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The air seemed heavy; the smell of blood mingled with mud and the smoke of the fires that had sprung up here and there. Around the fires huddled the injured, whilst the more able desperately searched for enough clean cloth to bandage their wounds.

Already, carrion birds were circling above, and greedy, needy people gathered  with the same look in their eyes. They waited for one to make a move, and when the first stepped forward, or flew down, the rest would follow and the bones of the dead would quickly be picked clean.

“The Duke wants us to regroup by dawn.” Judith sat down heavily next to one of the fires, her armour dented and battered.

Rayner squinted up at her through the blood running down from his forehead and said nothing. She pulled her helmet off with one hand, and with the other pulled her hair forward to cover the scarred half of her face. He smiled slightly; it was such a familiar gesture that it gave him some comfort.

She folded a rag to its cleanest side, poured a little water onto it from a skin, and leaned over to dab at the wound on his head.

“You’re going to be almost as pretty as me if you keep letting them hit you like that,” she said. “But it isn’t too serious. You’ll live to fight another day.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

She laughed. “Too bad,” she said. “You’re not wounded enough to be sent home, and the Duke doesn’t dismiss soldiers for much else.”

He reached up and took her hand, covering it with both of his.

“There is one other thing he’ll allow a man to leave the army for,” he said, looking her straight in the eye.

She stared at him, then blinked slowly. “You- you can’t be serious,” she said. “Why would you- I mean- me?”

He smiled. “You’re the most beautiful woman in my world, Judith,” he said. “And where else but a battlefield would I find a wife who understands me?”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Bit of a random vignette this week. And in just before it stops being Friday!)

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