The bag was old and made of leather, dark brown and smooth on the surface but the inside was rough. The leather was thick but supple, the Healer had kept it well oiled. It meant a lot to Willow that the Healer had entrusted the bag to her, it felt almost like a mantle, the strap around her shoulders a magical shield against danger.
So it was with great reluctance that she slipped the strap up over her head and gently set the bag on the floor. The jars had begun clinking together and Willow realized that, not only would she be a walking target, they would probably break if she needed to do any fighting or heavy running. She needed rags or towels or something to cushion them.
To her credit she only stared at the bag and fretted for a second before turning to begin her search. Quietly, oh so quietly, she padded across the debris strewn floor gently poking through the larger piles but there were no rags to be had in the main room.
‘Maybe the curtains.’ Willow thought before turning to the interconnecting door. She tip-toed carefully, still looking around the room until she reached the opening.
‘The Apothecary wouldn’t mind if I cut up her curtains for this, surely.’ Willow paused, hand on the wall just inside the door, and stared back at the main door for several seconds. No sound disturbed the quiet except her own breathing. She was alone.
Willow glanced at her bag and then slipped into the Apothecary’s back room. The curtains ruffled oddly, they looked like they were being held in place by a person.
‘Blisters!’ She almost screamed, jumping back against the wall. Her heart skipped a beat before her body started trembling. A stray moonbeam found the window just as a breeze fluttered the curtain and Mica’s face lit up, her dead gaze now a grim parody of her once-lively soul.
‘Mica?’ Was the only thought Willow could muster as the grim realization struck home. She took a shaky step forward. The moon retreated behind a cloud shrouding the room in a dull, gray haze. Before she knew it Willow was kneeling before Mica, her fingers probing the dead body of her friend looking for a pulse, a breath, any sign of life.
There was nothing.
Willow’s hands slowed and then dropped to her sides. Her head suddenly became too heavy to hold up. Tears stung her eyes before dropping from her eyelashes.
She had seen death before, of course, she was a Healer-in-training. Why, not long before the invasion old Orion had passed and she had helped with his funerary preparations. His wake had been splendid, a celebration of a life well lived and a rest fully deserved.
But Mica? She was struck down in her prime, her life barely started. It was so unfair.
Mica had been running away, already wounded yet they’d killed her anyway. Casually snuffed out the beauty that was Mica even though she was obviously no threat to them. Killed for no reason, she’d been killed for no reason.
Willow raised her head. Her face was twisted up in a snarl. ‘Curse these invaders,’ she thought, ‘make them die screaming!’ Whatever gods were listening must have heard her plea it was so intensely felt. They must be moved into action by the base brutality or they were not gods at all.
Just as quickly as it had overcome her, the rage passed. The spell had been cast and it left a cold residue of disgust within her. Willow turned away, she couldn’t bare to stare at her dead friend any longer, the image already burned into her dreams.
A loose pile of rags lay before her, scattered amongst the debris of the broken furniture.
‘Perhaps the gods are listening after all.’ She mused before gathering up what she needed.
Willow couldn’t quite bring herself to look back as she left the room.