Bridge Builder: Chapter 8

The next week rolls by uneventfully for me. Everyone else is having a heck of a time, but I’m just a translator with nothing to translate. Another mouth to feed with our limited food stores.

That being said, the food has been pretty spicy lately and it seems the whole brigade has gotten a taste for it. I’m really happy about that, I’m glad they’re enjoying themselves.

Though this week has been by no means peaceful, it’s just that I’m unaffected by it. I overhear conversations of all kinds of things. The camp is still getting supply convoys from Port Jahsing, which has apparently been a point of conflict in this war.

The Maneater who bit me, Luncai, has been leading raids against these caravans of food. At first, the caravans had no peldaks in them. The guards looked like me, darker skin, straight black hair, but they apparently come from other islands on this world, islands that already belong to the Protectorate. Sadly, the guards were no match for Luncai and his raiders, so several caravans we’re destroyed and… eaten.

In response, Kosman had some strong peldaks work as escorts. Only a dozen soldiers, but it worked to keep the caravan safe, at first. Luncai responded by launching continuous hit and run attacks against the convoy, using several different groups so the caravans could never find a moment of rest on the long march between Port Jahsing and the camp. A few peldaks were badly wounded, but their strong bodies, chainmail, and alien medicine kept them alive. They’ll be of no help in the coming battles, but Luncai lost quite a few men himself.

Kosman’s next plan was to set up a series of outposts along the trail, staffed with enough peldaks that the Maneaters can’t overwhelm them. This gave the caravans the rest they needed to survive the next stretch of jungle without incident. However, Luncai then started telling his men to ignore the peldaks and just kill the pack beasts and foreign-Islanders. After enough of this, those foreign-Islanders stopped joining the caravans out of fear, and more peldaks had to be spent on securing the camp’s food.

So, a brigade has 1,000 soldiers and 200 helpers. Maybe two or three dozen soldiers are wounded. Around 300 soldiers were sent to garrison allied tribes (said tribes have not been attacked or threatened during all this). Another 100 men are spent securing the food route. So Kosman really only has like 600 soldiers left for this plan of his. Can they really still destroy the entire Maneater army with so few numbers? If the Mountain King’s plan was to tie up as many peldaks as possible, Luncai certainly did a great job.

While that was going on, all I did to help was bring water and food to the caravan when they finally entered camp. It wasn’t much, but I gave them my best smile as I served them, and they seemed to enjoy it.

“Gyah,” a soldier downs several large gulps of water, then sighs. “Those cowards! I wish they’d just stand and fight like men, not duck in and out of the jungle.”

“Looks like they aren’t stupid,” another says, “they know they can’t beat us on open ground.” I don’t think there’s any ‘open ground’ on this entire island. I wonder what a land without trees would look like.

I carry a tray full of soup bowls, and pass one to an exhausted soldier, “at least we’re safe beyond the walls,” I say. “If they won’t attack you in a fair fight, no way they’d assault this place, right?”

Another soldier takes a bowl, “safe? I guess so. Their cowardice does ensure we have a place to rest.”

I give them all bright smiles as I continue passing out food. Glancing over to a wagon, I see Izydor help offload supplies. Our eyes lock for a moment, he waves, and I’m holding the tray so I return a nod.

When I finish handing out the soup, I spot Kosman walking alone. Setting the tray down on a stump, I rush over to him. “Sir!”

“Hm? Ah, Pano. What is it?” He has bags under his eyes, I wonder when he last slept. A lot of officers like him have been staying up, reacting to changes in the supply caravan situation.

“Just wondering how the war’s going!” I keep an upbeat tone, and the smile is still there.

“Annoying,” he grumbles. “They have the initiative, all we can do is react to their plans. But they’re not attacking the allied villages, nor are they attacking us here, they’ve just been raiding our supply caravans. Those are slowing down though, so all that’s left is for us to wait for their next plot.”

“And that’s bad?” He heads up the gentle incline of the hill, and I follow. There’s all sorts of barricades and walls around us, with soldiers going about their various duties.

“It’s good we’ve been able to out-maneuver them, but I was hoping we’d have had a real battle by now and the war would be over. We don’t even know where their main force is yet. Somehow they’re hiding, what, 10,000 men? It makes no sense.”

“Maybe they’re having more trouble getting the numbers than you expected?”

Kosman rubs the stubble on his chin, he hasn’t had much time to shave this past week. “We’ve thought of that, but it’s also possible they’re waiting for something. What that could be, I have no idea.”

We stop at the northern lip of the hill and see a wide camp before us. Hundreds of tents, stacks of firewood, crates full of ammo, men sharpening swords and knitting chainmail. Intermixed within the tents is a series of high, wooden walls, with platforms on the inner sides.

“The walls look nice. Very impressive.”

“They’re just for show. If the Maneaters attacked, they’d be funneled through some four different gates, it’d be a massacre. The idea is the Maneaters should see they can’t assault our camp, so instead they’ll set their army around it and try to starve us out.”

“Uh, wouldn’t that be really bad? They could completely stop our food shipments, right?”

“No, if they tried then we’d just run out and kill them all. The walls are to bait them into getting closer.”

“Oh. That makes sense.” It doesn’t, really. The idea that 600 peldaks could destroy an army of 10, 20, or 30,000 is absurd. Yet everyone seems so confident about it, like it’s a common sense. Crazy.

A soldier runs up, “sir!” He glances to me and nods, “Pano,” I return a polite wave. I believe he’s from one of the other groups of the brigade. He moves in closer to Kosman and whispers, “there’s activity to the north, coming this way. It doesn’t seem to be a large force.”

“Hm, then off we go to the wall then.” He pats the soldier on the back and heads off, “Pano! It could be a delegation of some kind. I might need you, find Izydor and meet us down there.”

“Uhh,” my shoulders droop, “are you… sure? We’re in a war…” He’s either too far away to hear me, or he ignores me.

There’s a sudden, firm slap on my back, “relax, Pano. He said to wait for me, I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

I look up to Izydor, staring for a moment, then I raise my hand. There’s still a fairly noticeable half-circle just beneath my pinkie.

“…And ever since you invited yourself into my tent, nothing like that has happened again. Now let’s go, time’s wasting.”

I sigh, then fall in line at his side. “Where’d you even come from? How long were you there?”

“I was walking behind you the whole time. Didn’t you hear me?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Well, wherever you go, just assume I’m close behind.”

It’s a reassuring thought. “Hey, so you never went out to join the supply caravans, right?”

He nods, “I was here, guarding you.”

“Would you have wanted to?”

“Hmm…” He puts his hands on his belt as we continue our walk. “Yeah, it would have been fun, I think. I heard Luncai was in those raids, I would have liked to finally kill him.”

“So… if you weren’t busy, you’d have joined the caravan.”

“Probably, but what are you getting at?”

“Well,” I twirl a finger through my hair, “you would have kept a lot of people from being killed or wounded. But instead you were locked behind these walls with me.”

“Yeah, I was assigned to be your bodyguard,” he says, nonchalantly. I don’t think he get’s what I’m saying. “Blame Kosman if you want, he stressed the importance of making sure you’re safe, so he decided the best swordsman in the brigade should do it.”

“Hmph.” I don’t think there’s any point continuing this. “How’d you get so good with a sword anyway?” We reach the bottom of the hill and start making our way through the maze-like sections of multiple walls. The camp is a little quiet, I guess since half the intended inhabitants are off garrisoning tribes.

He shrugs, “it was fun, so I ended up practicing a lot when I was a kid. From when I could first hold a sword to when I came of age and joined the military, that was at least 50 years of dueling.”

I whistle. “That’s like twice my age. You’re one of the younger soldiers?”

“Sure am!” He says with a prideful grin.

“Huh. No wonder I tend to feel so useless around camp.”

“Useless? What? Come on, you’e most of the reason we even made it this far inland!” He reaches down and playfully slaps my shoulder, “you’re plenty useful.”

“But not during the actual battles or raids. It’s like everything is just happening around me.”

“You’re not a soldier, or a peldak. You’re the only one whoose thinking this stuff.”

I sigh. He’s right, I know he is, but it’s still annoying that I can’t help more.

We arrive at the northern outer wall. There’s a large wooden gate that’s closed with criss crossing wooden beams, and to the left and right of the gate are stairs to reach the upper platform. Kosman is up there, looking our way.

“Pano!” He waves, “hurry up! We need you.”

Izdor elbows my side, “doesn’t sound like the major thinks you’re useless.”

I blush a little, “what is it, sir?”

He runs down the steps, with Izydor and I meeting him by the closed gate. “The cannibal mask freak, ‘mountain king’ or whatever his name was, showed up.”

I gulp, then look out between the gaps in gate. The gaps are wide enough that I could slip through, but I imagine anyone trying to do so would simply get stabbed before they could make it in.

A crowd of soldiers have gathered behind us at the gate, with more on the wall to the left and right. In the wide, muddy gap the peldaks left between the walls and the treeline, there’s the Mountain King. Standing tall and brave, I can’t see anyone else, but the jungle behind him is so dense with foliage that that means nothing.

Murmurs dominate the crowd, “what’s he doing there?”

“Does he have a death wish?”

“I bet he wants to fight Kosman to the death, leader to leader, winner takes the island.”

“Pfft, that dude’s an old man, Kosman would wipe the floor with him.”

“Let’s just shoot him and be done with it. Quick execution, far more than a cannibal deserves.”

“Idiot! You can’t do that, it looks like he’s here to negotiate. These Islanders have all sorts of customs with that stuff.”

I look up at Kosman, “is he?”

“That’s what I assume. No other reason for him to be out here.”

The Mountain King takes a deep breath and cups his hands around the mouth of his skull mask. “[Leader of the star tribe, and his favorite pet! Come out! This has gone on long enough, it’s time to make peace.]”

I repeat his words to Kosman, a few of the soldiers behind us start laughing. They go on to make jokes about how we’ve beaten them back at every turn and now they want to beg us to stop, even though there’s yet to be a real battle yet. Nobody seems to notice the ‘pet’ comment, but Izydor puts a hand on my shoulder for support. Kosman doesn’t join in the fun. His brow is narrow and his eyes are staring pure hatred at the Mountain King.

“Ask him his terms,” Kosman orders.

I do, then I let the Mountain King respond. “He says he’ll discuss it out there, with only the three of us.”

The soldiers give their opinions, groaning, sighing, or insulting the king. Izydor shakes his head, “there is absolutely no reason to trust him and we’re not stupid enough to do so.”

Kosman nods. “I think I’d rather just kill him, scatter his armies, then hunt down the survivors over the course of a month long campaign.”

“Sir,” I say, “he’s come to request an end to hostilities, you can’t do that. You can either send him away or agree to meet. Anything else… nobody will trust you again.”

Kosman grumbles, “I’m getting kind of sick of your island’s customs.”

“That’s fair but… I think we should do it.”

Everyone looks to me like I’m crazy, which kind of hurts as it implies they thought I was a coward before. Izydor leans in, “he’s a cannibal. What are you thinking? It’s a trap.”

“It might be, but what if it isn’t?” I cross my arms and look straight towards the mountain king, my brow tight. “Everyone else is risking their lives while I’m sitting behind our walls doing nothing. If there’s a chance it could work, shouldn’t we take it?”

The other soldiers in camp slap my back or jostle me around while singing my praises. It feels good. I’ve been with them long enough to know they’re good people.

Izydor starts, “bu-“

Kosman waves his hand, “enough. Tell him he can come inside our camp if he wants to surrender.”

I do. “He says he doesn’t plan on surrendering, he’s here to negotiate. He doesn’t trust aliens to keep their word.”

“Fine,” Kosman say with an annoyed sigh. “Tell him we’ll both bring five guards. You’ll be with us to translate.”

I do, and his laugh echoes across the clearing. “He says you of the star tribe are obviously stronger, so even numbers would actually favor your side.” That soothes the egos of the peldaks quite a lot, but Kosman isn’t flattered. “He wants it to just be himself, you, and me as a translator. He also jokes that you’re a hardened warrior while he’s just an old man, so it’s pathetic you’re trying to get out of meeting alone.”

The peldaks frown, it was a direct insult on all of them. If Kosman is ‘scared’ of an old man, what does that say about the people who follow him?

But he folds his arms, “he should know better than to think taunts will work.” He gives a sidelong glance to the men who were agitated by his words, and they look away, their long ears flapping. “Just the three of us. We stand in the middle of the clearing. Far from the camp, far from the jungle. If he disagrees, tell him he can just walk home since we won’t fall for his tricks.”

“He… says it’s fine.” As I translate, he walks forward until he’s alone in the center. Nothing but mud all around him, and blue skies above.

Izydor speaks wistfully, “it’d be so easy to prepare a volley and turn him into mulch.”

“Well don’t,” Kosman says. He turns his head to me, “I won’t ask you to come. You’ll be going over your own accord.”

I ball my hands into tight fists, and nod. “I want to go.” My eyes are clear and full of resolve, so Kosman gestures for me to follow.

But Izydor gets between us and the gate, “you two can’t be serious. You’re trusting a cannibal to not pull a trick?”

“Of course there’ll be a trick, Izy.” Kosman shakes his head, “if you feel that bad about it, tell the men to ready their guns. A full volley would deter them, no?”

Izydor’s brow narrows, then he raises a fist, “men! Ready volley!” His deep voice booms across the walls, and the men are quick to comply. “Don’t fire until something goes wrong, and for God’s sake, don’t shoot Pano or Kosman.”

“Feel better?” Kosman smirks.

Izydor looks down to me. His eyes waver, but he sighs. “Give me a second,” he takes off his tan overshirt, then quickly removes the chainmail underneath. With the jangling chains in hand, he walks just in front of me, “raise your arms.” I do, and he starts wiggling the chainmail shirt into place. “It’ll chafe a little, but do your best to ignore it. I don’t want you going out there in just some fabric.”

The chainmail is heavy, it feels like at least twenty pounds of weight on my shoulders and back, but Izydor won’t let me leave camp without it. It’s also long, thanks to the size difference. The bottom extends to my mid-thighs, and it scrapes and smacks my skin with every motion. I don’t like wearing it at all, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel safer under it.

“Good?” Kosman asks.

Izydor crosses his arms and steps aside, “as good as it’ll get. I’ll be right here.”

I take a deep breath, “thank you, Izydor.”

There’s nothing left to protest. I’m protected, the Mountain King is in the middle of the field, the soldiers almost have their guns in order.

The two of us march into the opening while Izydor steps just outside the gate, making sure he’s as close as possible. We stop a few feet from the Mountain King. I can see him smiling under that mask, his eyes full of delight. He chuckles, then speaks.

I translate. “A great thing, isn’t it? When a plan works so perfectly?”

Kosman scowls, “what are you talking about, beast? What plan?” I begin to translate, but Kosman grabs my arm, jingling the chainmail from the force, and looks me in the eyes. “Translate exactly as I say. I don’t care for formalities or customs.”

Does he know that I’ve been adjusting his words a lot? No, I don’t think so. Or, at least he doesn’t know to what degree I’ve ignored him and made my own translations.

As badly as this might go, I’ll do as he says. “[What are you talking about, beast? What plan?]”

“Beast? Come now, we’re all friends here. I’m offering you this island for nothing, you should be at least a little happy.” I’m not sure what he’s talking about, did I misunderstand something?

Kosman raises an eyebrow. “Start making sense or this meeting is over.”

The Mountain King snickers. I translate as he speaks, but he talks in a low voice that barely comes through over the wind and rustling jungle. “The whole island, the territory of the Maneaters, I’m giving it all to you. I know you want to build that bridge of yours and connect it to that similar city on the eastern coast. You’ll need to go through my territory to do so, so here we are. Negotiating. That’s what you’ve been doing on this island, is it not? Negotiating for the rights to build your bridge?”

Kosman stares at him for a dozen painful seconds, but the Mountain King seems too smug and secure in his position to be bothered. Finally, he speaks, “[of the tribes we negotiated with so far, few have been stupid enough to attack us.]”

The Mountain King raises his chin, “few were in a position where it made sense. There are a great many tribes who call themselves Maneater, but even more subjects. Our grip on power isn’t as solid as it appears, but through my genius, we will endure.”

“[Speak plainly, I’m tired of listening to this.]”

The Mountain King chuckles, “your army is surprisingly strong, though few in numbers. I’m not dumb enough to think a fight would be a good idea. We would win, of course, the difference in numbers is simply too great,” Kosman scoffs and rolls his eyes, “but far too many of us would die in the process. So, what did I do? I united all those tribes under the Maneaters banner not by declaring war against you of the star tribe, but by declaring a war against traitors.” He waits for me to translate that part before shooting me a hate filled gaze. He then licks his lips, and I feel myself shrink back, but Kosman raises a hand between us. I gulp, and the Mountain King continues, “it’s a good deal for both of us. You ally with the strongest tribe on the island, you get to build your bridge, and I get to return to my people with enough concessions that everyone will consider it an astounding victory. Thanks to those limited skirmishes and raids of ours, word has spread of the strength of your star tribe. So many have lost hope. If we reach an agreement, I’ll be known throughout the island as the man who got the star tribe to back down. Not a bad accomplishment.”

So that’s what this all was about? A PR move? Did they ever intend on winning those fights? If they wanted to, could they have completely destroyed our supply caravans, killing everyone on them and starving us out?

I glance to Kosman, but he seems unfazed.[What kind of concessions would an animal ask for]?”

He crosses his arms, ignoring Kosman’s insults, “I saw how you negotiated with the other tribes, I want the same. Regular food shipments, you leave us to govern ourselves, and in exchange you get to build your bridge. To make up for the wounded, I’ll even send Maneaters to help you build it, and I’ll tell the tribes on the eastern side to give in to your demands.”

This seems like a fantastic deal. The war ends, nobody has to die, we get to build the bridge. Peace returns to the islands, and the peldaks take a dominant position over the Maneaters. I think we should take it.

I look to Kosman, hope in my eyes… but he looks furious. That look of pure hatred hasn’t left his eyes. “He’s forgetting something. Ask what else he’s offering us.”

I raise an eyebrow at this, but comply, then translate. “What else? I’m not sure what you mean.” Neither do I, to be fair.

My stomach churns. Kosman isn’t a great negotiator. What is it he’s after? Is he about to mess this up? I tug on his sleeve, “I don’t get it either, sir. This sounds perfect.”

“Panopio.” Kosman’s rage is barely contained in his voice and it causes me to jolt upright. The more he speaks, the more his hate beams through his tone. “Tell this stupid, unwashed, illiterate savage, that there will be no peace until cannibalism is fully erased from his lands. Whether that be by his own hands, or under the Protectorate’s boot, it doesn’t matter to me.” He’s staring daggers at the Mountain King, there will be no bending on this point.

“S-sir, I don’t think that’s a great idea! I-I mean, I’ll tell him, but I don’t think we should push the issue and I don’t think it’s good to insult him like that.”

Kosman turns to me, his eyebrow raised. “You’d have me turn a blind eye to the moral rot that has set in among these mountain folk? Eating people is wrong.”

Given his… particular history with cannibalism, I doubt I can change his mind on this. “Can’t we do it later though? I mean, after the Protectorate is fully set up on this island. What’s the rush?” I’ve heard soldiers say all the time that Port Jahsing will be a ‘shining city’, and the smell of civilization will be so attractive to the savages of this island that they’ll all willingly pack their bags and move west, like I did. Or the tribes could slowly become more and more like the peldaks through trade and contact.

So why isn’t that the plan for the Maneaters? Just have them slowly give up their cannibalism over the course of a few years.

“No,” he responds flatly. “Letting them continue this custom and giving it even an ounce of legitimacy would be a blight upon our souls. Now tell him.”

I take a deep breath and close my eyes to brace myself. “[The star tribe will not work with cannibals. If you want the Maneaters to remain, and for you to stay as Mountain King, you will end the practice at once.]”

The Mountain King’s smile is wiped away. It’s a few moments before he speaks again. “What are you saying? You would have us abandon our oldest, and most time-honored traditions?”

“[Yes. Either abandon them, or be conquered and have them forcibly abandoned.]”

The Mountain King shakes. “Th-that’s… Those traditions… have remained unbroken and unchanged within our people for generations, since long before the time of my grandfather’s grandfather’s, grandfather! It is not fear or military might that keeps the true lands of the Maneaters in line, but one shared culture and history and faith. We will not turn our backs on our ancestors, you ask too much, star tribe! Even if I was willing to go along with this, which I am not, it would be impossible to convince my people of this. The plan was to convince them that this agreement was made from a mutual respect found on the battlefield, nobody will believe that if I must do away with the thing that makes the Maneater tribe the Maneater tribe. We won’t do it. Find any other concession but that.”

Kosman raises his head and looks down his nose at the Mountain King. I gulp before I translate it. “[Then there will be no concessions, it’s as simple as that.]”

The Mountain King quakes with rage, and Kosman frowns. I can tell he really did want the war to end, but his own beliefs and past wouldn’t let the cannibalism continue. If it was possible, we would have been fine with the Maneaters changing their ways and being done with it. When the Mountain King composes himself, he grumbles something too quick for me to translate, then turns on his heel, flicking the many beads on his necklaces and shunning us completely as he returns to the jungle.

“Hmph,” Kosman turns as well, “then that’s that.”

I’m left standing a moment longer, sighing and regretting that we couldn’t reach a deal.

Just before I turn and follow Kosman, however, I notice rustling in the jungle, where the Mountain King is headed.

Out runs Luncai and a dozen other Maneaters, passing by the Mountain King with swords, clubs, and ceremonial daggars in hand. In a full sprint, they’re closing the distance so fast, and the jungle wasn’t that far away in the first place!

“AAH!” A scream is all my brain can get out as they all make a b-line straight for Kosman. He turns around just in time to notice them, and I hear screams from the camp, I think Izydor yells my name.

Time seems to crawl by as I glance back at camp. Izydor is already in a mad dash towards us, sword drawn, and a dozen soldiers behind him are digging their boots into the dirt as they begin their charge. On the walls, the soldiers begin to level their guns. From the northern gate towards us, Izydor’s so far away, he won’t make it in time. Kosman raises his arms to fight, but he obviously didn’t bring a weapon to the negotiations.

The repeated snaps of dozens of guns going off at once smash against my ear drums, but when I look back to the charging horde, it didn’t do much. Two cannibal’s fall as blood gushes from their wounds, but there’s more pillars of mud rising from the ground around them, or bullets ripping through the jungle behind them. Even the Mountain King manages to escape the volley, how did so many miss!? I was told their guns weren’t accurate, but that’s absurd. Was it because they tried not to hit us?

I… have to do something. The cannibals are in a craze, they don’t care about their losses, they just want to rip us apart. I have to protect Kosman. I haven’t met many peldaks besides those under his command, but the idea of someone else taking charge is frightening. I trust him to complete the Protectorate’s goals on this island without disrupting our way of life. No one else.

Even beyond that, I consider him a friend. I may not have known all 1,000 soldiers for long, but I’ve come to know the ones in Izydor’s unit and I want them to make it through safely. If the war has to continue, they need a leader, not an interpreter.

As the Maneaters descend upon us, I throw myself in front of Kosman at the last second. I push my back against him to give him cover, then bring my arms over my face and neck. Their poorly made blades slash against the chainmail, and while very little goes through, it still rattles my bones and the occasional point slips past the interlocked chains to break through my flesh. Luncai brings out a ceremonial dagger and slips in through the gaps of my arms, slashing the jagged weapon across my face. Others bring their clubs down on me, one strike breaks my hand, others send deep bruises along my arms and torso. The blows are heavy and the pain is almost unreal. I’m sure someone hits me hard enough that one of my ribs breaks, even if my skin remains uncut. Someone digs a knife in my thigh, but it’s all happening so fast that I can’t keep up with it. They’re all focusing on me though, so Kosman has to be safe, right? The leader of the brigade is okay?

One club comes down hard on the top of my head. No protection from my arms or chainmail. The shock sends a torrent of pain down my neck and spine, ending off in my tailbone.

Sounds stop registering in my brain, but I’m probably screaming. My vision warps into a haze, but it’s not like I could make sense of the mob anyway. I think at some point I’m knocked to the ground, but they keep hacking away at my chainmail and beating me. Rolling to my side and bringing up my shoulders to protect my throat is about all I can do, but I can’t protect Kosman from down here. I feel the metal chains break under their assault, and it isn’t long before some of their cuts start getting through.

My sense of balance is off and I don’t feel pain anymore, just a general numbness. I try to get up, but I land face first against the mud. Did my strength give out or did they knock me down?

There’s a pop behind me, I think. A lot of pops, all at once, and when I look around I see a few Maneaters on the ground with large holes in their bodies. What happened to them? I need to get up, was that gunfire? Did Kosman get shot? I try to prop myself up on my left arm, but I collapse again. My body is trembling and the world is a mess of colors. Brown on the right, which is probably mud, green in the center, which could be the jungle, and blue on the left, which would have to be the sky.

Third time’s the charm though, and I manage to sit up. When my eyes finally focus, I see the backs of a bunch of peldaks. When did they get there? They’re in a crescent shape in front of me, fighting the cannibals.

Good. They came to rescue Kosman, I really did buy enough time!

I see Izydor dueling Luncai, and I think he’s winning. He knocks Luncai’s sword out of his hands, then he throws his own away and jumps on top of the cannibal. Izydor’s quite a bit taller than him, and just starts wailing on the guy, really brings his fists up to pound the dude’s face in. I bring my arms up to cheer on my bodyguard, but then I fall back into the mud again.

I roll over just in time to see Izydor grab a ceremonial knife from the ground and finally stab Luncai in the heart. I’m pretty happy about that. I raise my right hand to look at the scar that guy left… oh dear. My hand is definitely broken. There’s a lot of dark red blood, and I think I see a bit of bone jutting out of the skin.

Well whatever, my chainmail protected my organs probably. Who cares about a hand?. The peldaks drive the cannibals away, then turn back to me, with a few getting down on my level. It’s hard to make out what they’re saying, but I hear a lot of cursing. Those still standing pace back and forth, and those on my level are asking me questions as they rip off parts of their clothes and tie the fabric around me. I try to say “great job you guys, is Kosman safe?” but I don’t think it comes out right since nobody answers.

I’m suddenly hoisted into a princess carry by Izydor, and he sprints back to camp. He’s screaming something about a medic, I guess he’s hurt? This chainmail is heavy but it doesn’t seem to notice the weight. I guess that makes sense since usually he’s wearing it. Oooh, I’m wearing his chainmail so he got injured. I’ll have to apologize later.

As I’m carried, Kosman is running at our side.

“[Hey],” it’s hard to speak without slurring my words, “[you don’t look so bad, actually.]” I glance to Izydor, “[looks like I really did do something for the camp!]” I thought he’d praise me for that, but he doesn’t respond. Wait, did he understand me? I think I used the island language on accident. I should say it again in their language… how do I use their language again?

Just as I’m on the cusp of remember how to say ‘hey’, he dumps me on a bed in the medical tent. I try to get up, but Izydor moves to my side, pushing my shoulders to keep me pinned.

What’s wrong with him? Doesn’t he know I have to… I have to keep Kosman safe, right? That’s what I was doing? But Kosman is at the other side of the bed. He looks on the verge of tears, his ears flapping wildly. Why’s he looks so sad? Was I supposed to comfort him? I reach out my arm, but everything is so numb that I can’t raise my arm very high. Kosman eventually grabs my hand and looks me in the eyes. I give him a nod and a smile, and he tries his best to return it. Good. He’s not crying.

…I’m real tired now. If Kosman’s safe then I guess I’ll sleep. Izydor keeps snapping his fingers right in front of my face, and he’s shouting at me. Which language is he using? It’s kind of annoying, but I can ignore him easily enough and drift off.


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