“You’re very lucky, you know.” Grackle said, hopping about restlessly on Jezebelle’s back as she was laying on the floor of the makeshift medical tent.
“Oh yeah, how’s that?” Jez asked, not really listening as she scribbled lyrics on a parchment. Grackle had already told her this every hour of every day she’d been laid up here in front of the healer’s hut. Cinnamon had forbidden her from walking lest she reopen her wounds, and had her chugging a healing tonic every hour on the hour.
“You’re lucky your mo…” Jezebelle glared at him dangerously “…That that woman only came to kill you. If she’d had any interest in turning you I doubt you could have stopped her.”
“It’s a good thing Polly had the presence of mind to bite me.” She stroked the warty back of a thoroughly miserable Pollywog. The toad had eaten the curse Euterpe had used to immobilize Jezebelle, and had since spent an entire day vomiting up a foul black substance that instantly killed one of Cinnamon’s hedges. She hadn’t stopped complaining of nausea since.
“Don’t mention it…” moaned Polly. “Please don’t mention it, urrrgh..”
Cinnamon looked up. It was still dark, the moon up in the sky. The warning horn had just sounded all over the lands, as sights of mages and dark creatures were seen at the edges of Centauria, so she headed over to fight. Hesitantly, she had left Jezebelle settled at the Hospital, with Pollywog and Grackle in charge of her. Cinnamon doubted Euterpe would risk herself by coming back all the way to the center of the city, but she liked to be cautious. She had left Jezebelle her dagger under her pillow, and a small flask of Invertitia. Enough to throw at someone’s face and stop them in their tracks. “To defend yourself, in case… you know, a family visit“. She put her bow in her back, and attached her sword, and headed over to Glenstorm to join the others.
Jezebelle blinked as Cinnamon handed her a blade and potion. “This is perhaps the strangest bedside manner I’ve ever seen, but… thanks.” She felt relatively safe here in the middle of everywhere, but she’d felt safe in her caravan, too. The blade was a comfort, but one she hoped she wouldn’t need. “Go, keep our friends safe. Just make sure you get back okay. We’d be lost without you, and I’d really hate to have to find a new healer. I think Cloudbirth’s out of network for my insurance.”
A couple hours passed, the first wave of dark creatures was successfully defeated. Among them, a few centaurs she never saw before, one or two that were taken by the darkness were brought back to the light. But she saw a few more, among other creatures, that after realizing they have lost the battle, fell back and ran out to the woods. Several Centaurians stayed at Glenstorm, guarding the edges of the realms. Some more made their way through the woods, scouting for enemies. Some others, archers, climbed up to the hill for a better sight. They saw them escaping, but the forest that surrounded Centauria is dense and any creature could still be hiding in its shadows. Especially the piece of forest that ran near the Great Hall. So she pulled up her cloak and stayed in high lands observing for a while.
Sitting in the makeshift hospital was nerve-wracking enough, but every time a wounded taur was dragged in to be cared for Jezebelle quietly cursed herself for being foolish enough to get stabbed before the battle. She bickered with Grackle and soothed Polly to keep herself occupied, but mostly she just tried her best to take up as little space as possible and stay out of the way.
After a while of not seeing any movements, Cinnamon decided to head back to the hospital, as there were several wounded to be cared for, including Jezebelle. Luckily there were no others gravely wounded. Not as her.
The dawn arose, more battles came and went. More taurs and other creatures filtered in and out to have minor wounds treated. Jezebelle hadn’t seen anyone else with injuries as severe as hers today. She hoped nobody else was getting hurt that badly, but suspected that the gravely wounded were just being treated closer to the front.
As the sun went down on the second day, she found herself alone in her tent, all but one of the other patients had been cleared to go home. Grackle and Polly had fallen asleep and she was just feeling tired herself, but couldn’t get comfortable with a big hole in her shoulder. So she was awake when the other patient arose from her bed. Jezebelle’s jaw dropped. “Oh HELL no…”
The burns scars had been bandaged up, and she wasn’t an emaciated and psychotic parody of her usual self anymore, but there was no doubt that the woman walking about the yard unsteady on her hooves, head in hands, was Euterpe. Had she been captured?
Cinnamon was resting for a while inside the Healer’s hut, after the last wave of wounded taurs. Luckily nothing serious. Only two centaurs were left at the hospital, one of them was Jezebelle… and at this hour they both would be sleeping. She had left her bow on its stand and her quiver leaning against the wall. She rested her head in the pillow, exhausted… “Just a small nap” she thought. Like waves in the sea, Cinnamon started drifting in and out of sleep. Suddenly, the sound of erratic hooves pulled her out of her rest. She lifted her head to hear better. ‘Jez? Gods! didn’t I tell her not to get up?’ She thought.
She got up, walked to the door and opened it. “You better go back to bed if you don’t want me to… Ohh…” She stopped on her tracks when she saw that the ‘other’ centaur was up and walking about, disoriented…
“Madam?” She came closer. “You need to go back to bed…”
Euterpe stumbled, bracing herself with a hand on the healer’s shoulder. “Where am I? I-I don’t remember. Did I…? Oh gods, did I get taken again? Did I hurt anyone?” she sobbed.
“Don’t you worry about it for now, madam…” Cinnamon said, gently tugging her arm, but she was a bit hesitant. “Please… come back to bed, you will feel better in the morning”
The centaur might have been brought from battle with all our wounded, she thought. Cinnamon remembered seeing her at the field, but she didn’t remember healing her wounds. ‘Maybe Dark Moon did it?’ She thought. But he was gone already. In any case, it was a Centaurian custom to embrace and offer sanctuary to those who were brought back from the darkness. “Come on, now… have some rest” she said placing her hand on the centaur’s back and directing her to the tent where Jezebelle was resting. As she walked behind the centaur, she turned her face to Jez to check up on her, and realized that she was staring at the scene with eyes open wide as plates.
Jez muttered a single word, and slid her hand under the pillow, resting it upon the hilt of the concealed dagger. The second Euterpe caught sight of Jezebelle looking at her, she dropped the act, and her glamour. Beneath, she was emaciated and as wild-eyed as ever. She lashed out with her hind legs, hoping to catch Cinnamon in the chest, then bounded forward to attack Jezebelle. “More’s the pity they cleared the rest of the wounded out, but I still get to kill you, Calliope!” She shrieked, then smashed into the shield spell Jezebelle had cast between them. Euterpe slammed her fists hard against the barrier, and Jezebelle could feel it starting to give. She tightened her grip on the concealed blade.
Cinnamon widened her eyes at Jez’s warning, then looked at Euterpe and slowed down to put distance between them. Euterpe lashed back at her, and she tried to evade it. Cinnamon almost dodged the kick… but managed to get hit on the leg. She groaned in pain, lost her balance and fell to the ground. Limping now, and pushing to get up, she was moving forwards towards the hut… all the way to the back, where her bow and quiver were resting…
“I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little frog, too!” The turned centauride again hammered her fists upon the shield and it shattered like glass. Jezebelle had just enough time to usher Grackle and Polly into the bushes behind the tent, before a bolt of flame splashed against the back wall of the tent where her head had been a moment before. Jezebelle turned to face her assailant as the tent began to blaze. She brandished the dagger in her good hand, grasping the flask of invertitia in the other. “All right then. Come get me.”
Euterpe hissed a spell, and another watery serpent lashed out at Jezebelle’s face. She brought the dagger up to defend, but the serpent just wrapped itself around her raised arm, burying its fangs into her and pulling her forcibly out of the tent. She struggled and shouted “*kruos!*” freezing the snake solid. She shattered it with a wrenching motion and went on the offensive, thrusting with the dagger. But Euterpe dodged every strike with a dancer’s grace, laughing like a child at play as she easily flanked Jezebelle and slammed her body into her wounded shoulder. Jez screamed and toppled over, dropping the potion and narrowly avoiding stabbing herself as she went down.
An azure hoof stomped down on Jezebelle’s wrist and forced her to let go of the weapon, and then Euterpe’s hands were around her neck. Bony fingers cut off Jezebelle’s air. Tears and spots blurred her vision. Her shoulder screamed in protest as she strained to grab the fallen potion with her injured arm, her fingers just brushing it.
“Poor, rebellious Calliope, what a life you must have led. All alone in a strange land, so far from home. No family to comfort you.” Euterpe’s words were poisoned honey in her ears. Jezebelle almost had the flask in hand, but her vision was blacking out… “It’s over now, sweetie. Mommy’s come to take your hurts away. Be a good girl and die this time.”
A voice rings out from the doorway of the hut. “NOT ON MY WATCH!!” Yelled Cinnamon, as she loosed the arrow from her bow at Euterpe’s exposed back…
The arrow thudded into Euterpe’s back, and she shrieked in pain, clawing at it. Coughing, Jezebelle snatched the potion off the ground and smashed the bottle against Euterpe’s face. Her mother snarled and rose to her hooves, she took a menacing step toward Cinnamon, an incantation rising to her lips. She raised a finger and opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She tried again, and her knees gave way. A look of confusion crossed her face for a mere moment, then she passed out.
“Holy crap. That stuff really works, huh?” Jezebelle choked out, rubbing the hand-shaped bruises that were already forming on her neck. She rose unsteadily to her feet, giving the passed out Euterpe a wide berth. “That’s two I owe you, at least.” She said to Cinnamon. “Thanks for, uh… Kinda shooting my mom, I guess?”
Cinnamon had another arrow set and ready to loose. With eyes wide open, and as Euterpe fell to the floor, she slowly lowered her bow. Then took a deep breath and letting it out she looked at Jezebelle “That was close… Are you alright?” Standing on her hooves, but favoring her injured leg, she approached Euterpe cautiously. “Of course it works! What, did you think it was only blueberry juice or something??” She laughed. Kneeling by Euterpe’s side, she checked her pulse. “She’s still alive. But stunned.”. She opened her eyelids with her fingers and looked into her eyes. A sick yellow shade in them was slowly fading away…
“How stupid could I be? I didn’t check her eyes…!!” Cinnamon shook her head, scolding herself. She sat down on the floor “…And how come I didn’t get a stench from her???”
“Hell no, I’m not alright. I’m gonna need serious therapy after this crap. I hate talking about my feelings, ask anyone. They won’t tell you anything cuz I never talked to them.” Jezebelle pouted. “But don’t beat yourself up too much for not noticing it. Back in the last war, she must’ve pulled that trick a hundred times. Figured out how to glamour away the evidence of turning, she was always the one to get us past sentries and guards to hurt people. She didn’t look you in the eye so you couldn’t have seen she wasn’t right.” Jezebelle consoled Cinnamon. She looked down at Euterpe, all those feelings she hated swirling in her chest. Would she be okay? Would she remember what she’d done? Would she try it again, invertitia be damned? Damn it all, she wanted to leave and let this be someone else’s problem SO badly…
“Well… We will only know in the morning, when she wakes up. If she does wake up tomorrow. She’s been in the Darkness for a long time, hasn’t she? I will give her a second dose of potion to be safe. And also fix that hole I just pierced in her back…”
“She was cured last time, but…” But she’d still cursed Jezebelle for a murderer and walked out of her life. “No idea how long she’s been turned this time, could be days, could be years for all I know. Right now I’m just concerned her grudge against me isn’t going away just because she’s ‘fixed.’ I don’t know what she’ll do when she wakes up, but I’m pretty sure I’m in for further therapy sessions. Or more stitches.” She scowled at the motionless elder taur. “Probably ought to patch her up, though. By some miracle I’m not bleeding again after all this, so I’m going to go try to…” she regarded the pile of burning debris that had been the tent she was staying in. “… sleep. Crap. Sorry, Cinn.”
Cinn laughed at Jezebelle, as they both contemplated the burned down tent. “Ahh… it’s alright. We’ll rebuild tomorrow. You can sleep inside the hut. I will work on ‘Mom’ for a bit. Good thing we had set up two tents, huh? Get inside and have some rest. I’ll sleep out here. Works for the best, that way I can keep an eye on her. Not that I want to be cautious, but I think I’ll keep these ones out here with me”. She grabbed her bow and quiver, and put them near the second tent.
“Thanks. I’ll find a spot on the floor, don’t wanna get your bedsheets all bloody. I’ll definitely feel a lot safer sleeping with you and a good solid door between me and her, tonight.” She walked over to the hedges and scooped her bewildered familiars up, hugging them with her good arm. “Just be careful, Cinn. I don’t think she bears you any personal ill will, but I barely know the woman these days. She could still be dangerous.”
And with those words of warning, she retreated into the healer’s hut to rest and recover.