There’s just no end to this madness. All we can do is go forward – but how many are we going to lose while we do so? Whether because of sacrifice or simply having nothing else to give …
Firmly Rosa squelched down on the rest of that train of thought. It did none of them any good – and would cause a great deal of harm – if she gave in to despair now.
Oh, but it could be hard sometimes … And that last skirmish had nearly been the end of them …
* Two green dragons, one after the other, and with them nearly at the end of endurance in the depths of this accursed Tower; she’d barely the time to draw her bow and let a single volley fly before Cecil and Edge, rushing in, made friendly fire too much a risk and Kain surged skyward after them, his face a twisted mask as he lunged at the snarling, snapping drake *
* Then screamed in agony as the beast’s jaws clamped on his legs, the sinewy neck snapping sideways, and he was thrown broken and bleeding across the pale tiles of the Tower even as Edge and Rydia called thunder and a hail of blades down on the beast *
* Cursing, spitting blood, Kain was struggling to regain his feet even as she approached – blood everywhere, shattered armour pressing plates into torn and mangled flesh – and was not taking no for an answer: as soon as the damaged plates were pulled clear and jade-pearl glow of her healing words began to fade, before she could properly assess the still-livid wounds, he was launching himself skyward once again *
* As Rosa hoped against hope that the torn flesh held a spray of droplets like scarlet teardrops trailed him, and she bit off a curse of her own as she raced back towards the others to do what she must –*
* Kain was astride the dragon’s withers, lance buried haft-deep in scaly flesh; Edge’s howl pulled her like a summoned beast. She rushed to the Eblan prince’s side, taking the measure of the gashes that exposed muscle and pale rib-bones, grasped him bodily to hold the savaged flesh together until the magic took hold and colour came back to his face beneath that flimsy veil *
* Cecil, next, though he waved her away from arm’s reach – so close to the snapping, bloodied jaws – moonlight hair splattered scarlet and armour scored from claws and breath, muttering his own healing charms under his breath – ‘The others need you, is Rydia untouched …?’ *
– They were holed up in a side-chamber, now, one with a door capable of being barred against Babel’s monstrous hordes, and trying to snatch up what rest they could manage before pressing on. Rosa prayed they would all sleep at least, now that she’d made the rounds of their makeshift camp with healing drafts and – when those were less needed – with strong silk thread and mythril needles to draw battered flesh back together again. She was bloody from top to toe, now, and little of it was hers.
If only she didn’t need to harbour at least some of her magic against the future … but there was no telling what awaited, and Ether was in scant supply …
I don’t want to risk it. Not now.
I’ll wait until we’re about to move on, and then I’ll make a final decision depending on what sleep has brought …
Kain muttered in his sleep again, tossing fitfully, and Rosa was back on her feet. That restlessness could be the first inkling of what she feared most of all – she can heal wounds, she can banish disease and venom from the body, but infection could strike, and weaken, and kill, without warning or remorse. Worse, it defied her magic until it ran its course or was cleaned out and dealt with.
With a despairing glance at her own bloodstained clothing, Rosa did not have much hope of proper cleaning of wounds so long as they remained trapped in the Tower. It would be down to eagle-eyed observation and no little bit of luck – luck that still held, as Kain was warm but not fever-flushed when she tested his brow and throat. The dragon knight hadn’t so much as flinched as she’d done so, though he did complain wordlessly when she inspected his wounds; but there was no sign of corruption yet. Neither did any of the others seem worrisome, as Rosa made her rounds again to make certain of that fact.
Finally, with a stern warning to not wear herself to ribbons with worry, Rosa took herself to her own bedroll and began her calming meditations. She needed to sleep herself, despite the knots of anxiety in her throat. Nightmares or no, injuries or no, she needed to be ready.
She’d do no less for them.