The whole brigade turned into madmen. They all knew what their captain had done for them. And in light of his injuries, they were willing to die if it meant Kurdak could be healed.
Alas, that was out of the question, so instead they contented themselves with massacring every non-friend they could get their hands or feet, or teeth, on.
Vera didn't share their enthusiasm for the massacre. The battle had lost all meaning to her. Even as her body fought, her eyes remained glued on her man. The blackened body lay, motionless save for the slight twitch of an occasional shallow breath, on a small tarp someone had prepared for him.
"You idiot!" she cursed, tears staining her entire face.
The bastard was an idiot. He didn't have any brains! He and Leguna, the little brat, were all the same. They stopped thinking the moment other people were involved. It was all fine and good to want to protect others, but there was no point in dying in the process! Damn idiots, both of them!
Several medics charged over to take a look at him. Surprisingly, when they peeled off the black crust around most of his body, they found he was largely intact. He was badly burnt, but it hadn't gone much deeper than his skin, and much of that already showed signs of scabbing.
His chest was the greatest concern, but even there, although his ribs were visible, it too was fundamentally just a flesh wound. Kurdak was still young, despite all appearances, his men had learnt, and if he survived long enough, he would most likely make his recovery.
The burn on his chest wasn't in as good a state as the rest of his body, however. The black crust wouldn't come away as easily, and where it did, blood poured out freely. The man had tough skin, half the reason he looked so much older than he said he was, and that had saved the rest of his body from the worst of the flames. His chest, however, did not have skin when it was hit. The fire burnt his flesh directly and burnt it badly.
Luckily, the bones had only been properly exposed as a result of the fire, not before it. The flesh that was now charcoal had protected it from the worst of the fire like his skin had done for his flesh everywhere else. If the bone had been directly exposed, it would have been killed by the fire and his ribs would have been beyond saving. As things were, they were still alive, and, properly treated, could be saved.
They did their best to stabilize him and sent for a priestess. When Vera pulled her body away from the fight and came over, they kept her from rushing to her man. She would probably only worsen his wounds as she clutched him, and she was very dirty and covered in sweat and blood, if any of it got into his wounds, they might just lose him yet.
She didn't see it that way, however, and several guards had to physically restrain her to keep her from shoving the medics aside and rushing to her man, regardless. So she sat there, two strange men's arms clasped tightly around her own, staring lifelessly at her man. She sat like that for nearly half an hour, and just as she was about to get up and go looking for the priestess, the tent flap was pushed aside next to her and a young woman walked in.
The woman was in her late twenties, probably about a year or so older than Kurdak. She had an almond face and a short head of golden hair.
"Are you Miss. Vera?" the woman asked in a very business manner, "General Manhattan sent me to check on Commander Kurdak. You can call me Lamir."
"Nice to meet you, Miss. Lamir," Vera murmured absentmindedly, her eyes still glued to Kurdak, "That's him," she said, motioning with her head as her arms were still clasped by the two men.
Her eyes, red and swollen by now, darted to the woman for a moment.
"Please save him," she whispered, her voice cracking as tears burned their way down her cheeks again.
"Don't worry," Lamir smiled confidently, exerting her 15 strata slightly.
She might not be able to bring someone back from death, nor could she claim the power to heal someone completely from the brink of it, but she could stop anyone not-yet-dead the gods had not already decided would die that day from dying.
She strolled over to Kurdak quickly, but unrushed. Most of the crust had been cleaned off him by now and the medics were busy applying ointment and bandages everywhere they could. His chest remained black, however, as they didn't dare touch the charcoal that kept him from bleeding out.
Lamir's eyes narrowed. His naked body didn't bother her, it was far from being in a state that could be called 'tempting', anyway. She was taken aback by the forest of scars she could see on his body even through his current wounds. A quick count of the parts of his body she could see through the bandages put his scars at at least a hundred, and she did not doubt at least twice that again was hidden under his bandages or on the parts of him she couldn't see.
Hadn't his forces only been in the war for a few months? No man could take that kind of a beating in such a short time and still be alive. He wasn't the most scarred man she'd ever seen, but the thought that most, if not all, of those wounds had been incurred in the last six months broke her head for a moment.
She knelt beside him for a few more moments, quietly inspecting his chest wound, checking his breathing, and got to work.
Lamir wiped the sweat off her forehead two hours later and stood up. She smiled at Vera deliberately.
"He's stable. I can't speak to how he'll recover, but, barring some major complication, he won't go and die on us in the middle of the night."
"Thank you, Miss. Lamir," Vera mumbled through a dry mouth and a wet face.
Kurdak was unconscious, but it was a fitful unconscious, not the sweet oblivion so many war novels described. That said, his face -- Vera could call it a face again at last -- showed less pain than she'd felt from him when the woman had just started her work. And Vera was eternally grateful to the woman if only for that small mercy.
News came to them shortly after that the brigade had taken the second line of defenses. Eibron had taken command in Kurdak and Vera's absence and the men, turned to beasts by their commanders state, had driven themselves to near collapse taking as much ground -- and killing as many enemies -- as they could. Eibron lacked the same leadership Kurdak had, but the men had more than made up for it with their sheer bloodlust.
All Eibron really had to do was rile his boys up from time to time with a good war cry.
Londo caught the officer who'd injured Kurdak, which was surprising. His personality inclined him more towards tearing the man to pieces than capturing him alive, but luckily Eibron stopped him before he did too much damage.
General Manhattan deployed his reserves to relieve the unit as soon as the second line was breached.
With its fall, and secure occupation by the reserves, the enemy's frontlines were irrecoverably breached, and they were forced to fall back all along the front. While this kept them from being outflanked, it meant they now had to occupy unfortified ground beneath their former frontline positions. As a result they had to pull back the reinforcements they'd deployed west to shore up their own lines here in the east.
Kurdak, saddled with the label 'reckless' in the general and most others' minds, now gained the qualifier 'but effective'. His reckless label was reinforced even further when the general came for a visit and saw his sorry state.
The visit, however, despite the damage it did to the general's view of his recklessness, did win him a couple more visits from Lamir. The general didn't want his subordinate to die on him before he could reprimand him for his recklessness, and praise him for his effectiveness, after all.
"Hahahahaha!" Lamir's crisp laughed burst out of her tent, "I thought the bureau's new overseer would be a cold and calculative man. Why do you make it sound like he's just an immature fool barely more than a boy? He actually dared to do something like that to Miss. Annie?"
"Haha! That's what the kid's really like. He strong, yes, but he's more of a scatterbrain than anything else," Kurdak half-coughed a laugh.
He was coming along well with his recovery and had gotten quite close to Lamir. She was slightly older than him, but she behaved like she was still just in her early teens. If nothing else, she didn't mind Kurdak acting his usual, uncouth self.
She quite liked talking about just about anything, and most of all, she lapped up any gossip she could find about Dark Requiem.
He'd become quite the hot topic lately. Even she, who barely spent more than a week at a time in any one place, still heard about him wherever she went. He'd had the bureau in his iron clutches since taking over a few months earlier. Despite that, he'd also found the time to take care of a few sensitive… 'eliminations' personally. His sword was rumored to have tasted at least three Stokian generals' blood by now, and no one knew how many more he'd killed that hadn't been announced yet.
He was famous now and was often mentioned in the same breath as Alissanda. A few had even taken to comparing the two. The comparisons were quite popular especially once it got out that he and the second prince were on pretty good terms, a few murmured they could even be called 'friends'. The two made for quite the pair, one being the empire's shining light, and the other its deepest shadow.
Alissanda always came out on top in every comparison, but the margins were shrinking rapidly.
Kurdak, the little brat's 'boss', couldn't be prouder of his minion's achievements. That said, he couldn't let the little rascal outshine him too much, at least not among his close friends and acquaintances, so he made sure to tell people like Lamir a few of the boy's more… humbling stories.
He didn't go too far, of course, and made sure he didn't tell them anything that might reveal something unsavory about the boy.
"Time for lunch, Major. Should I bring it here of will you get it yourself?" Vera asked sourly.
She was grateful to Lamir for fixing her man, but Kurdak was just that, her man, so she didn't like it when he got along with another woman that well.
"I'll get it myself, thanks," Kurdak said quickly, smiling apologetically to Lamir.
"Also," Vera continued, her tone gentling slightly, "General Manhattan wishes to meet with you."
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