By Henry Louis Gates
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They were used to it, the taste in their food, the gritty feel in their clothing and bedsheets, in their own intimate places. From behind the students, in the arched interior doorway that led to the family quarters, Rustem heard a slight rustling sound; he glimpsed a shadow on the floor. Shaski had arrived at his usual post beyond the beaded curtain, and would be waiting for the more interesting part of the afternoon lessons to begin. His son, at seven years of age, showed both patience and a fierce determination.
He threw the commander’s bloodied gloves on the fire. They could not be touched. The king’s voice, asking the question, was faint but clear. A good sign. He’d accepted a sedating herb this time from Rustem’s bag. The dark eyes were calm and focused, not unduly dilated. Rustem was guardedly pleased. The second danger now, as always, was the green pus, though arrow wounds tended to heal better than those made by a sword. He would change the packing later, wash the wound, and change the salve and dressing before the end of the night: a variant of his own devising.
Could she be counted, to adjust the omens? Even as he swiftly calculated auspices, he strode to the large table by the door and snatched his small linen bag. He hurriedly placed several of his herbs and pots inside and took his leather case of surgical implements. Normally he would have sent a student or a servant ahead with the bag, to reassure those in the fortress and to avoid being seen rushing out-of-doors himself, but this was not a circumstance that allowed for ordinary conduct. It is the King of Kings!
A PRIVATE EXCHANGE by Henry Louis Gates