EILIF was born in a time when magic was dying. Its death throes, thrashing across the land in great wars, were long and painful. He thought he would die with it. But he didn’t.
Instead, he lived.
He was the last of the great sorcerers. The people whispered his name in love and in fear. For a while—twenty years, he thought now, or perhaps a century—he went to them when times were dark. He would appear in a household when the mother was dying birthing a babe, or when plague threatened a whole town. He stayed away from the quiet little wars that peppered the land, now that magic’s great time had passed. He had seen enough of them at his love’s side. But eventually there came a day when his coming was greeted not with awe, but terror, and he was driven off. He allowed them to drive him off.
It was then that grief caught up with him. All that time he had not let himself think of Jon. His liege lord was gone. As good as dead. He had been mortally wounded, and all of Eilif’s skill had not aided him in healing Jon. At last, desperate, he had sent his lord out of time, to the in-between place. Time, he hoped, would bring him the skills and tools he needed to heal his lord.
And until then, he would just have to wait.
THE emergency room was its normal hustle of efficient nurses calling out names, someone’s child crying in pain, an overwhelmed parent or wife arguing loudly that their family should be bumped up the line, and random beeping. Eilif ducked through it with ease, smiling at the on-duty desk nurse and scrawling his name across the sign-in clipboard she handed him. Julie, that was her name.
“In again, Dr. Jameson?”
Eilif shrugged. “You know how it is, Julie, always more work to be done.” An ear-splitting shriek cut through the ambient noise. He gave her a “see?” sort of look. She smiled in wry acknowledgment.
“You’re on Hall Four, Dr. Jameson.”
Scooping his bag onto his shoulder, he went to scrub up. “Thank you, Julie.”
As he strode down the hall, Eilif remembered the days when he’d thought it would be magic that saved Jon. He’d gone questing, nearly a century and a half of going from place to place, learning all he could. His magic had been pushed to its limits. Sometimes he had gone too far; there had been more than one incident that had left him surprised to be waking up. Some days, the ache of longing he felt weighed down his bones and he wouldn’t have minded not getting up again.
His magic wouldn’t let him die. That was the horror of it, in those overwhelming moments of grief. He could lose decades, sometimes, if he just laid down somewhere and let himself go. But he always woke again.
Blinking, he forced himself to focus. Magic could do a lot, but he was sure now that it was medicine that would save Jon. A glimpse of white-blond hair caught his eye as he pulled on his scrubs, and he made sure he tucked it up properly. He was growing it long again, back to the length Jon would remember it being. In those days, it was a tacit admission that he was Jon’s bedmate. Now, it was more of a nuisance than a pleasure, especially as a doctor. Infection was more of a problem than he had known back then, but he wasn’t about to lose his edge over daydreaming. It took years, every decade or two, to reinvent himself as a doctor and train to current standards. He couldn’t lose that time.
Not when he was so close.
Each wound Jon had taken on that long-ago battlefield was etched in his mind’s eye. The vivid red of blood, the depth of the stroke on his thigh, the arrow sticking from his side. Eilif would know those wounds blind. So he knew the exact moment when science and medicine had progressed far enough that Jon’s life could be saved.
Eilif knew he would only have a single chance, but he was certain now. He could save Jon. There was just one small problem.
He would need another doctor. Once the stasis was broken, Jon would bleed out in the time it would take Eilif to get to all his wounds. Skilled surgeon though he was, there was only so much one person could accomplish. There were others here at Albion Hospital who were sufficiently accomplished. There would be alarms going haywire, though, if Eilif made a man appear out of midair. He couldn’t count on everything settling down quickly enough to save Jon’s life. And finding a doctor in these modern ages who believed in magic was damnably difficult.