Lisle, and the kind woman she now knew as Healer Delorin, made their way down the mountain path accompanied by a clatter of flyer folk in the air above them. The thought crossed Lisle’s mind that clatter was exactly the right name for the whirring, noisy flock hovering overhead. She glanced over at Delorin, glad for the healer’s solid bulk between herself and the sheer drop-off where the edge of the path met nothing but sky. She had had enough of that view on the way up, and her legs were shaky from her exertions both physical and emotional over the past several hours. As her mind returned to what lay ahead, her gut constricted painfully and her breath caught in her throat. Worry over her companions, especially Ell, turned into a monologue of ‘what if’s’ in her mind.
Half-sliding down the gravelly path, stones rasping underfoot creating miniature rock slides, they arrived back with Lisle's companions. Lisle skidded to Ell’s side as the whispering cloud of flyers above them, divided, the majority streaking to Ell, and others continuing to Terris who slumped beside the Guardian.
Lisle was relieved to see that Ell was awake. She lay prone upon the path, in the same position as when they’d left, but her eyes were open now. Her wounds oozing a sluggish, deep crimson.
Delorin quickly checked Ell, Terris and then Gareth, before returning to Ell. When Ell lifted her head weakly and looked at Delorin, then looked pointedly at Terris, Delorin admonished her. “They’ll do for now. You’re the one in need.” Ell subsided with a deep groan and laid her head back down.
Several of the flyer folk alighted on Gareth’s injured leg. “Tend to Ell and Terris you,” and he tried to wave them away. They lifted off, hovering briefly, then landed again. He dropped his hand limply and looked away, the corners of his mouth tilting down and a crease deepening between his brows.
With Ell and Terris in many good hands, large and small, Lisle sank down beside Gareth. She stared at the arrow protruding from his leg, wincing at the pain she knew it caused him, and thought that she really should do something about it. Glancing up at his face she saw that his cheeks burned red even as the rest of his face was pale and sweaty. He held his face turned away, lips pressed tightly in a hard, straight line and eyes staring intensely at the ground. Lisle felt a wave of emotion emanating from him, but was sure she was mistaken. What does he have to be ashamed of?
Nervous now, afraid of the pain she would cause him, she reached with trembling hands for the shaft of the arrow.
“I’ll take care of that Young One,” said Delorin looking over her shoulder at Lisle. “Just make him comfortable and I’ll be there shortly.”
“I’m alright, Lisle. Stop fussing,” said Gareth, looking at her with hard eyes.
“I’m n…not f…f…fussing,” said Lisle, stung by the anger she felt beneath his words. She dropped her hands and scrambled up and away from him. “Can I h...h...help it if y…you always end up looking like a q…q…quill climber?”
Gareth jerked his face away, his cheeks staining a deeper red, and was silent.
Lisle looked at him, lips pursed in frustration, then she shrugged. If he didn’t want help, she wouldn’t give it to him. She’d tend to Ell and Terris. As she moved down the path toward her Guardian a small contingent of three flyers supporting a fourth, injured flyer between them, landed gently beside Ell.
“Moss!” Lisle was elated to see her friend and relieved to have something else to think about besides Gareth. She stepped quickly over to the little group and knelt down. Moss pushed herself upright carefully with the aid of the flyers supporting her. One of her wings hung, bent at an uncomfortable looking angle. The rest of her seemed unharmed.
“M…Moss, you…you’re alright!”
Moss smiled up at her, an expression more like a grimace, and nodded her head. Tendrils of moss green hair straggled about her sharp-chinned face. Her tunic hung limply on her shoulders. She held herself upright with one tiny arm braced against her companion, and gestured delicately with the other arm toward Ell.
“Ell’s g…going to b…be al…alright,” said Lisle as she followed the direction of Moss’s gesture with her eyes. “I h…hope,” she whispered.
With Delorin’s efficient aid, and whatever it was that the flyer folk did, it wasn’t long before Ell was able to stand. Terris too, woke, and after a few disoriented minutes, stood up beside Ell.
Delorin moved to tend Gareth and he waved his hand at her as if to shoo her away. She stood in front of him and closed her eyes. Then she overlapped her hands on her chest and took several slow, deep breaths. When she opened her eyes, she put her hands on her hips and just stood there, staring at him. He relented, ungraciously gesturing toward his leg. Gareth made no sound, even as the color drained from his face when Delorin wrenched the arrow from his leg and bandaged him carefully. Gareth looked briefly at her then, and lifted his chin in thanks. Delorin acknowledged that with a head bob of her own.
With Gareth standing, bandaged leg held up, leaning on his bow, the companions began to move slowly up the path with a cloud of hovering flyer folk over them, and Delorin walking behind.
Moss was lifted into the air by her staunch flyer companions once again and joined the hovering clatter.
Lisle moved up beside Terris and Ell. “Th..that was the b…bravest thing I e…ever saw. T…Terris y...you saved us.” Then she looked at Ell, her eyes filling with tears. “Ell y…you saved T…Terris. I th…thought I was g…going to lose you b…b..both.” Hot tears overflowed, rolling down her cheeks.
Terris patted her awkwardly on the shoulder and said nothing. He looked at her, his lips compressed, twitching back and forth as if not knowing quite what to do with themselves. Color suffused his cheeks and neck and he blinked rapidly, looking away.
The clatter of flyer folk moved like one being back up toward Guardian Cavern, quickly disappearing from sight, carrying Moss away with them.
Ell, once again led the way, though much more slowly this time. Her movements were stiff and looked painful. Lisle followed close behind, walking beside Terris, his hand on her shoulder. She felt his weight as he leaned upon her, and was glad he at least allowed her to support him.
Gareth waved away Delorin’s offer of an arm to lean upon, growling, “Tend those as needs you.”
Together again, wounded, hurting and now silent, the companions aided by Delorin, trudged up Guardian Mountain toward the Cavern, each sunk in their own thoughts.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38
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