Chapter Twenty-Seven – continued
“Hush, Camille,” Abigail said softly as Camille released her. “Come, I’ll help you get settled.”
“You’re not in the kitchens?” Camille asked in a hushed voice as Abigail led her to a makeshift bed, something of a low hammock strung between two horizontal bars held up by two more vertical bars.
Abigail shook her head. “Not this morning.” She looked around at the room where three men and two women lay, pale as death and barely breathing with spots and splotches of deep red staining the white linens covering them. “These people need my care.”
“Who are they?” Camille whispered as she watched her sister settle down beside the man Abigail had led her to.
Abigail took the man’s hand before she replied. “The dying. None of them will see the sunset, much less the next few hours. No one wants to be in this room, to send these noble men and women off into the afterlife. So I come here. When they call for me, I am here for these people, the brave soldiers fighting against the sea witch.”
Camille knelt down beside her sister and touched her shoulder. “In a way, I’m glad James ran away so Adrian could become heir because he will make you the Queen we will need.”
Abigail dipped her head, but Camille caught the blush she was trying to hide.
“What do I do, Gail?” she asked softly.
“Sit with them,” Abigail responded in a whisper. “Hold their hand. Maybe say a few words. They’re all too far gone to hear, but I like to think some words of comfort helps them.”
Camille nodded and pushed herself up to go to the woman in the next makeshift bed. She stole a look at her sister, who hadn’t moved, and knelt down to take the woman’s hand.
She studied the pale woman. She was young, probably not much older than Camille. Her blond hair was tangled beneath her head and her eyes were closed. A while cloth was pulled up to her chin, but she was so still Camille fought the urge to pull it over her face in deference to the dead. Her chest barely moved, taking a breath after only several seconds of stillness. Blood had seeped out of a wound in her side, the darkened splotch of such a size Camille’s mind refused to consider what had happened to her and how much blood she’d lost.
She squeezed the woman’s hand, but there wasn’t even a twitch in response.
A movement from across the way drew her attention. She watched as Abigail bowed her head for several moments before she pulled the cloth over the man’s face and moved away to another bedside.
Camille’s eyes raced back to the woman before her, her heart pounding as she watched carefully for her chest to rise. She counted the seconds between each rise and fall, hardly paying attention as Abigail pulled the cloth over another face.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Rise.
Camille squeezed the woman’s hand as her chest rose, though the breath seemed almost too short.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Rise.
“May the God of Time watch over you,” she found herself whispering, just as she had whispered when her mother had laid dying. Her grip on the woman’s hand was probably bone crushing, but neither noticed.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen.
“Camille,” Abigail said softly as she placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder.
Camille blinked, only then realizing she was silently crying as a hot tear fell down her cheek. She watched, helpless, as Abigail pulled the cloth over the woman’s face.
“You do this every day?” Camille whispered, staring at the still form.
“Not every day, but, lately, most days.”
“It’s my duty and honor,” Abigail said quietly.
Several more hot tears streaked down her face before she allowed herself to wipe them away. Her legs were unsteady as she rose to look around. There was one man left uncovered, his breath rattling in his chest.
Abigail gently touched her arm. “Go find Lacile. She’s the one who brought you here. She’ll give you something else to do.”
Mutely, Camille nodded and left the room, her legs feeling wooden, the soothing lull of Abigail’s soft voice to the last remaining soldier wafting after her.
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