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It was to the feeling of cold water dripping into his eyes that Eros regained consciousness, opening his eyes to the bright sunlight filtering in through the window which was partially blocked out by the edges of the cold cloth that had oozed off of his forehead and down over his face. Reaching up to remove it with one hand, he sat up and looked down at himself in an effort to assess his condition.
He still wore his ripped and dirty trousers smeared with mud and blood but his shirt and armor had all been removed; his chest was now tightly bound in bandages, more of the same of which had also been carefully wrapped around his wounded neck.
Hadn’t he lost consciousness in the forest? He distinctly remembered that Glory had run off and doubted that he could have made it back on foot with the extent of his injuries. So how had he wound up there?
“Oh, you’re awake.” Looking up, he found a young woman standing in the doorway holding a wooden basin full of water. “They found you on the forest’s edge, slumped over in the saddle of your horse almost as if someone had pushed you up onto it. You were covered in blood.” Entering the room, she carried the basin to his bedside before setting it down. “Your wounds...I won’t say that they aren’t serious-you really shouldn’t even be sitting up yet-but it’s as if something intervened with death on your behalf.”
The blazing figure of fiery white and gold, armor shining wings spread wide and eyes severe. “I haven’t actually seen him since my childhood, but I suppose that you could say I have a guardian angel.”
“A good thing, I’m sure, in your profession.” Taking the cloth from him, the woman dipped it into the clean water before ringing it out. “Please, lay back down. You’ll only make yourself worse.”
“Thank you for your concern, but I’m afraid that I can’t do that.”
“Sir, you were badly injured just last night. They found you this morning. You’ve been asleep for only three hours. You need much more rest to recover!” But before she could stop him he’d gotten unsteadily to his feet.
“And I’ve been away from my home for just over a week longer than I should have been. With a week’s worth of travel yet ahead of me before I make it back. By now, I’m sure that my wife and second in command are both fit to be tied on the matter; I need to return immediately.”
“Even just another day more is too much?”
“I’m afraid so.” He replied, managing to locate his shirt and armor and putting them back on before retrieving the rest of his belongings. “Please, direct me to where I can pay for both my treatment and the damages caused during the fight so that I might find my horse and begin my journey home.”
“The innkeeper is away at the moment,” she told him resignedly, “but you can leave the pay with me and I’ll pass it on to him. As for your horse, he should be in the stable outside.”
“Thank you,” Eros said with a nod. “I’ll be leaving now. I hope that, now that Bleak Heart has been vanquished, your village can finally find some peace.”
Supporting himself against the wall, he managed to make his way down the hall and a pair of staircases and out of the front door. Trailing his hand along the outside of the building, he managed to wobble over to the small stable that had been built behind it and found Glory awaiting him in one of the stalls.
“Ready to go home?” retrieving the saddle and bridle and putting them both into their proper place, he opened the door and lead the animal out. It was a painful struggle for him to pull himself up into the saddle but after a full five minutes he finally managed it and immediately sagged forwards over Glory’s neck in exhaustion. “Let’s go, boy.”
The steed fell into a gentle lop as it set out back towards the road out of town, his wounds twinging with every step that it took. A part of him regretting not following the young woman’s advice to rest longer before heading out, Eros looked back over his shoulder at the village as it disappeared over the rise of a small hill.
He could only hope that he didn’t run into any more trouble on his long road home.
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