Yawn listened to the spirits whispering. They told him things. When to wait. Where. How to hide in plain sight of his foes. When to move. When to strike – though he often knew well enough without their guidance. He’d come to trust them. To know them. Solara. Gaia. One and the same woman in his mind. The spirits were hers. Nix most of all told him things. His totem. Right now, she told him the time was not right.
The day they’d marched into the pass, Nix told him to take up his bow. Leave his mace and shield behind. Nix who whispered the wind to his favor, who kept him a half step ahead of all but one. The red haired archer, she who pierced his shoulder just before the last clash of that day. Before coming across the dying Greytide who called him “the one who turned his face from Gaia” He hadn’t denied it. He’d not waste a dying warrior’s last breath with sentiments. Yawn gave him a clean quick end. Not an act of anger, but one of respect between foes.
The weeks that came next were the worst. Supplies ran short. Yawn used every last resource he’d carried in with him. Bandages. Rope. Tobacco. Drink. Everything to keep his friends – his family – as well as he could mange. By the end, he’d cut even his spare shirt into bandages. He’d used what he knew to keep those dying among the living longer. Offering Nix blood from his wounded shoulder. Slowing its mending, ensuring a scar would take root there. When he wasn’t calling down the spirits or pulling mana from the earth around him, he hunted with Stannrick. Greytide and food.
In the end Stannrick, was the last man whole. The one to go for help. Nix did all she could as well. Where to find food, herbs, hiding places. Everything but how to mend the wounds. That, she told Yawn, she could not yet give. More was needed. The time wasn’t right. Was he not yet desperate enough? Despair and anger. Had he not risked enough for this? True enough, he’d done it with a mind to protect his people. No, to save his people. It was his choice. None had forced him. And he wanted to know if he could. What Daughter of Gaia would have shown him the way to cast? Would the Fieldcrow share their secrets with a male? He’d found a path and taken it just to see if he could reach its end.
And now it wasn’t enough.
Magrat… That rage burned as well. Why should she give up who she is. Who her people are? Who were we to ask. He filled the time. Trying to keep every one fed. Keeping the wounds clean, poulticed. His knowledge wasn’t enough, he couldn’t speed the mending like a healer or a Daughter could. He did everything he could to keep their spirits up. Sang every song he knew. Spoke every tale of his. His brother. His family. Of Siren, his niece. Of Thom. Of how his father won his mother’s consent. And when he ran out of tales true, he told all the tall tales and legends he’d learned. Of his journey into the Dirge Swamp and his dreams there. Though not all, some he’d yet to make peace with himself. When those tales and songs ran dry, he started making new ones until his voice cracked.
When the pipes went empty, he dredged up sweet ferns, dried them by the fire and filled them.
He made stew on the good days. Broth on the poor days.
When at last aid had arrived, and a message hawk with it, Yawn took a mouth full of bread. Refreshed his quiver, his pipe, and composed a simple reply, pipe cracking cheerily as if the past weeks had never happened.
“Supplies much need , and some of it was received. Morale could be better. We wish it was you who brought them to us. I will not return until the pass is secured.
P.S. Next time send the Longfang Longleaf-Maykar Burely blend, it fares better then the Longleaf alone for cold travel.”
Of course what he’d meant was that he was not returning, not done laying bodies before the pyre, until Magrat had returned. Until his friend was free of her exile. Until he could walk through he gates of Onsallas and embrace his friend. His pack mate.
The thought of that day drifted between his ears as Yawn step from his hiding place. Shield across his back. Mace, quiver, and spell components at his belt. His mail dully glimmering the light. The arrow nocked, his target sighted. The wind at his back. And as his clever fingers let the string loose, and the arrow sighed through the air toward the throat of a Grey, his arrow the spear point, the first fang of the ambush, the sun warming his back. Nix whispered in his ear as the point bit into its mark. “Today will be a good day, Yawn.” As he nocked the second arrow he smiled.
Nix never lied about such things.