Dawn got to her feet. “I suggest we meet again later and continue this meeting with the rangers present. It is only sensible to include them.”
Ristop stood up, too, and shouted at her. “You don’t get to decide what we do, you human.”
She replied coldly. “No, I don’t. But I get to decide what I do, and I will work together with the rangers. At least I can trust them at my back. With you, I’m not sure if you’d rather fight the demons or me.”
With an apologetic look at Nuala, she turned and left the hut. Let them squabble among themselves, she doubted it would bring them any closer to a plan, let alone a solution.
She returned to the benches where Grinna and Teren were sitting together with Niko and Nestor, and shook her head. "They are squabbling inside, and Ristop, that so called council leader vehemently refuses to work together with you or even to include you in the planning. I don't understand him. And who in all the gods names had the brilliant idea to select him as a council leader?"
She sighed. "I nedd a bath, and fresh clothes. Some food wouldn't go amiss either. I'll start thinking again afterwards. Right at the moment, I'm totally mudbrained."
Nestor stood up. "I'll talk to some people. I fear hospitality here has been severely lacking. It's a disgrace, after you rescued Nuala and us. Wait a moment."
Dawn sat down, feeling tired and disheartened. "I wonder where Kharma is? He didn't even come and greet me." She was feeling a bit piqued, truth to tell. She would have expected him to meet her, he had to know she was here in the village.
"Your Kharlin friend?" Grinna asked.
"Yes, we fought against the demons together." Dawn replied absently. "And I haven't seen Halvar either. He was the speaker for the village when I met the Kharlins the last time. I wonder what happened to him. He seemed a bit more reasonable than that overblown Ristop."
"If I'm honest, the whole mood here in the village is kind of strange." Grinna said. "There is a lot of tension, and the Kharlins are keeping separate from us and even from Niko and Nestor. With Nuala I would have said it might be respect for her position as a priestess and her age. But that can't be the case with Niko and Nestor. Something unusual is going on here."
Nestor came back together with a small female Kharlin. She had light grey fur and blue eyes. It made for a striking combination. But she seemed to feel anxious and uneasy. Without looking at Dawn, her gaze turned down to the floor and her ears halfway flattened, she said softly.
"We are preparing a bath for you. Please come with me." Without waiting for an answer, she turned and walked over to the hut where Dawn had woken up, a short while ago.
Dawn entered the hut after her and soon two burly Kharlins arrived with a small tub. They shouldered it through the entrance and set it up on the floor without a word, then vanished again.
The female Kharlin had stayed. Dawn asked:
"What's your name? I'm Dawn, but maybe you already know that." She smiled at the young woman.
The Kharlin said softly: "I'm Verene."
"Nice to meet you, Verene. Please don't be so anxious. It makes me feel like an ogre." Dawn said softly.
Verene looked up and met her gaze for a short moment, then said. "People are saying it is best to keep a distance from humans. Nothing good comes of them."
Dawn rubbed her nose and sighed. "Please believe me, I'm not your enemy. Of course, there are humans who are. But I want to be friends. It just is very hard to be friendly when people are so nervous and sometimes even downright hostile. You know, I have at least one friend here in the village. But I haven't seen Kharma anywhere around. Do you know where he is?"
Veren looked down, wringing her hands nervously. "Kharma is in disgrace. He went hunting in forbidden grounds. The council leader called for a punishment and now he has to work on building for the next months and isn't allowed to leave the village."
Dawn gaped. "He is being punished? But he helped free all the tribe and he told me he lost his father, too. This is just cruel and unfair."
Verene just shrugged, keeping her gaze downwards. Her ears were drooping and her whole being spoke of sadness. Dawn approached her slowly, laying a tentative hand on her shoulder.
"What is it Verene? Why are you so sad?" she asked.
Veren gave a small sob and shook her head. "It's nothing. There's nothing you can do."
"Please tell me." Dawn insisted.
Verene whispered. "It's just, my father, he is dying."
"What? What happened?"
"When we were moving here and formed the cave for our village, he had an accident. He broke his leg. Samya, our healer, treated his leg, put it into a splint and said he had to stay in bed for a while. First, he seemed to heal, but then he started running a temperature, and no matter what Samya did, the fever wouldn't go down. And then, streaks started to grow from his wound." She broke down and sobbed pitifully. "And now Samya says there is nothing anyone can do anymore, he is going to die. He sent me away, he said i don't need to see him like that."
The burly Kharlins arrived though the door once more, carrying buckets of hot water, but Dawn wasn't interested in bathing anymore.
"Why on earth didn't they ask me to help?" she exclaimed angrily, clenching her fists. "Those anti-human idiots."
She turned to Verene decisively. "Verene, take me to your father. I'm a healer, too, and maybe it isn't too late for your father yet."
Veren stayed motionless and glanced at her through tearful eyes, her expression disbelieving.
Dawn, sighed, impatient. "What are you waiting for? Worst case, I can't help him either. But if I'm right, I can cure him. That's worth taking a chance, isn't it?"
The Kharlin girl noddded choppily, then abruptly grabbed Dawn's hand and pulled her along, out of the hut across the village and to a larger hut on the other side. She opened the door without knocking and entered with Dawn in tow.
The hut they had entered was lit brightly with several lanterns fastened to the wall. There were several rooms, the small entry room they were standing in held a table and several seats and on the shelves a multitude of clearly labeled jars were situated. Bandages, scissors and several other tools lay on the table. From the back room, an elder female Kharlin with pure brown fur entered.
"Verene. I'm sorry dear, but you know your father said he didn't want you to stay with him. He is unconscious by now." She said softly, then looked taken aback, when she belatedly noticed Dawn.
Dawn didn't bother with politeness this time. She just looked at the woman and said. "I'm a healer. Take me to him."
The woman shook her head. "It is too late, he has blood poisoning, there is nothing you can do. It has advanced too rapidly."
Dawn said. "Let me try. He won't be any worse off for it, now will he."
The woman narrowed her eyes and said sharply: "It is cruel to get Verene's hopes up."
But she went into the back room and indicated to Dawn that she should follow her. Dawn squeezed Verene's hand for a moment, then let it go and entered the back room after the older woman. Here, several fur-covered beds were situated. On one of them, a big black Kharlin lay, in his small clothes. His fur was sprinkled with gray, showing his age. His eyes were closed and he obviously had trouble breathing. His right leg was splinted and on his badly swollen thigh, red streaks were visible even through his pelt.
Dawn stood next to the bed and cast Nurture on him. With her first try, his breath went easier, but still the red streaks persisted. She cast it on him again and once more. Then she had to wait, to let her mana recover. By now his thigh was looking better, not swollen anymore, and the red streaks had retreated from his groin area.
She smiled and told the healer. "He really was almost at death's door. I need a few minutes, then I can heal him some more. Give me half an hour and he will be good as new."
The woman stared at her patient and at her, incredulously, then lowered her gaze and whispered. "Great Vixen be praised. I believed him too far gone for any help."
Dawn said. "Thank all the gods I wasn't too late. Though I'm not best pleased nobody told me he was in need of healing. He just might have died with me being around the corner and not knowing he needed help. Oh, my name is Dawn, by the way. I take it you are the healer here in New Haven?"
The woman nodded, stupefied, and clearing her throat, said. "Yes, I'm the healer. Though I have no magic, only herbal medicines, poultices and tools. My name is Samya."
Dawn cast Nurture once again on the sleeping male and said. "Well, then let's tell Verene the good news. No sense in making her wait."
When they got back to the front room Veren was pacing agitatedly. She looked up at them and said hoarsely. "You're back already. So you couldn't help him after all."
Dawn shook her head and spoke soothingly. "He is getting better, Verene. Right at the moment, he is still sleeping, but the blood poisoning is gone and he is healing. As soon as I have enough mana I'll heal him some more. A broken leg takes a bit more of healing than a simple flesh wound. But he will be as good as new in no time, please don't worry."
The small Kharlin stared at her for a long moment, then said with trembling voice. "He will be alright? Truly?"
Dawn smiled and nodded emphatically. "Truly." One moment later she was almost bowled over by Verene, who almost trampled her on her way to her father in the back room.
"Ooof," she commented wryly. Looking at Samya, she said. "I think I'll go back to my bath. I hope the water isn't cold yet. I'll come back a bit later to heal him some more."
Turning, she opened the door and ducked out into the village.
On her way back to 'her' hut she passed Grinna and Teren, still sitting on a bench in the common area, Ankou lying sprawled out beside them.
"Everything all right?" Grinna asked with raised brows, while Ankou opened one eye halfway to muster her.
"Just a severely injured Kharlin with blood poisoning, who almost died because no one bothered to tell me he needed healing." Dawn spat out, suddenly angry. Then she sighed. "Sorry Grinna, I didn't mean to snap at you. I'll go back to my bath. Maybe I'll be a bit more relaxed afterwards. The tension here is getting to me. The Kharlins don't make it easy to work together with them."
The ranger nodded at her. "Take your bath. And eat something. I'm pretty sure that will lift your spirits."
"Let's hope so." Dawn continued on her way, this time accompanied by Ankou who obviously had decided she was in need of his company and had heaved himself upright with visible effort.
Of course, her bath water had cooled when she arrived in her hut, so instead of luxuriating in hot water she made do with a thorough scrub in the tepid liquid. Nevertheless, she felt better afterwards, clothed in her last pair of clean trousers and a fresh shirt. Now, where could she find something to eat? After her long sleep and her healing efforts, she was starving.
This is my first time writing a story. I'm still learning as I go along, so there may be some hiccups down the road. I am a voracious reader myself and especially adore science fiction and fantasy. Recently I have discovered the genre of LITRPG for myself and it fascinates me.
Please feel free to comment. I'd love to hear from you.