ZAUBER: the thread that binds us
Everything hurt. There was a dull, throbbing pain in Paltar’s side, while his shoulders felt as if they were on fire. Quickly, he blinked his tears away and he tried to keep from shaking as much as possible. Nanna shouldn't worry.
"Let's find a safe place for now," he said. "We can look for a way out later."
Nanna's dress was ruined, and seeing it in this state hurt Paltar's heart. The ruffles were torn, and some of the ribbons had been lost in the chase. He would have to make her a new dress as soon as he wasn’t in pain anymore. He slowly followed her as she fluttered down the vine, trying to hold onto the thorns for support. He didn’t look back to the griffin. It didn’t screech out its triumphant words, and that was all that mattered. And yet...
"I wish it could have been different," he muttered.
But they couldn't change fate. If the griffin hadn't attacked them, they might have found a way to go through this differently. But they had no choice. And Paltar didn't think too much about that. Right now, he had to concentrate on Nanna and his own safety. He was just glad that she didn't seem to be too badly hurt. She could still flutter and waddle, but some of her pristine white feathered dress was stained with blood, not unlike the griffon's. Just looking at that made him feel sick. He hadn’t been able to protect her. Not the way he wanted to.
Slowly, his feet finally found the ground again, and he stumbled forward as if he had never walked before. Thankfully, there were more vines around him to support him. Nanna was waiting on the ground, patiently, and looked as if she had something to say.
"Let's hurry," he urged her, before she had the chance to speak.
She glared at him, but otherwise, she stayed silent. For a moment, it looked like she was going to snap back at him, but then she decided to take a different approach.
"Yes, let's," she said instead.
This wasn't good. Maybe she felt worse than she looked and was just holding on for him. Together they ducked under the thorns until they found a canopy-like structure with enough room for both of them. Above them, the sky had changed. While before, it had been a strong, unchanging blue, it was now darker: an intense purple that made everything look more magical than it really was. Paltar blinked. How had he not noticed this change?
"How do you feel?" Nanna whispered.
"I'm fine," he said and leaned forward, "let me see your wounds."
"No buts." He shook his head. "I know it's embarrassing, but could I take off what's left of your dress?"
"Ah..." Quickly, Nanna looked up.
He followed her gaze. In the still cloudless sky, there was the faint glimmer of a moon, hanging golden in the sky. It looked magical.
"Actually... yes. Then I'll just hide in the original dress," she said hastily.
Paltar didn't understand.
"Aren't you afraid you'll stain it? Besides, it's too big for you…"
"It's my choice," she snapped back. "And you just have to make sure that I'm bandaged properly, right? Besides, it's not like I'm that hurt..."
Where were his priorities? She was injured! Quickly, he took off the dress while Nanna tried to help him with that as best she could. Then he grabbed the original dress from his bag, draping it onto the ground, as much as it pained him to do so. It would get dirty, and the color might even get stained. But right now, he only wanted Nanna to be comfortable. He smiled, and watched as she made herself comfortable on the big dress, resting on it like a cat in its favorite box. He gave her a quick smile.
"Okay, let me see your wounds..."
His arms were still shaking, but he didn't let that stop him. Instead, he looked at her quickly. Luck must have been on her side. Somehow, Nanna had managed to get only a few scratches and could move without pain, as she loudly announced.
“Now, stop that,” she snapped at him. “I feel good!”
"Great," he said.
For a moment, he turned to his side, and slowly rummaged through his bag. Now that the dress was gone from it, it felt surprisingly empty. Next to the last crushed Dewberries were the empty bags from the inn. Back then, they really had it good, and for a moment, he allowed himself to think back to that time. It had been so peaceful. And now… His hands searched further, and finally, his fingertips touched the cold metal of his scissors. Another sacrifice to be made. Then he pulled his arm pieces out of his tunic, and cut them into long strips that he used as bandages for her.
"Good as new," he smiled at her.
"Great, great," she said impatiently, "Now let me have a look at you!"
He smiled at her, and shook his head. He didn’t need to trouble her any further. It wasn’t that bad, after all. The pain had dulled. And yet, now that she had mentioned it, he felt a strange lack of energy.
"Ah... It's nothing, really..." He let out a hiss as he collapsed to the floor. "I'll just rest for a bit."
She called out to him, but it was difficult to follow her words. It was as if he was dreaming already, even though he didn’t feel sleepy. His eyelids were too heavy, and his mouth simply wouldn't move to answer her. Instead, he tried to lie down in a position that would hurt the least.
‘Just a few minutes of rest...' he thought.
Her voice was the last thing to echo in his mind. Once, in the darkness, he blinked and was sure he saw the form of an angel. Was he really that close to dying?