I know I said that Arris would probably stay my own private Fantasy novel, but I thought I would share a little with the world and give Arris a moment in the sun. This extract is taken from a draft that has not been worked on for over ten years and is reproduced exactly how it was left, unedited, despite any temptations I might have had to tinker with it. In it, Arris, embroiled in the affairs of the Lance family, is taking care of Lewis, who, having made himself unpopular in the town since arriving with the news of Henri Lance’s disappearance, was attacked and severely beaten.
He watched out of the window for a bit, to pass the time, but the interest that provided soon faded. When he took his seat by the bed, he found himself falling asleep. The tensions of the past few days had meant restless and sleepless nights. At one point he jerked up to realize he had been dozing, and then he was on his feet in seconds. He paced around the room, moving quietly so as not to disturb Lewis. He was really hoping that he wouldn’t wake up until Ki had returned. Once more he was drawn to sword. It was as if it was too large and bright for this mundane setting that it kept attracting him to it like gold or jewels. Finally, Arris picked up Lewis’s cloak and flung it over the top, hiding it from his sight. Then he went back to watching at the window. Only two hours had passed, but he watched hopefully for signs of Ki returning.
He sat there for so long that he forgot about Lewis sleeping in the bed. So, when he heard a soft moaning, he was taken by surprise, and jumped up guiltily. He went to the bed, and saw Lewis had opened his eyes and was looking around in bewilderment.
“Ki?” he asked. “Is that you?” It was great effort for him to talk, and he obviously couldn’t see very well through his swollen eyes. Arris moved closer to the bed.
“No, he isn’t here,” he said. “I’m Arris Cole, from Lance farm. We met last night, in the Albatross. Do you remember?”
“No,” said Lewis. “I can’t move.”
“You were attacked last night, in the street,” said Arris. “Someone mugged you. You’re quite badly injured. You’re in the inn.”
“Where’s Ki?” asked Lewis.
“He’s gone to meet your friends,” said Arris. “He was worried that they would be waiting for you. He’s coming back later tonight.”
“Good,” said Lewis, and closed his eyes again.
“Are you alright?” asked Arris. “Can I get you anything?”
“Water,” croaked Lewis.
Arris quickly filled a cup and held it to Lewis’s battered lips. Lewis tried to lift his head but couldn’t, so Arris had to put his hand behind his head and lift him slightly. Some water trickled into Lewis’s mouth, but a great deal went down his neck. Lewis spluttered and coughed, causing Arris to spill even more water. He cursed and flailed around looking for a cloth or towel, but could see none. Eventually, Lewis got his lips around the cup and was able to drink. When he had had enough, Arris put the cup down and began looking for a cloth to wipe the wet from Lewis’s neck.
“How about some beer?” asked Lewis.
Arris hadn’t expected this. “There is none,” he said. “Should I go and get some?”
“No, don’t bother,” said Lewis. “You’d only spill it all down my neck. That would be a waste of beer.”
“I’m sorry,” said Arris. He ended up using a scarf that he had found and mopped up the dampness.
“You make a terrible nurse,” said Lewis.
“I know, sorry,” said Arris. “I’m supposed to go and fetch the physician when you’re awake. They thought it was best to wake till you woke up before they did anything. And the magistrate is going to want to talk to you, about last night.”
Lewis grunted. “I’m alright,” he said. “I don’t need a physician.”
“I think you probably do” said Arris. “Ki thinks you’ve got broken ribs, and a broken shoulder.”
“What could a physician do about that?” asked Lewis. “I’ll heal myself, in time.”
“But it’s best not to take chances,” said Arris. “And you must be in pain. He could give you something for that.”
“I doubt it,” said Lewis. “There isn’t a cure for broken bones or pain so far as I know. A beer would do as much.”
Arris studied Lewis carefully. It didn’t look as if he was boasting. He admired his courage, but he had been given instructions that he didn’t dare not carry out. He got up and was about to leave the room and go downstairs to see the innkeeper, when Lewis called him back.
“Wait,” he said. “Why are you here? I remember you going home last night.”
“Ki came to the farm this morning to get some help from Lance,” said Arris. “He had no money and didn’t know what to do.” He was suddenly excited. “Do you remember me at the tavern last night.”
“I remember talking to you, and you going,” said Lewis.
“So you remember some of last night,” said Arris. “Do you remember Ki leaving?”
Lewis thought for a moment and said, “I think so. Did he go with you?”
“He came out after me,” said Arris. “And then he went home. Do you remember anything of what happened next?”
Again Lewis was quiet for a minute. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I remember Ki not coming back, but I stayed anyway. There was that pretty girl behind the bar.” He paused, thinking more. “I was talking to the girl,” he said. “But someone kept interrupting. Yes, a young man, kept butting in. I thought maybe the girl was his girlfriend. I can’t remember whether she was or not, but I don’t think that’s what he was bothered about. But I got rid of him.”
“And what then?” asked Arris. “What happened when you left the tavern.”
“Oh I don’t know,” said Lewis. “It was much later, and I’d had a skinfull. I can’t remember anything.”
Arris’s feelings at that moment were a mixture of disappointment and relief. He was longing to know the truth, but didn’t want to hear Kal’s name.
“Look, I’ve got to go and get the physician,” he said. “Ki told me to, it’s got nothing to do with me.”
“And bring some ale back with you,” said Lewis.
Arris went downstairs and found the innkeeper. The man was in the bar, and did not look too happy to see Arris.
“Lewis is awake,” said Arris. “We have to get the physician.”
“I’m busy,” snapped the Innkeeper. “He would wake up just now, wouldn’t he.”
“I’ll go,” said Arris.
He went, and was glad to find the physician was more willing to help. He came immediately, and asked Arris questions about Lewis’s state on the way. Arris told him what Lewis had said, and also about his request for ale. The physician laughed. “Well, he can’t be too bad then,” he said. “I don’t think it will do him any harm. This is a right mess for Lance to be caught up in. I heard about his son. It’s a damn shame. With any luck, we should be able to get Lewis on the road again soon.”
Despite his protestations, Lewis remained calm and patient while the physician examined him. He was clearly in a lot of pain and once again Arris admired him for not crying out once the whole time. His teeth were clenched tightly together, and he never took his eyes off the physicians face. When the examination was over, Lewis was the first to speak. “Well?” he asked.
“It’s not so bad,” said the physician. “The bruising is bad, but nothing to serious. Only that cut under your lip will need a few stitches. There are a couple of cracked ribs, and there’s not much I can do for those. It just needs rest to heal them. The main thing is going to be that shoulder bone. I’m going to have to reset it, and that’s going to be painful.”
“You’d better get on with it,” said Lewis.
“Ah, Arris, maybe you would like to go downstairs and fetch a mug of ale for Lewis,” said the physician. “He’s going to need it after this.”
Arris saw the grim look on Lewis’s face, and went immediately. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard a screaming yell from Lewis’s room. He winced at the thought. In the bar, the innkeeper gave him the ale without any questions. He looked a little more concerned now and Arris guessed he had heard the scream too. Slowly he went back upstairs, stopping to knock t the door before he went in.
In the bed, Lewis was still conscious, and breathing heavily through gritted teeth. His right arm lay limply across his chest. His eyes widened when he saw the mug and he struggled to sit up, despite the pain. The physician helped him, and with more skill than Arris had managed earlier, helped Lewis to drink. Lewis drained the mug in one go, then fell back.
“What now?” asked Arris.
“There’s not much we can do,” said the physician. “I can’t splint his shoulder. All I can do is strap his arm tightly to his chest, to stop him moving it while it heals. I’ll need your help.”
“Certainly,” said Arris.
Together, he and the physician lifted Lewis up into a sitting position, and Arris held him while the physician went on with the bandaging. Lewis was very weak now and leant against Arris, reminding Arris of the rag dolls his sisters had had as children. His upper torso was bare for the procedure, and Arris examined it, unable to miss the various scars that marked it. Underneath the fresh bruises, Arris could see many old scars. One ran deep and viscous down his left side and across his belly. Arris ran his fingers along it gently.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“An old wound,” muttered Lewis. “An old friend tried to take my guts out. He nearly did too. That time, I really was lucky.”
“By the looks of it, this isn’t your first beating,” said the physician.
“Far from it,” said Lewis. “And not nearly the worst. Do I shock you?”
“Not me,” said the physician cheerily. “It’s men like you that keep men like me in business.”
“What about you Arris?” said Lewis. “I bet I don’t look so wonderful now?”
“You never did,” said Arris lightly. He realised that Lewis was desperately fighting to stay awake until the physician was finished, and the talking was his help. “I always thought you looked a bit silly, striding around with that huge sword, as if there were going to be any dragons to attack in this village. It didn’t do you much good when you needed it.”
“I was drunk,” said Lewis. “That’s the effect this place has on me. I had to drink myself stupid to make it bearable.”
“I suppose it must seem very dull to someone like you,” said Arris. “But it’s a small village. It doesn’t aspire to anything greater.”
“It achieved it last night,” said Lewis. “It usually takes more than a few pints of ale to floor me. I’d like to meet the man. I should give him a place on my team.”
For once, Lewis’s arrogance didn’t irritate Arris.
“Ok, I’m finished,” said the physician. He and Arris gently lay Lewis back down. “Now I have to stitch that cut under you lip. It won’t take long, but you’ll have to shut up while I do it.”
“Can’t I have another beer first?” asked Lewis.
“No,” said the physician. “Now lie still and shut up.”
When Arris realised his assistance was not required, he turned away, glad not to have to watch. He went over to the window, wondering what was going on at Lance farm. Was Kal found? Had Calla returned? Somehow, he was glad he was not there. He had a feeling that Roberts had planned it to be that way. And he was sure he should feel proud that both he and Lance had felt him suitable to stay with Lewis while Ki was away.
“Alright Arris, you can look now,” said the physician finally, and Arris turned round. Lewis was lying very still with his eyes closed.
“Is he alright?” Arris asked in a whisper.
“I’m fine,” said Lewis, slowly but clearly.
“He will be,” said the physician. “Tell Ki not to worry. I’ll be back tomorrow to check up on my handy work.”
“Nothing could stop Ki from worrying,” said Lewis. “Can I have that beer now?”
“If you think you can manage it,” said the physician. “Come on Arris, you can walk me down and get his ale.”
The physician gathered up his stuff and went downstairs with Arris.
“Is he really alright?” asked Arris.
“Like he said himself, he’s had worse,” said the physician. “But he must go easy for the next few weeks, or his bones won’t heal. Tell Ki that he’s to keep Lewis in bed as long as he can. He mustn’t even think of moving him for at least a week or two.”
“Ki won’t like that,” said Arris.
“Well, he may not, but he doesn’t have any choice,” said the physician. “I’m sure this town can cope with Lewis for another couple of weeks.”
“Ok, I’ll tell him,” said Arris. “Thank you for coming.”
“I’m paid for it,” said the physician. “Thank you for your help.”
The physician left, and Arris got another mug of ale for Lewis. But when he took it back upstairs, he found Lewis fast asleep once more. After the physician’s advice, he thought it best to leave him, and so he sat by the bed and drank the ale himself. Some hours had now passed since Ki had left, and Arris hoped he would return soon, but he couldn’t be bothered to sit and watch at the window. And presently, at his seat by the bed, he fell asleep himself.