Cid's Wondrous Elixir
Author’s Note: I imagine this scene to take place during chapter 3. The way the story works now, Cid doesn’t have a chance to speak or otherwise impact the story until much later. I think this variation does better service to the character, and I wish I had thought of it sooner!
Grace pushed the door open. There lying on the ground was a boy who must have been several years older than them. His dark skin was pale even in the darkness, and he looked up weakly as the door opened.
The boy spoke in a weak voice, his words were unintelligible to Annabelle and Grace.
Grace rushed over to kneel over the boy. “Hello,” she said kindly. “We heard you and came looking. My name is Grace, and this is Annabelle, my sister.”
The boy tried to lift himself up, but he seemed to lack the strength. Grace helped him into a sitting position, and he nodded his thanks, though his eyes bored into theirs, his grip almost like a vise.
“How did you come to be here?” said the boy, his voice almost a whisper, though even through that Annabelle could tell that the boy was cultured and sophisticated.
“We were taken,” said Grace, her own voice tinged with stubborn resolve. “My sister and I. That awful man took us from our home and brought us here.”
Annabelle wringed her hands, trying to think what could help from her father’s medical text. “He needs a warm compress, or perhaps some hot tea—”
“You are injured,” said the boy, nodding at Annabelle’s long gash across her leg. “Here. Drink this,” and the boy pulled out a crystal vial of a pale amber liquid from deep within his robes. “The Enemy did not manage to deprive me of everything. Here now, it will heal your injuries for a time.”
A magical potion? Annabelle almost didn’t believe it, but then she’d been kidnapped by a man with an army of magical shadows. And if it was true, it felt wrong to take something so precious.
“You should take it,” she said, trying to hand the vial back to the boy. “You can barely walk, and then we can escape this place together.”
The boy shook his head. “The miasma of this realm. The shadow-men and their touch. They sap your strength. At least you will have some use of it. You should go, for the Enemy will return soon, I fear. Escape from this place, if you can.”
“But what about you?” said Grace.
The boy closed his eyes. “I will soon be beyond any medicine or healing. It is better to save yourselves.”
“That’s not true,” said Grace rather forcefully. The boy gave her a wan smile and shrugged. “No one can know the future, Grace. I embrace whatever comes in the next life.”
“Exactly,” said Grace flatly. “No one knows the future, not even you. I’m not leaving you here. Annabelle, can you help me?”
“But where will we take him?” Annabelle looked out the door, feeling certain that someone must be coming to look for them. “There’s nowhere to go!” She stopped herself from saying the obvious. How were they even going to get home?
“I don’t know, but anywhere but here!” snapped Grace. “Come on you big lug! Get up!” It was a sight to see, Grace pulling the boy up onto his feet, but she managed it all the same.
Annabelle walked to the other side of the boy and took one of the arms around her shoulder.
“Oof, he’s much taller than us,” said Grace. “This is going to be rough work. What’s your name, anyway?”
The boy grunted. Though the girls tried to handle him with as much care as they could, they could not always be gentle. “I am called Cid.”
The sisters barely made it back to the stairs when they had to take a break. The burden had left their limbs shaking and their breath short.
“Cid, can I ask you a question?” said Annabelle, looking down at the potion in her hands. “What are you doing here? Were you taken as well?”
“Yes,” said Cid. “Though I’m afraid the manner of my taking was far more ignoble. I was far too arrogant. My friends—I wonder what has happened to the, sometimes.” He fell silent and still, so much so that Annabelle wondered if he was sleeping.
Annabelle thought there was an imperiousness to the way the boy spoke and moved, but she could also see some small amount of defiance in his eyes, though mixed with a resignation to his fate.
“Annabelle.” Grace had been silent until then, but she looked up at her sister. “Do you think we’ll ever go back home?”
“I…” Annabelle didn’t know, but looking into her sister’s face, she suddenly didn’t want to say aloud what they both must be thinking. “I’m sure we will. I’ll get us both home, safe and sound.”
Grace nodded, then her face turned into a wicked, teasing grin. “I don’t know, I think I’d have a better chance at that. Everyone says I’m the strong one after all.”
Annabelle rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say. Come on, let’s try to go up the stairs.”
Annabelle looked down at Cid’s potion. She didn’t know if she believed that it would really heal her. But she knew that Cid certainly thought so, and she couldn’t shake the intensity of his conviction.
And really, it would be such a waste to use something so wondrous on so small a cut. Better to save it for when she really needed it, she thought as she pocketed the vial.
Onwards they went, each carrying one half of the burden between them. For his part, the boy helped where he could, but the sisters still felt the full weight of him upon their small shoulders.