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The battlefield was saturated with thick purple blood. Iridescent puddles of it seemed to seep out of the ground, marking where bodies had lain mere hours before. Sarta scuffed at the ground with her boot, kicking at the one small patch of dry ground she could find.

Sarta took one last look at the desiccated field before turning her back to it and the saccharine sunset illuminating the battle trenches and burial mounds with long shadows. Stomping to rid herself of nerves, she walked toward the command tent, one of the few still standing. The med tents had packed up a little while ago, and the trails of the caravan could still be seen in the reddish-copper dust. Fatigue bit at her muscles as she climbed the small hill, sharp pains running up her calves and back and through her shoulders. She had helped to clear the field of bodies, burying both sides with the respect the dead deserved.

The flaps to the command tent were open, revealing a beige interior and large shipping crates being loaded by the armed guards that were supposed to be standing watch at the entrance.

“You wanted to see me, Commander?” Sarta’s voice encompassed the tent, gaining the attention of the commander, who sat on the one piece of remaining furniture, brow furrowed in concentration over a large ledger wrapped in emerald Wyvern skin.

“Ah, yes, Sarta.” The commander looked up at her, his stormy grey eyes all business as he lifted his pen, “Body count?” The question was more of a command than a request and Sarta answered as any good soldier would.

“The Ecritians lost one thousand and forty-two souls, and eight Wyvern.” She paused, allowing the commander a moment to finish writing before she continued, “We lost nine hundred and fifty-eight souls, and eleven Wyvern.”

The commander grunted as he wrote the remaining numbers in his book before closing the heavy cover and handing it off to a guard to be packed away with the remaining things. “Have the dead been dealt with?” Sarta nodded. “And have the Wyvern been harvested?”

“We have completed the harvest of ten Wyvern, and will complete the remaining nine before sunrise.”

The commander nodded, satisfied, “Good. I will plan on you and the other Death Dealers joining us by mid afternoon tomorrow. I have no further inquiries, you are dismissed.” The commander stood from his chair and turned to one of the guards before Sarta dared to turn her back and march out of the tent.

Sarta hated her assignment as a Death Dealer, although she loved her compatriots wholly. The Death Dealers were much like medics after battle; they were left alone, neutral as soon as the fighting stopped. The Death Dealer company was tasked with counting and clearing the dead, burials, and Sarta’s most hated duty, harvesting the Wyvern. They also carried out other menial tasks, including cleaning and oiling the equipment before battle, and caring for the live Wyvern in absence of their handlers.

Wyvern are territorial creatures, rarely living in packs larger than two or three, so it was difficult to mind the beasts in a stable, as Sarta so often had to. The Wyvern handlers were the admired daredevils of the company, they risked death and dismemberment at the claws and jaws of creatures four or five times their size. They would often leave the care of their beasts to the lesser-liked Death Dealers while they soaked in the adoration of the locals at the closest pub.

Sarta loved the Wyvern and their wild nature. She had been drawn to them since she was a young girl, and always thought she would one day be a Wyvern handler. Such a fate was not in the cards, however, and she ended up in the bloody aftermath of battles instead, dissecting the creatures she loved for their impossibly hard scales, razor sharp teeth, and the pouches of venom stored in their mouths. Sarta glowered as she thought of the remaining Wyvern she had to harvest for their parts. One she had become quite close to in the long night hours. The scarlet scaled beauty was named Ichor by her handler, but to Sarta she was Del’mak. A word from her home tongue that meant Dreamer. Del’mak had been one of the most ill tempered Wyvern in the stable before Sarta started taking care of her. She thrashed about in her stall so wildly there were often broken boards on the walls and deep gouges in the floors. She would snap at any other Wyvern near her, and even took a large bite out of her neighbor’s tail when it got too close for her liking. But as soon as Sarta took one look at Del’mak she was enamored with the beauty of the creature. The wild, enraged look in Del’mak’s eyes gave Sarta an overwhelming urge to sing.

As soon as the first note left Sarta’s lips, Del’mak started to pay attention. The tune was an old sea shanty from Sarta’s home village on Mard’a Riy, the golden coast, so named for the glittering auric waves that crashed against crimson sand. The shanty spoke of a sailor lost at sea, searching for a way home. Ultimately the sailor found Mard’a Riy and made his home there on the coast, always looking out towards the sea longing for home. By the time the song ended, Del’mak was subdued, her usual roaring temper barely embers. Sarta smiled at the thought of Del’mak in her most docile state. She was truly a wonderful creature.

And now she was gone.

With that sobering thought Sarta trudged the long path back to the harvesting site where the other Death Dealers were slowly working their way through each Wyvern carcass. As she approached the other Death Dealers raised their hands in greeting before quickly getting back to work. Sarta made her way over to the body of Del’mak. Tears gathered in the corner of her eye as she looked at the prone form of the magnificent beast. No longer would she snap at other Wyvern and long for the freedom of the open skies.

Purely on instinct, Sarta closed her eyes and began to sing. Her native tongue was long forgotten by most, but it was still near and dear to Sarta. Her voice carried the melody out over the field where the Death Dealers worked. The melancholy tune resonated through the very essence of the Wyvern.

All around her, strands of glowing turquoise light danced, flowing out toward the dead bodies of the Wyvern. Del’mak, being the closest, was engulfed in the light first. Her body was lifted from the blood-soaked dirt as strands of light pierced through her at every point. This phenomena continued until every Wyvern that had yet to be harvested was suspended in mid-air by the glistening light that danced with Sarta’s music.

The other Death Dealers stood in awe of the sight. There were legends long ago of those soul-bonded to the Wyvern, people that connected to the wild essence of the Wyvern, and could use that connection as a form of magic. But they were only legends. Never before had they seen anything like the amazing display in front of them.

As Sarta’s song came to a close, one stray tear slipped down her face, and she opened her eyes only to come face-to-face with Del’mak, living and breathing. A gasp escaped her lips as she reached a shaky hand toward the Wyvern. “Del’mak my beauty, how did this happen?”

In response a silky voice resonated in Sarta’s mind. “You have brought us from the brink of death, soul singer. We are forever in your debt.” Del’mak lowered her head and bumped Sarta affectionately in the chest, “Thank you, soul singer, for bringing us home.”

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