Dragon Tree
suspended in some greenish
    As soon as
Tamberlane laid the girl out on the table, the seneschal adjusted
the light shields and pushed his sleeves above his wrists.
    “The arrow,”
he murmured, leaning over the object in question to inspect it more
closely. “You have not disturbed it?”
    “No more so
than was necessary to bring her to the castle.”
    Marak's pale
fingers rested over the girl’s brow a moment and he ordered Roland
to add several dried pieces of wood to the fire, bringing it to a
blaze again. With his hood pulled even lower over his face to
protect him from the glare, he gently took a knife to the girl’s
tunic, nicking the cloth at her neck first and cutting his way
across her breastbone and down her arm. The threadbare fabric, once
blue, was dark as ink where the blood had begun to dry, still shiny
and wet and red where the jostling had kept the wound leaking. With
the cloth peeled back, Marak could see that the quarrel had gone
straight through the meaty part of her shoulder, just above and to
the side of the right breast.
    “She has lost
a deal of blood, my friend. She may lose a deal more if the arrow
has cut through the heart vein.”
    “How will you
know if it has?”
    The seneschal
glanced up. “If you see a gout of red when I take the bolt out...
you will know. Who is she? Her face is not familiar.”
    “Her village
was raided this morning. She was the only one we found alive, and
may be the only one able to tell us why the vill was attacked and
all within its boundaries slaughtered.”
    Marak stopped
what he was doing and glanced up. “All?”
    “To the last
child and goat.”
    "And the
    "Three got
away," Roland said. "One with an arrow in his thigh."
    The albino’s
eyes were shadowed by the hood, but Tamberlane could sense them
searching his face, then dropping lower to stare at the slash in
his shirtsleeve.
    “The leaders
were mercenaries. Brabancons. Not the type who would betray their
secrets too easily.”
    “You show a
marked lack of faith in my skills,” Marak said dryly. Turning back
to the maid, and using the veriest tip of his finger, he touched
the arrowhead where it protruded through the front of her tunic,
carefully watching her face for any flicker of reaction. There was
none. Mumbling softly to himself, he fetched a small black kettle
and wandered along the wall of shelves, taking a leaf here, a pinch
of powder there, a few drops of some viscous liquid from a
stoppered bottle, and added them all to the pot. He mixed the
contents with water and hung the pot over the fire, pointing a bony
finger at Roland as he made his way back to the pallet.
    “Guard that it
does not boil.” And to Tamberlane, he asked, “Has she wakened at
    “Once. Back at
the river.”
    “Was she able
to speak?”
nodded. “A few words only. But they were tumbled and made no
    Marak fetched
a large square of linen from one of the shelves and tore it into
two equal strips. Folding them into two thick wads, he sprinkled
more herbs and powders between each layer and by the time he
finished, steam was rising off the surface of the posset. He
removed the pot from the fire and divided the contents evenly
between the two poultices.
    As carefully
as he could, Marak cut away the gut string tethers binding the iron
arrowhead to the shaft. He felt gingerly beneath the girl’s
shoulder and found the splintered bits of wood where the bolt had
snapped in her fall over the river embankment. Straightening again,
and without further ado, he used his forefinger to push the shaft
quickly through the flesh and pull it out the other side. Both ends
of the wound filled instantly with fresh blood, but there was no
gushing. He then took one of the herb-soaked poultices and laid it
beneath her shoulder, the other one on top, and pressed down with
much of his weight for several counts of ten before easing off and
peering under the corner of the uppermost

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