Eyla stopped, out of breath, when she could no longer see the creature’s face. She fell back and sat with her arms laid out in front of her, resting on her knees. Her muscles were aching. She looked around in surprise to find that night had fallen. She hadn’t noticed, in fact she didn’t know what happened between the time she began to hit the creature to the time she stopped.
She breathed out and forced herself to look as the creature. Its white body almost glowed in the darkness but no head could be seen. She shivered. Her body was so tired. She touched her chest and felt the deep gash in it. The blood had stopped flowing. She got up and looked around her. Her legs trembled violently; the wound in her leg was only a dull pain. She tried to loosen the Berserker rage in her, but there was none left. She sighed and moved toward the trees. She could not see very well; her vision blurring and returning so often she felt dizzy. So she kept her hands outstretched in front of her. She staggered till she felt thick brush touch her fingers. She then crawled under the brush and fell asleep.
She awoke next morning to the sounds of birds singing. She was hot and sticky with blood. She rose up wincing. Through the leaves she saw the body of the creature. It was torn apart. She shuddered at the sight and then turned around and began to stumble away, holding onto the tree trunks for support. She felt as if the whole world in front of her was swirling. She took one more step and fell hard. She grunted a little and tried to get back up; she didn’t have the strength. Her heart felt numb. She dragged on across forest floor, till the sunlight had fallen away from her toward the west. Her throat was burning and her leg was going numb also. She looked at it and saw that that the wound was filled thick with dirt and twigs. A faint stench was coming up from it.
“Oh Great One,” she whispered, “My leg….” She could not continue. Her chest heaved as the tears rolled down her cheeks. She licked the tears with little relief and continued on her way. The stones and twigs were making pathways of blood on her legs and palms. She had to stop often and pull thorns out of her flesh and insects out of her wounds. But the gash in her chest did not bleed. It was evening when she heard the sounds of rushing water. She gave a wild cry and leapt to her feet. She half ran, half limped toward the sound. She found it minutes later; a small river flowing ruggedly through the forest. She flung herself into the river and sank beneath the cold waters.
It was too shallow to cover her face. So she lay allowing the water to flow over her, washing away the tiredness and dirt from her. She pulled off her tunic and tossed it onto the bank, then dropped back into the water. It was so refreshing she began to cry, “Thank you Great One,” she whispered. She cried out all the pain and fear she felt about Titan’s death and from the creature attack and the joy of her returning from death. She rubbed the wound clean as best as she could with her hands, but she was too tired to clean it through properly.
It was far dusk when she dragged herself out of the river. She lay for a while on her side, washed her tunic, then laboriously pulled it over her. She then lay on her back and waited for sleep to take over. She awoke in the middle of the night with her leg stinging. She touched it and the skin was hot. She pulled herself to the edge of the bank and patted water onto it. It soothed the hotness but the leg went on stinging. Eyla sighed; there was nothing that she could do if she could not see. She had to wait till morning.
The sun flooded the forest and Eyla was captured for a minute by the almost magical transformation from darkness to light. She saw the trees burst into life and saw the forest change back to a myriad of sounds and hues. It was unbelievable. Then her leg pulsed. She hissed and looked at it. All around the wound was swollen; filled with a thick black slime and greenish around the edges. Eyla looked at it in despair. There was only one thing to do; clean it. She looked around to see if there was anything that she could use. Her eyes fell on a sharp stone in the river. She took a breath and lowered herself into the water. She took up the stone and balanced the flat rock in her hand, testing the rough edges with her fingertips. She took another breath and raised up her tunic and allowed the water to run over the wound a little. The she pressed the stone to her flesh and rubbed the sharp edge hard. She screamed; closed her eyes and tried to ignore the sick sensation of the stone cutting into the wound. The pain stabbed up and down her leg and made her arms feel heavy but she continued till the slime had been shorn away.
She then turned the stone to lay the flat edge along the wound edge. With quick sharp thrusts she grated and peeled off the greenish flesh and took the stone again and began to dig out the greenish parts. Her blood was flowing down the river in a current of its own. She had to stop for a while and allow the blood to clear away before she could start again. When she was done she passed her hand roughly through the wound and picked off the bits of skin and flesh that did not come out. She was drenched in sweat and her body was trembling as she emerged from the water. Her leg felt hot and cold at the same time. She washed her face in the river then flopped back onto her back. She lay there breathing heavily, ignoring the pain in her leg and fell asleep.
She got up to find that she was in darkness. She lay for a moment, trying to remember where she was. She felt dizzy and the stars in the sky were fading in and out of her vision. She opened her mouth to take a breath. Her mouth was dry. She licked her lips and tried to get to the river. She cried out in pain. The leg was now in excruciating pain. She turned back over. The pain throbbed over and over. She choked back her tears and took a ragged breath to steady herself.
“Oh Great One, “ she said her voice torn with pain, “I need your help. I need….” He voice ended with a hiss as the pain became unbearable. The tears broke loose. She felt her body wrack with the force of her pain and sorrow. Then suddenly a soft glow of light lit up the branches of the trees hanging over her. She raised her head and through the forest she saw a bright light moving slowly toward her. The light moved straight to her, as if the trees were not even there. Eyla gasped as fear overtook her. She saw a huge bird alight on the opposite side of the river. It was an Eagle; magnificent and white.
A white light like fire, emanated around it. The Eagle flapped it wings and the white light around it flicked off the feathers. Eyla lay half raised onto her elbows with her mouth open and her heart pounding. The eagle flapped and rose into the air, coming to rest right beside her. She gazed up at the magnificent beast. It looked into her eyes and she gazed back into the burning gold of its eyes. She suddenly felt calm in her heart. The Eagle bent its head and touched its beak to her wound. A flash of light blinded her and searing heat flowed through her leg. Eyla cried out and turned away. When she dared to open her eyes, the Eagle was still there, but the pain in her leg was gone. A scar was all that remained of the wound. She looked up in awe at the Eagle. It gazed down at her and then opened its mouth and screamed. The piercing screech echoed in Eyla’s ears long after the Eagle had gone. Eyla got up. Her entire body was trembling. She felt as if she was filled with strength that burned in her limbs like a fire.
She put her full weight on the leg, testing it as she looked around. She had to get moving before this feeling ran out. If she could get far enough home she may stand a chance of reaching back to the village before exhaustion took her over again. Suddenly a gentle suggestion spoke to her. It was like a soft nudge. And she took off running with all her might in the direction that it moved her. And she took off running with all her might in the direction that it moved her. The darkness meant nothing, in fact she closed her eyes and let whatever was guiding her take over. She followed her hearing, touch and plain instinct. She felt the shadows of the trees slide past her, she leapt over fallen trunks that she did not see and lipped under low branches and jumped small brooks that she had heard in the distance. It was almost like a dream. And the gentle guide never failed her. Suddenly like it had come, it left. Eyla stopped and opened her eyes. For a moment she did not realize where she was, and then she recognized the clearing that winked at her from between the trees. It was the same clearing that she run across when she had become a Berserker Hishta. With a cry of relief she dashed across the clearing and ran half blinded with tears and relief, until she came out of the mass of trees.
The entire village seemed to pause as she came stumbling along the main path. She stopped there panting. There was a deathly silence, then like a slow roar the village of Berserkers surged toward her. She collapsed into their arms and they bore her bodily to her tent. Soriah gave a short scream when they brought her in. Soriah tore her from their arms and kissed her on her cheeks and kept stroking her hair. Eyla said, “I’m alright,’ but her voice came out tired and slurred. Soriah burst into tears and hugged her very tight. Eyla could not breathe very well and cried out. Soriah let her go and then shooed everyone out and stripped Eyla naked and laid her under a thick rug. While Eya sweated, Soriah fixed up one of her many potions and a nasty smelling poultice. She with Eyla’s assistance, smeared the poultice onto Eyla’s wounds and made Eyla drink the potion. Eyla lay back and felt the potion work; drawing her into a deep sleep.
When she awoke she felt much better. Soriah let her get up and change. Soriah was looking very worried as she sat. Eyla dressed slowly, wincing for every motion of her body.
“Have they burnt Titan’s body yet?”Eyla asked when she was done. Soriah shook her head.
“What happened?” Soriah asked.
“I want to see Titan,” Eyla said.
“What happened?” Soriah repeated.
“I want to see Titan first. I will tell you after. That is final.” Eyla replied, frowning. Soriah must have heard the undertone, for she got up and nodded. Eyla followed her slowly down the paths. When they reached the funeral pyre, Eyla had to force herself to look at Titan. He looked very much the same as before. It was hard to believe that he was dead. She reached out and touched his hand. The cold flesh felt like wet old leather. She twisted her face to hold back the tears; but they ran down anyway. She turned away swiftly and almost fell. Soriah caught her and they walked back to their tent. Eyla sat down and calmed herself. “I will tell you what happened,” Eyla said to Soriah, “But afterward, will you tell me all that you know about what is going on?”
Soriah’s face was grim, “Agreed,” she replied.