Blood Feather

It had been a week since his injury and he was still bed ridden despite the best efforts of every healer in his kingdom. What had begun as a simple arrow wound had quickly progressed to a life threatening condition. The arrow had been coated with a demonic poison and no one seemed to know what the antidote could be, so the once strong king lay feverous and clinging to life as weakly as a sick infant.

He was alone in his room. The small rogue couldn't believe her luck as she silently crept into the window and to his bed. She had expected his queen to be sitting dutifully at his bedside or perhaps his closet companion pacing as he struggled to devise a plan to find a cure.

"Did they leave you alone when they feared all hope was lost?" she murmured in perplexity as she climbed into his bed, a gentle movement of the mattress announcing her arrival. A slight flutter of his eyelids was the only response she received which sent a strange twisting sensation to her stomach.

The rogue had never seen the king show even the faintest sign of weakness. She had always admired his strength, yet here he lay, pail and nearly defeated by a few drops of poison. His cheeks were sunken in and the usual glow that graced his skin had faded away. He had been reduced to a shadow.

"You're such a fool," the rogue accused as she pulled the heavy blankets from his still form. A faint blush colored her cheeks when she realized he wore no clothing beneath the blankets. Squeezing her eyes shut a moment and avoiding the more embarrassing parts of him, she calmed her nerves and surveyed the damage.

An ugly green and black infection coated the puncture that lay to the right of his navel. She had known exactly where his injury would be. A light mark mirroring his had appeared on her body the moment the arrow pierced his side. In truth, she would have known anyway for word of the assassination attempt upon the king spread quickly among the people.

With a heavy sigh, she removed the pack she always carried from her back and set to work. "You're lucky I know the secret to Loki's poison," she informed the sleeping king, referring to the demon who had tried to take his life. "If I hadn't been on the squad with him, you'd be a dead man for sure."

As she spoke, the rogue lifted her supplies out of her pack and laid them on the bed: a small vial of red liquid, two white cloths, a small knife and a bottle of water. Using her gift of fire, the rogue heated the water with her energy until it was warm to the touch but not hot enough to burn. "First thing's first," she said, moistening one of the cloths with the water. "We have to get that wound cleaned out as much as possible."

Edging closer to him, she found her nervousness increasing. She knew cleaning wounds was a painful business, and she was worried he might react by getting violet or worse, crying out and summoning his guards who were quite possible waiting on the other side of the door. Violence she could deal with. Being found was not acceptable. "Forgive me," she whispered apologetically as she pulled a cord out of her pack and used it to tie the extra cloth over his mouth. "I just can't let you make any noise."

Clenching her teeth and watching his face for any sign of pain, she pressed the wet cloth to the festering wound. Immediately his eyes shot open, but he was too weak to do more than attempt to bat her away. Easily catching his hands and sitting on one while holding the other, she continued to press on the wound. "I'm sorry but we have to do this or the cure I brought won't do you any good," she explained forlornly as she continued to work the cloth, forcing all signs of infection from his body. Her stomach was twisted in guilty knots, but she kept reminding herself it was the only way to help him. She had to cause the pain before she could sooth the ache.

After what seemed like an eternity in hell, she finally lifted the cloth to see healthy, red blood coming from the wound rather than the sickening puss the poison caused. Wrinkling her nose in preparation for her next act, she released his hands and lowered her head to taste the blood to make sure all traces of the poison had vanished. Loki's poison had a unique flavor that was both sweet and tart at the same time, and she wanted to make sure that there wasn't a single hint of it left in the king's blood.

The rogue stared at the wound, unable to lower her head any more. She knew she was going to have to taste his blood and that there was no promise for the time she needed to complete her task, but she was having trouble actually going through with the deed. It was just blood, but there was something difficult about actually tasting blood by choice.

"You owe me," she hissed at the king as she closed her eyes and ran her tongue along the blood around the wound. The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth, but she didn't taste the poison. Pulling back as though she had been burned, she grabbed the bottle of water and drank the remaining liquid. She was just thankful there hadn't been any poison, so she only had to taste his blood once. "Never again," she muttered as she wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve. "Next time I let you die." If she didn't know better, she would have thought he smirked at that comment.

After packing away the empty bottle, she reached for the vial of red liquid. She glanced around the room and was grateful to find a small, porcelain bowl on one of the tables. She emptied the vial into the bowl and reached for the knife, quickly sliding the blade along her fingertips to allow four drops of her blood to mix with the elixir. "Angel's blood," she explained as though the king could hear her, "is one of the key ingredients to the antidote, but it has to be fresh. The rest of the ingredients are things like fresh berries and herbs. I know tis a bit strange, but tis Loki who made this concoction after all."

The rogue picked up the cloth once more and dipped it into the antidote. Carefully trying not to allow any of the antidote to stain the bed sheets, she gently pressed the cloth to the wound. Instead of causing pain, the cure soothed the agony that had burned brightly only moments before. The king's furrowed brows smoothed and his muscles slowly relaxed. His feverous skin cooled and color returned to his skin with in moments. Smiling contentedly, the rogue slid off the bed and placed the cloth and the bowl still filled with more of the antidote on the table she had taken it from. He would need more until his wound had healed completely and she hoped someone would know what to do with it.

Before leaving, she added another log to the fire that burned at the far side of the room and snapped her fingers, adding a bit of her energy to make the room warmer. Moving back to the bed, she removed the gag, pulled the blankets back over the king and made sure he would stay warm enough. She knew he was out of harms way and death was fleeing from the room.

"Good bye again," she said, but an odd hint of sadness found its way into her voice and she had to blink in confusion. Refusing to wonder about the strange sensation burning her throat, the rogue climbed onto the windowsill and prepared to leave. On a strange whim, she reached into her pocket to pull out a small red feather and lay it on the edge of the windowsill before vanishing into the night.