‘All right,’ the physician said to Sephrenia, ‘sit here, and I’ll have a look at that arm.’
‘You may if it’s going to make you happy, Doctor,’ she replied, taking the chair and removing her arm from the sling. She pulled back the sleeve of her robe to reveal a surprisingly girlish arm.
The doctor looked a bit hesitantly at Sparhawk. ‘You understand, of course, that I’m not being forward with your sister’s person, but I must examine her’
‘I understand the procedure, Doctor.’
Tanjin took a deep breath and then bent Sephrenia’s wrist back and forth several times. Then he gently ran his fingers up her forearm and bent her elbow. He swallowed hard and probed at her upper arm. Then he moved her arm up and down with his fingers lightly touching her shoulder. His close-set eyes narrowed. ‘There’s nothing wrong with this arm,’ he accused.
‘How kind you are to say so,’ she murmured, removing her veil.
‘Madame!’ he said in a shocked voice ‘Cover yourself!’
‘Oh, do be serious, Doctor,’ she told him. ‘We’re not here to talk about arms and legs.’
‘You’re spies!’ he gasped.
‘In a manner of speaking, yes,’ she replied calmly ‘But even spies have reason to consult with physicians once in a while’
‘Leave at once,’ he ordered.
‘We’ve just got here,’ Sparhawk said, pushing back his hood. ‘Go ahead, sister dear,’ he said to Sephrenia. ‘Tell him why we’re here’
‘Tell me, Tanjin,’ she said, ‘does the word “Darestim” mean anything to you?’
He started guiltily and looked at the curtained doorway, backing away from her.
‘Don’t be modest, Doctor,’ Sparhawk told him. ‘Word’s been going about that you cured the king’s brother and several of his nephews after they’d been poisoned with Darestim.’
‘There’s no proof of that.’
‘I don’t need proof. I need a cure. A friend of ours has the same condition.’
‘There’s no antidote or cure for Darestim.’
‘Then how is it that the king’s brother still lives?’
‘You’re working with them,’ the doctor accused, pointing vaguely out towards the square. ‘You’re trying to trick me into a confession.’
‘Them who?’ Sparhawk asked.
‘The fanatics who follow Arasham. They’re trying to prove that I use witchcraft in my practice.’
The doctor shrank back. ‘Please leave,’ he begged. ‘You’re putting my life in terrible danger.’
‘As you’ve probably noticed, Doctor,’ Sephrenia said, ‘we are not Rendorish. We do not share the prejudices of your countrymen, so magic does not offend us. It’s quite routine in the place we come from.’
He blinked at her uncertainly
‘This friend of ours – the one I mentioned before – is very dear to us,’ Sparhawk told him, ‘and we’ll go to any lengths to find a cure for this poison.’ To emphasize his point, he opened his robe. ‘Any lengths at all.’
The doctor gaped at his mail-coat and sheathed sword.
‘There’s no need to threaten the doctor, brother dear,’ Sephrenia said. ‘I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to describe the cure he’s found. He is a healer, after all.’
‘Madame, I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Tanjin said desperately. ‘There is no cure for Darestim. I don’t know where you heard all these rumours, but I can assure you that they’re absolutely false. I do not use witchcraft in my practice.’ He threw another quick, nervous glance at the curtained doorway.
‘But Doctor Voldi in Cippria told us that you did, in fact, cure members of the king’s family.’
‘Well yes, I suppose I did, but the poison wasn’t Darestim.’
‘What was it then?’
‘Uh Porgutta – I think.’ He was obviously lying.
‘Then why was it that the king sent for you, Doctor?’ she pressed. ‘A simple purge will cleanse the body of Porgutta. An apprentice physician knows that. Surely it couldn’t have been so mild a poison.’
‘Uh – well, maybe it was something else. I forget, exactly’
‘I think, dear brother,’ Sephrenia said then to Sparhawk, ‘that the good doctor needs some reassurance – some positive proof that he can trust us and that we are what we say we are.’ She looked at the irritating bumblebee still stubbornly trying to break its way out through the window. ‘Have you ever wondered why you never see a bumblebee at night, Doctor?’ she asked the frightened physician.
‘I’ve never given it any thought.’
‘Perhaps you should.’ She began to murmur in Styric as her fingers wove the designs of the spell.
‘What are you doing?’ Tanjin exclaimed. ‘Stop that!’ He started to move towards her with one hand outstretched, but Sparhawk stopped him.
‘Don’t interfere,’ the big knight said.
Then Sephrenia pointed her finger and released the spell.
The buzzing sound of insect wings was suddenly joined by a tiny, piping voice that sang joyously in a tongue unknown to man. Sparhawk looked quickly at the dust-clouded window. The bumblebee was gone, and in its place there hovered a tiny female figure directly out of folklore. Her pale hair cascaded down her back between rapidly beating gossamer wings. Her little nude body was perfectly formed, and her minuscule face was so lovely as to stop the breath.
That is how bumblebees think of themselves,’ Sephrenia said quite calmly, ‘and perhaps that is what they truly are – by day a common insect, but by night a creature of wonder.’
Tanjin had fallen back on his shabby couch with his eyes wide and his mouth agape.
‘Come here, little sister,’ Sephrenia crooned to the fairy, extending one hand.
The fairy swooped about the room, her transparent wings buzzing and her tiny voice soaring. Then she delicately settled on Sephrenia’s outstretched palm with her wings still fanning at the air. Sephrenia turned and stretched her hand out to the shaking physician. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ she asked. ‘You may hold her if you like – but be wary of her sting.’ She pointed at the tiny rapier in the fairy’s hand.
Tanjin shrank away with his hands behind his back. ‘How did you do that?’ he asked in a trembling voice.