When Marek awoke next he had guessed that several days had passed. It was night and the stars were clear in the sky. He was on a makeshift bed between two tents. The tents appeared to be bustling with activity. There was lots of talking and Marek deduced that these were full of patients and healers alike. He sat up quickly and looked around. His body ached and his head was woozy. He could see clearly but he had a massive headache.
“Ah good, you’re up. You always were a heavy sleeper.”
Marek turned, but not so quickly. Now he saw her clearly again. His angel, his love, though he would not admit to her his feelings. Miranda stood before him. She was as tall as him and carried herself just the same. Her hair was as dark as the night sky from root to tip. Her eyes shined like the stars. Marek was always happy to see her, though lately their meetings were few and far between. She was slender but strong. She was raising a glass to his lips as she moved forward, but she could have just as easily raised a sword. She was graceful and moved like the wind through her hair.
“Please drink this, it will help with your head.”
“How did you know my head hurt?”
“I have been practicing the healing arts for sometime Marek. If would come around more you would know this.”
Marek lowered his head. He was ashamed. Here before him was the woman he loved more than life itself. He remembered that she had asked him to stay the last time they met. Being young and stubborn, he left to chase the life that he thought he wanted. He drank the mixture in the cup she was holding. It tasted like death and stung as it went down his throat. He almost threw up on Miranda. Beating his chest he gathered his composure and spoke.
“You’re right about one thing; I’m no longer worried about my head. My throat however feels like fire. What is this you have poisoned me with?”
“I see you still have a sense of humor. This is my own concoction of troll blood, fairy dust, and a few other magical items. I have been testing it with very positive results. It seems to heal a myriad of internal issues in a large number of my patients. Of course, that is, if they can swallow it. Many of them throw up after just a few sips. I thank you for holding it in.”
“It may still churn forth from my body. However I do feel amazingly better, thank you.”
Marek took in a few more gulps and did his best to not openly gag upon the substance. With each draw his strength returned. After a minute he stood up and walked about to face Miranda.
“It has been too long since I have searched your eyes with mine. Too many nights have passed since I have held your head to my chest. I have missed you.”
“I have missed you too. I admit, when your fellow warriors brought me your body I was overcome with joy. I was immediately fearful that you had perished. It took all my strength to not burst into tears. Upon examining you I realized that you were merely in a state of hibernation. Your body is quite resilient. When I heard the stories from your men of what had happened I was even more surprised. Most would have died in your place.”
“I have faced many evils since we parted last. As such I have had to take a great many precautions to protect myself. I have searched for and encountered many whose magic has helped me become the warrior I am. These tattoos for instance…”
“I know what the marks of Valeria are Marek. You should also know that I do not approve of such things. While the marks protect you, it was a grave and foolish risk to attain them. Maybe one in a thousand men survives the procedure. Even fewer keep their sanity. I am greatly pleased that you are still alive and well. But that doesn’t mean I am fond of your arrogance. I couldn’t stand it before and I will not have it now.”
“Please Miranda, I am not the man you once knew. I was merely explaining a small part of myself that I did not know you were aware of. I shall surely be here for awhile. By the light of the stars I can tell that I have been healing for more than a week. I am sure that I could use some food. Let me get something to eat, if not to fill my empty belly, then to get the taste of your potion out of my mouth. Let us dine together and catch up like old companions.”
Image credit: Eric Deschamps