“Can you hold onto a saddle if I get you upon it?” Linvin asked.
Miri clenched her hands into fists and then released them. “I…I think so.”
Linvin gave her some more water and said, “I will be right back. It is time to wake my kin.” Linvin eagerly strode over to the corner where the others were sleeping. They were huddled together in an effort to stay warm. With staff in hand, he decided to use his newfound skill. A balmy mist surrounded the sleeping elves and gently woke them.
Rander rubbed his eyes and asked, “Why are you waking us up now. It is not even light yet.”
“We must move out now,” Linvin answered. “Any farmer with livestock and crops still in the fields this far into the fall will be up at the break of day. We must not be discovered here. Furthermore, anyone running that store would find items missing when they open. In a farm community that store would open when the farmers awake. With the ground muddied by the rain there is a chance we could be tracked here. It is better to think a local thief had sought refuge here than us. Saddle your horses and leave nothing behind that links to us. When you are done I will introduce you to Miri.”
“She is awake.” Bander cried.
Linvin put his fingers to his lips and reminded him to stay quiet. “She is in pain and is confused. So do not overwhelm her right now. She says she can ride. Bander, I will assign you to aid her. Ride by her side and hold her reins if need be. See to it she does not fall from the saddle. Everyone else make sure we have all the apples we can carry and full water skins.”
“What is the plan?” Rander inquired.
“We will flee to the south,” Linvin responded. “We would be expected to head back to the east as we came but that is too obvious. It will undoubtedly be re-enforced by the time we reached the river mouth. To the west we already know the number of troops concentrated along the Silver River. A stealthy escape would prove most difficult in that direction. We will go to the Lake and find a boat. Then we will sail to the south shore and continue our journey home.”
“Do you think they are pursuing us?” Rander wondered.
“Most assuredly,” Linvin answered. “We damaged Mandrean’s home and his pride. He will bring all he has to bare in order to prevent our escape. Though you scattered their horses at the message depot, me must assume the entire Empire has been put on alert and that prices will surely be placed on our heads. That means no contact with anyone. We must disappear. Anyone seeing us will bring the weight of the army down upon us. That will be enough questions for now. Be ready to leave by the time I return with Miri.” He turned and went to the injured woman’s side.
He found Miri feeling her side where Hugon struck her. Her face winced as she touched the wound. “There are at least a couple of broken ribs in there,” Linvin said as he sat down. “Fortunately, they do not appear to be dislocated. They will heal in time. Until then, keep your breaths shallow and make no sudden movements.”
Miri’s eyes cleared and she gave herself the rest of the water Linvin left in the cup. She looked at Linvin and gave a weak laugh. “You have me practically mummified here. I doubt I will be making any sudden movements. Who was it that undressed me and bound me like this?”
“For your information,” Linvin said firmly, “It is called a field dressing and I was the one who applied it to you.”
“It hardly seems appropriate for you to see my body unclothed,” Miri firmly noted.
“There was no time for civility,” Linvin stated. “Either I had to tend to you or you would be dead. If you still are displeased then you had better get used to it. If we live to see the end of this day I am going to have to change those dressings. Fear not. When tending wounds I look at you as just another man.”
Miri pursed her lips and said, “Well if that is how it will be I suppose I will just envision you as a woman. Then neither of us is embarrassed.”