K. Ryan, 2010

"She is doing fine, Alanna."

"I need to see for myself."

"She's a much better patient than you ever have been, and she is sleeping. You never enjoy being—"

"—she'll want me there. Baird. Get out of my way."

She is pale against the sheets. Pale, and tight with pain and the sleep that never takes a person deep enough, fraught with magic. Her leg is elevated; bruises livid on her freckled face, hair dark and greasy with time spent unmoving. Alanna, leaning on her cane, a blasted, sorry parody of the staves this woman had once tried to teach her wield, blinks the tears from her eyes. She blinks them, takes a long, clammy hand, water dropping to barely responsive skin.

They were coming from all sides, and she was tired. So tired. The sky as full of metal as her hands, as the ground. Fallen bill-hooks, hammers and maces. Giant weapons. She was tired. The Own's dust and noise filled her head, but they were not there yet, and she should not have ahead, alone. There was no champion under this weight, just breathing, and heartbeat, and splintering pain.

Words, ragged and cut by hooves and stone. "The Lioness! To the Lioness!"

One voice, loud and strong and splintering with her. Air buffeting her face, a horse, a lift…in armour, but she was lifted, and she felt breath on the back of her neck as the rider gently fixed her damaged helm. "Why did you do that, Alanna?"

Then, a faint whimper and gasp, a broken sound, there was air at her back and a body below her feet, and emptiness as the rest of the Own, now keening for their leader, flooded around her.

"Why did you do that, Keladry?" Hoarse words in a silent room, redolent with hyssop and poppy and breathing its own exhaustion. Baird was a long, patient shadow in the doorway. The Lioness stroked the hand resting in her own.

Eyelids flickered. "Need—you."

"Don't say a word."

"—realm needs—you—my—"

Alanna hushed her, voice cracking. "Baird is set to have me hauled out if you keep talking such silliness," she said. "And I'm so infernally worried I might let him."

"No—silliness." Was that a smile?

"No, nothing of it. Sleep, Lady Knight. Sleep, heal and then I am going to—"

"—I need you," the whispered the injured woman, before passing out again.

Note: Written for the first round of Goldenlakes SMACKDOWN: A fanfiction fight for Kels non-canonical hand. Competitor: Alanna of Pirates Swoop and Olau. Characters are in no way mine. The competition is the brainchild of Goldenlake message boards. They, likewise, neither own nor profit from these characters and/or their geographies.