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Agony

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Being a Yellowjacket meant protecting the people. As a former pirate, protecting others was something that she should not have been terribly concerned with. Sure, she had protected her best mates and the captain, when he was not being a giant arse, but when Merlwyb had declared an end to piracy she had needed to find a new line of work. Farming, while pretty with incentives, had held no appeal despite being something that would have gotten her hands dirty. She needed blood, sweat, and tears that all belonged to other people as she cut a swath through enemy ranks. That the enemies were mostly local fauna that took offense to people trying to make a living on land as opposed to the sea rather than rival pirates was certainly less exciting, but it was better than nothing.

It was that civil duty that had sent her out to Lower La Noscea to investigate claims of wild aurochs having wandered to the area. The need for action, something to prove her strength against, and no small amount of personal interest had sent her running at the herd. If their path had been redirected then her duty would have been complete. That the herd had been aggressive served her well enough, however, but she had not counted on her own instincts betraying her. She knew it was what she got for agreeing to bring in a greenhorn, though, and as she shoved the young recruit aside she only had time enough to hope that no one would let her husband and son see her body before she was hit head on by a charging auroch.

No one still living had ever accused Minerva Mauglein of being rational. She was a swing first and ask questions later kind of woman, strong and possessing a self-confidence that bordered on arrogance. She was also barely clinging to life when Solkwyb arrived to administer much needed healing, and several days later she found herself opening her eyes only to be greeted by the familiar stone surrounds of Limsa Lominsa. Her hearing came a moment later followed by her nerve endings screaming into consciousness with pain so immense she actually gasped.

“By the Navigator, y’scared the shite right out of me!”

Turning her head with a groan, Minerva noticed a lalafellin nurse standing on a stool. She had been in the middle of doing something but had stopped to put a hand over her heart as if to keep it from bursting out of her chest. Wetting her lips as best she could with a tree bark tongue, Minerva almost considered keeping her thought to herself.

“Explains the smell,” she whispered dryly. Almost.

She ignored the look of reproach she had earned in favor of scanning the rest of the room. It was a standard issue medical facility, with its hard bed, stiff sheets, and rows upon rows of bottles filled with all sorts of potions and nix tongues. There also was a whiff of something foul in the air but coming from a pirate background told her that it was only the stench of a body gone unwashed for too long. That would have explained the basin and sponge on the table the nurse was standing at; it was bath day.

“How long?” she asked, voice still nothing more than a hoarse whisper.

“Almost a fortnight, altogether. Been only a week here. You had to be stabilized before you could move. You’re lucky to be awake at all, honestly. I’ve seen smaller scrapes do a man in than what got you.”

“Good thing ‘m not a man.”

The exasperated sigh that met her response was clearly meant to cover a laugh. Letting it lie–it was too hard to breathe to carry on a conversation–she instead focused what energy she had on feeling herself out. Her hands were working, fingers wiggling as much as she dared to let them while her elbows crooked ever so slightly. There was less fire in her arms and shoulders which was a good sign save for the inferno that flared in her chest; freshly knit ribs and collarbone then. Her left leg seemed to be in decent order as well, sluggish only from lack of use, but as she attempted to move her right foot she noticed something was off.

“…What-?”

“Oh, well would you look at this,” the nurse interjected, now at her bedside and firmly grasping the sheet that was covering her in one hand while the other waved frantically behind her.

Were she her usual self it would be nothing to rip the cloth from the other woman’s grip. Diminished as she was, Minerva knew there was no way she would be able to see what was under there, what the nurse was hiding. What she did see, however, was something much more pleasant as she spied eyes the color of storm clouds. New lines had formed around them and they had begun to sink into a nest of dark circles, but they still belonged to her husband. In his arms was another familiar sight, a pair of wide yellow eyes that shimmered in the sunlight pouring in from the window and framed by wild, dark hair that had a pair of large, dark ears poking from the top.

“‘Allo, loves,” she whispered.

“Ma! Mumma!”

The fire in her chest turned to ice as little Artevael reached out for her from his father’s arms only to be gently shushed and pulled tighter to his chest. She wanted so badly to take him, to tell him everything was fine, but she and Devereux were doing their best to teach him not to lie so how could she tell one so blatant? Especially when she did not even know the full extent of her injuries.

“It’s alright, sweetling,” Devi cooed. “Mumma’s awake, but she’s still hurt. We have to be gentle, alright? Can you be gentle with your ma?”

A tiny smile crept onto her face when her boy nodded even as her husband’s words echoed in her head as something surreal. Gentle? Minerva Mauglein? The woman who carried unprocessed logs as exercise? Who had wench toted her not-then-husband from the tavern because no one would let her fight the barmaid? Minerva Mauglein, who had often been described as a bladed whirlwind in the heat of battle? That hurt almost as much as not being able to hold her little boy.

“‘M glad you’re awake, Ma,” Artevael whispered as he stood next to her bed. Apparently gentle also meant a soft voice and that made her smile again. “They said…they said you was gonna sleep a long time.”

“Ah, sleepin’ too much is boring,” she said only to have a cough follow her words and contort her expression into one of pure pain.

“Mumma?!”

Before Devereux could reach for him, she moved her hand from beneath the now loosened covers to take Art’s little hand. Tiny fingers rubbed at the weapon calluses–once an action of awe at his mother’s strength and now one of reminder of it–before he gripped her as tight as he dared. Her baby boy was so strong, the same way Devereux was, and she was so proud.

It was that quiet strength that had drawn her to her husband in the first place, and the first thing she pointed out when people asked why someone like her would go after a displaced elezen man over the rough-and-tumble types found all over Limsa Lominsa. After that, folk had questioned the adoption of a baby miqo’te when her ears were round and his were pointed just not on top of his head. Those questions were met with a fist and curses that made even the most seasoned sailors turn crimson. That was why she had been glad to see Artevael taking more after his father. She was proud of her strength and unapologetic of her past, but hers was not a life she wished for her son. That both he and Devereux loved her regardless was a boon she knew she did not deserve and why she held tight to it. It was also that love that she knew she would need in the coming days.

“So, since little miss is gone,” she breathed as she looked up at her husband, “you tell me what’s wrong with me.”

“Other than you being entirely too reckless and taking no less than five years off my life?” he asked and he grinned when she rolled her eyes. She woke in good spirits. He did not know how long she would keep them.

“Don’t give me that look, Devi. Just spit it out.”

Even little Artevael looked uncomfortable, his ears sticking out flat to the sides. Obviously the news was bad, but whatever it was she had at least woken up. There were probably at least three people back at command who were cursing their luck at losing the pot. She could probably name them, too, and she would see to them later.

“Broken ribs, shattered collarbone, broken arms and legs, a concussion; if it’s a bone it was probably broken, except your hands. Somehow your hands were unscathed save for cuts. Someone was watching out for you there,” he said. He then ran a hand through his hair, clearly nervous and wanting to stall, but he knew it was useless. “About your leg, you-it…there was no salvaging it, Minnie. They had to take it off or infection would set in and kill you sure as that auroch almost did. …I’m sorry.”

His words reached her ears, but they did not fully process at first. It was not that she could deny something was wrong, and considering the nature of the rest of her injuries compared to what she had seen with others amputation was not necessarily out of the realm of possibility. The thing was, it could not have happened to her. She could not have had it happen to her. How would she still be a Yellowjacket without two legs to stand on, to move her forward, to keep her balanced as she swung her axe in the name of safety and State mandated bloodshed? The answer was, she would not be. At least, not in the capacity she had been serving.

“Huh,” she finally said as she turned her gaze away from her husband and to the ceiling. The ceiling could not look at her with sympathy and sadness; Devereux knew better than to pity her. “Guess this is it for ol’ Mean Min.”

“Minnie…”

With more gentleness than anyone but her family would have thought her capable of, Minerva removed her hand from her son’s grasp before moving it to stroke his hair. He was crying now, and she could not even muster up the strength to tell him that there was no need. It would also be rude to get him to stop when she felt like it herself.

“I’m glad y’stopped by,” she rasped, her voice betraying the tears that were threatening to fall. “I know I said sleep was boring, but I’m thinkin’ I hear it callin’ again. Isn’t that was the physicks say? Sleep cures all? Or s’it alcohol?”

Devi knew the joke for the shoddy mask it was, but he was kind enough to offer a smile before he scooped their son back into his arms.

“You rest up, love,” he said softly. “We’ll come see you again soon.”

“I love you, Mumma.”

Unable to summon a reply for fear of loosing the sobs that tore at her throat, she instead blew them both a kiss, stilted and painful as her movements were. It was only when they left that she let the tears fall. The Captain did always say that her life would end in blood and ruin, but even he likely never thought it would come as it had. Still, it was not the loss of limb, and life as she knew it, that hurt most. It was the silence, the waiting for the other shoe to drop that never would because some auroch had run off with it. It was being thankful to be alive while at the same time thinking it might have been better that she had died. For the first time in her life, Minerva was powerless and that was a pain worse than what she felt in the limb she no longer had.