Here you'll find
Last goodbye to a warrior, takes place before "Ravens...".
"Where is he?"
The soldier waved a thumb towards something behind his back, not bothering to raise his eyes from the gauntlet he was cleaning. Sorel didn't take that as an insult; the man had his hands full of work, and besides, his own accent was easy enough to recognize. He glanced in the indicated direction and felt his heart lurch.
"Yeah." Now the man glanced up, then grimaced when his fingers found a hole under the grime. "At least I've not seen him come out."
Sorel nodded, then took a deep breath. "Right. Thank you."
He took a few steps towards the tent, then stopped and bit his lip, uncertain of what to do. All around him the camp was hard at work: the army of mercenaries was busy licking its wounds, regrouping, assessing damages and taking care of what needed mending.
The biggest rush was already over and the spoils of their victory awaited distributing, but air seemed to hang heavy over the tents. Men were speaking in hushed voices, and even the noises from the horses' enclosure sounded muted. Sorel squared his shoulders, tense as a lute string, ears pricked to catch any sounds from the surgeon's tent and yet not daring to go closer.
He hovered nearby for what felt like days, until the door flap moved and he saw a familiar dark head. Daynar stepped out and wearily straightened himself, face ashen, still wearing the doublet he'd donned when dressing up for battle that same morning. Now it was filthy, and the tear on one shoulder revealed a glimpse of metal.
The count didn't as much as glance at Sorel as he walked away from the tent and straight into his own. Sorel followed him at a respectful distance, then slipped in as well. It was getting dusky and the inside of the tent was getting dark, but he could see Daynar standing in the middle, shoulders hunched, arms tightly folded across his chest.
No reply. Sorel took a step closer and raised a tentative hand on his commander's shoulder. "Daynar?"
Through the cloth he felt the steel of the chain mail, and he also felt how the man inside it was breathing hard, shaking, as if every breath hurt. Sorel didn't want to hear the truth, but he knew it already.
"So he's gone," he said quietly, and Daynar's head sank. "I'm so sorry."
Bloody fingers tightened their grip on upper arms and a shiver went through the count's tall form. "Yes. Noras is dead."
Sorel swallowed and just waited, hand on the count's shoulder, silent.
"He was in such pain." Daynar's voice was barely audible. "It could've taken days... and he asked me to. In the name of our friendship, he begged me to do it."
The meaning of the words slowly dawned on Sorel, and he didn't quite mange to hold back his gasp. He stared at the bowed head with dilated eyes, trying to comprehend.
"Noras, my best and oldest friend." The words caught in the count's throat. "He knew he was dying. Didn't want to rot alive."
Sorel braced himself, told himself that he needed to do something. Now.
He had to force the words out, but when he heard them said aloud he knew that they were the right ones.
"You were his friend and commander. He knew he could trust you to the very end, and you didn't let him down."
He heard Daynar swallow and squeezed the tense shoulder a little. "Sir, you need to change, and the cook's whipping up something of a dinner. You might let the surgeon take a look at yourself before that."
Daynar nodded. With effort his fingers loosened their convulsive grip and his arms fell to his sides, then he shook his head as if to wake up. "Help me undress, Sorel, and then go get me some water. There's no need to bother the surgeon, though. I'm not wounded."
Sorel helped him peel off the abused doublet and chain mail shirt, and was much relieved to see that the padded undershirt was still intact. Nor did cold water and vigorous rubbing reveal any significant injuries, just the inevitable bruises and chafes. Sorel breathed a sigh of relief. The look in Daynar's eyes was hollow, but at least he was physically all right, just in need of a proper rest.
The dinner was a solemn affair. Even though Noras was the only one of their comrades in whose memory they drank that night, quite a few men had suffered wounds that kept them in their tents and away from the fires. Daynar hardly spoke a word, and he was among the first to excuse himself and retire, Sorel at his heels.
In silence they undressed and crawled under the blankets and covers and settled down. Sorel listened to Daynar's breathing, he didn't need to see the man properly to sense the stiffness of the back turned towards him.
He turned so that they were back to back and shifted closer, lower, molding his body against Daynar's: head against the man's nape, shoulders against back, Daynar's butt snugly in the bend of his waist. He felt the man tense at first and then, slowly, begin to relax.
"Daynar," he said. "Try to sleep. You are meeting Lord Graness tomorrow, and it won't do to look too haggard."
Sorel waited a moment, then wriggled around once more. An arm snaking to embrace Daynar's waist met with no resistance, and after a while a hand closed over his. Their fingers entwined.
"Sleep, Daynar," Sorel whispered and closed his eyes.