Visually, it was still lost in the darkness, but her flux senses could already clearly make out the lumbering form pushing through the forest. It was following one of the many paths already blazed by decades of warbeast movements, so no new trees were being shoved down in the process.
“Hold fire until we see what he does,” Koursh responded in a louder voice, for the benefit of his men on the flanks.
A voice boomed out from the woods. Her Gireid vision could just make out the hint of a shadow in the woods. As Fionna suggested, it was a smaller model.
The words were standard Bruxilan.
“Alien travelers, cease fire is requested. This one approaches under flag of truce carrying a wounded traveler.”
Fionna called out, “Ceasefire agreed. Come forward.”
The hint condensed into a monster form, smaller than the battle unit that assaulted them at the castle. Unlike the Ilidi unit she had spoken to, Gireid scouts were four-footed, but they possessed the same set of vaguely human, highly muscled arms extending from the sides of their barrel chests.
Only scout types and utility types had such arms. The manipulation function of the battle models rested in clusters of extensible digits on their shanks.
This one was carrying a limp horse… or rather, a Thamadin. She was using her arms to hang onto his neck, Nam noted in relief. She was alive, despite the weakness evident in her hanging legs. The wound on her flank looked serious, but the blood was beginning to dry.
It halted once it had fully emerged from the wood’s edge.
Rogan looked at her, hesitated, then held what he had been about to say.
“I’ll go out,” she stated, since that had to be it.
“Nam!” Rogan reacted sharply.
“She’s wounded, and we would rather that beast get no closer, Rogan. And if one of us goes out there, it will show sincerity.”
He grimaced, but nodded. She gave a wry smile. She knew he couldn’t hold out long. His Thamad ‘wives’ might not be true spouses in his mind, but his Gireidil heart still held them firmly as family. For Gireid, loyalty to clan and family is paramount. Simkit was as precious to him as his own children.
She headed back out the gate she’d just come in through.
Fionna called, “One party member approaches to negotiate.”
“Accepted,” it boomed.
She tested the Paeth Giraan connection in her head once again. As before, it failed to go through. This place continued to have too much interference.
She wore no weapon other than her dagger. This war beast would see her as unarmed. She never was, of course, but she doubted her limited offensive flux skills, intended for hunting natural creatures and humans, would deal significant damage to an artificial being with this much defensive strength.
As she neared it, the beast settled down to its front knees, looking not unlike a kneeling camel, albeit one far more muscular and massive than any natural beast. Once down, it gently laid the wounded woman on the ground, taking care that the wounded flank faced up. Simkit propped her upper body up with her arm, but made no attempt to roll onto her stomach, the position she would normally assume on the ground when not sleeping.
Nam stated, “These travelers thank you for bringing back this wounded companion. These travelers have no desire to remain, and wish to pass in peace to seek passage off-world at Aum.”
“The transport capabilities of Aum are severely limited.”
“This party includes members with the skills necessary to use the facilities,” she explained as she knelt down next to the injured Thamadin. Simkit smiled tiredly back at her, but said nothing as she inspected the damage.
She knew that Simkit’s Bruxilan was nearly non-existent, so she switched to Engish. “You’re keeping the bleeding stopped through that body control method?”
“That failed,” she answered. “I’m using a flux form now.”
It was very subtle, and Nam hadn’t seen it until Simkit told her of its existence.
“Communication is received from command,” the beast stated. “Travelers will not be hindered as long as the path directly for Aum is followed.”
“Thank you,” she answered in English, then added in Gireidil dialect, “Peace for one’s clan is desired.”
“And for one’s clan, also,” it replied in the same dialect, backing away. It did not turn around until it had receded well back into the trees.
Her stress levels receding, she turned her attention back to the wounded woman in front of her. She raised her hands and summoned her life arts.
“Relax the form now,” she ordered, switching Simkit’s status in her mind from compatriot to patient, and her own from huntress to healer. Waves of material control, fine-tuned by her Maryahdil training to function on living tissue, appeared within the damaged flesh.
“Is Husband mad?” Simkit worried as she dispelled the wound control form. She folded her arm under her head for a pillow and relaxed her upper body as well.
“Shush, you,” Nam replied with disapproval. “Don’t call him that here. We might be close enough for him to hear. And Rogan isn’t mad, he’s worried sick about you. If that scout hadn’t been approaching when he learned about you, he would have charged out there to find you himself.”
After a pause, Simkit nodded. “So the guardsman did make it back. I knew he would.”
“I had to run interference for him though,” Nam noted.
“Did I make the right decision, sending him off on his own?” she wondered.
“Rogan will back you up no matter what he actually thinks, so don’t worry about it,” she advised. “The pain should be fading now, so get some sleep.”
“Here?” the Thamand woman wondered with a dubious tone.
“You expect me to carry you to bed?” Nam retorted.
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