AN: It will seem out of character at first for Karigan, but remember that she is human and is experiencing a very low point in her life. Added for variety and spice on the GR FF site. I listened to Demons by Imagine Dragons while writing this, imagining a very hurt and haunted girl. If it were you, wouldn't you be thinking something along the lines of, 'Can NOTHING go right for me here?!'

The first sound she heard as she slipped back into consciousness seemed to be the wind itself, as it rustled the plain white panel that draped over the simple open window.

The gush of fresh air brought with it a light fragrance of apple blossoms and fresh linen, scents that were at once foreign and familiar to her. Lying completely still, she basked in the mundane sounds that trickled in from the outside. The faint twitter of birds, a door being slammed, and the chatter of voices sounded heavenly, compared to the living hell her mind and body had recently experienced.

Conscious of the bright light in the room, she opened her eyes cautiously, her breathing quickening as she sought to make sense of the blurred objects and shapes in the room. She lay in a soft bed, this much she knew as she shifted her limbs against the plush mattress. Slowly, her eyesight adjusted to take in what she recognized as a private room in the Mender's Wing of the castle in Sacor City. Not wanting to tax her brain in that exact moment on how she managed to escape her stone box, she wearily shook her head in resignation, accepting the fact that she was out and safe for the time being.

Her eyes darted about the whitewashed room, taking in the clean and mended uniform that lay neatly folded on a chair, the assortment of bandages and ointments on her nightstand, and the dappled light that danced upon the scrubbed stone floors.

The stiffness and pain in her wrist brought her attention back, reminding her of her injuries as she grimaced from the dull ache that reverberated throughout her sore body. Gingerly, she sat up, mindful of the stiff bandage that encompassed most of her hand and wrist. The snowy white night gown she had been dressed in slipped off one shoulder haphazardly as rolled her neck slowly, working the kinks out of sore muscles.

Karigan occupied herself for awhile longer in a similar fashion, rotating joints and inspecting her bruised body tentatively. A light knock interrupted her musings, prompting her to sit straighter and adjust her clothing.

The door opened to reveal Captain Mapstone, who gave her a tired smile as she entered and closed the door behind her. Approaching the bed slowly, the woman looked at Karigan appraisingly, 'How do you feel?'

Karigan gave a noncommittal shrug, 'Better than I expected. Just a bit battered and sore, but I seem to recall having more injuries than this.'

Laren smiled gently, 'You have been asleep awhile, and you were in pretty poor condition when you were brought in.'

Karigan gave a small smile in response, her eyes straying to the bandage around her wrist as she chose her next words. 'How exactly was I found?'

'Your screams alerted the caretakers in the tombs, you were found in an interesting location to be sure,' Laren grimaced with this last.

Karigan's brow furrowed slightly, 'Whose coffin did I bleed in this time?'

'No one seems to know,' Laren said simply.

Karigan scoffed, 'An unmarked sarcophagus?'

Laren nodded, 'That was placed next to Zachary's and Estora's.'

The blood drained from Karigan's face as she forgot to breathe. She did not consider the implications of her discovery with her thoughts wrapped in that which had been pushed to the back of her mind, her reflections tucked away during the expedition. Her eyes never left Laren's face as she whispered, 'Estora's? It has been finished then?'

'The wedding was several months ago,' Laren stated matter of factly, 'Her coffin was finished a few weeks prior.'

Karigan gulped and drew a shaky breath, 'Oh. And is the new Queen . . . doing well?'

'As well as can be expected with a babe on the way, but she still makes time for state affairs. She has shown her suitability and strength while Zachary was ill.' Laren responded gently.

Karigan blinked rapidly, struggling with her composure as she processed this next tidbit. 'He was ill?'

'An assassination attempt but he is now on the mend, regaining much of his former strength,' Laren said with a hint of pride. She peered closely at Karigan's pale visage but reflected that such news was better delivered now and in the privacy of her room rather than in the Rider's common room.

Despite her regret of being the one to deliver further bad news, she continued with a tinge of pity in her gaze, 'While you were . . . missing, the expedition returned to Sacor City. I'm sorry, Karigan, but Yates died of his wounds after your confrontation with Mornhavon. I am told it was a quick death.'

Karigan sat immobile and asked her next question in a barely perceptible whisper, 'And the Eletians? Lynx?'

'Safe,' Laren reassured her, 'Lynx returned to the North after a brief stay here with the Menders and the Eletians returned home.'

Karigan nodded curtly and stared at the floor, feeling the sting of her comrade's departure. With a choked intake of breath, she kept a rigid countenance as the seconds ticked by, her captain waiting for some form of verbal response. When none was forthcoming, Laren sighed and placed her hand on the door handle, 'I will leave you to get some rest.'

She closed the heavy door gently behind her, the latch sounding with a light click.

It was several minutes before Karigan would react, her mind struggling to process all that she had been told in the space of fifteen minutes.

The pressure in her chest was building, slowly pressing down on her lungs as she struggled to choke down sorely needed air. An invisible fist closed about her heart, its painful grip sending subtle and intense tremors through her body.

Karigan gasped as she fought the tears that built and struggled to kick the sheets away, her legs tangling in her long white night rail as she pushed herself to the corner of the cot. Wrapping her arms around her middle, she continued to shake as she feebly attempted to draw her knees up. The wound in her thigh smarted painfully with the stitches pulling from the jerky movements, and it was here, that she finally allowed the tears to fall.

But she would be damned if she allowed anyone outside of that room hear her pitiful sobs that wracked her entire body. This was a long time in coming, but her grief was hers and hers alone. In a city, in a country that regarded her and the others as tools of the crown, there were few who would understand the utter heartbreak that consumed her as she took stock of what she had lost.

Already jaded and bitter, and at such a young age, she would never resemble the same girl that left Selium all those years ago. Her spirit now felt almost broken, she felt the desolation of being completely alone in a city bustling with people. It felt that whatever she touched, whomever she became close to, would always be lost to her in one form or another.

Her trembling hand reached up to seal her mouth, trapping the anguished cries that threatened to escape as she rocked unsteadily atop the pile of blankets. She clenched her eyes shut to vainly staunch the steady rivulets that coursed down her cheeks, tucking her chin down to hide her face behind the fall of long brown hair.

A pair of large hands gently pulled her arms away from her torso and tugged her forward, allowing her to collapse against a warm body. Arms came up to hold her consolingly, one hand reaching up to tuck her head underneath a chin, and the other hand swinging her legs over a lap while tucking a blanket over the exposed skin of her calves and knees.

Utterly exhausted and spent, Karigan nestled closer to the comforting presence without protest and allowed her cries to subside. Blearily she tried to open her eyes and failed to make out anything in the now dimly lit room. The stranger stroked her long hair and said nothing, only lending their warmth and presence to soothe her troubled mind. For now, this was all she needed. A sympathetic soul that would not ask questions or judge her for what she perceived as a weakness.

Their heartbeat thudded against her cheek, as she quieted further, drawing her into a state of semi-consciousness. With the tears drying on her cheeks, she fell into a deep slumber, instinctively curling into a ball and reaching out with a hand to curl in the soft fabric of a shirt.

The visitor sighed and held her close for several minutes, idly placing their hand over her smaller one that fisted their linen shirt in a tight grasp. Gently, they loosened her fingers and tucked the arm back across her midsection.

Karigan was laid back under her covers, her arms and legs tucked beneath the soft flannel sheets, and a thick wool blanket was brought forth from the trunk at the foot of the bed to drape across her small form. With one last kiss to the forehead, they stood back and gazed upon her countenance tenderly. A small pout appeared on her face, for even in the midst of sleep, she wished for her warm companion to stay.

They chuckled quietly and moved for the door, turning back at the frame and smiling gently as she snuggled deeper into her warm cocoon.

The door closed behind them and the room fell back into relative darkness, allowing her another night of reprieve before she faced the next day.

The guest could be anyone you wanted them to be. Please read and review, it isn't BS when writers say that encouragement/criticism helps to drive us forward.