Ch 8: Innocent Blood

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[three nights before ...]

When she'd gotten to the hospital, wonder of wonders - Sam had already been moved out of the waiting  area into a private cubicle.  Although that only inspired grim thoughts in her about how serious his injuries might be.

She'd found him lying on a cot in the tiny room, looking like he'd run face-first into a brick wall.  George was with him.  The coach had given Tova a hangdog look, mumbled something and excused himself.

Sam had squinted at her through eyes that were nearly swollen shut.  "You're a sight for sore eyes," he'd said almost intelligibly around his cut lip.

"Is there any part of you that won't hurt if I touch it?" she'd asked, after discarding several other potential comments.

He had lifted one hand and she'd grasped it gently.

"The other guy -" he'd started to say.

"I know, the other guy looks worse."

"No, I'm afraid that ain't the case."

Tova had sighed.  "Your brain's okay, then?"

The doctor had appeared at that moment and answered her question:  they didn't think he had a concussion, but she'd have to watch him when she took him home.  She'd get a sheet of printed instructions before they left.

"Finally, the instructions," she'd said thoughtfully, and looked at Sam, who'd tried to wink at her.

*

Now the other Jews who were in the king's provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and gained relief from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them; but they laid no hands on the plunder.   - "Esther" 9:16, Bible

[Crane]

"In the court of Esther," the Queen continued, "we value brains over brawn.  I am aware that you have much experience, great Crane, and therefore possess knowledge far beyond that needed to swing a bespelled sword.  I would present you with an opportunity which will, I trust, be more challenging to you than a simple brute show of bloody prowess - a quest unlike any that has been offered to you heretofore.   But then, the pacifist foreign policies of the new Susa are surely unlike any other."

"Then it is true?" Crane asked in amazement.  "I had thought it merely another story.  It is true that the troops of Esther are sworn to take life only as a last resort?"

"Indeed," said the Queen.  "We find, in fact, that the best approach to warfare is peace.  We put our resources into diplomacy - and defense, when necessary, but with as little destruction as possible.  When I saw the devastation that followed my attempt to save my people-"

"You did save us, cousin," Mordechai interrupted her.

"Saved our bodies, but washed our souls in innocent blood," she responded in a sorrowful and an emphatic tone.  "Forgive us, sir, but you can surely tell that this is an old argument.  Fortunately, though my cousin remains a dear and trusted advisor, when my husband died I became ruler.  And I vowed to be as different from him, may he rest in peace, as I could be."

"I admire the idealism and independence of your spirit, Highness," Crane said, inclining his head to her.  "These are qualities which I share, and I know the price one must pay to walk that road.  I would walk no other.  Still, you may tell me of this opportunity of which you speak, and I will give it fair consideration."

The Queen gazed upon him for a moment before answering, "The hour grows late.  I trust you will abide as our guest tonight?  Then tomorrow will provide ample time for us to tour the citadel of Susa and to talk of many things.  But before we retire, there is someone I wish you to meet."

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