Harris sighed as he felt his coin purse under his thick, wool cloak. Less than ten silver imperiums, enough for a few nights at various inns, but not nearly enough to gain entry at the University. Not enough by any stretch of the imagination. He grit his teeth in anger and punched the nearby stone wall before a cry of pain escaped his clenched jaw.
"You shouldn't do that," Kote said from behind him. "You could break your hand."
Harris whirled around to snap at his friend, before seeing his calm and detached face. Not his fault, he reminded himself. He swallowed his anger and took a deep breath. Then another. "That would be about a three," he said.
Kote blinked, obviously confused. "Breaking your hand?"
Harris sighed. "Patronizing someone when they're this angry. It's probably more of a two, but still."
The mage slowly nodded, before frowning. "But what about the time that you--"
"I don't have the time to go into all of the intricacies right now, Kote. We've been left damn near penniless in the largest city in the Empire. We have to figure out what to do, where to go."
As they slowly began to make their way down the crowded street, Harris tried to ignore the sharp, persistent throbbing from his right hand. He tried to curl in his fingers, to make another fist, and had to strangle a cry of pain back. It seemed Kote was right, one really could break their hand if they decided to engage in the time-honored pastime of challenging stone walls to fist fights. He guessed that at least his two middle fingers were broken at the knuckle, which left him with a predicament he'd rather not have: spend a portion of his now meager money to receive medical aid, or try to tough it out, risk his hand healing improperly, and the possibility of never being able to properly spin again.
"I have to see a doctor," he finally admitted.
"Wha for?" Kote asked, his voice muffled. Harris glanced over to see that his friend had apparently decided to stop and buy a fresh apple from one of the many stalls that lined the street, and he sighed, stopping. "Talking with your mouth full is probably a one," he said, offhandedly. "And please don't waste your money."
"Never. That's a horrible idea."
"Then why did you buy the apple? What did it cost, a ha'penny?"
"Two pennies, actually. Welcome to the big city. And I was hungry, obviously, why else would I buy an apple? Well, I suppose I could buy it to throw at someone. Or maybe it has alchemical properties. But logically, when someone buys an apple, it's generally to eat it, Harris. You should know that." He took another bite of the bright red fruit and chewed appreciatively. "You should really get one, they're quite good. So why do you need to go to the doctor?"
"I think I broke my hand on the wall," he replied, deciding to ignore the apple.
"Told you it was a bad idea."
"I'm not even going to point out the irony in that." They began walking again, Harris' eyes scanning the various shop signs for some sort of doctor. "If I don't get my hand set correctly, it might never heal right. Which means I could end up like Old Man Tanner, back in Westridge."
Old Man Tanner was once a sailor, that had almost been forced to take residence in their home town. After proudly joining the Imperial Navy, he sailed for seven years, before their ship was caught in a freak storm just days after a heavy battle, in which their ship's cleric was lost. A rope securing a cannon had snapped, sending the cannon careening out of control across the deck just as Tanner was climbing up. As his hands grasped the edge of the hatch, the cannon rolled over them, barely missing falling in on top of the sailor, but shattering his hands. It was almost a month before they were able to make port, and during that time his hands had healed--improperly--too much. He was honorably discharged, rendered exempt from land taxes for the rest of his life, and bought a small house in Westridge that barely amounted to more than a shack. He was little more than a beggar, his hands in such a shape that he could barely grasp most tools , let alone do any real work. Once a week, Harris' cousin went to his house to do a small bit of cleaning, and she always came back with a broken heart. 'A shame to see such a proud and noble man, brought down to such a low place,' she once said, her eyes wet with unshed tears.
"Well that's no good," Kote said. "Hard to spin if you can't use your hands, isn't it?"
"Not hard, Kote, impossible. You have to use your hands to sense the currents, and to manipulate them. I don't think I'll end up nearly as bad as Old Man Tanner, but if my hand is crippled even a little..." He felt anger welling up inside of him, anger at his own stupidity. "What kind of an idiot takes their tools and bashes them against a stone building?"
"A demolisher does. You know, the mundane kind."
Rhetorical question, Harris thought, but said nothing. He kept walking, not noticing for a good few seconds that Kote had stopped and was standing in the middle of the street with his head tilted back, staring blankly at the sky as he murmured unintelligible words under his breath.
By the time he realized and walked back to him, the mage was apparently finished. "Follow me," he said, shouldering his way past a brightly-garbed messenger boy and heading down a cluttered alleyway. They turned into another alley branching off of that one, then another, then another. After a while, Harris began to feel as if he was trapped in a maze some clever architect had hidden into the city, and wondered what in the Gods' names would account for so many twisting, turning, confusing walkways that were, apparently, so very far from any main road. Still, Kote pressed on with a swift stride, never faltering at a turn, never reaching a dead end, as if he was born here, and had in fact navigated these very alleyways every day on his way to school, thank you very much. Finally, after what had to be over a half hour, Kote stopped, and nodded his head towards a plain wooden door, reinforced with iron bands. "Here you go," he said, simply.
"A doctor. A cheap doctor, at that." Kote frowned. "I think. It could also be..." he scratched his head thoughtfully, "well, damn near anything else. Except for a panther. I don't think there's any reason a panther should be in there. But then again, doesn't that make it more likely that there's a panther back there?"
Harris opened his mouth to reply, before shutting it again, realizing that he had no idea what to say to that. He raised his left hand and knocked on the door with trepidation, hoping that he wasn't about to get attacked by a panther. His day had already been bad enough.