[[Spoilers: For the anime.
Set: A few weeks after Lindel and Elias escape from the villagers.
Warnings: Contains mild descriptions of injuries and animal violence.]]
Since Lindel had gained a travelling acquaintance (not an apprentice as Rahab liked to believe), he had been able to rest at night without worrying about the wolves. He and Elias would take turns on watch while the other slept.
Often, Elias would take the longer shifts, leaving Lindel in his bed. "You need time to recover," had been Elias's excuse after the villagers attacked them. Two weeks later, Lindel's face had healed without so much as a scar, but Elias continued to coddle him.
Lindel had drawn a line at Elias feeding him soup. He refused to eat anything Elias cooked— no matter how guilty Elias felt or if he was trying to fatten Lindel up.
If Elias wanted to devour him he would have done so already… Right?
Hoofbeats, snarling, and something bounded past the tent. Lindel bolted up in bed. The tent flap was billowing in the icy wind. He pulled on his cloak and poked his head outside, calling, "Elias?"
The fire had burned out. Elias was nowhere to be seen. Lindel grabbed his staff and a lantern. He emerged from the tent and called for Elias again. He shouldn't raise his voice when there were wolves about…
Had Elias chased off a wolf? Lindel searched the snow. Elias never left tracks, but wolves did. Spotting paw prints, Lindel crouched in the snow. The wolves weren't being chased. They were doing the chasing. Beneath the paw prints, there were hoof prints flecked with blood. Lindel recognized them instantly. "Reindeer," he exclaimed. "Elias!"
Quickly, he followed the tracks into the forest they were camped next to. The blood stains had thickened on the snow. They couldn't be far—
He heard grunts and growls. He saw a mass of black thorns and glowing red eyes.
The wolves— six, Lindel counted— had cornered the reindeer against a tree. They had ripped one of its legs away, reducing its chance to flee or use its ice powers.
Elias currently had the wolves' attention. Their teeth were barred at the apparition of death.
One leapt at Elias. He sent it flying into a tree. The wolf went out with a whimper. It lay still.
"Stop, Elias!" Arms raised, Lindel threw himself between the wolves and Elias. He would rather have his back to the wolves.
"See to the reindeer," Elias rumbled, shoving him towards the fallen creature.
Lindel dodged a thorny tendril. "While you kill the wolves?"
Behind him, the wolves snarled. Lindel willed them to be silent.
Elias's form grew, looming over Lindel's head. This was the tallest that Lindel had ever seen him. He opened his dripping maw and boomed, "HEAL THE REINDEER."
Lindel stood his ground. "I can't concentrate if you're fighting the wolves," he said calmly. "I'll worry to much. Let them go and we can help the reindeer together."
The forest shook as Elias roared. Sweat coated Lindel's forehead, despite the cold. There were yelps from the wolves. Lindel turned. They had retreated with their tails between their legs. Elias didn't pursue them, thankfully.
He shrank to his usual size and rushed to the reindeer. Lindel followed. The reindeer hadn't moved but its breathing sounded weaker.
Elias and Lindel knelt at its— her, Lindel realized– side. Blood was gushing from her missing leg. Lindel winced and placed his hand on the wound. Poor thing...
"Hurry, heal her," Elias said in the tone of a child imploring Lindel to heal their sick sibling. Too many times, Lindel had to tell them there was no hope. His magic could only do so much. Mortal lives were unbelievably delicate.
"I've never regrown limbs before. It would probably take too long..." He trailed off, studying the wound again.
Elias leapt to his feet, looked around and shot off. Was he after the wolves again? No... He had grabbed a broken tree branch. Bringing the branch to Lindel, he suggested, "She can use this as an artificial leg, like that limping man we met in the last village!"
"That man was using a cane," Lindel explained gently. "His choice."
Elias lined the branch up with the reindeer's body. "Surely with your magic you could connect the two—"
Lindel brushed the branch away. "No." Combining an animal's body with a tree... Who knew what monstrosity they could create?
"Then we must connect it without magic!"
The reindeer would struggle to walk, much less skate. She would never escape another wolf attack.
"Elias... I'm sorry." The reindeer was barely breathing now. At most, Lindel's magic had numbed the pain. "Help me make her last moments peaceful."
He removed his cloak and tucked it around the reindeer. The chill seeped into his bones, but he ignored it and stroked the reindeer's head. Her eyes were half-shut.
Elias hovered over her. "What can I do?"
"Pet her. Reassure her."
Lindel sat back, letting Elias pat her head.
"It's going to be alright," Elias murmured. "The beasts won't hurt you again. I'll slay them if—"
Lindel cleared his throat. He started to sing a soft incantation. It wouldn't heal the reindeer, but alter the surroundings in her mind to somewhere tranquil. Perhaps she would see the cave where she was born or join her family skiing down snowy hills. Snowflakes rose from the ground, floating around them.
When he finished the incantation, the reindeer's eyes were fully closed.
Elias stopped petting her. "Now what?"
"You can go back to the camp if you want."
Lindel stood up and went to inspect the wolf Elias had struck. Its head was bleeding from colliding with the tree, no worse than when Lindel had been hit by a rock. That was something Lindel could fix. He touched the wolf's head. After a few moments, the wolf woke up and stumbled to its feet. Lindel glanced over his shoulder. Elias was still hunched over the reindeer. The wolf didn't dare attack. It shook itself and ran off in search of its pack.
Lindel sighed and shivered. He staggered to back Elias, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"It's time to go."
"I'll make a new one." Right now, he just had to get out of the cold. Fortunately, Elias followed him back to their camp.
Unbeknownst to the two, a spirit watched them leave. It snorted in thanks and was surprised when its breath left no trace in the cold air. Confused, it looked around until its gaze fell on a covered body. Her former body.
She understood and felt (Could she still feel?) a pang of sorrow.
What was it the gifted human had said?
It's time to go.
She pictured her herd, trekking through the forest. They had been travelling west. Yes, she would return to them. They might not be able to sense her, but at least she would be by their side.
She turned westwards, huffed and started moving.