The last thing I remembered was hearing the limb crack and feeling it give way under me. The fall had to have been at least 20 feet, but I’m not dead, so that’s a pleasant surprise. Every part of me hurts, especially my leg. It must be night, for everything is pitch black. Starting to sit up, I feel a firm but gentle pressure on my chest. It feels like a hand but also feels too big to be one. “Do not move, Child of Eve, you will aggravate your injuries.” said a voice with a rasp like gravel in a bucket and a rumble like distant thunder. When I stopped moving the pressure slackened.
“Will you light a fire?” I asked the voice, “I can’t see a thing.”
“It is day, I feared a loss of your sight, it is a side effect … a happenstance … of your fall.” replied the voice.
“How long will it take for my sight to return?” I asked.
“A few days, a few cycles of the moon, a few seasons, never, it is hard to say.” was the reply.
Alive but blind, not a welcome revelation I thought to myself. Make the best of it, I tell myself, you’re blind and been knocked senseless from a fall. Whoever the voice is seems to be concerned about me, this is good.
“I have few possessions, if you plan to rob me. They’re in my pack I left at the trunk of the tree.” I said testing for a reaction. A foolish thing to do, perhaps, but I’m almost helpless at the moment.
“No, I do not intend to rob you, your possessions are safely stored with my own.” the voice said.
“I suppose you don’t plan to kill me then, either, or you would’ve done so already.” I said.
“I am a Medic …” started the voice.
“A what?” I interrupted, unfamiliar with the word.
“A … Healer, I do not take life unless there is no other choice. Rest assured I have not spent this much time tending to your injuries to kill you out of hand.” was the very exasperated reply.
“My apologizes for doubting your generosity.” I replied, feeling quite stupid.
“No offense is taken.” replied the voice. “Now be still, I need to see your eyes.”
The same gentle firmness held my face and I felt my eyelids being lifted one at a time. The darkness seemed a little less deep for a moment.
“The blackness seemed a bit less dark, what did you just do?” I asked as my face was released.
“I played a light into your eyes, they appear to function normally.” replied the voice.
“Oh, that’s good then?” I asked, not fully understanding.
“Yes, very good, Child of Eve, the odds of recovering your sight have improved.” was the reply.
“Why do you call me ‘Child of Eve’?” I asked.
“Does not your race believe you are descended from Eve, The All Mother?” the voice asked.
“That’s the belief for many. I believed in that myself, once, but a long time ago. My name is Willum Third Son of Willard, but please call me Willum. It’s so much less formal than ‘Child of Eve’.” I replied and smiled in the direction the voice came from.
“As you wish, Willum Third Son of Willard.” the voice replied.
“Just Willum, no one has called me by my full name in decades.” I said.
“Very well, Willum, I shall address you in that manner.” replied the voice.
“Thank you and what is your name?” I asked. The pause grew extremely long, long enough that I thought I had overstepped a boundary between us.
“In my native tongue, my name is Twanju Haoq. In your tongue it means Last of Twelve.” the voice replied with more than a hint of sadness.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but why are you named ‘Last of Twelve’?” I asked, hoping that I didn’t offend. Again, a long pause.
“I am the last offspring of twelve, so I am named accordingly.” came the reply, again laced with sadness.
“Your voice sounds almost heartbroken, does my question sadden you?” I asked.
“Yes, Willum, it does. As the Last, I was virtually ignored by my parents, in all matters of the family. That is the primary reason I joined the … I became a wanderer.” the voice replied.
“The very same reason I became a wanderer myself. I am the last son, not of much use for my father at all. If your name saddens you, then I won’t speak it. Do you have a different name you’d like me to address you by?” I asked, trying to lighten the conversation.
“I have never thought of any other for myself.” the voice replied.
“Well, I can’t just call you Healer or … what was the first word you said you were, Medic? From the size of your hand and the sound of your voice, I believe you are Draconid or Trollkin perhaps, what race are you?” I asked.
“You are very observant, even blinded, I am Mang Gaawn.” the voice replied.
“In all my years of wandering I’ve never heard of the Mang Gaawn, where is your homeland?” I asked.
“Across the ocean of stars … across the sea … more leagues distant than you can comprehend.” was the reply.
“Hmm, as your race is Mang Gaawn, if you like, may I address you as Mang?” I asked and smiled again.
“Yes, I believe I will like that. Call me Mang, Willum.” Mang replied.
“Done.” I said and held up my hand.
“Why do you hold out your hand, Willum?” Mang asked.
“For you to shake hands with me.” I replied. “It’s a gesture of agreement for my people.”
“Very well.” Mang replied and I felt a hand take mine. I had been correct, the hand was at least twice the size of mine and I am well above average in size. The palm was smooth and very warm to the touch but the back of the hand, where my fingers touched it, was extremely rough almost scaled. More like a Draconid I thought to myself.
“May I sit up, Mang? Lying here is a bit uncomfortable on my poor back.” I said.
“Yes, but let me help you, Willum.” Mang replied. I could feel a presence standing over me and hands gingerly slide under my arms. “I will bring you up and then back against the tree. Gently, Willum, slowly and gently.” I had been lifted as if my weight was nothing of consequence and gently slid back until I was resting on the tree trunk.
“Thank you, this is much better.” I said and tried to bend my legs a bit. My left bent freely, my right didn’t move at all. Reaching down, I felt something as hard as rock surrounding my thigh.
“Your femur may be cracked from the fall; I put a cast on it as a precaution.” Mang said.
“My what is cracked and you did what?” I asked. Mang spoke in plain language but in words I didn’t understand at all.
“Now it is my turn to apologize, I use too many Healers terms. Your thigh bone may be cracked and I surrounded your leg with quick drying clay to protect it.” came the reply.
“From my years of wandering I know a little of the Healers arts but I’ve never heard of this ‘cast’.” I said and continued to touch what I could of it.
“It is a common enough art for Mang Gaawn Healers. Where is your homeland?” Mang asked changing the subject quickly.
“Originally my home was Orphic in Boreas, on the southern coast of the Inland Sea. I was born into a very well to do family, but as the third son. Our early life stories are similar I suspect. I, too, was pretty much ignored by my family and sent away for schooling at Gelius in Thrace. My purpose in life, I still believe, was as nothing more than an extra son incase anything happened to the eldest. Being sent away may have just been the reason I am here today. Shortly before my 18th year, I received a letter from my mother explaining that a plague had descended upon Orphic and I never heard from my family again. With no income and no real skills I joined the army of Thrace. Soldiering suited my youthful enthusiasms but, by my 25th year, I’d seen too much of war. I turned my back on it all and walked away. I’ve wandered over as much of the world as possible for the last 35 years. I suppose I’m very similar to Alicia, I really don’t have a destination in mind. I wander until I find something that interests me and stop there for a time. I don’t regret any of my decisions in life, even falling from a tree I shouldn’t have climbed. I wouldn’t have met you had I not.” I said.
“Did you ever return to Orphic to determine what happened to your family?” Mang asked.
“I tried once, but discovered that whatever the plague was, it was still very much alive. None could get within leagues of the city; an army of allied nations was posted around it preventing this. Any who managed to venture in, stayed, Orphic had become a place of the dead. How about you, has your wanderings brought you back home?” I asked.
“I can never return to my homeland, Willum, it is an impossibility.” Mang replied after another long pause.
“I’m sorry, Mang, my questions have brought you great sadness.” I said knowing that I’d asked far too much.
“It is alright, Willum, I do not grieve overly much. Now, it is time for you to rest and heal. I have made tea for you that will help.” Mang said and I felt a mug being placed in my hand. I reached out with my free hand and held his.
“Thank you, Mang; I hope someday I can help you as much as you’ve helped me.” I said.
“Rest, Willum, rest.” Mang said and gently squeezed my hand.