Vincas’ father, Venislav turned out to be as verbal as his daughter. “That young man saved my life. He saved us all.” He reached up with his good hand and patted his daughter’s hand and smiled for her when she came over to watch. Venislav’s other hand rested in his lap. His arm broke, but it did not hurt much as long as he kept it still. Mishka smiled and sent Borsiloff and Thrud off in search of what she needed for a splint and sling. A broken bone in those days often did not heal right and it meant loss of some use in that limb, if it did not cripple, but it would not be that big a deal to one who knew her anatomy. The big deal would be keeping it immobilized until the bones knit together. She distracted Vincas and her father with a question.
“Pivdenny Bugh, it used to be all woods. What happened to all the trees?”
“The Brugh?” Venislav said, before he squinted and groaned softly as Mishka made sure the bones lined up correctly. It had been a clean break and should heal completely. “We cut them, for our homes and to make our fields and, well, everything we needed.” Vincas spoke up in her father’s place.
“Our forefathers did.” Venislav corrected his daughter while a few tears dropped from his eyes. “That was well before my time. Anyway, if you go further up into the hills, the woods are still there. We hunt there sometimes, but nobody goes very far into the woods.”
“Why is that?” Mishka asked as her things arrived and she began to immobilize the arm. Venislav watched the doctor work, so Vincas spoke up again.
“Because the woods are full of ancient spirit people, elves and dwarfs.” Her eyes got big as she spoke. “And they have magic and play terrible tricks on the poor souls who get lost in the woods.”
“Silly superstition.” Venislav spoke when he saw that the Doctor was not going to hurt him anymore. “It is just too easy to get lost in the woods, that’s all.”
Doctor Mishka nodded. She heard what she wanted to hear, and now all she needed was to charge Venislav with every terrible thing she could think of to be sure he left his splint on and his arm in the sling long enough to properly heal. When she stood, she told the others she needed a break before seeing any more patients. She had treated the worst, so no one would die on her.
While they walked outside, Doctor Mishka asked Flern a question. “Would you like me to do it?”
Flern took a minute to come out of whatever spaced-out condition she rested in, and she realize that she knew everything the good Doctor said and did, so while Flern might not be in her own time and place, in a way she still was. “No.” Flern responded in Mishka’s mind. “It is my life. I should do it myself.”
“Doctore.” Pinn pronounced the unfamiliar word imperfectly. “Thrud, Arania and I are going back to the wagon wall to check on the boys. Vinnu and Elluin say they can help here, but we feel kind of useless.”
“Mishka,” she said. “And that would be fine. I will be along, shortly.”
“See ya, Flern,” Thrud said, with a broad grin.
Just for that, Mishka smiled and instantly changed back to Flern, startling Thrud and almost making her stumble. “See ya,” Flern said, and she watched Pinn laugh, turn the girl in the right direction, and watched them walk away.
I have to concentrate, Flern thought to herself as she looked away. She was going to try and contact the earth spirits that might not even be there. It could not be harder than contacting the water spirits, she thought, but then, if they were there, they would be terribly far away. “Miroven.” The word popped into her head, and at first, she did not know what it meant. She understood it as a name, but whose? She shrugged. She called. “Miroven.” Nothing happened. She tried again, and a third time, and still nothing happened. She felt frustrated, because she felt sure something was supposed to happen, so on the fourth call, she shouted, and in her heart, she demanded some response. She jumped in her skin when the response came into her mind. She had heard from other lives she had lived, but this felt different. It sounded clearly like a voice outside of herself coming, she imagined, on a very private wavelength.
“We are here, my Lady.” Miroven said. “We knew you were coming, and we have prepared. There are thirty of us, all volunteers, who will help in this struggle, and more who will help to defend the river and keep the enemy from crossing over.”
“What? Prepared? Thirty?” Flern looked around, but she did not see thirty people or thirty elves. “No, wait. Don’t come here. I will come to you, but I don’t know when.”
A long pause followed before Flern heard an answer. “We will not come there if you do not wish it, but we are very close if you need us.” That felt like enough. Flern cut the contact and put her hand to her head. She was going to have a nice headache.
Vincas took that moment to come out of the common house, and she came up to Flern, immediately. “Are you well?” she asked, sweetly. Flern smiled for the girl, though a weak smile, and she nodded, though it did not help her throbbing temples. “Maybe if you became the Dokter—the healer again.” Vincas suggested. Flern nodded and made the change, and Mishka’s smile felt more genuine.
“Trouble is,” Mishka said. “When Flern comes home, she will still have a headache, I believe.”
“Oh.” Vincas clearly did not know what to say. She had no idea how it worked and simply felt overwhelmed on watching the transformation from one person to what looked mostly like a completely different person.
Doctor Mishka eventually made her way over to the house where they kept the Jaccar prisoner. His wounds were the worst of all, and she knew he did not have much time to live. If he did, she felt sure the village elders would be getting out the rope; but the village healer, more or less a shaman for the people confirmed her diagnosis. She questioned the prisoner, which surprised the shaman. None of them had been able to talk to the man, and Mishka figured Flern might not have understood the words either, but she had access to a lifetime that Flern did not yet know, so she got the language and got to ask her questions. It soon became clear that the man seemed normal in all respects, except he seemed convinced that serving the Wicca and doing whatever she asked was the most important thing in his life. He asked Mishka several times if she knew where the young red-haired girl might be. He spoke very frank in saying that his only desire was to find this girl and kill her. This is what the Wicca asked, and so it was what he must do. Even in his half-dead condition, Mishka felt certain that given the opportunity, the man would try.
“It is a very powerful enchantment,” the healer said, when Mishka explained the situation. “I have no way of undoing something so strong.”
“Nor I,” Mishka agreed, and she gave the Jaccar some pain killers so at least his last few hours would not be so painful. When she went back outside, she saw that it started raining again. She returned to being Flern, the right person in her own time and place, and Flern suffered with her headache all the way back to the wall of wagons. Pinn and the others sat there under a hastily erected tarp. Karenski, also present, said nothing. He just looked at Flern the way he did. Flern started getting used to that. Two of the village elders were also present, and they were currently arguing that now that the rain returned, and now that it would soon be dark, surely the Jaccar would not do anything.