One Last Time

by Melanie Rutman

Disclaimer: The characters and eveything else here are mine, mine, mine. There is violence depicted here, so if you do not like that, stop reading.

I wasn't sure what they wanted when they boldly rode into town. They weren't petty criminals that I could just dismiss on a whim. I only wished that they didn't want the impossible. They were obviously nobles. I could tell that from the way that they carried themselves, even if they didn't have the clothes and flags they wore so flamboyantly. I hoped against Hope that it wasn't me that they came for. Unfortunately, she wasn't in a listening mood.

I waited until they approached me. That way they would have to acknowledge me as an equal. They wouldn't be here if they didn't need me. That was for sure. They also had to be desperate to come all the way out here for an old has-been like myself.

The clan had set me up nicely in this quaint little village. It was impossible for me to go back to my old line of work after being held as a prisoner for so long. Our enemies don't treat those they capture with anything close to respect. I leaned heavily on my cane, as I watched them approach.

"Gwennis Steelblade?", the leader asked dismounting.

"Aye. Who wants to know?" Impudence has always been a trade-mark of mine. It grates on the nerves of most nobles, and I like it that way. Being a Steelblade has its advantages. Anyone who knows what it's like to be sick or injured would not dare disrespect me and mine. We don't cause the injury, but we are the experts at fixing it. You can understand the implications this has on the realm. We are born to fight and heal, usually nothing else. I had the latter gift in abundance, but I don't like to use it much. It comes with a price, and I don't like paying.

He must've been shocked at the way I answered, but I think he had more important matters on his mind. "May I come in?"

I took a good look at him and realized that he was younger than I first assumed. "Follow." He did, and I couldn't help wonder what this was all about. "Speak Youngling. Or am I supposed to guess?"

"It is my wife, she was thrown from her horse and is badly injured. I was informed that you are the only healer close enough and powerful enough to help." He was giving me those Goddess blessed puppy-dog eyes that in my own son I could never say no to. Damn. This time could very well be my last. I wasn't going to tell him that.

There was no one here to stop me this time. My kin were all in the outlands and they could not have stopped me if they wanted to. By law, it was my decision to make. My honor would not permit any other answer.

"Take me to her." He could not find the words to thank me. Nor would I want to hear them. I've heard them all before. I am over ninety summers old, and I'm tired. To be useful one last time would be an honor. My kin would understand, even if this young noble did not. Her put me on the horse ahead of him and we rode. It didn't take long to get there, but to me it felt like forever. I haven't been getting out much since the border wars. I must admit that I was excited about helping someone, and it's been too long since I've felt this way.

On our ride, I found out the young noble's name is Prince Nexan of Dran. His wife, Loren, wanted to visit the Weberly family and her husband decided they should make a vacation of it. The horse was spooked by a wolf, and she was thrown. He led me to their tent. Inside, Loren lie laboring to breath. I told him to leave us. I did not want him to see my frailty. Age does things to a person, and my hands were no longer steady. Her breathing was what concerned me most. I called forth my gift power. It made me warm inside. My hands glowed with blue-green fire and I scanned her to find her injuries. Six ribs were badly broken and two pierced her lungs. If I didn't act fast she was going to die.

My power wasn't what it used to be, but I called it forth and sent it into her body. Giving life to youth and death to the old. It's as it should be. I'm useful, for one last time.

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