"I feel fine!" Wolfram insisted glaring at Gisela as she poured another sporkful of foul black liquid for him to swallow.
"This will make you feel even better." Gisela insisted cheerily. When Wolfram wouldn't open his mouth she got her scary look and leaned closer. "You'd rather I pour it down your throat straight from the bottle?"
Wolfram flinched and opened wide.
"Very good." Gisela chirped, smiling sweetly.
Wolfram resisted the urge to summon his fire element, but only because his self-preservation kicked in. He could hear Yuuri across the room struggling to muffle his laughter; Wolfram would make sure to pay him back later.
"Alrighty." Gisela set the spork down and capped the bottle. "Another
dose of this tonight and we'll see how you're doing in the morning.
Now, drink this tea and go take a hot bath. Heika, you go with him to make sure he doesn't feel ill. I'll be back after the dinner to give you your medicine."
"I... I could do that Gisela," Yuuri offered hesitantly, caught between his volatile husband and the scary healer. "Two sporks of medicine followed by a cup of strong tea with honey, right?"
Gisela frowned at Yuuri, looked at Wolfram, then back at Yuuri, her frown easing. "I suppose I should let you alone, since it's your wedding night. Very well." She made a show of measuring the level of liquid in the bottle. "I'll be checking in the morning, so don't forget."
"I won't!" Yuuri insisted. "Thank you, Gisela." He opened the door for
her, jumping back in surprise to find Gwendal standing there.
"I came to see Gisela and to tell you that Ulrich von Bielefeld has arrived. You have an audience with him tomorrow afternoon, Heika."
"What's he doing here?" Wolfram demanded, throwing back the bed covers and hurrying towards his brother. He was still in his formal uniform but Yuuri had removed the boots, leaving Wolfram more than an inch shorter than usual. It didn't seem to faze him though as he placed his hands on his hips and faced his brother as if he were responsible for Ulrich's arrival.
"We're keeping him confined under guard until tomorrow. You won't even have to see him." Gwendal turned to Gisela, taking her arm and leading her out of the room. "Dinner is promptly at six," He reminded the newlyweds before dragging Gisela away.
Yuuri closed the door and turned to Wolfram. "You're not going to see your grandfather are you?"
"Why not? He can't do anything to me here and I want to hear his explanation. I want to know what he did to me and why!" Wolfram set off in search of his boots, clearly feeling more energetic if not actually better.
"I'm going too," Yuuri insisted. He didn't know the whole story, but he'd seen Wolfram tormented by nightmares since he'd returned. "And we're taking Conrad. And guards." He knew better than to refuse Wolfram, but Yuuri hadn't married him just to let him go do something this foolish only a few hours later.
"Fine!" Wolfram barked, still fighting to get his boots on. Finally he tossed them aside and put on a pair of dress shoes instead. "Come on then. We don't want to be late to dinner"
Siegfried had always been good at knowing when to retreat. He slipped one last trinket taken from the room into his pack and draped it over his shoulder. He'd get one of the Bielefeld horses from the stable and be gone before they knew he was missing. 'Thank you Lord Ulrich for creating a diversion; you've been useful one last time.'
He opened the door cautiously and smiled, seeing his guards distracted by Ulrich's ranting. The old man stood in the center of the corridor shouting orders and refusing all efforts to force him into his room. Bielefeld's personal guards were standing around helplessly; their weapons had been confiscated and they were unsure how to respond to their Lord's orders.
'Perfect,' Siegfried decided, slipping out of the room and easing the door closed behind him, leaving it open just a tiny bit so it wouldn't be noticed right away. He slid along the wall and eased up to the shadowed alcove, pausing a moment to make sure he wouldn't be seen if he moved farther down the hall. He was just about to move when voices from the nearest cross-corridor made him pause and shrink back. He pressed back hard and held his breath as the voices came closer.
"Wolfram!" Ulrich's voice echoed along the hallway followed by the shouts of soldiers trying to restrain the man. The voices moving nearer passed at a run and Siegfried's eyes widened as he recognized Wolfram von Bielefeld and the maou.
Ulrich's ranting increased in volume, countered by Wolfram's. Siegfried had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at the irony -
his escape facilitated by the very people most likely to want him captured.
Just a short distance and he'd be in the clear.
"You!" Lars Holsted flung himself out from his hiding place as the healer passed, slamming Siegfried into the wall and pressing a dagger to his throat. "You're as bad as he is. No, you're worse! You poisoned Wolfram deliberately. And for what? Money? You should suffer the way he did!"
Guards were everywhere, pulling the old man away from the healer, restraining them both while waiting for orders. Siegfried gasped for breath, mind working hard as he measured his situation. He didn't think he'd be getting away so easily after all.
"What is the meaning of this?" Conrad's sword was drawn and cold death shone in his eyes. He turned the blade towards Siegfried. "Search him and take him to the dungeon. Do whatever it takes to keep him there."
One set of guards moved quickly to comply, dragging the stunned healer away. Conrad turned his sword towards Lars, studying him a moment before lowering the weapon. The older man was chalk-white and gasping for breath. "Get him to his room! Remove any weapons and call Gisela, now!"
"Lars!" Wolfram followed the guards, reaching for the older man's hand; it was cold and clammy. Wolfram looked at Yuuri with frightened eyes. He blinked and the fear was gone, replaced by resolve.
As soon as Lars was settled on the bed, Wolfram took a seat beside
him, invoking his healing spell. It was weak and made him light-
headed, but he kept trying. He could feel the old man's heart faltering.
A wave of warmth swept over him and Wolfram looked up to see Yuuri kneeling at his side, adding his power to the healing spell, feeding most of it to Lars but sending a small amount of energy to Wolfram as well.
Lars' heartbeat steadied and color slowly returned to the man's face. His breathing settled and he blinked slowly at his surroundings.
"Still here," he rasped. He looked over at Wolfram and smiled before falling asleep.
Wolfram stopped his spell and gave Yuuri a grateful look before collapsing onto the bed beside his old friend.
Yuuri looked up and saw Conrad standing nearby. "Good idea," he mumbled before dropping to the floor, unconscious.
Conrad shook his head at the three of them and sent a guard off to tell Gwendal that supper would be delayed.
Everyone at the table raised their glasses to the newlyweds. Yuuri blushed a little but Wolfram looked almost smug. There had been a three-hour delay on dinner, but the food had been kept warm and smelled delicious.
It was a small celebration with Wolfram's brothers, Yozak and Gunter joining the couple. Yuuri was energetic after his rest but Wolfram was still suffering from the effects of the potion he'd been receiving. He seemed content to sit back and let everyone else do most of the talking.
"I don't want to bring up unpleasant things," Yuuri said as the dinner was winding down, "but what will happen to Lars? I don't want him punished. He tried to save Wolfram."
"He's a very old man," Conrad said slowly. "Gisela said that his heart is quite weak and won't withstand any more excitement."
"He'll stay here, of course." Wolfram's eyes dared anyone to object.
"Yes, he will," Yuuri agreed with a smile. "But what about your grandfather? Do you want to see him before he leaves?"
"After we got him calmed down, Gisela gave him an exam as well. She suspects that his behavior is the result of a long-term glimweed addiction. It is likely that Siegfried was secretly drugging him to manipulate his way into a position of power." Conrad watched Wolfram carefully as he delivered this news, wondering how he would react. He was grateful when Yuuri spoke up.
"That's good, right Wolf? Your grandfather isn't really like that, and we can find a way to help him. Right?" Yuuri's optimism faltered a little when Wolfram's expression hardened. "Wolf..."
"Not yet," Wolfram offered at last. It wasn't an outright dismissal, but it was clear that Wolfram would need time to get beyond what he'd suffered in his grandfather's house, regardless of the cause.
"Okay," Yuuri agreed. And to everyone's surprise – even his – he placed a light kiss on Wolfram's cheek. Wolfram blushed to the top of his skull and suddenly found his spork fascinating.
Making an effort to lighten the conversation, Gunter motioned for the cake to be brought in, leaping to his feet and singing the national wedding anthem. He didn't actually know all the words so he filled in some parts with humming, but no one seemed to mind.
Yuuri woke slowly, reluctant to let the pleasant sensation of warmth slip away. He blinked, amazed to find himself still in bed with blankets and a pillow; usually by morning Wolfram had cocooned himself in all the bedding and kicked Yuuri to the floor.
This was nice, he decided, settling in and closing his eyes again. Very nice.
"Are you going to sleep all day?" Wolfram demanded. "Gunter's been peeking in every ten minutes for the last hour. He's driving me crazy."
"You should have woken me up."
"I couldn't. You were saying the most interesting things in your sleep." Wolfram moved closer and grinned in a way that made Yuuri very, very afraid.
"Heika!!!!" The door slammed open and Gunter charged in. Yuuri cringed. It had been hard enough getting the man to stop hugging him last night.
"Stop! Right! There!" Wolfram was suddenly between Yuuri and Gunter, pink nightgown slanting off one shoulder. He gave Gunter a stern look, then stepped to the side. "You get one hug a day."
Gunter made a face, considering, then threw himself at Yuuri. Since it was his one hug for the day, he made it a good one until Wolfram pulled him away.
"Is there a reason you're here?" Wolfram demanded.
"Of course! Gwendal and Conrad are waiting for you at breakfast. They want to discuss the punishment for Siegfried Warner."
"Oh." Yuuri looked thoughtful as he got out of bed and gathered his clothes. "Thank you, Gunter. Please tell them we'll be there shortly."
"What are you planning for that person?" Wolfram wondered as he dressed. He and Yuuri had shared a nice long bath last night and had fallen asleep almost as soon as they got in bed. So much for a wedding night. Still, there would be plenty of other nights. It was more important to focus on other matters for now. Still... he looked over at Yuuri, shirtless, half falling over as he pulled on his socks.
"Did you hear me? Wolf?" Yuuri stood up, catching Wolfram watching
him. He blushed and fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. "I... ah.
I mean... you know I like to give people a chance. But... he could have killed you and your grandfather. Who knows how many other people he's hurt?"
"Yuuri," Wolfram stepped close and took his husband's hand. "Do what
you think is right. I'll support you. You are my husband, after all"
He leaned chose and gave Yuuri a quick kiss on the lips before pulling back. "And if you mess up, I'll let you know."
Yuuri swallowed hard and blinked. He was still blinking when Wolfram dragged him from the room.
"I have no wish to punish your family, but you must atone for your crimes. There is a group of craftsmen and their families intending to settle in the west, near the border. You will travel with them as their healer. In six months, a supply train will be sent and you will return on it to receive your next assignment. You will be accompanied by members of the royal guard and if at any time they have reason to question your actions, you will be taken to the center of the desert, given a three day supply of water and left. Is that clear?"
Siegfried Warner nodded humbly, his mind already actively in search of solutions to his current problem. There had to be some way to escape before he was sent to the middle of nowhere.
Following the guards, he was escorted back to his cell where he stared at the wall and tried to formulate a plan. He'd considered and rejected several when the sound of footsteps alerted him to the fact that it was dinnertime. He watched the servant carry in the tray while the guards kept watch. He glanced up at the man's face as he leaned over to set down the tray and smiled. The servant was his ally – the man who had occasionally brought him special assignments. He gave the man another smile and waited until he left before digging into the meal.
He was still smiling when the poison stopped his heart.
"We have a dead criminal and no suspects, Heika. Who do you want me to arrest?"
"I don't know. Somebody put the poison in his food." Yuuri paced across his office in agitation. He'd talked to the man less than four hours ago and now he was dead. What upset Yuuri the most was how he wasn't even sad to see the criminal gone.
"I still say he got what he deserved." Wolfram was leaning against the bookcase, arms crossed over his chest. It was meant to be a casual pose, but he was too tense to fool anyone; they just pretended not to notice.
"So what? Your grandfather goes home, you take Gisela's medicine until the glimweed's out of your system, and everything goes back to normal? Is that it?"
"Yes," was Wolfram's emphatic reply.
When no one else had anything to say, Yuuri surrendered. "Okay." He wasn't happy, but he was a little relieved.
Now if he could just get the hang of the whole "married" thing...
Wolfram gave him a look that said: I know exactly what you're thinking.
Yuuri grinned sheepishly and reached for his hand. "Let's go see Lars," he suggested, quickly pulling Wolfram out of the room and down the hall, Gwendal's shout of, "Get back here and sign these papers" echoing after them.