He knows he cannot die like this, but the feel of blood running out under the hands that try to staunch the flow still brings with it the terrible fear of the unknown. Not death, for that's an end and a beginning, and he thinks he has an idea what that is - he's experienced it more than once, and he's seen it coming with a clarity that he can't hold now. Nor what lies on the far end of that journey that death is the beginning of, for that, again, he thinks he knows well enough.
It's what lies between that he fears, never remembering it after. Only the vaguest impressions of landscapes that hover between paradise and nightmare, whose population he can never entirely resolve. Enough knowledge to know it's not a blank place without consciousness, but not enough to truly understand what it is.
A hand is gripping his, a fierce voice he knows too well and not well enough telling him he's not alone. That he has no need to fear what lies between now and then, that the owner intends to go nowhere. It's a relief, and he grips the hand as tightly as he might, and surrenders to the strange half-world that lies between death and waking.
The field around him is littered with bodies. Some are familiar, enemies and vassals and family who are dead and gone. Others he doesn't recognize, though he thinks they are those he has killed without knowing their faces or names. The dead unburied to be a feast for the corbies that perch on a tree that is disconcertingly alone in the center. All watching him with black eyes, mocking and jeering without sound or word. Waiting for him to join the bodies around him so they might have their dinner.
"They won't get you. We'll find a way to save you, Your Majesty."
He looks down at the sound of a voice, wondering for a moment why it's coming from a hound, lean and brindled, that leans against his leg. There's something off about that fiercely protective voice in the body of a dog, even as it's right. Something that this place has inflicted on him before, in the time between death and waking.
"We?" This is a new variation on the journey from death to waking, and he's not sure how it's possible that others might be here with him. Unless they're all just drawn from his memories, and twisted into whatever form this place makes them.
The hound looks up, into the sky, and he follows his gaze, holding up an arm automatically as a hawk stoops out of a pale, overcast sky. It lands without weight, which he knows it shouldn't do. Knows, too, that he probably should have had a lure to bring in the hawk, but somehow that seems as wrong as it does right.
"And don't neglect your horse, Henry." The hawk's voice is familiar as well, though Henry thinks he should be far from the field, rather than walking up Henry's arm to his shoulder. The horse that nudges at his other shoulder has a familiar coat of arms etched on a steel faceplate fixed to its bridle.
"Where is a physician, then?" He looks down to the hound, raising an eyebrow. Whatever is right or wrong, nightmare or dream, Henry knows he has to follow the journey to wake. Or he'll remain here longer.
The hound - Haerviu, his mind supplies the name at last - lets out a bark of laughter, before bolting, faster than an ordinary dog might run. He returns as swiftly, followed by a hare that makes Henry's head hurt. Pale, fur mingled gray and white, with eyes that are familiar only because of long association with his gentle herald, his faithful guardian. Otherwise, he doubts he'd have met the hare (monk, priest, healer, patient conscience) under such peaceful circumstances as he had.
Henry stands quietly, leaning against the stallion with its arms of Salisbury, as the hare examines him closely. Shaking its head, and nodding instead toward the north, beyond the tree of corbies. "I can do nothing more for you than I have done. A wound as this is not helped by herbs and surgery, but by prayer and such strange magics as a witch might hold."
Another word resonates where he hears witch, but it makes his head ache further, more than the dream-like strangeness of this place. Whatever knowledge it is, he isn't supposed to know it, and so pushes it out of his mind.
Darius shrugs, a gesture that shouldn't seem natural on a hare, but doesn't seem any odder than the rest of it. "As far as you must go. Matthew can carry you. He knows the way."
Matthew, who has guided him in more things than he can think since he first woke to renewed life that does not so easily desert him as it does even an Immortal such as his friend. His friends, who travel with him as he rides, uncertain of when or how he had gotten on the back of the stallion. No more than he's certain how far or long he rides before he's stopped by a sharp hoot in the gathering darkness.
He is given no answer, and the hawk on his shoulder shifts, walking down his arm when he moves to allow it. Tossing the hawk into the gloom is something he'd never do with any bird of his own, though here it feels natural. Knowing that the hawk will return, that it is his friend. There's more to it than that, but he can't think about that without the same ache at his temples that started when he tried to hear the word behind 'witch' earlier.
More time passes without his attention, a landscape of unnatural flickers at the edges of his vision that vanish when looked at head-on. Sounds that he can't quite identify, and make his vision blur when he tries too hard to listen to them. All through it, knowing Matthew and Haerviu are there, solid and real more than the world around him.
Pale streaks of pre-dawn light come with Matthew stopping, and the hawk returning bearing something clutched in its talons. A bright thing he can't quite look at, and feels like cool metal when dropped into his hand. The shaft of a pike, perhaps, or a simple stave. He'd think a baton if it weren't long enough to lean on, his knees feeling unexpectedly weak as he slides to the ground.
From here, he knows he has to go on alone, through the narrow cleft in a shifting darkness that isn't anything he can quite identify. The rod to support him to uncertain shores of water shining brilliant as sunlight, and from there cast in. An offering? He falls to his knees at the edge of the water, unable to think of what he should do now.
Callused hands cup his face, slender and cool fingers against heated flesh. He has only the impression of dark eyes in a pale face, crimson swirls and patterns in brilliant contrast, before he feels lips pressing against his own. Whispered words that echo in his mind, the sound of pounding hooves and the shriek of steel on steel. He's falling, tumbling through swirling color, words lost in a rush of wind as the world is ripped away.
"You cannot die here, dread sovereign. Hold on for me, stay with me." The voice is familiar, though it takes Henry a long moment to place it. The flow of blood has slowed, and will stop soon. No doubt Haerviu's hands are washed in what has spilled from his body, though he won't notice until they're safely back in what passes for a camp.
He reaches his own hand to cover Haerviu's, ignoring the fine tremor in his muscles. It will pass, once he has eaten if it doesn't do so sooner. "I'm not going anywhere, gentle herald." It is an epithet that has long since ceased to be entirely true, but it is a reminder of where they began, mortal king and enemy herald some five centuries past.
"Then open your eyes, Henry." Haerviu's voice still holds a desperate edge, and after a moment, Henry manages to do as he's asked. Wondering why he's startled to see the familiar lean face. Perhaps something of whatever had Haerviu convinced Henry was dying, with no way to be certain he'd come back.
"Better?" He tries to smile, but it falls flat as pain flares through him again a moment. Healing pain, but pain none the less, and a reminder that they're not safe.
"Better would be you not trying to catch a grenade." Haerviu slides a hand around Henry's shoulders to help him sit up. The field around them is eerily quiet, when it should be loud with the sound of battle. It makes him wonder how long he's been lying here - how long he'd been here before Haerviu found him.
"I didn't try; I caught the thing. Better me than someone who would have died." Henry looks down at his uniform, absently noting that it was in enough of a ruin that no one would believe he was alive. It would explain why he'd been left behind, particularly with them under fire from the Austrians. "They told you I was dead, didn't they?"
"Your lieutenant knows better." Helping Henry up, Haerviu handed him a bundle that proved to hold a fresh uniform. "He did, however, call me an idiot when I insisted on going alone to get you back. I think he was convinced the Austrians would have you prisoner."
"Not if they thought I was dead." Henry strips out of his ruined uniform without a care for who else might approach while he was changing. There wasn't enough time for modesty, not if he was going to get back before someone said the wrong thing to the wrong person. His small unit might have learned to ignore his spectacular luck in walking out of situations where he should have died, but he's not convinced that anyone higher up would do so. He's not about to become someone's pet experiment or pet assassin.
Haerviu doesn't respond to that, waiting for Henry to finish changing before he starts them walking in the direction of camp. Keeping close to Henry in the darkness that hides whatever damage was done by those the fighting Henry has missed while he's been unconscious or dead. It's far too quiet, what local wildlife there might be driven away or hiding from the war much as the local people no doubt wish they could do.
The reception from the lieutenant who's been serving as Henry's second for half this war already is decidedly relieved, and he holds a piece of paper to the flame of a tiny oil lamp. An official death notice, no doubt, that he's glad not to send. Instead, he sends one of the privates to fetch a meal for their captain and their chaplain, before leaving the cramped command tent for his own bed.
An action Henry is quick to imitate, once he's eaten dinner. Pulling Haerviu with him to their lashed-together cots, and nesting under the mounded blankets with his back to Haerviu's chest. Safe, for now, despite the war he's fighting, and the proximity of the enemy. No doubt he'll wake to the stutter of gunfire and the whistle of mortars, but for now, he gladly slips into sleep.