(514-09-06) Ebble Keep - Healing Corner
Summary: Bryce and Signe are there, when Landon wakes from his state of unconsciousness.
Date: September 6th, 514
Related: Happens about two weeks after Heavy Rain.
landon signe bryce 


It's been a significant period of time since Landon was felled by a Dorset knight and those with the skills kept him from dying of the serious and near fatal wound he took. In fact, he may have died if it wasn't for the surprisingly /fast/ actions of Brynmor to get him to Ebble Keep.

Unfortunately, breathing was one thing, being alive was another. The fact of the matter was the man had been stuck in the darkness of a coma - so he was breathing, just barely. The fear had been and still was that he wouldn’t wake up. Time was ticking. Hours at first, then days went by, then a week…

The second week wasn't looking any better…

Despite the care that he was receiving, especially to keep water in his system, the man hadn't shown signs of consciousness. He looked a man on the precipice of life and death, stuck in the between realms.

The care for him from the local healers had eventually stopped - for what more could they do? They had to spend their time elsewhere, so a Priest would attend him now, as his life was in the hands of his God - and that of his friends and family now, whom were notified as soon as messenger scould be spared and dispatched.

He was in poor form. There was a sickly palor to his flesh, as if he hadn't had enough blood in his body. While he was kept warm by layers of fur, his skin was cool to the touch. He was soundless and silent, save for the slight in take of air that suggested somewhere, a soul still remained attached to the body. It had been this way all along. His gear showed the brutality of where a sword pierced into his body as it rent his chainmail apart - gear which was stowed at his beside. His sword was missing. Apparently so was his most beloved horse - Brute.

The squire he acquired, a young buck of twelve, had eventually lost patience with sitting and staring at the broken Baverstock and had gone off with the Ebble boys most days. Someone suggested the squire should prepare to find another knight, so perhaps that was really what he was up to. His little friends knew otherwise - he was out there trying to recover the Baverstock’s charger and find his sword.

Thus, today, the Baverstock's bedside was once again, squire free. And once more, without change.

Signe had heard about as soon as the rest, having been interested in the fate of one particular knight she knew to be at Ebble. She had just set out for a journey herself, with a message for Vagon that wanted delivery, when the boy she had waiting at Sarum for news caught up.
Her small entourage was left bemused as she turned her horse, setting off in the wrong direction. They had nothing to do but follow.

Ebble was not terribly far, and upon arrival she wasn’t allowed near. It was days, in fact, before she managed it, and only then because she promised to be helpful. Little by little she managed to take over much of the watching, sleeping curled up in a chair when she couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. She helped with the bandaging and set to work helping with the medicines and vaguely nourishing concoctions that were meant to keep him alive.

After days of silence, it seemed he was at least resting. When she found herself alone with the patient, she would draw her chair near his bed, and murmur ancient tales of gods and warriors in a voice as soothing as the clear cold water she would often hold to his lips. She was fond of speaking of Gwynn, of course, but her stories showed the god in a more palatable light. Perhaps because of the nearness of nuns or faithful maids. But mostly she spoke of Don, and it was to Don she prayed each dawn.

Up the long night before with a storm that had battered the keep, her chair is now pulled close to the bed. She is sound asleep, her arms on the bedside and her head upon them, hair loose and tumbling down off the bed, nearly to the floor.

None of it registered. Minutes, hours, days, weeks - night or day - none of it registered. The mind of the fallen knight was in limbo, entrapped in the vast stretches of black. If there were dreams being had, he was locked in them, unable to escape the surreal images grappling him down, essentially protecting his mind from the incredible pain of the body. For there would be pain and it was clear from injuries it could be a life long pain too, at least something that would bother the bear of a man.

And that pain was becoming more acute. He was becoming aware of it. The sharpness of flesh twitching from the healing process helped him clamour out of those dreams, a world he was living in beyond this one. His chest suddenly rose with a stronger gasp of air sucked down into his lungs, followed by a low ‘ugh’ grunted from the Baverstock.

Blurry hazel and blue eyes struggled to find an opening against ever droopy lids that would not lift. This confusion was making it hard to comprehend where he was, what was going on, and why he felt so heavy. Limbs were not responsive, at least, they felt stiff and hard to move, and numb. A slight panic was developing as he fought to move his fingertips and their response was sluggish at best.

His breathing turns rapid during this time; the instinct to move was first and foremost. The sounds of his awakening would become more noticable for someone who was sleeping beside him.

Signe stirred. Sitting vigil for days upon days will produce dreams too, and she’s learned that the sounds of him stirring or the feel of movement that has often roused her has been an illusion of her mind. So, having been sound asleep, she’s not hasty in rousing herself just to discover another illusion.

She sits up slowly, rubbing her eyes and stretching. She’s still young enough that sleeping half in a chair and half on a bed doesn’t induce too many aches, but she has to stretch herself back into comfortableness. Leaning back in the chair in a slouch, she yawns and sighs deeply.

Suddenly she sits bolt upright, realizing that the dream has faded but Landon is making noise. Leaning forward she reaches to place her hand on his arm.

Into this crucial moment enters a distraction. The door makes low creaking sounds as it moves almost reluctantly in its hinges, swinging slowly open to admit a visitor. Into the chamber steps Bryce de Baverstock, arrived late as he has been kept through a number of unfortunate circumstances. Word of his brother's whereabouts had reached him belatedly, and now he was here, with the news that Landon got almost killed in the battle, alive still, but unconscious. His younger brother, who had always been there for him, now little more than a pitiable heap of a man, laid out on a bed and looking like he was on the brink of death…?

Bryce steps closer, and in doing so glimpses the presence of the woman in the chair; he comes to a halt, straightening as he inhales deeply, only to allow the air to leave his lungs next, in an audible exhale through his nose. "My lady," he greets quietly, offering a polite incline of his head, a slight twitch at the corner of his lips more there for the sake of courtesy than true inclination to smile in a moment as this.

His hazel eyes shift to Landon, the form of which seems to be in slight unrest, and Bryce frowns as he takes in the state of his brother, a faint line appearing between his brows. "Has he awoken yet?" The question a low murmur, directed at Signe, while the older Baverstock's gaze lingers and cannot seem to pull away, inspecting the pallor on Landon's features, the dark shadows beneath his eye sockets - and the female hand placed on his arm.

Landon’s eyes were still closed. But that breathing had turned rapid and shallowly taken in, as if he had been running ten miles. There was a struggle happening that they hadn’t seen from Landon before in this state. It could be his heart was failing and he was slipping away on them, or having a seizure of some sort, or it could be better news of the man struggling to regain consciousness. Even a healer may not be able to tell the difference. There’s ever subtle jerks of his body; his shoulders twitch, his head twists and turns, hapless sounds gurgle in his throat. This was more life than he had shown in recent days, but even this was worrisome.

Signe is so intent upon the stirring invalid that Bryce’s entry causes her jump slightly. In the moments it takes her to regain her composure—smoothing a hand over her madly disarrayed hair—she notes Bryce’s twitching lips. Well that could be interpreted in more ways than one. /Her/, after all.

But it’s not a moment to really worry about that, or anything that isn’t directly concerned with Landon lying there unconscious. She withdraws her hand from the knight’s arm under the gaze of the elder brother, and rises, turning to reach for a pitcher of water, which she quickly pours into a goblet.

“He stirs, my lord,” she tells Bryce, her voice hushed. “He has been like death all these days but he stirs now.” Hope, dread, or a commingling of the two touches her voice. She turns back to the bed, looking for opportunity to put water to Landon’s lips, a necessity she and every other bedside watcher has pushed at every opportunity. “He is in the gods’ hands, but they cannot want his soul so badly as we do, in this moment.”

As the gurgling suggests water is not quite the best option at the moment, she sets down the glass and instead takes up a freshly sodden rag to wipe cool water on Landon’s brow, neck and chest.

—-

Critical Success!
Bryce checked his Pious of 10, he rolled 10.

Bryce would be the last to take offense in hair worn in disarray. And in fact, at the moment his main concern is his brother, of course. "He looks… so thin…", the Baverstock murmurs, astonished by this observation alone. His head turns just so as he observes Signe moving away from the bed to fetch some water. A sigh leaves his lips when he hears what she has to tell, a slight shake of his head there, as his dark gaze returns to regard his brother.

"In God's hand," Bryce cannot help but clarify, "is where he is." His tone is calm, matter-of-factly, not at all judgmental. His head turned just so as to include Signe in his peripheral scope of vision. "The Lord giveth. And the Lord taketh. But I assure you, I am praying in this very moment, that the Lord will spare Landon, and grant him many more years to spend in our midst. Lady Signe." And as if on cue, his hands fold before him, when Bryce de Baverstock, like so many others in moments of great need of comfort and assurance, turns to his faith, his eyes closing as his lips move in silent prayer; while Signe applies more worldly means of care, trying to bring Landon back to consciousness with the help of a drenched cloth.

Failed.
Landon checked his energetic of 13, he rolled 14.

The coolness that is applied to his skin startles him. His body reacts to it, he reacts to it. There's another sound around the body’s jolt, this time more of an irrational murmuring that makes no sense at all - words indistinguishable. He rolls his head aside and his hand moves, finally. It draws up as if to reach to where the sword struck him, fingers stretching and flexing, though sinks back down seconds later for the fatigue and the effort it takes for him to move just that much. He exhales a breath, sounding incredibly weak and strained.

Yet here, his eyes make that struggle to ease open - a faint dazed and groggy slit of brown and hazel eyes appears first under heavy eyelid, seeing through his lashes. Then it turns into a languid blink as he fights the desire to go back into that darkness - it has been some time after all, a week or two of sleep and yet the struggle now is to want to be awake. There is grogginess and confusion behind his fluttering eyes and searching fingertips. And a pathetic little noise as the sharp aclarity of pain comes to mind.

Signe glances at Bryce, and chooses not to argue. Hardly the time or the place, even were it her inclination.

She holds the cloth to Landon’s forehead and then turns it. “He feels hot,” she says, concerned. “I do not know if this is…” Good or bad. Her face says it, but her lips press together as she turns to soak the rag again. “I have droughts that might wake him but I am not sure I trust my skill, and the physician said it was best he rest for healing. But he is not restful now.”

As the rag is applied again—there. She leaves it on his forehead and touches cool fingers to his cheek, almost as if she hopes her touch will keep him grounded from nightmares of death, connected to the world of the living. Fixated on his eyes, she takes a sharp breath as she sees the lashes begin to flutter. She has heard some people rally just before death. Could this be such a final surge of the last dregs of life-force?

But she’s aware too, that though she has been the watch in this room between life and death, she is still an outsider. She may also be conscious that her own face may not be the one Landon will want to see when he opens his eyes. She glances again to Bryce, and slowly draws back.

Even if Bryce is for a moment caught in his own fervent prayer to his God, he notes the sounds, and the growing unrest in his brother. The Baverstock nods to Signe's words. "I believe you have done all that is in your power," he says once he is done with his prayer, turning his head to regard her fully, and for this brief moment of their eyes meeting, she can sense a perhaps surprising acceptance there, of whatever fate may befall his brother; even if a slight shadow of pain and devastation remains. "I always thought… it would be more likely for me to be so grievously hit. But not Landon." His gaze swings back to his brother. "He is so tall and strong… and always hungry." The latter added with a faint grin, fondness flashing in his eyes, but also despair.

Seeing faint movement there of Landon’s hand will draw the Baverstock knight's attention; then eyes open, and Bryce exhales, when the impression makes him instantly move forward and kneel beside the bed. "Landon!", more a hoarse whisper than a call, that leaves the lips of the older Baverstock brother without thinking, as he reaches for Landon's hand, squeezing it gently but also with a fervor barely kept in check.

Landon’s confusion continues, as the room seems too bright for him, his eyes fighting the light, continuously closing every other second. The sounds of people talking around him are strange to his ears, a warbling underwater sound building rather than voices. Each sensation was becoming alert again and it was strange to have to wade through this process, strange in a way that thoughts were befuddled.

His eyes eventually open enough that he squints to see the figures standing nearby. The shock of touch to his hand made it convulse underneath Bryce’s grip. His head turned toward the blurred figure, bleary eyes blinking to further clear his vision. Lips moved to say something but there was no sound and instead the parchment of his throat, swallowing what he could of the saliva build up in his mouth…

A hoarse sound chafes out from that dry throat, followed by a rasp of a cough, “Water…”

The word sets Signe in motion. It’s a good sign maybe? She’s at the pitcher, filling the goblet with water both fresh and cool from a well in the courtyard. Then she leans by the bed, perhaps just out of Landon’s periphery as she touches the cup to his lips, tipping it carefully.

She doesn’t speak, uncertainty—perhaps even emotion—clouding any ability to do so. Sliding a distinctly feminine hand carefully at the base of the man’s head, she lifts him enough to make it easier for him to drink without pouring the liquid directly down his throat.

There’s plenty in the room to guide Landon to his senses gently. She has seen that herbs and roses were brought in daily, fresh and fragrant they’re near at hand, some crushed for a brighter effect. Her hand is soft. The water might be like nectar to the parched tongue.

Fingers that seem to struggle with the grip of his hand inspire a smile on Bryce’s angular features, hope gleaming, where acceptance had lurked previously in his hazel eyes. A relieved exhale leaving his lips when he hears his brother’s brief request, even if the voice sounds slightly alien. The Baverstock’s gaze flits to Signe, who is already getting more water for Landon, an intense look shared should she meet his gaze, conveying deeply felt joy and acceptance of her presence, for the shared concern. He watches Signe’s gentle endeavours to help Landon drink carefully, not interfering there, while his own hand continues to hold that of his brother, pressing it gently as if that were needed to pull Landon back into consciousness. “Landon,” Bryce repeats, his own voice raised slightly now in his low register, the smile upon his features deepening in optimistic calm. Leaning a bit closer as he tries to catch Landon’s gaze with his. “Landon. It is me. Bryce.”

It only takes three days without water for the human body to start shutting down - so credit has to be given to those who had ensured that Landon took water despite not having the ability to swallow. Perhaps it was done through a tube shoved down his throat or through some other fashion, however, they managed some. It wasn't enough though. His throat felt like sand paper and his lips entirely too dry for his own comfort.

And suddenly, as vision still was bleary from the numerous days spent with eyes closed, there was a cool touch to his lips. Someone was helping him drink. And drink he did. He was like a man who had been out in the desert, eagerly moving toward the water. He leaned toward the cup to drink it fast, as fast as the tipping cup would allow him to drink, an absolute relief to have rushing down…

However, for how desparately he wanted it, it did create a cough. The man sputtered and then coughed, groaning against the coughs as each one wracks his body.

Once the coughs stop, he sighs and eases back into the bedding. A bed. He realized that he was lying somewhere. His eyes squinted again toward the voice that was speaking to him, lips moving and a weak smile appearing, "Bryce…" confusion evident, then, "Did… I… over sleep?" Landon wasn't as notorious for oversleeping as some for this, but when he ate well he often slept well, and Bryce would know about the instances that he had to boot Landon awake, or their uncle would.

A curious look switches to see who fed him the water, brow raising as he looks even more baffled by Signe’s appearance. Bewilderment remains. He licks his lips and murmurs to her, “Why…are you…here?” eyelids become heavy as he tries to figure it out, while his body wants him to go back under, “Signe…” squinty eyes, “You left.”


Signe does glance toward Bryce, finding some pleasure in how the man’s joy manifests where despair had so lately taken over. She is not a frequent smiler, but she offers one as well, the expression brightening her appearance, making a normal girl of the oft-times brooding priestess.

Having enough life experience to know that coughing would follow the water, she’s quick to move it away and avoid spills, setting it near for the inevitable need that will follow. Again she steps back a little, feeling vaguely like an intruder in a family drama. No less is the awkwardness when Landon realizes she is there, and asks why.

Still she maintains composure until he utters the…accusation? It’s something Bryce will not understand—she hopes—nevertheless she glances quickly to the latter, her face expressing unmistakable signs of…guilt.

“I know,” she murmurs to Landon, dropping her eyes. “…I’m sorry.”

They are after all united in their concern for Landon, are they not? Bryce acknowledging Signe's caring for the wellbeing of his brother with that brief glance, accepting it, even if he may not agree with her on a number of other topics. The Baverstock notes her smile, and if she rarely offers smiles, so does he!

His attention shifts back to Landon, and hearing that cough, odd as it may seem, makes his smile deepen, as he offers his brother a handkerchief. "Yes. You overslept, brother. Only slightly. As I've been told, you’ve been asleep for almost two weeks.", he intones with relief lacing his tone, before his expression dims. "Damn you, for getting hurt that badly in that suicide mission. But I thank God above for… bringing you back to me…" Hazel eyes swing to Signe. "To us." Landon's accusation towards Signe, brief as it is, earns the lady a curious glance, even so Bryce is quick to assure: "She is here, now? Isn't that what counts in the end?"

There are some emotions that surface on Landon's face that goes beyond the confusion - directed at Signe first and foremost; guilt, shame, discomfort, and yes, anger. All these emotions sets the Baverstock Bear's lips at a downward tilt, mingling in the befuddled confusion that was his mind. As Bryce does offer his own opinion to the matter, that Signe was there now, the edge is taken off his look as it swings back to his brother.

No answer comes because he's caught up on the earlier sentiments, "Two… weeks? How is that…" as he tries to move he feels that stitch in his lower rib cage, where the sword came at his spleen. His eyes widen as he sucks in his breath and upon the exhale he recalls something of the suicide mission, "Ow." That's it. A simple acknowledgement that his side was killing him or nearly had killed him. His brows furrow in concentration before whatever it was is released with an exasperated huff of air.

His eyes close again and this time it does take a few minutes for him to pull them back up, suddenly whispering in a solemn voice, as if he knew somehow that they failed, "We tried to get to them…"

Signe sees that look, and reads from it the story of what may have occurred since she saw Landon last. She presses her lips together and hides her eyes for a time beneath thick lashes that cage her soul’s window. That anger cannot be comfortable for her. The dread of it may have even made it hard for her to linger in the room day after day, knowing that should he wake the relief and joy might be crippled by a few months of mounting anger.

She hardly means to, nor knows such arts terribly well, but she extends a hand to briefly touch the backs of her fingers to Landon’s bristly cheek. She had a razor at his throat only two days ago, attempting to keep him from looking entirely like a man lost and starving in the wilderness. Even his brother’s no doubt alert observation of her interaction with Landon doesn’t stop her.

“Don’t move just yet,” she cautions softly. “You were gravely injured. We thought for many days we would lose you. You’ve had almost no nourishment for days, and you will exhaust quickly.” Which reminds her. When there is a moment she can do so, she will quickly go and alert a maid to bring rich broth and a little bread.

"Aye, you did, Landon," Bryce says, when a shadow falls over his mien. Try to get to them. "They were killed before your very eyes." The harsh truth, unleashed upon his brother, even in a frail state such as this. "Or so I've heard," he adds in a low murmur. Landon's brother will stay quiet when Signe offers her soothing words of advice. Bryce nods to her assessment of Landon needing nourishment, and so he will not keep her from walking off to alert a maid or servant for some easily to be digested meal.

"Calm, little brother, will help you get through this," Bryce de Baverstock advises, still holding onto Landon's hand. "And patience. But… you are alive, Landon. So… you should be recovering soon."

That he was gravely injured doesn't come as a surprise - but rather fills the pieces of the larger puzzle he was trying to bring back together. His mouth works together to mock chew, as if coming to realization that his stomach wasn't feeling right. Signe's explanation that he had no food for days brings this discomfort into focus.

He's lost a lot of his muscle mass from being bedridden, as the body feeds on them first when starved. It'll take time to recover the bear to his former glory; long months at least. He comes to terms with where he is, looking down at his form, then over to Signe as she drifts off in search of a maid, then back over to Bryce. Bryce's words makes him turn his eyes aside, scrunching up his features as he tries to recall the event. "I don't remember, except leaving with a group to rescue them…"

Landon makes a smirk after the gloomy matter toward Bryce's remark of being 'little brother.' It's a good sign that his humor was still intact despite everything. He grips his brother's hand, mismatched eyes searching for where Signe had gone off to, an odd little smile falling into place that sheds of anger and all those discontented and confusing emotions.

"Bryce…" as if he was going to make some emotional break through, looking all day dreamy toward Signe, his tone whimsical and words gusty, and then, "I am… really…” in love? happy to be alive? glad to see her? …”hungry."

The servants are not far off, and Signe gives quick instructions on what to bring, as per the physician’s instructions for her previously. She lingers outside the door to the sick room for a moment, leaning back against the wall, taking a deep breath. There’s a confusion of emotions within her too, but relief is overwhelmingly prevalent.

She gives herself only a moment to compose, and then pushes off the wall and turns into the room, walking slowly back to the bed. It’s harder entering this time—she still feels an intruder. But she has a smile for Landon as she returns, albeit a tentative one. So unlike her, this lack of boldness. But she’s far from her shrines and the familiar grounds where her faith, the things she is most sure of in this world, rules all.

“The physician has been sent for,” she says, addressing both men. “And food. Just something easy to sate you for now. Too much will make you ill.” Look! She almost sounds domestic, a nursemaid. Recognizing that unfamiliar gentle compassion in herself, she can’t help but laugh inside. What a weird feeling. She has to say something to avoid the intense introspection which threatens to take over.

“Are you in much pain?”

It had struck Bryce in the moment he laid first eyes on Landon after entering the chamber. His strong bear of a brother looked thin. It was a disquieting notion, but at least Landon was alive, and the fact he had awoken from the deep state of unconsciousness helped to raise the shorter Baverstock's spirits. No. In fact, it was his brother's remark that elicits a chuckle in the grave looking Bryce, his angular features softening in relief. "Seems you haven't changed in /that/ regard.", he states, dark eyes glinting with mirth, then moves to stand to see what is keeping Signe. His gaze falls on the Pagan priestess as she returns, giving her a quizzical stare, before he nods to her remark. "Good. Lady Signe… I believe Landon will be more ill, in pain - and displeased, if kept longer from his next meal than necessary.", Bryce states with amusement lacing his tone. Daring to reply in Landon's stead, with a lightness in his manner.

Landon's eyes watch Signe and the smile she wears, such a cautious nature behind it that intrigues him. He doesn't move so much in the bed, still trying to adjust to the oddness of being weak. He had never been weak before so this was something different. He signifies he's understood that food is coming by a subtle bob of his chin. His opposite hand twitches and shifts on the bed, fingers tweaking toward her.

"It feels as if I've been stabbed in the gut…" he says with a humour edging his hoarse tone, his lips curving upward at an attempt to smile. The mirthful return of his sense of humor eases off the disgruntlement of failing his duty when Bryce chuckles and seems relieved that he hasn't changed in appetite. "I could eat two bears …" he smirks and looks back over toward Signe.

Signe has run out of things to distract herself. For a moment she was arranging the side table with it’s pitcher and cup and bowl of water. A pointless enterprise that at least eased a certain anxiety for a time. There’s nothing left to do now but turn back to Landon. She could look at Bryce, but for some reason that is ever so slightly more difficult.

“You will heal,” she says, putting the confidence she lacks elsewhere into that sentence. “You…have a divine strength in you.” She tries to keep his gaze, but ends up lowering her eyes. As if she’s demure or something!

The smile that was softening the angular features of Sir Bryce de Baverstock deepens, reaching to his dark eyes now, when he hears the optimistic boast of his younger brother. "Two bears, eh?", he smirks, his gaze shifting to the door where a servant appears with a bowl of hot broth. "Seems you have to content yourself with lighter fare, for now."

Success
Bryce checked his Awareness of 10, he rolled 8.

Dark eyes flick to Signe, lingering there for a moment as he senses something odd there, her unwillingness to meet his gaze and her unrest with has his brows draw together for a moment. There was something the matter there, Bryce could feel it. But for now he just steps to the side and takes a seat on the other side of the bed, watching in thoughtful silence, when Signe sits down beside his brother and carefully begins to feed Landon the hot broth with a spoon.

A sight that truly inspires speculation, and considerations of potential consequences and their implications.

Landon didn’t remark upon that absence of stare from Signe, in fact it just made his eyes seemingly darken with something akin to inner anger that doesn’t mark itself in any other way than that. His attention therefore turned to Bryce, “It’ll do…”

And then he has to suffer being spoon fed - on the indiginity.

Once he is fed, he starts to close his eyes and mutters to them both, “That was good…” And despite any attempt to keep him roused and alert, he drifts off into a heavy sleep once more.

That look of darkness, did she cause it? It makes her even more uneasy, but she sits beside the bed and hold the bowl. She doesn’t even think of letting the maid do it.

It might feel a little odd to Signe too though. Difficult to see such a man— this man— laid so low. Holding the spoon to his lips, she must look at him, there is no choice. And in forcing herself to do so, after a few moments of uncertainty, she smiles slightly. Not amusement, oh no! For such a man to be lying weak in bed required him being in extreme danger, risking his life, shedding his blood. What, after all, could be more masculine than that? (Or so say the fairy tales, ignoring the fact of female knights. In her mind, in reality, could a woman have survived such a thing?)

No, only a strong man such as Landon. It is not with pity that she smiles, but admiration. Maybe more.

The transition between soup and sleep being so swift, she is still holding the spoon as the man drifts away. She gazes at him a long moment, fodder for further speculation on the part of the brother, who for that long moment may as well not be there.

But then it is time to become conscious of the room and its occupants who are not Landon. She breaks her gaze away from the wounded, sets the bowl aside on the tray, and finally looks at Bryce. Self consciously.

“He will recover…I am sure of it.”

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