Chapter 3: Injured

Magic reacts poorly with magic. The more powerful someone is, the more they respond to others with incompatible resonance. While it is possible to create a tight-knit team of compatible talents, there will always be painful disruptions. — The Curse of Power

Karin hissed in pain as she peeled her breastplate off. The alchemically-treated leather had one puncture hole along the side. She didn’t need to see the skin below to know how deep the wound went. The large opening pierced clear through her breast and scraped against the bones of her sternum. If it wasn’t for the heavy padding, she probably would have bled out before the damn monster was killed.

Tossing her armor aside, she inspected the thick padding underneath. The white fabric had turned red from her injury. She reached for her first aid kit and pulled out one roll of fresh gauze. After a second, she grabbed a second.

“Damn the Couple, that looks nasty,” Roal said as he sat down on the log next to her.

She cringed as her seat shook. She grabbed her breast to avoid pulling out the padding before she was ready and glared at him.

“Here, let me.”

Karin sighed and handed him the gauze.

“You take the anti-venom?” There was a moment of concern before he pulled a face. “I hate how it tastes but that is—”

“Of course I did, I’m not stupid. Except for the puncture wound, I’ll live.”

His rough fingers peeled back her padding and her underclothes. His fingers were scrubbed clean, revealing the pale skin that would be underneath all the dried blood and mud that covered the rest of him.

Hot crimson dribbled down her side and soaked her waist. She wanted to shove his hand out of the way, but he needed to look at the injury to see how bad she got nailed.

“That asshole got you good. You might lose the titty.”

“Why do you care? You aren’t getting it.” Her eyes blurred with the pain.

“None of your peaches are going to get anymore of this,” he said as he held her naked breast. His warm grip was steadier than her as he twisted from one way to another. He poked along the wound channel, working his way until he found where it had scraped her bones.

Sharp agonies of pain crawled across her chest. She wanted to lash out at him but she knew that he was inspecting the wound.

“Oh, that’s really deep. You’re going to need the alchemical pack.”

“Shit.”

“I know, old woman, but you’re going to lose the titty if you don’t.”

“Fine. Those things hurt forever.”

When he looked at her, she shook her head. “Just get it over and stop pawing me.”

Roal chuckled and called over his shoulder. “I need a pack, who is carrying?”

On the other side of their camp, Stac raised his hand before digging into his large travel packs. He pulled out a copper-inlaid capsule about a foot long and four inches across. It had runes embossed into the copper but they weren’t magical.

He threw it over the fire and Roal caught it. He planted it on Karin’s thigh before opening it. Inside was a glass syringe with a blunt-ended needle. A glittering green and yellow liquid swirled inside the container.

As soon as the capsule was opened, everyone started to squirm. She could feel the energies of whatever was inside scraping against her bones and throbbing in her joints. Her ears pounded by the presence of the magic that radiated.

Roal groaned and twisted. “I hate this damn stuff.”

“G-Get it in. Now!” she snapped.

From around the fire, other hunters said much of the same thing. No one liked the way the alchemical resonance felt against their magic.

Shoving the needle into the puncture wound, Roal depressed the plunger and forced the contents into the bloody wound.

Despite knowing how much it would hurt, Karin still screamed out in pain. The agony burned along her chest as she was forced to experience the same deep puncture again, this time with the sensations of a thousand needles tearing her out from the inside.

She grabbed Roal’s arm and yanked it up toward her face.

He clamped his hand over her mouth, muffling the noise as she dug her finger into his arm, her nails indenting the leather armor. He finished emptying the syringe and shoved everything aside to hold her still.

After an eternity of agony, the piercing pain faded leaving only a burning sensation across her entire chest, the feeling of a thousand knives digging into her breast from the inside, and a throb deep inside her joints.

Panting, she pushed his hand away. “T-Thanks,” she gasped.

Roal grunted and twisted. “Sorry.”

“My fault.”

“No, it’s that asshole mage who let his entire menagerie of monsters loose.”

“Y-Yeah,” she groaned. “Damn him for having a heart attack, dying, and then having no one check on his mansion for a year. We got the nasty one first, like that slather next last year.” She scratched at her arm, trying to get the itch that throbbed from her joints. She knew that feedback from the alchemical mixture would cause her pain for a month but the knowledge didn’t stop the maddening itch that sparked along her arms.

Maril walked behind them. The bottom of her longbow smacked against the wooden log they were sitting on."If you two are done making out, get the hell out of range before I hit you."

Roal chuckled. “You know she ain’t got a thing for me, Mar. You should be the one worried.”

Maril’s lip curled back. She turned to glare at both of them while walking backwards toward her tent. “She isn’t getting in my bedroll with that crap in her veins. You know the rules, you get packed, you’re trunked for a month.”

Roal turned back with a sympathetic look. “Sorry. She’s right.”

Karin gingerly cupped her bared breast. It was tender and still burning but at least there was no chance of an infection eating it out from the inside. “I know. We got the bastard, so as soon as I get paid, I’ll head over to Marowmoth. They have a cheap place I can hole up.”

“Speaking of which, you remember those slathers?”

Karin glanced at him. “Y-Yeah? What about them?”

“The Village of Barnsveld is only thirty miles south of here.”

“Barnsveld? Why would I go there? I’ll just hole up at a cheap inn in Marowmoth. That’s just down the road. Same as last time.”

Roal smiled. “Yeah, but I remember a certain cute peach at the Barnsveld Inn.”

She frowned. A peach? There was a woman she was interested in? Then she remembered the freckles. A smile crossed her face. “I thought you made a pass at her.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “I gave you first shot.”

“Plus you damaged your leg pretty badly and couldn’t do half the things you pretend you do.”

His smile grew a little forced. “Do you want to head over there or not? You know I’ll show up when you are ready, I always do.”

“I don’t know.”

“You got a month to kill with that damn crap in your body. Even if she’s not really a peach, at least she’s pretty on the eyes.”

“Ten leagues just to pine after a girl?”

“Two days of misery. Besides they had those soft beds on the second floor and that local whiskey—”

“Deal.”