and by proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb His Heav’n,
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, His fatal throne,
Which if not victory is yet revenge
-John Milton, Paradise Lost
Chapter 1: Healing touch
The sky was the color of angry red, with a tint of blue around the edges. Rainfall had reduced to a drizzle from the heavy downpour of the past hour. The dim mist was reflective of the heavy atmosphere surrounding the field.
The aftermath of the battle looked like a bad circus act with clusters of dead lying twisted every which possible way. Nearby, a set of long, sorrow faces mourned the dead and took long swigs from the bottle to mask the smell of stench.
“Still alive, eh? Whaddya know! Some suckers get lucky after all.”
Crood shifted his head, or tried to, which sent spasms of pain around his neck.
“Well, your luck ain’t gonna last much long if ya try to stand up in your state.”
He felt a set of big, strong arms carefully scoop him up and carry him. There was a soft creak below as he was placed against a cracked, wooden surface. A bunch of straw was pushed under his head for support.
The big man frowned at him for a moment, then rummaged through his backpack and produced a slightly damp cloth.
Crood felt a cool, tingling sensation at the top of his forehead as the cloth was placed over his head. He liked it very much except for the fact that it started to become warm. Much warmer as the time passed until it became blisteringly hot.
The cloth seemed to have a life of its own, squirming, clutching, coiling and uncoiling over his head. He concentrated hard, but his body did not even budge an inch. He cursed, hissed, begged and spat, but the big fellow looked stone-faced and started to take notes in the small diary he had removed from his shirt pocket.
And as soon as it had begun, it was over. Crood’s body arched up, slightly trembled and then stopped still. He lifted his head to look at the stranger. Strangely, he felt no pain at the back of his neck.
“Good for you, Pup! Looks like you have been mended a little.”
Crood felt a big wave of relief. He wanted to say his thanks to the man, however crude his methods of healing might be. He was still alive and only that mattered. His gaze, however froze as the man took another cloth out of his bag.
“One done. Nine more to go,” the man grunted. “Too soon to think we are done here, now. We are just getting started.”