This short story originally appeared in The Battle of Ebulon, a crossover anthology where characters from different universes gathered to protect the city of Ebulon from a horde of orcs. This was my contribution, where Kate Bockmann from my novella series Disciple offered her services to Ebulon.
The portal of woven kir let me pass, tearing like cobwebs across my arm held before my face. Fresh snow on paving stones crunched under my boot. And the moment my ears reached this new world, this place that had begged for help, the crashing and shouting of battle filled them.
I stood in a small square, at the foot of a snow-covered statue of a knight on a rearing horse, within sight of city walls and a barred gate. The battlements stood above the timber-and-shingle houses, full of men fighting and surging back and forth.
A shadow fell across me; I turned and saw a riveted brigantine over a mail shirt. Shoulders wrapped in bear fur. Above that, a scowling, scarred man in a battered helmet.
“Who else comes?” he demanded, glaring at the green cloud of kir I’d stepped through. It faded now, shedding tiny stars. “Who else! King Yadi begged for aid and you —” The knight gestured at me, half shrugging. “Who are you?”
I gripped the strap of my medicine bag, across my chest, in both hands. That steadied me. “I’m Kate Bockmann.” I straightened as much as I could, but I still didn’t reach his shoulder; he was a huge man. “Saint Qadeem heard your call for help and sent me.”
A second knight, striding across the square from a formation of some hundred, looked puzzled by me, but not so angry. “Vess, what do we have?”
“We have a girl,” Vess answered, stepping aside and presenting me with a sweep of his arm. “Fifty thousand orcs at the gate and they send us a fucking handmaid. One with — what the hell are those?” He pointed at my Blessing ridges, which parted my blonde hair in two lines across the top of my head.
My resolve quavered as the shouting on the walls above drowned in a rising, inhuman howl. No; Qadeem and my teacher had seen fit to trust me with this, as they had the secret mission.
“I’m a Blessed of Saint Qadeem and the student of the Elect, sir, and I’ll aid you however I can. These are my Blessing.” I ran my fingers over the ridges where they pushed up through my scalp. Being so tall, Vess must have a good view of them. “I remember every moment of every day since I received them. All my skill, all my kir, are at your service. We face invasion, as well, and Wodenberg could hardly spare me, let alone — Prince Kiefan, or…”
The howling on the wall broke and men’s voices surged. I glanced up and saw a red banner with gold crowns advancing across the battlements. Who were they fighting, up there? Orcs — what manner of men were those?
“And what do you do, miss?” Vess asked.
“I’m a Physician.”
His brow furrowed in a frown, then he threw up his hands and turned away.
“We begged for aid,” the second knight told him. “King Yadi begged, and you know what that cost him. If her people face war as well, that they sent anyone at all — oh, have a little faith, will you?” His reasoning tone slid toward anger. “We’re all to die under the sword, if we fail, and your hangman’s humor only feeds the men’s fears.”
“Watch your tongue, lieutenant.” The bigger man took a sharp step toward him, pointing.
“Sirs!” My standing there was poor use of my healing skills. They both looked to me, the scarred officer scowling, the lieutenant — well, he looked doubtful, but far kinder. “You must have an infirmary?”