Jack slept fitfully after the procedure was done and his impromptu physicians had retired for the evening. Fred lied on a thin stack of blankets and alternated between watching his friend, staring at the ceiling, and looking around at the strange baubles Charles seemed to collect. Sometimes he would close his eyes and hope for sleep to take him, but it was always in vain. When Jack finally woke, Fred was quick to sit up and greet him with a friendly smile. Jack groaned and mumbled, “You’d think I’d get used to pain by now.”
“Least ya voice seems ta be ge’in be’ah,” Fred offered.
Jack nodded slowly and let his head fall back. “Tell me what’s been happening while I was gone.”
Fred obliged and the two spent the next few hours catching up on the gossip of the slums and the upper crust until Cathy came down the stairs with a kettle of tea and some toast. Then Cathy joined in the gossip while Fred and Cathy ate toast and Jack sipped a tonic that Charles had concocted. Afterward Cathy checked the handiwork of the previous night.
“Looks like the skin is started to knit together,” She said. “I’d say you’ve only got about a week before you’re good as new.” She grabbed a salve and started spreading it over the stitches, causing Jack to hiss in pain. “Oh don’t be a baby,” she said. She sat back and continued to look at the hole. “You’re quite the oddity, Jack. I can’t say I’ve seen anything like this.”
“Now will we likely see it again,” said Charles from the tip of the stairs. He came down with a book in hand. “That kind of speed in healing is something unique to the naga. The alchemists of maybe a hundred years ago had a recipe for a healing potion that used naga blood as a main ingredient.” He snapped the tome shut with a puff of dust. “This was, of course, back when our races were still at war. Now if we were to even scratch a naga we’d face life in prison.” He rounded the stacks of stock and peered at Jack. “What did you to with that woman?”
“Besides the obvious?” Jack murmured.
“If exchanging sexual fluids granted magical healing properties, every naga who came down to get a taste of the slums would have a line of suitors. No,” Charles pointed his finger at Jack like a disapproving parent, “You did something to her, or she did something to you.”
Jack lifted his left hand to show a scar crossing his palm. Cathy gasped and Charles and Fred’s eyes widened.
“You didn’t,” Cathy said.
Jack shook his head. “She did.” When everyone looked at him expectantly he said, “She insisted on promising that she’d come back for me.”
Everyone sat in silence as thick as a mourner’s. A blood pact was not something to take lightly, and was usually reserved for engagements or gang initiations.
“Do ya fink…” Fred began, then waved the thought away.
“What is it?” Cathy prodded.
Fred shrugged. “Ya fink she wann’ed ta git knocked up?”
Charles and Cathy’s gazes whipped to Jack.
“Don’t look at me,” Jack murmured. “I don’t know what that broad was thinking.”
Cathy crossed her arms. “Exactly how many times dod you two ‘see each other?”
“Only one, I swear!”
“Uh-huh. See, I can’t claim to know how those frilly naga women think, but I know dragonian women usually only pull this move if they want to trap a man.” Cathy said with finality.
“Well I’d say she succeeded on the whole trapping me bit,” Jack replied bitterly, “but she didn’t exactly trap me in a marriage.”
Cathy held up a palm and pointed to it. Jack replied by pointing to the hole in his mid section.
“She would have needed your blood to mix in order to become pregnant at all,” said Charles, who had become comfortable at his desk with his nose in his book. “A mixed species child was born during the great species war. According to the accounts, out of all the raping and pillaging in that particular village, only one woman became pregnant. Her assistant had been wounded, though it doesn’t say if it was before or during the event, and the blood from his wounds and her combined during their coitus. The woman was dragonian, so the blood of her naga attacker kept her from dying from the whole thing, but it also caused her to be able to carry his child.”
“So what happened? I never heard of this baby,” Cathy said.
“They killed it when it was born,” Charles replied and sat back, “For the best, really.”
“That still doesn’t answer why she would want that kind of baby!” Cathy stamped her food. “I want answers, dammit, not more bleeding questions!”
“You want answer?” Jack asked in as offended of a voice as he could muster.
Cathy waved dismissively at him. “For you, lovely. I want answers for you.”
Charles stood and collected his book, saying, “Well, I for one need to get upstairs and open the shop. I suggest the rest of you find more productive uses for your time as well, you won’t find any answers in the basement.” And with that, Charles left up the stairs.
Cathy watched him leave, then said with a new determination. “He’s right. We won’t find answers down here, but I bet I can get the old rumor mill churning.” She then bounded up the stairs herself.
Fred got up and dusted off his pants. Jack asked him, “You heading out too?”
Fred nodded and replied, “Ah gotta make mah livin. Don worry, Ah’ll see if Charle’ll lend ye a book o summin.”
Jack smiled. “Thank you.”