“It’s okay father. You’re hurt. Try not to talk much.”
His father nodded slightly, and grimaced.
“Do you think you can drink? I have a tonic here that should help.”
Another nod, this one more careful. As William tilted the bottle to pour carefully into Barend’s mouth, he could see the pain that swallowing caused, but his father was clearly trying not to show it.
“You should rest now. In the morning, we can talk, if you feel up to it.”
In the morning, William’s father… woke up. William hadn’t been sure that was going to happen. He’d been dozing in a chair by the bed, but even if his father’s heart had stopped and he immediately woke up, he didn’t think trying to start it again would have much in the way of results. He would have been dead, and William would have been able to do nothing.
“Don’t look… so sad. I’m alive… aren’t I?”
William sighed. “It hurts, doesn’t it?”
Barend nodded. “Almost as bad… as the bull pox. Or muscle aches after harvest.”
William couldn’t help but laugh, as little as he felt mirthful. Still, joking was good… and his father had managed to swallow an entire bowlful of gruel. “Almost, huh.”
“We should… get back to the farm. I’m sure your mother’s worried.”
“I can go back, but you stay here and rest. You need-”
“No. I’m going back to my own bed.” He coughed slightly. “You can either bring me back home in the cart, or I’m walking back alone.”
William doubted his father could walk, but he got the point. He would be stubborn, and William couldn’t keep him in bed and go back to the farm. So, he would put him in the cart, but at the first sign of trouble they would be stopping. With one final goodbye to the young girl and her family, they set off back toward the farm.
By the fact that his father complained about every bump in the road, William knew that he was better than he looked. That wasn’t necessarily saying much, because he looked terrible, but at least he was awake, and talking. Then he wasn’t either of those things. William carefully checked that he had a pulsed, then sighed internally. He was exhausted enough that he managed to fall asleep on a bumpy, painful cart ride.
As the cart approached the farm, Anselma and Stefan came running. William smiled and waved tiredly. Then, there was a flurry of worried questions, and hugs for William… and a careful pat on his father’s arm. At this point, William was completely over all of the excitement. His father was alive… and would probably recover. That was good.
“A lord did this?” Anselma looked down and Barend, worriedly.
“A demon lord’s soldier, yes. There didn’t seem to be any particular investment in the action, it was just casual cruelty.” William shrugged. “They mean to cause fear, or perhaps they were just bored. Regardless, they didn’t even glance back.”
Stefan looked the most upset out of everyone. “They can… they can just do that?”
William nodded. “Nobody can stop them. Or at least, nobody is willing to.” He sighed, thinking about Ostana. He’d thought their nobles were bad, but they weren’t quite this bad. At least there was some holding them to the laws of the land. Here, though, there was no higher authority to say what they could and couldn’t do. There was only the Demon King, and he didn’t care about such things, and perhaps even encouraged them. Well, maybe there wasn’t a Demon King anymore. Hopefully there wasn’t, but William didn’t expect the balance of power to change quickly, especially since he couldn’t hope for those in power to even die of old age.
Because he couldn’t expect him to die of old age, later down the road something would happen to Demon Lord Lorcan Harridan. Not that William planned to let death by old age solve his problems, but he couldn’t be sure of success in any short time frame. William wasn’t sure when he would be strong enough to carry out that internal promise. Maybe it would be never, in which case he would have to become very well connected… or be very rich… or have still some other kind of power. Somehow, something would be done, even if it took a very long time. Even if he died, he would do it in the next life… if he remembered it. Perhaps Lorcan Harridan would anger someone more powerful than him before that happened. William would be somewhat disappointed at not taking personal revenge, but if something horrible happened to him that would be good. The demon lords seemed to have a pretty good clique going, though, so he doubted they would tolerate anything happening to one of their own… unless they really did something inexcusable to another demon lord, but he supposed they were probably smarter than that.
The incident became somewhat famous in Caister. That made William and his father somewhat famous, though not by name. Besides, as all stories, things were gotten wrong and blown out of proportion. As for William himself, his features weren’t well known, but it was agreed that his skin was dark, almost black. His father was described in at least one story as a hulking behemoth who took a blow directly to his chest, then scared off the soldier with his glare. As for what had happened, some said it as it was. A demon lord’s soldier had struck at a young girl, but was blocked by William’s father who was grievously wounded. Then, William healed him. The most exaggerated versions of the story had him reattaching his father’s severed head, but nobody really believed that one. Still though, the most common rumors said it had been a miraculous healing, though William would have wanted to say that he just happened to know the right things… and barely managed to perform them. Since he wasn’t seen in the city for over a month, the rumors died down some, returning to a tamer level. Nobody really knew where he came from, or at least nobody who said anything. Most of the crowd had wanted to stay away from the trouble. Those who talked didn’t know the whole truth. The main ones who did were William’s family… and the family of a little girl who accepted their savior’s desire to remain mostly anonymous.