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Soldier Laila
Comfort the Living, Bury the Dead
Mon Jun 26, 2006 19:50 (XFF:

They found the first of the dead about halfway up the path: Muiem Sagand and Artoyn Taisande, eyes wide with death, bodies peppered with arrows. Izmere half-knelt, hands outstretched, but Laila jerked her back up with a slightly shaking arm. Light, but she was weak. She had needed to use an abandoned branch for a walking stick just to climb this far. "Don't bother. You can't Heal the dead."

A small sound crawled from Izmere's throat. "Artoyn--Muiem--"

"We can mourn the dead afterwards," Laila said harshly. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "There's still a battle going on. There may be wounded ahead." She pointed up the path; squinting, she could see the arrows in the air through the glare of the sun. The remnant of the Seanchan forces would be waiting up above. By now the squads would have put an Air shield up to ward off the arrows, but once they reached the top, the Soldiers would have to divert their strength towards battle. The battle was already won, but Light only knew how many troops awaited the Soldiers on the clifftops...Izmere sniffed, stepped forward, then paused, looking back down at the bodies.

"We can't leave them--"

"Yes, we can. We're needed up there. Or do you want more people to die waiting for us?" Izmere's head snapped up, shock and not a little pain spread across her face. A vicious comment, perhaps, but the fool girl needed to wake up. There was no time for shock in battle, and besides, they would see many more bodies in much worse condition before the campaign was done. It was long past time she learned the rules of battle. The longer the doctor delayed, the more people died. Laila dove in for the kill. "Hesitation kills people in battle, Izmere. Well? What are you waiting for?" With a snarl, the Domani turned away to scramble up the path. Grunting, Laila dug her walking stick into the solid earth, pushing herself forwards.

A sudden explosion shook the cliff, knocking both girls to their knees. The bodies shook with the tremor, seeming alive for a moment. As Izmere began to rise, another reverberated through the path, and she sat back down suddenly with an almost surprised expression on her face. Laila contented herself with remaining facedown in the dirt path. "EARTHFIRE!" she shouted over the roar. "THEY'VE MET THE TROOPS!" Izmere nodded an affirmative, pushed herself to her feet, and began jogging up the path, mouthing something swallowed by the thunder of the Power.

"I'LL--AHEAD--YOU--BODIES--" She vanished around the curve of the road. Cursing fluently, Laila clawed her way to her walking stick and used it for leverage as she pushed herself up. Scrabbling over the shaking ground, she glanced back momentarily to the sea--to find black ships sailing into port. Flying the Dragon banner. The sign of the Lord Dragon's army.

They sent us in here to get rid of the damane, Laila realized. They daren't land otherwise... She began to climb up the path, only to stumble over Muien's body. Laila paused, glanced down. Muien stared back, his mouth frozen in a painful gasp. Muien. The too-cocky Tairen from Swords. Artoyn, brown hair turned black with his heart's blood. Artoyn. Always making dirty jokes and laughing at his own stupidity. It took some effort to channel, but the merest flutter of Air served to close their eyes. The ground trembled again, and she started her climb once more. She couldn't afford to wait any longer; Izmere would need her help with the wounded.

A greasy breeze drifted down from the clifftops, carrying the scent of burning flesh.

Nightfall saw them camped atop the cliffs. Barely hours ago the battle had finished, and already the clifftops had turned into a veritable tent city. More Asha'man had arrived with the ships, bringing Healers with them, relieving one young Domani girl from her painful duties.

Within their tent, Laila curled around Izmere's shaking body. The girl had collapsed almost immediately once they set up the tent, allowing all the pent-up pain to come pouring out. Laila listened quietly as the girl mumbled incoherent phrases--

"--tried my best--supposed to live--oh Light--cut to the bone--burnt so badly--the smell, the smell--the ground--the smell--I mean--"

What had disturbed her friend, Laila realized, was not the casualities but the battlefield itself. Light knew the girl would have seen much worse while tending the wounded in the Infirmiry. No, it was the Seanchan bodies that had shaken her, had left her weeping like this, despite her occasional protests to the contrary.

It had been a grotesque sight--body parts scattered across the landscape, organs spewing from their guts, faces twisted in a scream. In many cases the armor had fused to the flesh, until one needed a knife to cut away the metal. Horrors piled upon horrors. There must have been several hundred troops--all killed, from what she had heard. And the thick stench of burnt flesh, the iron tang of spilled blood lingering in the air. A devastating loss. Indeed, she had found herself a touch nauceous at first. Strange, to have forgotton the sights of a battlefield torn by the Power. Memories of other campaigns had burned themselves into her mind:

"Fire, burn you! FIRE!" Her mistress jerked the leash sharply, pulling her back a few steps. The damane buried her fingers into the ground, feeling the Power run through her. Lightning, crashing from the sky. Bodies flying, thrown from the force of the strike, thunder echoing across the battlefield. People she had killed. Sweat soaked through the grey dress, trickled down her face, mixing with salty tears. How long had this Lightforsaken battle gone on? Hours?

"Fool!" Her mistress's palm cracked across her face. The
damane half-fell, only to be dragged upright as her sul'dam broke into a run. "Run, you cow! RUN!" The pair of women stumbled across the grassy field, coughing from the greasy air thick with smoke. The plains were burning. Burning. A whining fireball fell from the skies, throwing both mistress and property to the ground. The damane lay on the ground for a moment, panting with terror.

"Don' wanna die--don' wanna die--"

"Useless piece of trash!" The sharp toe of her mistress's boot dug into her ribs. "I told you to aim for the enemy's
damane, not for the army!"

"Sorry, mistress--sorry--" The
damane began to climb to her feet, only to be shoved back into the dirt, her mistress pressing down on the girl's back with her foot.

"Stay down, trash.
I'll handle the flows." The damane felt the Power surge in her, felt the weaves forming in the Air. The dirt melted to mud beneath her face from her tears. So this was how it felt to be a vessel.

Laila gave her friend an extra squeeze. At least you fight as a free woman, not as property. Izmere seemed to have quieted down--the girl was crying herself to sleep, Laila observed. Despite the horrors of the battlefield, it always seemed easy to sleep afterwards--the immense amount of Power required left the user completely exhausted. Giving the prone body a final squeeze, she rolled away from the Domani girl, to drape a blanket over her. Slowly, the girl's tremors softened into the even breathing of sleep.

Straightening her sleeping shift, Laila slid into her own blankets. Tomorrow would be equally tiresome--a long march awaited them, with a battle facing them at the end. More damane to kill. Laila's eyelids fluttered, then closed, old memories and new expectations slipping from her mind as she fell asleep.

  • Skies Lit with FireSoldier Laila, Sun Jun 25 13:25
    Sweat, dripping into her eyes, burning her lips with its salty-sweet taste. Her hair, lying lank and damp, heavy snakes on her shoulders. Thick flows of Spirit dancing through the air, the sky alight ... more
    • Comfort the Living, Bury the Dead — Soldier Laila, Mon Jun 26 19:50
      • Lone SoldierSoldier Laila, Sat Jul 1 16:28
        The Power pulsing through them, men and women alike. They are one-- knowing each other, knowing every thought, every breath. For now, no words are necessary. A slash of silver light, cutting the air... more
        • Interview with a SeanchanSoldier Laila, Thu Jul 6 16:50
          At the moment, the only thing that Laila wanted to was sleep. Just sleep--to curl up in her semi-comfortable bedroll and sleep through lunch, dinner, and guard duty. Quite a few other Asha'man were... more
          • Interview with a Seanchan, Part TwoSoldier Laila, Sat Jul 8 20:16
            The Asha'man that had captured him had bound him with the Power after he wriggled free of the rope to make a mad--and futile--dash for the clifftop. Now Yuril sat alone in the dark tent, sweating... more
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