[P] a life so unforgiving
For Howly/Bellad! Jan 4th
The infirmary had become Moose’s second home during the siege. The man felt as though he spent all of his time there, and it was just as well, for that was truly the only place that he felt as though he were any sort of use. Of course, Moose was no healer, not anywhere close. But there was much that needed doing besides healing within the infirmary that Moose did, and by doing so, freed up the Healers do more and better work unhindered. This brought him much more satisfaction than he cared to admit, especially because he had initially only come to the infirmary because he lacked the skills and the courage to help on the battlefield.

With nightfall an eerie calm had settled over the infirmary. Not immediately. Now, though, it was the middle of the night and the moon had been hung in the sky for hours and hours. Many were asleep, excepting those who were in too much pain to sleep through the night, and those were who Moose were trying to help where he could. At the very least, not leave them alone to their fevered thoughts and desperate wishes for death to take them.

Crawling on his knees beside a sleeping patient on the ground, Moose looked around the infirmary, holding his breath for a second before he found who he was looking for. Bellad was in the corner of the room, seated up against the wall, and it looked as though he was sleeping sitting up once more. Shaking his head, Moose stood slowly (being careful not to jostle any of the sleeping and injured patients) and made his way over to the other man.

”Bellad.” The name slipped from his lips, barely above a whisper, as he placed the tips of his fingers on Bellad’s shoulder. The man jerked into wakefulness, and Moose almost regretted waking him, despite his good intentions. ”Go lie down and sleep properly, I’ll wake you if we need anything. You need good sleep if you’ll be any use tomorrow.”
(346) | NPCs: | Optime | 
ooc [+828]
One could not stall the change of day to night, but the stalling of the fall from waking to sleep had been something he’s strained over the last few days. His lips twitched in his fugue, his eyelids trembled as though constantly straining to stay closed and cover his tired eyes. In The Bastion, once seemingly so incredibly large, yet now compressed like a coffin, all of them were perpetually moving, shifting parts, and he suffered through an induced hypersensitivity. He hadn’t slept long enough for dreams, but tattered rags of visions terrorized his mind, leaving him on edge, anxious, but without the recollection to know who or what his torturers had been.

Not safe in waking, not safe in dreams. He was fast approaching a point where he would wake up to the slightest sound of his own name, even if at times he found no one in the world of the waking to have called it, but hurriedly found something to occupy himself with.

This time there was something. A massive canine in the dark, jerking him and shaking off the last gossamer-thin yet stone-heavy remnants of sleep clinging to him. “Wh-...?” His voice carried a hint of disorientation even if his prior state had been a mocking replica of slumber. His eyes darted around briefly as though to find the reason he was awoken before he could be told what it was. It could have been anything. A new wounded pack-mate. One of their charges getting worse. Yuki muttering something. Pus and blood leaking from a bandage, demanding urgent change. Someone’s breath turning irregular. The Councilor was often called on to make a new order for the Circle and the volunteers. Even so he’d often put his own hands to carrying out so many things he could have ordered, rather than simply speak and direct.

He found nothing and his eyes stung. He pressed his fingers down on the corners of his eyes. They hurt. He would need some of the thawed water they’d cleaned to rinse them out. It was a good time to check on some of the buckets. “You are… Moose.” He had joined them recently, still a commoner, but he hadn’t been so subtle as to be unrecognized. Even before, while being just a humble healer by his own admission, he would keep an eye on who was coming or going, examining the state of Caledonians’ health. Building lasting connections was a different thing. Perhaps being locked together with relative strangers would aid it, were he not currently more likely to seek not their story, but what they could do and where they could be of more immediate use.

This one has been helpful. And seemingly tried to be again.

“Your… concern is misplaced.” Bellad said quietly, rising from the chair and feeling his body’s soreness. The chair wasn’t that comfortable. He’d have been better off shifting and curling up on the floor, but shifting took time. In that time, many breaths could be taken, some of which without his help could have been the last. Or such was the nobleman’s firm belief.

Awoken, risen, he walked over to one of the nearest bodies. A strip of moist cloth had been applied to their forehead to ease a state close to fever. He replaced the compress and the body only shifted slightly, calm enough it seemed to sleep, quality of rest notwithstanding. Still miles above whatever Bellad was visibly putting himself through. He set the cloth away, knowing it would need to be put into boiling water and reused rather than easily discarded. They’d worked some such strips to the point of disintegration, even if it helped stretch supplies.

“I cannot get good sleep elsewhere either.” As he commented, his eyes were still on the resting pack-mate. He may not have made any more gestures, but even the fatigue could not fully displace an aching look of compassion in the healer’s eyes. He’d always been earnest, even if sometimes he would reduce one he was healing from Soul to a vessel of life. It was to permit acts that could cause pain yet preserve life. It was to prevent empathy from staying his hand and making him hesitate. But when he’d heard so many voices cry out, howl, whimper and groan, it strained his ability to dissociate.

His sight drifted across the room as though scoping out another overlooked victim of the conflict, but found none. Instead the massive canine came back into view. Moose was certainly only a slight misnomer. All that was missing were the antlers.

“If you insist on talking or have concerns weighting on you, let us do so away from the infirmary…”

Oblivious to the fact he himself could be the concern, Bellad moved, quiet, a stalking silhouette. And in the flickering lights of oil lamps casting shadows over his dark-pelted body the wolf made his way outside of the improvised hospital of the besieged Caledonians.
The night inspired fears, especially in dark times such as these. Moose felt a little bad when Bellad jerked himself into wakefulness, though he knew that lying down and getting proper rest would do Bellad good. ”You’re alright. Everything’s fine.” He reassured Bellad in an unhurried whisper. The worry in Bellad’s face was clear, and Moose could guess at what he might be thinking. All kinds of things might have gone wrong that would require Bellad’s attention. ”Everyone here is sleeping right now.”

Even as he said this, the sudden concern that he might be accidentally lying struck him and he turned back to look around. From what he could see, however, the infirmary was calm. This was a rare opportunity. They might as well take advantage of it before the next terrible thing happened or the sun rose.

”Yes.” Nodding, he smiled, ”That’s right.”

That smile died when Bellad shot down Moose’s assistance. He said nothing, letting the silence grow between them until Bellad filled it again. Still, he followed Bellad about the infirmary, sniffing the patients as he passed them to check for off scents. He didn’t really know what he was looking for, but he knew what was normal. Some part of him felt as though if he could just find the things that were wrong, perhaps he’d catch something before it got too bad.

”Then sleep here. Just lie down. There’s a spot clear over there.” Pointing out an open area in the corner, just large enough for another person to lie down, Moose gave Bellad another smile. It only grew when Bellad asked to move from the infirmary. Still, he kept his silence, only following Bellad outside and letting out a sigh as he breathed fresh air. ”Come here,” his tone was soft as he opened his arms and offered the man a hug.

”You’ve had a lot on your shoulders. You need a break, Bellad. Now is a good time to take one.” These words of wisdom were not his, but Moose knew that the woman who’d first told him this would not mind his parroting her words. ”Take a break before your body makes you take one. If you don’t, that might happen at a less convenient time.”
(387) | NPCs: | Optime |
ooc [+341]
Bellad left the large canine standing there with his arms open. Whether from fatigue or some culture barrier he didn’t immediately place the purpose behind this gesture. He read into it the way he did while working his way through his earlier lessons in literacy. A slow survey of syllable after syllable, then finally the multiple parts clicking together.

“I barely know you…” Bellad said, sounding tired and flat. He may have wanted to put something specific into it. Anything on the spectrum from an apology for the rejection to a harder edge to dissuade further plays at familiarity. He hadn’t the energy for either. And he didn’t bother to focus on his thoughts enough to tell if he felt sorry or annoyed.

The guarded healer still chose to take the indicated spot. Slowly he sank to the floor. His eyelids felt so heavy it was as though closing his eyes now would lock them for days. He took that risk and blinked slowly, expression uneasy even with his vision covered. Words floated past him, about needing to take a break and spare his body an unwanted failure at the most crucial time.

“You sound like my brother.” A tiny sliver of emotion. Like a complicated droplet blending clear fondness for his elder sibling with a tinge of guilt and regret. The enormous elder Songthorn could rival Moose better in size than Bellad, though the latter himself was tall as wolves went. More importantly, this sort of attempt at nurturing him was a good fit. Even if he'd have worded it differently.

“I saw you work… When did you come here?” His eyes were often closed during the conversation, but he didn’t seem about to drift off into sleep too fast. The conversation was an idle thing. And the information, for the moment, probably irrelevant. Even if he didn’t like Moose’s answer, he’d still be stuck in the Bastion with him and every other Soul regardless of preferences or sympathies. But it probably paid to find out even a little more.
”That’s okay.” Moose stated, though whether he was responding to how Bellad had rejected his hug or to how he and Bellad barely knew one another, he didn’t know. Perhaps both. Letting his arms fall back to his sides, Moose gave the other man a reassuring smile, as though he wanted to ensure that he knew Moose wouldn’t hold it against him.

Following Bellad a step, Moose kept his distance as the healer sank down to the floor. He said nothing in response to Bellad’s moment of vulnerability. He did not know said brother, not truly, and he found he didn’t have anything meaningful to add to this. The silence did not feel awkward, though, as they sat comfortably in one another’s presence. Still, Moose couldn’t help but feel a little pleased to be compared to Bellad’s brother. Especially because the comparison felt very warm.

Raising his brows slightly in surprise at the inquiry, Moose leaned back and tried to figure out what exactly he was asking. ”When I came to New Caledonia? About a moon ago. Shortly before the borders closed. Or, did you mean when I started helping out in the infirmary? Yesterday night was the first time I dropped by looking to help out. I didn’t know what else I could do.”

It wasn’t as if Moose had any special skills to help get them through the siege. He wished he could do more than wipe away at blood and sweat and worse, but Moose simply didn’t know enough. He couldn’t even fight. If he went out into the battlefield he’d be more of a hindrance than a help, he knew. A heavy sigh escaped his lips and his ears fell back against his skull before he snapped out of it. ”Wait, no more chatting, go to sleep! Like I said, I’ll watch over everyone and I’ll wake you up if I need help. Just sleep.”
(334) | NPCs: | Optime | I think we can wrap this up soon?
We can archive this thread. Forgive me for the wait [+251]
“Yes… I noticed. It is well. We need the help.” He didn’t slur his words – however fatigued Bellad hadn’t lost his ability to properly annunciate. But they still came out slow, brief thoughts voiced as though at the pace of droplets slowly falling into water from a thawing icicle.

Wearily he willed his eyes open again and looked up to Moose from his would-be resting place on the floor. “If you must know what else to do, come to me. I will give direction. Much as I can. Barring that – any of the Circle. Our healers. They will know where they need help the most.”

Rather insistently, the recent stranger urged Bellad to cut the conversation short. Under any other circumstances, he would have, perhaps, insisted on more. Either further guidance, or further inquiries into just where Moose came from. But duty and suspicion alike drowned in the slurry of slumber to be. “Perhaps… tomorrow then. If anything happens, I am to be woken immediately.”

The last of his energy came into a simple thing, but one that he remembered to add in all the same. New face or not, he’d seen Moose do his part and, reluctantly, saw merit in his advice. With a barely audible huff of air, Bellad said: “Thank you.” His voice was clear, even if that which he was thanking the hound for wasn’t. His head dipped down, his eyes finally closed and his eyelids stopped trembling against his effort to keep them apart.

Bellad slept.

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