Chapter 13 - Nick

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His first reaction was to blink.

A searing pain tore through his eyeballs and eyelids while the magician's flames were eating the flesh of his cheekbones. He clutched his hands to his face as he fell down to the ground, rolling and writhing, screaming with a force he didn't know he had.

She had hit him. The Fire Magician had hit him!

Around him, chaos reigned. Men stumbled over his legs, their swords swooshing and clanking. Iron met flesh. Bones cracked. Female shrieks mimicked his own, then died.

Bee must have been one of them, but he no longer cared. He was all alone with this flaring pain that didn't stop no matter how hard he pressed his palms to his face. Minutes, hours, days—he didn't know he long he kept on tossing and turning, screaming.

How had Abby endured this? She had been strong in a way that he could not be. He wanted it to end, needed it to end. He couldn't take it any longer.

Yet he continued burning.

He had begun to pray to the Gods to relieve him from his misery as two hands scooped him up, the fire radiated through the rest of his body and fried his brain. 

"Make it stop! Make it stop!" was the only sentence he managed to repeat.

"...o... yo... ey..."

Deaf and blind to his surroundings, he was placed on a hard wooden surface, a bench or a table. His armour was stripped off. Men pulled at his bare arms, but he kicked and jerked his elbows around. He didn't let go of his eyes; he couldn't. It hurt too much.

Voices circled around him, yet without a face to see, they were foreign.

"... Healer..."

"Make it stop! Make it stop!" he yelled at them.

"... restrain..."

"Make it stop! Make it stop!"

A force blocked his knees, his legs bound by a coarse snake that bit into his flesh and seized all possible movement to his waist. It fed the flames.

"Make it stop! Make it stop!"

Four different pairs of hands grabbed his arms and pushed them to the wood.

He squeezed his eyes like he had never squeezed them before, his throat raw but his heart not done screaming. "Make it—"

Something was crammed into his mouth. It was a type of cloth, smooth yet hard, and tasted of smoked meat. He clenched his teeth around it, but when it did nothing to stop the terrible burn, he bit it so hard he tasted the blood of his own gums.

"This man is a young Lieutenant, no Healer." The General's voice was the first he recognised; it was relentless. "What happened to Healer Ronald? Why isn't he here?"

Captain Frank replied, "The good man is sadly no longer among us. I don't know what happened. He woke up with a swollen gut one morning, about two moons ago. Three hours later he was dead."

"And you failed to report this to me, why?"

"I wrote a note, asking for a replacement. But it was the dead of winter—Guess that pigeon didn't find its way back to Sunstone Castle."

The General huffed, the tone he used when he knew someone was lying to his face. Nick didn't care who tended to him, as long as someone ended his suffering.

"Nicolas. Your name is Nicolas, isn't it?" asked a nasal voice.

Nick groaned.

"A Fire Magician attacked you. You were hit in the face."

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