Friday, June 25, 2010

Legacy of the Hero: The Last Meets the First-4

Keela of the Knife

Far from the front lines stood a walled palisade—the core camp of the Army of the Light—and within that camp stood a second palisade wherein a great pavilion mounted by banners bearing the symbol of the Hospital Universal resided. Inside laid the sick, the wounded and the dying- all attended by the women of the hospital, whose men were often the very men in need of their care. First amongst them was a daughter of the Sea Princes, Keela, said to bring life to the dead by her radiant beauty alone. Yet she was not first amongst the women purely due to the quality of her feminine form, but instead due to her mastery of arts and sciences that few from the Wood People or the Solar Nation then held. While other women knew well the means to ease pain, staunch wounds and comfort the afflicted only Keela could truly heal them.

At the Sack of the Black Tower there arose a crisis in the hospital. Men flooded from the front, too wounded to fight on, and a staggering number of those first from the fight fell dead before their wounds could be properly cleaned and dressed. More horrific was that not long thereafter, often as the women dragged the corpses away, they would revive and attack- now corpse-slaves of the Necromancer Lord. Keela the Sea Princess, also Keela Sun-Spear by that time, raced from point to point with a hacking knife and cut down the turned corpses with one hand while lighting them aflame with a lit torch in the other.

The corpses burst into sickly flames, consuming themselves with supernatural speed, and all within the hospital knew that some sorcery had slipped past their defenses to strike at this vulnerable point. The remaining men, now knowing what fate befell them in death, fought all the harder to hold to life and the women bent their own minds and wills to aid them as best they could- but all knew that time was not their ally. Keela has to act, and fast.

Grabbing two younger women, she went with bade them mark the remaining men in order of severity of condition. As more wounded came, they marked those also and directed those arrivals into waiting positions. Grabbing two more, Keela took those worst off into a space politely termed “The Altar of Mercurial Mercy.” Here Keela had a man lay atop a flat, altar-like stone and bade her women to strip off what clothes barred her hands from the wounds while she produced an array of knives and put a wick to a candle. Then she had her women strap the man down.

Donning garb more suitable for a blacksmith or a butcher, Keela took up her tools to seek out which malady threatened them so. That man succumbed, was cut down and burned. So did the next, and the next, and the next after that. Finally, after a fifth failure she detected the villain’s weapon- a shard of some sort of bone that moved as if alive, a shard the size of a splinter of wood.

“If I could but put the sun itself into the body, I might yet see it and cut it out before it kills a sixth man!” Keela said, frustrated, as the flames consumed that fifth doomed man. As she went out to get the seventh man, she stood out of the pavilion and looked up to the sun—now rising to midday—and again spoke: “If I could see into a body as clear as I can see across the waves on a clear day like this, then I might yet save these men!”

Behind her, the women led the seventh man into the operating tent. As she eyed them at the corner of her perception, she felt an intense searing sensation on her brow- at the very point where Ilker kissed her when she joined the Army years before. As it subsided, she prepared to operate on this man and now she paused for she could indeed see into his body. Skin and sinew, blood and bone, tendons and muscles- all obfuscation now fled her sight and that allowed her to see the invading agent of the Necromancer Lord with the clarity given by a bright, cloudless sky at midday.

Now she quickly found the thing, and just as quickly caught it and cut it out. Keela called for a vial, which quickly came and just as quickly she deposited the shard into it and sealed it utterly. Then she cleaned her patient, dressed him and sent him out to recover. The next man came, and she saved him also. More came, and more she saved. As the day grew on, more came with more shards imbedded but she saved them also. Word of her miraculous cutting and curing came to the ears first of the other women, and then the men as they learned of Keela’s victory from the women that loved them. The knife that cuts had proven itself to be the knife that cures.

Exhausted, Keela ended the day on her feet as the last man—carried by his fellows—came to her table. Handsome Zebulon, hands red with blood—most of it not his own—once more, had at last come again to the hospital. Carried by his fellow warriors, his flesh marred by cuts and bruises great and small, she knew this to be a terrible task but took up that well-used knife one last time that day. She cut one, then another, then a third, fourth, fifth, sixth—more, more, more, more—of those damned Life-Stealing Shards out of his fine form. Fiercely did he hold to life, more so than most for he too felt Ilker’s Kiss, even if his eyes had closed with the blow that shunted him to unconsciousness, but with a score of these shards afflicting him even he came too close to death—and then undeath—to discount the peril.

Long after the sun set, after twilight faded, after night’s shroud enveloped the land once more did Keela finish her work. The shards cut and culled, the cuts cleaned and dressed, the body purified and the soul satisfied- all this Keela did before she let go her responsibilities and rested, climbing atop the table to be beside blessed Zebulon, where she put her arms about him and sheltered him from all harm.
Soon thereafter, they married.

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