Larale was - conflicted, to say the least. She did not know what people would think or say or do if they discovered she’s helped an elf, but she was a healer, and she couldn’t stand idly by when she could be helping.
Thankfully, the hall was vacant save for those unable to leave after the fight. She dropped to her knees next to the first person she came across, a human man, fingers going under his jaw to check for a pulse. She found none.
The next was an elf. They’d managed to drag themselves to prop up against the wall. She moved to check for a pulse and one of the elf’s hands snatches her own at the wrist.
“It’s okay,” Larale says immediately, placating. “My name is Larale. I’m a healer. I’d like to help you if you’d let me.” She makes no effort to pull her hand away, and raises the other to gesture at her bag of medical supplies. The elf continues to glare at her, so she continues, “I can try to help you as best I can, or I can give you something for your pain, or, if you’d prefer, I can leave you be and move on to the others.”
“...What would you do to me?”
“First, I would apply a tourniquet to your leg, to slow the bleeding. I would give you a cloth to press to your wound. Then, with your permission, I would check your torso and head for other injuries. If I find nothing that requires my immediate attention, I will move on to the others and return to you when I am done.”
The elf eyes her for a long moment, and looks around the hall to the others. “...I sustained no injuries other than my leg. Do what you must and be on your way.”
And so she did.
Most of the humans who had fought were gravely injured or already dead. The others, she took care of and sent to sleep so she could tend to the elves. Of the five she found in and around the King’s chambers, two were already dead and two were seriously injured. Larale managed to stabilize one with relatively little issue, but nearly lost the other. She returns to the first elf, dragging the other two behind her on curtain she’d torn from its hanging. There were no spinal injuries as far as Larale could tell, and she’d prefer to move the elves away from prying human eyes as quickly as possible.
“Can you stand?” Larale asks the first elf when she reaches them. “Here,” she lets go of the curtain so she can bend down to offer the elf an arm to leverage themselves up. They take it reluctantly and stand, but stumble, and Larale casts her eyes around the corridor until she finds what she’s looking for - a tapestry. It takes a couple tries, but Larale manages to tear it down, bringing with it the rod from which it had hung.
“Use this to support your weight,” she holds the rod out to them. “We have to hurry, others could arrive at any moment.”
The pair of them, plus the two Larale was carrying, set off. Neither of them talk until they reach their destination, Larale unlocking the door and ushering her companion in ahead of her. The elf comes to a halt, surveying the room.
“These are my rooms. It was the only place I could think of that was secure and didn’t require stairs, because I doubt you could go down stairs in your condition, and I certainly can’t carry your friends down by myself.” She laid said friends down close to her fireplace, which she stoked. She moved the two carefully off of the curtain and slung it over her shoulder. “Please, feel free to sit or lie down, I’ll be back in a moment.”
A moment turned out to be closer to an hour, since she had to do everything without being seen or heard. Finally, she made it back, carrying the other two elves on the curtain and a pack stuffed with supplies on her back.
“I’m sorry that took so long,” Larale apologized as she went about setting up everything she needed. “Um, I don’t know if elves have burial rights or rituals for their dead, but I wanted to bring them back to you either way. If only so their families can have closure.”
The elf lifted his chin in acknowledgement, but said nothing. They waited until Larale had turned her back, then asked, “We had another among us, did you see her at all?”
“I didn’t, I’m sorry,” she said sincerely. “Hopefully that means she got away safely.” She moved towards them, but stopped a respectful distance away. “I need to suture your leg, is that okay?” The elf nodded.
Neither of them spoke the entire time she worked, even once she’d moved on to the others, except for when she explained what each of her materials were for and what she was doing, which the elf seemed to appreciate. It took Larale all night to get the more severely injured elves fixed up as best she could, and her companion stayed awake the whole time, watching her like a hawk. She didn’t let herself pause for even a moment until she’d finished, cleaned up, and double-checked with the conscious elf that they didn’t need any other assistance, at which point she removed her blood-soaked smock, wiped her hands off on the only clean part of it, and collapsed onto her bed.
Larale woke to dimming sunlight and quiet whispers. Cracking an eye open, she saw that one of the critical elves was awake and talking to the one with the injured leg. That woke her up enough for her to push herself out of bed. The whispers stopped when they noticed she was awake.
“How are you feeling? Both of you,” she asked, moving as she spoke to the pitcher and basin on the far wall. She poured water into the basin, scrubbed her hands clean, dumped that water, and splashed clean water on her face to wake her further. She grabbed a clean smock from her wardrobe and tied it as she walked back over to them. Neither had said anything, and the newly awakened elf - she really needed to learn their names - was watching her with trepidation.
She sank down to her knees next to them. “Hello,” she spoke directly to the new elf, since she’d already introduced herself to the first. “My name is Larale. I’m a healer, and I brought you back here after your battle to help you. You had a rather nasty wound on your torso. I stitched it up, but with your permission I’d like to check it to make sure it’s healing properly.” The two elves exchanged a look, and the first nodded. The second eyed her for a moment longer before nodding their acquiescence and laid back down.
“While I admit I don’t know much about the anatomy and biology of elves, the fact that you’re able to sit up is an incredibly good sign. How is your pain?”
“Tolerable,” they said. Then, “Elves heal faster than humans.”
“Ah,” Larale was pleasantly surprised, “that’s handy.” Neither elf deigned to respond to her.
“May I ask your names, by the way? Because otherwise I’ll have to start calling you by the colors of your clothing.” Conveniently, each elf was wearing a different color - the first in green, the second in blue, and the one still unconscious in purple.
“You may not,” the one in green says.
Larale shrugs. “As you wish, Green.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Larale says, “though I wish it had been on better circumstances.” Having finished examining Siora’s wound and redressing it, Larale sits back. “Barring any complications, I’d wager we could get those stitches out within the week. I’ll keep the bandaging on for the next day or two to prevent infection. I’ll check on your friend here before I take another look at your leg if that’s alright with you, Runaan.”
Runaan nods, and Larale scoots herself over so she’s next to her last patient. She checks the head wound, the pulse, breathing, and uses a mirror to reflect light into his eyes when she opens them.
“Do elves have a common medical procedure for serious head injuries?” Larale asks, keeping her tone calm.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Siora answers.
“Okay, so,” she turns to them, “I held off from doing it last night, primarily because I wasn’t sure the effect it would have on an elf, but I fear your friend’s intracranial pressure is increasing.”
“What does that mean?” Runaan sounds worried, the most emotion she’s heard from him yet.
“The brain is swelling within the skull, or the is bleeding within the skull putting pressure on the brain. It’s not uncommon after head injuries as severe as this one, but the treatment for it isn’t pretty.” She continues before they can ask. “I will need to perform a trepanation. I would have to cut into a remove a piece of the skull. Depending on what the problem is, I may be able to put it back shortly thereafter, but there’s a chance that it won’t be that simple. In that case, your friend would have a hole in their skull about this big,” she makes the approximate size with her hands, “for… a while. I won’t be able to say for how long until I’ve done it. Possibly for the rest of their life, but hopefully only for a few months at most. After that, I would seal it up with either the original bone - if it’s still viable - or another material.”
“That’s barbaric!” Siora spits.
“But it works,” Larale counters. “This operation is quite literally the difference between your friend living a full and healthy life or dying within the week. I’ve performed it before many times, and there are no more risks for this than there are for any other major surgery.”
It’s quiet for a minute. Runaan looks pained when he finally says, “If it will save him, do it.”
“Thank you,” Larale says, relieved. “My tools are downstairs, so I’ll need to run and get them.” She rolls the elf onto his side and positions his arms and legs to keep him stable. “Make sure he stays in this position, otherwise he may choke if he starts to vomit. If he seizes, roll him onto his back and keep his head and neck still. As long as it doesn’t last for more than a couple minutes, he should be fine. I’ll be back shortly.”
She doesn’t make it far before she runs into someone. “Good evening, Lord Viren.” It takes far too much effort to keep her tone and expression pleasant.
“Good evening, Matron,” the man says. “Are you well?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve just forgotten something in my office.”
“Ah, well, far be it from me to keep you. Be cautious, Matron, the elves that attacked us last night are still on the loose.”
“Of course. Thank you, sir.”
She makes it the rest of the way to her office and back without incident. As soon as she closes the door to her rooms, she goes to the basin to scrub her hands clean and asks, “Any changes while I was gone?”
“Good, now get out of my way.”
They do so, and Larale begins her operation. Thankfully, the process was fairly straightforward. His brain wasn’t swelling, but there was a swelling blood vessel putting pressure on the brain. Once that was taken care of, she put the piece of skull back and secured it with two small metal plates screwed into place. After that, it was just a quick stitching up of his scalp and she was done in just four hours.
“I’ll wake him in the morning to see how he’s doing, but that’s it for now,” Larale looks over at the two elves, pleased with herself. “Now, that was two major surgeries I’ve performed in less than twenty-four hours, so I’m going to clean this and myself up, run down to the kitchens to get us something to eat, and go back to bed.”
And that’s exactly what she does. It’s easy to explain away her requests to the kitchen staff, she’s not lying when she says she’s been caring for patients all day and is starved. She brings back up a basket of foodstuffs and a fresh pitcher of water.
“Here. Eat, drink, get some rest, in no particular order.” She demolishes a buttered roll and downs some water, then goes right back to sleep.
The next week was much of the same. Malon - the purple elf, the one who had need trepanning - woke, and showed no signs of infection. The three elves stayed in Larale’s rooms, eventually becoming comfortable enough to poke around and speak unprompted, though none of them went near the bodies of their friends unless it was to refresh the stasis spell. Larale had needed to go back to work, lest her absence raise suspicion, but she brought breakfast and dinner enough for four people back to her rooms with her every night. By the end of the week, Runaan’s leg, Siora’s torso, and Malon’s head had healed enough that Larale brought up her plan to smuggle them out.
“I don’t make supply runs myself very often, but I can say I need to get a rare ingredient on the way that I don’t trust anyone else to get and no one would question it. You all can hide in the covered wagon until we’re far enough away from town, then you’d only need to hide if we came across other travelers. I can get you as far as the Breach that way, but after that you’d be on your own.”
None of them had a better plan, so they worked on fine-tuning Larale’s.
“Are you sure you three will be okay, though? What with the…” she gestured vaguely to her own arm, indicating the dying appendages on the elves. She’d tried to get them off when she’d noticed their arms turning purple, but there was nothing that could be done, according to them. They’d all declined her offer to amputate - “It’s inevitable, but I wanted to offer it before the pain got to be too much” - saying it was their punishment for failing their mission.
“We will be fine,” Runaan says.
Larale frowns at him, but says, “Alright. I’ll pack up the wagon this afternoon, and then bring you all down tonight, when everyone’s asleep. We’ll leave in the morning.”
And they did. It felt almost too easy, but that line of thinking would inevitably jinx them, so Larale put it out of her mind. They made good time thanks to the horses, and were perhaps half a day from the Breach when -
“Callum? Ezran?” She hops down from the seat of the wagon, dashing over to the princes.
“Larale! What are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you,” she says, crossing her arms. Ezran gulps.
“Oh! Uh, we were just-“ Callum starts, “we were just, um, traveling! With our friend here.”
“Yes, of course, just traveling with a strange girl when you should be back at the palace. Just traveling with whatever it is wiggling around in Ezran’s pack?”
“It’s just Bait!”
“Ezran, you’re holding Bait.”
“Boys, I love you both, but you are terrible liars.” Larale notices that their companion has their hands at their sides, wrapped around the handles of what she assumes to be weapons.
“You have to promise not to freak out,” Callum says, apparently realizing there was no other way out of this situation.
“Of course I won’t. What’s happening? Are you both okay?”
“We’re fine, Larale. We’re just… helping a child back to its mother.” Callum lifts the flap of Ezran’s pack and a little blue head pops out. Larale gasps.
“His name is Zym!” Ezran says as the dragon - Zym - climbs up to sit on his shoulder. “We’re helping Rayla take him back to his mom.”
“I- Can you- Can you give me a moment?” Larale starts. She doesn’t wait for an answer before rushing back to her wagon, hopping up to look into the covered back of it. “I think you all are going to want to see this,” she grins. “Trust me.”