Alliance for antrim, p.1
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       Alliance for Antrim, p.1

           Thomas Lombard
 
Alliance for Antrim


  Alliance for Antrim

  By Thomas Lombard

  Copyright © 2013 Thomas Lombard.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1: Anson

  Chapter 2: Close call

  Chapter 3: Attack

  Chapter 4 : Deliverance

  Chapter 5: Nevin

  Chapter 6: Delusion

  Chapter 7: Demonstrations

  Chapter 8: New magic

  Chapter 9: Hiroshima

  Chapter 10: Bartram

  Chapter 11: Power of the Mind

  Chapter 12: Orris

  Chapter 13: Night visitor

  Chapter 14: Zael

  Chapter 15: Sartel

  Chapter 16: Bar fight

  Chapter 17: Lucan

  Chapter 18: Corissa

  Chapter 19: Alliance plus one

  Chapter 1

  Anson

  It was unusual for a farmer to suffer an injury from a mishap with a sword. Odder still, Anson was asked to come after dark, well past the usual bedtime for farm folks.

  Lona, the farmer’s wife, looked on with great concern.

  “Please cast a spell, young master, and deliver my poor man from misery. He wants to get back to his fields in the morning. ”

  Local folks had little patience for herbal or physical treatments. Most thought a mage had spells for all purposes that would heal anything from warts to rigor mortis. While there were occasional rumors of high ones who might have such talents, the people of Huxley would have to expect less from Anson. There was no magic to heal a laceration like this overnight.

  Not only did naive requests for spellwork make him uncomfortable, lately it seemed no one wanted it known that his services were needed. This change was nothing personal towards him; it was just that people did not want their woes to attract attention. Those who appeared vulnerable had more to fear these days, even from their neighbors.

  Anson understood that the residents of this village, like most common folk throughout the kingdom of Antrim, could given in to superstitious thinking. For this, and other reasons, he deliberately avoided using spells in their presence. Despite his youth, Anson was true to his training and always secretive about spellcasting. Though he was forced to leave his last apprenticeship before it was completed, he never discussed the art with anyone except another mage or apprentice. Besides, the injury suffered by this poor farmer should respond well to the proper mundane treatments.

  Anson knelt down by the cot but the injured man faced toward the wall, using his left hand to cover his eyes. While the mage examined the lacerated leg, there would be no conversation with this man. Anson carefully washed the cut, using the basin and cloth Lona provided. He shook some small dried leaves from a leather pouch onto his palm, added a few drops of water, and mulled the mixture with a smooth stone; he gently pasted the mixture on the wound and tied a dressing. Once it began leeching into the cut, the farmer muffled a grunt and pulled away his throbbing leg.

  Lona watched over Anson’s shoulder. The look on her face still conveyed a plea for magery to help her husband, but Anson would not mislead her about that. Spellwork could not restore physical injuries. His effectiveness as a healer was due to his knowledge of herb lore and the proper dosages and applications of medicinal powders, plus bits of common sense. The proper treatment for the nasty gash on this man’s leg is a week of rest and clean dressings. Anson stepped away from the cot and quietly cautioned Lona. “I’m sorry, Mistress, but there is no spell to heal a leg cut like this. I used nettle leaves to reduce his pain and pucker the edges of the cut, but take care that these leaves do not remain on the wound for long or it will scald his skin. You know how much pain he feels already, even though he tries not to show it. But most important, you must make certain that he stays out of his fields for a full seven days.”

  Nettle plants had analgesic properties but would leave an unpleasant burn if left on too long. His willingness to share this knowledge was one of the traits that distinguished him from the few other mages known by name in Antrim, all of whom were typically closemouthed about herb lore as well as spellwork. It pleased Anson when they called him to their homes to apply his skills, even for late night duty, and his faithful services were usually appreciated.

  The farmer with the injured leg, a stout man named Drexel, said nothing as he lay on his cot. Like most folks of this area, he had coarse brown hair cropped short with brown eyes and was well muscled from physical labor. His winter complexion was beginning to tan from the early spring days in the fields. Folks in Huxley were typically genteel and usually imperturbable, though Drexel liked to display a gruff facade. Flexing his leg to test the treatment of his wound, he tossed a little on the cot but still refused to speak directly to Anson. This movement caught the mage’s attention and brought a slight knowing smile, so Anson raised his voice to allow the farmer to hear there was no gratuity expected, verbal or otherwise. He knew Drexel would complain later that the village needed an older, more experienced mage who knew more spells and could have cured his leg without the folly of seven days of idleness. That would be a foolish complaint, since there was no other mage, old or otherwise, who would be willing to treat common aches and pains. In fact, most of the people of Huxley had not seen a mage in person until Anson took up residence a few years earlier.

  Fortunately for the farmer, Lona listened closely to Anson’s instructions and would follow them. She realized the mage placed himself in jeopardy to come to their homes, but more than that, she trusted him. Last year her second son had been ill with a high fever and she summoned Anson. Despite her son’s deathly pallor, Anson did not use spells on that occasion either because he insisted that red elm tea was the needed treatment. She recalled how Anson became frantic when her son would not drink the unpleasant tasting tea, and how, without explanation, Anson bolted from their cottage. At first she thought he had abandoned them but he returned later, out of breath from a long run after picking fresh red raspberry leaves. He used these leaves to make the medicinal tea more pleasant, so the boy drank it and his fever reduced. Anson saw to it that Lona had a sufficient supply of raspberry leaves with red elm as her son fully recovered. Now that her husband had sliced his leg, she did not hesitate to send for Anson, though she waited for the late hour. She had confidence this mage knew what was best for them. She nodded when he asked if she could make a poultice.

  “Good,” said Anson, extending his smile. “You should apply a fresh poultice once a day; morning is best if you can manage it. Use fine scrapings of red elm, again, plus a generous amount of red pepper. Yes, I mean the pepper you use for cooking. Make sure it is red, not black. Use wheat flour to thicken the paste. If you do not have these remedies, send one of your children to me in the morning and I will supply you. Maybe you could send your son, Jon. I would like to see how he is doing.”

  “Oh, my Jonny is faring well now, growing strong. And he is the equal of his father in the fields.” She was obviously pleased to report her son’s recovery. “He has no ill effects from his fever, thanks to you. But he has turned fourteen and we are afraid the King’s army will take him. They are taking such young boys now. So many men died from the fighting, and now they have gone to taking the boys as well. We have already lost one of our sons as you know, and I had a daughter widowed last year before she reached her eighteenth year.”

  Lona gently pulled Anson away from the cot so her husband would not overhear. She cupped a hand over her mouth and whispered, “With so few men left, my girl fears she will never bear a child of her own. She even talked to me in private about sharing a husband with another young widow.”

  That was a delicate secret. He gave Lona’s hand a sympathetic squeeze. Until recently, she was a plump but energetic wo
man, prone to talk about her children endlessly. Now, her face was haggard from worry as much as an emptier larder. The brown shift she wore looked oversized and had to sashed at the waist. It had a brown vest-like bodice with modest yellow swirls embroidered down each side of the front; women’s clothing often had some colorful embellishments, but anything more garish would be overmuch for local custom. When she noticed her husband propped up on an elbow to see them whispering, she took a step towards the cot and spoke slightly louder to discourage the appearance of gossiping. “It will make my Drexel all the more ornery if they take our boy before the spring planting is done.” Drexel snorted at her remark and tossed again on the cot. She wrinkled her face in annoyance, but the set of her chin showed her resolve to keep her husband abed despite his expected protests.

  Lona looked again at Anson, her expression changing in the privacy of their gaze. She was troubled from all sides by her son’s possible impressment, her daughter’s odd notion of sharing a husband, the falling farm production, and now her husband’s injury—all stemming from a ubiquitous threat that disrupted their lives. For now, her husband’s needs had to trump other concerns.

  Anson gently guided her over to the open doorway, beckoning her to speak freely. She moved a half step closer and whispered, knowing the tribulation ahead if her husband was going to suffer further. “Umm…Sir…Won’t the pepper in the poultice sting the open cut?When no one but me is around, my Drexel does not stand up to pain the quiet way he lays now.”

  Anson grinned outright, appreciating her predictions and silently thanking her for not calling him “Lad” or something else youthful. “If we used black pepper he would indeed find his voice, Lona, but use only the red. It is a capsicum, and they will tingle at first but not sting too badly. If you leave it out of the poultice, the healing time will be much longer and more painful throughout.” Anson took a step away and spoke louder so Drexel would hear, “Now listen further, Lona. At the end of the day when you remove the old poultice, keep the wound clean by washing it with fresh well water. Do not use stream water. If the wound begins to fester, you must call me without delay. Drexel could lose his leg if we do not care for it properly.” Anson saw her nod with acceptance. He added with a sly grin, “. . .and a one-legged farmer wouldn’t grow much grain to share with the King.”

  Anson gave Lona a reassuring touch on the arm, then looked back to catch Drexel’s eye. Straight-faced, the mage said, “Although, my good farmer, if you were to lose that leg you would get more use out of a pair of boots.” With that, Anson left just ahead of the thump made from a boot glancing off the door, followed by a yelp of pain.

 
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