Kallan awoke. A cloth was wrapped around the wound. He groaned. He lay on his bare chest, the wound like fire in his side. He groaned again, pushing himself up on one elbow. With a push, he heaved himself to a seated position.
They had set up a healing station in the barracks. Several injured men lay on the bunks, but none of the injuries looked major. One of the men had a crushed leg from his horse falling on him. Another had a spear wound in the thigh. But none of the men seemed to be mortally wounded. Blod and one of the healers stood next to his bunk, watching his movement.
Kallan reached for his shirt, sliding it over his head. The wound smarted with pain. He grunted, then slid his leather gambeson and his chainmail over his head. He cracked his neck and knuckles, then pulled on his gloves and started to stand.
Blod’s eyes narrowed as Kallan stood. “Kallan, you should rest…” Kallan grunted and shook his head. He was pale as a ghost from loss of blood, but he felt strong enough to continue. He belted on his sword, and then turned to leave the barracks.
He walked out into the sunlight. General Wesley stood nearby, directing the men on what to do with the weapons and supplies they had found in the compound. The supply wagons had been pulled into the courtyard, and were being loaded with what they needed that could be salvaged from the courtyard. Kallan walked steadily over to Wesley.
“What was done with their prisoners?”
Wesley turned. “Kallan! I was told you were badly injured… are you..”
Kallan interrupted. “What was done with their prisoners?”
Wesley looked toward the prison. “They were left in their cells until it is decided what to do with them. As for the soldiers we took prisoner, they are in there as well…” Kallan nodded and turned for the prison. He walked firmly, willing himself to not pay attention to the pain in his side.
The light was dim inside as he walked in. The five captured soldiers were held in a cell, and the girl and the ragged man were in another. He first went to Robyn’s cell. He turned to the guard and held a hand out for the keys. The man handed them to him, and he unlocked the door. The guard started to protest, but Kallan shot him a scathing look.
Kallan walked over to where the girl lay. She was awake now, but seemed dazed and confused. She struck out, murmuring a weak defense. Kallan gently held her back. “Robyn… you are with friends now.” She looked up at him. He took her hand and lifted her to her feet. She stood unsteadily, supporting herself on his shoulder.
He began to lead her from the cell, but she stumbled, and he caught her. He carried her out of the cell and to the barracks. Connor and a few of his other men stood inside. Kallan lay her thin frame on a bunk, and then turned to Connor. “Find her family and see that she is fed and taken care of.” Connor raised an eyebrow, but nodded. Kallan headed back out the door, across the courtyard. His curiosity was getting the better of him.
Inside the other cell sat the ragged, rough looking man. Kallan unlocked the door and walked in. The man pulled himself to his feet, obviously still full of strength. He stood much taller than Kallan, muscular and tall, with not slight resemblance to a bear. The thick beard on his chin was streaked with red and brown, and his hair was spiky, spreading in all directions. He had a large, friendly face, but he seemed suspicious at first.
Kallan reached out his hand in a gesture of friendship. “We are no friends of your captors. You are welcome to join us.” The man was quiet for a few moments, then spoke, his voice grating, his words stumbling.
“Who…?” He looked Kallan over. “Who you?”
Kallan’s eyebrows lowered. “I am Kallan Keeganson of the Mountains, commander of the rebellion and enemy of the empire.”
The man shook his head like a dog. “Me… Fesric.” Kallan frowned. It was not a typical name. The worn man spoke again, and Kallan noticed his ragged clothes were made of heavy hides. A theory sprung to his mind of who this strange man was. “Me... friend. Empire, bite.” Kallan was confused for a moment until the man pointed to jagged scars down his back, visible through rips in his hide shirt.
“Why are you here?”
The bear-man spoke, spitting on the ground. “Red tunic destroy, threaten, kill. They serve. Me fight.”
Kallan nodded slowly. “You were forced to serve the empire?”
The man placed a fist on his chest. “Fight.”
Kallan nodded. “I’m sure you did, my friend.” He reached toward the wild man carefully. “Come, Fesric.” The man seemed resistant at first, but then followed Kallan out the door and into the courtyard. He blinked in the sunlight, and then smiled, showing jagged, broken, teeth. He let out a howl of joy, causing several of the rebels to jump in surprise. A few of them looked at him suspiciously.
Kallan had a strange liking for Fesric, despite his thoughts of his origin. His suspicions were confirmed when the man pointed northwest. “Home.” He said. Then he sobered up. “Gone.” Kallan nodded, all to understanding. He put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “You can come with us.” The man nodded. “Fight red tunic.”
Kallan had his doubts, but he decided to give the battered looking man a chance. He turned to the supply wagon, digging through a bale of uniforms for one that would fit the barbarian. He tossed one to him, motioning to his own, and the man pulled it on over his ragged shirt, and belted his thick rawhide belt over it. Kallan pulled out his knife, looking the man over.
“I’m going to cut your hair…” he said slowly, motioning to his own.
The man looked confused, until Kallan cut a bit of his own off. Then the man nodded reluctantly. Kallan stepped up and began to hack off the matted tangle of hair. Pieces fell to the ground, leaving the man looking slightly less ragged. Kallan looked around. He didn’t have a razor, so the beard would have to stay, but other than that, the man looked moderately more respectable, though still looking a bit the worse for wear.
Kallan lay on his back, quiet, in the barracks in the center of Moransford. In the morning they would begin the trek toward Eagles Glen, but for now he was glad to have a rest in a bed. He sighed. His typical lighthearted philosophy was failing. For the first time in a long time, he had time to think. He felt lost in a world that did not share his point of view.
He knew he still acted like an idiot sometimes, but he wasn’t as fiery as he had been months before. He shook his head. He’d acted like a fool, back then. And now he had no one. Not even Owen. He rolled over. Owen had found a purpose. And Kallan’s only purpose was war. A year ago, he would have only thought of the glory. He still did. But it was tempered with the blood and the pain.
The next morning, he was moody as he rode. Connor tried to speak to him, but he answered shortly. The barbarian walked beside him. Fesric had refused the offer of the horse, saying that animals were meant for eating, not riding. The rough man had no problem keeping up with them.
Kallan’s mind was preoccupied with many things. Battle plans combined with disjointed thoughts and images of Robyn, Owen, war, and the enemy. He sat silently for several hours, and then seemed to shed his cares in the last part of the journey to Eagles Glen. He was more cheerful than anyone else in the company, and his mood was contagious. He could die anytime. But life was now, and he might as well enjoy the time he had.*************************************************************************