Words on Wednesday

Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 by Travis Cody in
4

You know the drill. This is Outlawed, Chapter One, installment 4. If this is your first visit, or you just need a quick refresher, check out the first 3 installments.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three


Outlawed

Chapter One
Raid

continued...

Troy McCord was a cautious man by temperament, in direct contrast to Wade, who was concerned with style as much as with content. Wade took it as a personal affront to his dignity, and to his huge ego, when he miscalculated or was out-maneuvered.

Last night in camp the two men had argued these differences, so vociferously in fact that they had to be separated physically. Animosity had still sizzled under the surface this morning. Neither man had conceded any points and both were still angry at the other's presumptions to the contrary.

Troy was tired of these scenes. He was tired of Wade's careless attitude toward the dangers of their trade spreading to the younger brothers. He was tired of excuses when someone got hurt, and he was tired of escapes at full gallop in the dark of night.

Wade seemed increasingly enamored of his own cleverness. This observation had earned Troy a fist to the jaw, but it did not stop him from further voicing of his opinion. Their luck couldn't possibly continue, especially since Wade seemed intent only on some nebulous McCord "victory" and his trust that his reputation would strike such fear into their enemies that no one would resist having his valuables liberated. Troy had been yelling finally, red-faced. He told Wade that too much was being asked and not enough attention being given.

Troy had never been glad to see anyone injured, and he was not a happy man at this moment. This was the first deadly resistance to a McCord raid in months and it had nearly killed Wade. Maybe now things could start to change.

"Ease up, mighty man," Troy scolded. "Just be still. Rolling around like that'll only make it worse."

The clinical part of Troy's mind clicked in as he dismounted, noting with relief that the wound was high in the shoulder. It was undoubtedly painful, but Wade would live. Too bad, Troy thought in an uncharacteristic moment of maliciousness. Appalled that he could allow a difference of opinion, no matter how heated, to make him wish for his brother's death, Troy bent to his task.

He could take a little credit for the angle of the bullet's entry. He, at least, had anticipated the shotgunner and spurred Vega into Arvanel. Unlike the older man, Troy had respected the 'gunner despite his youth. Troy was well acquainted with the capabilities of his young brothers. He had been unable to stop the violence, but the slight bump from his mare was enough to turn a possible killing shot into a shoulder wound.

Wade refused to be still and the blood continued to flow profusely as he struggled to get to his feet. His ego was controlling his actions once again, observed Troy. When it looked as if Collin might help him rise, Troy decided. Causing another person pain unsettled his healer's soul. But there were times, and there were times. If he didn't get Wade settled down, the possibility of severe debilitation increased. Troy knew the limits of his magic and didn't need anything to make his job more difficult. He unleashed a withering glare on Collin, then reached out and clamped a savage grip just above the bullet hole in Wade's shoulder.

The reaction was immediate and predictable. Wade sucked air between clenched teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, only just biting back on a scream. He slumped back onto Collin's knees with a weak groan and went limp, breathing heavily and trying to ignore the pain. In his eyes when he finally opened them and looked up at Troy was surrender. He understood who was in charge when blood flowed.

Troy flashed him a reassuring healer's wink and set to business.

Healing magic in Vargus is varied and comparatively rare to the other forms of magic that manifest. The last great healer to possess each of the known talents to its fullest degree is only a figure in history. His likeness resides in the university town of Forsythe in the form of a life-sized statue, fitting tribute to the man who founded the magical academies and furthered the study of magic in Vargus.

Complete mastery over a single talent at present was rare, the vast majority of current healers possessing bits and pieces of the art which they struggled daily to understand and implement. The magic generally manifested as a direct contrast to some other type. For example, the manufacture of a bullet involved a proportion of components, mined and purified, then mixed to form a projectile capable of being fired from a suitable weapon. An essence placed into the mix by one so talented provides the necessary combustion, without which the entire combination is useless.

Troy's healing talent was a direct opposition to that of the bullet shaper. Troy dissolved the magical essence of the bullet, rendering it down to its component material to be absorbed and eliminated by the human body.

Troy focused his concentration. The bullet had lodged itself in the muscles of Wade's upper left shoulder, somewhat lower and a trifle more serious than Troy had diagnosed at a glance. He set his saddlebags beside Wade's head and knelt down. He rubbed his hands together rapidly in preparation, ordering Wade to try and relax. Taking a deep breath and exhaling to still his thoughts, Troy slipped his right hand beneath Wade's shirt and laid it directly on the wound, pausing momentarily while his brother adjusted to the gentle pressure. He placed his left hand on top of his right, took another deep breath, released it slowly, and let his eyelids flicker shut.

He felt the magic as it came and, as usual, it awed him. As his lungs emptied, the air was replaced by something that took over his breathing and all the other functions that kept him alive. His awareness of himself faded as his entire being focused on the foreign object to be eliminated. A tingle filled his entire body and coalesced in his hands. A pleasant explosion came behind his eyes. Then it was done.

Troy's only regret about his talent was that he couldn't take the pain away with the bullet, or replace blood already lost. He could ease pain and help prevent infections with the powders he mixed; a skill not inherent to his magic but learned from books. Only rest would completely replace blood lost and heal the injuries with which he dealt.

"I was just gonna settle him down," said Collin.

Troy was suddenly brought back to full awareness. One of the side benefits to his magic was that he could drift in another world after it manifested. Sometimes this restored his energy. Most of the time, it allowed him to forget the circumstances of his life until someone interrupted the sensation.

Troy raised his head and popped open his eyes. He glanced across at Collin and realized he had made a mistake thinking the older man had been trying to help Wade get to his feet.

Collin knelt with Wade still resting against his knees. He rummaged about in Troy's saddlebags, refusing to meet the healer's eyes. Troy recognized the movement for what it was; busy work to cover Collin's confusion at what he had done to incur Troy's wrath. Of all the brothers, these two were most alike in looks, temperament, and personality.

Separated by seven years, the two could pass for twins. Tall and rangy, they favored their mother, possessing her unruly brownish hair and mysterious green eyes. The only physical difference of note between the two was the often haunted look in Collin’s eyes. His wife had died while bringing their only child into the world. He was devastated by the memory, convinced that if he had been with her instead of at court with his father, he might have saved her. All of Troy's protestations had fallen on deaf ears. Collin loved his son, but he desperately missed his wife.

In his grief at the time he had blamed Troy. Later, he realized that no one was to blame; not Troy, and not himself either. It was just something that happened. Troy, 16 at the time, had accepted his brother's accusations and recriminations, wondering if there had been anything more he could have done. Eventually, they reconciled the results of the events, but the wound only enhanced the difficulty the two had between them.

It was yet another in an infinite series of misinterpretations of each other that began as soon as Troy had learned to talk. Often they had come near to blows. It was an inexplicable breach in such a tightly knit family unit brought even closer by years of exile and danger. They relied on the love of brothers to sustain them, but when the love was tested by anger, it was often more hindrance than help.

They were close, yet separated by a wall of incongruity.

Troy joined the busy work. He unbuttoned Wade's shirt so he could see the wound clearly. It was a simple hole Troy could bandage for now and stitch later, when circumstances presented a safer location. Troy rescued his saddlebags from his brother's ineffectual probing and fished out his vial of yellow powder, his little cure-all for cuts, scrapes, and punctures. As he worked on Wade's shoulder, he stole glances at Collin. He didn't know what to say that would make a difference, regardless of his sincerity, which was genuine.

"I'm sorry, Col," he finally offered lamely.

"Forget it," said Collin with a wave of his hand. "What's one more? If you add up all the times we've misunderstood each other, it still wouldn't give us any idea how to keep it from happening."

"Opposites attract, remember. Magnets force each other apart."

Collin shrugged once, then again, shook his head and sat back on his heels, careful not to jiggle Wade while Troy worked. He smiled in his lopsided way. The cloud passed from his eyes and they shone sparkly green. But there was very little humor in their mysterious depths.

"What're brothers for, right?"

"Funny, I always thought they were born to keep me from gettin' shot," came the reply to what Collin had intended as a rhetorical remark.

Wade tensed in Collins arms and seemed ready to begin a scathing tirade, and Troy had a good idea as to the target. Now was not the time. Nor did Wade really have the right, in any case. On this point, at least, he and Collin agreed. Wade was entirely to blame for the day's blunders and the sooner their eldest brother understood this, and their own willingness to shield the others, the better off the whole family would be.

Before Troy could form his thoughts to make this point, Collin did it for him. His pent-up frustration was clearly evident, as well as no little amount of fear.

"Just think a minute before you open your mouth and make things worse than they already are," Collin said, his voice low and intense. "Getting shot's your own damn fault and you know it. You just let us know the next time you decide to take your eyes off a drawn and loaded gun. Lords in hell, Wade, I wish I knew what was the matter with you."

Troy watched Wade's gray eyes, and he could read the gamut of emotions there. Anger first, then resentment, the shock of realization, and finally fear played within the steely depths. Collin eased off. Wade did pay the price for overconfidence and stupidity today. There really was no sense in adding to his discomfort once he realized the mistakes were his own.

"You're right, Col," Wade admitted, wincing as Troy finished tying off the bandage around his shoulder. "That was stupid. Damn near got my own self killed, and I was ready to holler at somebody else for it." He looked first at Collin, then at Troy, and finally settled on a point between them. "You weren't just yelling at me last night to be yelling at me, were you, Troy?"

"No," answered the healer. "I usually have a point when I use up that much energy."

Wade grunted. Troy knew how quickly his oldest brother could put together a string of observations and come up with a plan of action. The man's mind worked in amazing ways, but when it came to the human side of a problem, he had trouble coping.

Wade captured the healer's gaze. "I scared the hell out of myself, Troy. Lords, what's going on out here?"

The revelation and the question came out as a whisper, and Troy felt the uncertainty as palpable and raw. It was quite a contrast to Wade's attitude from the bulk of the summer just past, and entirely unexpected. All the brothers were accustomed to Wade's adaptability under fire and his admission of fear only confirmed Troy's suspicions that events were now proceeding at a pace that not even Wade could control.

"You got all winter to think that one over, mighty man," said Troy gently, helping his brother sit up so he could secure the injured arm against his chest.

"Fine," said Collin, his business-like tone indicating that time was at a premium and their supply nearly exhausted. He also realized the need to head off any melancholy on Wade's part. They still had things to do before they were safely home, and Collin didn't want a general let down among the rest of his family. "Let's pack it up then and get the hell home."

He began to issue orders, more for the benefit of the passengers and driver from the coach than for his family. Reputation was important, much as he detested the act.

He could see that his brothers were ready to move, having ascertained for themselves that Wade was not in any immediate life-threatening danger. That was well. He noted that Wade was straightening up behind him, and sensed that his brother also recognized the necessity for an all's well attitude.

Collin was able, with a look and a gesture, to let Clay and Wes know that no one, specifically Wade, held them responsible for the situation. Wes responded with a nod and a wink, but Clay looked away.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting more - I'm enjoying the story. Kinda sorry Drew bought it, though, I liked him and was hoping he might become prisoner then come 'round to the family's way of thinking. Seeing as how he died so quickly, if there's ever a movie they can cast Charlie Sheen - in about every movie that he's a good guy, he dies in the first 10 minutes :-)

  1. Maryfly says:

    to comment on Jeff's comment, maybe he's not dead? with all the magic going on who knows. Love this story Trav, waiting for more! hugs!

  1. Travis says:

    Jeff: I never want to write a throw away character - there should be an emotional attachment, which gives any action more impact.

    Mary: That's the beauty of it!! You just never know.

    But Drew's death sets up future events - not exactly the way Jeff guesses, but there is a later impact.

    Thank you both for the feedback!!