Winter – Chapter 26 – 05

            I stayed there, watching Jacqueline work for what felt like an eternity before I heard Thom shouting my name.  I looked up from the woman’s pale face and toward the sound, frowning.
            “Over here!” I called.
            His voice drifted back.  “I need you over here!”
            I glanced at Jacqueline.  “Is this going to be okay if I go?”
            She shook her head.  “Do what you need to do, Mar.  I think I’ve got a handle on this.”
            I nodded and shrugged out of my jacket.  I laid it on the ground and eased the woman down onto it.  “I’ll be back if I can.”
            “Sure.  If you can’t, send someone with a stretcher.”  Jacqueline’s jaw was firmly set.  “I’m going to need one to get her back to camp and someplace warm.”
            The woman caught my hand and squeezed with what seemed like every meager ounce of strength she had left.  “They found Cameron,” she whispered.  “I know that they did.  Bring him to me.  Please?”
            My mouth was dry as I nodded.  “Of course.” I had no idea who she was talking about, but I had a sick feeling I was about to find out and that it probably wasn’t going to be pretty.
            I met Jacqueline’s eyes again and she grimaced.  “Thom needs you.  Get going.”
            I nodded and jogged toward the sound of my husband’s voice.
            He and J.T. were crouched next to another fallen figure as Thordin and Kellin scoured the ground not far from them, seemingly looking for something.  “Thom, what did—”
            I stopped dead and stared at the man on the ground.  I knew him.  I’d seen him before.
            “Gods and monsters,” I breathed.  “He’s the rider.  He’s the Dragon.”
            “Right now, he’s had his bell rung and maybe some smashed ribs,” J.T. growled, waving smelling salts under the man’s nose.  “Phelan needs to aim his spells a little better.”
            “I don’t think this was entirely Phelan,” Thom said, his face pale—paler now that I’d named the man for who he was.
            He must have seen visions of him, too.  I wonder what he saw.
            “No,” I agreed softly.  “This doesn’t feel like him.”
            Thom gave me a strange look and shook himself.  “More than likely it was that thing burning over there.”
            The man at our feet groaned as he came around, blinked blearily at the gray sky.  He winced and put a hand to his ribs as he forced himself up on an elbow, looking at J.T., Thom, and I.  He took exactly two ragged breaths, staring at us before he swallowed.  “Where are Thordin and Neve?”
            “You should be asking where your damned sword is!”  Thordin growled from behind us.
            “To hell with the sword,” the other man said, sitting up fully with a slight wince.  “Where’s Neve?”
            “She’s over here,” I said, nodding in her direction.  “She’s asking for you.”  I looked at J.T.  “Jacqueline said we need a stretcher.  The girl’s in a lot of pain.”
            The man’s jaw tightened as he forced his way to his feet.  “No shit,” he muttered.  “She has been since that damned monster threw her into a tree a month ago.”  His gaze swept the field and eventually fell on the burning hulk, lingering there for a few achingly long moments.
            A triumphant ah-ha! came from Thordin’s direction and he marched back over to us and thrust a sword into his companion’s hand.  “You drop this again and I’m going to glue it to your hand,” he warned, eyes narrowed.  “It’s older and more sacred than anything you’ve ever held in your life.”
            “Not everything,” the Dragon muttered, even as he re-sheathed the blade.  He brushed past me and headed for where Neve lay with Jacqueline tending to her.  J.T. was quick to follow.
            “How many extra mouths for dinner?” my brother asked as he materialized at my shoulder.
            “Three,” I said, watching as the Dragon crouched over his lady.  “Though I’m not sure how much any of us will be eating.”
            His eyes narrowed.  “This is a talking night, isn’t it?”
            Without a doubt, little brother.  Without a doubt.
            Thom’s arm slid around my shoulders.  “Come on,” he murmured.  “Let’s take care of that stretcher that Jac asked for.”
            I nodded mutely and let him lead me away.

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