12th of Octesh, 611 AR.
Yegor strode down the hall of the first story of the apartment building that had been transformed into their infirmary. It was a rather excessive repurposing, even with their large number of casualties. Were they to put every injured soldier in his or her own room they still wouldn’t have filled the place. Isolating desperate and pain-wracked souls wasn’t ideal anyway; most of these apartments contained three or four occupied cots. The wounded kept their own company.
Yegor thought it was a very nice place to live in spite of the growing signs of a long stay by a kompany of Winter Guard: the typical careless, haphazard rearranging of civilian life by those at war. Windows boarded to escape sniper fire, items broken by clumsiness or looting or even the earth-shaking fire of the siege cannon. Albyn was hardly a lavish place, but it carried the elegance only the Llaelese could apply to what in Khador would have been merely a rustic clump of houses. Albyn was where well-off plantation owners had built a tiny city near their farms to have the best of both civilization and rural life, where upper-middle-class from the crowded megalopolitan sprawl fled the noise and pollution to be in the ‘country’, where the idyllic life of a peaceful but comfortably affluent population acted out its fantasy of a village. A life that had endured quite well even under the so-called ‘occupation’ by Khador.
A life that ended the moment Cygnar declared yet another onerous, self-righteous, self-indulgent war.
Endless war from an illegitimate government against the Motherland it had cheated itself away from hundreds of years ago. This building was a perfect embodiment of the truth of the Southern kingdom’s ceaseless rebellion: a place that should be full of families and business owners, instead laden with the maimed and dying youth of another Khadoran generation forced to endure the cost of Cygnar’s latest ploy to rob them of their birthright. In another world, in a just world, these people would be tilling the fertile protected land of what should have been the Southernmost branch of the ancient Khardic Empire. Instead, they grew up in bitter winters on desolate steppes and were now dying to protect a cancerous little province hell-bent on resisting the only lawful claimant to its territory, dying in a war that had forced men like Yegor– once again— to resort to savage tactics to protect what belonged to the Empress.
It made him furious.
He stopped at the apartment where Vasily had been assigned, knocking lightly on the door. The dull scrape of a chair sliding on wood answered, followed by gentle footsteps. The door opened cautiously.
“Doctor,” Yegor said, bowing slightly in greeting to one of the town’s physicians they had forced into service. No, Yegor thought, ‘forced’ is not a fair word. We are defending his home. This is the least he can do. The man looked up at him through a pair of small, thin spectacles, a stethoscope with an alchemical capacitor hanging limply around his neck.
“Ah, Mr. Nikolayev,” the physician said meekly, stepping into the hall and closing the door with a soft click. He paused there, looking around furtively like he was about to deliver a state secret.
“Please, doctor, tell me the diagnosis,” Yegor said gently in flawless Llaelese. The little man took off his glasses, wiping them against his shirt and blowing out a breath.
“Not good, not good,” he said as he put his spectacles back on. “I have sewn his wound, but it is already terribly infected. His bowels were torn in many places.”
“How long does he have?” Yegor asked, unfazed.
The little doctor blew out another breath, then shrugged. “Well, I do not normally see a lot of injuries like this in Albyn you see, so, ah,” he let out a mirthless, nervous little laugh, “but I have seen men with gut wounds survive many days, even weeks. Though…” he shook his head sadly. “It is terrible, terrible. He is in tremendous pain and there is little I can do. Perhaps with some very strong alchemical cocktails I can burn the infection from his body, but there is no guarantee, and such a measure can do permanent harm if it does not kill him outright,” he finished apologetically. “To do so I would need an alchemist’s assistance.”
“Mmmh,” Yegor rumbled noncommittally. “But it may kill him.”
The doctor shrugged. “He is going to die if I do nothing,” he said. “Better to do something.”
Yegor sighed, considering his options. “How long do you say?” Yegor pressed again.
The man shook his head slowly, thinking. He looked back up at Yegor as though the answer might get him killed.
“A few days, maybe a week.”
“Mmh,” Yegor grunted.
“But,” the nervous physician added quickly, “as I said, perhaps with an alchemist’s assistance I can stop the infection.”
“How long would that take to work?” Yegor asked.
The little countryman scratched his head. “Ah, two, maybe three days of regular administration of the appropriate solution. The process would incapacitate him, however. I would have to keep him unconscious or the pain would be intolerable,” he explained.
“Mmh,” Yegor grunted once more, tapping his side in thought. “Very well,” he said finally. “Is there an alchemist still in the town?” he asked. The doctor shifted anxiously.
“Yes. Well, erh, I believe so. His name is Martin, Martin Bossquet. He used to assist me with medicinal powders and tinctures before the, erh… before the…” the man halted.
“Before our Kompany arrived to protect you,” Yegor finished for him calmly.
“We arrived over a month ago,” Yegor said. “You have not seen him since?”
“Well, ah, no I have not,” the doctor said. “But I haven’t left my home much since you came, and not at all since the Cygnarans approached, you know, with the curfew…”
Yegor looked down the hall. “Menshikov!” he bellowed. The front door of the apartment building burst open and a young Winter Guard privat stood silhouetted in sunlight.
“The doctor needs to find a man in town. You will escort him.”
“Of course, Forgeseer!” the Privat bounded towards Yegor, who turned back to the doctor.
“Privat Menshikov will assist you in locating your alchemist,” Yegor explained. “Report to me as soon as you find him.” The poor doctor looked like he’d been asked to catch and kill his own dog, but he acquiesced obediently.
“Of course, Mister Nikolayev,” the doctor said.
Menshikov ushered the doctor down the hallway and out of the building. It was a pointless errand, Yegor knew. There was a good chance that the alchemist had fled along with the other two-thirds of the townsfolk prior to the kompany taking residence there, and even if the alchemist was found it would be too late. Vasily Basarov was going to die, and Yegor couldn’t just wait for it to happen– naturally or otherwise– over the course of several days. Poisoning him with alchemicals might have worked if he had more time, but there was no time at all.
Now it was simply a question of when and in what manner the poor Kovnik would expire.