Chapter Twenty-Three: Nootau
Too Tired, Too Sore, Too Battered
The curses spat and thrown at Nootau weren't anything new. They'd been all tossed in the direction of other walkers he'd been around before. Too have them slung at him, him specifically, was a wholly new experience.
They stung more than Nootau expected them to. Each curse sliced open a small part of his spirit Nootau was desperately trying to keep together.
Numb to the world around him, and the fact Nootau fought purely on survival instinct, were the only things he had going for him since he felt so out of sorts. Staying upright seemed of the utmost importance to his survival, so he did his best to keep his feet under him. Adrenaline had to be the only thing keeping him going.
"Fucking soul stealer!" The goblin yelled. "Leech!"
"Tibo, I fecking told ya to shut up," the banshee said, huffing and giving his friend an irritated grimace before crossing his arms.
"He stole a human's skin, Rolly! We all saw it!"
"Aye, we did." Rolly huffed again. "But they don't seem like they're supposed to be here, which means either they are the fecking arseholes we've been looking for, or—" He frowned at Nootau and Aegeus. "Or they're someone else. But our information says the people we want actually work here. I don't think they do."
Tibo growled and swung around, giving Nootau his back. He fought the urge to yell at the goblin for being a prick.
"Why don't we at least give 'em a chance?" Rolly asked.
Tibo mumbled something under his breath. Rolly sighed heavily and leaned in, talking quietly. The two settled closer together, with Rolly pulling Tibo against him. Maybe the banshee did have some influence over the little whirlwind.
Aegeus came around the desk and pulled out the chair. He sat, opening his arms to Nootau. Did he really expect Nootau to snuggle up during the middle of a fight? Humming started. Apparently Aegeus did.
"You really think that's a good idea?" Nootau asked.
"Don't blame me if we get flipped in the chair."
A smile broke out over Aegeus's face.
Nootau liked that smile. Happy and shy. He sat down in Aegeus' lap, wrapped his arms around his lover's neck, and placed a kiss to Aegeus's neck. Gods, he could sleep for a week. If only he could close his eyes for a few minutes and rest.
A crashing noise made Nootau jerk upright, looking over the lab. For fuck's sake. He'd forgotten. How was everyone else fairing?
* * * * *
Mal cursed up a blue streak as the phoenix's wings spread out, catching some air. The lift sent them smack into another desk. They tumbled over it, papers and whatnot flying with them. Momentum carried them to the floor where they landed with a hard thump.
Lucky for Mal, he landed on top of the phoenix. Not so lucky for the phoenix, though.
A loud crunch had preceded the sharp cry of pain from the Being.
A punch across Mal's jaw sent him backward.
Mal sat upright, then landed a few well-placed punches on the phoenix's abdomen. The Being rolled, knocking Mal off. Flames licked up and down his body. Bright blue and marvelous—if they weren't directed at Mal. Luck seemed to be with him, though. They lay next to each other on the floor, panting hard. Mal in his ranger gear. The phoenix naked as a blue jay, one of his wings at an odd angle. The flames didn't come any closer. Mal took a couple measured breaths before pushing up to his knees. Away from the pissed off Being.
Sweat beaded Mal's brow and more than anything he wanted out of his leathers.
Not that he minded his leathers, they'd been keeping him safe, but they did have their limits. Mal certainly felt toasty and really didn't want to get any more charred than he was. And the flames and the fight had gotten Mal grunged up. He was too tired, and too sore, to keep this up.
"You going to give me any more trouble?" Mal asked.
The phoenix told him to shove off. Maybe not "shove off" but the hand gesture said as much.
"I really don't want to hurt you any more than I have."
The phoenix lifted his head with a confused expression. "What?"
"I don't like hurting people." Mal breathed in deep. "If we got to shove you in with the other guard, I'd rather you not bloody bleeding to death or anything."
"Other guard. What guard? Aren't you with Eich und Baum?"
"No... Are you?"
The phoenix gave the barest of head shakes, sucking in a deep breath. That wing looked awful painful. The weight of his actions were really starting to add up and the guilt begun to gnaw on Mal. Maybe Edwige could have a look at it before they took off. Mal had done more than enough damage to people since his sister's death. Jumping to conclusions had gotten him nowhere fast. He'd been all over Nootau, just like these guys went after them. Maybe they needed to step back for a second. Not that Mal would trust the bastards, they did come in swinging... Not that he could talk.
"Well, if you're not with these fuckers, who're you with?"
"No one." The Being rolled to his hands and knees, letting out a shaky laugh. "Not a damn person. We're just trying to find the people who are messing with the dragons."
Mal sat back on his feet. Talk about bowling him over. They couldn't be after the same people, could they? How ridiculous would that be?
* * * * *
Edwige leaned over the satyr, worried about how pale he went as he laid back. He'd closed his eyes and let out a low moan. Jaxx's chalky complexion, ragged breaths, and pinched features were all signs Mal had hurt the satyr when he tossed him against the wall.
How hurt she couldn't exactly know. Not under these circumstances.
To settle her nerves, Edwige started basic primary treatment responses.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Yes," Jaxx breathed out. "Schloss Rotlicht."
"Do you know your name?"
The satyr opened his eyes. "Doctor Jaxom Kendrick. My friends call me Jaxx."
"Oh, lovely. You can help assess yourself then." Edwige smiled down at Jaxx and winked. A growl came from Kaden and she looked up. "He's not going anywhere. I think that much is obvious. Do you think he's a threat?"
Kaden yipped but stood down. He moved beside Edwige giving her a lick. Right in her mouth no less.
"Argh. You did that on purpose!"
If a wolf could laugh this one did. Several puffs of air escaped him before he pressed against Edwige and sat. She laughed and pulled her bag close. Maybe having a protective wolf wasn't such a bad thing. Edwige felt more secure knowing he wasn't going anywhere. She turned back to the hurt satyr.
"Now how about we get you fixed up?"
"Doctor?" he asked.
Edwige tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Healer."
"Oh, thank goodness. A Healer."
The relief on his face was palpable. "Let's see what we can figure out, hm?"
"Nausea when I tried to sit up. Light hurts."
"Concussed?" Edwige rummaged around her bag. Not good. Poor guy. She placed a hand against his head. Still clammy.
"I was able to treat the wound with a poultice to stop the bleeding."
"Oh?" Jaxx reached up, feeling about. When his fingers met the wrap they stopped. "Thank you."
"Of course." Edwige smiled again. "Couldn't just leave you untreated now."
Jaxx stared, long enough to make Edwige shift nervously as she went through her drafts and powders. She pulled a couple out that would help with the nausea, and one she hoped with spell well for the concussion.
"Do you work for Eich und Baum?" Jaxx asked quietly.
"Why are you here?"
Edwige paused, then let her hands go back to work. Treating Jaxx would help her nerves. As long as her hands moved, Edwige would be okay. The satyr seemed nice enough. Maybe he'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Much like their group? Should she take the chance?
The noise in the lab had lessened. Edwige took a moment to look around while helping Jaxx drink the draft to treat his nausea.
Aegeus held Nootau. The banshee had bent down and had his forehead pressed against the goblin's. She couldn't see Ashe or Mal, so Edwige took that as a sign they were no longer trying to kill each other.
"We were trying to see if skin walker black market sales had anything to do with the dragon research Mal stumbled onto."
Jaxx inhaled sharply.
Edwige shifted, got out a bowl, then plowed ahead with her explanation as she mixed some drafts to treat Jaxx's concussion. "Someone has been killing and trading walkers, we came trying to find who. Mal came because someone is trying to do some dragon breeding that sounded questionable to him. We thought maybe they were related. What about you?"
"We came because of dragons. Some questionable research. The leads brought us here."
They shared a look. Kaden whined, pushing his wet nose against Edwige. Yeah, she felt it too. Their groups were working on the same side, not against each other. The thought upset her so much because they were fighting for nothing, hurting each other for nothing. Tears sprung up. Furious and sad, the emotions tied knots around her heart.
A hand settled on hers. Jaxx spoke softly. "Shhh. It's okay. We'll knock some sense into these guys."
"Hopefully not as much as they knocked into you."
Jaxx barked out a laugh, then groaned. "Oh, don't do that."
"Sorry." Edwige wiped away the few tears she had. Kaden licked her face, tail wagging a thousand miles per hour. "Let's see what we can do about alleviating the concussion effects, shall we?"
"There's a reason I love Healers."
"The kindness all you guys have. There was no way you could be bad."
Edwige smiled, moving Jaxx's hair aside on his forehead. "Thank you."
It took a minute, but Edwige had Jaxx put his head on Kaden while she had him sip the draft she mixed up. Then Edwige placed her hands over the bump on Jaxx's head. It wouldn't fix things completely, but she could get Jaxx back on his hooves. Edwige breathed in and began chanting low, pulling on the dark spaces between everything else around them. A warm golden glow filled her mind, the softness comforting. She wound it around the red pulse on Jaxx's head, dulling it, soothing the angry bump.
By the time Edwige finished, she felt tired. Nothing a little pick me up wouldn't fix, but she'd exerted a lot force from the dark space. Maybe she'd been a little desperate to fix things. Edwige gave a decidedly more colorful Jaxx a wobbly smile. She grabbed a protein bar from her pack, then put her supplies away.
Edwige stood and put out a hand. "Okay, let's see what sense we can talk into these hard heads. You up for it?"