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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 90: Kondor 30
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The battle continued from the walls. Kondor was focused on a battle of a sort with which he was more familiar: saving the lives of the wounded. He bandaged men, using many of the advanced techniques he had learned on the Mary Piper on the most severe cases, but relying heavily on skills developed in Sherwood Forest. He also gave each a dose of something he thought would probably counter the effects of the drug. None of the men he treated had the reaction he had seen in the first casualty; either the drug or delivery was not very effective, or his counter was working.
He realized that Talwin was also dealing with the sick. The man seemed to have the most incredible power of suggestion Kondor had seen. He would kneel beside a badly injured man, talk to him, pray for him, and in a few minutes the man would be back on the walls, apparently convinced that he was fine. Back in the army, Kondor remembered, it was said that the doctor's job was to patch up the kid so he could fight again. There might be a lot more casualties tomorrow when internal injuries caught up with these men, but right now there was no point arguing that they be relieved. If they didn't win this war, everyone was dead anyway.
He happened past the castellan, and stopped to say a few words. "A while back, I noticed a glow from the enemy camp. I've been unable to see what it is."
"Yes," the castellan answered. "The worst of the troops have arrived; they're biding their time while the others wear us down."
"They use lanterns?"
"They glow. Some call them spectres, or ghosts, or wraiths. They have little physical form remaining at all, just a glowing force holding the fragments together."
Kondor figured he should have known better than to try to get an explanation from one of the locals. Well, whatever they were, he would see them soon enough. Saving the injured from their wounds (and from Talwin's well-meant intervention) would keep him busy for a while.
The smell of burnt hair reminded him that this was serious. Another body had been thrown on the pyre; another man had died.
It was not long after that that he realized day had not broken; by now it should have done so. The thick clouds which had blotted out the moon now stole the day, and the enemy who only fought at night fought on relentlessly. But although light never came, hope did, as reinforcements arrived from both north and west and took their places on the walls. The castellan began detailing men to rest. There was now a chance that the humans could keep the defenses up through the new day.
And the day dragged on. As noon approached, Kondor recognized that it was a bit lighter, and in two ways. A green glow in the sky and to a lesser degree the appearance of yellows and greens on the ground told him (once he thought it through) that some visible light was getting through; and the red and blue sensors were picking up more as well. It wasn't much light, but it was enough to tell day from night. Kondor moved from place to place, task to task, until that light began to fade again.
Then he excused himself, and found his way back to his room while the war continued around him.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #55: Stories Winding Down. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: