Consciousness returned slowly, and with it came the feeling of being crushed by a great weight. Shay lay on her side, the heavy object pushed one hip painfully into the solid ground while pressing hard on top of the other. The unbearable weight covered most of her legs as well. Accompanying the weight was an awful headache that made it very hard to want to wake at all.
Taking inventory of all she felt, Shay noted that her left shoulder and wrist ached painfully. Cuts along her arms, neck, and face stung, but she could feel they had stopped bleeding. Her throat was sore from shouting, and she was cold. Sleep seemed the better option, but had flitted unmercifully away with the dawn.
Taking her inventory to an external survey, Shay noticed there was a smell, or rather several smells all pressing in on her senses, each trying to be noticed first. There was wet earth, and crushed foliage, dew, moss, and newly scraped bark. Light smells, comforting, refreshing, and familiar to her. There were heavy and acrid smells too, familiar but not so comforting; sweat, smoke, wet leather, metal, wool soaked with blood. It smelled like dawn, it smelled like battle.
Shay opened her eyes, they burned and didn’t seem to work quite right. She blinked several times trying to see properly, but she couldn’t. Before her all was a haze that blackened in spots and faded to nothing at the edges. She closed them again and took a deep breath.Then she remembered.
The fire, her home and bakery up in flames, the fight with Captain Westmont while they were chained at the wrist, and the mad, headlong dash he made into the woods with her over his shoulder. Shay reached out to touch the thing crushing her, it was Nevin Westmont, unconscious, and nearly dead. He groaned as she heaved him off then made no further sounds.
Shay allowed herself to panic to a count of ten, then she set to work. With limited and painful sight she mostly felt her way through tending to Westmont’s injuries. She tore off his shirtsleeves and bound up the wounds she herself had inflicted on his arm and leg. A task made difficult by the manacles and chain linking their wrists.
Having done all she could at the moment for herself and Westmont, she took stock of her available resources. She was barefoot, weaponless, and in her night-clothes. She could barely see and she had no idea which direction Westmont had run while she was unconscious, therefore she had no idea where they were. She was tired, sore, wounded, cold and thirsty. And, chained to a deadly enemy posing as a high maintenance paperweight. A number of curse words came to mind though she spoke none. This was not a promising situation.
She paused for a moment and listened. She could just make out the sound of flowing water. At least she could remedy her thirst. As carefully as she could Shay shoved, and dragged Westmont towards the sound of the flowing water. With many stumbles and falls, and what seemed hours of work she managed to reach the stony edge of a pool. Her wounded sight didn’t allow her to see the source of the water, but she heard it tumbling from a modest height and she could feel the current flowing gently through her fingers away down a narrow stream. The water would be pure enough to drink she concluded. Even if it hadn’t been, she probably would have anyway.
She drank her fill then cleaned her eyes and injuries with the cool water. She tied a wet bit of hem from her long night-shirt around her eyes to help with the burns. Her own wounds tended, She did the same for Westmont. Washing the improvised bandages and rinsing out the cuts then rebinding them. He cried out once during the process but otherwise remained asleep.
Next came the need for food. The pool was home to floating beds of Watercress which Shay had found while scooping up water to drink. One side of the pool was hemmed in with berry bushes that she found by their smell. It was hard work to gather berries by feel. The bushes pricked Shay’s poor fingers cruelly. The berries were near the end of the season, and rather sad, but they were better than an empty stomach so she endured the thorns. Mostly crawling on her knees, while pulling Westmont behind her, Shay managed to find mushrooms too, and a few promising nuts from a stash in the hollow of a tree.
Dragging Westmont had become nearly impossible for her exhaustion. She found a relatively comfortable spot and sat down to a meager repast. As she sat munching cress, Shay began to develop an idea for a liter she could hang from her shoulders but she couldn’t think how to construct it without rope. It was then that Westmont spoke.
“Are you blind Locke?”
His voice was little above a whisper and full of pain, but also genuine concern. Shay startled and threw her hands up to ward off an attack before she realized what was happening. She recovered her composure as Westmont lightly chuckled then coughed. He had just woken and was very weak. She responded as best she could with her voice gone hoarse from yelling.
“No, I don’t think so. I can see a little but it’s black in spots and fuzzy. My eyes hurt, but I think they’ll mend.”
“Good.” He replied. Then he said no more. Shay thought he had gone back to sleep. She continued to munch the cress. Westmont reached out and took a handful from her pile as she reached for one of her own. She startled again but neither said anything.
It was some time before either spoke. Shay broke the silence first.
“Are you going to make it?” She asked directly and to the point, but not without real concern.
“Perhaps. With time and sans infection. The arm will mend faster than the leg. It will be a while though.” After a brief pause he added, “It was a good shot.” Respective to the situation, he demonstrated a remarkable sense of fair play.
“I’d like for it not to have been quite so good considering the circumstances we’re in now.” Shay replied. Without casting blame in his direction, she continued, “We need to figure out what we are going to do.”
After some time Westmont replied, “It seems we have more than this chain linking us now. We’re bound with a common interest. To survive.”