Chapter 9: Rescue

I made a note to myself. Next time I go underground to take out Redcaps, ‘Wear a Goddamn headset!’ I had put my cell phone into my right jacket pocket. My right arm was useless from the shoulder down. It hurt like HELL to move my left hand but I could do it. It hurt too much to try to flex my left elbow.

I tried to use my fingers to pull my hand up to my pocket. My leathers were too slick; I couldn’t get a good enough hold. ‘Shit!’ I had to lie down.

My backpack made it impossible to lie completely flat but I was still able to use my fingers to pull my hand across my body. The zipper sucked but by this time I was almost used to the pain. If I hadn’t known God existed, I would have thanked him for having Aidan work on my phone. As it was, I wasn’t going to give the son-of-a-bitch the satisfaction. I set my phone on speaker mode and pushed #9.

My favorite Leprechaun picked up on the first ring, “Victor! How are you?”

“I need to be picked up. I’m at…” I tried to get to my GPS app. My fingers were stiff and I dropped the phone. “Damn it!”

“It’s ok. I’m tracking your phone. I know your coordinates; you are still below ground aren’t you? Are you hurt?”

I struggled to keep my voice level. “Yeah to both.”

I could hear Aidan’s grin, “I have to tell you, Victor, you’re not much of a conservationist. Do you need reloads? How many Redcaps are left?”

“None, I got them all.” I could hear rats coming toward me. I couldn’t help it, I let out a groan as I sat up.

He fell silent for a moment. His voice was somber when he asked, “Victor, how bad are you hurt?”

“Pretty bad, Aidan, there are rats down here. I’m bad enough I’m not sure I can hold them off.”

I heard him screaming for Tim Hardy. Tim got on the phone, “Mr. Paladin, Aidan’s on his way. You said something about rats?”

“Yeah.”

Suddenly loud yipping and barking noises came from my phone. “That’s the sound of a terrier. Rats are usually more afraid of them than cats.”

I listened carefully. Tim was right. I could hear the rats going the other way. It felt like heaven to lie back down. “It’s working.”

He giggled with excitement. “I knew it would! Mr. Paladin, how many Redcaps did you kill?”

Even while saving my life Tim was annoying. When I didn’t answer, he kept on babbling…

I don’t remember passing out. I woke up to intense pain; someone was trying and failing to tug my helmet off. The motion wasn’t doing good things to my neck, shoulder, and upper arm.

“Young man, change back to your regular clothes so we can bind up your wounds.”

It took awhile to focus but when I did, I saw two elderly nuns crouched over me. I dimly heard, “Victor Paladin, did you hear me?”

I followed her voice and looked straight up. There was a third elderly nun at my head. She was the one trying to pull my helmet off. My armor was designed to be put on and off by magic. It appeared it couldn’t be taken off any other way.

I mouthed, “Azam-shay.”

My head and upper back dropped as my helmet and backpack disappeared. I heard the nun say, “Goddamn and shit!” The nun cursing for some reason hit my funny-bone. I would have started laughing if hitting the ground hadn’t hurt so much. I felt a slow trickle of liquid warmth spread down from my neck. The wound in my neck had reopened.

Once I was back in the same t-shirt and jeans I had been wearing before I armored up, the nuns began cutting my shirt off to get to my wounds. I felt a syringe enter my arm. It must have been morphine because shortly after the pain wasn’t as bad. I didn’t feel an urge to scream when they started cleaning then bandaging my neck and right shoulder. I was vaguely aware of a splint being applied to my left arm.

I then noticed Aidan standing a few feet behind one of the nuns. He looked grim.

My throat felt like it was stuffed with cotton, my mouth so dry I could barely whisper, “Aidan, why aren’t you using magic to heal me?”

The nun working on my neck interrupted him before he had a chance to reply. She sounded pissed, “We tried to. You resisted every effort we made.”

Even with the morphine in my system, I wasn’t Mr. Happy. The penguin’s negative attitude wasn’t helping. I didn’t bother trying to hide the irritation in my voice, “I was unconscious. How could I resist?”

Her voice became louder, “You young idi…”

“Sister!” Aidan broke in like he was trying to put out a fire. “Sister Catherine, Victor really doesn’t know the answer to that question. He’s not trying to be difficult.

“Victor, you almost killed the sisters when they tried to heal you. Your unconscious defenses are uncommonly strong. You really don’t like having your soul touched.”

I took a deep breath. I felt too shitty to lose my temper. “Alright, I was unconscious then, I give you permission now. You can heal me.”

Aidan gave the weak smile of a doctor bringing bad news. “You can’t just decide a thing like that, Victor. We don’t have the power to heal you against your will. To be healed by us, you have to trust us. Trust isn’t something you can choose to give. You either trust or you don’t. We’ve learned while you were unconscious you don’t have faith in anyone but yourself.”

I couldn’t argue with the truth. My anger left and was replaced with fatigue. “What happens next?”

He gave up on the fake smile. His voice was grim. “Tim’s on his way over with a doctor. You’ve lost a lot of blood. It isn’t safe to move you.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“It isn’t good. Victor, what happened to your right shoulder? A blade penetrated through your 3 mm of hardened Mithril armor like butter. It had to be a named weapon with a spell of sharpness.”

A thought dawned on me. “Why can’t I throw a healing spell on myself?”

The pushy nun butted in again. “Don’t be silly. Your soul is down to almost nothing. Anything but the most minor of spells would destroy you.”

“Sister Catherine is right, Victor. You already cast two major spells today and you’ve lost a lot of blood. Blood sacrifices are powerful because of the connection life fluids have with your soul. You’ve lost too much blood.”

“I’ve no regrets about ditching the shield but I would have been better off with the usual healing spell.”

He gave me a wry smile, “I wasn’t going to tell you so, but since you’ve brought it up…” He shrugged. He didn’t look happy to be proved right.

My blood loss was probably all from my neck. By instinct or luck, the rat must have been gnawing at my jugular vein. I’ve studied the human body and I’ve worked in hospitals to get fake IDs. The patient files I’ve been interested in are those of young men who die from trauma. Those who aren’t killed right away usually die of blood loss related circulatory shock. The physical signs of circulatory shock are tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and tachypnea (rapid breathing). I had both. I was having difficulty focusing my eyes, my skin was cold and clammy, and my mouth was dry. The average male body holds 6 quarts of blood. It’s a sad commentary on my life but I’m no stranger to massive blood loss. From my physical symptoms and the blood flow I remembered coming from my neck, I estimated I had lost at least 2 quarts of blood. I could feel my body going into circulatory collapse.

My blood type is O negative which means I can donate blood to anyone but I can only get blood from my own exact type. Only one out of twenty blood donors have the kind I need. Only hospitals have the equipment and expertise to store blood. Multiple blood types are required and blood needs to be kept at precise temperatures. Cahill said the doctor was coming with more supplies. Unless they had a way of magically making O negative blood, this probably meant he was bringing saline. Even if the doctor arrived in the next few minutes, unless he had at least 4 pints of O negative blood, I was still up shit’s creek.

I looked at their faces, all three of the penguin brigade and Aidan. Their expressions told me they thought I was going to die. For most of my adult life, dangerous men have wanted to kill me. I had just taken out 26 Redcaps by myself. The irony that a rodent would end up doing the job made me guffaw. Shit! That hurt. In between short rapid breaths, I whispered, “Aidan, the guy who stabbed me had a titanium spear. He called himself, Raeleus.”

“A Thiarna Dhia!” The leprechaun was so excited he skipped his Irish accent and went straight to Elvish or Gaelic, not knowing either language I couldn’t be sure. His entire body shook with excitement. “Did he have a Mithril breastplate too?”

I was starting to fade. “His breastplate looked like the spear.”

Aidan went perfectly still. “After you killed him, did his spear and breastplate disappear?”

I couldn’t see where he was going with these questions. I was too tired to care why. “After he was dead, I didn’t pay much attention to his gear…I think I saw the breastplate on his dead body. I have no idea what happened to the spear, don’t remember seeing it but it could have easily been there by his body. I don’t know.”

Cahill literally started jumping with excitement. “Where is his body?”

I pointed with my eyes the direction he should go and he left without another word. It was just me and the nuns. Jehovah was an ass, but he had a sense of humor. The first and last memories I would ever have was being surrounded by grumpy old nuns. I really wasn’t looking forward to being an angel. I could tell the nuns were as clueless as me about why Aidan was excited. They were finished bandaging my wounds and were now praying over me. The drone of their voices was as good as any lullaby…

“Victor! Victor!” I woke up and immediately wished I hadn’t. The morphine was no longer holding the pain at bay. I couldn’t keep air in my lungs. The nuns had backed off and Aidan was at my side holding my paralysed right arm. While I was unconscious, he had drawn a spear and a motorcycle jacket on my inner forearm. “You have to stand.”

He and a couple of the nuns lifted me up into a sitting position and then helped me stand. I could feel what little blood I had rush from my head. If they hadn’t been holding on to me, I would have collapsed. I tried to slow my breathing and got my bearings. If I had been able to move my arms, I would have pushed Aidan and the nuns off of me. If I was going die, I would end it standing on my own. They got the hint and backed off. I dared Sister Irritable with my eyes to say something. She looked like she wanted to take a ruler to my knuckles but didn’t say a word.

Aidan was insistent, “Victor, look at the pictures I’ve drawn on your forearm.” I did, expecting three dimensional images to appear in the air. I just saw hand drawn pictures on my skin. With a tone of regret, Aidan said, “I had to jury-rig everything. I only had time to modify the breastplate. Please hold those pictures in your mind and say, Obex.”

“Obex!” For the second time today, blue flames again engulfed my body. Raeleus’ spear appeared in my hand and immediately dropped to the ground. I was back to wearing a motorcycle jacket. I got lightheaded again. Immediately Aidan grabbed me and said in my ear, “Now, say salveo.”

“Salveo.” It started with a feeling of warmth at my wounds. The heat spread throughout my body and then reached my skin. For a few seconds my body lit up like a light bulb. I felt like I did after my anti-scrying spell, totally hammered. My knees buckled and I grabbed onto Aidan. I realized then I could move my arms; there was no pain.

The leprechaun kept me from falling. His voice gentle, “You can rest, warrior. You’re going to live.”