She woke with a start, startled by her own screams, and rapidly sat bolt upright in the bed. That was more a mistake than she could have imagined as her head lightened to the point of near fainting from the sudden rise from the pillow and the harshness of the light when she opened her eyes sent jagged bolts of lightning back through her brain.
Her ribs hurt terribly when she tried to breathe and there was no part of her body that did not ache. Laying back down eased neither the aches nor the sickness the accompanied them.
She looked about the room but did not recognize anything of it, and there was a small, strange, dark complected woman sitting near the brazier apparently working on some stitching; she looked like one of the faerie-folk her grand-mummy used to tell tales of when she was little.
"I screamed," she said, her voice raw and rasping, like gravel to her ears.
"I am sure you did, pity t'was no one there to hear," the dark woman said, her quiet voice carrying across the room.
"O…" Dru tried to clear her throat, but only succeeded in causing it to hurt more, "…no, j-just now, I screamed. I'm sorry."
"T'was only a dream and did not disturb me," the slight woman said laying aside the stitching and rising to attend to one of the kettles on the brazier. "Ye've slept but a few hours," she said, pouring steaming liquid from the smallest vessel into a pottery cup. Watching her come toward her, Dru could see she worn the habit of a nun, yet not the wimple, and the habit was at once the darkest blue and a warm forest green; not at all a colour she had seen worn by the sisters in either London or Cornwall.
She pulled herself up on the cot as best she could as the petite woman approached with the cup; it was not an easy task.
Sitting gingerly on the edge of the cot, the dark woman handed her the cup.
"Mother Igraine says you are to drink this," the woman said waiting until she was sure the drink would not spill in Drucilla's unsteady hands, "… then, when you are able, you are to have some bread and broth. I am Sister Meagg. I am to attend you until Sister Aubreigh returns; she has gone across the fen to collect the makings of a poultice for your wounds."
Dru slowly raised the cup to her lips. She sipped and shivered at the liquid's acridness and made a face that Meagg thought likely pained her as it strained the swelling and bruises.
"Tis a tincture of willow bark, drink it slowly, it does no good if it does not stay with you. You are called Drucilla?" She inquired. Drucilla nodded, still sipping at the tonic.
"Are you faring any better now than this morning, Drucilla?"
"Please, D-dru, not…" He had called her Drucilla while…she did not want to think of it. She turned away and snuffled quietly.
"Dru 't will be then," Meagg said giving a gentle pat on the girl's turned-to shoulder.
"I'm sorry," she said timorously turning to face her with tears flowing freely down her cheeks stinging the scrapes there.
"No need to be," Meagg answered.
"W-where am I," Dru said trying to fight the dread that was hovering so near, "… what day is it?
"Presently, Meagg replied , rising to again attend the brazier,"… you are in the novitiate's cell of the charter house of the Abbey of St Brigid, Glastonbury Parrish, Somerset, England and tis quarter past one Sunday afternoon, April eleventh, in the year of our Lord, 1841."
"Glastonbury Abbey…" she whispered not sure how she came to be anywhere near there. She had been in Whitechapel, London, not a month ago.
"Not the famous one of old," Meagg paused as if realizing that was, perhaps, untrue "…one of them though, I reckon. We are but a small order of twelve and Brigantine by affiliation."
There had been many abbeys at Glastonbury, the largest of which had been Benedictine; now only ruins remained, neglected as many another discarded wives of Bath, the last abbot hanged in St Michael's, the tower of the Tor, three hundred years ago.
All had been destroyed by fire by earthquake or the last, by ole King Henry's hand. Grand-mummy always said the Tor would not permit anything impure upon it for long; Dru had not thought of it since she was a child, thinking on it now for whatever strange reason it was occupying her head, along with the mention of the old Abbeys, and the pleasant smell of the herbs strewn in the room, made her think that Grand Mummy had indeed been right, it was a living thing and would not tolerate evil upon it.
She shivered, as she did before one of her visions would come upon her, but none was forth coming; the moment passed without revealing anything.
Meagg had fetched the broth that had been warming in a ramekin on the brazier and some bread and a little of the abbey's soft cheese for her. It was good thought her jaw hurt to chew with as her throat did to swallow.
She made another cup of the willow bark tea and bade her to drink it slowly over the course of the rest of the afternoon. Drucilla took a small sip to wash down the last of the bread and studied her surroundings again, with more attention this time.
The novitiate's cell was little more than a converted animal lean-to up against the side of the charter house proper, its walls had been reinforced against the weather by several layers of added daub and wattle and its roof was much in need of re-thatching. Yet it was clean and smelled pleasantly of the herbs strewn as ward against the insects of the field that always seemed to take up residence in country dwellings such as this. The mix of chalky whitewash shading the walls and woad time-worn into the grain of the woodwork gave a bright and homey feel to the otherwise simple room.
They had replaced her shredded clothing with the soft chemise and the homespun overdress of a novitiate, fairer in colour than Meagg's had been, hung on a hook nearby. The sheets smelled of the April breeze and though it was midafternoon she fell quickly onto an uneasy sleep.