No one talked as they settled down for the night.  By the time darkness fell, six more quísah found their way to the camp.  When the smaller of the two moons, Jshâ Pet[1], rose, Îra crawled over to where Aichan lay.  “Marquísah,” she whispered.  “I’m going back.”

“Are you crazy?” he whispered back.

“They are my quísah,” she said simply.  “I won’t leave them abandoned to die if they’re injured.”

“You’re right,” he realized.  “Wait; I’m coming with you.”

“What of these quísah?”

“Forna,” he addressed the quísa who sat staring at her hands nearby.  She raised her eyes in question.  “The marquísa and I are going back to see who is left.  You are in charge until we return.”

“If we’re not back by sun-up,” Îra added, “lead the others to Bethindrê.”

“Yes, marquísa, marquísah,” Forna replied.  The others heard what was said and watched their leaders creep off.

The clearing at the base of the mountain was silent when they reached it.  In unspoken agreement, they split up to scout out the area.  Îra, what have you done? she cried to herself.  Oh, you foolish girl, you wicked sinner!  Because of your wretched anger and hatred, because of your headstrong decisions and insistence on your way, five of your quísah may be dead, and all the rest are injured.  Thâes[2], this has gone too far, she prayed.  Please, help me to change. Make me into Your image.  Make me like You from the inside, out.

There were no enemies to be found.  They must have left after we fled.  Her heart sank.  It was unlikely there would be any alive, then.  Surely the Broquans would not have left their job half-done.

Îra and Aichan met back up.  After exchanging a nod, they crept towards the site of their latest argument.

Five quísah of the Rebellion lay on the ground.  Evidently the Broquans had taken their own fallen with them.  Îra choked back a sob.  Gondacîh, Yorvain, Tûrshan, Wârsavv, and Oní[3], she identified them.  Dead because of me.  Beloved ones, your blood is on my hands!

But no, it could not be!  Yorvain’s eyes blinked.  Îra crawled over to her.  “Yorvain, can you hear me?” she whispered.

The quísa turned her head towards her.  “Marquísa, you came back,” she murmured.

“Yes, dear.  We’re going to get you out of here,” she promised.

Aichan bent over Wârsavv.  “Marquísa,” he whispered urgently, “I think he’s still alive.”

Îra squeezed Yorvain’s hand and hurried to his side.  She held her hand over his mouth and felt a faint warmth.  “He breathes,” she announced, her heart lifting.

Yorvain said with effort, “He sleeps.  I think Oní lives, too, but Gondacîh and Tûrshan have not stirred since they fell.”

Îra glanced at Gondacîh and Tûrshan.  The former was pierced with an arrow through his head, while Tûrshan lay in a pool of blood from a gaping wound in her side.  The eyes of both were staring and lifeless.

It was not the first time she had seen someone, even a friend, dead, but it was the first time an ally’s death was a result of her actions.  She felt like she could not breathe or even think.  Aichan’s soft voice came through a fog.  “We’ll take care of you three, then we’ll bury them.  Will you help me remove this arrow from Wârsavv’s side, marquísa?”

She knew his words, but they made no sense.  He’s asking me something, she became vaguely aware.  But she understood nothing but the dead boy and woman before her, and wrenching pain in her chest and head.

A touch from a living hand began to scatter the fog.  She looked into Aichan’s brown eyes.  “Will you help me with Wârsavv’s arrow?” he repeated.

She took a breath and nodded.  This was a familiar task, something that lessened the pain.

They tended the wounds of Yorvain, Oní, and Wârsavv.  Then they each lifted a cold, lifeless body—Aichan that of Gondacîh, Îra that of Tûrshan—and bore them to a nearby place where there was a crack in a hill.  Îra pocketed their chanavêa[i] to give their families, that they might bury them where they could visit.  They laid the bodies in the crack and drug rocks over it, sealing them in a grave.

They crept back to the wounded.  Îra looked at them.  How can we possibly carry them all to our camp?  Aia, please help.

She saw Aichan looking at her.  “I wonder,” he said hesitantly, “I mean, do you think you could carry Yorvain over your back?”

She nodded.

“Are you sure?” he asked.  “She is bigger than you.”

“I may be small, but I am strong.  I can do it,” she assured him.

He gave her a look saying he was not so certain of her ability, but went on.  “If we can somehow strap Wârsavv to my back, I can carry Oní in my arms and all of us can go at once.”

Her brow lowered.  Male supremacy again.  He can carry two people, but delicate little me, who is as capable as he, surely is too weak to carry even one person.  Wait, Îra, now is not the time!  Oh, how can you so swiftly have forgotten the consequences of your untimely anger?  Look right in front of your eyes!  Let them be a reminder to you.

Aichan took off his belt.  “I think if we use all our belts,” he said, “we can securely tie Wârsavv on my back.”

Îra agreed to the plan and immediately undid hers.  Then she knelt and gently worked on removing Yorvain and Oní’s while Aichan did the same to Wârsavv.

Oní, who had a deep gash in her side from an enemy’s sword, gripped Îra’s arm.  “Marquísa, what’s happening?” she panted.

Îra ran her cool hand over the young woman’s cheek and smoothed her hair.  “Peace, Oní, dear,” she murmured reassuringly.  “The marquísah and I are going to get you three away from here, to Bethindrê where you can heal.  Forgive us if it causes you pain.  But we cannot leave you here, to die from blood loss and infection.”

Oní nodded and closed her eyes.

When the belts were collected, Îra stood back and looked at Aichan with a critical eye, deciding how to strap Wârsavv on.  Ah, yes, that’s it, she decided.

Aichan said, “Let’s tie them all together to make a rope before I pick him up.”

“No,” Îra countered.  “I know how we’re going to strap him on; pick him up.”

“We need all of them tied together first,” he argued.

“No, only tie these two together, and I’ll tie these two,” Îra handed him two belts.  “Trust me, it will work best.”

Aichan opened his mouth to protest, then apparently decided against it.  He followed her bidding and, having tied the belts together, draped Wârsavv, who suffered from a concussion and had been pierced deeply in the stomach with an arrow, across his shoulders.

Îra wrapped two attached belts diagonally across Aichan’s chest and Wârsavv’s body one way, then repeated the process with the other two conjoined belts the other way.  She bound Wârsavv’s left arm to Aichan’s right and made a sling for his head with the remaining belt, but she was not satisfied.  “Wait,” she told Aichan.  She knelt and drew a dagger from her boot, then cut off a strip from her under tunic.  With this, Wârsavv’s left leg was bound to Aichan’s left arm, and she was satisfied that he was secure.  She replaced her dagger and nodded at Aichan.  “Alright.”

He knelt by Oní.  Îra helped him lift her.  Oní gasped and let out a strangled cry at the movement, then promptly whispered, “I’m sorry.  I know you’re doing your best and I should not have cried out.”

“Oní, you don’t have to apologize,” Aichan told her firmly.  “You are gravely injured and your pain is not trivial.”

While he comforted the quísa, Îra lifted Yorvain to her shoulders.  She, who had several sword wounds and an arrow wound in the chest, fainted when Îra moved her.

This may work after all.  “Let’s go,” she urged Aichan.

It was a long journey.  They had gone twenty-two hours without sleep in addition to fighting a battle and dealing with its aftermath; carrying three wounded quísah two miles in the dark—for both moons were only slivers—was no easy task.  Hæ Aia à indrê[4], Îra thought.

They reached the camp about to collapse as the sun was rising and revealing a sturdy layer of clouds across the sky.  Thank You for letting today be such a beautiful day, Îra prayed.  I do not know if I could have handled a depressing day of brilliant sun after all that has happened.  She breathed in relief when Charnekk, who was on duty as sentinel, appeared before them, arrow fitted in his bow.  “My leaders,” he exclaimed in recognition.  “Hæ Thâes that you are alright, and have them with you.  Come lay them down; you must be beyond weary.”

Too tired to think, they followed him to the camp and laid the three on blankets.  Charnekk looked back and forth at them anxiously then.  “Tell me, these three—are there any more survivors?” he asked.

Îra shook her head.

“Gondacîh?” he begged.

She could hardly look in his eyes as tears flooded hers.  “He’s gone,” she choked out.

Charnekk stood stricken at the news of his brother’s death, but Îra could do nothing.  She sank down on her bedroll and asked him, “Please let us sleep for two hours, then have someone wake us.”  She was asleep before he could reply.

[1] Jshâ Pet:  “Little Moon;” the smaller of the two moons of Orrök.

[2] Thâes: Literally, “Gods”, this term is always used with singular verbs and adjectives in the Maraian Tongue, used as one of the names of their deity.  This grammatical combination of plural and singular illustrates the Maraian idea of their God being one essence with a few distinct characteristics or personas.  These would be Aia, normally referring to the unseen aspect of Thâes and His powers; Elkan, referring to Thâes as the expected rescuer of Maraiah and to when He wrapped Himself in humanity (see Aia Ekk Xanthun); and Caïl, referring to Thâes as Spirit, with which aspect of Thâes mankind had closest interaction, not counting the brief period of time when Elkan was flesh on Orrök.

[3] Yorvain: “End of Oppression;” Tûrshan: “Lost Daughter;” Wârsavv: “Precedes Salvation;” Oní: the female version of a common Rômarreen name.

[4] Hæ Aia á indrê: “Praise Aia for the stars!”

[i] Chanavêa: “Life Stone”; these charms are worn by all Maraians as a symbol of their heritage and uniqueness.  They are made of three upper leaves, pointing up and to each side, a lower raindrop, and a stone or gem mounted where these four pieces meet.  On the left and right leaves is engraved in Maraian  Secondary Script, and each stone or gem is unique to the person to whom it belongs.  These charms are highly symbolic of the wearer’s life; indeed, if one touches another’s chanavêa, it is considered the same as touching the very essence of that person’s life.  For that reason, chanavêa are exchanged between husband and wife at marriage ceremonies, and are kept by one’s family after one’s death.

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