Part II - Our Common Grave :: 39
The fits in the man’s face had subsided sometime over night, between her last shift and this one. Leona leaned over and studied the sleeping figure of the Hume that Father Guerre had put her in charge of watching.
She had recognized him immediately but had not let that on to the Chamatri priest or his other holy healers. Here he was again, with yet more scars to add to his already cavalcade of them. One old one across the neck, one fresh on his side, and a thick, bulbous one on his shoulder, not three days old. His face was taught and carried a thickening shadow along the jaw. His thin lips were slightly parted as he slept, eyes no longer rolling in their sockets. He had made it through the toughest part of the heal.
“Kinda cute for a Hume, huh?”
Leona jumped and turned, her boss Lilly standing in the doorway.
“Lilly, what’re you doing here?” she asked, heart starting to calm.
Lilly shrugged. “Guerre told me you were back here. I figured I’d drop in.”
“I thought the Sigil was guarding the temple?”
“Let’s just say that Greer owed me a favor.”
Leona sighed as her boss moved to her side, studying the sleeping suspect. “Is this him?” she asked, pointing at him. “Looks like you described.”
“Yeah,” Leona replied with a sigh.
Lilly pursed her lips and placed a hand on Leona’s shoulder. “You didn’t know.”
“Had I known, I could have done something about it. I was so stupid, just like you said...”
“No,” came an old, deep voice. Guerre had entered the room behind Lilly. “No, Leona. We are all children of the Mother, regardless of our deeds or situations. You did the right thing by helping him.”
“But it was because of me that he was able to attack the Union Leader.”
Lilly shook her head. “There were two attackers, remember? Even had you turned him in, the other attacker would’ve been there.”
“You still yearn to do the work of the Mother, Leona. That is a good thing,” added Guerre.
Leona let out another sigh and sat down in the chair near the bed. The Sigil had rigged up restraints to the bed but she wasn’t chancing it. Greer had told her this Hume had knocked him out with one punch on his way to attack the Union leader.
“Have you paid your respects to the Mother?” Guerre asked, gazing at Lilly.
“Not yet,” she replied. “I’ll stop by on the way out. I can assume I won’t have my server back for a while?”
“At least until the man wakes,” he replied.
“Alright. Leona, stay safe. Father.” Lilly half-bowed to the priest and backed out of the room.
“I apologize for making you bear my burdens, Father.”
“Nonsense,” replied Guerre, waving a hand. “Burdens our the Mother’s tests for us to grow stronger in her presence. And you passed, little Leona.”
She looked up and smiled at him. “You haven’t called me that in years.”
“You will always be that to me, I’m afraid. Age has a way of keeping perspectives from maturing.”
He looked up at the ceiling, finger at his lips. “I always wondered how powerful you would have become had you remained on course and finished your training.”
“I don’t,” she replied. “I was never very good at it. I didn’t even heal him right,” she said, nodding her head to the sleeping suspect.
“But you tried. And you healed lots of injured after the store explosion. That fact alone merits praise. Your parents would be as proud of you as I am.”
A frown crept its way onto her face. “My mother and father never ran. I did.”
“You ran because they told you too.”
“I should have stayed. I should have fought with them.”
“But you were only a little one then,” he replied, smiling. “You could not have been expected to help.”
“And I never saw them again,” she replied, lowering her face.
He knelt beside the chair and placed a hand on her knee. “Leona, we all lost something in the siege. I lost my temple. You lost your parents. And many, many people lost their lives.”
She let out a great shuddering sigh and leaned back in the chair. “That siege is still chasing me. I’m not sure I’ll ever out run it.”
Guerre nodded. “This entire land is trying to out run it, and yet the problems it caused are still haunting us all. I’m sure he,” and he pointed to the man in chains, “is another haunting from that past. He just took the wrong path.”
“Is there a right path?” she asked, turning to look at the priest.
“There are wrong paths, surely. But right path? I think we can always aim for one but we will not fully realize a ‘right path’ until we have come to our end.”
“And become dirt or dust?”
“Indeed. The mother most sew her land with fertile soil and casts away the lingering, unhelpful dust. You want to make sure that you are a part of the soil that makes the land upon which the foundation of the future is built.”
“The old parable.”
He closed his eyes, smiled, and tilted his head towards hers. “Indeed. As relevant now as they were when the Mother spoke them to Warrior Brisa.”
“The First Daughter used violence in her path...”
“And it was justified,” he replied.
“How? Isn’t violence something that should never be justified?”
The priest paused a moment, trying to choose his words. “It was during the great Famine, when the Mother called out to Brisa to put an end to the warlording ways of the Hoarding Gangs. They were starving the villagers. Brisa, being half Hume half Feline, rose to that call. She saved the Miller farm and area around it. Had she not, there would not have been a Millewhist.”
“But then the Empire rose and took over Millewhist. By force. Was that justified? They took down Brisa’s descendant, right? Humbolt, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” he began, frowning. “The warrior bloodline had thinned and the Humes and Animas of the Whistlands had grown fat and greedy. Their punishment by way of the Empire was not stopped by the Mother. Instead, it was a teaching moment.”
Leona sighed. “It all just seems so...”
“Horseshitty?” someone called. Both turned and looked in the doorway. “I hate to interrupt this history lesson,” said Watcher Wilcox, “but I wanted to check in on the prisoner.”
Guerre patted Leona’s knee and stood.
“Watcher,” he said. “Welcome. I believe Leona would be the best to answer your query.”
Wilcox turned his steely gaze to Leona.
“He’s out of the hardest part of the heal now. He will wake soon.”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I have had no experience with wounds this great before.”
“Probably less than a day,” Guerre answered.
Wilcox looked to the priest and back to Leona. “Good. I will be here until then. I have relieved Greer and will be just outside. Let me know the moment his eyes open.”
“He will likely be very disoriented and unable to properly answer your questions.”
Wilcox shook his head. “Don’t care. From the moment he wakes, he’s my problem. Not yours.”
Guerre nodded. “Very well.”