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Self Forgiveness

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Lirin silently fumed on his way through the straight, orderly streets of the market in the Kholin military camp. Of course he didn’t allow those emotions to show on his face, his expression as calm and collected as always. Despite his experience, the surgeons in camp were once again sending him on odd gathering jobs, as if he were some newbie apprentice.

It speaks well of them Lirin reminded himself again. A new surgeon should not be trusted, until his skill has been proven. In a few days you will have had the opportunity to prove yourself, and you will stop wasting your time on children’s errands.

It still rubbed him the wrong way. He hated being away from his work, especially when so many needed treatment after the disaster on the Tower. It had been two weeks since that fateful day, but the Kholin camp was still full of people who have not been treated yet. The waiting rooms were packed with those whose injuries were not severe enough to warrant immediate attention.

Lirin and his wife had arrived at the shattered planes three days earlier, but have already heard a hundred tales of what had happened that day. The soldiers talked about a great, bloody battle against the Parshendi, that started as a sign of hope and friendship. Of Sadeas’ betrayal, of hopeless hours spent fighting the overwhelming numbers of enemies. Of a miracle, a single group of bridgemen that were brave enough to save an entire army. And of their leader, the legendary stormblessed, who had survived a highstorm, and fought like one.

Lirin put his musings aside as he entered the apothecary’s shop. The room inside was dimly lit by a few candles, and it smelled like herbs and antiseptic. A pair of men in blue kholin uniforms were standing at the counter arguing with the apothecary, an old man with squinty eyes and a mean attitude.

“I am telling you one last time,” the apothecary snapped, “I will not have any more supplies for at least a few more days. No one in all of the camps does. There is a shortage, and there is nothing you can do about it, no matter how many times a day you come to bother me. Now go away!” the old man’s voice became shrill towards the end.

“No need to shout,” the soldier standing at the front snapped back. He was middle aged with salt and pepper hair, a neat grey beard, and lieutenant’s knots on his shoulders. “You’ve been telling us that you’re going to get it in a few days for a week now. Anyway, our captain just wants to keep track of the situation, always have a full stock, ya know? He’s a bit obsessive.” His expression was exasperated but surprisingly fond. Lirin had rarely seen soldiers talking about their commanding officer like that.

“Nevermind,” said the man, “we’ll be out of your hair now”. He grinned at the apothecary's bald pate, and he and his silent companion turned to go. Spotting Lirin he grunted. “Not much point to it pal, they’re empty.”

”I can see that,” Lirin answered dryly. “You don’t happen to know where one can buy knobweed sap, do you? We are running low on it, and it would pose quite a problem if I come back empty handed.”

His brow furrowed with worry. He was running possibilities through his mind, trying to find a solution for this unexpected problem. They might be able to use lesser antiseptics, but then the risk of infection spreading would be much higher. Lirin began to fidget nervously as he realized the repercussions of his possible failure.

He was jolted back to reality by the soldiers voice. “That might be a problem,” the older man said, frowning. “If the surgeons run out, the whole army will be crawling with rotspren in a few days,” for a moment he looked like he was debating something with himself, and then he seemed to reach a decision.

He looked at his companion, who seemed to understand what he was thinking, and both of them shrugged. “You know,” he said slowly, “the bridges have their own medical supplies, and we happen to have lots of knobweed sap.” Both men seemed to be darkly amused at that for some reason. “I’m sure captain won’t mind if we give you some.”

Immense relief washed through Lirin. “That would be very kind of you,” he said to the soldier. “I will pay for everything, of course.”

“Then come along,” grunted the soldier, and they all turned to go to the former bridgemen’s barracks.