a hill with a splendid villa, a little palace really. The whole complex is easy to defend, although it is doubtful that Tenaxos would dare violate the neutrality of Soranza. Particularly now, with all the troubles on both his southern and northern borders. The Sisterhood, now they wouldn’t hesitate a moment of course. Only, I don’t see them operating in force on the territory of Soranza. They haven’t even got a local chapter there. The Senate has always vigorously denied them a foothold. Very wise of them.”

“You seem to have thought of everything, dear.”

“That is not all. We are practically equidistant from Zyntrea, Ormidon and the Ximerionian Northern Marches. It’s perfect as a base of operations. But I see that you are dying to ask me about what interests you most,” Sobrathi smiled.

“Oh, come on, you tease.”

“All right. This is what we know. A few days after the Army of the North arrived at Lorseth, Anaxantis fell ill apparently. Or, in any case, that’s what Ehandar told everybody. Nothing serious, he said, his brother was just in need of some rest. To be honest, we panicked. We had no means of contacting you and we didn’t know what to do. In fact, we feared that Ehandar would slowly poison him and only let a physician near him when it would be too late. For three months he didn’t leave the apartments of the lord governors. The rumor ran that Ehandar kept him captive. But then he reappeared, healthier than he had been in years, albeit pale at first.”

“So, after all these years the medicines have kicked in.”

“That was another problem. I knew he would be running out of them by now. So I went to see Birnac Maelar to arrange for a new batch for him. He refused me, saying that he had to have your permission. He said that the medicines were never delivered directly to the prince, but to you. I explained the situation to him and even tried to offer him more money, but to no avail.”

“Yes, that’s correct. I thought it wise at the time to keep some measure of control, and I taught Anaxantis not to accept anything unless it had gone through my hands. Food, sweets and certainly his medicines. I always tested them for poison. I made one of the servants drink of the herbal tea and swallow a few of the pills. With the exception of one or two times that one of them complained of being tired the next day they seemed healthy enough. And even on those few occasions the feeling of tiredness was gone after a day or so. There were never any long-term effects. A good thing that I made you take my jewelry. My private seal is among them. The moment we arrive, I will send a letter to Maelar for a new batch. Damn. It will take weeks before they are ready and delivered to our new place. Then we still have to send them to him. I hope that meanwhile he doesn’t relapse.”

Ehandar looked from the window down on the courtyard where Anaxantis dismounted. His first instinct was to run down the stairs and inquire what the doctor had concluded. With some difficulty he decided that he could wait another few minutes until his brother came up to their room. He saw the guards and a few cavaliers haul what seemed to be half a library to the tower.

“Just lay them on that table there in this room. The servants will bring them to my quarters tomorrow,” he heard Anaxantis’s voice on the stairway.

Finally, he heard his brother mount the stairs, and he quickly sat down in the bigarm chair by the hearth, where a low fire was burning. The door opened. And suddenly he felt Anaxantis sidle in beside him. The chair was big, but not big enough to seat both of them comfortably, and Anaxantis sat halfway upon his lap, mantle, sword and all, and put his arms around him.

“Oh, how I’ve missed you, I missed you so much.”

“But I missed you more,” Ehandar thought. “You’ll never know just how much. The moment you were gone all dark thoughts, the despair and the loneliness returned in force. The longing was almost too much to bear. And the doubts, especially the doubts.”

For a while it rained kisses all over his face, and then Anaxantis sighed contentedly.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “It really is. I didn’t know I would miss you this much.”

“How was your trip?” Ehandar asked, smiling happily, all his worries and misgivings gone. “Wasn’t it too exhausting? What did the doctor say? Did you have fun?”

“It was fabulous,” Anaxantis grinned and clambered down to take off his mantle, sword and tunic.

He told Ehandar all about what he had seen on the road. He told him about the city of Dermolhea, its streets, its buildings, its shops and the strange Doctor Tollbir. Ehandar had visited Dermolhea himself, and yet all Anaxantis told him seemed new to him.

“What did that old stubborn fool of a physician say?”

“Oh, I’m as healthy as can be. By the way, he showed me that report you made for him.”

Ehandar blushed.

“I thought, since he refused to come here, that he should at least know as many details as possible.”

“He was full of praise for you. Said you would make a good doctor yourself. He also said that never before he had seen such a complete and useful description of someone’s state of health.”

Anaxantis returned to sit with Ehandar in the big arm chair and handed him an object wrapped in cloth.

“That was sweet of you, taking so much trouble. Here, I got you something from the shops in Dermolhea.”

After he had removed the cloth, Ehandar held a dagger with a silver hilt.

“It’s not ostentatious,” Anaxantis explained, almost apologetically. “No gaudy jewels or such, but look at the workmanship. It’s exquisite in its soberness, don’t you think?”

“It’s magnificent,” Ehandar said, touched. “The balance is excellent too. But you really shouldn’t have.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Anaxantis replied. “Now hold me… I’m exhausted,” he added smiling.

Ehandar did just that. While Anaxantis lay his head against his breast and he held him with his left arm, he tilted the dagger in the light. It was only after a while he noticed that there was a delicate engraving on the blade. “Redina Mo Sevrai,” it read. Ehandar mustered all he could remember of the long, boring lessons in Ancient Boltac. Many of his teachers had thought that he had no natural ability for learning. In fact he had retained quite a bit of his lessons in the classic language. It took him a while but then it came to him.

Redina Mo Sevrai. Medicine For The Heart.

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