CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 17 ♦ Imbalance
An old man wiped the sweat off his brows with the back of his hand while the other tightened around the handle of his bag. He shifted restlessly on his squeaky, pointed shoes—the best pair he had. Tuning in to the goings-on in the room, he quickly heard footsteps as they echoed from the other side of the door. He quickly tugged on his tie, dusting off nonexistent lint.
The door cracked open. “The lord will see you know, sir,” said the attendant.
He cleared his throat. “Ah, yes.”
He stepped inside, his eyes quickly focusing on his patient who rested quietly on his bed. “Good afternoon, Your Excellency. I, ah, apologize for being late . . .” He swallowed. “Some, ah, emergency happened on my way here, but I would assume that you are not interested in my excuses.”
The lack of regard for his arrival left him awkwardly hanging as he tried to make a conversation while he readied his tools. The young lord seemed rather distant and, like the first time he saw him, cold. He was looking out the open windows, reflecting the sunlight with his emerald green eyes.
The man didn’t dare speak more than necessary, seeing how uninterested the young noble was. “Your Excellency,” he said, approaching the bedside. “If I may?”
“Go ahead,” was the given reply.
The cover was peeled from the young lord’s body and his shirt opened, revealing the swath of bandages around his middle. The doctor took his scissors and trimmed through the layers carefully and nimbly until, finally, he saw the healing wound.
“Do you mind turning, Excellency?” he requested and was met with no response aside from immediate compliance. “Does it still hurt when you move?”
“Not too much,” the lord replied.
“I would prefer you be more specific, sir,” he told him as he probed the swollen area around the wound. “It will benefit us all.”
“Mild pain, yes. Like I said, not too much.”
“I see. I will leave you some prescription should you deem it unbearable at times but I would have to ask you to remain in bed a couple more days. The wound seems to be healing nicely, although I’m sure that it will leave a scar. With the nineteen stitches you needed, it is quite inevitable. Thankfully, the immediate attention kept you from bleeding too much. Although the damage was not critical, a wound like that would have you bleed excessively and you could’ve died from blood loss.” He flattened his palm over the wound and gently summoned his healing power. The green light shone from his hands and he caught the young lord wincing. “Easy now, it’ll be over soon.”
The door opened. Heels clicked as an ankle length dress swayed with each step. Loud thumping and smaller legs caught up, short hands reaching to tug on the peach fabric. The old man withdrew his hands.
“Easy there now, my princess,” a soft voice whispered before it turned loud and clear. “Sir Gordon, please pardon our intrusion.”
Gordon briefly lowered his head as he met the eyes of the high lady. “Lady Saskia, an honor. You and Her Excellency are not intruding at all.”
“I wish to inquire on the condition of my son. How many days until he can get back to his usual routine?” The woman moved forward to sit on the bed, the little girl with apple-sauce curls trailing after her like a duckling would its mother. And, indeed, the lady can be no other person.
“A week or so. The wound has closed, but not completely,” Gordon replied, eyeing the child as she pulled on the sheaths of the bed to climb. Once she was at the top, she crawled to the lord and poked his cheeks. There was no hint of irritation at the gesture, rather, there was fondness. “I estimate a month or so before he can truly go back to perfect condition. Until then, any strenuous activities should be held off. We do not want him straining his injury.”
“No problem,” Gordon responded. He turned to his bag and retrieved a roll of fresh bandages as well as some herbs. “Let me just redress the wound.”
“Emmillyse,” said Lady Saskia. “Do not bother your older brother.”
“It’s alright, mother.” Corvan lifted his broad hands and took his sister’s smaller ones. “Have you been a good little girl?”
“I apologize I cannot play with you. Your brother is currently unwell.”
His sister shook his head before obediently scooting close to his side, her head positioned on his shoulders. Emmillyse grabbed her older brother’s hands, tracing the calloused skin before coming to rest on the warm silver around his wrist. She looked at him questioningly as though to ask, her fingertips tracing the intricate design embedded on the surface. Corvan did not respond. Instead, his face softened and his brows furrowed.
Gordon took out his mortar and pestle and crushed the herbs, causing a strong, fragrant aroma to erupt in the room. When it turned into a paste, he set down everything on the table, tugging on the long sleeves of his clothes and rubbing his hands.
“Corvan,” Saskia began. “Darling, whatever happened in Aetheria . . .” she trailed off. “Forgive me if this will be very insensitive of me to say, but there is nothing you can do.”
Gordon then dipped his finger into the paste he made and moved to the young lord. “Young miss, please excuse me,” he whispered to the small child who nodded and obediently made way for him. “Thank you, Your Excellency.”
He massaged the thick paste on Corvan’s wounds, making sure it was generously applied.
“I do not think that acting all gloomy and . . . melancholic will do anything.” Lady Saskia pursed her lips. “There is still much time to go before the academy resumes classes and I was wondering, for the meantime, if you would be interested in joining your father and me as we preside over the matters concerning your continent.”
“Such as?” Corvan remarked.
“Nothing too straining, considering your condition, but, of course, matters of managing this continent, well . . . is a lot of work. Although it won’t be a while until your father retires, perhaps taking on more responsibility before you take the mantle will be wise.” There was silence. “Unlike the case of His Majesty, King Bertram, you have a lot of time ahead of you to prepare. That is why, son, you need to be productive. This continent needs you more than ever.”
“And I intend to, mother,” he said.
The doors opened for the third time that day—only, this time, it was nearly thrown off its hinges.
“Corvan, cousin, I—” Gavin walked in and stopped short when he saw the high lady and Gordon. “Oh, um . . . greetings, Your Highness.” He bowed.
Saskia smiled. “Gavin, what brings you?”
“A task,” he replied, holding a thick book in one hand. “One that I have been favored to do. Also, as you know, the king has been informed of certain matters. He wishes to gather, not only the current high lords and ladies of the continents, but . . .” He looked at his cousin. “Also the future titleholders.”
“Does my husband know?” Saskia asked.
“Yes, of course. I have dropped by his office when I first came.” Gavin further moved into the room. “Now, I—”
Before he could finish, roaring thunders sang in the sky. Emmillyse nearly jumped off the bed, air drawn into her lungs fast and loud. Corvan firmly wrapped his hands around hers and pulled her close. This brought the girl comfort as she eased into his embrace, her large, green eyes meeting his.
“It’s alright,” he told her.
Lightning branched down from the skies.
“Oh, dear gods.” Saskia stood from the bed and marched towards the open windows, shutting them just as a strong downpour came roaring down. The muted sound of the storm continued pounding outside the palace walls. The noble lady brushed her hands down the skirts of her dress as she addressed the people in the room. “Well, then, it seems a storm has unfortunately—and unexpectedly—appeared. It’ll be dangerous to head back, Sir Gordon. Why not stay for dinner and wait for the rain to stop?” she suggested.
Branches of lightning struck the ground. Gordon sweated as he imagined how it must be getting struck by those powerful hands.
“Y-yes, I believe that would be wise, madam. I will probably be beaten by my wife, but it is better than leaving my family without a pillar.” He turned back to the bandages and rolled them out. “Now, if I may, Your Excellency,” he muttered and Corvan moved to accommodate.
The young lord sat up slowly, albeit in pain.
“I apologize,” Gordon said under his breath and began wrapping the bandage around the lord’s stomach skillfully and smoothly.
Gavin cleared his throat. “As I was saying,” he continued. “I have found the information you asked of me. It’s in my collection of rare antiques.” He handed the book to Corvan, who accepted it indifferently. “So I must insist you take care of that book. It is priceless.”
“What information?” Saskia questioned.
“Just my interest,” Corvan replied, hatching to the first page. Emmillyse leaned over to look at the contents as well as her brother. “I realize I am fascinated by the multifaceted nature of this world.”
“Meaning?” the Arlandian high lady perused.
“Travel,” Gavin supported. “To, um, places that cannot be reached through normal means.”
Saskia’s brows lifted questioningly.
“And who knows travelling better than the master?” Gavin continued, chuckling.
“Pray tell, what is the multifaceted nature you speak of?” Saskia took her seat on the wingchair angled by the window.
“We already know that the existence of different dimensions has long since been proven a fact, especially with Miss Valeriana’s circumstances. However, there are several more theories that perhaps more doors exist. They just need specific keys to be opened and the right person to be opened to.”
“Why, it seems I have new matters to touch,” the lady stated. “Do continue.”
Gavin nodded. “These mainly stem from the stories of creation that built our world. The gods, unless they stop themselves, can continue to create new realms separate from ours.”
Saskia hummed. “It sounds as though building worlds for them is as simple as building a city,” she said.
“Indeed, Your Highness,” Gavin replied. “That is undeniably the case.”
“Interesting. What instigated you, my son, to read on such matters?”
Gavin cleared his throat. Corvan lifted his limpid gaze.
The answer hang in the air. Emmillyse watched on, unable to grasp the underlying meaning to the silence. Gordon, himself, was very much like little Emmillyse—clueless—yet he never dared stop doing his job.
“It’s done,” Gordon announced as he stepped back to admire his work, breaking the awkwardness.
Corvan pulled on his open shirt and buttoned it up, giving the man a nod of gratitude but nothing else. For Gordon, it was more than enough. Lord Corvan was normally very aloof and uninterested. One could spend an entire hour attending to him and still be treated like a passing breeze. To get this much acknowledgement, in his case, was already a big deal.
“I have listed the hours you will take these medicines,” he said. He closed his bag, leaving the bottles on the table a few steps away from the young lord’s bed. “Please take them on a full stomach. Others will have to be applied on the wound. As usual, please change the bandages often.”
“Alright, I’m sorry to trouble you all.” Saskia intently gazed at her son who did the same. “Come, my darling Emmi, let’s leave your brother to rest and read in silence. Judging by the way he has buried his nose in that book, he will not be out of it for hours.”
Emmillyse shook her head.
“Darling . . .” Saskia trailed off.
“It’s alright, mother. Leave her by my side.”
“Dear goodness, you’re spoiling her too much.” The lady placed a hand on her chest as she drifted towards the bed.
“As I ought to,” Corvan replied.
“Get well soon, my son.” The woman planted a kiss on his forehead before turning to her little girl and doing the same. “Emmillyse, daughter, behave. I will see you later,” Saskia said, reaching for the dragon tail knobs.
“Your Excellencies.” Gordon bowed before he ran to cross the room. “Please, Your Highness, let me.”
“Sir Gordon, it’s just a door.” Saskia chuckled but did not dare turn away the man at his insistence, watching with mild amusement as he opened the door for her. “Thank you.”
The door clicked close behind them as Gavin’s voice echoed in the room. “I still need to talk to you about something, cousin.”