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Heart of a Warden

Chapter 8: Chapter 8

by aimless

Chapter 8
Note: See Disclaimer in One

Awareness was slow to return. Random thoughts drifted through Dara’s mind as she struggled back to consciousness.
Her head ached and she felt groggy and disoriented. She was so weak it was all she could do to open her eyes. Even that
small feat almost proved to be too difficult. She blinked a few times, the pre-dawn light seemed harsh to her eyes and her
vision was blurry and unfocused. She was somewhat amazed that she was still alive and wondered just how much time
had passed.

Another fact made itself apparent as she lay quietly. She was not alone. There was a warm presence pressed up against her
uninjured side and an arm was draped across her abdomen. She looked down at the arm, it was male and the sleeve was the
grayish green color of the wardens. The hand, which was resting palm upward, had slim tapered fingers and the distinct calluses
of one who used a bow. So her replacement had arrived. What she could not figure out was why they were sharing a bedroll.

Just what had happened? She remembered getting sicker and then taking the last of her pain killing drugs and then nothing. She
just remembered vague images and shadows. She froze when she felt a warm breath across her cheek, whomever she was sharing a
bedroll with had scooted closer and had their face pressed against her neck. She could not think what to do, she was not used to being
in such close proximity with someone else. She tried to move away and gasped as the ache in her leg awoke in a sharp piercing wave. It
was her sudden movement and her sharp in-drawn breath that awoke her companion.

Rúmil was quick to awaken when he felt Dara move. The last vestiges of elven sleep faded from his eyes as he came to full awareness.
He realized several things right away. The first thing was that Dara seemed to be awake and the second, was that he was holding her
close with an arm thrown across her stomach and his nose buried in the crook of her neck. He was a bit alarmed that he had been betrayed
by his own sub-conscious. The dreams he had about Dara, much to his embarrassment, had been more than friendly. He tried to rationalize his thoughts yet again. He convinced himself that his dreams of her had been triggered by her close call with death and his relief at the outcome.

He hastily pulled himself away and sat up. She looked up at him and tried to get her mind to form a coherent thought. She opened her
mouth to speak but no words came forth, her throat and mouth were too parched to form them. After a moment she tried again, this time
with more success.

“Rú….Rúmil? Wha happened? How…..how long have you been here?”

“I arrived yesterday at dawn, you gave me quite a scare. How do you feel this morning?”

She closed her eyes again and used a shaky hand to push the hair away from her face. Then rested the hand on her forehead.

“I feel thirsty, weak, tired. I hurt, but I am glad you are here.”

“Well the thirst I can take care of.” He took the remaining waterskin and poured some in the cup that he had been using to give
her the herbs to reduce her fever. He slid one arm behind her neck and slightly lifted her head and placed the cup to her lips. She
drank deeply and when the cup was empty he lowered her head back to the pallet. She was still dizzy and closed her eyes hoping
the room would cease to spin. “Feel a little better now?”

She nodded and lay still for a moment then opened her eyes and looked up at him. He did not like the pallor of her skin and the dark
circles under her eyes; she was still far from well. He laid a gentle hand on her cheek; it was still cool to the touch.

“Can you tell me what happened to you? I saw the orc blood on your sword. I must know what happened.”

Slowly she recounted the events that led to her getting wounded. She had to stop a few times to try and order her drug and pain
hazed mind to remember all of the details.

“Were you able to tell which way the orcs had come from?” He hated questioning her so soon after she had regained consciousness, but
it was vital that he know the details. He needed to determine if this band of orcs would prove to be a significant threat.

“It seemed that they had come from farther west, anymore than that I did not have time to find out before I was injured. Oh Rúmil, you
would think I would know better by now. To be wounded so easily, I do not deserve to be a warden. I was careless. To be so grievously
injured by a lone orc, a wounded one no less.”

She closed her eyes and turned her head away ashamed by her admission. She felt a hand cup the side of her face and turn her
head back.

“Dara, open your eyes,” She did as he asked. “ What happened to you was not your fault, it could have happened to any one of us. You
had no idea that orc was hiding under that wagon. The fact that it is dead and you are still alive is a testament to your skill. Also that you
managed to make it all the way back here and still be able to tend to yourself is proof of your determination.”

“Well I suppose I should be glad it was you that found me and not Haldir. I do not think he would have been so kind in his assessment
of my performance. He would have given me that glare of his and then gone on to lecture me on everything I had done wrong.”

“Dara you underestimate my brother, I do not think he would have found fault with your actions. He is not as infallible as you believe. Do
you think you‘ll be all right here by yourself for a few hours? I really have to go check out the site where you were ambushed.”

“I’ve survived this long, another few hours should not make a difference. I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere while you are gone.”

“I’ll refill the waterskins before I leave. Would you like to try and eat something?”

Dara’s stomach knotted with nausea at the thought of food.

“I do not think I could keep it down. Some more water would be appreciated though.”

“Then I shall fetch some, I will be right back.”

She watched him leave with the empty waterskins and shifted on the pallet to try and get more comfortable. It was proving to
be impossible, every time she moved a wave of pain washed down her leg making her gasp. Gathering what little strength she had
Dara pulled back the covers to look at her leg. It was encased in a fresh bandage and did not seem to be bleeding anymore. She was
shocked when she looked at her knee; it was grossly swollen and very red. She attempted to bend her leg. Sweat broke out on her
forehead, and it felt as if a red-hot poker had been applied to her leg. She lay back down gasping for breath. Dara looked up as she
heard someone ascend the ladder, it was Rúmil. He dropped the now full waterskins to the floor when he noticed her pale sweat
dotted face.

“Tell me you did not try and move?”

“Ok I Won’t tell you. How bad is it? I can barely bend my leg at all now. I did not think it was possible for it to hurt any worse, but I was
wrong.”

Rumil sat down beside Dara and took her hand.

“That bad huh? I wish I could go back and kill that filthy orc again, much slower this time.”

“Dara I won’t lie to you, your injury is infected and I am afraid that the infection has spread to your knee. I was able to stop the bleeding
but I do not have the healing talent that Haldir or even Orophin possesses. You also lost a lot of blood. We have to get you back to the city. We cannot leave till the outrider shows up.”

“I suspected as much, oh and before I forget why did we happen to be sharing a bedroll? If I am not mistaken you seemed to have
been using my shoulder as a pillow as well.”

She looked at him curiously waiting for an answer. She was also amazed to note that a flush had crept up his cheeks painting them red.
He was blushing!

“Well… you see, during the night your fever rose so high I was afraid you would do yourself harm. I had to hold you down, and then I
soaked your blankets with most of the remaining water to try and get you cool. Dara…you almost died last night. Right before your fever
broke. You even stopped breathing.”

She saw the worry in his eyes; She had not realized that she had come so close to dying. It was all still a jumble of fevered dreams and
confused images in her mind.

“You were a mess when I found you. I looked at your wound and then re-bandaged it and changed your dirt and blood covered tunic. When
your fever broke you were as soaked as your bedding and were out of clean clothes, so I put you into one of my spare tunics then into my
bedroll to stay warm. I was tired and worn out as well. I had to stay close in case you worsened again. I did not think you would object.”

She glanced down at herself and sure enough the tunic she had on was not one of her own. It was slightly longer and colored a soft
green. She had never been uncomfortable in Rúmil’s presence before, but knowing that he had dressed and undressed her several times
caused a flush to creep up her face. As Wardens she had been in close proximity with males before. Even though they had given her as
much privacy as possible, there was no room for modesty when you were guarding the borders. Dara did not understand why the simple
act of him caring for her wounds unsettled her so much. Even though they were friends she had always maintained a bit of a distance, only
on rare occasions did she instigate physical contact. It was always Rumil or Orophin who was the first to hug or sling a companionable arm
around her. She did not shrug off their friendly gestures, but most of the time she just did not initiate them.

“No I do not object. I am just not used to waking up with someone beside me. I did not know what to think. Although I am glad it was
not Amros, he has been flirting with me for centuries. Had it been him I might have punched him in the nose. I neither want nor need that
type of attention.”

“Yes I remember how hard you punch, I thought you had dislocated my jaw that one time. Your brawling skills have much improved over the
years so getting hit by you now would be infinitely more painful.”

“I do not think you have a lot to worry about, I am so weak right now I would have trouble fighting an elfling.”

Dara lay back against the blankets again and closed her eyes. What little she had exerted herself had taken its toll. She began to lose her
fight to stay awake. Rumil knelt at her side and straightened the blankets and tucked her in.

“I have not had anyone tuck me into bed since I was very young. I want to thank you again for being here.”

“You are my friend it is the least I could do. I have to go; I will be back before dark. I hate to leave you here but we both know my duty is
to see to the safety of the wood. I will leave the water and cup near by and I will leave some food out in case you get hungry. Try and rest
as much as you can, I will be back before you know it.”

He brushed Dara’s hair away from her forehead and rested his hand there checking again for any sign of fever. It was an effort for Dara
to open her eyes again; she was so tired she just nodded her head in assent. He tucked a few errant strands of her hair behind her ear
and she grasped his hand in her own before he could pull away. She rested their joined hands against her cheek and smiled at him as she
drifted off to sleep. He felt a wave of tenderness wash over him as he looked at their joined hands. These feelings left him confused and
unsettled. Reluctantly he pulled his hand from hers and before he could talk himself out of it he placed a light kiss on her brow. This was
not the Dara he was accustomed to, if she had not been sick she would have not allowed such intimacies. He studied her face once more
then got up, grabbed his cloak and left the shelter. He needed this time away from her to try and sort out his jumbled feelings.

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Chapter name
Chapter 8
Created
07 May 2004
Last Edited
07 May 2004
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