I couldn’t sleep on the beach, there were too many ghosts there. Well, not true ghosts, not yet. The memories haunted those sands. Noises from the interior jungle rattled me, so I slept just inside the first trees with trepidation. My annoying friend, Wizard Tim, had a spell he would cast that acted as a guard. If any hostile force approached him, it would screech and wail to alert him in time to be awake and prepared to act. I tried to learn the spell from him, but could not bring the forces together. Oh, he said that it wasn’t because I was a hopeless caster. Our schools of focus are different. This was his attempt at reassurance. Frankly, that effort made a short list of kindnesses he’s shown me, counter to his early days of sarcasm and ridicule.
Without such options, I said my prayers, implored the gods to watch over my rest, and slept fitfully for a few hours. This was not my first supplication, nor, I feared, would it be my last. I have not been alone for a very long time, and it is unsettling. The dark didn’t normally bother me. The horrors of the last days has left me rattled.
I had no desire to sleep. Granted, my body and mind needed the recharge. The physical and emotional toll has exceeded my ability to blithely shrug them off. I’ve gone without sleep for longer periods. Several times Liz has drawn strength from the very nature that surrounded us, reinvigorating both her and I, allowing us to race to the rescue of friends. I had no such tricks in my repertoire.
Even though the night was muggy, I wrapped myself in a blanket and closed my eyes. Sounds from the previous days came back to me then, what I had interpreted as joyful coupling had likely been heinous murder. Were there more bodies in the jungle beyond the beach? I shuddered, unable to find warmth.
Eventually my body’s demands overrode my racing mind and I slept. I don’t know how deep into the night I suffered. I can tell you the dawn came far too soon. Funny enough, it wasn’t the sun that woke me.
The nightmares that troubled my mind were rudely interrupted by a sharp crack to my forehead. I woke mid-whimper. Those I loved were being tortured and murdered in my dreams, not a far cry from the real world, so the waking was a blessing. When I did not sit up quick enough I was surprised by a second quick rap on my skull.
I sat bolt upright and saw no one. Typical. My forehead hurt, though, so I know it wasn’t a dream. I looked around where I sat, and saw two large nuts, their shells covered in green rind. As I was examining one of them another flew toward me. I had been expecting something, and trapped the missile before it struck me, catching a glimpse of who had thrown it.
On the branch of the tree above me and to the east sat a furry little creature larger than a fairy, but smaller than a kobold. I had read of creatures such as these in one of the illustrated field guides back at the Keeper’s monastery. There were many different species of these hairy men — or old men of the forest, as one scholar noted. The one that hid among the leaves above me had only its face and golden mane sticking out from the leaves.
“I’m up,” I said, trying not to sound too mean. The tiny creature scampered to a higher branch and squawked and barked at me, gesticulating to the beach and then back into the forest.
It stood no more than two hands tall, with golden fur on its arms, and along the tail which ran down twice as long as his body. I’m not sure what had agitated the poor animal, other than my presence. I say his or he without any true indication of the poor creature’s gender, not that it should matter a whit. When I stood, he ran along a branch to where he was opposite me, and only a small distance higher than my head.
“What is it you seek, little one?” I asked. He glanced at me, suddenly quiet, turning his head from side to side as if sizing me up. Then it made a silent motion to me, the beach, then back to himself and to a point into the jungle.
“Did you see the massacre that occurred here?” I asked.
I swear to you, Father, that he nodded as if he understood.
“Bad business,” I said. “I hope you were not unduly affected by such horrors.”
The old man of the jungle screeched then, throwing his tiny head back and raging at the trees above. To my surprise there was no answering call. Weren’t these creatures tribal?
“Where are your kin?” I asked when he dropped downward with his knees up around either side of his head.
He opened his mouth and coughed, then fell from the tree.
I caught him easily enough, cradling him in my arm, and went to sit at the tree where I’d slept. His breathing was shallow and quick, which immediately set me on edge. Was this creature injured? I drew a breath, said a quick word of power, and called the green sight.
By the blessings of the Far Shore. One of the arms was broken, and the tail had kinks in two places. Worst of all was the internal bleeding. Someone had bludgeoned this creature and left him for dead.
Not having experience healing these jungle creatures before, I pulled a bit of Kithri’s power, along with that of The Green Lady. These I wove into a fine mesh and settled it over the poor thing like a blanket. He squirmed for a moment then settled into the crook of my arm and went to sleep. The bones in his arm and tail began to heal right away. The green sight showed the vicious reds of his pain dwindling to faint patches of yellow or even pale greens, indicating a lessening. The internal bleeding did not stop, unfortunately.
While he slept, I poked and prodded with the divine, seeking, through careful experimentation, the best way to heal him completely. The whole effort was exhausting, and I had not fully recovered on my own. I definitely could use more sleep. In the end, I was able to repair the damage to the tiny creature and I learned some things along the way. That was delicate work which I knew would serve me well in future healings. Even though the sun was barely over the horizon I settled down and closed my eyes. Only for a few minutes, I told myself before I joined my new friend in sleep.