Chapter 26: Waiting

Antros blinked stars from his eyes, taking a deep breath to steady the spinning world. He rose slowly, feeling the groans and creaks of his bones on the way up. “My ancestors would disown me if they saw me flung by a small child.” He smiled wryly at the young man a few feet away. His neck cracked, loudly, and he winced as he ran his fingers across his ribs. “Think you could teach me?”

The young man bowed, bald head glistening in the warm noon sun. He pulled rough, over-sized robes over the top of a tight-fitted cotton jumpsuit. He tossed a departing wave to Antros before resuming his place on the infirmary cart.

Antros took a few minutes to catch his breath. The last few days had been an excellent teacher of just how much he had to learn. The sky was dazzlingly blue in the wake of the storms that rocked the plains for the last three days and it felt good to just stare up into it.

How the hell had he ended up here?

He hopped up into the large cart beside him. Well, platform with wheels really, just a rolling floor. Leliana lay clutching the light blankets they covered her with and shook her head back and forth furiously. A few days ago he’d have thought she were on the verge of waking up. “Any idea how she’s doing?”

The young man shrugged halfheartedly. Those big blue eyes trained on Antros with a tinge of regret.

Antros sighed. “Well damn.” He let his gaze drift from the sleeping woman.

The nightmares seemed less frequent now, at least based on the obscenities belting out of her mouth. Her eyes fluttered. She murmured something incoherent. The two brown-robed men on the cart and Antros stepped back a pace.

She frowned, eyes closed. Her body coiled. Suddenly her fists whipped the air feverishly overhead. A few moments later and she was still.

“Now I know why you kept sleeping outside the bunk room.”

Antros grunted and hopped down off the med-cart. His eyes were drawn to the poor man who had been tending the girl when they first learned of her sleep-fighting episodes and fought back a smirk. It was the only time in three days he’d heard any of the group laugh. Antros weaved through packs of men, women and children – some robed, others not. Everyone was mingling and getting ready to move again. He moved straight for the head of the column where he knew the speaker’s place was.

This week, the speaker was an older woman who was still strong enough to break him in half with leisure. Deep wrinkles etched into thick, leathery skin from years of toil and abuse. The sun shone off of her bald head, and she gave a small bow at Antros’ approach.

“Be welcome, Antros.”

Both speakers he’d met had raspy, whispered voices. He wondered if this were an effect of not speaking for a year at a time, or if people with throat trauma just gravitated toward the monk lifestyle.

“Be welcome, Speaker.” He bowed in turn, hand-on-fist at his chest. “I’m afraid my friend is still unwell, so I’ll travel a bit further with you.” He used the formal speech he knew they preferred. “Do you have any tasks I might assist with while we’re in your care?” He already knew the answer, but walking was excruciatingly tedious. He might well sweep the dusty plains before their feet if she would just ask.

“I am appreciative of your offer, child. Caring for your friend is enough. Seek your peace while we travel, my son.” She touched his arm with a gnarled hand. “You are troubled. Those with troubles must help themselves before they may be of assistance to others.”

“Thank you speaker.” Antros bowed once more and shuffled back to the rear.

Dammit.

“Aah!”

The young man who he’d sparred with earlier flew in an arc and Antros bolted forward to catch him. They both tumbled end over end. “Are you alright!?”

The monk gestured at the cart. “The girl!”

Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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