Ferik shivered under the fur cloak. He wrapped his arms around his knees, wishing he could dry the dampness in his boots that caused his toes to go numb, or the wind lashing at his face that made his cheeks go red and his nose run. He fingered the fur on the cloak, and the leathery hide that lined it. The sergeant had been merciful enough to give it to him—too many soldiers were frost bitten or lost to the ferocious Huro winter. The men around him—mostly older than he was, were huddled in small groups around small fires, all clinging to their coats or sticking their hands close to the flames. Others were pressed against their griffins, hoping to get warmth from the sleek fur and feathers, and Ferik was envious of that. He had three more months of training to go through before he could legally own one of the magnificent creatures, or even ride one with the Huro Air Force symbol on it. Most of the others were unwilling to even let him touch one of them, and it was a bit humiliating, having to ride with Morlian. The crooked toothed veteran was his only company in the bleak war camp. They'd come back from battle not a week ago, having lost nearly half their army to the attack on the border. Waest's forces were relentless, and the elve's army was stationed in Hahlu. Ferik had managed to avoid any serious injury, but he still felt bruised and battered from the bloody fight. He'd gone on foot instead of with the Air Force, wielding his shield and haladie. He was grateful for that, at least. He was better with the haladie than he was with the bow, typical for the Riders. Not to mention the dragons the Waest Air Force rode, though not as strong and durable as the griffins, were vastly intimidating. But even that didn't stop him from being a bit jealous of the Riders. They had so much freedom, soaring victoriously over the battlefield, graceful, powerful, in control.
He sighed, causing a huff of smoke-like breath to materialize in the air. “Cold, ain' it, lad?” Morlian said. He bit his broken teeth to a piece of tomcake, which didn't even make an indent. The stale flour cakes were getting scarcer, and when Morlian scowled and tossed it, Ferik dove for it, but it was snatched off the ground by a hawk before he could reach it.
“Blasted bird!” he cried as it flew off. He whirled on Morlian. “Why did you waste that? We're all starving.” Morlian shrugged, a twisted smile curling across his lips, which were thin and scarred. His face was half shaded by a sheet of thin gray hair.
“Relax, boy, Sarvia is sending us a crate of food tomorrow.” Ferik stared at him.
“How do you know that?”
“I took a peek in the general's tent. He had the letter lying out.”
“Morlian!” Morlian shrugged.
“Di'na matter, much. He had nothing important lying about.” Ferik sighed. He was surprised Morlian hadn't been sent home for stealing coppers and peeking at battle plans.
The old soldier yawned, leaning against a pine tree. “Wish we had tobacco,” he murmured.
“Is that how your teeth rotted? From chewing?” Morlian c***ed an eyebrow.
“Rotted? Well, I guess I canna deny that. . .an old habit. I was surprised none of the men here brought any.” Because this is supposed to be a disciplined army, Ferik thought. But it wasn't anymore. The general was too busy trying to make sure they had enough food and warmth to survive—the original strictness of the camp had gone down quite a bit under his stress. It was hard to keep the squads in formation when half of them were too sick or tired to hear his orders. Still, Ferik tried his best to obey and do what the officer of the haladie squad—Fenlen Mersoth, said. Though hopefully in three months time, he'd be under Officer Thadrael instead.
Ferik's stomach growled, though he'd grown accustomed to the feeling of being hungry all the time.
“When's that food coming again?” he groaned. Morlian chuckled.
“Growing lad like you ought to have a full stomach,” he mused. “Too bad you're out here in the blasted Huro winter, starving in front of a pile of ashes instead.” Ferik scowled.
“I wanted to come, I knew that when I was drafted.”
“Had na' the proper training, though.”
“I had most of it.”
“Three months left is a lot.”
Ferik sighed again. “So Hahlu has decided we aren't a hopeless cause, then?”
“Not Hahlu, Moria. Hahlu is bankrupt from funding the elve's army and their own.” Ferik's brow knit. Last he'd checked, Moria was far too small a district to be sending enough crates of food to feed the five hundred remaining infantry, dwindling number or not. And that didn't count the general, quaestor, squad leaders, sergeants, field doctors, mechanics, cooks, or mercenaries.
“Are you sure?” Morlian shrugged.
“That's what the letter said.” Ferik raised an eyebrow, but didn't voice his skepticism out loud. He didn't quite believe Morlian's story, the old man had an eye that over looked often.
Ferik stood. He kicked away the remaining embers of the little fire he'd built, ashes spreading across the snow in a black, flakey blanket.
“I need to find something useful to do before I drive myself mad,” he announced. If he sat and stared at the dead ashes, with nothing to fill his empty head but thoughts of food and warmth he didn't have, he'd lose his mind. Morlian yawned, stretching his arms and tucking his hands behind his head.
“You do that.”
Ferik unsheathed his haladie, keeping the hilt in his gloved hand, and marched to the camp border. The soldiers on the East Border were growing weary, longing for their tents.
“Thamas? Wanna switch?” Thamas, a man in his late thirties, glanced up at him with cold blue Huro eyes.
“Sure, lad. Watch yourself.” Ferik scowled slightly as he left. He wished everyone in the camp would stop calling him 'lad.'
Some of the other patrols were sitting in snow cleared patches, but he stood and paced. It kept some of the cold from seeping into him, and it made his thinking clearer.
“Will you sit already, boy?” an old man croaked, looking at him with one green eye. “Your pacing has the rest of us tired.” There was a grunt of agreement from of the others. Ferik was about to obey sullenly—when a loud crackling in the air made him pause. The others looked around as well—hands wavering at their sword hilts or arrows half drawn. The crackling again, this time with a wind like force that made Ferik stumble back, clutching his haladie. He glanced around nervously.
“Magic,” the same old man who'd scolded him for pacing snarled.
“Obviously,” a younger man said, rolling his eyes as another crackle shook the hill. The Watch Keeper, Norlo, blew his horn anxiously.
“Not yet!” the old man snapped. “It could just be—” But his words died in his throat. A lone figure stood a hundred yards away, dressed in a black robe and hood, pale white hands raised. They were covered in ink. A Lore Finder, out here, away from the City? And how was he performing magic without a quill?
He watched in horror and fascination as webs of ink started to spill from the Lore Finder's finger tips, creating intricate looms of runes before their eyes.
“What's he doing?” Norlo cried after blowing the horn until his breath was gone.
“Shut it!” the old man growled as the rest of the troops reached the border. General Lythian immediately paled.
“Informant!” he said sharply. The army's own Lore Finder swiftly approached, at the General's side in a moment.
“Yes, sir?” he asked coolly.
“What do the runes mean?” the General gestured.
“He bears a warning, sir. Neroa's forces approach.” Ferik felt himself go pale. The capital of Waest was sending their army? Why would they waste their time when half of Kroseth believed they wouldn't reach the Valley anyway? General Lythian's thoughts must have been in a similar place, because his deep set brow knit.
“What else of it, Informant?”
“That is all, sir. General Morbay's army is blocked, I can see nothing more.” General Lythian nodded gravely.
“All right. Bid the fellow thanks.” He could've done that in Huroian just fine, but the Informant shrugged and pulled out his quill anyway, tracing the runes. Meanwhile, General Lythian turned away, saying, “Quaester? Come with me. Captain Mersoth as well.” The captain quickly followed, along with the quaester. The rest of the troops stood guard at the border. Ferik shifted anxiously, stricken. Why in Wilden would Neroa march them? He shook himself. That was General Lythian's business—he would know.
Morlian trudged up behind him.
“Saw the Lore Finder, did yeh, lad?” Ferik nodded.
“He said Neroa is planning an attack,” he said softly. Morlian shrugged.
“The only time an attack from a large capital like Neroa happens on a non-threatening army like our own is when it wants to drive us somewhere.” Ferik stared at him.
“Where would they drive us?”
“Probably west. If they can drive us to the delta, they could use General Lythian as blackmail. You know he's valuable to Hahlu, even if they can't fund us.” He was right. It was the only logical explanation.
“Do you think General Lythian will realize that?” he breathed. Morlian c***ed an eyebrow.
“My business is not the General's.”
“But he has to know!” Ferik said angrily.
“I could be wrong,” Morlian said calmly. “It's just a theory.” But it was a better one than the one the General was undoubtedly forming: that they should head west, away from Neroa's coming army and the fort they were marching to. Abandon their plans to ransack Waest's plantations in Weria , turn around.
Ferik turned away, watching the horizon. He half expected to see Neroa's forces trudging towards them in the snow—if that happened, they would be forced to get in formation and fight.
But no such luck.
They had plenty of time to make leave, packing up the camp while the quaester did a supply count, and soon they were in formation, trudging through the snow and wind again.
Heading right into Waest's trap.
The day passed slowly. The Legion's movement was sluggish, slowed by the on coming blizzard. Ferik was weary the entire time, fatigue, exhaustion, and worry tiring him. Morlian didn't speak to him—but glanced at him occasionally. Ferik grew more and more wary as the storm threatened to fall upon them. “Where are we going specifically?” Ferik whispered to Morlian. “Tonight?”
“Probably making camp on some farmer's estate,” he hissed back. Farmer? How could there be farmers in this arctic place? But as they pushed forward, Ferik started noticing the ground becoming more level, the snow drifts lessening. He could see how—if it wasn't during the full blast of winter, someone could farm on these fields. Gradually, the icy outline of a road appeared. The Legion quickened a bit, eager to find a place to rest. Ferik peeked slightly over the heads of the other soldiers and saw smoke billowing from the treeline.
They must be getting close to a village.
Slowly, little huts rose beside the road, the occasional inn or tavern passing by. Everyone seemed to be in their homes, where they probably had big fires and warm blankets and a hot meal. Ferik tried to shake that thought from his head. No point engaging in useless fantasies, he told himself forcefully. He tugged the fur cloak close about his elbows. Wool would be more useful than the Gerowl fur—which wasn't as thick and twice as expensive. He wasn't sure why the sergeant had wasted such luxuries on the soldiers.
The temperature was dropping quickly, and darkness loomed over the town.
“What village is this, Morlian?” Ferik asked quietly. Morlian shrugged, shivering.
“I dunno. Never been to this side of Lowmore.” Ferik glanced at him. It wasn't often there was a place brought up Morlian didn't boast of seeing—even if he was lying half the time.
Ferik glanced around for some clue to where they were—a sign by the road, the name of a tavern or inn. But no such clues emerged. So they trudged on, the snow fall growing heavier, until General Lythian called a halt. He held up a hand, stopping the march, and looked east and west. He spoke softly to the Informant, who shook his head, glancing at the runes on his arms.
Ferik tried to peer over the soldiers heads to see what all the commotion was about. Then he saw something in the distance—a glowing. Maybe a lantern? No, it was far too large for that. And growing larger.
He squinted, trying to get a better look at it.
No, not a lantern.
“Fire!” someone screamed. Immediately, chaos broke the formation as soldiers—Neroan soldiers, poured out from behind buildings and through the treeline, throwing torches at nearby stacks of wood, hay, houses. Villagers ran into the streets frantically, trying to escape the flames, only to meet the Neroan soldiers, who yanked them away, tying some of them prisoner and just. . .killing others. Ferik watched in horror, trying to yank his haladie from it's sheath as troops from his own legion shoved against him, causing chaos and confusion. He could hear screams all around him, feel heat licking his side. After what seemed like years, the troops were scattered enough for him to walk.
Feeling dazed, he brandished his haladie against Neroan soldiers, fighting where he could. He tried not to focus on the screams all around him, the murders of innocents—his hand slipped, and he was nearly impaled. Quickly, he regained his stature against the soldier. After a few moments of back and forth combat, the Neroan apparently decided killing him a waste of time and bolted in the other direction. Ferik whirled around, looking for people he could help—when he spotted a girl, no older than himself, cowering beneath a soldier with his sword raised. She brandished a iron kettle in defense. Ferik's eyes widened.
“Hey!” He ran toward the soldier, grasping his haladie, when he suddenly lost his footing to the mucky snow underfoot. He slid, slamming into something forcefully. Hastily scrambling to get up, he realized it was the soldier, now lying in a pile of slosh, the side of his head dripping blood. The girl he was about to execute stood up straight, golden braid a mess. She looked him up and down, green eyes twinkling.
“Thanks,” she said, and Ferik was positive she was laughing at him.
“Um, you're welcome—” he stammered, covered in mud. “Milady, we need to—” His words were cut off at the swoosh in the air as the kettle smacked the head of a soldier behind him. The soldier fell with a groan next to the other one. Ferik stared at the girl, stunned.
“You really ought to watch where you're walking,” she remarked. “Come on!” She grabbed his wrist, dragging him forward as flames engulfed the inn where they'd been standing. Still shocked, Ferik quickly followed.
“Hold on, Milady, you really shouldn't be—” His words died as she knocked out another Neroan. Apparently a kettle was a formidable weapon.
His thoughts drifted back to his legion as he looked around frantically, trying to spot his peers. But the Neroan's seemed come in endless floods from all directions, all healthier and better armed, picking off the Huroian's without hesitation, and whatever villagers got in their way. Ferik scanned for Morlian, but couldn't spot him in the growing mass.
“Come on!” the girl urged, yanking him away as a Neroan threw down another torch where he'd been standing a moment before.
“I have to help the legion!” Ferik stammered, pulling back.
“Some good you'll be, tripping in the mud!” Ferik scowled.
“But I'm a Rider, I have to—” She ignored him, dragging him along, past burning houses and soldiers.
Ferik trailed her, eventually giving up on chivalry as she took down guard after guard with that blasted iron kettle. He kept an eye out for Morlian, but no such luck.
He coughed on the clouds of smoke, eyes watering, scene becoming more and more hazy as the girl pulled him on. Vaguely, he could feel dampness soaking to his pant leg. Probably blood—though he couldn't feel a wound. He quit slashing at the Neroan's with his haladie when he realized he couldn't discern their uniforms. His lungs began to ache. “You all right?” he yelled to the girl. He was now following only the gold of her hair, the rest of her was shrouded in smoke and shadows.
“Yes!” she yelled back. Ferik dragged his feet, beginning to stumble slightly. Something was wrong with his leg. He forced himself to keep running, despite the burning in his calf. The screams were beginning to die until only the roar of the fires seemed to remain. And even that was becoming a buzz. Sounds muffled around him, dizzying him. He was covered in burns now. The girl had hold of his wrist, dragging him forward. “Come on, soldier!” she yelled. “I thought you said you were a Rider!” Ferik shook himself, trying to keep going. He could see the outline of the treeline in the distance.
The girl dragged him forward for what seemed like hours before he was no longer choking on smoke, and the screams and roar of fire had died away. He could hardly hear anything now, save his own pounding heart beat, quick breath, and the girl ushering him on. “Sit down,” she commanded, and Ferik gladly slumped against a tree, coughing and shaking.
“Are you hurt?” he asked, voice hoarse. The girl rolled her eyes.
“No, but you are.” His leg. He took his dagger from his belt, hands shaking, and began to work on cutting the side of his pant leg open. It was sticky with blood. The girl glanced at it, but didn't wince. Instead, she tore a piece of her skirt off, dunking it in an icy stream.
“This will hurt like the fires of Wilden,” she warned as she dabbed it on the wound. Ferik flinched, gritting his teeth against the sharp pain.
“Thanks, miss,” he said softly as she tied it. The girl nodded curtly.
“Who are you?” she asked, looking him up and down. “You look young for a Rider.”
“I was drafted when the number was low,” Ferik explained. He left out that he hadn't received full training. The girl nodded again.
“What's your name?”
“Mine's Aurora Thorn.” It suited her, for some reason Ferik couldn't place.
“It would've been a pleasure to meet you,” he said wryly. “Under different circumstances.”
“Likewise,” she said. She glanced behind her, where the burning village had long disappeared behind the pines. “Why'd those men attack?” Ferik shook his head.
“I dunno. They were Neroans. I'm not sure why they would want our army. . .” He trailed off. “Morlian!”
“Morlian!” He tried to get up, but buckled, falling back against the tree. He tried again, only for the same to happen. No, he needed to get out there, he needed to find—
“Hold it,” Aurora said. “You're injured.”
“I don't care! I need to find him.” He squirmed, but it was no use. He couldn't move.
“Even if you could get up,” Aurora said firmly. “The village is at least a mile away, and probably ashes. There's no point in struggling.” Ferik sighed, slumping down again. She was right. Even if he could somehow manage to limp back, he wouldn't be able to find Morlian. Still, he felt that Morlian was his friend—or at least something in between, and he should make an effort to find him. Something Officer Mersoth would've berated him for. Don't ever care for soldiers, boy, he'd say. They lead short lives. And the ones that don't live painful ones.
“Are you all right, miss?” Ferik asked Aurora in sudden concern. “Do you have family?” Aurora nodded.
“An uncle,” she said flatly. Ferik's eyebrows furrowed.
“Aren't you worried about him?” Aurora shook her head.
“He left the village weeks ago, heading west, away from the war.”
“He left you here? Why?”
“Someone had to look after the estate.” Ferik stared.
“He just left you to look after his house? But. . .you can't be older than I am, and—”
“And you're a soldier,” she said wryly. “So I can take care of a house during war time.” Ferik didn't think that sounded right, but he nodded.
“What's your uncle's name?”
“Timlock Dublae. He's a cotton farmer, owns one of the big plantations on the west side of Lowmore.”
Ferik racked his brain, trying to remember where he'd heard the name. It sounded familiar. . . .“I think I've heard of him. . .” he said decisively. Aurora's face hardened.
“You have, but not for that.” Ferik wanted to know more—where he'd heard of the man, but stopped at Aurora's expression.
“What's the name of the village?” he asked instead. Aurora c***ed an eyebrow.
“You didn't know the name of the village you stormed into?”
“I wouldn't say “stormed”. . . .” She rolled her eyes.
“How would you like it if two hundred soldiers started marching down your road without explanation, and then torches came from all directions and people started screaming?” Ferik winced. That was harsh. . . .
“It wasn't my idea,” he said defensively. “It was the general's. And we just wanted to camp somewhere, we didn't know the Neroans would follow us.”
“'Course you didn't. . .” Ferik rolled his eyes.
“Do I detect sarcasm?”
“You have a keen radar.” She paused a moment. Ferik shuffled, kicking snow with his boot. “Cretus,” Aurora said slowly. “The name of the village? Cretus.” Ferik thought back.
“I've never heard of it.”
“You wouldn't. It's small, my uncle's is the only plantation.”
“Oh.” He wondered why it would be a target if it wasn't significant.
“We should find some place to rest,” Aurora said flatly.
“In the woods. . .?” Ferik said hesitantly.
“Yes,” Aurora said, raising an eyebrow. “You are a soldier, aren't you? You have a problem sleeping in the woods?”
“No,” Ferik said quickly. But I thought you might. He shrugged. “We find a clearing, I guess.”
“You can't walk,” Aurora pointed out.
“I'll. . . .hobble.” She rolled her eyes.
“Fine. I'll help. But we aren't going far.” She knelt, and he awkwardly put an arm around her, gripping the tree to hoist himself up.
It wasn't easy.
Ferik was thin—almost skeletal now, but still much taller than Aurora. As they stumbled, he felt like his boots were full of water, making each step slow and precarious. He winced as pain spiked through his leg with every step.
What seemed like agonizing hours later—but was in reality only twenty minutes—they came to clearing, free of snow by the thick canopy overhead.
With a grunt, Aurora lowered Ferik to a patch of moss.
“Thanks,” Ferik panted.
“Don't mention it,” Aurora sighed. She plopped down next to him.
“Hey, do you—” But he didn't finish his sentence. Aurora was fast asleep.
When Ferik woke the next morning, head pounding, body aching, it took him a moment to remember the previous night's events. Blinking, he saw Aurora awake and cooking something. . .
He sniffed the air, and his stomach growled. “What is that?” he asked groggily.
“Phlig eggs,” she said. Ferik's eyebrows furrowed.
“What's a phlig?”
“That is.” She pointed to a branch, where a tiny, speckled bird with silver and white plumage was twittering angrily. Ferik thought it was cute, then changed his mind as it hissed to reveal two rows of razor sharp teeth.
“Wilden,” he muttered.
“Nasty little things,” Aurora said, wrinkling her nose. “They like to steal people's socks.” Ferik's eyebrows furrowed.
“They make nests out of them.”
“Oh.” She slid him a makeshift plate—peeled tree bark, with a runny blue substance on it. It didn't look very appetizing, and it smelled even worse. Tentatively, he tasted it, and nearly gagged.
“That's awful,” he said. Aurora gave him a dirty look.
“What do you expect from something born in a sock? Eat up, it's nutritious.” Despite the flavor, Ferik choked most of it down, starving.
“So where are we going?”
“Back to the village, I guess,” Aurora said. “We need to get a splint on that leg.” Ferik winced, glancing at the wound. It was caked with dirt and dry blood. “After we clean it, that is.”
“Again?” Ferik groaned.
“Again,” Aurora echoed. “And probably drain it.” If they didn't drain the yellow gush from inside, it could get infected.
Ferik flinched. He'd seen other soldiers with similar injuries get wounds drained, it was not a pretty picture.
“We have to?”
“You are whiny,” Aurora said, rolling her eyes. Ferik scowled.
“That's going to hurt. A lot.”
“Hey, I'm not all too eager either.” She eyed the wound, crinkling her nose. “But it has to be done, or it will get infected.” Ferik sighed. He knew his fellow soldiers would scold him for his anxiety, but he nodded.
Aurora took the same piece of cloth she'd torn off her dress the previous night, dunking it in the stream they'd followed, and pressed it to the wound. Ferik sucked in his breath. That hurt like the fires of Wilden. She dabbed at it, then said, “All right, brace yourself.” She put her hands on either side of his calf, and squeezed. Ferik tried not to stare at it as it leaked, but the pain spiking up his leg was distraction enough. He bit his lip hard, trying not to groan. Blood and puss dribbled from it.
Aurora cringed as she wiped it away. “Almost done. . .” Ferik squeezed his eyes shut. “All right, there. . .it needs to be sewn shut, I can take care of that when we get back.”
The philg egg threatened to reappear.
“Blast,” Ferik muttered, nauseated as he looked at the wound.
“It won't be so bad. I'll get a splint on it for now, then we need to find a decent crutch—” As she spoke, she rummaged around for a good, sturdy branch. She picked a promising one, snapping it across her knee, then took out her hair ribbon and put it between her teeth as she laid the branch beside his leg.
“Will that hold?” Ferik asked skeptically.
“Hopefully.” She pressed the branch closer, then tore the ribbon in two and tied it tightly. “Now we just need crutches. . .” She found two other large branches, these with twigs sticking out either side, so he fit his arm into them. He put them beneath his arms, and stood with Aurora's help.
It was going to be a very, very long trip back.
Slowly, he limped forward, each step sharp and painful as the last. Aurora half supported him, but he leaned on the crutch as But eventually, Ferik spotted curls of smoke above the canopy. “There.” He hobbled out of the treeline, and caught his breath.
The village had turned to a wasteland.
Ashes dusted the ground, buildings were mere crumbling skeletons, roads were littered with dust and mangled bodies.
Aurora was looking around in horror, eyes pained as she watched carts full of the dead pass, saw the few survivors coughing dust, covered in ashes and blood. The Neroans had all fled, and the sorry remainder of the Huro army was tending the injured.
Ferik looked at her worriedly.
“Are you okay?” he asked her softly.
“Fine,” Aurora said, voice hollow. “Let's get you back to your legion.”
With Aurora's help, he limped to the army's makeshift camp, sighing in relief when he saw Morlian being treated for a minor injury. “You made it through the night, lad?” Morlian said, nodding to him, and Ferik saw relief in his eyes. Aurora helped him ease onto a log.
“With help,” he agreed softly. Morlian raised an eyebrow at Aurora, who was still looking around, flabbergasted by the state of her village.
“Hallo, lass,” Morlian said, a bit softer. “What's your name?”
“Aurora Thorn,” she said flatly. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Morlian chuckled.
“Ain't a reason to lie in these times, lass. Name's Rue Morlian. I'm guessin' Ferik did'na heroically save you, from the looks of that leg.” Ferik scowled.
“I fought off a guard that was about to run her through.”
“You slipped and fell into a guard,” Aurora corrected. “Then I saved your hide from about ten others.” Morlian laughed.
“Cap'in Mersoth will love that story,” he said, eyes twinkling. “Saved by a girl.” Ferik's neck heated.
“Captain Mersoth doesn't need to know about this,” he muttered. “I doubt he even noticed I left.”
“Oh, he noticed,” Morlian said cheerily. “Said yeh'd never make it through, and he did'na expect it anyway. . .” Ha, so he'd finally prove Captain Mersoth wrong about him.
Well, maybe not.
He had injured his leg badly.
And been saved by a girl.
The field medic approached him, looking him over.
“Fair bit o'beating,” she remarked. “That's quite a wound. . .splinted, and drained, it looks like. Not a bad job for the circumstances, but it needs sewing.” He had suspected so, but it still made him feel sick to think about. He nodded.
“Aurora, you need to get looked at first.” Aurora looked over sharply.
“I don't need to,” she said flatly.
“Yes you do.” Even if she didn't have any immediate injuries.
“Others need it more.”
“You need it anyway, you could be hurt. Besides, it should be quick if nothing's wrong.” She sighed and sat down reluctantly, allowing the medic to look her over.
“Pretty banged up, lass, and you've got burns, but nothing else wrong,” the medic assured her.
“See,” Aurora shot at Ferik. Ferik rolled his eyes.
“You still have burns.”
“Oh, I didn't notice, by the swelling red welts,” she retorted.
“Still, they need treatment.” The medic pulled a salve from her bag, applying them to the worst of the burns, then turned back to Ferik.
“Stallin' times up, lad,” she said gravely. Ferik looked down at the leg.
“Okay,” he sighed. The medic dug in her bag and extracted a needle and thread.
“This is going to hurt, lad,” she warned.
Then she began.
It was even more painful the draining—Ferik had to chew the inside of his mouth to keep from crying out every time the needle wove in and out of his skin, pulling it together, tightening it. Morlian and Aurora watched closely—which he wished they wouldn't. He kept cringing and wincing.
But the task was soon over, and the medic carefully sealed the wound. “'Tis done,” she announced. “Will take time to heal, but 'tis done. Rest now, lad.”
Ferik nodded slumping against a tree, breathing hard. |
“You okay?” Aurora asked. He nodded.
“Yeah. . .Morlian, what's happening to the Legion?”
“We're moving again tomorrow—what's left of us,” Morlian said. “So many were killed we all have to go on griffin.” That brightened his spirits the slightest bit.
“Well, young warrior,” she said, “I bid you farewell. I have a town to repair.”
“Wait!” Ferik said. “Won't come with us?”
“No,” she sighed, turning away. “I have other things to tend to here.”
She got up and turned away, shooting one last smile at the young soldier, then she strode off and he never saw her again.