I remember little of events after Grandmother's arrival. Donovan and Sir Padriac were summoned, and when my teacher arrived he effortlessly scooped me up and followed my grandmother to the Palace infirmary. I fell asleep in his arms, soothed by the steady beating of his heart and his reassuring warmth. In sleep I found blissful escape from the sharp, throbbing pain in my jaw and the dull, constant ache in my head.
They woke me up to give me some foul tasting liquid to drink, and Sir Hiroyuki asked me a few questions, but then I was allowed to sleep again, and I didn't wake up until the late evening of the next day.
I found myself in a large, comfortable bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and soft blankets. A cat I had never met before was sleeping on my legs, purring softly. I smiled slightly and was met with the pleasant discovery that the sharp pains in my jaw were now just a dull soreness, and my headache was almost completely gone.
Looking around I made another pleasant discovery. Gwenna and Sora were sitting on the floor near my bed with a chess board between them, talking softly. I tried to speak, but all that came out was a hoarse croak and I realized that my mouth was paper dry.
But it got their attention. When my friends saw that I was awake they immediately abandoned their chess game and came to sit on the bed with me. Sora helped me sit up against a pile of pillows while Gwenna poured a glass of water then offered it to me.
"I'm glad you're up," Sora said as I gulped down the water. "We were starting to think you'd sleep forever."
I smiled and tried talking again. "How long have you been here?"
"Just an hour or so," Gwenna pulled the cat into her lap and scratched his ears. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," I said and reached up to rub the sleep from my eyes. "But my mouth is still sore."
"Father said your jaw was fractured in three places and you had a slight concussion," Sora informed me. "It'll be sore for awhile."
Suddenly Gwenna's smile faded and her voice became very grave. "Melly, I'm sorry. I should've gone with you, then none of this would've ha-"
I cut her off. "It's not your fault. It's my fault for being so reckless. I should've gotten help, or at least fetched a weapon from my room."
Sora smiled. "The girl you rescued hasn't stopped talking about you. She says you were very brave, attacking the men with nothing but a wash bin."
I blushed; it had been incredibly stupid of me. Donovan had taught me better than that. "It was the only thing I could see that was useful... it didn't last very long." I paused as a sudden thought occurred to me. "What of the two men?"
Gwenna shook her head slightly. "One of them was taken away by the Palace Guard. He's to be put on trial next week and there's talk of charging him with treason. After all... he did attack a member of the royal family."
I felt the blood drain from my face. The only penalty for treason was death. I hated the man, but I didn't want him to die. "And the other?" I asked.
Suddenly they were both very quiet, and neither wanted to meet my gaze. But eventually Sora answered me. "Eyvind killed him."
Shock silenced any questions I might have asked after that. We sat in silence for a long time. Eyvind had killed a man, for my sake. From what I knew of him, he'd never killed anyone before, or been in a true battle. I was upset, but I wasn't quite sure why. But I realized that deep within me heart... I was glad he was dead.
I finally broke the silence; there was something I desperately needed to know. "Is Eyvind mad at me?"
"We don't know," Gwenna said. "He's been very quiet, and he won't tell us what he's thinking."
I realized that they knew the truth, and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have lied to you."
Gwenna shook her head. "I can't speak for Sora, but I've already forgiven you. Why else would I be here?" She smiled. "I was more worried about your injuries than I was about what name I'm supposed to call you."
Sora nodded his agreement. "We understand why you did it. It's just a little shocking. No one expected you to turn out to have more blue blood in you than all of us combined."
I scowled. "I'm still Melly. If either one of you starts calling me 'Melisande' or 'my lady' I swear I'll knock a tooth out."
They both laughed, and I hid a smile. If we could joke about it then there truly was no need to worry, at least when it came to them. Eyvind, Heath and Rispah remained a frightening unknown.
There was a soft knock at the door and Donovan came in, followed by my grandmother and a maid carrying a tray laden with cups and a pitcher of juice. My friends scrambled off the bed and bowed quickly, only to have my grandmother wave them off.
"No need for that, my dears," she said softly, touching both of them on the shoulder and smiling. "I brought you some juice and some soup for my granddaughter."
They returned to their seats on the bed as Grandmother directed the maid to set the tray on the nightstand and dismissed her. Donovan pulled a chair closer and took a seat, but Grandmother simply sat on the bed next to me.
"How are you feeling?" She asked.
"Much better," I smiled. "Thank you, obaachan."
She helped me sit up completely so I could put the soup in my lap, then handed both of my friends a cup of juice. They were both obviously nervous, to be sitting so casually with the queen, but she didn't pay it any mind.
"You know," Donovan said thoughtfully. "I'm never going to hear the end of this from Adish and Namir."
"They're my bodyguards," I explained to my friends, who'd looked at me in confusion when Donovan spoke.
"We had to convince them to stay in Conté; they were afraid of letting her go anywhere without them." Donovan said, rubbing his forehead with a sigh. "I told them I could protect her on my own."
"None of this is your fault," I told him, but he shook his head.
"Prince Jonathan contacted your parents with his Gift," he said softly. "They'll be here in a week."
I felt my throat tighten suddenly. I knew what he was thinking. He was afraid that Papa wouldn't let him continue to be my teacher, not after what had happened. I wanted to say that it would never happen, but in the back of my mind I feared it too.
After I finished the soup Grandmother had brought for me, Donovan kissed my cheek and then ushered my friends out of the room. Grandmother handed me another cup, but it wasn't juice.
"Obaachan," I wrinkled my nose. It smelled like cabbages and something I couldn't identify, but didn't like at all. "This smells awful. Do I have to drink it?"
"Yes," she smiled when I pulled a face. "All of it. It'll help you sleep."
I sighed, but did as I was told. The liquid tasted even worse than it smelled, and I gagged, but managed to force myself to drink all of it. It left a horrible aftertaste in the back of my mouth that refused to go away even after I drank another glass of water.
"Go to sleep, Meri-chan," Grandmother smiled and kissed my brow. "You'll feel much better tomorrow."
And so I did. As my grandmother stroked my hair and sang to me softly I slowly drifted off. My troubled thoughts of Eyvind and my family faded away until only Grandmother's voice remained, and then, sleep.
The sun crept in through my window and spilled over my face, so bright I could see it even though my eyes were closed. I grumbled and rolled over, trying to hide from the light, but there was no escaping it. I could feel its warmth on my back, and it stayed there, nagging, until I finally gave in and sat up.
Judging by the light outside the window it wasn't noon just yet, but it was close. I sighed and threw back the sheets, then swung my legs off the bed and stood up.
Dizziness hit me like a blast of wind and I fell back on the bed, putting my hands down to keep myself upright. I blinked rapidly, trying to clear the flashing lights from my vision. They were fading, but very slowly, so I resigned myself to sit and wait for my sight to clear.
When the lights finally dimmed I stood up again, this time much slower. The dizziness returned, but it was weak and soon faded and I was able to walk.
While I had slept someone had brought my possessions up from my room with Donovan. I scrounged through my pack and found a fresh pair of pants and a light cotton shirt. I cringed as I surveyed the rest of my clothing. A week of constant activity had decimated them. What wasn't covered in dirt and muck was torn and ripped. I would have to find a way to wash them later. Until then I would have to make do with what I was wearing.
My stomach grumbled, demanding food after such a long period of sleep, but I ignored it. I had to find Eyvind. He had killed a man, because of me, and I had deceived him. Somehow, I would make things right between us.
The first person I found was not Eyvind, but Rispah was more than willing to help me. I found her in the stables, cleaning her tack and humming softly to herself. When she saw me, she smiled.
"So you're not dead, after all," she said with a wink. "Care to join me?"
I dragged a stool over to sit next to her, surprised at how tired I was after only a short walk. Rispah handed me a piece of leather and an oiling cloth and I went to work.
Out of all my new friends, I knew the least about her. She was talented and ambitious, but also very open and friendly. In a way she reminded me of Adish; boisterous and jovial, always ready to crack a joke one minute and fight to the death the next. From what Gwenna had told me, she had spent the last year on the Scanran border, fighting the ever constant waves of raiding parties and slave traders. She had seen true battle; I could see it in her eyes, and the way she moved. Despite being only sixteen, Rispah was a true warrior.
I opened my mouth to speak, but she cut me off. "Don't bother apologizing, Melly, there's no need for it." She straightened up and put down her saddle. "I understand your reasons for lying, and I forgive you."
I bowed my head. "Thank you."
She shrugged. "People place too much value on names, judging the bloodline and the money instead of the living, breathing person. I've watched you, spent time with you, and I know you have a good heart, and you're a damn fine shot with a bow. That's all I need to know."
"That's not a very noble state of mind," I commented.
She chuckled. "I'm not so noble myself. My grandparents were commoners, but King Jonathan made my grandfather the Baron. Alanna the Lioness had her hands full with Pirate's Swoop and Olau, and she trusted them to take good care of her home." Rispah leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees as she picked at a stray piece of leather. "I wasn't raised in some fancy-do castle surrounded by servants; I grew up working with the villagers in the fields and learning to take care of stock animals. We never placed any value on station. All you needed to earn the respect of others was to work hard and be yourself."
"The world could use a few more like you, Rispah." I said, and meant it.
"Nah," she waved the idea away. "I have a bad habit of putting my boot up someone's arse when they irritate me, and the world certainly doesn't need more of that."
We both laughed and I helped her finish her work and put away her things. As we left the stable I found the nerve to ask: "Do you know where Eyvind is?"
She stretched her arms out over her head and heaved a great sigh, then rubbed a hand through her short hair until it stuck out at odd angles. "I'm afraid I don't, although I wish I did so I could tell you. I've known Eyvind since we were still in our swaddling cloths, and when he doesn't want to be found, generally that means you can't find him."
"Is he angry with me?"
"I don't know," she shook her head. "It could be that, or it could be the shock of his first kill. It hits hard, but more for some than others."
I nodded, but said nothing. We parted soon after that when Rispah was summoned by her knight master, and I was left alone to think. Maybe he was good at hiding, but I had friends to help me look.
But first, I had an idea.
I know there wasn't much going on this chapter, it was basically just a filler episode. For the next one I'm going back to Eyvind's perspective, and it should be a bit more interesting.
The first week of college went pretty good, not nearly as hectic as I expected it to be. Let's hope it stays that way. knock on wood
That's pretty much it. It's late, so I should go to sleep... but I'm probably gonna go play Halo XD Thank you all very much for the reviews. Silverwolf said I should publish this, and that'd be really awesome, but this is copy-righted material, even though most of the characters are completely mine. Tortall belongs to Tamora Pierce, goddess that she is, and I can't take credit for her creations. But maybe one day I can publish my original fictions. :D
Till next time.