Apr 16, 2021 7:24 AM
and, michael, you would fall
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In the two weeks before, there are signs and wonders.

A cat gives birth to a two-headed kitten. A river runs backwards; children playing in the ocean taste the water and find it sweet. For half an hour in the night, the moon stands still in the sky.

On Thursday evening, there's a streak of light -- like a shooting star, and then like a road flare, burning potassium-bright in the center of an acre of blood-red snow.

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Well that ain't right. Better go check on whatever the heavens have coughed up this time.

They equip themselves with a canteen, a satchel marked with a black cross full of bandages and MREs, and a long gun strapped across their back. Best to be prepared in this kind of situation, they explain, and pocket a small vial of faintly glowing liquid as well. They tell Linaea to make sure the stove's on with some tea for when they get back, and trudge out to answer the call.

The wind whips through the barren trees, knives of cold piercing through their long down coat and tickling their skin. They shiver as they crest a ridge, and then they see what the beacon has wrought.

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In the bloody snow -- in the center of wing-marks which span a glade -- in the epicenter of whatever this is --

 

-- there's a young man, naked and pale and scorched and bloodied but with no visible wound on him, his eyes closed, unshivering.

He's halfway curled around a bundle, something large cradled protectively in his arms.

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How the hell did he get here? It must be 20 below out here, he'll freeze if something isn't done about it.

They rush over, calling out to the prone finger and pulling an emergency blanket and chemical heaters from the kit. They are not letting the cold take this one - not before they've had a chance to ask them a few questions, at least.

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It opens its eyes, slowly. There are snowflakes clustering on the lashes.

The bundle in its arms, on closer inspection--

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—is a bloodied, bruised and unconscious young man.

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Of course there are two of them. They shrug off their coat - seems like these travellers will need it more then they will hustling home.

"You there! Can you walk? My place isn't far from here, and we can try to stop you bleeding out or freezing if you can make it there!" (They hope.)

"I get the feeling paramedics might want to ask you some inconvenient questions about who you are and how you got those wi- wounds, so you'd best come with me." (Why did they almost say wings? The strangers have no wings.)

"Linaea's got the kettle on, let's not keep her waiting too long."

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A slow blink.

 

"...dark."

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Well that can't be good. Maybe the flare took his vision? They look down at him, trying to assess his condition without touching him.

"Do you need carrying?" He looks hurt, but if he can stagger along with support, then they won't have to choose which stranger has to stay out here alone in the cold while they carry the other to safety.

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He's looking at them, but at their lips more than their eyes.

"....wars .... and rumors of wars."

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They were very clear about this, possibly this man has some form of shock or delirium. Unsurprising, after being out in the cold this long. Oh well, time and heat's wasting. They can apologize later if this one shouldn't be touched.

They reach down and try pulling the bird-light body upright.

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He clings desperately tight to the other body, but it slips through his weak fingers.

It appears that he can more or less stand, swaying alarmingly.

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(The other body slips away and lies prone and still on the ground.)

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Long as they don't have to tie a rope to this one to get him to follow, they'll be happy. They drape their coat over his skinny shoulders and bend to examine the dropped one.

"You need to come with me. It's too cold for you to sleep outside."

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He doesn’t seem especially responsive. He does shiver, a little.

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"Rumors of wars ... pearl of great price."

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"Rumors of wars to you too, buddy." They don't spare them a second glance before scooping up the boy on the ground, holding his heartbreakingly light form close to their body for warmth, and beginning the trudge back home. Enough time's been wasted already, no more exposure, they think to themself as their breath fogs the air ahead.

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He reaches his arms out after them, like a child.

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"Follow."

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He reaches his arms out a little farther, stretching his fingertips, feet still rooted to the ground.

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So they are going to need to tie a rope to him. They turn back for a moment and careful not to drop their cargo, they gently clasp his hand. Then they turn towards home and begin dragging him along.

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He doesn't exactly walk -- he tips forward, stumbles, catches himself, tips again -- but it moves him forward, if slowly.

More than once, he falls to his hands and knees in the snow.

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The unconscious boy huddles slightly closer, searching for warmth.

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It's a slow journey home with their twin burdens, but at last they stumble and drag their way to their back door.

"Linaea? We've got company, best you stoke the fire. These folks have seen better days."

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