WIP: The Will and the Way – Healers (Excerpt)
Amber shivered as she guided her horse and wagon through the healer’s encampment. It was already getting cooler in the valley and plains if she was shivering already. Admittedly, the druid’s groves were warmer by the nature of the druids, but a change in the weather was on its way. Despite the weather beginning to change, people were out and about, maintaining the life of the warring camps and the healer’s encampment.
Soldiers, children and fellow healers greeted her as she returned the greetings, a soft smile gracing her features. It was good to be back – even if being back meant returning to the sound of war.
“Dia Brennon it is good to have you back. Your tent is where you left it. If you dismount, our men will unpack and set your tent back to rights with your belongings,” a young man spoke to her, wrapping the reigns of her horse around his hand when she stopped. He then offered her assistance to get down.
She was slightly ashamed that she didn’t remember his name – but with as many injured soldiers that came and went from the camp, it was growing difficult to remember them all. She placed her hands on his shoulders as his hands grasped her waist as he helped her down. It wasn’t that she needed help mounting or dismounting, but when the courtesy was offered, you accepted in turn.
“O’ course. Thank ye, sir.”
“Oh no, Dia, I’m not a knight, just a soldier,” he answered, blushing, before turning to release the horse from its harness. “Will you be needing anything, Dia?”
“Dinner,” she answered with a laugh, “As well as my tub filled and heated once everything is back in place. Please make sure the fire pit is lit and well stocked both for my tent and the wounded tents. Cold weather is coming and I fear it will be cool tonight.”
He nodded at her words, knowing she knew where to find dinner. “Of course, Dia. I will see to it myself.”
Amber ran a hand over the mane of her horse, listening to it knicker before it was led away. With a sigh of longing as she looked at her tent, she turned on her heel, lifted the edges of her skirt and made her way to where the cooking tent was.
Several cooks noticed her approach and bowed or curtseyed and she waved her hand in dismissal of it. “There is no need for that – you know this.”
Until she heard a voice behind her.
“Praise Elysia, you’ve returned Dia.” Now she understood the bowing and curtseying – it was for Prince Iaen, not her. He must have been keeping an eye out for her return. She turned and inclined her head to him, a wry smile on her features knowing that soon he would attempt to chew her out in private.
“Of course I return, Prince Iaen. As Dia, I am often called away to help others in need,” she answered smoothly, tucking strands of her loose hair behind her ears. “And the druids were in need.”
“You were needed here,” he responded harshly, before tucking his arm around hers and guided her to a bench, dropping his voice a notch. “You should have told me you were leaving. Warned me. Something. I would have gone with you…sent a guard…”
She raised a hand to silence him.
“I was not needed here, Iaen, I was needed elsewhere and elsewhere is where I went. You are not my husband, you are not my mate. I am not required to share information with you that I do not share with your enemy. Remember, as Dia, I am an equal to the leaders of kingdoms and technically your superior. I answer to no one but the Goddess,” she knew throwing the fact he was beneath her was a thorn in his side, but she tired of his desire to know everything she did. “Besides, a guard would slow me down and the young woman needed me before I got there.”
Anger smouldered in his eyes. While he knew she was right, a part of him didn’t care. That part of him wanted her to have to answer to him and not everyone else. He ignored her explanations of her departure – it wasn’t why he was upset at her leaving.
“There is something between us, Amber. I’ve asked you twice now to allow me to be your husband, to be your mate and you deny me,” he whispered harshly. “Shall I ask again?”
“Only if you wish to hear the same answer of denial again Iaen. You have plenty of princesses and concubines to chose from, some of whom you’ve bedded more than once,” she answered calmly, inclining her head in thanks as a bowl of soup and a chunk of bread was placed before her. “Any of them could be what you want them to be,”
“They aren’t you.” he growled, clenching his fists.
She shook her head at his misplaced anger, blowing on a spoonful of soup before taking a bite and answering him.
“We have been through this before, Iaen. I cannot be what you want me to be. As Dia, I must be neutral. Marrying a prince destroys any semblance of neutrality,” she took another bite, feeling the anger pouring off of him. “I’m tired, Prince Iaen. My mind hasn’t changed from two months ago and six weeks apart has not changed my mind either.”
He pushed himself away from the table, the force of the shove upsetting glasses and spilling some of her soup. A soft tsk came from her throat at that, but she said nothing more as she continued her meal.
“You will change your mind,” he declared, stomping off in the direction of his father’s camp.
She arched her eyebrows at his words. Who was he to say that she would change her mind? It wasn’t like he could do anything, or say anything for that matter, to change her mind.
“Prince Iaen?” she called after him, waiting for him to pause and turn towards her. “Until further notice, do not seek audiences with me. If your father’s men need something, your father or his advisors may request the audience. You need some time and space to cool off. I will relay this order to your father as well,” she paused for a moment, seeing the anger and fury in his eyes. He did not like being denied what he wanted. “Dismissed.”
Amber tore off a chunk of bread watching as Iaen stalked off, cringing a few times as he hit or kicked things. One day he’d temper his anger or one day his anger would get him killed.
Sadly, she realized as she pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, if he did not temper his anger soon, he’d likely end up dead sooner rather than later. Offend the wrong country’s lord over his daughter- or the wrong nobleman – and a duel could get him killed. But that wasn’t something she could teach him.
Raising her bowl, she alerted the cook to her desire for a second bowl and waited as she brought her a fresh bowl swapping it for the empty one and returning with another hunk of bread.
“Yes, Litilla?” Amber asked as she tore more bread and dipped it into the soup.
“Pardon me, Dia, for my words,” she spoke hesitantly, “But a man like that be dangerous, especially when spurned by a woman he lusts after. Lust and anger can make men do stupid things,” she hesitated for a moment, “You would do well to have little to do with him when he’s angry with you.”
Amber’s eyebrows furrowed. Had she missed something in her time spent with Iaen? She must have.
“Do you know something I do not, Litilla?”
“Aye, Dia,” she answered, “We’ve healed a few of his camp followers while you were gone. He was upset at your departure and was rough with some of the girls. Taos had words with him over his treatment of women and believe the message was understood…but you should know as well Dia.”
Amber nodded at Litilla’s words, wondering if she had misjudged Iaen? She had never seen this amount of anger from him till now. It was unusual to say the least. Perhaps it was because she refused to be his mate – but that wasn’t a justifiable reason to hurt other women. The thought of what he could have done turned her stomach and she found she wasn’t hungry any more, though she needed to eat.
“Thank you, Litilla. Don’t ever be afraid to let me know what is going on while I am gone. These are things I need to know to make judgements in the future,” she reached over and patted her hand then smiled. “Do not worry. Your child is doing fine as well.”
“Thank you Dia, Would you like me to wrap some bread and cheese for you to take back to your tent?”
Amber smiled and nodded. “That would be wonderful.”
Her eyes moved over the encampment and the various tents for both wounded and healers as she massaged her hands. It would be good to soak in a warm bath then sleep in her own tent with the familiar sounds of the camp around her. Rising to her feet, she accepted the wrapped food and picked up her bowl and spoon.
“Can you have breakfast brought to me in the morn?” she asked Litilla.
“Of course, Dia. Rest well.”
Amber nodded once more before leaving the tables behind and made her way to her tent, ducking through the partially drawn opening to find the bath was indeed ready for her as well as her bed and the fire pit. It was good to be Dia some days.