[Setting: This takes place in a military war camp/hospital of a fantasy world. Rebekka is a volunteer nurse here. She’s resilient, never stopping to give her help and in doing so, long hours without sleep are starting to tell on her. She tends to many of the sick and wounded, but lately had taken a certain liking to a young man by the name of Togian.]
“Togian, you really shouldn’t be walking around. You’re still too badly injured.”
Togian looked away from the window he stared out of, with a sigh, to Rebekka who stood near the doorway. Rebekka couldn’t help noticing how haggard he appeared. He was getting worse. She carried her tray holding Togian’s breakfast over to his cot, placed the tray on the rickety nightstand near it, and helped him sit.
“I keep telling you Becky,” Togian said with a small heave of fatigue. “I don’t need all the help.”
“And I have to keep telling you-”
“Not to call you Becky. I know, but it comes naturally. You’re the only thing that keeps me looking up in this god-forsaken hole.”
Rebekka blushed faintly and her features softened. She turned to the tray to hide it and when she turned back, Togian appeared deep in thought.
“What is it?” she asked.
His dark emerald eyes looked at her, trouble deep within them.
“My family,” he replied. “I’m starting to think about them more than ever now. I hope they’re alright and doing well.” He erupted in a nasty sounding coughing paroxysm, so if he were going to say more, he couldn’t.
“Do they live in the free highlinds?” Rebekka asked. “Here drink this.” She helped him drink the mug of herbal tea.
“Lemomine,” Togian said looking at the cup with a wrinkled brow when he was finished. “How did you-”
“It grows behind the stone wall on the west side of the building,” Rebekka replied cutting him off gently. “Most of it’s gone because of the construction of the new prison-” She stopped her speech because Togian’s sharp look at her. He disliked the war camp’s ever-expanding prison and disagreed with any talk of it.
Rebekka cleared her throat and went on. “There’s only a few plants that are surviving. I water them from time to time to keep them growing…”
“You should give it to someone else.”
“But Togian, why would I-”
“I will die here Beck. One way or another. If disease doesn’t catch me, my hearing will.”
“Well it’s not like I want you to die!”
Togian looked from her clenching his jaw. The room was silent for a while, but occasionally the sounds of construction and the sick coughing would drift in through the walls. Finally, Rebekka broke the silence.
“What were you saying about your family,” she asked. The soft lightweight quality of her voice fitted the cold early morning drifting in through the curtain-less window well. And yet it made her seem all the wearier. Togian’s sigh peppered even more drab to the dismal atmosphere.
“They live on the borders of the highlinds,” he said without looking at her. “They would be safe, but before I had to leave, there was talk of the incoming army spreading it’s range…” He went silent allowing the quiet to creep back in, but then whispered. “I just wish to know how they are.”
“Why don’t you write them?” Rebekka asked and sat on the cot next to him.
Togian glanced at her awkwardly and looked to some other distant point.
“Well you see Becks, uh-um, I, uh-hum, I don’t know how to read… or write.”
“There’s no shame in that Togian. Very few of us are fortunate to learn the finer arts like reading and writing. I’ll help you write your letter to them.”
Togian’s head snapped around to look at her. “You will?” he asked with his eyebrows perked into his hair.
“Yes, I will,” she replied reaching up to brush his bright storm gray hair into place. Togian grabbed her hand at the wrist to stop the action.
“Not the hair. It stays.”
“I do it all the time when you’re asleep and you don’t protest.”
“That’s while I sleep. It has no meaning then.” He places her hand on the top of his other and gently clutches it. “You are so healthy. Your health reminds me of when times were better.” He looks up at her. “Please don’t let it fail. Without you so many of us will fail in our clinging to life.”
Rebekka flushes and looks down at their hands. She places her other on top and pats Togian’s uppermost one.
“I’ll go see if I can find some paper for the letter,” she says and moves away.
[The scene now occurs at night. Rebekka was too busy earlier in the day to retrieve the paper for Togian’s letter as she said she would, so she had to postpone it until everyone’s down time. While Rebekka is on her way to get paper from her quarters, she is caught up in a conversation she overhears in the Leading Officer’s room.]
“The Highlind fool,” the High Officer snarled. “To think he can hide out here in this hospital filled with other worthless vermin like him. I will make sure he squeals in tomorrow’s burning.”
“B-but sir,” a stammer came in next that unmistakably belonged to the Officer’s sniveling underling. “Togian is our best (leading guard) of this front.”
Rebekka gasped stepping back from the door.
“If we prosecute him without a factual cause-”
“I said quiet, Scibyard. Did you hear that…”
Rebekka had only taken two steps back when the large wooden door before her jerked open. Then the burly High Officer was staring down at her. She instantly broke into a sweat.
“Who is it sir?” Scibyard asked sounding further into the room.
“The little piteous half nurse that runs about here.”
“Yes… Rebekka.” The High Officer’s wet black gleamed looking down at her and his crooked smile stretched wider. “Say miss, how about you step inside.” He stepped to the side and waved her to come in. “I would like to talk to you about some of the… patients in these quarters here.”
“I-I rather not sir,” Rebekka replied. The Officer’s smile wiped away clean. “I really didn’t mean to intrude or anything. I was only coming for a few sheets of paper and an envelope. Head Nurse’s request.”
“Amatha, you say. Well, uh-um, Scibyard, you heard the young woman. Get her some paper and an envelope. Make that two.”
Rebekka lowered her head to hide a grin. She knew the High Officer had a thing for Ms. Dew, but she didn’t expect that it was like this. She heard clanging and clinking.
“Hurry up, Yard. How can you not know where you put your envelops?”
Eventually, Scibyard came rushing up, plenty of paper and two envelops in hand. The High Officer snatched them away and looked at Rebekka.
“Here you are Nurse Rebekka,” he said and handed it all over. Rebekka reached and tried to take it, but The High Officer didn’t let go. “And next time,” he leaned just a little closer. “Knock.” Rebekka pulled the papers from his hand, spun on a heel and marched off. When she was out of earshot and eyesight, she ran straight for Togian’s room.
(to be continued…)
To read Rebekka: Prologue (cont.) Click Here.
© 2020 Alison Bankroft