Sings-to-Trees had hair the color of sunlight and ashes, delicately pointed ears, and eyes the translucent green of new leaves. His shirt was off, revealing the sort of tanned muscle acquired from years of healthy outdoor living, and you could have sharpened a sword on his cheekbones.
He was saved from being a young maiden's fantasy—unless she was a very peculiar young maiden—by the fact that he was buried up to the shoulder in the unpleasant end of a heavily pregnant unicorn. Bits of unicorn dung, which was not noticeably more ethereal than horse dung, were sliding down his arm, and every time the mare had a contraction, he lost feeling in
Celadon Toadstool was delirious.
The funny bit—uproariously funny, it seemed to her—was that she knew she was delirious. The world was billowing around her. It looked as if someone had meticulously painted the inside of a cottage on silk, and then hung it in a gentle breeze. The corners floated inward and collapsed back out again with a sigh.
That someone would go to all that trouble, painting a cottage on silk, was hilarious.
She knew she was wounded. She couldn't quite remember how she'd been wounded. Imagine not remembering a thing like that!
This also struck her as hilarious.
Her name, in Orcish, was Urrsharruk-gah, and she had skin
Sings-to-Trees was being strangled.
He'd always expected a patient to kill him some day, but he'd thought he would be a lot older, and it would be an angry bull or a careless moment with a manticore or something along those lines, with an outside chance of being crushed under a nearsighted troll. He really hadn't anticipated anything like this.
The orc had been giggling to herself for a few minutes, and when he tried to talk to her, she only giggled harder. He didn't know if she could speak any of the languages, or if she was so delirious that she wasn't even hearing him. He had no real idea what the normal temperature for an orc was, but h
She let him go. She couldn't do much else. He was an elf, sure, but there were rules, and you didn't kill healers and you didn't kill priests.
The rage had to go somewhere. You couldn't go from halfway to gnawing your shield back to normal just like that. Celadon swallowed it, bitterly, the stone shattering, the red sea pouring through the wreckage. She threw her head back and snarled with the pain.
The elf lay sprawled on the ground beside the bed, holding his throat, his eyes closed. He was breathing in tight little gasps. She could have stomped on his head, but of course she wouldn't.
She was furious. Mostly at herself, truth be told. I
Sings-to-Trees's primary thought through the whole violent encounter was Not the throat again!
His neck hurt. He felt like a troll had used his esophagus as a dance floor. This could not be healthy. If he lived through this, he swore he would be nice to his throat for the rest of the year. Hot teas. Scarfs during winter. Anything.
For awhile, he didn't think he was going to live to see sunrise, let alone winter.
Then she'd apologized. The orc had stood there, with a distinctly sheepish expression on her face, and she'd apologized.
None of his patients ever apologized. Most of them couldn't talk, and it didn't seem to occur to the ones who
He got a nasty start a few hours later, when he came in to check on her.
He'd tied her hands, her feet, thrown a loop or two around her waist, and roped everything to the bed, the chair, and the fire iron, just for good measure, He'd done everything short of hog-tying. She wasn't going to get loose in a hurry.
He wasn't sure why he was bothering, really, since he had a horrible feeling that if she said "Will you untie me?" he might do it, and if she said "please," he'd definitely do it.
Still, she didn't seem to be a threat conscious, so maybe that was okay.
Then, because his feelings were still churning and there was nothing for emotiona
This was easier said than done.
She gave him some very practical suggestions about how to tie the ropes. A bit of slack between the feet, enough to shuffle, not enough to run. A rope around the neck as a kind of leash in case she attacked him. He could tell she'd done this sort of thing before.
Sings-to-Trees, at that point, would have been happy just untying her completely and pointing her in the direction of the outhouse, but he had a horrible feeling he'd disappoint her if he didn't at least try to hold up his end. So he steeled himself to stay awake a bit longer and got the ropes set up, and hauled her out of the bed.
Then she wound up
Celadon woke up in the elf's arms.
This sounded a lot more romantic than it actually was.
For one thing, learning to sleep in proximity to another person is an acquired skill. You learn what to do with the arm that always seems to get stuck between you and where to put your feet and whether they mind having a leg draped over theirs and who can use whose arm as a pillow without nerve damage or a sore neck. Then there's the whole complex negotiation of blanket treaties and sheets and who gets what and who needs layers and who has to stick their feet out.
Without acquiring these vital habits, you wake up pretty much like Celadon—stiff, sore,
Sings-to-Trees' head shot up. He knew Fleabane's barks like the back of his hand. Short, rapid barks, not grating, hysterical ones--somewhere between a greeting and a warning. Fleabane knew the person approaching, but he didn't really like them.
That meant it was either one of the humans from down the road (excepting Matilda, who brought cheeses and always had a tidbit for a hungry coyote) or the rangers.
"Shit!" Sings-to-Trees leapt to his feet and began kicking Celadon's armor under the bed, followed by the extra blankets.
Celadon got unsteadily to her feet. "What is it?"
"Company. Might be rangers."
She could have asked questions, lik