Karigan stirred, subconsciously remembering to keep her movements small and gentle lest she jar the shards of glass buried in her thigh, her side. Her mind was a soup of fragmented memories bleeding into strange, nightmarish dreams. Zachary and Estora danced a dizzying walts behind her eyelids, followed by a string of serene, silent Eletians, their bright eyes acknowledging her but their faces remaining blank. Arists, Poets, Warriors… she groaned, pressing her cheek to the ground. She recognized one of those faces; that recognition set the countenance apart from the others, sharpened its lines and slopes. It was decidedly male, though its hair was long and pale.
She blinked… or did she? Were her eyes open? She felt the wind blow, felt something tickle her face. Grass? It certainly smelled like grass, and it was wet with dew. Or were those tears? She watched Zachary from over the Eletian's shoulder, his robes swirling a dazzling myriad of gold and scarlet that burned little streaks of light into her retinas. Yes, she was crying, she was sure of it now. The dampness that streaked her cheeks was hot and salty, mingling with the taste of copper as it beaded on her lip.
She glanced at the Eletian and sniffed. How foolish she was, crying at the mere sight of the King. It wasn't as if she'd ever see him again, anyway, she told herself. She put on a brave face as she was so accustomed to wearing. It was in many ways a mask. The irony nearly made her chuckle, for a mask had gotten her out of one mess and in to another. Brave Karigan did not laugh, however. She merely stared at the Eletian and waited, for she felt as if he had something to say. His lips were moving. How curious that she could not hear him speak. Or had he already spoken? Her head hurt, and when she tried to move, she was overcome with dizziness, and the checked floor of the ballroom warped and crested like the waves of an angry sea.
"Karigan," the Eletian urged. Karigan didn't hear him. Zachary whirled with Estora, reeling back in her direction. Estora was now wearing a crown atop her nest of golden hair and laughing merrily- she looked alive, like a fire had been lit within her and manifested in the flush of her cheeks. Karigan fancied she heard the whoosh of rushing silk as the new Queen spun and Zachary caught her. They drew together and embraced heatedly.
Karigan's stomach dropped, but she set her jaw and merely averted her eyes. The Eletian was still standing in front of her, but as she watched, she came to realize that he wasn't standing- he was kneeling over her. His flawless skin began to show lines of sweat streaked dirt, the ends of his shining hair were matted with blood. He didn't seem to be hurt… but then she understood. It was her blood. King Zachary and Queen Estora were gone, gone with the phantom ballroom and the court of Eletians. Trees stood in their stead, their black silhouettes dividing planes of starlit sky.
"Lhean," Karigan croaked. She attempted to sit up again, supporting her body weight on her arms. It didn't take her long to figure out that this was a bad idea. White hot, searing pain shot up the joints in her right wrist, branching out into her fingers and up through her elbow. She shrieked.
"Your wrist is broken," Lhean hissed disapprovingly. He looped an arm around her back and helped her sit up, hoisting her against something sturdy. She stared dazedly down at her legs. Her pants were in miserable tatters, held together by solitary threads in some places. What fabric that wasn't torn was stained a deep scarlet, shards of mirror jutting out of her thighs at strange angles. She could tell that she had lost quite a bit of blood, for her thoughts would not correlate correctly. She wanted to ask Lhean where they were, how he had found her, or if she was even still alive, but she found that all she could do was to stare down at her legs and puzzle over whether or not she was trying to move her toes.
"Not only that," he continued, tracing the fall of her eyes, "You are very weak. I was going to search for the others, but you roused and began to talk." The others? Karigan glanced up. "Yates," she mumbled. Memory came rushing back to her; of Yate's face reddening, of him shouting at her, commanding her to give him the mask. No. Mornhavon. She shuddered. More tears pattered hotly, this time onto her collarbone after they slid down her jaw. "Lynx. The other Eletians."
"I do not know what became of them," he said, pausing. "Any of them. We have been here for days."
"Days?" Her thought processes were finally beginning to thread together, the gears turning in her mind. Finally, she asked, "Where are we?"
He gave her a pointed look. "In the Green Cloak, as you call it. Near the Wingsong Mountains."
"A tomb," she breathed. "I was in a tomb."
That look that Lhean was giving her faded into something akin to pity. "You were not in a tomb, though you were most certainly suited for one."
"I'm going back to sleep," she murmured.
Lhean didn't try to stop her.
When Karigan next woke, it was midday and birds were warbling in the branches overhead. She stretched her legs stiffly, gritting her teeth as she rode out a lingering stab of pain.
"Good. You are awake. Perhaps now we can move."
She glanced over her shoulder to the best of her ability, catching Lhean's silhouette. "I don't think I'll be moving any time soon."
"Do you not think that your King needs to be warned of Mornhaven's reawakening?"
"Doesn't yours?" Karigan countered.
Lhean stared at her, his face set in solemnity. "You are a fool if you think you can make it back to Sacor city on your own."
Karigan narrowed her eyes. That sounded an awfully lot like a challenge. "Watch me." She steadied herself with her good hand and pulled to a stand, ignoring the way the world tilted on its axis and how her head felt unattached to her body. She limped a few paces before looking over one shoulder. Lhean hadn't moved. "Thank you for your help, but I can make it from here. I've done it befo-" Her mouth snapped shut in distraction, a nagging rhythm piercing the depths of her mind. It was very much inaudible, but the ground and the grass and the trees seemed to pulsate in a soundless, motionless dance.
By bright of light in Laurelyn's step.
The Eletians! She remembered the same silent song and the twinkling of moonbeams fading in and out of visibility beyond the foliage. The moonstones indeed warred with daylight, silver overtaking gold.
"The message is on its way back to Eletia," Lhean intoned, noticing Karigan's realization. "As our journey into Blackveil was a joint effort, I will help you back to your King in honor of that alliance."
Karigan groaned. She hadn't pinned Lhean as the honorable type, full of youth and fire, but perhaps the mission into the dark, twisted growth of Blackveil had instilled it in him. Or maybe it was because she'd been the one that delivered the Eletian Sleepers into safety. She sighed in defeat. "Fine, let's move."