Diniella awoke about four hours later, her stomach grumbling. She silently berated herself for having fallen asleep. She had worked long hours before the arrival of the Dhuar....(was it even possible he could be one?) but still she felt guilty, as she had promised to take Aleva’s shift so she could spend time with her new husband. Healers rarely had a rest anymore. The battles were fewer and farther between, but it seemed almost that the Horrors did their best to maim or cripple rather than kill of late. Though the battles were less frequent, there was hardly any change in the number of patients to see. She’d have to get back to work soon.

She disentangled herself from behind the short but remarkably solid little man, trying not to stir him, but he woke regardless. His eyes were clear this morning, and though his hair was still damp with perspiration, he was no longer hot to the touch. He seemed fully lucid, and a bit embarrassed. It looked as if he was trying to say something, but couldn’t figure out how. He found a word then...it sounded a bit like water, but the accent was so strange.  She reached for the pitcher and a cup, but he took her hand and shook his head vigorously, and tried to get up. She gently pushed him down, and started to pour the water...He gestured emphatically no, and threw his hands up in exasperation.  Was the water dirty?  She looked in the pitcher, no, it seemed fine. He motioned her out the door.

“What, sir? Have I angered you?” she asked, confused, though she knew he did not understand. In desperation the dwarf pointed to his nether regions in what could in any other situation have been considered obscene.

Diniella smacked her head, shaking it at her own obtuseness. She slid an arm under him, and helped him to his feet, then led him to a small door in the south wall. She was quite surprised at how little support he seemed to require. Two days and a half, and he was already walking about almost normally. She hoped it was not simply male bravado, for he could seriously injure himself overdoing it this way. She turned her back, but would not leave, in case he was not strong enough for the journey back. She couldn’t help but smile at the long sigh of relief the dwarf gave at the emptying  of his bladder. Men were the same everywhere, it seemed. He indeed did need help on the way back, and judging by the hitch in his breath reaching the bed, he had indeed overextended himself. She blamed herself for allowing it.

Healers held  much less respect of late. Few victims survived to reach a healer, and a prevailing mistrust remained for those who did. Volgra’s reaction was understandable. Many a near dead patient had sprung to an eery semblance of health only to attack their colleagues, or call out in voices that drove weaker minds mad. It affected her work, for at the back of her mind, she always had the nagging doubt. Was this one Tainted? Had the Horror been satisfied with tearing at the body, or had it managed to ravage the mind as well? She kept a large dagger somewhat hidden between her breasts, just for such a day, though she hoped desperately never to use it. It sickened her how much of a comfort the presence of the blade had become. It bothered her more that she sometimes could not tell if a patient was sane or not. People blamed the healers when a former patient poisoned a storehouse or defiled an altar. Some claimed she and her associates were working with the Black Mind, Tendris’ Al and defiled the minds of these unfortunates herself. As yet, those were quiet whispers, but she still had heard them.

Once he was back in his bed, she turned to leave, but he stopped her with a strong hand upon her arm. He apparently did not want her to leave. She motioned eating, and asked if he wanted food. He repeated the last word, rightly guessing that it was food, and nodded, rubbing his belly. She left then, making a quick round of the other patients, glad to find that her staff had taken care of things after all, and breathing a sigh of relief, returned with a meal for both of them. They ate in silence. He watched her the whole time, causing her to blush a bit. “Ragnar”. He said finally. She looked up, confused. He jerked his thumb towards his chest. “Ragnar”.

“Diniella” she answered back, with a smile.

He thought a moment...”Pretty....Pretty Name.” He said, quite clearly.  She blinked in surprise. He went on then, saying a phrase that sounded vaguely like her language, but not quite. She caught the words “speak” and “teach” though the words didn’t seem to follow any logical order. Well, logical to her anyway. She guessed, however, that he wished a language lesson, and did her best to teach him, until she was called away with a new patient, who had apparently begun to scream and tear his eyes out upon regaining consciousness...just another day.

The End

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