Naomi's feet were ached and sore as she stumbled her way towards Dynio camp. Sweat curled her hair at the nape of her neck, and she felt her flimsy plimsoles weakening by the moment. She had been across this rough terrain once before, just on a scout to the neighbouring clans, but then she'd had plentiful skins of water, hard-leather soles and a clean change of clothes. There'd been no time for all of that, though now she sorely wished for it; never with such urgency had she been called out. "Called" might not have been the right word, "begged" was more appropriate when she stopped to remember the charred, exhausted messenger that had raced into Fregurd just two days prior. He'd managed to say very little before the heat took him, with the same message as that of the correspondent from Drakos-El hours before. There had been a disastrous attack in both clans, with ruin and casualties apiece.
Everyn had gone another direction to Drakos-El with her group, whilst Naomi's group ambled somewhere behind. She'd stopped checking if they were following after a while, they were slowed down by all the bandages and tinctures. They'd been travelling for a day and a half, but Naomi felt like she was travelling alone, stopping only to suckle the last remains of water from her skin and heal her blistering feet when the pain became dizzying. She wanted to conserve the Holy magick she'd built up in anticipation, sleeping for longer to build up her energy when she would reach the camp and likely be swarmed by the burnt and dying. She didn't like to imagine what she'd find, she concentrated on reaching the camp before sundown. There was a state she liked to put herself in when situations like this came around, a solitary one where others were only needed to do as she requested and pay attention. Sadly, this was unlike any other situation, a team was needed, so abandonment seemed the only way she could concentrate. All the while, Naomi wondered who could have done such a thing. Alas, she couldn't fathom it, it had so far been believed that there were only three clans for hundreds of miles.
So who had committed such a crime?
When she came to a path flanked by trees, she was thankful for the shade whilst knowing that the forest showed signs that she was nearly to the camp's fertile lands. She pulled the fold of her dark headscarf away from her chin, the material beginning to choke her. She hated the thing, but it was mandatory for any Fregurd women travelling out of camp. As if it would hide her from any thugs or lechers that came her way, and Naomi knew she couldn't defend herself even if she had to. She might have packed some ground chilli as a precaution to blind them, or packed a better dagger than the one concealed in the breast fold of her robes. She'd been compelled to leave without a second thought, and now she blamed her pain and thirst on just that kind of impulsive foolishness.
She travelled for an hour more before the scent of burnt wood and flesh was clear in the air, a sign that she was minutes away. She made longer, more powerful strides as the forest ended and the land curved into hillocks, each step rattling pain through her ankles that felt as if they were splitting like wooden pegs. In the moment that she looked away to check her bag and readjust her wrap-around robes, the Dynio camp - or at least what remained of it, appeared.
Charred skeletons of homes stretched in rows across the plain below her, and surviving clan members that she could spot were either racing or limping back and forth. Large tents seemed to have been erected to house the injured, and she was sure that at the far end, where few seemed to be walking, would be the covered remains of the dead. Naomi took a deep breath, suppressing any pain that she was feeling, changing into the Holy magick healer that Dynio craved for.
The entrance was now just two high totems of wood, the grass at Naomi's feet was dry and hard, and there was something so stiflingly thick in the air that she wondered if it was agony itself. She stopped at the threshold, knowing it was the respectful thing to do, waiting until a group of war-built men - and one woman who looked like a man - came to meet her. Behind her, Naomi could faintly hear the squeaking of cart wheels, and knew that her team had arrived.
"About time," said the woman icily. Realising her height and build, double her own, Naomi felt intimidation that she concealed, and noticed that from the way the others stood around her, giving her space, she was probably the assumed leader. "We thought we'd all be dead by the time you got here,"
Naomi looked into the woman's eyes without hesitation. "You are lucky your messenger survived to reach us at all. We came as quickly as we could, given the distance and urgency." She lifted the strap of her bag over her head and added "if you would take me to your injured, I'll begin immediately."
She looked over her shoulder and saw that the cart of medical supplies and her team of six had stopped just outside the entrance, Dynios people helping to unpack boxes of salve and satchels of bandages.
The woman turned to one of her men. "Kane, show her." Looking unhappy to be ordered around, the man gestured with a tilt of the head for Naomi to follow. Walking determinedly behind him, in robes too blue for the scene, she ducked into the tent that would likely match each and every one of her nightmares.