In the infirmary, Malcolm was treated while he watched them clean Simon's wound and drain some of the infected fluid from the swollen tissue. The smell was out of this world and Ronald, who had refused to leave his friend's side, was forced to step outside to avoid throwing up. The doctor treating Malcolm cleaned his cuts and put four stitches above his left ear and nine under his left arm against the side of his chest. He inquired about the bruising and how excessive it was. "All part of the job," the captain replied.
"Well captain, you need some rest and a good meal. Keep those cuts clean and dry and have the stitches removed first thing upon arriving in Andaris."
"Thank you," Malcolm nodded before inquiring about Simon.
"He will heal but it might be best if he stays in Krom until he does," the doctor explained.
"Can I leave Ronald here to keep him company?"
"He's your man, Ser."
Malcolm had gone straight to the stables where he found Benjamin brushing one of the horses. The captain picked up a brush and stood on the other side of the horse, brushing loose hairs from the animal's Dar coat. "We will be short two men for the return trip home," Malcolm told his comrade, "Simon has to stay here until he is well enough to travel and I've assigned Ronald to stay with him."
Benjamin nodded slowly and Malcolm noticed the man had a far away look about him. "We should pick up another knight or two, I don't want to be taken by surprise on the road again or find ourselves outnumbered."
Malcolm brushed the horse's mane and neck, surprised by Benjamin's words. In the couple of arcs that the two of them had worked together, Benjamin had been the most difficult to convince when it came to recruiting new members into the team. "It might change the dynamic," The captain admitted.
"Returning home safe is more important to me," Benjamin said before leaving the stables. Malcolm could understand where the man was coming from with a new wife and a child on the way, anyone of them could have been in Simon's shoes and for some of the more than others, that feeling was finally sinking home.
The afternoon went by slowly and Malcolm spent the majority of it in bed, staring up at the ceiling of the room he had been assigned upon arrival. Most of the team would be staying in the barracks, either in tents or small rooms much like this one, with a single bed and window, a small chair and writing desk, and a couple of hooks to hang their gear up. It was nothing fancy but still ten times better than sleeping on the ground in the rain with little to keep them warm.
When he awoke some time later, the lamps were being lit and the barracks sounded a lot more lively as Knights and Skyriders alike returned from duty, and the sound of distant singing in the background started up. Nathan stopped by the captain's room and proposed that he join himself and Benjamin for a meal at the local tavern, explaining that Kathryn and the others would probably end up there for something to drink later. Malcolm agreed to meet them there and went to wash up and change into the shirt he had hung up to dry before drifting off to sleep. He looked at himself in the mirror and thought about the night before and his actions concerning the noble woman who was traveling with them.
Malcolm's dread was tenfold by the time he arrived at the tavern and noticed Elyna sitting with a few strangers, no doubt dragged out by some of her fellow Skyriders or nobles. He avoided eye contact, pointing his stare instead at the barkeep who he ordered a round of drinks from before joining Nathan and Benjamin at a table in the back. They remained there for a few hours, soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the live music, and shared in some friendly competition over a few rounds of cards or darts before Nathan and Ben decided to call it a night.
The captain remained to finish off his ale and couldn't help but look around to see if Elyna was still about. When he spotted her, he stared, made brave by his drink, and didn't take his eyes off of her until she had caught him. He looked into the bottom of his cup then and tried to make sense of whatever it was that nagged at him, not guilt as he probably should feel, but rejection, why had she walked away without so much as a look, or some kind of rebuttal? It was a few moments before he released that she too was alone which drove him to leave his table in order to join hers. When he sat down he didn't say anything but gave her this intense look, not one born out of anger, but confusion, he needed an explanation, or a solid no, leaving things unanswered like this just wasn't in his style.