Tag Archives: Willow

Willow in the Wind

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Willow’s Wind

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.

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Willow Wind

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.

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Daemon’s Touch

Her eyes held the black fire of hatred, they were almost too intense to look at directly.  She held up her hand and signaled ‘come’ then stepped back from the entrance.  The warriors slipped into the room taking in the scene with a sweeping glance.

A naked man lay in the center of the large room.  He’d been cut from groin to gullet, his guts spilling onto the bloody stone floor in a mass of carnage and gore.  Another man, dressed as the two guards outside had been in a rough tunic, lay crumpled near the entrance his head at an impossible angle with his body.

In the corner another form rested upon a heavy, wooden table.  It lay curled up into itself, its skin mottled with dark bruises and scrapes.  Willow, the healer’s young student, cautiously investigated the body.

The others watched as her gentle hands probed the form.  She suddenly gasped, covering her mouth with her hands and stepping back.  She turned and her eyes sought out Cloud, the pain evident in her expression.  Willow shook her head slowly, her jaw working up and down unable to think of any words, unable to speak.

Scowling, Cloud stepped toward the body, roughly shoving Willow out of the way until she stood next to the form.  She stood there for a moment and then dropped to her knees, her strong arms pulling the still form to her breast.  Hot tears dripped upon the abused form.  Questioning eyes sought out Willow and she mouthed the word “sister”.

An oppressive silence filled the room.  The warriors turned their eyes away, giving Cloud what little privacy they could to mourn her loss.  Only her tears and her labored breathing broke the quiet until a soft whisper came from the pair.  It seemed impossible but Cloud’s sister yet lived.

Cloud cradled her dying sister in her arms, stared into her face while the tears streamed from her eyes.  Storm stood over the pair listening, a scowl etching its lines deep within her brow.  The dying woman’s words were almost too faint to hear.

“Our… magic,” she said straining hard to get the words out, “They… want… magic.”  One eye opened, half red from a beating that had swollen the other shut, and gazed up at her sister for a moment.  A single tear formed and rolled down her bruised cheek.

“Stop… them.”  Each word was an agony to produce but the strength of the Amazon warriors was strong within her battered frame.  Her breathing grew more faint, the effort to speak was sapping the last of her strength.  She tried to form more words but no sound would come.  Finally her eye lost focus and turned up.  Her body shuddered and she lay still.

Cloud clutched her dead sister to her body, her grieving sobs all but silent.  She rocked back and forth as Storm turned away.

Storm stepped to the center of the room and looked at each of her warriors in turn.  Her expression was neutral but her eyes betrayed the burning fury within her.

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