Armin rubbed his eyes and peeked down from the loft at the first thump. It was very late at night for a patron to be arriving at the inn, but then they were the only place for miles. He gasped as what he’d taken to be an arriving patron collapsed against the door of one of the stalls.

“Sir?” he whispered. He carefully climbed down and approached the prone form hesitantly. He edged slowly closer to the man until he was beside him. Almost as if he expected the man to snatch at him, he reached his hand out and nudged the man.

At the first moan, Armin had moved clear across the room. A glance out the window told him that the inn was closed for the night. He paced from one foot to another and then made his way over to the semi-conscious man again.

“Get a grip, Armin,” he admonished himself softly. Then he knelt beside the man once more and nudged him gently. “Sir?” he said. He placed a hand on the man’s forehead and frowned. He was fevered, that much was obvious.

Biting his lip, he pushed the man onto his back. He frowned as he saw the man’s condition. “I’m going to undress you but I swear, I don’t mean anything by it, “ he told the man, not even sure if he was aware what his diminutive caretaker was saying.

Removing the man’s clothes revealed more injuries, some of which were red and inflamed. At least one wept clear fluid as well. Armin clicked his tongue and, hoping that medicine that worked well for horse injuries would work as well on eldar, began dressing to the wounds. He focused on treating the injuries and not on the fact that the man was larger and stronger than he could ever hope to be. If Armin didn’t help him, the man would die of his injuries or the infection they had caused.

Once the wounds were dressed, the man seemed much better. Armin heaved a sigh of relief as he realized that the infection would indeed clear up. Then the man cried out and he sprang across the room. It took him a moment to figure out that the man was having a frightful dream and not preparing for an attack.

He approached once more, slowly this time. The man tossed and turned, straining his injuries and undoing all of Armin’s careful work. “Here now,” Armin said softly, as he would to a spooky mare. “Easy; be easy.”

He knelt beside the man and set a hand on his chest, holding him but obviously not able to keep him still. “Sir, relax before you do yourself an injury,” he admonished. “I don’t know where you’ve come from but you’re safe now. Be easy.”

The man settled and slowly opened his eyes. “Where am I?” he asked when he’d focused his eyes on Armin.

“You’re in the stable of the Tilting Tankard,” Armin replied. “I’m Armin Swiftfoot. I’m the… um, the hostler. The inn’s closed, but you can stay here until morning.”

“I should move on,” the man said, pushing himself into a seated position.

“No, you shouldn’t,” Armin said, surprising himself by how firmly he spoke. “You’re hurt and fighting an infection.”

The man shied away and shook his head. “They might find me,” he said.

“If they… If they c-come here and t-try to t-take you, then – then I’ll have Alair hit them with his great big hammer and make them leave,” Armin said. “But you are staying here until you’re better.”

Somewhere along the way his urge to take care of the man’s injuries had superceded his fear of strangers. They were at an impasse for a moment. Armin wasn’t going to let the man leave and the man wasn’t sure if he could stay. Then the man relaxed and settled back on the soft hay. “I’m Krisell,” he said, finally ready to trust that Armin would keep him safe.

“It’s late. We should get some sleep,” he said. He climbed back up into the loft and turned down the lamp once more. Krisell would not leave but he was not one to pry. Let Alair or Bergren ask what had happened in the morning. For now the man, Krisell, needed rest and time to let his wounds heal.

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