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  1. Previous scene: Gone Too Long ~~~ Merdyn stepped through the Gateway that his Warder had created. His feet landed firmly on the packed earth of the Embassy's Traveling Grounds. Nox was right behind Merdyn. The Gateway disappeared without ceremony. He glanced over to Nox and smiled warmly, still feeling relaxed from their night together. The pair had awoken well before the dawn. Merdyn had thrown together a large meal and Nox had made a Gateway to a hot spring located somewhere in the north. They had broken their fast together and bathed each other there before returning to their hut to dress for the meeting with Calder. It had taken a little over an hour and Merdyn had found himself wondering why they had not done something like that sooner. He was positively beaming. Dawn had just started to break over the horizon, casting a hazy glow to the violet sky overhead. The air was crisp and smelled of nature and the green things that surrounded the Citadel complex. Merdyn looked around, impressed with the structure that had been erected for the Asha’men. He had only ever been to the Citadel once and he had still been a Soldier at that point. It felt like that had been a lifetime ago to Merdyn, so much had happened since then. He had never actually even been inside the Embassy, so he was not sure what to expect. Merdyn took Nox’s hand and gripped it firmly. He spoke warmly to his Warder, “Do you know anyone in the Band, love? The last time we were here, I don’t think I spoke to anyone but you or Ful… What sort of people are our comrades?”
  2. Hope is the thing with feathers —That perches in the soul —And sings the tune without the words —And never stops at all — A soft groan issued from somewhere under the pristine sheets as Elynde attempted to right herself. Choice words, interspersed with more groans as well as a considerable amount of squirming, followed. Her whole body felt as if it had been lying in the same position for days which, in reality, it had because they had to let her back heal. Any pressure at all on the wound risked re-opening it. Still, whomever had thought this brick she'd been stuck on was deserving of the name bed, needed their head examined. In truth, she was still in a considerable amount of pain but, for the first time, her head was entirely clear and her boredom outstripped her lack of energy. She was determined to get up. The only problem with fulfilling that wish, was that her limbs were aching and stiff, and sitting up was causing a multitude of smaller aches to make themselves known. With a little perseverance, or sheer bloody mindedness as her mother would have said, Ely eventually managed to roll onto her side and push herself up enough to swing her legs over the edge of the bed. Upright at last, she placed her bare feet on the blessedly cold, stone-flagged floor and breathed slowly, recovering from the exertion. She could feel the skin along the wound pulling but, thankfully, it seemed to have knit enough that it wasn't going to pull apart. She wasn't quite sure how many days had passed since their return to the Citadel. She'd spent most of it in a haze, probably due to those herbal concoctions the Sage had provided that the medics kept dosing her with. Her memories of being at the Tracker Lodge were practically non existent after being hit. A mild fever brought on by whatever had been on the blade that Light forsaken creature had cut her with, so the medic said. "Trollocs," she shuddered at the idea, closing her eyes briefly against the memory of remembered pain. She'd felt the skin slicing, the metal biting into muscle and tissue. The burning had been agony. If it hadn't been for the Sages.... well, no point following that line of thought. It hadn't been her time and that was that. It troubled her more than she liked though; the idea of dying alone, far from home and her beloved ocean, with nobody to miss her passing. She shook herself, and muttered under her breath, "You signed up for it, girl. Wanted to make your mark on the world, didn't you? Do something important. There's always a price, a trade off. You knew that going in. You made that choice. Too late for what ifs now." Ely stood with care, allowing her legs to take her full weight bit by bit until she was sure she could stand, and looked about for clothing. She could feel the soft waft of air across her back where the shift she was clad in had been cut from hem to neck. The medic had explained it was important to allow air to get to the wound for the first few days to aid in faster healing. Once it had closed, they'd bound her midriff tightly to prevent infection. They seemed to know what they were doing, these healers, but she was blasted well not going to be seen walking around like this. She located her own belongings on a chair behind the door and set about making herself respectable. The process of dressing without causing herself too much pain took most of her concentration which meant it was a few minutes before the low voices outside the room impinged on her awareness. The speakers couldn't see her, tucked behind the door as she was. "...I told you, that's another 5 come in...to be reported he said....too many now...," the first voice sounded Cairhienin and Ely leaned enough to see round the door before ducking back. Two men, assistants most likely, had their heads together in a way that, if they'd only realised it, screamed secrecy to anyone watching. "6 dead last week, another 8 this week. Medics reckon it's a bad batch. Fermenting gone wrong." A second man chimed in trying to sound knowledgeable. The first replied with something Ely couldn't quite make out and their voices began to fade away as footsteps moved into another room. Something about that conversation wasn't right and she tried to pinpoint what as she tugged her shirt over her head. It was forgotten moments later, however, as tightening her belt caused a wince just as the medic, an older man whom she'd seen yesterday, appeared in the doorway. He insisted brusquely on checking her wound and rebinding it with a fresh dressing before agreeing she was well enough to go back to her own quarters. "But you come back if that wound opens up and nothing too strenuous for the time being. You're excused duty until I say otherwise," he gave her a hard stare to drive home that he was serious so Ely nodded hasty compliance. "How many days have I been here?" Ely interjected when he paused, only to have him look her over carefully. "Days is it? Nay, lass. You've been in here almost 3 weeks." Ely blinked. "Did your visitors not tell you?" Another blink. "Visitors? More than one? Who else would have cared enough to check? The Sergeant? No...no...he died, I saw him." She frowned, and her confused thoughts must have shown on her face, as the medic spoke again. "A young girl, two or three times. And a man, infantry I'd say. Been here regular like. Looked fairly beaten up himself. Late on in the day." He nodded absently to himself, "You might have been asleep at that. Only been with us properly these past few days. Nasty fever so it was. Now, you can do some light training if you feel up to it, but don't be a cork brained idiot and overdo it, you'll just end up back in here. You can get a fresh dressing each morning." With that he bustled off to tend his next patient, leaving Ely with one name and a very particular pair of eyes burning into her brain. She remembered Tris visiting. The earlier visits were rather blurry but yesterday's... that wasn't one she was likely to forget. The kid had described Arinth's actions with relish and no small amount of glee, making him sound like some kind of avenging saviour. It wasn't far off the mark in Ely's estimation. Hearing of the severity of the injuries he'd taken and fought through, had caused a very strange sensation in her stomach and when Tris spoke of him carrying her into the Lodge, the flash of heat had taken her voice for several minutes. She'd been half scared to ask how he was but Tris volunteered the information that the Sage, Aislyn, had finally put her foot down and insisted Arinth be treated in case his broken ribs had punctured a lung. Ely knew she couldn't afford to read anything into it. The man, however impressive, was only doing what any member of the infantry would do for another. What any Bander would do for another. That's all it was. Wasn't it? But if that's all then why come to visit, and so often...and why not when she was awake? His behaviour spoke of someone who didn't want their actions known. "Or who wasn't sure of their welcome..." her inner voice pointed out insidiously. Her common sense reasserted itself. "Or maybe he was just working late duty and he visited all of the injured soldiers!" Exasperated by the immediate feeling of disappointment that thought engendered, Ely shoved her thick fall of hair out of her face, and began making her way out of the building that was reserved for the most serious cases. She walked haltingly past the other general medical and triage tents, and on into the city proper. The streets got busier as she went and she kept to the very edges of the thoroughfares, avoiding any bumps or collisions as best she could on her slow progress. She had a destination in mind, having made Nowal's inn a regular haunt since first finding it. The food was good, the inn clean and the ale met Ely's high standards. Food was the first priority. She was as weak as a day old kitten. Then...then she had some people to thank and some questions to ask.
  3. Arkin briefly considered just leaving Arinth a message and heading straight to the tavern, but friendly courtesy prevailed, so he let himself into Arinth's tent instead. He wasn't there-maybe on the training grounds or doing whatever it was that Infants did with their spare time. Arkin himself had just got off duty training some newer Scouts. They were all a bit rubbish when they started off. He'd spent the last two hours lying in a tree and singing, yelling out the names of prospective Scouts as they attempted to sneak up on him. A few had managed to disguise their identities well enough that he just had to point at them, and call out, "Ooh, very good. Behind the beech tree." The two hours before that, he had been sitting in a different tree wearing his reversed coat and his bandana, occasionally crawling over to another tree or ghosting behind the Scouts who were looking for him. Only one of them had found him. He had high hopes for that kid. Arkin understood that he was very good at vanishing-he was almost a graduation challenge; Scouts were allowed out on real patrols once they had found Arkin really attempting to hide from them-but he had been hoping for a higher success rate.They weren't completely new and he'd been training them. They knew exactly what to look for to find him. But they'd get there. Maybe tomorrow. He really hoped he hadn't been that rubbish when he started. He remembered doing a similar exercise. He'd started ghosting the other scouts-in-training and picking their pockets instead of whatever the actual task had been. They hadn't appreciated it at the time, but his trainer had thought it was brilliant and moved him up to the next training bracket. Master Gabbon would have smacked him for ignoring orders and disarming his allies. But the Scout trainer had loved it. And now Arkin was helping to teach. When had that happened? When had any of this happened? Who had thought it was a good idea to put him in a position of responsibility? Well, whatever they'd been thinking, it had to have been worse for them to have Arinth a Sergeant. Arkin grinned to himself and had a drink from one of his flasks. That was yet another reason it was perfectly ok for him to be here rather than skipping the tent and heading to the tavern-he had plenty of drinks right here. And he was really keen for company more than he was for drinks right now. He'd prefer them both at the same time, but he could settle for one or the other for a while. From the trunk in his customary spot in Arinth's tent, Arkin could see the reports scattering Arinth's desk. Grinning to himself again, he took a longer swallow and swapped hands, getting to his feet and walking over to the desk. He picked up a paper and squinted at it for a moment. Miri and Arinth had done their best to help him learn his letters, and had succeeded, to a large extent, but Arkin was still fairly slow to read. He was working on it. After a bit of brain power, he registered that the report had something to do with infantry numbers in the third company and put it back down, the aim more to read the letters than get any information from them. Finally, there was the sound of footsteps outside. Arkin waited a moment for Arinth to actually near the tent-sometimes having scout ears was more annoying than it was useful.
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