Hannarah grasped the cup in her hand, the warmth of the tea spreading slowly up her arm. This was a comfortable tent, as far as those go, well lit and spacious. There were even enough blankets and pillows that one could forget that there was no bed, no mattress, no civilization out beyond these fabric walls. Hannarah closed her eyes, letting her awareness drift over the feel of the chair under her, against her back, to the cup cradled between her hands. She slowly lifted the warm ceramic cup to her lips, though did not drink, not yet. The breath she exhaled mingled with the steam rising from the liquid surface and flowed back over her face. Inhaling, the mint and ginger aromas tickled her nostrils. She felt a tingling wave of comfort spread down her neck and back. She pressed her lips gently to the rim of the cup, feeling its warmth, and then sipped the tea into her mouth, slurping a little, so as to spray the tea all over her tongue, so she could feel the flavors make sense of themselves. Her focus, her mindfulness, was a difficult thing to maintain, as there were unfamiliar sounds beyond the tent walls, beckoning her to lose her grasp on the moment, to let fear overtake her. The way the citrusy, peppery flavor of the ginger mingled with the cool, sweet flavor of the mint inspired her to take a deep breath. She felt the minty vapors mingle with the humid jungle air, and opened her eyes. She looked around the tent again, trying to remind herself that she was just as safe here, in undiscovered country, among savage aborigines, with the small contingent of soldiers she was here to take care of to protect her, as she would have been in her own bed back at the Capital Temple.
“Maiden, Mother, Crone,” she whispered, taking special note of the feel of the ground beneath her feet, “please, help me to be a pillar of strength for these men, and a good companion, and an able healer, should the time come that such skills are needed. Help me to remember that no matter where I go, you are already there, and you are not only the Allmother, but my Mother. Remind me of your love and your protective spirit. Maiden, Mother, Crone, so mote it be.”
She sighed, the prayer giving her some strength. She stood from her chair, and took her linens from the hook, wrapping them about herself in the prescribed way, covering her and revealing her at the same time, the tension of the long strip of fabric enough to keep it tight against her skin, wrapped and rewrapped to form the semblance of a halter, a corset, even a flowing loin skirt for the ends. The wrap was the traditional garb of her creed, and her body fit it well. She then wrapped the sandals to her feet, the leather straps tying up her shin. Finally, she took the robe from it’s hook, and slipped into it easily. She glanced in the polished silver mirror they hung from one of the tent poles, and applied what little makeup she had brought with her on this long journey. She wasn’t meant to be a regal and royal temple consort on this mission, but the consort to soldiers and sailors, and they were grateful enough for a listening ear, a capable healer, and the occasional shared bed. She was pleased enough with her appearance, and turned to leave the temple of her tent. Suddenly, the lieutenant stepped into the tent, his face sweaty, dirty, and tight with tension. Not fear, exactly, but the focus of a soldier.
“Mother Hannarah, please, stay inside. Some of the men haven’t gotten back from their patrols, and we need to make sure everything is okay before you come out. Len will be right outside to guard you.”
And with that, the officer was gone again. Now that Hannarah had a jolt of panic in her system, her senses were on fire, and she could hear the men outside mobilizing, anxiety in their voices and movements. As they prepared, she heard them speaking quietly to each other. Something in the woods seemed to be spooking them. She felt a bit nervous herself, and she went back to sit, facing the entrance to her tent.
It seemed like a few of them began to make their way away from base camp, and in moments, Hannarah heard sounds of fighting. Angry shouts, gunshots, the clanging of metal on metal, the grunts and screams of men dying. They were not a large group, their resources would not hold out for long. If the threat was not stopped soon, then their would be no one left but her. The numbers of participants in the combat outside began to dwindle, and soon it sounded like their was only one man left, the lieutenant himself, fighting whatever it was outside. It didn’t sound like there was a mob out there, either, so whoever, whatever, it was killing her men was very dangerous. Hannarah wasn’t sure to be scared of the ferociousness of a small force, or eased that they weren’t being overrun. As the last stretch of hand-to-hand combat outside ensued, the sounds of imminent danger reminded her of another time in her life.