She awoke to Locan’s growl. Slowly, she opened and closed her eyes. Once. Then again. And for the first time in months, she saw stars.
“Well, I can leave them in or I can take them out…” She heard the murmur of Aria’s velvet voice. It’s irritation seemed distant from where she was now.
“They’re barbed.” If she hadn’t known better Bingham would have guessed that a bear was being poked one the other side of the fire. But then again, Locan wasn’t particularly cheery on a day when he didn’t have wire arrows jutting out of his shoulder.
“She’s awake.” Jaeron was closer to her, almost above her.
“Mmm…” That contented sound. Who was that? Is it me?
“Bing, we have to have you eat. We need to bring you home and you can’t travel in this condition.” Locan had a hand on her head, cradling her. She hadn't even been aware of his movement. He brushed hair back from her forehead, “Can you sit up?”
In her present state, responding with a blink seemed rational. Suddenly there was a buzz of activity around her. They must have thought she’d fainted. Yes, that would be upsetting, to faint while lying down. The worried voices sounded like thunderclaps against her.
“No. I can’t.” The air barely escaped through her cracked, bloodied lips.
The background began to swing, the ground coming up to meet her face. They were lifting her, since she could not hold herself.
“Ohhh…” Although the force of the rock-solid arms pulling her up had sent a shudder of pain through her torso, it was nothing compared to the immensity of the smell. Above the fire, something out of nirvana steamed in an ebony vessel. It might have been juicy, succulent pork, it might have been boiling, dark venison, or it might have been the deep, smoldering lure of beef. It didn’t matter what it was. She wanted it more than the oxygen that was ripping through a throat that was practically tattered from screaming.
It had been so long. So long that she had been in pain. She didn’t remember hunger, it was indistinguishable from the other sensations. But now, now in front of such temptation. The pains that had ripped through her body months ago were replaced with an explosion of saliva. Her eyes watered with pleasure from the smell before she could even see the stew. Locan had spooned some into a cup, holding it up to her face. She tipped her lips against it and almost gasped. It was warm. A sizzling, greasy sip of stew had found refuge behind her teeth.
“Give her more.” Aria’s face danced behind the flames.
“No. I’ll give her more soon; we will see how this sits with her. If she has too much too fast it can cause madness.” Locan craned his head around to look for the two arrows still sticking out of his shoulder. He reached to pull one out but stopped short, wincing.
“Here.” Aria was by his side in a flash, isolating the wound, “You know this might have been the end of you.” She yanked.
“Aggh!” He wiped beads of sweat off his brow, “Yeah, well… Here I am.”
Aria poured a pan of water from her canteen and lifted it over the fire.
“Lo…” Bingham whispered, struggling to fight against weakness. He turned towards her.
He smiled, and kissed her forehead, “You owe me.” He winked and crossed back.