I took a look around the infirmary, a frown on my face. Usually, there were booths of healers, and a line of injured soldiers waiting their turn, sorted by severity. That’s normally how this worked.
Instead, what I saw were rows upon rows of injured soldiers, with a number of slightly-less injured soldiers running around with buckets of filthy water and bandages. It was still night time, and the long, long tent was poorly lit. All I saw were unending rows of men, going into the darkness. The stench of rot and decay, blood and vomit, bile and gore filled the air.
Nothing new there.
Screams and cries filled the air, men in agony begging for relief. Crying out for their families, for their loved ones.
“Find me the healer, or whoever’s in charge.” I ordered my gofer.
I missed Kallisto already. He would’ve preemptively read my mind, and already had the whole story for me. Instead, I was back to doing this the hard way.
I grabbed one of the soldiers who was running around, and not wanting to go through another song and dance routine, started by flashing my Sentinel badge.
“Hi. Area with the most critically injured?” I asked him. I didn’t get a salute in return, on account of him missing the needed hand.
He hesitated a moment, just from the sheer surreal nature of a Sentinel showing up in his tent, but pointed me in the right direction.
“Thank you.” I said, tapping him, letting a grin go from ear to ear. The look on his face, as his arm regrew, and a dozen minor cuts and bruises got fixed.
Gratitude and relief, thankfulness and joy. A new lease on life, a body made whole again.
There was an argument to be made to wait until I had a full sense of the situation. Until I had an eagle-eye view of everything going on, to put my mana to the best, optimal use. That we’d need my power somewhere else.
I couldn’t do it. Not here, not now, not this time. I went from soldier to soldier, lying side by side, packed like sardines in the infirmary, touching each one, healing them. Getting them ready enough to get back in the fight.
Which naturally had the soldiers further down in the line start to clamor and shout for me, for me to skip the line and heal them now.
“I’m the grandson of Senator Lucius! Heal me next!” One voice cried out.
“I have a wife! And kids! Do me next!” Someone else added in.
In the most pompous and arrogant tone I’d ever heard, so over the top as to be ridiculous.
“Well, bugger to all of you. I am the son of a baker. I obviously take priority.”
I cracked up laughing at that, hitting another person, and if I didn’t think it’d cause Serious Problems, I would’ve gotten to him next just for the joke. If I started down that path though, it could end up problematic. Better to have the appearance of fair and neutral in my healing.
However, I’d been a bit arrogant coming into the infirmary, and starting to heal.
Magic worked on a bunch of different things. Skills. Stats. Difficulty. Size. Image. All were factors in how much mana I used in a skill. One of the biggest, most important aspects was the size of the injury. A small cut took hardly anything, while regrowing an entire arm cost thousands of mana. Disease was easy and hard in that respect. The better I knew what I was dealing with, the more efficient I was, the less mana I used. However, fundamentally, disease didn’t have a huge amount of mass to it, which seemed to be one of the most critical aspects of not using lots of mana to cure it.
A poor image of the disease Hesoid was using, the fact that it was a magical plague and not natural, the fact that it was backed by skills as well, was why it had cost me so much more to cure his diseases, versus the natural outbreak of cholera that had been going on in tandem. I also needed to heal the damage done by the disease.
However, it was generally on a small scale, as these things went. It was why I could attempt to cure an entire tiny town of a weak plague. Diseases just didn’t cost that much mana. Part of why Dark and Water healers were more popular than Light healers. You could see a lot more patients for the same amount of mana, on top of a higher effectiveness at lower levels.
Only at 100, when I’d first gotten [Detailed Restoration] did I start becoming an effective Light healer. Even then, I’d needed the boost from [Oath] just to start getting anywhere.
Restoring limbs was an entirely different ballgame. There was a reason it had taken me three castings of a skill just to restore a kid’s arm back when I first got the skill, and that was a kid. A single, scrawny kid, with a small arm. The larger the person, the larger the arm, the more mana it took.
The question wasn’t my power, or my control. I’d demonstrated that with Brawling, curing him being bisected.
It was easier to reattach a limb than to recreate it. All the flesh was still there, it just needed to be reconnected, and what little rot and problems had set in needed to be fixed. Growing a limb wholesale was a different problem, by an order of magnitude.
The question was the sheer scale of the problem.
The first dozen patients were easy, and I hardly noticed the problem.
The second dozen the half-eye I permanently kept on my mana was sending a little warning bell that my mana was dropping fast.
By the third dozen, I knew I was in trouble.
I started to slow down. Chat with each soldier for a minute, stalling for time to think, and stalling for time for my mana to regenerate. The beauty of the “booth” method of healing is it took some time between patients, time that I could regenerate my mana, as opposed to the “blitz through everyone as fast as possible” method that I was currently employing.
I looked around, and spotted exactly the person I needed.
Well. Thought I needed.
They looked well into their middle-ages, and identified at level 240. His insignia suggested that he was a Centurion, one of the lower-leveled commanders. A young Centurion likely had bought the spot, or had gotten in on connections and the like. A battle like this, being on the frontlines, might have knocked some sense into them. It might not have. However, someone who’d broken past 180, and gotten themselves all the way to 240? Someone who, in spite of an age that suggested decades in the military was a Centurion? I couldn’t guarantee it, but it hinted at a lifetime of service, of being promoted from the lowest ranks all the way to Centurion on sheer merit and skill. Exactly the sort of person who could discreetly lend me a hand.
“Centurion! It’s been so long!” I gleefully said, arriving by his side. A quick look at his injuries suggested that falling rocks was the cause of his injuries, not Formorians. Made sense. Didn’t get to be this old on the front lines, without knowing how to best battle Formorians. Night and General Augustus talking about “not using large-impact skills” way back when I first arrived at the front lines had a much more sobering reminder.
“Here, let’s spend a few minutes catching up!” I said, wrapping us with [Veil of the Aurora], the initial privacy aspect of the skill coming back. The skill was so useful!
He looked at me as I touched him and healed him.
“Begging your pardon, Sentinel, but I’ve never seen you before.” He said.
“I know. I apologize.” I replied. I could see the gears turning, and before I could say anything else, he started speaking.
“Which means you need something from me. Something private, that you don’t want getting out.” He paused, continuing to think. I figured I’d spare us the game of “figuring it out”, and just talk with him.
“I’m going too fast, and running out of mana.” I said. “It’ll look more than a bit bad when I heal a bunch of people, and suddenly stop. Mind giving me a hand?”
The Centurion was sitting up and stretching, checking that, yes, he did indeed have his stomach back. He looked at me, spent a moment thinking, then nodded.
“Mostly. I can move down and partition the area. Once you reach the end, you’ll have ‘healed’ everyone present. Can’t stop people talking though.”
“Can’t stop them talking, or making it back indeed. I just need things to not turn ugly when I go ‘heal, heal, heal, sorry you drew the short straw’, without burning through all the Arcanite I have in reserve. My regeneration is high, and I will be able to get to everyone in time. I just need the time!”
“We don’t have time. Not with the way the assault is going.”
“I’m not the only Sentinel here, and I can only do so much.” I pointed out. “But I can do something. Come on. Work with me here.”
The Centurion seemed to think that, yes, indeed, he was back in one whole piece, and saluted me, fist over chest.
“As you command, Sentinel.” He said, and I dropped the [Veil], moving onto the next patient.
The Centurion moved down the line, deeper into the dark confines of the infirmary. I continued my work, spending a moment chatting with each soldier, carefully checking what had happened.
I could’ve probably gotten away with it anyways, but I had to acknowledge that being a [Pretty] healer in the middle of a warzone was probably helping. Nobody was minding me spending a few moments chatting them up.
If I could somehow stretch each conversation to a minute or so, I’d be able to do this forever. A secondary plan.
“This looks bad, how’d it happen?” I said, chatting with a soldier sans a leg.
A minor look of disbelief crossed his face – obviously a Formorian had taken it off – but it was quickly replaced with a misplaced confidence. Surely, he could tell an epic tale of heroism and valor, enough to woo a maiden’s fair heart.
“It was a Formorian! Twice as large as the norm, it ripped its way through our line! Soldiers fell left and right as it barreled through us. It was just me between it and the vulnerable camp! ‘This is it.’ I told myself. ‘This is what I’ve been training for, this is my moment of glory.’ Ah, alas, as I struck it with a mortal blow, it hit me right back with its dying breath, taking my leg with it! Such a monstrous Formorian wouldn’t die without extracting a price!”
I kept a smile on my face, mentally rolling my eyes in the biggest circle possible. Translation: He goofed killing a perfectly normal Formorian, who took his leg off in a moment of inattention. Someone must’ve screwed up the shield wall to boot, to allow it to happen.
I had no doubt by the time he got back home that he would be slaying a Royal Guard in single combat, the only soldier between it and the rest of Remus.
Still, his long-winded nature gave me time, time for my mana to regenerate. I patted him on the shoulder and plastered a smile on my face. Good bedside manner, that.
“How heroic! A new leg, for your service. Can’t help you with getting new armor though. Good luck!” I said, slowly standing up and moving to the next patient.
Zig-zagging across the aisle every time also burnt more time, so I did. The Centurion came back, and noticed me.
“Sentinel!” He said, in the fake-friendly voice. “I’m impressed! You’ve almost entirely cleared this tent, as usual!”
I mentally cursed.
How I translated what he said: “No way to break the tent in half or anything. Gotta go until the end. Not a ton more patients left.”
Curse the shit lighting in here. I had no idea how much more tent there was.
Although, the light was starting to get better. I made a poker face.
Dawn had arrived. In multiple senses.
I carried on regardless.
I was starting to tap my Arcanite, dropping the dangerously low reserves even further, when I reached the end of the tent. I looked back behind me, and smiled.
From what little I could see, the tent was nearly empty. Most of the soldiers, having gotten fixed up, decided that getting out of here was the right move. Occasionally I’d seen a squad leader move through, grabbing the members of their squad that had healed up but were loitering around, not terribly eager to get back in the action.
It couldn’t be good for their mental health. Imagine. Losing an arm, not being healed, spending who knows how long staring at the dark tent ceiling, thinking he’ll be a cripple for life – or at least until a good healer can get to him, if he could ever afford one. Most likely reliving the moment they were injured.
Then boom! I come through like the sun rising over the horizon, breaking their night, bringing the day. They’re healed! Whole!
I loved the title Dawn.
And with military efficiency – which is to say, incredible at some times, horribly inefficient at others – they’re yoinked right back to the front lines where they were injured, to be fed back into the all-consuming grinder that was the Formorians.
As much as I wished I could do some sort of mental health counseling – now was not the time or the place. Nor did I have any sort of training or skills for it.
I wish I did. I could probably handle my nightmares better if I did.
The gofer was waiting near the end of the tent. I eyed him. I was regretting picking him, of all people, to help show me around. Should’ve just grabbed the most competent-looking person around.
Then again. The fact that he was showing me around meant he wasn’t in the line right now, and from what I’d seen so far, I wasn’t impressed. For all I knew he’d get his shield-mate killed – or sent to this tent.
“Um, head healer said, um, he wasn’t going anywhere for anyone, and if you want to speak to him, you’ll need to go to him yourself.” He stammered out.
I suppressed a flash of anger and irritation. I’d pulled similar stunts myself, and I couldn’t complain when someone did it to me. Didn’t stop me from getting annoyed.
The gofer led the way, and I found myself in a large, well-lit tent. There were a large number of injured soldiers, clustered in groups. A full line of well-armed soldiers were around, nervous, on edge. Clearly in some sort of “riot control” mode.
I blinked, processing.
They didn’t want soldiers resorting to physical violence. Fairly standard guards for a healer. Took me way longer than it should’ve for me to realize that. I was obviously tired, and it was starting to show.
I kept looking around. There was one healer, and a few helpers that were performing basic triage.
Except – the triage was different from what I was used to.
I was used to a three-tiered system. Green was for walking wounded, people with injuries, but eh, not only would they live, but they could still move under their own power. Orange was for the badly injured, those who needed medical attention, who couldn’t really move under their own power. The tent I’d just cleared, I was realizing, was entirely full of Orange-tier injuries.
Last was Red. “Immediate attention or death” was the Red criteria, and whenever triage was being performed, no matter where in the world, Red was seen first. They got to skip the line.
Which was still happening here.
However, I saw a soldier get bustled in at full speed, screaming in agony, crying for his mother, and trying to hold his guts inside with one arm. He’d been sliced down his left side, everything from his left shoulder to left hip was gone, ribs exposed to the world, and he was trying to keep what was left of him inside his body. Even as I watched, something – a kidney – fell out, as everyone shifted slightly to get the man to the healer first.
The healer touched him, and instead of a body shimmering back, the wound was simply closed.
I narrowed my eyes. Dude was straight up dead with what he was missing. Like. Not immediately, but I could think of a dozen different ways he’d end up dead anyways.
Yet, everyone seemed to accept this as normal, and I begrudgingly had to admit that he was no longer a Red case, just a severe Orange.
Still – not terribly unusual.
Where it got weird was a Green was next. A relatively minor injury – a nasty gash to the shoulder – was entirely healed up. The soldier saluted, grabbed his gear, and hustled back out the door.
There was still a never-ending bombardment of people coming to the healer, and the dude looked exhausted. Like he hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in a month.
Right. Time for me to step in, and if nothing else, help this poor healer get some damn sleep.
I started to march over, only for the guards to move to block me.
I’d so had it with this shit.
I just gave them my best death-glare, and pointed to my badge. Gave it a bit of a [Shine] to boot.
The guards decided that being on the wrong end of a Sentinel’s ire – even if she was short and female – wasn’t the best career move, and gave me no problems. I made my way over to the healer.
“Healer.” I said, arriving next to him.
“What.” He said monosyllabically, exhaustion coating his every word. I made a snap call.
“Take a break. I’ll take over. Sentinel’s orders.” I said, nodding to his guards.
“Need-“ He said, and knowing he’d do exactly this, I cut him off.
“I’m a healer. I’m taking over. Take. A. Break.” I said, as his guards – friends – grabbed him under the arms and started to move him to a little cot in a corner.
I recognized the cot. Same type I’d used in Perinthus. The “crash where I’ve arranged my healing station because it’s just me against the unending tide” cot.
Poor dude. I sympathized.
I turned to see the crowd, half-grumbling that the Sentinel had basically just axed their healer. I checked my mana, still low after having stretched it thin clearing out the tent. I threw my backpack into a corner, out of the way.
Right. The only reward for good work – more work.