As I looked down at Marrok, who was now sleeping deeply on a bed in the main hall, I felt anger course through me.
His body was littered with injuries and it was a wonder he made it back to the community at all.
Broken bones, welts on his skin, bruises that were turning a sickening blue and black, and cuts that were flesh wounds.
Examining them again, my jaw ground as I confirmed that the majority had been inflicted over the period of the last few days.
Which meant that somebody had done this purposefully and had drawn out the torment that they had inflicted on Marrok.
This on top of the battle that we had fought in just a couple of days ago and the injuries caused by it.
Beside me, Sia was trembling with anger and as she whirled around, I caught her hand and as she looked at me, I said, “Not now.”
Through gritted teeth, she squeezed out the words, “Then when?”
Gaze still on Marrok, I said, “When he wakes up.”
Nodding, Sia restrained her aura and stood silently beside me.
Soon, as the news went around the community, more of the Maidens had joined us in keeping the vigil over Marrok.
It was a few hours later, in the middle of the night, that Marrok awoke.
I moved forward as he cried out in pain when he moved; cries that were silenced as he became aware of my presence and bit down on his tongue.
As I met his eyes, I asked, “Tell me what you’re feeling. Don’t leave any detail out. I need to know if there are any injuries that I missed.”
Beside me, Sia opened her mouth, but I raised a hand and repeated, “First the injuries.”
Blinking slowly, Marrok experimentally moved his body, and he grimaced in pain before squeezing out, “Left side… I think two bones are broken. Can’t feel my shoulder…” and he continued to speak as he listed out everything while I busied myself in treating him again.
An hour later, he carefully got out of the bed, heavily leaning on my shoulder, and stood shakily for a long moment.
Then he took a step forward and almost fell, but my arms kept him upright and he growled an apology, which I waved aside.
Slowly leading him outside, I let him stand silently as he looked at the sky before he asked, “Don’t you want to know?”
“Would you tell me if I asked?” I shot back.
Wheezing a pained chuckle, he replied, “No.”
“Then?” I said as I clicked my tongue.
Staying silent, he looked out toward the trail and at the spot where he had collapsed.
Following his gaze, I said, “It was Cahir and his friends… wasn’t it?”
Shaking his head, Marrok said, “Wasn’t Cahir.”
“So it was those other four balakashes. Got it.” I said grimly.
Marrok kept silent, and I finally voiced the doubt that I had; “Why do they dislike you so much?”
Flinching away from me, Marrok opened his mouth to speak only for me to cut him off as I said, “Don’t answer. It doesn’t matter, actually. They’re your enemies, and they’re mine now as well.”
Incredulously, Marrok looked at me and said, “Why? What reason do you have to be enemies with them?”
Snorting, I said, “If you weren’t injured, I would want to beat you up and examine what’s inside your head for you to ask that.”
Puzzled, Marrok looked at me before he lapsed back into silence.
Sighing, I said, “Marrok. We’re friends.”
As he looked at me, I added, “Right?”
Still looking at me, he slowly said, “You would want to be.. Friends… with me?”
Rolling my eyes, I said, “We’re already friends.”
Turning away, he asked, “Why?”
Grinning even though he couldn’t see me, I said, “No reason.”
Continuing, I said softly, “hold on for two months. If we’re right, I’ll be able to join you then.”
Turning back, he studied my expression before he asked, “How?”
Filling him in on our thoughts, I ended by saying, “If that’s how it is, then everything will be fine. But if it isn’t… then I’m afraid our backs would be against the wall.”
Silently, he looked at me before he turned to look at the trail again, then he began standing straighter as he shrugged off my support and placing both feet solidly on the ground and hissing in pain, he said, “You do not have to join me. I will fight... this time…” he ended softly.
Looking at him as he almost fell over, I said, “Didn’t you listen to what I was saying? We. Are. Friends.”
Grimacing at me, he growled, “Do friends hit each other like that?”
Hastily, I said, “No, no. Only doctors can hit people like that.”
Rubbing his head, he said, “Unfortunate.”
Grinning, I threw my arm around his shoulder, almost sending him falling again and ignoring his protests; I led him back to the main hall where all the Maidens were gathered.
As Marrok finally threw off my arm and looked up, he froze.
For the Maidens had laid out a feast and all of them were looking expectantly at him.
Gulping, he turned and would have limped out of the main hall if I hadn’t blocked the way and said, “Injured or not. You’re not missing our last feast together, right?”
Looking past him, I yelled out to the Maidens, “Right?”
And a cheer came back as Sia led them and wrangled Marrok into a seat.
Taking up station at the food counter, I laughed and served the Maidens, but underneath all of our smiles… lay a dangerous aura that was waiting to be unleashed.
For one of our own had been injured outside of battle.
And anger boiled within us… but we would wait.
For we had fleeced the sheep already and now it was our time to be the sheep for a while.
But we would not always be sheep.
And when we have to bare our fangs, then they will understand just how dangerous us Maidens can be.