Marek picked himself up and regained his composure. He cleaned his crystal which was now blacker than soot. He was sure that whatever magic it had contained was now gone, but he kept it anyway. He grabbed a vile of the dragon’s blood and a few of it shed scales. He placed them in a compartment of his belt. He did not know why, but he thought they may be useful someday. He wiped down his sword and gave Razoun’s body a final look. He didn’t know why but he kissed the dragon on its flared nostril and turned towards the city.
As he approached the city dawn was breaking and streaks of sunlight were now flooding the city. He stepped over some of the rubble and ash that was all about. He noticed the amount of bodies as well, and felt a pang as he thought of Miranda again. He tried to shake it as he assessed the damage.
“Marek, Marek! Over here, please help!”
It was one of Marek’s men, Trax. Trax was young man but built like and oak tree. Marek found him during a bar brawl and in an attempt to calm the drunken rage that Trax was in, he challenged him to a contest. It was simple really. They would take turns punching each other in the stomach; the first one to fold would lose. Trax was unaware of the marks of Valeria. Marek let the young drunk go first. Trax broke his hand as soon as it landed on Marek’s body. As part of the wager Trax had to give up the drink and clean up his life. Marek took Trax under his wing and taught him the ways of battle. Trax had been eternally grateful to the new found purpose that Marek had given his life. He fought by Marek’s side ever since then.
“Trax! What is it? What do you need?”
“There is a citizen trapped underneath this rubble. I could use your assistance in removing it.”
Marek hurried over and could see the head of a woman from underneath the rocks surrounding the area. Her head was bleeding but the wound seemed superficial.
“Marek, I am strong but not strong enough to remove some of the larger pieces.”
Marek looked about. He saw that large sections of the wall had collapsed upon the woman before him. He was surprised that they did not crush her. Given the size of the pieces upon her he was not sure that even the two of them could get her out.
“Trax, we may have to break some of these pieces down, but let’s get as many of the smaller pieces off as possible.”
Marek came around and observed the stack. He noticed some beams poking out and surmised that the beams must have fallen in such a way that they kept the building from killing the woman. He knew they had to remove carefully so as to not disturb the delicate balance of debris.
“Trax, help me with this piece first.”
They each grabbed an opposite side. On the count of three they lifted. Marek had braced for the heavy load and getting ready to put his whole back into it. The piece flew into the air and landed ten feet away. Trax and Marek stared at each other in disbelief. The piece had been light as a feather.
“Trax, you’ve gained much strength. I’m impressed.”
“It was not me; I could barely budge the piece on my own. It is you who is now the strong one.”
Marek thought for a moment.
“Stand back Trax.”
Trax backed away. Marek stepped forward and lifted piece after piece with ultimate eased. He did not even need both hands. He tossed whole parts, two at a time, one in each arm. Trax stood in disbelief, blinking and rubbing his eyes at what was happening before him. A few moments later Marek was assisting the woman who lay below.
“Are you okay.”
“Yes, I think so”, she said softly. “I was trying to get my family out. My children escaped at just the last moment. I could not make it out the door.”
Marek grabbed a cloth from his belt and asked Trax for some water. He wiped the blood from the woman’s head. He did not see any serious wounds.
“Go and find your family. You do not seem harmed.”
The woman ran off. Marek took up discussion with Trax. He learned that most of his men were alive and accounted for. One was missing, Mazen, and one had perished, Godel.
“We will find Mazen in due time. We will give Godel a burial befitting a warrior of his stature. In the mean time, I want you to continue assisting the people of this city. Take charge of the remaining men and gather any healers you can find. You will need them. I will find you mid day in the city center. It appears that most of the buildings are still standing there.”
“Of course Marek. What will you be doing?”
“The hospital was leveled. I must go there to see if any survived. If there are healers remaining in this city they are most likely there. I will need your horse”
Trax led his horse around to Marek and saw him off. He then went to gather the men, so they could coordinate their efforts.