Doradrassil flinched as the tuskarr healer poured a salve over the wound in her leg. She had made it far enough to signal for help before collapsing in the snow, and had awoken to their hospitality in one of their village's tents as one of them worked to nurse her back to health. The salve stung nearly as much as the initial wound. 

 

"I must get back," she managed out between hisses from the sting.  

 

"Nonsense," the healer returned. "You'll do your people no good in your state."

 

"I only need to make it to Valiance Keep," she pleaded. "They can handle it from there. I need to get back on the ship home and…tell them what I found."

 

The walrus creature wrung out a rag of foul-smelling liquid, frowning at her request but saying nothing. 

 

"Please," Doradrassil repeated, sitting up. "I can get on the ship, and they can finish healing me on the journey home. It's crucial that they know in time."

 

She wasn't sure how time-critical it really was. Jarod Shadowsong knew Maiev was still out there, plotting and scheming. But he would want her report nonetheless. In any case, the walrus bought it, and let out a frustrated sigh as he began to put away his supplies. 

 

"Okay then," he said slowly. He turned his eyes toward the gear Doradrassil had been carrying, and gave a thoughtful "hrmmm" before turning back to her. "I'll go get some help." With that, he turned and left. 

 

Doradrassil felt a pang of guilt for having annoyed him when he was trying to help her, but the smell of that medicine made her nauseous, and she was sure it was derived from whale blubber or something to that effect. She gingerly tested her feet and limped across the tent to check her pack and make sure she still had all the pieces of Aertemis' crescent. The makeshift bag still seemed to be securely tied. She untied it just enough to see the pieces within…counted them… Good, they were all there. 

 

A wave of nausea suddenly swept over her. She must have lost more blood than she realized, and was pushing herself too much…

 

* * *

 

Doradrassil awoke again on a makeshift stretcher under a clear sky, being gently jostled this way and that as six tuskarr carried her. She looked around and saw three more nearby. One carried her umbra crescent around his body like an oversized belt, a second carried her vanquished enemy's weapon the same way, and a third carried the makeshift sack holding Aertemis' crescent, hefted over his shoulder. She recognized this third tuskarr as the one she had spoken to on her first trip through the village; the one who had met Aertemis just before her death. Between the nine little creatures, she suspected that nearly half the village was embarking on this trek towards Valiance Keep. 

 

"You shouldn't have exerted yourself so much," the healer scolded her, noticing she had woken. 

 

"I'm sorry," Doradrassil said, and she meant it. Another pang of guilt. She felt humbled that so many of them were working so hard to aid her when they certainly didn't have to. She looked toward the one carrying Aertemis' crescent, fairly certain that he didn't know what he held. "What was she like when you met her?" she asked him. "My friend…when she came through."

 

The tuskarr looked up, shifting the burden on his shoulder, and thought for a moment. "At first, she looked…cold. Focused. But when she came through the village, my son and his friend ran up to her and started trying to make friends with her. And she changed. They pulled on her long ears and she just laughed. She played with them and took time for them. She was full of joy and appreciation for life. Seeing the cold look at first, that surprised me." He now looked at Doradrassil, who felt tears coming to her eyes. "What happened to her?"

 

Doradrassil choked up, realizing she didn't have the heart to tell him what the Lich King had done to Aertemis. "She…her mission didn't go as planned. She was badly injured. And she's…still recovering even now."

 

"So many years later? What a shame… Give her our best if you see her again."

 

Doradrassil smiled, feeling like her heart would melt. "I will. I promise."

Author Rann
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