The wind stirred leaves and pushed aside underbrush. The leaves and petals paused in mid-air, listening. Then it homed in on the sound of bells and rushed to Ada. She was near death. The ravens were gathering but hesitant to approach her too quickly. The silver water that passed for her blood was trickling out of her mouth into the ground. Each drop hit with the tinkle of a bell. She breathed a last sigh of relief, surrendering to the earth. The wind whirled around and through her as leaves and petals gathered to form a body. Long, twig fingers brushed Ada’s cheek. Root toes dug into the ground and collected the silver drops. They travelled through Dree and out zir fingertips. The drops danced across Ada’s skin, seeking flow lines where they reabsorbed. Ada gasped as the last found their way home.
Ada’s eyelids fluttered open and she stared blankly at the feral face frowning at her. Shadows flitted across Dree’s face, changing zir features through a continuum from wooden monster to fair lover. Ada didn’t focus on any one point, preferring the fluidity.
She swallowed and said hoarsely, “Dree, when will you release me?”
Dree cocked zir head to one side and said wryly, “I think not today. We shall see what tomorrow brings.”
Ada started to sit up then fell back as pain wracked her body. She said weakly, “As you wish, my Heart.”
Dree tsked. “Sarcasm does not become you, my champion.”
Ada grunted. “So say you.” She gripped zir arm. “Dree, how did the Jormuna find us? I thought…” she grimaced in pain. “I thought you said going beyond the gate would protect us.”
Dree shrugged. “It did for a time.”
“I am scouting possible roads even now. Trust me, my champion, as I have trusted you.” Zir head snapped up at the sound of distant voices. “Ah, your companions are coming.” Ze returned to zir wind form and raced away, staying close to the ground.
“He’s over here!” Kara’s brother, Tam, was the first to reach her. “Ada! Thank the spirits you still breathe.” As he examined her injuries, he added, “Though I’m not sure how.”
“She’s too stubborn for Setheria to claim,” Kara said as she joined them. She knelt next to Ada. “We have enough to sing the laments for this night.” As she checked her injuries, she asked, “What happened?”
Ada winced as she touched a tender rib. “Fog. Where’s my fiddle?”
Tam looked around. “There it is.” He retrieved it and brushed the leaves off of it. “I fear the bow is broken.”
“It was a good bow. Ah well, bring it. Perhaps I can repair it.” Ada sat up slowly.
Kara asked, “Can you stand or does Tam get to drag you home on a stretcher?”
“I’ll walk, if it’s all the same to you.” Ada held a hand up to her.
Tam stood up out of the way, crossing his arms. “This I’ve got to see.”
Kara took Ada’s hand and pulled her to her feet. Ada overbalanced and fell against her as her body protested the sudden change in position. Kara steadied her. “Ada…”
She kissed her. “I’ll make it, my love. Just let me lean on you a bit,” she assured her as she put an arm around her shoulders.
Kara shook her head. “So stubborn.” She slipped an arm around her waist and started walking slowly back to camp. “Tam, run ahead and tell them.”
Ada asked, “Did we drive the Jormuna raiding party away?”
Kara answered, “Aye, that we did. They didn’t get any of our cattle today.”
Ada smiled. “At least there is that.”
Kara let the scene faded to gray.
She chided Ada, “It would have helped if you’d mentioned Dree’s involvement.”
Ada shrugged. “It didn’t seem worth worrying you at the time.”
She raised an eyebrow and deadpanned, “Oh, no. You wouldn’t want to do that. Just saved it all up for later, didn’t you?”
A smile pulled at Ada’s mouth. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to spread the worry out more evenly
in the future.”
Kara rolled her eyes but she did smile as she brushed a stray strand of silver hair out of Ada’s face. “Let’s just move on before your falsehoods catch up with you.”
Ada murmured, “I fear they already have.”
copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved