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The soldier closed her eyes at Imrahil's accusation of her being a woman. A tear trickled down her dirty face. And she nodded slightly. The ruse was up and now she was going to have to face the repercussions of the decisions she had made over the last year.
“The fairest one of slaughter’s prey,” mused Galron quietly as he drew a knife and cut down the shafts of the arrows. Healers would have to remove them from her body. Dread gripped him, and, with new-found strength stemming from adrenalin, picked up the woman, her head resting against the knight’s armored chest. As he carried her towards the Houses of Healing as quickly as he could, she reached up a shaking hand and cupped his neck with her slender fingers. Her chest rose and fell with labored breaths, the remnant of the arrow shaft protruding from her lower abdomen bobbing up in down with the motion.
“Let me die.” Her words were a mere whisper.
Galron looked down and locked gazes with her unseeing eyes and thought he had discovered the end of her soul.
“Nay, my lady, I cannot do that.”
As Galron arrived at the Houses, he kicked at the door with a heavy booted foot.
“OPEN! I NEED A HEALER! QUICKLY!”
The great door swung inward, and out came a man with dark hair shot through with gray. He wiped his hands on a bloody apron and surveyed the limp form of the young Ranger.
“Bring him this way.”
The healer arched his eyebrows yet did not respond. There was no time for questions.
Carrying the woman in his arms, Galron dodged walking wounded, healers, and attendants scurrying within the halls. The air was filled with tormented screams, gentle words from nurses, and sharp orders barked from the exhausted surgeons working feverishly to try to preserve life. The unmistakable smell of copper was strong. Blood was everywhere, including on him. Sweat, bodily fluids, medicine, and liquor formed a sickening odorous concoction that assaulted the senses. Wounded soldiers awaiting their turn consumed intoxicants alongside their comrades who had borne them to the Houses and now stayed with them in support. Of course, this drew the ire of the elderly matrons who shooed them away. Space was becoming more limited with the endless stream of broken men coming in.
“In here on the table,” Terevion instructed, stopping at a room. Galron passed within and gently laid the woman upon it. She moaned, and, looking towards him with unseeing eyes, lifted her hand towards him. Her chest heaved with heavy, labored breath, and he wrapped his hand around hers in a futile effort to calm the trembling.
A nurse who had seen the procession walked up at that point, ready to assist however she may.
The healer cupped the woman soldier’s chin and inspected her face, followed by the length of her body, shaking his head.
“Nurse, retrieve Lindion.” Without a sound, she hurried out of the room to seek the most experienced healer in the city. Looking back to Galron, Terevion inquired with a furrowed brow, “What story is this?”
Galron could only shake his head, his eyes never leaving the bloody figure on the table in front of him.
The bewildered healer turned to dig through cabinets and produced a jar of dark liquid and a cup. Holding both aloft, he carefully poured the fluid, set down the jar, and lifted her head to help her drink. Suddenly, her free hand shot up with surprising speed and grasped the healer’s arm holding the cup.
“Easy, lady. It will alleviate your suffering for a while,” he quietly coaxed.
With that, the woman drank. “Sleeping draught,” he explained to Galron. “She’s not going to want to be awake for what we’re about to do.”
Galron winced. As a man of war, he was quite aware.
Terevion gently laid her head back on the table. When he removed his hand, he was startled to find it covered with blood. Galron rubbed his mouth.
“No woman should have to endure this. Why…..”
The arrival of Lindion closely followed by the nurse shook the Swan Knight from his thoughts. The healer swept into the room with much haste and began rolling up the sleeves of his robe. Gazing down at his patient, he ran aging fingers through grey hair. His dark eyes surveyed the damage. The woman’s breathing had slowed, and she had fallen into unconsciousness.
“Terevion, we have much to do. Out, soldier!”
Galron realized just how small the room was. Cabinets ringed the chamber, and there was space enough for one person to walk around the table in the center.
He silently slipped out and momentarily thought of finding Prince Imrahil. He would be needed for the impending siege. But weariness overtook him, and he sank down in the hallway. Sleep quickly took him.
Galron awoke to a tapping on his armor. He was sitting slumped forward with his knees pulled up and his head resting on top.
“Forgive me, sir, but Prince Imrahil beckons you.”
The young knight nodded at the page boy, slowly rose in silence, grabbed his helmet, and ambled towards the door of the Houses of Healing.
As he once again weaved through the confusion, he spied Lindion walking quickly towards a room, wiping his hands on a towel. Hurrying to catch up to the healer, Galron reached out and grabbed the aging man’s thin shoulder, causing him to wheel about to face him.
“She is alive. That’s all I can tell you. I’m sorry, but I have duties to attend.” With that, he wheeled and hurried on his way.
Galron watched him for a while, a myriad of unanswered questions following the healer as he disappeared into the chaos. But the young knight soon turned to go. He, too, had duties.
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