Clayton crossed into the realm and collapsed. He focused on breathing as his heartbeat pounded in his ears. The wounds he sustained had healed, but the adrenaline was still running through his system. He closed his eyes and tried to focus his breathing. Before he could take two breaths, the rest of his pack crossed over.
All bite picked Clayton up by the collar. Inside Clayton chafed at effectively being picked up by the scruff of the neck, but he kept his mouth shut. All Bite looked in Clayton's eyes and said, "Lights the Fuse was hit. We may be followed. Stand guard."
Clayton held his tongue. All Bark would find an excuse in the litany, as he always did. But the mention of Lights the Fuse took any thought from him. His mentor and the only other Iron Rider in the pack was injured. Were it not for everyone else on guard, he would have crossed over to search. But with orders, and it being wartime, it was not his place to challenge.
It was nearly an hour later that Lights the Fuse appeared crumpled on the ground. He cradled his arm and there was large amounts of blood. Clayton noted that Lights the Fuse's leg did not look completely right either. Clayton ran to provide what little aid he knew. He wasn't a doctor, but knew how bad this was. Lights the Fuse's body wasn't healing right.
Time moved on. The pack would go and have whispered conversations with each other. Clayton didn't even bother to join in. He needed to be by his mentor's side. The only person in the pack who knew the trauma that he had gone through and treated Clayton as another human instead of another soldier. For what it was worth, the rest of the pack did not even bother inviting Clayton to their meetings.
Clayton provided what jokes and anecdotes he heard to keep Lights the Fuse's spirits up. Were he human, the wounds would have been fatal. Healing was painfully slow.
Clayton had gone out to fill up a pitcher for Lights the Fuse. While pumping the water, Not A Lady looked to him, "His days fighting the war are over."
Clayton nodded. He wasn't a doctor, but he knew that even if Lights the Fuse healed, there would be long term damage. Still, Clayton knew that at the very least, his mentor would be able to guide him in his new life. At the acknowledgement of this, Not A Lady put an arm on his shoulder and gave him a look he had never seen in her eyes before.
As he tried to figure out the meaning of the look, he heard All Bite's voice, the tone and inflection as he had heard in rituals, though he didn't recognize the words, "...walk beyond sight, and drive this directly through the heart, never to rise again"
Clayton heard someone leave through the back. After a few moments, the movement in the room became more natural. Clayton walked in, his eyes scanned the room and Lights the Fuse was gone. Sensing his confusion, All Bite handed Clayton a note. Lights the Fuse's handwriting was clear.
I guess today it's you standing alone now. But there's things we all have to do eventually. Remember the litany. You helped keep me going so I can be at this point. The pack'll take care of you. It's what it's supposed to do, after all.
Don't cry for me. I'll be in a better place.
Light's the Fuse
Do Not Suffer Thy People to Tend Thy Sickness"
Clayton's blood ran cold as the implication set in. His stomach churned at the ritual he had just heard. At the ritual that just sent his mentor and only friend he had away to die. He looked up and saw All Bite's expression. It was the same as Not A Lady's. He finally understood what it was. For the first time since his First Change, they looked at him with sympathy.
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