85: Jack

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Simkit voiced her unhappiness several times concerning how they continued to move the girl, but Koursh refused to stop. He kept the party on horseback until well after dusk. Until then, she had insisted that Jack keep holding the girl in his arms, and continued to fret over her as she carried them.

The white-haired leader of the soldiers finally allowed the party to dismount once they reached a camp on a treeless bluff overlooking the river they had been paralleling. In that place, a low stone wall enclosed a yard large enough for the horses to graze and a small stone cabin.

What looked to Jack to be an old-style mercury-vapor yard light on a tall pole was the first trace of functioning civilization he had seen on this world. It felt utterly out of place there. But, once the soldiers got it working, it gave reasonable illumination to the camp.

The centaur woman had remarkable flexibility. She was able to turn at the waist far enough to assist Koursh and Yordj as they lifted the girl down off her back. She then helped Jack dismount as well.

Rogan’s grand-niece helped the still-drowsy Nam down from his arms before he dismounted. He then knelt down next to Meadhbh to allow his Ijin to check her wounds as well. After a minute he looked up at Jack. “Althem says do not let go of the form until they’ve had the opportunity to bind her wound. After that, you may relax. They’ll be leaving your shirt in place though.”

By ‘They’, it turned out that Althem meant the female soldiers, Rillte, Hemme and Simkit. In the Army, nobody in his squad would have worried about modesty while attending to a female soldier with a life-threatening chest wound during combat– there were far more urgent matters, like life–  but Rogan and the other men had pointedly assigned themselves to perimeter defense, backs turned to the wounded girl, before Simkit began cutting the rest of her tunic and blouse off.

Nobody had suggested he do it, but he hazarded with a scratch of his chin, “I suppose she’ll be okay even if she starts bleeding again now, so I should go…”

“Close your eyes and use your flux-sense only,” Simkit ordered without looking up as she cautiously worked the girl out of her blouse.

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“Oh,” he blinked and did as told. “Right. Of course.”

Once they finished bandaging the girl, Simkit told him he could let the ‘form’ expire. To his relief, the girl remained stable. Jack and Rillte carried her into the cabin and covered her in a blanket while the centaur reported her condition to the other men.

“How long until we can move her?” Koursh asked as they rejoined the rest.

Simkit’s tone was flat and uncompromising. “Lady Tatoan will not be able to use Maryahdil techniques on her until she has recovered her own strength, so she cannot begin her treatment of Meadhbh until then. And after carrying her as far as we did, the child needs at least a full twenty-four even with Lady Tatoan’s care. That puts us at nightfall tomorrow, so it will be Friday morn at the earliest.”

Her answer drew scowls from both Koursh and Rogan. The old soldier shook his head. “We cannot. It is too long. There are too many enemies in the region.”

The centauress did not yield. “She must rest and take several doses of regeneration therapy first, before she will be strong enough to survive the trip. She not only sustained an injury that would have been fatal within minutes without the guardsman’s emergency treatment, she fully exhausted her Rhyuin while channeling flux, and she then suffered an overlong ride. She must not go further.”

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