The Crossroads and the Gate

Venadan had hoped that he could at least pull the stranger’s shoulder back into alignment without waking him up, but no such luck; the stranger woke at the pressure of Venadan’s foot on his chest, so that Venadan’s first word to him was “Motherfucker,” and the stranger’s to him was a miserable yowl. The stranger didn’t pass back out at this either. He bit down on his second scream and sat up halfway, sweating, pulling his arm out of Venadan’s grip and getting his long hair in Venadan’s eyes. Venadan reared back. “You were out when I found you,” he said. “You were attacked. Do you remember?”

“Do I…?” the stranger said, and looked blearily out at the corpses littering the clearing. “Oh. I really don’t know why I thought ‘giant spiders’ was an exaggeration. The villagers were so insistent about it. How much leg do I have left?”

“Right ankle’s broken,” Venadan said. “You’ve got a hole in your neck, too– keep your hand off it!”

The stranger dropped his hand. His eyes were huge, tracking poorly, and he kept taking these deep, shuddering breaths that Venadan could only hope were panic and not a collapsed lung. “Who are you? Not that I want to sound ungrateful,” a pause for breath, “when you’ve been so friendly. Did you leave out my left leg because it isn’t there any more?”

“Your left leg is fine. I was just passing through.” He had enough water to spill some out against his handkerchief, and he pressed it into the stranger’s wound, eliciting another yell. Too much blood. “You’re a wizard, aren’t you? Can you close your own wounds?”