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#12549388 Jul 16, 2016 at 05:17 PM
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Jeremaias Auromere could not wash out the stains. His hands were rusty with blood, so much blood, and it wouldn't come out. As he slowly collapsed onto a nearby crate of supplies, pushing his glasses to the top of his head, he could not even have the comfort of covering his face; he could not come any nearer the blood.

So much blood. They had come in, these volunteers, one and two at a time but all of them at the edge of death. They were the ones who simply could not go on, who had nothing left to give for the cause of Stromgarde, the Alliance, their comrades and friends and loved ones. All of them so very brave, deserving of more than he could give them.

And now it was almost dawn of the next day, and he had given all he had as well.

He had been put in charge of this infirmary, but he felt inadequate to the job. Paladins were all supposed to be healers, required to dispense the mercy and blessing of the Light as often as being the manifestation of its judgment, but his path was Tenacity, and his calling was to protect others. So he had been taught, so he had been trained, so he had always believed.

But he must trust. He must trust those in command, that they knew where he was needed, that they had a broader picture of the battle and the war than he was able to have, cooped up here among these patched, vulnerable tents full of suffering. He was needed here, for there were more wounded than the medics were able to attend.

Perhaps this was where Tenacity would serve best, hand-in-hand with Compassion.

The assault on Durnholde Keep had gone badly. They had pushed and pressed and fought, but it had not been enough, not nearly enough. Undercity had sent reinforcements that arrived just as the Keep was breached, and the Alliance was driven back, limping back to the east side of Thoradin's Wall.

And it was from here that they need go no further. Sergeant Grunwald had ordered Auromere and Private Greystone to set up the infirmary and prepare to receive the wounded and dying--and the wounded and dying had begun to arrive before the tent pegs were fully driven down.

Then the second war had begun. It was a war often forgotten by those who need only worry about swords and battle cries and bright banners: a war against time and Death itself. Every broken body that came in was a battlefield, and the enemy must not only be routed, but the body must be fortified against his return. Sometimes, the battle had to be fought twice or more.

Not often, but too often, the battle was lost, and Jeremaias had to surrender the patient, and pray. He could move on once that duty was done, but later...

...Later, the faces of the dead would rise up, and the horrors of pain and fear and the terrible end of life would come to him again, and he would question. Had he done what he should? Was there more? Had he forgotten something? Was it his fault?

No one would ever demand he account for himself--but he must hold himself to account. He must examine, learn, improve, make amends. Every patient deserved the best care, the best chance, and when they came to him, they must receive it.

He must be ready to give it to them.

Channeling the Holy Light was a privilege and an honor, and the feeling of it was greater than any joy or pleasure that the world could offer--but it left one drained, fatigued, as it now did him. He began to slump, and his eyelids grew heavy. It couldn't hurt just to relax for a moment. Just a moment, that was all, surely that would be fine...

"Corporal?"

Jeremaias snapped out of his doze to see the freckled young countenance of Waverly, an orderly with whom Jeremaias had worked frequently over the last month or so. "The blazes," Jeremaias mumbled. "Sorry, Mr. Waverly. I guess I need to sleep."

"I'd recommend you eat first. That's why I brought you this." Waverly held out a packet of jerky, his dark brows contracted in concern.

"Thank you." Jeremaias unwrapped the jerky and took a small bite, chewing mechanically. He was very careful not to let his fingers touch the meat. "Thank the Light I made it this long."

"Praise the Light," Waverly agreed. "It looks like it's going to be quiet for a while."

Jeremaias struggled to come up with something gracious to say, but was unable to manage anything but "Good," before Waverly was called away to duty.

And it was good that it would be quiet; what came with the patients was often more trying than the struggle for life itself. As the patients had come in, they had sometimes been carried or accompanied by friends--friends looking to him, desperate that he restore the patient whole to them. As he'd worked, he had overheard the whispers, the uncertainty, as friend talked to friend. The defeat had been resounding. The battle raged on, even after the assault had ended. The Horde was winning again. The Horde would always win.

And then the Lord-Marshal had turned up, speaking of the Blight, asking if any had come in dying of it, musing that it would only be a matter of time. He was troubled, saddened, worried. Jeremaias had wanted to cheer him with words of confidence and hope, but all his words must be saved for those in his care. He could not repent of fulfilling his duty, but he could regret the lost chance to help a friend.

Until tonight, the atmosphere of the Coalition had been one of hope and optimism. Now, with this one defeat, it had soured. Now, whispers began, the rumors that perhaps this was not a certain victory. Perhaps the Horde was, after all, the unbreakable war machine that must sweep the Alliance off the face of the planet.

Jeremaias could feel nothing at the moment, but he knew he ought to feel offended at the despair. No, there must be no despair. The war was still on, battles left unfought. So long as one sword could lift in defiance of Sylvanas' imperialism, there was hope.

Hope was his business. The infirmary was a place of hope, hope that death could be forestalled, hope that suffering was only temporary and curable.

The thought galvanized him, and he perked up a bit, looking around. Yes, there was blood, and pain, and loss and misery. But every patient who came here, every patient they treated, was another person who believed that life was worth living, and who had shown that they thought this war was worth fighting.

He looked down at his stained hands, and saw them no longer as unclean, but as symbols of hope. He lifted up his eyes, and saw the banner of Stromgarde flying proudly; in the predawn light, its uplifted fist was the same color as his.

Jeremaias took the last bite of his jerky, crumpled the wrapper, and lifted his own fist silently in answer to the banner's call.
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