It was Trax who Marek found first again. Trax noted the location of the other men and what they were doing last. Trax had just finished putting out a fire and had saved a family of four from their burning house. Introductions were quickly made and Marek gave them further instructions.
“I am glad that you four are safe. Now is the time to help your fellow neighbors. Return with Trax to the area where the hospital once stood. Take whatever food and water you can carry and share it with those in need. You sir seem able and I imagine your son can hold his own too. Work with Trax to start rebuilding the hospital structure. I will send more people as I find them. Fair lady, you seem like a kind soul who has raised your children well. You and your daughter will find that there are several children in need of care and comfort. Once you have seen to your daughter’s arm please ask the healer in charge how you might help the others.”
The family nodded and gathered what they could. Marek gave extra instructions to Trax.
“When enough men have arrived speak with Miranda about returning the patients who are outside of town. I want to reconvene with you and the other 17 men after dinner tonight. I will be back before the torches go out for the evening. Be prepared to give me a full update. One more thing before you go…”
Marek told Trax about Razoun and swore him to secrecy on the matter. Trax nodded in agreement as the family returned with all appropriate supplies. They even had a few extra horses. Trax smiled and packed the horses, then they were off. Barsheel spoke as he and Marek continued on.
“I overheard what you told Trax. What exactly did the dragon say?”
“I will tell you later.”
“I have some knowledge in the matter, I could be of help.”
“I appreciate that, but now is not the time. There is work to be done.”
“Dragons are not known for mincing words. I need to know exactly what he said, it could be of vital importance.”
“I will tell you tonight when we are all gathered! You will wait until then to offer me your thoughts! I will not speak of this further until then!”
Barsheel let it go, but he knew what was happening and he was concerned. They continued on and found two more of Marek’s men, Navid and Orthan. Marek found them putting out some fires mending some minor wounds on a few people. Sadly they had found more dead than alive. Marek gave them orders similar those he gave Trax.
“Please go and find Trax near the hospital grounds and take these good people with you. Put them to use if they are able. There will be time enough to gather the dead for a proper burial. The men should take lead from Trax and the women and children should assist the healer in charge.”
Just as before the people gathered whatever supplies they could find and brought them along. Marek wondered if they would find enough people and supplies. He could see that the city would need a large amount of help in order to rebuild. Perhaps he could send word to the nearest city to ask for assistance. That would be another matter to discuss tonight. Marek and Barsheel rode for several more minutes before coming upon two more of his men, Thorend and Slade. They had found several people alive, which was a positive sign. Thorend and Slade were coordinating their efforts with the people they had found, in much the same way Marek was. They were clearing buildings and setting aside rations already. Marek was somewhat proud and impressed by their train of thought.After Barsheel helped some of the more injured recover Marek gave the same instructions as before. He inquired about their missing comrade but neither had any information.
Marek and Barsheel continued in this way. In each place Marek would put his men under the same instructions. Barsheel would heal as many wounds as he could on the spot. Marek would take note of how many were alive and the state of the buildings along the way. It was getting late in the afternoon when they came to the area where the third dragon flew away from. Two more of Marek’s men were trying to put out a large fire that the final dragon had left for them. Marek turned to Barsheel as he dismounted.
“Is there anything you can do to help here?”
“I believe so.”
Barsheel stood away from the blaze and raised his hands and staff. In a hushed manner he started to speak. It became very windy all around them and the flames started whipping all about. Marek ordered his men to get away. One of his men, Urbenz, shouted above the wind. He could barely hear the sound of his own voice.
“I think he’s making it worse!”
Marek assured him, “Barsheel has proven most resourceful since I have met him, even if not in the ways I have expected. We must give him a chance.”
Dark clouds started to form above the fire and the wind increased. The gusts were more powerful than any wind Marek had ever encountered. He and his men could barely stand in one place. The horses ran off. Marek tried to approach Barsheel but could not move forward into the wind. Barsheel appeared to be unfazed by the new weather around him. Not even his hair seemed to be affected. Suddenly a large funnel dropped down from one of the clouds and started touching the ground where flames existed. The small tornado was unlike any weather phenomenon that Marek had seen. It quickly bounced from spot to spot putting out the fire along the way. Then as quickly as it happened the wind faded and the fire was gone.
“Barsheel that was astounding. I have never seen such a spectacle. You will make a powerful mage someday.” Marek gasped.
“You are very kind with your words, but you are wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“What happened here was a mistake. I intended to create rain to put out the fire. What I got was something that I almost couldn’t control.”
“But it worked.”
“Yes, but I got lucky. I will also never be a mage. I am not powerful enough, nor nearly clever enough. I make mistakes on what should be simple spells.” Barsheel said with a sour face.
“In my experience there is no such thing as luck, except the luck you create. You also just displayed an impressive amount of power right now, whether you intended to or not. I see the potential in you.”
“Thank you, but we should get along with our tasks, there are still others to help.”
Marek introduce Barsheel to Xenon and Zamir. After giving them their instructions he inquired about Mazen. They too did not know anything of his whereabouts. He informed them about Godel and sent them on their way. There was one more section of the city before circling around to the hospital area. Marek and Barsheel made their way there as quickly as possible. It had been a grueling day and they had not had much to eat or drink. They found the horses after walking for a while and started riding to the final area.
As they approached the final area they noticed that most of the buildings here were intact with very few burnt sections. The buildings were also remarkably empty. They almost left the area when they heard some crying. They followed the sound to one of the last buildings. It appeared to empty as well except for the sounds coming from within. Barsheel used his staff the light the shadow of a far corner. There was a child sitting next to a man. Marek rushed over.
He glanced and the child and looked hard at the man before him. His legs appeared crushed and his face was horribly disfigured. After a moment of studying him Marek realized that this was Mazen.
“Child what has happened here?” Marek said as he tried to help the boy up.
“He saved them.”
“I do not see anyone else, who do you mean.”
After some coaxing Marek learned that there was a secret entrance that led to a safe area below the buildings and that there were scores of men, women, children underneath them. Before asking the child to take him to the entrance he asked about Mazen. Mazen could not speak anymore and was quite weak. Marek learned that Mazen was leading the people underground. He had gotten the last of them down and saw the child trapped underneath one of the other buildings. He went to help the child. But before he could get to him one of the dragons had stepped down. The dragon had stepped down on Mazen, injuring him gravely. When lifting off again the dragon’s tail destroyed and sealed off the entrance to the area below the buildings. The boy managed to free himself and helped Mazen into the building.
“Barsheel, see if you can do anything for Mazen. Young man, please take me to this entrance.”
The child took Marek to the entrance. Marek started to clear away the scrap pile. Soon he was leading people out. He quickly gave the first men and women out instructions to get everyone out and keep them gathered in one place. He returned to Barsheel and Mazen with the boy in tow.
“Barsheel, how is he?”
“Bad. I have healed his face somewhat, but he is still too weak to talk. I have reset his legs and stopped most of the bleeding, but he cannot walk. He will need an experienced healer to fully recover, but I’m not sure he ever will.”
“What do you mean?”
“He lost a lot of blood, and there is injury to his back. Even if his legs recover he may never stand again. I cannot heal his back. Not even a skilled healer could, given the extent of the damage.”
“You have done what you could, thank you. Stay here with the boy.”
Marek went to the growing crowd of people. There seemed to be over 100 of them. This was one of the few positive signs that he had seen today. He explained to them the state of what he had found throughout the city that day. He then asked if there were any healers among them. It turned out that there were three more. Everybody was instantly able to help. Marek asked them to follow the same instructions he had given everybody found earlier in the day. To Marek’s pleasure they all agreed. As the majority of the crowd gathered supplies and made their way toward the hospital Marek took one healer and two of the larger men back with him to Barsheel.
Under the healer’s guidance the men fashioned a gurney for Mazen to be carried on. Barsheel used his magic to move Mazen onto the gurney without injuring him further. The healer confirmed Barsheel’s dire prognosis. The child that was still with them was happy to have them return and seemed in good spirits as they all headed back to the hospital area. This made Marek smile, in fact everyone around them seemed to be smiling.
Image credit: Mark Harris