I was brought to a hospital in Protectorate territory along with the sayran, and a few other soldiers. My injuries, considering I went through a warzone, weren’t that severe, and it didn’t take them long to patch me up. They took some glass out of my arms and legs, gave me some bandages, sprayed some foam in my ears, and now I’m sitting here on a bench in the hallway.
Its next to a large rotunda in the center of the hospital, with the balconies of the next four floors visible. The nurses and doctors are scrambling around the place, barking orders at patients and soldiers. There are wounded civilians everywhere, some with injuries far more life threatening than mine, and the staff are trying to prioritize care. There’s drops of blood on the floor here and there, and every so often a stretcher will drop used medical supplies as they try to weave around the crowd. My eyes are drawn towards the armed soldiers and police officers that are keeping guard. It helps steady my heart after everything I just went through.
In hindsight, what could I have done to avoid all that? Take a different route through the city? I would have gone through fighting somewhere though, so maybe I made the best choice. I’m still alive, and closer to home. Maybe that’s all that matters.
“Heeey, there you are.”
I jolt upright in my seat and turn as Hizan walks closer, a big smile on his face. His broken arm is in a splint and there are cuts and bruises all over his body. His sword is proudly attached to his hip, and he carries himself with a regal air. His shirt is unbuttoned, and the left sleeve is draped over his wounded arm.
“Hello, sir.” I rise to greet him, then shake his hand when he offers it.
“I’m Hizan of the Mahidi estate. Pretty crazy out there, wasn’t it? You’re lucky to have gotten out alive, haha!”
“I heard your declaration back on the streets, sir. Very impressive, how it all happened. I-I’m Gamon, and it wasn’t luck. You’re the only reason I made it through. Sir.”
“Oh nonsense,” he takes a seat on the bench, and I follow his lead, “you made it that far, right? I’m sure you would have figured something out.”
I sigh. “Maybe, but… sorry about your arm, sir, and the rest of your injuries.”
He waves off my concerns, “if I’m so weak that I shatter and arm trying to defend one civilian, then I’m the idiot who deserves to get an arm broke. Besides, my master told me I wasn’t yet ready to fight a gurant and I’m the one who didn’t listen.” He leans back on the bench and sighs. “Of course, by not listening to him I prevented an entire sector from collapsing, plus I rescued you and who knows how many soldiers. I’d say I’ve been well vindicated!”
“Yeah,” I nod. “Well, thanks a lot for what you did, sir. I appreciate it.” I take a deep breath and thank my good fortune as well. “Hey, do you know what’s going on out there? What the hell happened?”
“No, sadly, I’m as clueless as everyone else. We’re not part of the military, my master and I, we were only in this city because our estate had things to trade.” He grabs his chin and looks up towards the ceiling, “we were in a marketplace, then city got shelled, then there was gunfire, then the empire showed up. Master told me to stay with our stuff… which might all be gone at this point, oops, and when I heard that more soldiers were needed, I rushed to join the fray.”
I tap my foot and watch a soldier be rushed by on a stretcher. “So, you don’t know if the bridge to the east island is secured.”
“The bridge? Ah, of course. I overheard some officers talking about how this hospital is important to the evacuation effort, that’s why it was crucial that those soldiers held the line. Just stay here and you’ll be out of the city before you know it, okay?” He reaches over and pats my shoulder.
“I can’t,” I shake my head. Yet another opportunity to get out of this city and I’m blowing it. “I need to get home. I thought my family was safe, but they’re not, and the phones are down, so… I need to get back.” I rest the back of my head against the wall. “I know I’m an idiot, I almost died back there, and there’s still so far to go, but…”
Hizan’s brow narrows and he turns his body towards me. He stares at me for a moment. “Are you serious about going?”
He leans in closer, and I lean back. “Why? They could have evacuated.”
“But maybe they didn’t. It’s a just a feeling. Sometimes I think that maybe I’m wasting my time, but then my gut starts hurting a-and I can’t stand it! You ran off to help the soldiers, right? Well, I’m running home to help my family.”
“But I’m a sayran.”
I grit my teeth. I know I don’t have any powers or training, but I won’t let him dissuade me no matter what! “And I’m a father. Maybe you’ll understand when you have kids, but I have to go, alright? Something’s wrong, I know they’re not safe.”
Hizan’s eyes light up, his smile bright and cheerful, “it sounds like you’ve had a vision, my friend.”
“A vision? What? I haven’t seen anything though. What do you mean?”
“Not a ‘vision’ vision… err, it’s hard to express in a language not built for a species that uses Vaalige.” Ah, that’s the name of that red cosmic energy stuff, if I remember. “Vaalige isn’t just background radiation or a force of the universe, it’s alive. It’s a living thing, with a will of its own! That’s what sets it apart from something like gravity, or light.” He pulls back and puts his hand over his heart, but his ribs are broken and he presses too hard, so hisses through clenched teeth. “J-just as we are shaped by our friends and acquaintances, so too is Vaalige shaped by those that live within its swirling energies. Tell me, did you happen to grow up in a region rich with that mystical force?”
“…I grew up near an updraft, I guess.”
He nods and snaps his fingers, “that’s it. It knows you, its taking a liking to you, and it’s giving you a heads up that you should head home. That nagging feeling? That feeling which compels you to act? We sayran get that all the time, it’s in our blood. Monsoorai tend to be more sensitive to this sensation than most, thanks to your tradition of the sea.” He places a kind hand on my shoulder, “it’s good that you’re following this vision.” Hizan jumps up, “I might not be able to escort you, or help you fight, but on my honor, I must assist your quest in some way!”
The way he shines so brightly despite his injuries, and his willingness to help me, I’m left in awe of the young man. When the gurant are kicked out of the city and life returns to normal, I’ll have to repay him somehow. The Mahidi estate, I believe he said. I’ll build his clan the finest ship the Protectorate has ever seen.
“You two!” Hizan calls out and two peldaks come running.
“Do either of you know where to get a rifle, ammo, body armor, and information regarding the state of the…” Hizan glances back to me.
“East island,” I say.
He turns back to the soldiers, “the east island?”
“For the equipment, yes,” the left soldiers says. “But I have no idea who would know anything about what’s going on out there. From what I hear, everything is a mess.”
“How about the bridge connecting the two?”
The right soldier thinks for a second. “Yes sir, our commander might know.”
Hizan nods, “get to it then.” He gestures to me, “this man’s got quite a busy day ahead of him.”
“Sir!” The soldiers yell in unison as they head off to perform their assigned tasks.
Just as the soldiers leave, I see Hizan wobble on his feet a little. I quickly jump up to help settle him down on the bench. “Are you alright?”
“Uhh, not really. When I got up, I felt all the blood rush out of my head, haha, but I was too committed to sit back down.”
We make small talk for the next few minutes as the soldiers go about their work and Hizan’s body resets. It was a beautiful day before all this started, though far too humid for what a sayran likes. Soon enough, the soldiers come back with a bulletproof vest, a rifle, and a pouch that connects to my hip. One soldier goes over the bridge situation while the other helps me put the vest on, and stuff space magazines into the pouch.
“From what we know, the Protectorate still owns everything from this hospital to the bridge. The bridge is locked down to civilians because we’re not sure what’s happening on the other islands, and we don’t have the troops to launch an offensive.” He hands me a piece of paper, “that’s from our commander, show that to the bridge garrison and it’ll tell them a sayran has vouched for you to cross. The bridge garrison might be able to tell you more about the state of the other islands.”
I take a deep breath, “get to the bridge, give them the letter, walk across to the next island. Got it.”
The soldier goes over how the rifle works. It’s kind of similar to my shotgun, except instead of using a pump, I need to pull a bolt after every shot.
With everything settled, I turn to Hizan. “Thank you for everything, sir.”
He stands up, slowly this time, and nods. “Of course. Anything I can do to help one who received a vision from our Lord. May God be with you on your quest.” He puts a fist over his heart, gently because of the broken ribs, and nods. I don’t know much about his faith, I’ll have to do research later.
But, with that settled, I give Hizan and the soldiers a wave, walk out of the busy hospital, and head north.