Call it a win. Maybe.

Corpses of ogres littered the ground. No living ogre remained to trouble the elves, but no one doubted more would come in time. They could attend their own dead when they did. The village had been found and must be abandoned.

Gná’s hall was being occupied one last time, by the slain. The dead seated at the great table, cup and plate at hand. Fires sprang up from the other buildings. The hall would be the last set to burn. There would be nothing left of use to the next wave of invaders.

Jinsoku stood by Dave, watching helplessly as his small friend tried to pull off one last miracle. Had he time to think of it, Dave would surely have been amazed at the collection of elves lying or sitting about him. But he was oblivious to all but his current patient. He had his glove positioned over a chest wound and he punched buttons frantically.

“Initiate transfusion. Use my blood. I don’t care if it’s not a match, override, filter out any harmful elements.”

The glove started making a flat tone. Dave ripped it off and began CPR. He pumped at the elf’s chest. “One, two, three.” Then pressed his lips against hers, forcing air into her lungs. He did it again. Jinsoku could almost hear the litany in Dave’s mind. “One, two, three, breathe. One, two, three, breathe. One, two, three, breathe.”

Jinsoku watched for a bit, but finally pulled Dave away. “She’s gone, Gordon.”

“No.” Dave ripped away from his grasp.

“No, Gordon, her heart was pierced and she lost too much blood. Let her go.”

Dave turned to Jinsoku and beat him on the chest. Jinsoku was surprised at how much that hurt.

“Why did you bring me here?”

Jinsoku looked down, ashamed. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I thought you’d meet the queen, have a simple adventure or two, and then we would send you home. I never expected a war.

“But Gordon,” Jinsoku said, as he took Dave by the shoulders, “you couldn’t have saved her no matter what. You couldn’t have gotten to her any sooner and you couldn’t have made her wound any less serious. But you tried, that’s what’s important. You tried. And you did a lot of good here today. Better than I ever expected of you. You should be proud and if you carry anything away from here today, let it be pride.

“And now, Doctor, you need to get back to your patients.”

“Doctor?” Dave seemed perplexed.

Jinsoku whirled Dave about on his feet, facing the elves he’d rescued. “Fraid so, Dude. You’re probably the most powerful healer in the whole realm. Those injured in battle usually die. You’ve got ten or so patients that aren’t going to die, and most of them you would have saved, even if you didn’t have your toy scanner.”

Dave straightened. “You’re right. Outta my way. I have patients to attend to.”

Kid had a lot of confidence as long as he had someone to believe in him.

Hans had wandered off again, so Jinsoku left Dave to his patients and Za to destroying her home.

He found Hans seated on a log outside the palisade, almost watching as brush was being set up to torch it as well. He’d lost his sword and his robe was torn to ribbons. He was scratched and bleeding but had no serious wounds.

“Madison, are you all right?”

Hans glared at him. “What have you done to me, Hasaki?”

Jinsoku stopped short. He wasn’t expecting this reaction.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You’ve turned me into a killer. Those were people I killed today, Hasaki. They weren’t like you or me, but they weren’t monsters. No wolf men, no monster snakes, just, people. They had hopes and dreams of their own. They had wives, and children who are going to ask why daddy didn’t come home. And I killed them. I stabbed them and I cut them and beat them. I lost count. I saw the light go out in their eyes and shared the terror in their hearts as they died.”

Jinsoku sat next to him. “I taught you how to fight and survive a fight. It was kill or be killed and you lived through it. That you feel remorse is a good thing.

“You aren’t the killing machine, Madison. I am. I quit feeling sorry for my opponents long ago. I take some solace that I’ve never killed when I didn’t have to.”

Jinsoku took a deep breath. “War isn’t easy, my friend. It never should be. But we were defending and they were attacking. We had no choice. And in some twisted way, maybe they had none either. If there’s any sin, it belongs to whoever sent them here. Now let’s go back in. The enemy may still be about, and there’s no sense in taking chances.”

Next:
CHAPTER 16–SOLACE

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Copyright AndyOH! (Andrew F. Odendhal)
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This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.