pIt has been two days since the attack on the caravan.
The group had made camp in an area a short distance away from the battleground to recuperate. The atmosphere was gloomy with everyone on edge, and not a single person had bothered to pitch up tent the first night, opting to just sleep in or under or in the wagons.
Whispers and rumors swept through the somber camp like a cold breeze and those who recalled what happened that day shuddered with fright under their blankets.
No one had been able to explain exactly what had occurred that evening.
The only thing that everyone could agree upon was hearing Adalina’s cries, seeing a man coming out with her babe in his arms, and then everything went white. As if the brightness of the sun itself appeared in the middle of the chaos. By the time blindness cleared away, Adalina was already out of her wagon and cradling her child, surrounded by a pool of blood and gore.
The seven or so armed men who had gathered everyone out of the wagons and tied them up had vanished, and in their place, were nothing but blood, entrails, bits and pieces of flesh, and shattered bones.
Four of their guards had perished while protecting the cargo and passengers, while others were captured. Altogether, eleven guards had fallen during the bloodbath against the bandits, leaving the number of remaining guards at a measly nine with most wounded.
The caravan master himself had a broken arm, a black eye, and a broken tooth along with from what he said ‘felt like two shattered ribs’. The man had been trying to protect the passengers by attempting to barter with the bandits and had been beaten unconscious.
Due to the fact that all of the guards had been injured to some extent, a few of the passengers had been asked to be lookouts while capable individuals were tasked with tending to the wounded until some of the guards could resume their duties.
Guards and passengers alike who were able to move, had spent the last two days looting whatever they could from the battlefield and searching for items that may be sent back to families of the deceased.
Adalina ripped a shirt at the seam. She then took a knife and slowly sliced it into strips.
Taking out a dried dessil leaf, she crushed it first in her hands, then poured it onto a clean piece of cloth and attempted to mash it into finer pieces. After assessing that it was good enough, she removed the wrappings around Troyle’s left thigh and applied some of the powder to his wound. She took a piece of the strips she had cut and folded it into a makeshift gauze and covered the wound before re-wrapping it.
Troyle’s wound was deep, but not life threatening as long as it did not get infected.
She had never imagined her skills–acquired from her time with the mercenaries–would ever be required again. Countless times she had done this treatment, helping to mend wounded mercenaries and especially Troyle whenever he got back from a job. The Dessil plant was not a rare plant by all means, but it was inedible and filled with a thick bitter liquid that when dried, became something akin to anti-septic. She had learned from one of the mercenary healers that by drying the leaves and grinding it, the fine powder could help to dull pain and prevent infections in and around the wounded area. From the constant necessity to apply aid to the wounded, she had made a habit of always having dried dessil leaves handy.
Bandaging the man before her, she had always feared that one day he would not come back her. Even during his time as a mercenary, she had been afraid but knew better than to keep Troyle away from the one thing he knew he could do well in life, and that was fighting. She had seen him sparring years ago while he was still a mercenary and had fallen in love then. Taking combat away from him was like clipping his wings, and she would not do that to him. It was one of the reasons she did not beg him for them to move elsewhere when he was conscripted to join the village guards.
This time too, she was afraid. But this time it was neither for Troyle or herself. Not even for the caravan’s safety.
She was afraid for the child that was laying on a makeshift bed of clothes. Kaidus had been unconscious this whole time. He was breathing, but no matter how much she attempted to coax him into wakefulness, the child remained unconscious.
She had spent the better part of the previous two nights fearing for the child’s life, and had not been able to sleep much. She tended to her job of cooking and bandaging Troyle’s wound, but most of her time were spent by the child’s side.
She vehemently blamed herself for his condition, for not being able to protect him.
“Wake up Kaidus… please wake up…” She begged with tears streaming down her eyes.
Sitting there watching his wife move back to their child after she dressed his wound, Troyle sat in silence, unable to say anything to lift her spirits.
He had encouraged her, had promised her that the child was merely sleeping when he first found out about the child’s condition. But that was two days ago, and now his words did naught but fall on deaf ears. All he could do for her now was watch her in case she fell further into despair.
His eyes moved from his family and fixated on his leg. Predominantly his left thigh where his new injury was.
Toward the end of the battle, while fighting one of their attackers, another had come up from behind him. Parrying the first man’s sword slash, he had used the momentum of the man’s strike to push himself back and twisted around to counter the one flanking him, but he had miscalculated the speed of the second man. Instead of waiting for the new assailant to reach him and the first man time to strike again, he had lurched toward the latter to get in range. His quick movement was able to surprise the one that was flanking him, but by the time he turned around, the first man was already upon him. Barely dodging a thrust to his stomach by jumping backward, the thrust had caught him in the thigh. He was able to dispatch the man afterward, but it was only with the support of the surviving guards that he was able to come back alive.
Reminding himself about his blunder, anger swelled within him.
‘I should have stayed with the caravan.’ He regretted to himself
In two short years, his judgment and skills had dulled to this effect. The sound of footsteps, the angle of a blade, the force of a parry, the speed of a thrust. His time as a village guard had seen little action, and even when something did happen, it was never more dangerous than a wandering wolf or bear that could be easily scared off or trapped. He had lost his edge that had been forged via countless life and death situations. Yet, thinking himself a more capable warrior than the other guards, he had failed to notice or even thought that there might be a second team and had opted to move with the main force instead of staying behind to protect his family.
Their force had consisted of 42 well trained and armed guards–including himself–when the caravan first started out from Hilthu, now it was less than a dozen.
After hearing from one of the scouts that a sizable force was quickly coming upon them, 8 guards had been assigned to guard the caravan while the rest went on to engage the enemy. The idea was to stop them before they could surround and used the passengers as hostages. Half way through the battle, a horn had been heard, thinking that it was a sign for retreat, they did not pay much attention to it.
The 4 surviving guards had said they were ambushed from the forest by a small team, from the sound of it, the enemy had weaved through the forest and waited for the horn to signal their attack. In the scuffle, four of the guards had been cut down, while the other four who reacted in time ended with only wounds and subjugation. Bound and tied up with the passengers, they had lost all hope of surviving this ordeal until the strange burst of light.
Mulling over everything he’s heard one more time. Troyle’s anger slowly vanished, while confusion and regret filled its place.
A part of him knew Kaidus had something to do with the so called strange light. ‘What had Kaidus done?’ that was the mystery he had racked his head over the past two days on. But since the child was not waking up, he was not able to get any possible answers from the source. And that is assuming the child knew what he did.
A light that targeted enemies, with a force that was strong enough to – for lack of a better word – ‘obliterated’ them, utterly destroying them by ripping them into shreds as if the body had blown up from the inside.
The remnants of the attack force had come back to a bewildered crowd of bloodied people. Being in the vicinity of the bandits, most of the travelers were covered in blood and possibly gore. Adalina herself was plastered with blood from her back to the hem of her dress. She had been cradling Kaidus while the other passengers, still tied up, had kept their distance. While most looked surprised, fear was prominent in everyone’s eyes.
even without an explanation for what happened, as the two days went by, some of the more superstitious and thankful passengers had come to the idea that: Adalina was some sort of dormant Malgin, and that her dormant powers had manifested and caused a miracle. Although there are cases of people exhibiting such events, it was unheard of in any adults, and most were definitely not on this scale. Adalina herself had vigorously denied it to him when he asked about the possibilities, saying that Kaidus had been the one who protected them.
With a hole in his leg, a son who had been unconscious for two days, and a wife who had pretty much lost her mind, Troyle leaned against the side of the wagon. Unable to usher any new words that would help calm his wife, he sat there silently watching and wallowing in his regret.
“You are beholden. You will find me. I WILL be FREED.”
-A dead woman, her husband with a knife in his chest. A child in tears.
-His eyes adjust to the figure of a man begging for mercy. He points at the man and the man was taken away.
-The figure of a young girl, broken, crying, dying…
-A crooked gallow, the beam breaking due an excess amount of bodies.
-People begging for mercy, crying for salvation, asking for forgiveness.
-Countless bodies lay dying, their life source leaking out like a slow moving stream.
-Hands covered, dripping something dark and rancid.
-A voice whispering sweet words
-Darkness. An endless darkness swallowing him up.
Realization dawned. He clawed at the darkness. Punching, kicking, struggling, running, everything he could think of. Nothing worked. Exhausted, he lays down and gives in, becoming a part of the darkness.
Days… months… years… ages… they all came and went.
Suddenly a liquid trickled onto him. With every drop, the darkness seem to slither away, shrieking in agony. After what felt like years, the darkness eventually washed away and he could feel a warmth encasing his body. Grasping at this little bit of light, he willed himself up from the darkness, and opens his eyes.
“Adalina?” A barely audible voice.
Looking at the child her in arms, Adalina cried again. For almost three days, he had been unconscious and she had fallen into the deepest pits of despair. There were times while she was cooking that she feared he had stopped breathing, and would hurry to his side only to find his tiny chest rising and falling weakly.
Being a mother, she had been prepared for when her children gets sick, but this was not a sickness. For all she knew, this had been some sort of incurable magic.
Kaidus was one who was born with mana, he had started understanding her ever since he was half a year old, and knew how to control his mana by his first birth cycle. Conversations came to him easily, and his eyes shone with intelligence and knowledge far beyond his age. Although she knew that most of the caravan members assumed, she had called forth the light that saved them, there was only one person here who could have created a miracle. She was glad for everyone else’s safety, but that miracle had almost cost her the one thing that she treasured the most. She loved Troyle, but he had grown distant over the last year after Kaidus was born. Although it has been getting better, and he had come to term that the Kaidus is his child, she can always see that he was doubtful whenever he looked at Kaidus. He had kept his distance and rarely interacted with the child until recently when he learned that Kaidus’s hair was due to the child’s inability to understand the situation and control his mana. Before that, Kaidus had been the only one by her side, her tiny sliver of better things to come. Glimpsing his ever watchful eyes drove her to push herself for his sake. Her loneliness washed away whenever she talked to him and held him in her arms. He was, the one thing in this world that she would be lost without.
Having cried herself out of tears, she calmed down.
“You cry a lot do you know that?” the tiny tired voice said as her sobbing came to a halt.
“Ehih… yea… I’m sorry.” holding him against her in a hug she replied in a relieved tone.
“Adalina, I’m hungry.”
“Oh! Sorry! I’ll prepare something for you right away!” Gently setting the boy back onto his little makeshift bed, she quickly got up and left the wagon. Her previous despondent mood had vanished completely.