(Leon and DoraRose had had a set of twins, a boy and a girl, and had named the boy Caleb, and the girl LilyMoore after Dora's sister who had been murdered. Angela, Dora's grandmother, had found her way to the Abbey a few years prior to this chapter. Angela is a Healer, and very good at her craft. This story happened in November 25th, 2017.)
The breeze whistled through the trees of Mossflower, ruffling DoraRose's mottled brown-green-grey cloak.
The Warrior's brow furrows over her sky-blue eyes as she shifts her grip on her war hammer. Her husband has been missing for a few weeks now, and she is understandably concerned. Usually when he has to be away for longer than he promised originally, like when he has to help someone in an emergency, he sends her a note letting her know what's going on so she doesn't worry. But the times he doesn't get a note to her...either he thinks she's dead, or he's been kidnapped.
She scans the woodlands around her. She fears the worst, and her worry shows on her face.
Tugging her mottled cloak around herself better, she trudges on, her feet in her black boots crunching the leaves with every step she takes. Her bastard sword in its sheath bumps against her left hip, and the messenger bag she brought bumps against her right one. She figures that he'll probably need medical attention, and while she is a Warrior and not a Healer, she does know enough battlefield medicine to be able to patch a beast up enough that they can make it until they can get to expert medical help. She touches the bandages and packets of herbs that are in the bag to reassure herself. She's prepared. She'll be able to help him.
Her head jerks around so she's looking to her right as a crashing sound can be heard from that direction. Deciding to investigate, she quietly walks over to the source of the noise. The first thing she sees is a dead and bloodied raven laying in a pile of leaves, and then...
"Leon!" DoraRose runs over to him and kneels at his side. Setting her hammer on the ground next to her, she helps him turn over onto his back. "Oh, Leon..." she is horrified as she sees the brutal talon marks on his body, the blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth. She slips the messenger bag off of her shoulder and opens it, but just as she pulls out a packet of herbs, Leon weakly stretches out a paw. "No...save...save those for...for someone...else."
Grabbing his paw, Dora glares at him. "What? No, just stop! This is no time for you to be the hero! Let me take care of you!" But when the Master Healer shakes his head, trying to say something else and only coughing up more blood, the Warrior realizes that it's too late, there's nothing else that anyone can do.
Shoving both bag and hammer away from her, DoraRose gathers her husband onto her lap, cradling his torso in her arms, his cheek resting against her chest. Leon reaches up and touches her on the cheek with his paw, his stump resting on his lap. "I...I love you."
Dora hiccups slightly, struggling to not cry. "I love you so much, Leon. Please..." A tear leaks out of her eye, trickling onto his paw. He just smiles faintly. "Promise...promise me...that...that you'll live for...for LilyMoore and...and for Caleb...and for...and for me." The Warrior can't stop the tears now. Grabbing his paw, she holds it against her cheek, clutching it in her right paw as her left arm supports him. "I...I promise."
Leon's smile widens, and he adds, "Ang...Angela would...would make a good...a good Master Healer, I...I think." He blinks with painful slowness. "I...I'd choose h...her."
Before he can say anything else, though, DoraRose moves his paw to over her heart, leans down, and kisses him long and full on the lips. When she pulls away, she sees a tear trickle from the corner of each of his eyes. A teardrop drips off of her nose onto his cheek. "I adore you," she whispers. "You're my best friend."
Leon smiles and whispers, "I love you..." his voice trails off as his eyelids flutter shut, and he slips into a Deep Faint.
DoraRose lets his paw go and cradles him with both arms, refusing to leave her comatose husband's side. She doesn't notice the cold, doesn't notice his blood soaking into her leggings and tunic (they're black, so it won't really show up, anyway), doesn't notice anything other than his ragged breaths.
She counts as more tears trickle down her cheeks.
After 32 breaths, Leon gives a little sigh and goes completely limp in her arms, still, breathless. Dora gives out a little sob as she feels her soul rip in half. She checks for a pulse even though everything in her whole being is saying that he's gone. And it's true: The Master Healer of Redwall is dead.
A sob escapes from her, and then another. Hugging his body close, she wails, "No, Leon! I don't want you to go, come back, please..." then her sorrow overtakes her, and she weeps, crying out to the woodlands. So enwrapped in her brokenhearted sorrow is she that she doesn't even notice Patch the rat find them, then just as quietly walk away, leaving her in peace. Nor does she notice Riana the golden eagle flying overhead, swooping down for a closer look, then silently flying away. DoraRose is oblivious to everything except the great loss of her greatest friend.
Eventually all her tears are spent, and then she just sits there holding his body, her face buried in his shoulder. After a little while of that, she pulls back, wiping her tear-stained cheeks on her shoulders. Sniffling, she gently lays his body on the ground and stands. Setting her hammer and messenger bag beside him, she walks over to the body of the raven.
Eclipse. Yet another in a long line of lunatics who have tried to take over Mossflower. Finally dead.
Observing the bird's bloody breast, the Warrior kneels down and examines the corpse. Seeing the glint of something metal, she reaches in with just her right paw and grabs something. But that thing is stuck, so, while pulling on the thing, she holds the body down with her foot. After a little bit of fighting, she finally removes...Leon's scalpel.
Sitting back, the mouse stares at the surgical instrument. Leon is...was a member of the Order of Redwall, sworn to peace, refusing to intentionally harm another living creature. Unless it's a fish or shrimp and one needs food. Or if one needs to protect oneself or the life of another person.
Leon would never have broken his vow unless he had a good reason. Eclipse had probably been keeping the Master Healer captive these past few weeks, and just now been about to kill him. She may have even been threatening to go after others...perhaps even DoraRose herself.
Despite her grief, the Warrior can't help but give a small smile, be it slightly grim.
Clutching the bloody scalpel in her paw, the mouse stands and turns her back on the dead bird. Its body can rot out here in the middle of the woods; it doesn't deserve a decent burial.
Walking back over to her late husband, she kneels beside him again. With her clean paw, she pulls a canteen of water out of her bag and, by bracing the canteen itself between her knees and twisting off the cap with her paw, opens it. Pouring water over her paw and the scalpel, she gets most of the blood off. She watches as the water rinses the blood onto the leaves at her side, then, reversing her previous procedure, closes the canteen and puts it back in her bag. Wrapping the scalpel in a bandage, she tucks it into a patch pocket on her tunic.
Leaning down, the Warrior whispers into her husband's ear, "You must've been so brave, my Darling; I...I'm so proud of you." Swallowing, she rubs her eye to try and not cry. And here she had been, thinking that all of her tears had been spent.
Swallowing again, she sits back up and digs a rope out of her haversack. After wrapping it around her hammer a few times, she lays down on the whole ensemble and starts wrapping the rope around her body and torso so as to tie the hammer onto her back. She usually has help, but she is capable of doing it on her own, it's just awkward and takes a little longer. But after a few minutes, she succeeds and kneels again. After slinging her bag over her shoulder, she carefully picks up Leon's body. When she stands, she grimaces a little. She's middle aged, and she's starting to feel it at times. This is about her weight limit to carry.
She starts walking. Redwall isn't too far away, and she knows she can physically make it. But emotionally? Now that's another story, and with every step she takes, she can feel her heart, her soul, her very being, sink deeper and deeper into a dark pit that is full of sorrow.
This is the hardest thing she has ever had to do...