Lys: A Reunion And A Revelation

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Author's Note: This scene backs up to what happened after Aithne slipped out- before the fight was done. I didn't expect it to be over already, so things may be a little odd in the telling, as I re-work the ending.

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Aithne roamed the battlefield again, looking for more wounded. She was thankful for her scorched heart- the dead outnumbered those merely harmed, and the sight was gruesome. Most of the wounded could make their own way to the villa, so she continued to move on, more careful than last time, but working quickly and efficiently. She knelt beside one man- his breathing was shallow, and he made choking sounds when he tried to talk. Tears came to her eyes as she quieted him- there was nothing to be done, but she could not make herself move on to the next man and leave him to die alone.

His last sight was her, brushing his hair from his face as though he was a sleeping child.

She closed his eyes, and with a sigh, made to stand. Suddenly she heard a scream behind and above her, and she turned to see a Gaul bearing down on her, sword raised. Instinctively she covered her head with her arms, waiting for the death stroke. But instead of the bite of steel she heard a clang and another yell. She risked a look. It was one of his own comerades, and they were fighting over her, it seemed. She was frozen to the spot. Though they both spoke in the Gaulish tongue, her "rescuer" was Scotti, she was almost certain of it. He wore the blue war-paint, his hair was stiffened and held back with lime... But for his beard she would say beyond doubt.

Barely had she considered this than her attacker broke off with a shrug and a chuckle. She did not like the look of him... She turned to her rescuer, wondering why he wanted the honor of killing her, and whether or not the sword would've been more merciful. When he turned to her, her curiousity turned to horror.

It was the man who had shot and killed Aidan.

Aithne tried to scramble back, but the dead man was behind her and she could not. So she simply stared, wide-eyed, like a creature transfixed by a snake, waiting for the end...
But he did not attack. He took her hands and pulled her up to her feet. "I do not make war on women." he said, in heavily accented Latin. "And for the sake of another torn from her home... a girl very much like you, though she would be older now, for her sake I will keep the other men from attacking you. Unlike you Romans-" His chin came up proudly. There was no doubt now that the man was Scotti. "Unlike you Romans, we do not snatch women from their families, days before her wedding. We do not attack men of peace, either. Take that message back to your lord."

Aithne was shocked. This warrior had just repeated her own story. She risked a step closer, peering at his face, trying to see beyond the beard. "Ca-" It couldn't be. Ten years and countless miles had passed between them. And yet...

"Cathair?"

The warrior's head whipped around, his face mirroring her shock. His eyebrows knit close with confusion. "Aithne?"

No more doubt. It was Cathair. Impossible Cathair, here in Britain, the day after she was freed. She was in his arms in an instant, confused and joyful and relieved all at once. He was here! The battle raged all around them, but by some divine care they were spared. She was in his arms and she felt as though nothing could harm her.

He bent his head over hers. "Oh, Gra... I've searched for so long..."

She was crying now, but when she looked up at him, she was smiling through her tears. "Anmchara. I've missed-"

Suddenly she felt him pushed towards him- heard a thud, then another, making him stumble into her. "What-?" Before she could ask, her question was answered as a third arrow protruded from his left arm. A fog of disbelief came over her, but only for a moment. Her jaw hardened. She was not going to lose him. You can't have him, God. Not yet. I won't let you. Ridiculous thoughts, but she was not going to let him go.

She took him by the right arm, and nearly cried out when she saw the two shafts in his back. It was a miracle he was standing at all. "Come. I'll help you, only come and let them treat you."

He protested. "Aithne, I'm fine. And I'll not be going to the Romans for treatment, anyway."

That got her temper up. "Fine? You've been shot! Sure, and you're going to come with me this instant, Cathair deCainneach!" She dragged him by the arm up to the villa, determined that Jason save him, whatever the cost.

But as soon as they entered, more than one knife came up, and two men came forward. She stared them down with more fire in her eyes than had been there in the whole time she'd been with the Guttersnipe.

"What are you thinking, bringing one of them in here? Throw him back to his own, girl, or we'll throw him back for you." There was a knife at Cathair's throat, and he glared back at the man, despite his bleeding and obvious pain. "Throw him back, woman!" They made to push them out, and she batted the knife away, desparation giving her strength. "HE'S MY HUSBAND!" she yelled, loud enough to stun half the room into attention. "Now get BACK!" They obediently backed off, and she brought him up to Jason, the fire still in her eyes. "Help him, please!" But under it all was the unspoken Don't let me lose him, too.

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Still reeling from the shock of finding Aithne here, of all places, he'd let his guard down. It was stupid of him, and he mentally cursed his idiocy. But he'd had some protection, and for that he was thankful. If only Aithne had let him explain before dragging him up to a place full of his enemies- full of the people who had enslaved her. He was before their surgeon before he had a chance to stop it. The man could kill him as easily as heal him.

"I am fine." he said again, in his broken Latin this time. "Other than this arm, anyway. My back..." He tried to reach the bundle there. "I was protected."
The surgeon looked at him, as if trying to decide what to do, then gingerly unhooked the pack, pulling it away. Cathair cried out, choking into a half laugh, "Not quite fine."

With the removal of the pack came the removal of a sharp piece of metal- a point had penetrated his flesh. But beyond that, there was no harm come to him.
Jason was about to fling it aside when Cathair stayed his hand. "Be careful with that." he snapped. "It is a precious thing, not lightly tossed about."
The doctor narrowed his eyes, but obeyed.

After that it was probing and washing and stitching and bandaging. When the surgeon had done, Cathair all but leapt off the table, ready to re-join his comerades. But Aithne called out to him, and he turned back. Her face said it all. Don't go. Please, don't. Before he could answer, two pairs of strong hands clapped down on his shoulders. It was the men from the door. "You're not going anywhere. You're a prisoner of war, now, and you'll be sitting this one out." They marched him to a chair at the far end of the room. He resisted, but Aithne's look told him to stay put.

The battle was lost, anyway. He knew that a long time ago. His choices were death or waiting. And as Aithne came and knelt beside him, he knew which choice he'd make.

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Aithne stood with frayed nerves as she watched Jason stitch Cathair up. It was nothing short of a miracle that Cathair was not dying, but she could not allow herself to believe he was out of danger. It was too good to be true. God did not work this way- not for her. And yet it was true. When he was sat down, she flew to his side, took his hand, and did not let go. She sat there every spare moment she had, and when she worked she kept part of her attention fixed on him, lest someone decide he'd be better off dead or maimed.

They talked back and forth, about various things, until the subject came round to the British Romans themselves. "Every one of them deserves to die for what they did to you," Cathair spat. "Oh yes, I heard how it was. I've been hunting for you for almost ten years, Aithne. I learned a lot in that time- how the British were behind the raid, and others like them. God should end the lot of them."
Aithne was shocked. "But these people freed me, Cathair. I was freed two days ago, when I came to them. They are the best people I've known since I left Eire."

Cathair's opinion seemed largely unchanged. "Perhaps so. But still Romans. And Cunorix is ridding the land of them. He, at least, seems to be a good man."

Aithne's face blanched, and she pulled away a moment. "Cunorix? A good man??" Her voice lowered with shock and anger. "Cathair, Cunorix is the man who sold me over-sea."

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Cathair could've been knocked over with a chicken feather. Are you certain? he almost asked. Of course she's certain. When has she ever been anything but?

His brow darkened and he looked toward the door. "So. The man I fight against has freed you, and the man I fight for enslaved you. ...It seems Cunorix has a debt to pay me."
With a hardened jaw he rose and approached the surgeon. His voice was coldly calm. "Let me go- let me leave here, and I will deliver Cunorix into your lord's hands, wrapped up like a Christmas gift if necessary.
"Give me some token so that I may pass through your ranks, and I'll either kill or capture Cunorix. I give you my word on that."

Aithne came up beside him and took his hand, her chin lifted resolutely. "And you can trust the word of Cathair deCainneach. He will do as he says."

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Sorry about the length. I'd planned to parcel this out with reactions from Jason and such, but that was not to be.

I figure maybe word will come that the fight is over, bringing this end up to your time.

I did my best to tie it into the new timeline. I hope it's workable.

~Lys

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