Bull’s eye rashes covered the entire length of Braeden's arm and his tattoo was distorted by crusted, pustular lesions that peppered his skin from the midpoint of his limb and above. The pent-up fluid in his upper arm had leaked out and dried in yellow slabs, giving his skin a deflated, rubberized appearance. Now Sam could see that the demon’s teeth had speared the eyes of the lion’s head inked on Braeden’s shoulder. Half of the lion’s face was blotted out by the telltale black of necrosis and its mane was streaked with blood and pus.
“Is it that bad?” Braeden asked.
Sam slapped her forehead with her palm. “You can’t see your shoulder properly, can you? I’m no doctor, but I’d wager my right hand that your wound is infected.” She touched his brow again and hissed. Braeden’s skin was so hot he had actually scalded her. “And you have a ridiculously high fever. You need a doctor.”
Braeden gingerly sat up, using his good arm to shift his weight. “Sam, I appreciate your concern, but stop treating me like I’m human. I’m not. This illness or whatever it is will pass on its own accord.”
Sam bit her lip. “Will you at least let me help you wash it? It can’t be good to leave dirt in an open wound, even for you.”
“If you must.”
“Thank you. I’ll be back with supplies in a minute. Don’t move from this spot,” she said sternly.
Sam filled a small basin with water in the privy and retrieved a spare tunic and salve from her pack. She soaked the tunic in the water and then returned to Braeden’s side on the pallet. “Put your hand on my lap,” she said. She gently wiped away the dried blood and debris on his forearm. “Does this feel okay?”
Braeden nodded, his lids heavy. “Feels good.”
Sam edged her ministrations higher on his arm, lightening her strokes when Braeden jerked at her touch. “Still okay?” she asked.
“Fine,” Braeden said between clenched teeth.
“I’m going to clean your shoulder now,” she told him. She brought the wet tunic close to the teeth marks, hovering right above the angry skin. “Here goes,” she said, and pressed the fabric to the wound. The instant she touched him, Braeden’s eyes rolled up into his head and he fell back against the bed.
For a panicked second, Sam thought he might be dead. But he was still breathing. She all but sobbed in relief at the steady up and down movement of his chest. “Idiot man,” she said to his passed out form. “I’m getting Tristan. If you die while I’m gone, I’ll kill you.”
Sam dashed down the hall and pounded on the door to Tristan’s rented room with both fists. He answered almost immediately. “It’s bad, Tristan,” she said, swallowing down the lump in her throat. “He’s out cold, and I think his wound might be fatal.”
“Take me to him,” Tristan commanded.
Sam dragged Tristan to the room she shared with Braeden, but he hardly needed encouragement to go faster. He moved as if he were keenly aware of the urgency of the situation, shoving Sam out of the way and marching over to Braeden’s prone body straightaway. Tristan busied himself with checking Braeden’s vital signs and inspecting his wounded arm, careful to not touch the wound itself. “It’s bad,” Tristan confirmed.
Sam threw up her hands. “I told you! Now what? If he dies, I’ll—”
Tristan eased off the pallet and came to stand in front of her, placing his large hand on the top of her head. “Let’s not worry until we have to. His vitals are still very strong.”
“But his skin is so hot.” Sam showed Tristan the small red burn mark on the back of her hand. “I’ve never seen a fever that can do this.”
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Sam is the most promising swordsman among this year’s crop of Paladin trainees...and knows it. Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam is the kingdom of Thule’s best hope against the violence wrought by demons. The only problem...