Being careful to step over the soldiers sitting at the trampled entrance of the tent, Sky could see everyone hard at work tending patients within. Devin, Renam and Elithia made their way down the rows, healing then sending the soldiers back to their own lodging under the care of another with orders to rest; no exceptions. Only the worst were treated by the healers. Minor injuries were simply covered with a yellow-green poultice that smelled like cedar and other herbs that Sky had never heard of before, then wrapped by the physician and sent on their way to make room for the others.
Keeping out of the way of those coming and going, she watched, conflicted. Sky noted the calm that came over the wounded as Elithia treated them. Unlike Sky, the princess had long golden hair she kept braided as she worked – like a halo, it framed her delicate features and brilliant light blue eyes. The Creen smiled a little as the young woman’s work went faster than the other’s, though there was something to be said for natural talent.
Elithia saw her come in. Putting her hand on her current patients’ head, the man’s breathing slowed as he sunk into a deep sleep, and she beckoned to the Creen.
“You look terrible,” Sky said as she approached the princess, her own expression weary and numb. Killing, unfortunately, came easily, but Sky offered a silent prayer of thanks that she had not been born a Shoren as she looked at the mangled bodies and contorted faces of the men who had followed her to this end mere hours before.
“And you have been avoiding mirrors.” Giving the Creen a scrutinizing look, she then turned to lead the way past the cots and makeshift beds.
“How are they?” asked Sky as she nodded her head in acknowledgment to one of the lords who sat by the bed of his armour bearer.
Elithia glanced back at her as she walked with Sky to the back of the immense tent. “Most will live. You lost a lot of soldiers today,” she said quietly. “Half of the men who needed tending will be barely suitable for battle tomorrow.”
Sky winced before reluctantly asking, “And the number dead?”
“How many,” she inquired, her voice firm and lacking it’s usual patient undertone.
“Right now I would estimate about five hundred.”
Sky felt the sting of bile in the back of her throat.
“I don’t know numbers, and I’ve never seen….”
“It’s too many,” said Sky abruptly.
Elithia’s steps slowed as she frowned down at her blood-stained apron. “What about reinforcements?”
“You really don’t listen to any of the reports, do you?”
A strained look passed over the young woman’s face. “My business is in saving lives…” Her voice trailing off, she glanced over her shoulder at the Creen.
Sky caught the princess’ concerned look. “Don’t give me that,” she grumbled under her breath. “You do your work. Leave me to mine.”
Elithia sighed, shaking her head. Reaching a small curtained area, her companion pulled back the hung cloth to reveal a large basin with steaming water. A brush, washcloth, and clothes crowned two towels that sat folded on a stool. Following Sky inside Elithia carefully closed the curtain. “Turn around,” she ordered quietly. “You can’t get out of that armour on your own.”
“Yes ma’am,” Sky replied, not protesting to the help. The buckles for her pauldrons were undone, followed by her segmented breastplate and the clasps to her leg guards. The fauld came off next, allowing her to untie the dark blue skirt that reached her knees in two separate flaps in front and behind. She undid the black leather bound to her forearms on her own. Shrugging off the leather vest and wool shirt she wore beneath, she let Elithia scowl at the scrapes and marks on the metal of her breastplate.
Free of the burden Sky stretched her arms up, suddenly aware of the stiffness that had settled into her muscles. Quick to shed the rest of her effects, she gladly stepped into the tub and sank down into the scalding hot water. Tendrils of steam curled up, caressing her face, and the herby, flowery scent of bath salts was a welcomed change after long weeks with rough, homemade soap. “You are the best, dear friend. I won’t take long.”
“I’m glad you’re all right,” murmured Elithia, picking up the pieces of Sky’s armour. Her pale face turned up in a soft smile, and Sky could still see some remnants of childhoods freckles on her friend’s face. “I pulled extra clothes out of your tent for you; figured you’d forget.”
Sky shrunk down in the water, offering an embarrassed grin. “Thank you!”
Elithia frowned, opening her mouth to speak, but stopped to instead purse her lips into a tight line. Brushing the back of her hand over her brow she tapped a finger to the surface of the water and walked away. “Scrub up, Estimel, you smell like the men!”