Willow had wrapped the last, tiny jar and fitted it in with the rest when she reached up for another one and realized she’d already completed the task. She’d barely registered the mundane work, her mind drifting instead to memories of Mica. Poor Mica, once so vibrant and wise and now gone forever. She existed only in memories.
A soft cough echoed down the hallway, barely audible over the almost total silence. Willow was so wrapped up in memories she almost missed the sound completely but some part of her brain had stayed alert. All of her senses snapped back to reality as that small part screamed at her. Her eyes widened and darted to the hall door.
Willow’s head spun wildly looking for an escape, she snatched up the bag and slipped around the corner to the back room as the invader reached the door. Heart pounding in her chest, Willow pressed herself against the wall inside the door and gently lowered the bag. With the same hand she pulled her knife from its sheath on her thigh.
The invader stumbled, said something sharp under his breath. Willow could hear the size of him, in the way he walked, the sound of the debris he moved as he stumbled, he was large, maybe twice her size and weight. She glanced at her knife. She realized she was about to die.
Even with her knowledge of anatomy and the element of surprise there was just no way she would survive the coming fight. He was a veteran soldier in a huge invading army, he probably had years of experience murdering young, apprentice healers.
The crash of something heavy landing made Willow jump. Her fingertips tingled and suddenly she couldn’t stop shivering. The invader made a noise that sounded like a curse, his voice growled, a threatening sound that promised pain.
There had to be something she could use, she was an apprentice healer in the temple of healing for the sake of the gods! She must have learned something in all that time. Willow glanced at the Healer’s bag, of course, it was so obvious.
Her hand darted, quick as a snake, into the bag and withdrew a small vial wrapped in rags. Shaking hands barely managed to pull the stopper without dropping everything. The lumbering mass of the invader was nearing the door.
She dipped the tip of her knife into the vial and got the cork back in somehow just as the child-murderer crossed the threshold. Without thinking she lunged. The tip of her knife scratched his shoulder drawing a thin, red line on his dirty skin.
The beast howled as he spun, his massive fist struck Willow squarely in the gut throwing her back against the far wall. Willow was stunned, unable to breathe, through unfocused eyes she watched the behemoth.
The man wiped his hand across his shoulder and looked at the smeared blood. His face reddened and he spat something guttural. A sneer twisted his face as he advanced on Willow.
Willow knew she was going to die. She wanted to do anything to save herself but she couldn’t quite make her lungs work. Her right hand scratched uselessly against the wall, searching for the knife that wasn’t there.
The man’s face changed somehow, a subtle difference in the curl of his lips or the sheen of his eyes, and he stumbled. He lurched forward and landed on his knees in front of Willow. His eyes had gone unfocused and a strange smile had replaced the smirk. He sat back slowly, his bulk somehow lighter.
Willow stared in disbelief. Her lungs had begun to recover but this threatened to knock the air out of them all over again. She glanced around until she found her knife, a foot from her outstretched hand. The man was still sitting still, seemingly awed by whatever he was seeing. Willow eased herself over and retrieved her knife. She looked it over carefully then eased it back into its sheath.
The bottle in her other hand hadn’t broken. Thank the gods. She wondered what it was. The man now had a thin line of drool running down his cheek as he helplessly smiled at the ceiling. A shout echoing down the hall outside the apothecary made Willow jump.
“Blisters.” She whispered, her eyes darted around the room. Suddenly she lunged for the bag, thrust the bottle inside and pulled the strap around her shoulder. Another shout, much closer this time, made her heart leap into her throat. Willow ran at the window and dove through taking the curtain with her. Moonlight suddenly flooded the small room outlining Mica’s body and making it seem to glow.