• “Come,” Stade called as I entered the room. He brushed some dirt off the edge of the bed and motioned for me to sit.

    “Dryden sent me,” I explained, trying not to look too disgusted at the filth.

    Stade nodded. “I figured he would,” he sighed solemnly.

    He handed me a large wooden bowl filled with water. Not bothering to thank him, I poured the contents down my throat. It was warm and slightly strange tasting, but still liquid.

    “What do you need to discuss?” I asked once I had finished drinking.

    Stade move a strand of soft blonde hair from his thin face.

    “It can wait,” he said seriously, “but first, your wound needs to be treated.”

    I shook my head, “It’s fine, really.”

    “Stop trying to act brave,” Stade laughed, “it’s worse than it looks.”

    I heaved a sigh. I wasn’t trying to act brave; I’d had worse wounds left untreated.

    “Just trust me,” Stade smiled gently.

    Although he was very weak, he had a certain charisma about him. Almost like a gentleman, but not quite; his eyes gave off a feeling of flamboyance and daring.

    “Alright,” I conceded.

    Stade scooted up closer to me.

    “Are you wearing an undershirt?” he inquired.

    “Yeah, why?” I replied, puzzled.

    Stade placed his long fingers gingerly at the collar of my shirt and ripped it down the middle. The bloody, sweaty, cloth stuck to my gash and stung like crazy. The cool evening breeze caressed my bare sunburned arms.

    “When Gabriel wakes up, I’ll have him boil some water to clean this up,” Stade talked to distract me as he dabbed carefully at my wound. He took some kind of powder out of a small jar and sprinkled in on my shoulder. I cringed, expecting it to burn, but felt cool and soothing.

    “It’s to staunch the bleeding,” Stade explained, ripping the clean parts of my shirt into strips to dress my gash. He lifted my arms and wound the cloth around my shoulder.

    “Done,” he grinned, leaning back of the backboard to examine his work.

    “Thanks,” I muttered, admittedly impressed by his knowledge of injuries.

    Stade fell back onto the bed and shut his vivid blue eyes. He was obviously worn out from moving so soon after a relapse.

    “I’m afraid I can’t explain everything I would like to today,” he sighed weakly, “but I ask that you stay overnight.”

    I thought it over. I didn’t have anywhere better to go, and it sounded a whole lot better than sleeping outside.

    “Well, alright,” I agreed reluctantly.

    “Great!” Stade said, surprised, “Gabriel’s awake now, why don’t you go meet him.”

    To tell the truth, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Gabriel after what had happened, but I knew it was unavoidable.

    Stade gave me a soft smile. “I thought you agreed to trust me,” he said in fake disappointment.

    “I’ll trust anyone, until they give me reason not to,” I replied, almost threateningly.

    Stade raised his eyebrows.

    “I can I assure you that I feel the same,” he replied, amused.