She could not believe that the misshapen thing hobbling ahead of her along the path could once have been human. It hissed every breath it took as it stepped carefully over tree roots and lumps of grass on the way down the hill. It stank of sweat and mould and old blood and the layers of rags it wore were black with filth and a few patches of white dust and hair. But she felt no loathing for it, as she would have before. She could feel the warmth it gave out. The warmth of spirit, compassion. It had not even flinched at the sight of her: burnt and bloodied and beaten. It had already strapped her arm in a splint, using pieces of its own clothing. There was nothing of the cold metallic tinge she felt from the villagers in the small hamlet she had just passed through. No fear. No hatred. No judgement.
Perhaps its wits were as muddled as its appearance?
Right now, she did not care. She did not even care if she was being led to slaughter. She stumbled with exhaustion and the pain of her wounds and a small sound must have escaped her lips because the creature stopped and swung its body to face her. A frown of concern was clearly visible on its disfigured features.
“Not far. not far” it croaked in a high strained tone. As if to speak hurt it.
She nodded and regained her footing. The creature turned down the path again and began its careful tottering steps down the hill. She followed.