The river ford ran by the back of the camp. Flern walked in up to her ankles and stopped. She knelt down to place her hand in the water. The naiad had spoken to Wlvn about the water sprites, and Wlvn went under the impression that they were part of his responsibilities since Kartesh, when the Kairos got made responsible for the little spirits in the Earth. They were sprites, or spirits in the air, the fire, the water, and the earth, but at the moment, she had to try and get in touch with the ones in the water, this water, if there were any. It turned out to be easy, and in almost no time a little gelatinous head popped up from the current.
“My Lady,” the sprite said with deep respect, despite the squeaky little voice. Elluin and Vinnu looked a little frightened at this sight, but Pinn, Thrud Arania and Borsiloff all looked fascinated. Flern had to do everything in her power to keep herself from reaching out and hugging the cute little thing.
“I have a dangerous thing to ask you,” Flern sounded like a mother who might speak to a child. “And I will be just as happy if you say yes or no.”
“Please tell.” The water sprite spoke in a voice as cute as his looks, and he looked anxious to please his Lady.
Flern put on her most serious Disney Princess face and shook her finger. “I mean it now. This is a free choice, and I would not want to see any of my water babies hurt.” She could not help calling them water babies. She thought that the instant she caught sight of that cute little head. “Do you know who the Jaccar are?”
“Dirty muddy creatures,” the sprite answered, with a look meant to say he did not think much of the Jaccar, but which in reality made him look cuter than ever. “Some swam in our good waters in the night.”
Flern nodded. “Well, if any more try to swim the river, you have my permission to stop them and wash them back to their own shore, and if you cannot stop them, you must come tell me right away, before they reach the village shore.”
“Thank you, Sweetwater.” Flern called the sprite by name. She was not sure how she knew the sprite’s name, but if these water babies were indeed part of her responsibility as it appeared, it would only be natural for her to know them all by name. Flern cut off her thoughts in that direction before she did know them all, and all at once. She felt rather certain that such an influx of information would have incapacitated her mind for some time.
“Now Tird?” Flern looked back at Pinn for guidance.
Pinn smiled very broadly. “Now Tird,” she assured her. They started to cross the ford at that point, but found their feet lifted from the water so that it felt like crossing a bridge, an invisible bridge made of water itself, and Flern heard Karenski in the distance as he now yelled at men to get up on those wagons!
Vinnu looked afraid to cross the river at first, but Flern took her hand and helped her. “They are sweet and will never hurt you,” she assured her friend. Vinnu looked like she was not quite sure.
When they got to Venislav’s house, Flern suggested that all of the wounded be brought to the common house to be tended for their wounds. Any number of people were wounded, not just Tird, and even one Jaccar survived the night raid. No one moved, though, until Pinn insisted on it, and then she insisted that the healthy men get out to the front line with the travelers and the young people.
The village elders that helped bring the wounded to the common house stood there, ready to protest that the Jaccar might swim the river again and they needed to protect their families. Borsiloff and Thrud tried to explain, and Pinn eventually took over explaining how Flern had solved that problem. They looked at Flern, and since she was waiting for that moment, she took advantage of it by instantly trading places with Doctor Mishka. Mishka was even an inch taller that the Princess, and her brown hair, a genuine brown, but the most startling thing, for those who noticed, was seeing Flern’s fawn brown eyes turn suddenly blue. The Princess had blue eyes as well, but no one watched that transformation.
“My friends are on that line.” Mishka spoke right up. “You would not want it said that on that day, the children showed more courage than their elders.” That stung a couple of the elders, and the rest wisely held their tongues. “Go, go. Now, go.” Mishka waved them off like she might dismiss a class. “Borsiloff, I need you here in case I need to send word to Karenski. I am Doctor Mishka, from Saint Petersburg. I had the dubious honor of learning my trade in a world war and practicing more than a lifetime in the Second War as well. Just remember, I am no miracle worker. Sometimes people die despite our best efforts, is it not so?” They all nodded, more or less. “Now let us see who we can help.” Mishka called to that same place her armor came from, and a little black bag appeared in her hand. She knew that with some of the equipment and medicine in that bag she tempted time and there might be a danger of changing the future, but she remained a careful person and her things never went far from her hands. Besides, this far in the past, more than likely they would not even recognize what she was doing, and no way they could duplicate her equipment. “Go, go,” she said. “See who you can help.” Elluin, Vinnu, Arania and Borsiloff went to see what they could do, but Pinn and Thrud shadowed the doctor.
When she came to Tird, she saw the terrible gash down his leg. It had been bandaged after a fashion, and it had stopped bleeding, so he appeared in no immediate danger of bleeding to death. Vincas sat right there with him, holding his hand, letting him squeeze her hand every time the throbbing pain in his leg became unbearable. “He saved my life.” She kept saying it over and over.
“Flern,” Thrud answered.
“Mishka,” Pinn corrected her friend.
“Your healer,” Mishka clarified as she removed the bandage and spread an ointment over the whole area which had the effect of anesthetizing the leg in a few seconds. She pulled out a scalpel, a hemostat and a pair of tweezers and shocked everyone by first opening the leg. “We must make sure there is no stone or metal inside to poison him.” Mishka explained. “You should be around in the days of lead bullets and powder burns.” Seeing that the wound was clean and assuming it bled clean, Mishka got out her needle and self-dissolving thread. “A dermal regenerator would be better, but we use what we have,” she said, and sewed up the leg as neatly as sewing a tear in a dress. “You must stay off it for a week,” she instructed. “If you do, it should be good as new.” Then she polished it off with some antiseptic and a clean bandage and told Vincas how to be sure the bandages were always clean. “Boil them. Boil them.”