That feeling when you nearly die saving someone only to have them handed over to what you were protecting them from while you're unconscious. -- RecklessPrudence
"Go," I said, my voice barely a whisper. "The people in that tavern are friendly. I just... I need a little rest." The last one, to be precise, but you don't tell a five-year-old any of that. "Go tell them who you are. They will help you."
She may be six in a few weeks, but I have never before beheld such a stoic child. She nods solemnly at my instructions and, my cloak both wrapped around and trailing behind her, she walks through the torch-lit street to the Belle Witch tavern. I fight to keep my eyes open long enough... so I can see her walk inside. My friends are there. My allies are there.
All will be well. An old man dies... so a young girl can live. It's a fair price to pay to see the Viseer lose the regency. Imagine my surprise when I wake again in a luxurious apartment, surrounded by expert healers. Now... I have slept in a lot of miserable places. The dank and miserable cold of a cell floor, the muddy loam of the forest floor. I've even snuggled in with bears and suchlike. They don't mind the smell. I'm most familiar with the straw palliasse of your average in. This? This was a genuine, honest-to-goodness feather bed. It was far too soft for me to stay asleep in it.
Four posts. Curtains drawn to let the sunshine in through the windows. Heavy quilts and fine linen sheets. Someone had put me in a soft and gentle nightgown. The healers were murmuring amongst themselves as I took it all in. "...wh'r's?" I managed. The healers swarmed like carrion birds fighting over a corpse. Many of them never paid heed to what -if anything- I tried to say.
Eventually, one of them listened. They made me drink from a nursing horn, and gave me careful attention. "Wh'r's... pr'nc'ss?" I mumbled.
"She's safe," said the healer. "Under the protection of the Viseer."
My heart almost failed me. I certainly felt like someone had stabbed it. Were I stronger at that moment, I would have throttled the bearer of that bad news.
"What? No. The new one. Viseer Malaine."
I almost didn't understand the name, until I remembered that Falli Malaine was the leader of the revolution that set me on the path to free the princess from her endangering captivity. Nevertheless, I couldn't help myself. "Falli Malli?"
The healer smiled. "She said you'd say that. I shall go fetch them now that you are officially better."
Despite my innate inability to do so, I relaxed into the soft bedding. I had a lot to catch up on.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / pahham]
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