Chapter Six

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By the time she was brought to the healer Shinae’s skin had turned the colour of raw pig’s meat. Her fellow soldiers had moved as fast as they could but as they lay her down they were all filled with the certainty that she’d not make it. The healer, usually stoic and unyielding no matter what was brought her way, looked shocked and then confused before eventually regaining her composure and returning to her usual self. She began bustling about her shelves frantically, occasionally mumbling and lifting vials and roots for inspection.

Third Order J. M. Raven came into the healing centre about an hour after four of his his soldiers had left their comrade there. He walked over to the bed where Shinae lay, deathly still, and uttered a prayer to Kuragg under his breath as he looked her over. Since her arrival Shinae had been drained as close to dry as the healer could bring her without killing her. Her skin had responded by turning now an odd colour which looked something like ash mixed with blood.

Raven had been a soldier for more years than he cared to recount and had seen a lot of things, many of which he’d rather forget. He’d also met a lot of people along the way and none had a fire driving them like Shinae had. She never spoke about that drive and where it came from, nor did she really speak about much else. It made her an excellent soldier, one who Raven had been hoping to work with for a long time.

This is not a soldier’s death, he thought sourly. Somewhere on the field something had happened which had done this to her; and it had been his responsibility as her commanding officer to make sure she and the others were safe. He felt responsible and the fact that he wasn’t sure that there was really anything he could’ve done made it worse. Raven hated feeling helpless and as he stood there, watching an old woman run herbs and ointments on various parts of Shinae’s body he felt suddenly very, very helpless.

“Do you know what it is?” He asked.

The healer shook her head and touched Shinae’s neck, checking again if the pulse had weakened. It hadn’t. “It’s nothing I have ever seen. But she seems stable.” Raven could hear the surprise in the woman’s voice. She was going through the motions of helping Shinae but thoroughly expected her to die of… whatever she had contracted in the forest. He clenched his fist and fought the urge to hit something. Instead he turned briskly on his heel and marched out of the building and to his own barracks.

J. M. Raven would return to the healing centre every day until Shinae was either awake again, or dead, he resolved.

**

She stepped off her chariot, black and red armour menacing against the setting sun. Her people cheered and the prisoners they had captured all began to shake visibly as she walked steadily towards them. Unlike everyone else, she did not seem fatigued by the day’s battle. In fact, she seemed to glow. One by one she asked the prisoners their names and stations. The first refused. Her hooked blade found its way through his naval and severed his spinal cord. He gasped and fell to the ground dead, his blood mingling now with that of his fallen comrades. Those who followed were far more cooperative.

Nobody important had been captured. She ordered them all executed.

“This soil has revelled in the taste of blood for centuries.” She assured her men, some of whom wondered if they should maybe take the prisoners alive. “Who are we to deny it now?”

 

Many visions like this one flowed and flooded over one another as Shinae slept. She was the woman on the battlefield, and yet these were battles she had never witnessed, fought in places she had never been. Through them all one thought remained constant, a rallying cry on which her mind refocused time and again…

Once more into battle. 

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