The Healers Gift
By Lisa Winge

Chapter 5

They arrived in Whickham four days later without incident. That worried the small troupe. Tuck shook his head. "I can't believe we have gotten this far without any obstacles."

"I know what you mean and I'm starting to get worried." said Jacobi.

"Didn't she think it was a possibility we would come after her?"

"I have no idea what was going through her mind," said Elizabeth.

"What ever she is planning, we shall find out tomorrow, " said Robin.

"Let's just stay to our rooms tonight and leave early, before breakfast.

All agreed?" They all agreed and retired to their rooms for the night, unawares that someone was watching.

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"Your Majesty, they're here."

"Where? " asked the Queen.

"They're at Whickham and should reach here late tomorrow morning. What would you like us to do?" asked the guard.

"Have Caroline and Virginia arrived? " she asked.

"Yes ma'am. They are awaiting your orders at Gateshead."

"Good. " she said, taking a sealed parchment out of the writing dresser and handing it to the guard. "Take this to them." The guard bowed and left. Her plan was working perfectly. Tomorrow she would right the wrong she did so many years ago. Eleanor went to bed thinking about what she had just ordered and what it would do to her daughter

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Kathryn watched as the guards left and wondered what was happening. The Queen, true to her word, had stopped her visits to the twins and as a result, Jacob and Ellie were fully integrated into the family.

She walked into the dining room to hear Jacob's cry. "Down, Unca Nicky, down." As soon as his feet hit the floor, he was running toward Kathryn.

"Auntie Kat! Auntie Kat! Wook," he said handing her a wooden solider.

She accepted the wooden toy. "Been raiding your old toy chest, Nicholas?" she teased, idly turning over the much-worn toy. She bent towards the little boy. "Who is this? " she asked him.

" Unca Johnny," the boy said, puzzling Kathryn.

Not to be out done by her brother, Ellie ran over to her and handed her a handful of the soldiers.

"And who are these? " she asked the girl.

"Dat's Unca Mal," she said, pointing to a darker colored piece.

"And the rest?" she asked the two.

"Dat's Unca Robin, and Unca Tuck, and Auntie Mar-ie-on." they said at the same time.

Ellie had two more in her hand, and handed one to Jacob.

Kathryn smiled and touched the toy that Ellie had clutched tightly to her chest. "And what of these two? The ones you hold next to your heart. Who are they?"

Jacob's lip trembled as he held out his hand to her to show her. "Daddy."

Ellie did the same. "Mommy."

Kathryn was about to ask more when her father came in the other door. The twins at seeing him, squealed and ran to him, calling out " Papa, papa!"

Seeing her father's eyes light up when the children ran to him, made Elizabeth hold her tongue. She didn't want to spoil the moment for her father with her fears.

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Caroline looked at the orders, her face white, and handed the parchment to Virginia. She in turn, examined the parchment and looked wide-eyed at Caroline.

" Why?" she asked.

Caroline looked worried. " I don't know, but an order is an order."

Just before dawn, Robin woke, and swung his legs out of bed. They had paid the night before so they could get away quickly, telling the landlord not to bother with breakfast. He dressed and roused Little John. "I'll go wake the others," he whispered, and stepped out the door and down the hall, tapping on each door in turn.

Jacobi opened his door. "We're ready."

"So am I," said Marion leaving her room. "Diana is picking up her things."

Kemal and Tuck joined them in the hall.

"Let's go," Robin said.

They went quietly down the steps, Robin leading the way. At the bottom of the steps, he stopped, then stepped aside to make room for his friends. The landlord and his wife were sitting there in their nightclothes. The landlord got to his feet and approached them.

Robin cocked his head to one side. "There was no need for you go get up," he began. When he saw the landlords white face, he took a step forward.

"Is something wrong?"

The landlord licked his lips, began to speak and closed his mouth again. His wife gulped, looking terrified. Her gaze slid to a point beyond Robin's vision.

"Everyone down!" Robin shouted as a volley of arrows filled the room, one entering deeply into Diana's shoulder, the force knocking her down.

"Diana!! " bellowed Little John. He picked up a nearby table and with a bellow, went towards the assassins. The assassins saw Little John and ran, with Robin, Kemal, and Marion in pursuit. Little John threw down the table, which shattered as it hit the floor and ran to Diana's side.

Elizabeth got to her feet, and gently pushed Little John aside. "Let me take a look," she said.

Little John blue eyes were swimming with tears. "I promised I'd look after you, Diana. I let Robin down; I let you down."

"No, John, you did not let me down" Diana denied. "I am going to depend on you very much today."

"Little John," Elizabeth shoved him gently. "You must get back so I can see her injury."

"Okay," he gulped and stood back, but close enough to watch.

The arrow had hit the fleshy part in Diana shoulder. That was the good news. The bad was that it hadn't gone all the way through. She looked at Tuck and Jacobi and they both nodded.

" Little John..." started Tuck

" Yes?" he said nervously.

Jacobi gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Diana will be fine. I want you to go and put a pot of water on to boil. It has to boil, do you under stand?"

" But Diana...." the big man started.

" No buts. " said Diana. " Do as your told "

" Yes dear." and went to the kitchen. They could all hear him in the kitchen, banging pots.

" We don't really need the water." said Tuck.

" No, but it will keep him out of the way." she said.

"Maybe we should give him something?" remarked Tuck.

"Maybe you should give me something," stated Diana. They looked down at her. She seemed more annoyed at the fact that she was the one shot and not anyone else.

Elizabeth smiled. "Don't worry, Diana, we will give you something."

Tuck rummaged in his medicine pouch. "Yes, I have it right here." he said taking out a vile, and measuring a dose. He put it to Diana's mouth.

"Drink it down."

She took a sip and made a face. "Gad! That's awful. Why do healer's potions have to taste so vile."

"Drink it all," he reminded her and waited patiently for her to finish.

"You know, I have often wondered why medicine can't taste good. I'll have to look into that when I have the time."

"You do that," she said dryly.

Tuck started to get to his feet. Diana grasped his sleeve. "I think it would be wise to give some of the sedative to John. If you don't, he's just going to be in your way."

"She's right, you know." Jacobi agreed, taking Elizabeth's hand. "I think its safe to say that we are going to be here for a couple of more days, so it won't matter."

Elizabeth rubbed her face on his arm, then took a deep breath. "Okay," she said and went to the kitchen door. "Little John," she called.

He came running at her call. "I want you to pick Diana up, and carry her upstairs. Be very gentle and try not to move her arm too much."

" But the water..." he started.

" The innkeepers wife will tell us when it's ready. Now pick her up and be careful."

"I'll be very careful," he said. He bent and cradled her in his arms.

"Oh," she said quietly, then took her lower lip between her teeth.

He looked so terrified she gave a small chuckle and caressed his cheek.

"I'll walk slowly, Diana," he said and began the painstaking ascent.

A smile lit her sleepy eyes. "You know I trust you"

When he reached her room, Tuck and Elizabeth were there waiting for them, helping him to ease her on to the bed. Diana's heavy eye's closed, and she was asleep before the covers were pulled up around her.

"What's wrong? Why is she so sleepy?" Little John worried.

"It's all right," Tuck assured the giant. "We gave her something to minimize the pain, and so she wouldn't move too much. The arrow didn't go all the way through and we have to do is push it through, break it off and pull it out. The best thing you can do is to go downstairs and wait while we take care of her."

Crossing his arms across his great chest, Little John looked stubborn. "I won't leave her."

"Why did I know you were going to say that?" Jacobi took a vile from Elizabeth, and handed it to Little John. "I want you to drink all of this, then go and sit down over there."

" But Diane might need me...." he started.

" Don't argue, drink." said Elizabeth from over her shoulder.

"Yes ma'am," he replied and obediently drank the contents in one gulp.

Elizabeth smiled. "You'd better sit down." When he complied, Elizabeth turned back to her patient, and exposed the hurt shoulder.

Little John blushed, but continued to watch until his head drooped to his chest. Soon, he was snoring peacefully.

Amused, Jacobi laughed. "To bad he fell asleep just when it was getting interesting for him."

"Really, Jacobi," she began and he laughed. She bristled, and became very businesslike. "How much did you give him, Jacobi?"

"The whole thing."

"The whole thing!" she repeated. "That vial was made to put out four grown men! I hope it won't hurt him."

"This is Little John were talking about," he reminded her.

"I suppose you're right." She tapped her cheek. "It might give him a headache though, so keep that vial of headache potion close by." She turned her attention back to Diana. "Now," she said, "how do we want to do remove the arrow?"

"Why don't I push it through and you do the stitching. I'm not too good at that yet and I don't want to leave Diana with a big scar."

"All right," she said, going to her pouch. "I'll get my needle ready."

Tuck returned with the innkeeper's wife in his wake, each carrying a basin of hot water, which they sat on the bureau. "Would you mind staying in case we need you?"

"No, sir," she bobbed a curtsey.

"Thank you." he said and walked over to little John slumped on the floor.

"We really shouldn't leave him that way," he said.

"Probably not, but he insisted on staying," agreed Jacobi. "But he's too big to move."

"Let's just get him in a more comfortable position."

"I'll get some bedding," offered the landlady,

Tuck smiled at her and accepted the offer. " Thank you."

She bobbed another curtsey and stepped out of the room returning a few moments later with a pillow and blanket, which she placed on the floor. Jacobi and Tuck got Little John on his back, and put the pillow under his head. They were both sweating when they finished.

Wiping his brow, Jacobi went to his wife. "Are you ready, Elizabeth?"

"Yes."

Diana was propped on her side. When ready, Jacobi took hold of Diana's shoulder and pushed the arrow through. Elizabeth snapped of the arrowhead and handed it to Tuck. She then made sure there was no splinters at the snapped off end and nodded to Jacobi, who pulled the arrow out. Tuck, ready with some cloth, quickly put his hands over both wounds and pressed to stop the bleeding. Diana slept peacefully throughout the procedure.

Elizabeth, ready with another vile, poured the liquid over the arrowhead. When nothing happened and she was satisfied, she handed the arrowhead back to the wife.

"At least there was no poison on the arrow head," she said. "There is only one other thing that bothers me. I wonder why the head was blunt. Like it was meant to wound, not kill."

"I noticed that too," confirmed Tuck. "Maybe they were just trying to slow us down?"

"Could be," she replied absently.

Tuck took a deep breath. "You have to admit it worked."

Elizabeth looked thoughtful. "Yes they did."

When the bleeding stopped, Elizabeth stitched Diana, while Tuck held the wound together. When they finished, the wound was cleaned and dressed.

They were finishing up when Kemal came through the door.

"What did you find out?" Tuck asked.

"Downstairs," Kemal said with a jerk of his head.

"All right." said Elizabeth. She turned to the landlady. "Could you stay with her, please? I will be back as quickly as I can."

The landlady nodded. "Oh no problem dearie. I can looks after her. Least I can do for you."

End of Chapter Five

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