This bit was/is supposed to take place in the course of the larger fic, but it got into my head and I wrote it early. Given the fic's stalled out for now, I thought I may as well post it. Nefer and Natori! They're an interesting pair.

Nefer Meets Natori

Awareness returned slowly to Nefer, first in the form of a dull throbbing at the base of her skull that forced her unwillingly back to the waking world. As sensation slowly returned to her sleep-numbed body, she also became aware of a stripe of pain stinging across her back, probably the wound that had knocked her to the ground. She opened her eyes and shut them immediately against the sunlight that streamed through the forest's thin branches.

She remembered running and having a fairly compelling reason to do so, which was the realization that galvanized her to action -- even if such action was only to stir feebly and struggle to find enough purchase in the grass to pull herself upright.

"Well, look at that -- one of them's still moving."

Nefer stopped immediately, opening her eyes once more. Squinting in the bright light, she could only see a vague shape walking in her direction -- vague, but comfortingly human. It approached and squatted next to her.

"If you're gonna die, make it quick. I can't wait around for stragglers."

"Wh..who?" It took so much concentration simply to work her tongue correctly, she could barely spare a thought for the rudeness of those words.

"Here, sit up. You don't look too bad."

Ignoring the question completely, two firm arms levered her over on her back, and with that aid, she sat upright. She turned her head slightly and was able to make note -- though the voice probably gave as much evidence -- that the figure was female. Seconds later, however, she moved out of Nefer's line of sight, apparently examing the wound on her back. She sat very still and attempted not to flinch as the other went about her work.

"Now, what's your name?" she asked suddenly, apparently to distract from the pain of a yank that separated her tunic from the clotted blood of the injury.

The girl bit down on a yelp. "Nefer."

"Interesting -- Morrocan?" Another yank.

"No. We're from Louyang." It seemed important, for some reason, to establish that fact.

"Even more interesting. Long walk from there to here."

"No." Nefer said, a trace of irritability creeping into her voice. "We live in.. Prontera, now."

"That makes more sense," the other said, rising and walking away, only to return moments later with what felt (when it was applied to her back) like a poultice. "So who's we?"

"My brother. And me." The thought flickered briefly that she shouldn't be disclosing her life history to this stranger, however, kind she appeared, but the poultice was cool against the burning ache of her wound, and she found herself unable to think up much of an argument. "What's.. your name?" she asked instead.

"Natori Jael. I was just passing through on my usual route, but it seems like Prontera's a bad place to be right now."

Nefer stirred, remembering suddenly what had brought her out this way to begin with. "I have to go back."

This elicited a dry snort. "Not a chance, kiddo." She spoke on, overriding Nefer's immediate objections. "The way the fighting is now, we couldn't even get close." She rose again, and shortly Nefer could hear her rummaging through what sounded like a burlap sack. "Most of the refugees are headed south to Alberta, and that's where I'm headed next anyway."

She stirred again as the pain in her back lessened. "But my brother -- he's with the army --"

"Then he'll know to look for you in Alberta." The woman returned, kneeling next to her again. "Provided he survives, anyway."

"Shut up. He'll be fine." She could think of nothing to bolster her argument, however, and fell silent.

"Then you've got nothing to worry about." Abruptly, she thrust a tin cup into Nefer's limp hands, releasing it only when her fingers curled around it. "Drink up. It'll taste like shit and probably knock you flat, but you'll feel better for it in the morning."

Nefer gave her a sideways look. Then she shrugged and lifted the cup to her lips, swallowing the liquid as quickly as she could. From the first gulp it was evident Natori was telling the truth. She fought down a gag and drank the rest, settling the cup back in her lap when she was finished.

Natori snorted. "You're a trooper, aren't you?"

But Nefer found her will to answer slipping away as whatever was in the cup worked its potent magic. Before much longer her head drooped, and the last she could recall before settling into pleasant darkness was Natori's arms catching her once again and lifting her off the forest floor.