Chapter 27: Approaching the Inevitable
There was a crowd of Chimeras near the entrance to the Village. Almost all of them were hunters and guards. But at the center of the crowd were three chimeras, two adults, and a child lying in the woman’s arms. My stomach dropped.
“They attacked the coast,” Storm whispered.
“They attacked the coast…” I repeated, trying to wrap my head around it. Valla was staring forward at the wounded chimeras in horror. They all looked wounded and tired, but none so much as the little girl in her mother’s arms. Deep red blood ran from the dark brown skin on her neck and torso and covered the cyan scales and deep blue fins on her arms and legs, and there was blood in her light yellow hair. Her mouth was open, gasping for breath, and her mother was holding her so that her head wasn’t touching the rocky ground, moaning sobs escaping her with every breath. Sitting to her side with a blank stare was a man who was similar in appearance to Scout… except that both of his arms appeared stretched and his skin was covered in rashes and painful bumps. The places where normally it was hard to tell where his skin ended and his bones showed were covered in blood that seemed to run over the bone differently, and his deep red eyes stared blankly towards his mate and her child, as if in shame and deep grief.
Valla shifted her weight next to me. “They… lived on the coast, didn’t they…?”
“Yeah…” I whispered.
“How many others were there…?”
“Just them, but… there were other chimeras who lived apart from the Village who helped them with their farms and with hunting. They… they need to be warned.”
“I think they’ll know,” Storm said, though I could hear the strain in his voice as he tried to stay as optimistic as he could. “They- they aren’t fools. They’ll see the soldiers and try to stay away, maybe come back and check on the Village…”
I looked down at the ground, and then closed my eyes. And as I did so, I heard Valla take a step forward, and I looked towards her.
She was walking towards the wounded Chimeras.
The Chimeras in the crowd, who were well aware of the elves’ presence in the Village, watched her warily, but moved out of her way. I felt their curiosity, and their fear. My tail flicked in anxiety as I remembered her trying to use healing magic when the elves got sick with the dust initially. But… the chimeras had little to no experience with healing magic.
Yet… I didn’t feel like I needed to stop her. If her healing magic saved the child… it could change so much…
Valla slowed her pace when she was in the view of the wounded chimeras, and shifted her foot in what seemed like a purposeful move to make enough noise for them to notice her. Both of the adults looked her way, and immediately tensed up, the woman drawing the child closer to her.
They hadn’t been aware of the elven presence in the Village yet…
Valla knelt down in front of them, keeping a small amount of distance between them. “Hi,” she said. “I know what this might seem like but… I’m not a human. I’m not Lassanian, I’m from Akalai. Me and my friends came here before… before the attack, and I want to help you if I can… if you’ll let me look at her wounds.”
“If Shadowforth can’t help her, then nobody can,” the woman hissed at Valla. The child had opened her eyes and was clinging to her mom, staring at Valla in wide-eyes fear. Valla didn’t move.
“I’ve been working with Shadowforth a little bit, and… well, there’s not a lot that I can do with dust-related injuries, but… I’m a princess of Akalai. I have healing magic. I… might be able to do something to at least keep her alive until Shadowforth gets here.” Valla looked around at the crowd. “Has someone gone to get her?”
“Yes,” a voice from the front of the crowd said. I glanced to where it was, and saw Sentinel himself standing behind the man, watching Valla with more curiosity than anyone else in the crowd and no fear. “I sent my brother to speak to her; if she’s not here in the next few minutes, however, you may have to bring the child to her instead.”
Valla nodded, and looked back at the woman. “I can try to heal the wounds. She’ll still be in pain but… she won’t be in danger of dying, at least.”
The woman looked at Sentinel, who nodded. “She’s trying to help, Mystic.” She let out a short sigh.
The child looked up at her mother as if feeling betrayed as she loosened her grip on the child to let Valla take a closer look. Valla leaned forward and smiled gently at the child. “It’s okay to be afraid,” she whispered as she hovered her hand over the child’s shoulder and neck, where the blood seemed to be pumping out from. Valla’s hand started glowing softly, and the child shut her eyes tight and held her mother’s hand as if her life depended on it.
It was hard to see what was happening, from the angle and distance that Storm and I were at, but a few of the people who were closer looked at each other wide-eyed. She had stopped the child’s bleeding.
Valla opened her eyes and checked the wound. She smiled sheepishly. “There.”
The child opened her eyes suspiciously, then lifted a shaking hand to where the wound had been, feeling it. She flinched a little at her own touch, but then her eyes widened at Valla.
“It’s gone!” The child said in awe. The mother started crying, and the man gave his mate a tight hug, as if trying to hide his own tears. Valla sat back, and glanced back towards Storm and I. I gave her a reassuring smile, as Sentinel stepped forward and offered her a hand standing up.
“Thank you,” Sentinel said to her as she stood up. “What is your name?”
“And you’re the princess that Scout told me about?”
Valla glanced at Storm and I as we approached them. The crowd was beginning to turn its attention back towards the mother and child, and was also watching for our mother to arrive at any minute, but a few of them gave grateful glances to Valla, and I couldn’t help but feel a little reassured by the trust that others in the Village were beginning to give her.
“I… yeah, I am,” Valla said, turning towards Storm and I completely. Sentinel looked at us and smiled.
“And how are the other elves doing? Recovering from the dust?”
“For the most part,” Valla said, “Though… at least we’re all able to walk finally.”
“That’s good to hear.” Sentinel turned toward us. “Gray, Storm. Have you two heard from my brother?”
“No,” I said. Sentinel frowned.
“Were you not with your mother when you heard, then…?”
Storm and I glanced at each other nervously, before Storm looked back at Sentinel. “No, we… had needed a break from the noise of the house and went to the guard house to get it.”
“I see,” Sentinel said with another nod. He seemed to understand that there was something we weren’t saying, but he probably guessed what it was related to. His wrinkled skin made him seem even more fragile with every passing day. “I sent my brother to her a while ago; when the news first struck. Perhaps you should go hear about it from him…”
I nodded, looking at Valla. She seemed to watch the child and her mother, and the man who was near them as he held both of them close. Storm was the first of us to speak. “Let’s go back. Sentinel, do you want us to lead them to Shadowforth as well?”
“I don’t think their lives are in danger… not any more, at least.” Sentinel smiled at Valla. “I’ll guide them there when they’re ready to move. You should learn more about what happened, in the meantime.”
“That sounds good,” Storm said. “Thank you, Sentinel.”
Sentinel nodded, and turned towards the woman. When he was just out of range, I noticed that Valla seemed to be very tense. I looked at her, but before I could say anything, she turned to me.
“Was… was that the same Sentinel that we keep hearing about?”
“Yeah. He’s our leader,” I said.
“And you guys didn’t tell me before I started talking?!”
“Is there something wrong with that…?”
Valla took a deep breath. “I just… I’m not supposed to be representing Akalai. I would have told him to talk to Harold before me…”
I shrugged. “Ah well. He’ll get to talk to Harold later. We don’t have time for that stuff right now.”
Valla nodded, but I could tell she was still anxious. Though whether it was about that or the attack, I wasn’t certain.