Turns out, Derrick was one of those few commoners who had a large magic capacity. Most who were lucky enough to have magic were like Hal, with just enough to do simple spells. The few who had even more magical capacity than Derrick were recruited by the various magical academies and often worked for the government or the nobility, or in other words, not our neck of town. Derrick was lucky to fly under the radar, for the most part.
But his recent uptick in the quality of his work had garnered the attention he had avoided.
Which meant we got a pair of rather fancy, official looking folk walking into our inn on the third day of his stay looking for him. On seeing his injury, they asked if they could see it in hopes of helping, saying things such as their being rumors of a war in the air and needing as many high quality smiths as they could get. And, of course, money. There would be money involved. And, really, Derrick had no reason to say no.
It was probably the second worst thing that could have happened in the name of keeping my healing a secret.
Derrick ended up showing his loner, bachelor tendencies by blanking out in the spotlight like a deer to the headlights.
We had a few of the earlier regulars, including the older gentleman from next door who had the three daughters, in the peanut gallery to watch this drama, alcohol in hand.
“No,” he finally said.
Both officials, men around Hal’s age but better groomed and smelling (sorry Hal), raised their brows high in confusion.
“How come?” they asked. “Surely you’d like to get back to work.”
“If needs be, we could offer one of our best healers, if you’re willing to come work closer to the capital.”
“How did you even hear about me?” he asked.
“There’s a reward out for anyone who can refer quality blacksmith’s in the town guards. The captain was quite impressed with the recent sword and shield pair you’d made him. We got to have a look at them when we came through to check on the referrals.”
“Among other things,” filled in the later, as though any of us were interested in their retinue.
I watched from the bar, still bleeding, still miserably warm, but thankfully not as warm as I had been. The heat wave had ended, only for this crap to happen.
Derrick was clamming up again.
Just tell him it was a mistake, I thought at him as hard as I could. Tell him you can’t leave the area or something. But that wouldn’t work. No one could pass up the opportunity to have access to high quality healer, especially one like Derrick whose burnt arm would have been enough to severely hamper him, if not kill him.
There were witnesses, yes, but what was the chance they’d do a back up check on him to make sure his arm was as bad as it was? Or had they already been told? If not, he could just say it wasn’t that bad. But, then, he’d been with us for three days—but did they know that?
I wanted to hide beneath the bar.
“Uh…” he gulped. He freaking gulped. “Um…”
Even the peanut gallery was starting to look confused now.
“It wouldn’t hurt for us to look,” said the first, because repeating what you said always makes people think faster.
Hal walked past the doorway to behind the door.
“He’s just embarrassed,” he said, louder than usual. “Man came staggering in like he was dying and it wasn’t all that bad at all. And now it smells funny too, so there’s two reasons to be embarrassed.”
Derrick ducked his head, as though to said such embarrassment.
The two men exchanged glances.
“A bed smell is usually a sign of infection,” said one.
“Oh, it ain’t. It’s the medicine I used. See, I have water magic.”
The two went ‘ah’ as though that explained everything.
“Don’t worry,” Hal clapped a hand on Derrick’s shoulder, since to reach back to grip both his shoulders with his arms would have been difficult, seeing Derrick as a good head taller than him. “He’ll be back to work soon, but I don’t think he’ll be wanting to leave the area. He’s got, um,” Hal leaned in conspiritorily. “He’s got a lady prospect. A hard fought one too.”
Once more, they ‘ah’d and the men nodded.
“Well, if you change your mind,” said the first. “Maybe after you’ve found yourself a family to take care of…”
“Yeah,” Derrick pushed out. “Yeah, I’ll, um, ask the guard captain how to contact you.”
The magician’s gave him more detailed contact information, however, before leaving.
Derrick tried not to look to relieved. The peanut gallery was still watching. And smiling.
“’Lady prospect’ he said,” chuckled the older man with the three daughters.
“Prospect my ass,” grumbled the second. “We all know who that is.”
The blacksmith ignored them, opting for retreating back to the bedroom as he rubbed his hand through his short hair hard. He already had bristly stubble from just three days of not shaving.
“Hey, you going to be okay?” I asked as he passed.
“Yeah,” he said.
Gus happened by then, with a plate full of an icing caked sweet roll.
“Hey, you’re taking up the whole hall,” he said.
Derrick squeezed his big bulk to the side so Gus could get by.
I scowled at the boy. “Oy, could you have asked any nicer?”
“God, woman, I’m trying, alright? Excuse me that I was focused on my job rather than breaking old habits.”
Hal smacked across the top of his head just as Gus set the plate down at the table.
“Manners will protect you far better than all the muscles and weapons ever will. She’s nagging you for your good.”
Once more, Gus proves he respects Hal several levels above either me or Milly, which irked me even more than him being a grouchy teenager did.
When Gus peeked at me as he passed on his way to the kitchen, I purposely didn’t meet his gaze, hoping that conveyed my irritation enough.
I mean, I’m pretty sure I loved him more than Hal and Milly combined, and what does he have to show for it? An attitude like I’d stuck a pencil up his sphincter. Or maybe it was just irritating me more than usual because I was on my period…yeah, now that I think about it, usually I’d use his grouchiness as an excuse to tease him until he self-implodes. But that’s when his disrespect was aimed at me. It wasn’t play when he was being rude to people who had only ever been good to him.