The dead were numbered beyond count, and many had passed to the Light. Or the Shadowlands. Ashalien shuddered at that thought, and then she pulled a sheet over a face far too young to have met any end, let alone one that left fully half his body charred to the bone.
“Another dead before they even set foot in the tent. Why do they keep bringing them?” Ashalien’s fellow priest, Devonna, asked, more mournful than angry.
“Because they have hope,” Ashalien said, and then closed her eyes to say a prayer over the child soldier. With each word, the impact of the war weighed heavily upon her shoulders like Dwarven plate armor.
Just as she was finishing, there was a commotion at the entrance of the tent.
“No, we can’t take anymore,” Devonna said, her voice firm.
“Please, Priest! All the other tents are full, and you’re the only ones that can help!”
There was such desperation in the voice, Ashalien paused, the final words of the prayer not passing her lips. A flutter of something soft, like the feathers of an infant bird, brushed against her soul.
“Let them in, Devonna,” Ashalien said, before she’d even thought to say it.
She levitated the dead boy’s body off the cot and to the side, freeing the bed. There was no time to change the sheet, if the situation was as dire as it sounded.
The two who came to the cot were covered in mud, blood, and likely worse, with one carrying the other.
“Thank you, Priest; he’s my younger brother,” the one carrying the other said, his voice soft and choked.
He gently laid his burden on the cot. The younger boy—though neither were long beyond their first shave—groaned as he touched the bed.
“Hush, Zane. We’re with the healer,” the older brother, Meus, consoled.
“Peace, Zane,” Ashalien soothed. Then she sang, her voice soft and airy, weaving the healing and soothing magics of the Light through the Hymn.
Zane’s face relaxed, and a peaceful smile graced his lips as he looked up at her, and made him appear even younger. Instead of grimacing, as she wanted to do because of his age, she smiled back. Even as she saw the fatal wound, cutting him deep across his belly, which was followed closely by the smell of rent bowels, still, she smiled.
Meus sucked in a breath at the sight, his eyes going wide with shock, and filling with tears of bitter hopelessness.
The fluttering was back, but this time more insistent, and the familiar comfort of the Light infused her very being, making her glow.
“Fear not, Meus,” she said, and his eyes snapped up to meet hers.
His jaw dropped open at the sight of her, and his heart thundered in his chest. He did not want to give in to the soaring sensation trying to break free from him like a bird from a cage. That road led only to pain. But with this priest glowing with so much Light, it was as though she’d swallowed the sun…It was difficult not to submit and open that cage.
Her hands hovered over Zane, and the Light moved from her to him.
“For you do not hope in vain.”