Against her wishes to remain in the medical tent and continue working, Naomi was taken into a large tent on the opposite side of the camp, any protest cut off by the cold glance of the Dynios leader, a woman whose name she'd learnt was Zethenia. A meeting was to be held to discuss plans for the future, and as the healer with the best interests of the wounded, she was obligated to attend. When she entered, eyes of warriors stricken with dirt and drying blood fell on her, everybody in the small, humid space seemed to breathe in her foreign air and wrinkle their noses at each other. Naomi rolled her eyes, she had expected nothing less from them, and she couldn't help but notice all of the weapons in the room as Zethenia walked through the crowd, leading her to a central table where a map was spread, showing the curves and borders of the land.
The moment Zethenia raised her head from looking at the map, the room quietened of its confused noise.
"Alright people," she said, her voice strong and unyielding, "listen up. Let's get this meeting in session." Naomi stood diagonally from her at one edge of the table, with the warrior Kane opposite her and a man at the other edge who looked like he was half tree. He caught her look and lowered his brow acrimoniously at her. Yikes, she thought to herself, fantastic vibes in this place.
"We're here to discuss what we're doing about this situation." Around them, men and women began made contributions, shouting about sending out parties to track down the enemy and wipe them out. Naomi wrapped her fingers around the rim of the table, squeezing until her knuckles turned white. Her words seemed to come quicker than she could conceive them.
"Whatever happens, I hope your plan involves getting the hell out of here." Immediately, there were murmurs of irritation, and Kane's shoulders tensed like he'd been stung.
"Excuse me?" he asked indignantly, eyeing her with mockery.
Naomi loosened the scarf even more around her neck, before unwinding it from her head altogether, her hair released in a dark, curly mess around her shoulders as she continued speaking. "I'm surprised you haven't made plans to evacuate already. It's just sense, unless everybody here has a death wish -,"
"You can't just come in here and tell us what to do," Kane snapped, and his comrades nodded in agreement. Naomi's insides wriggled uncomfortably for a moment, she had to admit a room full of steel and ego was intimidating, but not enough to scare her away.
"Look here, soldier," she said, her tone equally sharp. "You all asked for my help to treat your wounded. Try as I might, there's no chance of that here, not with such little space and resources. Drop all naive ideas that you might have of vengeance and face the facts. Your camp is finished -,"
"You little..." Kane hissed through thick, gritted teeth. "You think you know everything, don't you? You're not the one being forced to give up your homeland, so of course it's easy for you to say. But this is our homeland!"
Naomi shook her head, a gesture that made his neck redden. "No. I don't pretend to know about stratagems and fighting stances. However, it seems I'm the only one here not blinded by pain and rage." She met Zethenia's gaze, distrusting, but open. "What's left of you won't stand up to another attack, especially seeing as you have no idea what you're up against." She passed over to Kane, cocking her head to the side, equally mocking as he had before. "Am I right or are you going to nit-pick and disagree?"
A low rumble came from his throat, like something primal, and his eyes glowed like those of a snake coiling back to attack.
"Enough," said Zethenia, cool and dismissing. "As temporary clan-head, I say we think about our people before our pride. We will avenge this loss, absolutely, but for now we must prevent any more. So...we're going to seek shelter at Fregurd."
"Zethenia!" Kane exclaimed, his eyes wide and incredulous. Naomi smirked, hiding how displeased she was that she'd have to bear the presence of warriors like him in her homeland. She swore it was some sort of punishment. "You can't -,"
"Shut up, Kane," Zethenia snapped. "Just do what I say and be quiet."
Naomi's smile quirked up even further. "Finally..." she murmured, and Kane's head shot up, his eyes darkening like new shadows.
"I heard that, healer," he said menacingly,
"And a good thing too, brute." Swiftly, Kane flicked his coat aside and wrapped his hand around his hilt, then stopped himself. He straightened and brought a strange calmness over himself.
"It'd be a waste to use my blade on a coward like you." At that, he strode determinedly from the tent, swiping the cloth aside and stalking off. Naomi's insides curdled with disdain, right there, in that very sentence, that was why she hated him, more so that the word 'coward' seemed to burn her like a white-hot cauter.
"Forgive him," said Zethenia, her voice oddly soft and mismatched. "His ties to this land are stronger than almost anyone else right now."
Naomi nodded, pushing her anger away. She looked down at the map, tracing the curving road she had come on with her finger, one that led directly to Fregurd, past the Stone Faces into the open plains. "If you take the main road, you can get to Fregurd in just under two days. That said, if your enemy is still watching, the road has less cover. It'll be dangerous. Either way, you risk losing lives by attack or wasting time on shortcuts."
"We'll take the main road," she said, not a single protest from surrounding warriors. "If they do attack, we'll see it coming." A couple of warriors shouted in approval, murmuring about gutting and impaling.
Naomi sighed, some things never change.
"If you all insist on flexing your swords, then it's pointless in my arguing," she said. "I'll hardly waste my breath playing the pacifist. You'll do your job to protect your people, and I'll do mine to get you to Fregurd. Take the word of a mere healer on that."
"Do not worry," nodded Zethenia. "We may be down, but you can bet your ass we're not out. We'll fend off any enemy if needs be."
Imagining all the bloodshed repeated in front of her, as the meeting dispersed, Naomi turned away and said only to herself, "that's exactly what I'm worried about."