“Come with me, Madam.”
The woman full of good health leaned down to pick the homeless elder by the upper arms. The woman smiled softly as she helped the elder carefully walk to her home. The woman pushed open the wooden door that creaked and announced their arrival.
“Wilpen! Who are you bringing in this time?” A voice called from across the room. The voice belonged to a young man who had a slight slur to his tone. He leans over the round table surrounded by drunken bodies that fell unconscious upon the bar floor. In his hands is a half filled pint of beer that spilled with every shake of his arm.
“Don’t mind us. I’ll be taking this one upstairs,” the woman, Wilpen, replied as she adjusted her grip on the elder and continued up the steps.
Wilpen led the way up the stairs until she stopped to carefully open a door and continue. She sat the elder on a bed and quickly left to return with a bucket of warm water and a cloth.
“Okay, Madam, let’s clean you up a bit. Don’t worry this is just some warm water,” Wilpen reassured as she wrung out the water from the cloth. The woman carefully wiped the buildup on the elder’s skin only to realize what was underneath that haggard appearance. Wilpen gasped as she completely wiped the suspected elder’s face then pushed back their tangled locks of hair from their face.
“You’re… so young… I’m sorry, I didn’t realize,” the woman said as she cupped the younger’s face and carefully wiped the crevices she missed.
Before the woman was no longer the elder she had picked up off the street, but a young woman with a rat’s nest for hair and tired skin. In each crevice of her skin was dirt so packed in that was hard to get with a simple wet cloth. The young woman looked defeated and already accepted her fate that was soon to come. Her tired eyes were the perfect sample of the loss of light in one’s soul.
Wilpen avoided the younger’s eyes and looked down at the her body only to wonder what else she hides under her cloak. What horror will be seen on the younger’s body from surviving hardships.
Wilpen pulled the girl to her feet and guided her out the room to a bathroom. She sat the younger one on a stool as she prepared a bath. She turned to the younger and sighed at the sight then carefully pulled off the cloak.
A scream echoed through the building and hurried footsteps ran to find the source.
The door slammed open to reveal the young drunk from before, now sober from the adrenaline rush, who had ran the second he heard the scream. He saw Wilpen on the floor covering her mouth in horror. And he saw the lump of a human she brought in who was seated on a stool with lifeless eyes. His eyes immediately caught what was the source of Wilpen’s screams.
The human Wilpen brought in was a young woman with bandages covering what was left of her arms. From where the elbows once were and down was nothing, what remained were hastily wrapped bandages covering in dried blood. There were bruised lines of injuries that could be from anything like a knife or a whip on the younger’s shoulder that seemed to continue on the back.
The young man heard a couple of gasps then turned to see he wasn’t the only one who hurried to Wilpen’s aid. He quickly turned and pushed everyone who huddled at the door and closed it.
“Wilpen…,” the man said softly.
The woman looked over her shoulder at the man revealing her tear stricken face. She wiped her tears and sniffed then inhaled a shaky breath.
“I’m fine… can you bring my kit?” Wilpen asked as she trembled but forced herself to get off the floor. She carefully held what was left of the girl’s amputated arms.
The man quickly left and returned with a metal box. “Anything else?”
Wilpen swallowed as she found the end of the girl’s bandages. “Help me.”
He watched as Wilpen carefully unraveled the younger’s wrappings that crinkled and flaked off bits of dried blood on the bathroom floor. Wilpen gagged at the horrific, almost inhuman sight of the girl’s arm. Despite this, Wilpen swallowed her bile and got to work.
“There aren’t any signs of infections… and the wound has closed up significantly… but how? Considering her current state, the wound should be bleeding and infected and in desperate need of care but… it’s already healing.”
Wilpen closely examined the fresh layer of a scab that covered the wound. She pressed her hand over the girl’s forehead but was surprised to find she had a normal temperature.
“Are you in any pain, Sweetheart?” Asked Wilpen as she lowered herself to meet with the girl’s lifeless eyes.
The girl stared blankly and Wilpen carefully caressed the girl’s hair as if petting a pitiful, injured creature. Wilpen repeated, “Are you in any pain?”
The girl finally broke from her trance but said nothing and stared at Wilpen. Wilpen, in response, added, “I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”
The girl stared at the woman who waited for her response. Her empty eyes stared into Wilpen’s hopeful, worried eyes as if she were but a doll.
“Please, I only wish to help you,” Wilpen pleaded.
The girl continued to stare blankly before her mouth fell open—revealing what was inside it, or rather, what it now lacked. Wilpen gasped and fell from to her bottom as she covered her mouth in shock. The young man couldn’t help but stare at the pitiful sight.
The girl’s tongue was cut clean off and was just a small nub that rest in her mouth. Wilpen ran to the toilet and released the contents of her stomach as the man turned from the sight. The only sounds were Wilpen’s cries of pity and the splash of the toilet water when her vomit fell.
“Who did this to you?” Asked the young man as he kneeled to look up at the girl carefully.
The girl only stared blankly back at the boy. She didn’t do anything but stare and sit on that stool. The man sighed then lowered her chin to see the damage in her mouth. Nothing else was damaged but the tongue looked to be nightmare fuel for anyone.
“Do you know how to write?” He asked as he got up, he had hoped that despite her current state, she would be able to communicate to some degree.
The girl was like a statue. Not a single type of response came from her. She was more of a soulless shell than human. It was sincerely pitiful.
“I’ll get paper and pen for you. Maybe you can write something for us,” he said as he turned but hesitated to leave, seeing Wilpen’s state.
Without a word, Wilpen waved him off and he left. Wilpen ran her mouth under the sink and sighed. With shaking hands, Wilpen tucked the girl’s hair behind her ear then hugged her. Her shaken voice whispered softly as she rubbed the girl’s back, “I’m so sorry this happened to you… You should’ve never gone through what happened to you, no matter the crime.”
Wilpen released the girl then said, “I’m going to take care of you. Trust me, Sweetheart.”
Wilpen checked the girl’s wounds then said, “I can’t tell if this hurts you or not… you’re not sick and your wounds are healing… do you want something to eat while we wait for Japlir?”
Again, no response.
Wilpen caressed the girl’s head before saying, “I’m going to make some porridge that will make you feel much better. Okay? Wait here for Japlir, you can trust him.”
Wilpen left and the second she turned the corner in the hallway, her legs collapsed beneath her. Her body erupted into a small fit of tremors and her mouth dried from her silent cries. Her hand unconsciously rose to her mouth as if to stop herself from even thinking of puking once more. Her tears overflowed her lids and fell to the floor from her plump cheeks.
Japlir returned as promised with pen and paper. He set the paper on a small table he took from a bedroom and placed the pen in the girl’s mouth. The pen fell from the girl’s mouth and Japlir sighed.
“You know how to write… right? Look, bring back memories?” He asked as he took the pen and began to write his name as well as Wilpen’s.
He hesitated putting the pen in her mouth again and cringed at what just happened. I put a pen in a woman’s mouth, what am I thinking? He thought to himself. But he also didn’t know how else to get her to write. Until he looked down and his eyes landed on her feet.
He mentally sighed then offered, “How about writing with your feet?”
Again, there was no reply from the girl. So, Japlir took it upon himself to place the pen carefully between her toes until he noticed something on her feet. He looked up at the soulless eyes that stared blankly through him for some kind of response then lifted her foot.
There were strange markings on her foot that looked like they were scratched into her skin. He rubbed his finger along the markings but they didn’t seem to be from a pen of sorts. No, this was in her skin, like a scar. But could this be a scar?
“What happened to you…?” Japlir mumbled under his breath as he placed the pen between her toes—a bit embarrassed because of how it looks—then helped guide her foot along the paper. The pen dragged along the paper as her body became lifeless again and the pen met with the wooden floor.
“It’s okay… we’ll figure something out,” Japlir said as he picked up the pen and paper and pushed the table aside.
Japlir sat on the floor and looked at the girl closely. Sure enough, behind the dirt and grime and doll-like appearance, she was young. Maybe even around his age if he could guess.
“Well… welcome to Cozy Inn and Bar. It’s run by Wilpen, the woman you were with. I’m a frequent customer here so I think we’ll be seeing each other often.” Japlir leaned back and felt the uncomfortable atmosphere slowly close in on him. He didn’t know what to do—well, what can he do? He was just a simple customer at this Inn who dabbled in smithing. Nothing in his life could have prepared him for this moment.
Finally, the atmosphere beat him and he decided to talk to her. “My name’s Japlir. I work at my father’s smithing shop; I’m not as good but I’m getting the hang of it. I can make smaller things like rings and daggers. Maybe I can make you a kitchen set when you start getting comfortable, how about it?”
As expected, no response. Japlir sighed then asked, “Do you have a name? Just a nod or a shake of the head will do.”
She only stared blankly back at Japlir. This didn’t discourage Japlir. He could only imagine what she was going through because of the wounds she bears.
“That’s fine… take your time. I can wait. I’m not a very talkative type, but I got a few stories up my sleeve. Or would you like to hear some of the ladies’ gossip nowadays? The women who frequent the Inn’s bar like to tell me what they heard to see if it’s just rumor or facts. I’m sure even you wouldn’t mind hearing some juicy details?”
Japlir sighed and gathered some of the latest gossip that he buried in his mind. He wasn’t much a gossiper like the women at the Inn but he thought it was important to at least remember it.
“Oh, here’s something that’s been buzzing around as of late. Recently, the duke of Claorin was caught ogling some youngin’s at the girls academy. They say he’s going to marry one off to his son as an excuse to keep her by his side for who knows what. Rumor has it his wife is gathering the income to divorce him.”
Japlir glanced up at the girl in hopes to catch some kind of reaction from his words but got nothing. Japlir scratched his head as if doing so will give him some kind of idea.
“I suppose gossip isn’t really your cup of tea, huh? How about… The son of Baron Lipsil is getting married to a woman who owns a clothing store? They met when he was shopping at her store and started to frequent it until he finally got the courage to ask for her hand in marriage.”
“I guess romance gossip isn’t for you either… so scandal and romance are topics you’re not into… how about crime? Hmm… there isn’t much going on since the big murder in the palace. Guards walk the streets nowadays and it’s hard to even look at the palace walls. Rumor has it...nevermind, maybe that's too graphic for now.”
Japlir glanced up at her again to see anything, but to his expectations he got nothing again. He sighed and asked, “How badly were you treated to make you like this?”
Japlir got to his feet and picked up the robe that had fallen on the floor back when Wilpen first caught sight of the girl’s arms. He grabbed a wash basin and board then got to work cleaning the dirty cloth.
Not too long after Japlir hung the cloth to dry, Wilpen came walking through the bathroom door with a warm bowl of porridge. Japlir, who knew Wilpen for a few years, noticed the forced smile on her face that tried to reassure them.
“I’m back, Sweetheart. Some warm porridge for a sick girl, I hope it’s not too hot…,” Wilpen said as she pulled out the table and set it up for the girl. She gathered a spoonful of porridge then said, “Open wide.”
Wilpen lowered the girl’s jaw then closed it and was about ready to get another spoonful as the girl swallowed until a wet sound hit the floor. Wilpen looked up to see the girl’s mouth open, eyes lifeless, and the porridge that had fallen from her lips. Wilpen teared up and couldn’t fight the forced cheery disposition.
“I don’t know what to do… I’m so sorry Sweetheart,” Wilpen whimpered out as she stood defeated next to the girl. “I wish I knew how to help you…”
Japlir stared at Wilpen who cried with her head hanging down and hugging the girl. Japlir then stood up to take Wilpen’s place and took the porridge.
“I think I have an idea on how to feed her but it could be dangerous…,” Japlir said as he leaned the girl’s head back and carefully poured the porridge down her throat. Japlir hesitated and waited to see if the girl gave any kind of reaction that she was choking. He thought that the girl would at least give some kind of warning that she couldn’t breathe. But he was wrong.
It didn’t take long for Wilpen to realize the girl’s body wasn’t expanding with every breath. Wilpen quickly jumped into action and bent the girl over and opened her mouth. Without any effort, the porridge easily slid out of the girl’s mouth.
Wilpen sat the girl down and fell to the floor in utter defeat. “What do we do, Japlir…? How are we supposed to keep her alive?”
But Japlir wasn’t defeated. Not yet, especially when things didn’t make sense. “Wilpen, how has she survived this long without eating…? It doesn’t make sense.”
Wilpen looked at the girl and said, “I don’t know… she wasn’t with anyone when I found her. I found her lying on the ground surrounded by flies. When I asked around, no one recognized her and someone said she wasn’t there before.”
“So she came from nowhere…?” Japlir asked as he tried to put together how she survived to be around his age when she couldn’t even eat by herself.
“Japlir, can you come over tomorrow morning? I think I’ll just let her get some rest after bathing her… maybe we can think of something with fresh minds,” Wilpen offered as she grabbed a towel and guided him out the bathroom.
“I have to meet with a Baron from out of town in the morning but I’ll try to get here as fast as I can,” Japlir said as he walked out.
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