Quiet descended on the apothecary like a woolen blanket; covering the world in an oppressive, itchy silence that grew hotter by the minute. There was an expectancy, of something held barely in check, that radiated through the air though only Mica’s still form was there to witness it. Moonlight no longer lit her eyes quite as brightly.
A soft scrape, as from bare feet on stone, was quickly swallowed by the gloom. Willow pressed herself against the wall just inside the doorway looking through it for any sign of danger. Her heartbeat pounded in her skull, were those footsteps?
Her entire body shivered for a moment before she clenched her jaw and forced her fear back down. No, the hallways were silent. With a shaky hand she wiped the sweat from her brow and blinked hard a few times until her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the ruined apothecary.
Willow looked around with a growing sense of dread. She hadn’t thought the room she had spent so much of her life in would be destroyed. Not to this extent anyway. Maybe a few jars broken, some supplies stolen but this? It was as though they had systematically destroyed their entire supply of medicines.
With a jolt she realized that was exactly what they had wanted to do. She felt soiled. The idea was absolutely repugnant to her; to destroy what could only be used to heal, it was barbaric. It was evil.
She felt a touch of the rage that so consumed the others. These invaders meant to destroy all that was good in the world, they left nothing but misery and death in their wake. Willow clenched her fists. They must be destroyed. For the good of the entire world these demons must be wiped from existence.
Just as quickly as it came the anger dissipated, turning to despair. Willow slumped, expelling her breath in a long, low sigh. With their supplies either stolen or trampled underfoot she would be unable to complete her mission. The tribe needed those medicines, especially with the battle tonight.
Willow knelt and began sifting through the debris. Maybe, if she could identify what was there, she might be able to salvage… no, it was useless. Even if she could figure out which of the dozens of herbs she was touching she’d never be able to separate it out. She was probably poisoning herself just doing this.
An idea formed. The apothecary kept certain herbs locked away because they required gloves to handle or were extremely poisonous. Maybe… Willow scrambled behind a pile of debris that had once been a work table. Her thin fingers moved over tiles on the wall, feeling for just the right one.
With a soft ‘click’ a tile depressed slightly and a panel above her swung up. Willow stood and looked around, eyes wide. Did anyone hear that? After several long moments she finally turned to the now revealed shelves inset in the wall.
Rows of jars of various sizes, all sealed tight with cloth and string, sat on two shelves. All the jars were clearly labeled and all were, mercifully, whole. Willow breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t what they’d wanted but at least it was something. Carefully, she began placing the jars within her bag.