Norida~ Healing and Music; The ChangelingMature

   Many of us were injured, but we weren't about to let that get us down. Even though Jem had a bad head wound, that didn't prevent her from pestering Griever to stay in bed "for his own good," as she would say. He always replied with some line like, "I shan't let myself die before this war's over– you women needn't worry about a thing." Despite his nonchalant act, it was apparent that he became short of breath easily during training, even though he was finally healed. Jem gave him much grief for that.

   I spent many of my days in the infirmary with Dreda and Kiara, both of them there because they had to be, but also because they enjoyed visiting. Kiara had told me once, "I sort of like this atmosphere. Not the fact that everyone's wounded, but because it makes me feel like we're more of a family than just allies. And I especially love having a little sister." She then gave me a kind smile and a tight hug. I nodded in agreement and hugged her back, grinning.

   To be honest, I had to agree with her. Train, take a turn to guard, recuperate if injured, train again once you're fully healed. It was like a cycle that went 'round and 'round in an endless circle. In a way, it was. . . quaint, somehow. It was a hard expression to explain, but that's how it felt.

   As the weeks went by,  my broken arm and bruises continued to mend, I became more active; Kate allowed me to begin training and practicing again, but she said I must inform Kiara if I felt tired or sore. That was a fine agreement, so I started practice the next day, going slowly from simple sparring to full-out sword fights with time.

   Jem began to fight again as well, followed at the heel by Griever, who was finally given permission to continue with his training.

   After a few days, everyone was ready for a break. All right, I thought to myself excitedly, this is our chance!

   Running up to Dreda in the infirmary one day, I exclaimed, "Dreda! It's time!" I was practically jumping up and down with glee.

   She looked at me like I had another head injury. "Time for what?" I almost knocked her over, I was shaking her shoulders so hard.

   "Time! Time for the concert! My arm is healed; I can play the flute now, so we can go through with our plan!" Then she remembered.

   Her eyes got brighter with realization. "Oh, the concert! Wait, are you sure that you're ready enough to play? You've still got bruises and swelling. . ."

  I nodded eagerly. "I'm fine! If I get woozy or light-headed during the performance, I'll let you know.

   She thought that over for a minute. "Well. . ." After looking me up and down, she nodded slowly. "All right. We'll have the gathering now."

   My joyous emotions seemed to seep out around us as Dreda and I made our way to the platform that had been set up in front of the training grounds, because people – soldiers, villagers, and Hawks alike – looked over and smiled or waved at us. It boosted my happiness, making me almost giddy with joy. Dreda, not so much. She didn't seem to be partial to a lot of attention.

   When we arrived, Kate and Twynam were in the middle of a battle in the training field. As they sparred, Kate sent sharp comments toward the Marshall's fighting skills, then Corin would return with a jab about Kate and her weaknesses. Oblivious to us, they continued to fight. I stayed perfectly still, too entranced by their battle to move. Dreda sat down in the soft grass, crossing one leg over the other and watching the two with an entertained smile on her face.

   "Much like two warriors in love," she mused quietly. I watched her from the corner of my eye for a moment, then looked back at the training. I suppose she's right, I pondered. They seem to have a certain mutual respect for each other, almost like a pact. And the way he looks at her. . .

   Kate tripped Corin then, and he stumbled, falling backwards and catching Kate's sleeve as he did so. Not having enough time to react, she fell right along with him. They landed together, entangled. "Ugh," Kate groaned in exasperation, standing up quickly and shoving the Marshall to the ground as he tried to do the same.

   Dreda whistled. "Poor Marshall, always getting pushed around because he's in people's way."

   The only response from Twynam was a grimace.

   "What're you two doing here? Did you come to practice?"

   Dreda looked as though she was ready to throw another insult at Corin. I nudged her and mouthed, "That's why we're here." I then turned and spoke. "No, Kate, we actually just came because we were calling a gathering here in the field for a concert."

   "A concert?" Kate asked, enunciating the words slowly. I nodded. She thought about it for a moment, then said, "That sounds like a fine idea. I'll tell Jem to spread the word."

   I beamed. "Thank you, Kate! Tell everyone to meet here at sundown!" When Twynam and Kate left, I went over to the platform eagerly and pulled out the lute, drums, and wooden flute that I had asked Kiara to hide a few weeks ago when we brought them back from camp.

   Dreda and I practiced songs together for that entire afternoon, stopping to take a break once or twice. Kiara brought our dinner out to us; smoked game that had been hunted this morning and leftovers of yesterday's pea soup.

   People trickled in by groups once the sun began to set. Once most everyone had arrived, we started our first song, entitled, "Say Good Morning to Your Nightcap."

   The sun had dwindled just below the horizon and we were on our fifth or sixth song when something emerged from the trees– it was a girl. Or at least, I think it was. It had moss-colored skin and red eyes. My eyes widened and I dropped the flute as I realized what it was and who it was dragging along by the tail.

The End

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