“And then the Princess kissed the Prince, and he stopped being a statue, and his magic horse came alive again, and they got on it, and flew away to the Kingdom of Gold, and got murried,” said Malina cheerfully. “And that’s how come there are seasons. The end!” She smiled at Justinian. “Wasn’t that neat?”
Justinian managed a nod. “Very nice, Your Precious Grace,” he whispered.
“Do you want to hear another story?” she asked eagerly. “I know bunches of them!”
“I think I shall have to decline,” the Sacristan replied gently. “I am… rather tired.”
“Awww.” Malina pouted. “Not even the story about the Dragon and the rainbow? It’s real short!”
Justinian lay back and shut his eyes, and tried desperately to come up with an even more polite way to say no. At this point, he was saved by the door opening, and Balthazar Subtle entering the room, with Justinian’s elder sister in tow . “How’s my favorite patient?” asked the chirurgeon.
“Tired,” said Justinian.
“Ahh, yes,” said the Goblin. “I have something for that.” He glanced at the young Dev, and smiled broadly. “If Your Precious Grace would be so kind as to get me my satchel, it’d be of great help. It’s back in my quarters.”
Malina nodded. “Right! I’m helping! I’m good at helping!” She shut her eyes and vanished.
Theodora chuckled gently. “You know if the Cthoniques ever want to change their reputation in the Lands of Light, they should introduce Malina to more people.”
“The enthusiasm of youth is wondrous tonic,” noted Balthazar with a chuckle. He glanced at Justinian. “Though sometimes, its dosage must be… regulated. I do hope your pains are lessening…”
Justinian nodded. “Faster than I thought they could. Though I’m amazed at how… tired I feel…”
“We are encouraging your body to heal more swiftly than is the norm,” said Subtle casually. “This process… tends to be somewhat exhausting.” He gave the Milesian an encouraging pat on the shoulder. “You should be fine.”
“I… thank you.” Justinian shut his eyes once again. “Honestly, I’m almost ashamed to be taking up so much of your time.”
Theodora sighed. “Ivanushka…”
“It’s just… after all I’ve done, the Cthoniques continue to shower kindness on me,” the Sacristan said. “I have never felt so low…”
“Ten years ago, during the Festival of Saint Irene,” said Theodora.
“All right, all right,” said Justinian. “I’ve seldom felt so low.”
“Boy, my family spent two decades trying to kill the Cthoniques,” said Subtle. “Their ultimate response was to pay for my entrance into the Chirurgical Guild.” He shrugged. “‘Don’t bemoan mercy’ is my motto…”
“I thought it was ‘fools are common everywhere’,” said Justinian.
“…in these situations,” finished the Goblin. “I have many mottoes, Squire Sigma. Many of which are applicable at many times.”
“I’m BACK!” said Malina, handing Balthazar a small bag. “Can I tell the story now?”