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The first thing the warrior noticed was the smell of sage. She lay there, breathing in the comfort of the smell as the fog slowly receded. She moved her head from side to side slowly, scrubbing her forehead on the pillow beneath. She pushed her shoulders upward and was rewarded with a sharp stab of pain. Opening her eyes to a dimly lit space, she turned her head fully. A cool hand touched her face softly, and a familiar melodic voice spoke, "You are home, Tem. You made it."

The hand withdrew, and a face swam into the warrior's line of sight. Squinting, she tried again to raise herself. The cool hand touched her shoulder, preventing her from rising. "No. Stay there for now. Just focus slowly. You've been asleep for a long time. Give yourself a moment to adjust. Your shoulder is healing, but you should not move it much yet."

"Brigit." She croaked, recognizing the woman. "Fuzzy. Dry." The warrior's throat seemed as dry as the sands in winter. The hands moved, and a straw poked up toward the warrior's lips. She sipped the water gratefully.

"Not too much, now." she instructed. "Do you know where you are?"

"Home." The warrior said. Unbidden tears sprung to her eyes, and her heart contracted painfully. She pushed away the knowledge that held so much pain, not yet ready to feel. "How bad is my arm?" she asked.

"Bad, but healing. You should be able to draw a bow again before midsummer." The healer answered, tactfully ignoring the tears. "We had to leave the wound open for a few days to ensure drainage of the infection. But that has passed, and the bindings are holding."

"Can I turn over?" Tem asked.

"You can turn to your side for now, and sit up in a few minutes as soon as your head clears. But when you sleep I want you on your stomach so you don't rub it too much and pull it open again." Brigit helped the woman roll over and prop herself on her other elbow.

Eyes fully focused now, Tem could see the dim interior of the healer's hut. Brigit offered another sip of water. Tem took it, nodding gratefully. "How long have I been unconscious?" she asked.

"The scouts found you the evening of the Dark moon. She is almost round now. You would have awakened sooner, but I wanted you to sleep to help the wounds heal." The cool hands touched the warrior's forehead again. "Your temperature seems normal now. Are you dizzy or fuzzy in your head?"

"Not now. That has passed."

"Then I think you can sit up for a little while." Brigit helped the big warrior to a sitting position slowly. The warrior inspected her body, slowly moving her neck and shoulders. The wound was most painful at the edge of her shoulder blade, though there were bandages that wrapped around her chest and upper arm as well. "The spear that wounded you missed your lungs by the span of two fingers. That was lucky. But the tip seemed to have been barbed and dipped in something foul. The wound was badly infected, and you were feverish when we found you. It's a wonder you made so far. How do you feel?"

"There is pain along the shoulder blade in back, and under the bandage on the front is itchy." Tem told her "But my head seems clear now."

"Good." Brigit took the hand on the injured side and cradled it in her own. "Can you move your hand?"

Tem slowly moved the fingers and rotated the wrist. "It hurts up in my shoulder when I turn the wrist this way." She demonstrated.

"That's ok. So long as you can move them, the rest will come. I have a putty ball that I will ask you to squeeze with this hand as exercise. That will help you strengthen the wrist after so long not using it." She paused until Tem looked up into her eyes. She held the gaze for a moment. "When you are ready to tell me what happened, I want to know."

The warrior's throat closed in a physical reaction to the searing pain that flared up within. Her gaze dropped from the concerned green eyes of the healer and onto her own lap. "Not yet, Brigit." She croaked.

The cool hand squeezed her forearm comfortingly. "OK, Tem. I understand." Brigit's heart contracted in pain for the big warrior. Whatever had happened to her must have been shattering. Perhaps one day Tem would open up to her and explain. In the meantime, she would see to her physical healing. "The Hearth Queen will want to see you. Are you ready for that?"

"I think so." Tem nodded.

Brigit stood and stepped outside the hut for a moment, leaving Tem alone. She stared at her hands, flexing the fingers this way and that, trying not to give in to the memories. Hearing a rustling, she looked up to see the fiery mane of the Hearth Queen ducking through the doorway. She pulled a stool over and sat down, looking Tem over.

"You lived." She smiled.

"Did you have a doubt?" Tem smirked.

"None. But you did." She told her. "You were fevered, and babbling about Dawg bringing you home so you wouldn't die." The warrior glanced toward the doorway. "Yes, that damn animal is out there. She would have been in here, sleeping on you if Brigit would allow it. As it is, she's been lying there, outside the door since you got here. Bean finally got it to eat something the other day."

Tem whistled softly and the little brown nose appeared in the doorway. The tail wagged so hard it wiggled the entire dog. She put her front feet up on Tem's lap and licked whatever she could reach while Tem scratched her ears. The warrior bent to touch foreheads with the animal.

"Out." Brigit's voice commanded from the doorway. "Now you have seen her. She is alive. Now get out." The dawg hesitated for a moment, and then shuffled out the door. The healer cast a stern look at the Hearth Queen "You know better," she chided, pointing her finger.

"Oh, Brig." Tem said "It was just for a minute. Dawg was worried."

Brigit sighed. "You and that damn dog. Some things never change." She turned to her worktable.

"See that? You're misbehaving. That tells me you are healing." The Hearth Queen teased.

"All that tells you is that she is still breathing." Brigit's voice interjected from the other side of the room.

Tem smirked again. "It's good to be home."

"So..." the Hearth Queen began. Tem steeled herself emotionally. That word always preceded a serious topic. "I sent Bean with two other scouts to follow your trail backward to make sure you weren't followed. They seem to think that there is no danger to us for now."

Tem nodded, swallowing hard. That meant that they had seen what had happened to her home and reported what they had seen. Tem knew they would have found the burned out remnants of the buildings and the animals. And the graves. Tears pricked her eyelids and she shut them tightly against the hot embers of knowledge. She took in a long deep breath and looked up again. The gaze of the Hearth Queen was kind, but not penetrating. Tem knew that she would not ask for details, and was grateful for the intrinsic understanding. "What now?" she asked briskly.

"A few more days with Brigit, and then you will be assigned to the weapons maker for awhile until you are healed." The Hearth Queen told her. She looked over at Brigit, "is she ready to eat at the main Hearth tonight?"

"Not yet." The healer said. "Tomorrow, probably. For today, she should rest."

"What about Bean?" the Hearth Queen asked, referring to Tem's oldest friend.

"She can visit later today for a few minutes. I know she has been anxious to see her. But we have tired her out. She needs sleep now." The healer approached Tem with a mug of something and handed it to her as she spoke. "Drink."

Tem took the mug and sipped, knowing it was a sleeping draught. "Bossy." She murmured.

The healer patted her good shoulder reassuringly, and smiled knowingly at the Hearth Queen.

"I will speak with you again tomorrow, Tem." She said, rising from the stool and turning to go. "Behave yourself and do as you are told."

"Like I have a choice." Tem snorted. She rolled gingerly over, nuzzling her forehead into the pillow and slept.

Sometime later, Tem felt a strong presence take hold of and cradle her. She turned toward the comfort and rested her head. A deep, soft voice whispered ëSleep, Tem. I'll take the watch.' And she slept on.

When she came again to consciousness, Bean was sitting on the stool next to the bed, whittling at a piece of wood. She did not speak as Tem slowly sat up, taking a moment for the fog in her head to clear. She simply kept whittling.

"You got dawg to eat?" Tem looked up into the angular face.

Bean made a rude sound. "I had to go and fish for her. She didn't want the smoked fish that She kept trying to give her."

"SHE tried to feed dawg?" Tem smirked.

"She doesn't know I saw her. So, you're to make weapons for awhile till your shoulder heals."

"That's what She said. I guess it's as good as anything. If I can't go out, I can sit by the fires and listen to stories while I work."

"You want to go there today?" Bean's look penetrated to pain.

Eyes welling, Tem shook her head. Bean waited patiently. "You saw?" she peeked up into the concerned green eyes.

Bean moved over to the bed, pulling the big warrior to her shoulder. "I saw."

And the Warrior cried.