Chapter 101:

Chapter 101 - Manned up!

The Flight of The Draykes

The next few days passed in a blur of running around and working hard. I still had not managed to find time to practice my warforce circulation, despite promising myself each day that I would.

This was because I found that while working, my mind would often be idle and thinking of many things at once. Most of those thoughts were continuously changing, but they would all quieten down when I was next to Sia and poking needles through my ski-cloth. I meant cloth.

After all, I am the maestro of deft painting skills that Sir James discovered! Sewing? Pshaw. Bring it on!

But today was a little different from all the usual days.

For one, the inn was filled with people who were looking downcast and gazing pitifully around.

Puzzled, I walked in and asked the manager - who was tearing tufts of his beard off - what the problem was.

Speechless, the manager gazed at me while his lips quivered before he let his head down in defeat and said, “The cook quit.”

Stunned, I asked, “Why?”

The manager, his lips and beard now quivering in unison, stared at me as though he couldn’t wait to rip me to shreds while I looked innocently back at him.

Choking, he said, “He wasn’t... very happy with... his pay. That’s right. His pay.”

A gleam in my eyes, I quickly asked, “How much is the pay?”

Looking at me oddly, the manager replied, “12 silvers.”

Righteous fire burning in my eyes, I patted my chest, and proclaimed, “I shall be the cook!”

Eyes bulging out, the manager, who I was beginning to suspect had a bit of a hearing disability, repeated, “You... cook?”

Slowly enunciating each word, I said, “I…. cook.”

Dubiously, the manager stared at me before he sighed in defeat and led me to the kitchen and began rattling off orders from a piece of paper.

Raising my hands, I quickly asked him to stop as I familiarized myself with the cook’s placement of ingredients and then asking him to repeat the orders; I listened intently while a part of my mind focussed on the additional 4 silver upgrade to my salary, chuckling in glee.

Then my hands shot unerringly toward one ingredient after the other, while I used the taper of the candle to light the stove, and then grabbing pots and pans - I began cooking!

Soon, fragrant smells began drifting through the kitchen and out into the dining hall where the inn patrons suddenly raised their heads like hungry wolves, their noses twitching.

A few minutes later, all of my previous comrade-in-arms were shuttling food back and forth between the kitchen and the dining hall, and the orders kept piling up. But I manned up to them alright! In mere minutes, each order was steaming, ready to be carried to the customers, who devoured them with abandon.

Finally, the last order came through, and fulfilling it; I stood exhausted on the stool in front of the stove, as I leaned back and fanned myself.

The manager, looking at me with awe in his eyes, said, “If you want to be the permanent cook, I’ll raise your salary to 14 silver! No, 15 silvers!”

Lifting my head, and looking at the man, I silently had a war within myself while a part of my mind whispered about the silvers, how many they were and how beautiful they were.

Then sighing, I said, “1 meal. I’ll have one meal. But you have to fill me up fully.”

Rapidly calculating, the Manager resolutely nodded, “Deal. 15 silvers and 1 meal.”

Waving my hand, I said, “I don’t want the 15 silvers. 5 silvers is enough. Just hire the old cook back. We both shall cook.”

The manager looked at me flabbergasted before he asked, “Are you sure?”

Smiling, I looked at him and said, “No. Can you pay me 5 silver and 1 copper?”

“1 Copper?” The Manager asked, puzzled.

Nodding my head, I said, “5 silver and 1 copper, plus the meal.”

Slowly nodding his head, and still confused, the Manager agreed and went off to find the old cook. Meanwhile, I rose and stretched before I left for my next destination.

The library.

I had already finished all the tasks that Alden had for the entire month, so all I had to do was keep an eye out for any customers and bury my head in the medical books.

Peacefully, I studied away, much like the previous few days. But today was destined not to be normal as Alden heaved his oversized frame onto a tiny stool that creaked dangerously as he leaned forward toward me.

Puzzled, I looked at the friendly man, who was exuding an air of ancient knowledge and parchment.

Then he spoke, “Shelf 7, book 9. Shelf 11, book 12. Shelf 17, book 4.”

“An introduction to medical sciences, world history, and strategic thinking,” I said as I rattled off the names of the books.

Eyebrows shooting up, Alden smiled as he said in a pleased voice, “Indeed. Your memory is quite good. Can you tell me what’s special about those books?”

I thought for a while and shook my head, but ventured forth an answer anyway, “Are those books in a sequence?”

Laughing out in a booming voice, Alden shook his head and said, “They are not in sequence and yet they are in sequence.”

Before I could speak, he leaned back and stared at me with half-lidded eyes, and said, “They might be useful for your preparations, so in that respect, you can say that they are in a sequence.”

Now thoroughly confused, I nonetheless nodded because the big guy was a decent person, as far as I could tell.

Then Alden heaved himself off the table and left, saying, “I’ll be in the back. Take those books, and when you’re done with them, come to me.”

Staring after his retreating back, I went and took those books he had mentioned and laying them on the table, examined them carefully.

They were… books. Nothing else, nothing more.

They were heavy books that I dubiously poked at to make sure, but lo-and-behold; they did not morph into anything else.

Shrugging, I began reading the first book, ‘An introduction to medical sciences’. It was very detailed and a lot simpler than the ‘starting primer for medical sciences’ that Sir Galen had given me.

Engrossed, I didn’t notice the time fly by and when I came to; I realized with a start that it was almost time for me to go back to the inn.

Yelling to Alden that I was leaving, I pointedly ignored the sign that said, ‘no talking in the library’, just as Alden’s grunt shook the library shelves in response.

Grinning, I reached the inn and stepped in, only to almost be tackled off the ground by a teary-eyed cook.

Patting the man on his back, I walked with him to the kitchen, where we busied ourselves in cooking and sharing our knowledge on the various dishes between each other.

Soon, succulent dishes were served to the hordes of customers outside, who were salivating as they waited.

A few hours later, it was done, and the cook and I collapsed gratefully on the stools while grinning at each other.

Then, springing up, we slapped each other's hands and grinned more.

Walking out of the inn, I felt a sense of happiness and comradeship with the people in Yamal that I had not expected to find. It felt nice. Very nice.

Walking to the tailoring shop, I suddenly took a detour to the market and, spending a few silver from my last gold coin, I bought a large amount of supplies that I stored in the finite ring surreptitiously. Then, I made my way - not to the tailoring shop, but to the library where I busied myself by poring over the tomes again.

Alden, who had raised his eyebrows when he saw me come back, remained silent and instead of waiting for me to come to him, he brought over more books to my table.

As night slowly fell, and I began picking up the books, he motioned for me to keep them with me and, astonished; I stared at him because our library was not a lending library.

Grinning at me with a half smile, he shooed me away and gratefully; I took the books and carried them outside in a tottering pile, before I placed them into the finite stone once I was out of view.

Then, trotting toward the hospital, I stopped as pangs of hunger hit me, and my heart throbbed painfully. Holding onto my chest and grimacing, I made my way to the hospital once the pain had subsided.

It had been happening frequently in the past few days. Even if I didn’t use warforce, the pains would come and go, and Dr. Cratus was as clueless as I was about why it was happening so.

Walking into the hospital, I found Dr. Cratus walking around with his remaining hair sticking up in all directions as he mumbled to himself.

Seeing me, he rushed to me, and without a word; hustled me off to the ward where the most serious patients lay.

Gazing down at the woman who had multiple slashes across her body along with a big wound in her abdomen, I clenched my teeth and then clenched them harder as Dr. Cratus said quickly, “The other doctor is not here and the attendants are sick. See the lady? I need someone to stitch her wound from the other side while I stitch the remaining side. We will have to work in tandem. Do you understand, boy?”

Nodding my head, and then shaking it, I cried out, “I’ve never stitched any patient before!”

Jerking his head at the woman, he said, “Everyone starts somewhere and this lady will die if you don’t try.”

Mind whirling, I nodded resolutely, and we started the procedure in grim silence. The only sound was our breathing and the weak, laboured cries of the woman. The needles weaved in and out, deftly for the doctor, and hesitantly for me.

But as I stole a look at the doctor, I found he had already reached a quarter of the way, and he was looking back at me with a worried look.

Taking a deep breath, I slowly exhaled out, and as my eyes sharpened; I began increasing the speed of the needle, and time seemed to slow down around me.

An indeterminable time later, the clinking of needles sounded out as the doctor and I reached for the last area to suture together.

I was about to take my needle away when Dr. Cratus looked at the wound on my side and took his needles away first.

Jerking his head at me as I gazed at him; He began working on the other slashes.

Looking at the woman who was almost unconscious, I sutured the last of the wound, took a long look at it and engraved it into my mind, before I attended to the other wounds.

After the procedure was done, Dr. Cratus and I stood outside the hospital as I prepared to leave, when he muttered out in a low voice, “Good job, boy.”

Blinking at him, I asked him to repeat himself, and he growled as he said, “Good job, boy. You manned up!”

As the words sank into my mind, I grinned as I thought that I had indeed manned up.

Those words kept replaying in my mind the entire way back to the Hoard.

And the smile on my face never dropped off the entire way.