She awoke, gasping.

How long had she been asleep? It felt like forever. The depths of slumber had crept up on her again, tangling her in warm, sinuous fingers and refusing to relinquish their hold on her exhausted body, as they had been doing with increasing frequency in recent memory. She glanced out of the window – the skies were dark. They had been light when she had last looked. Hours, then, at the very least. This hadn't just been a short doze; it had been one of her long sleeps.

But now she was awake again, and raw, visceral energy surged through her with almost painful strength. Normally, after a short nap, she struggled to climb out of the soporific pit and into full wakefulness. Here, though, she was slammed out of it in a way that hadn't happened in a long, long time.

She ached all over. Her mouth felt as dry as a desert; her arms felt like something was jabbing pins and needles into them; her legs were useless lumps of meat. That was familiar. Yes, she thought in bemusement, that was familiar. When she woke up suddenly, it always hurt. Was it the awakening that hurt, or the pain that made her awaken? That she was less sure of.

The room was dark. Shadows shifted in the corners, and a strange glow came from somewhere off to her right. She lay on her back, head to one side, momentarily unable to recall exactly where she was. The ceiling was bare, offering no clues, and there was a strange glow from some source that she couldn't pick out that was dimly illuminating the room, deepening the shadows and shifting oddly where it played off the empty shelves stacked against the wall at the far end of the room.

Despite the torrent of energy that boiled in her chest and flooded down her veins, making her stomach churn and something in the back of her mind slot together in a familiar-yet-alien way, her body was still weak. Crying out softly, she struggled to lift herself up on her elbows and lever herself into a sitting position. When that failed, she simply reached upwards and backwards blindly for a light, any light at all, to see where she was.

A smooth hand closed over hers and gently but firmly pressed it back to her chest. Its owner was still outside her field of vision, and made no noise as they slid an arm under her and helped her up into a sitting position. She coughed harshly, still disoriented from the energy surge and the nausea, and the hands held her chin up and steadied her as the coughing fit wracked her slight body. The blinking glow of tear-blurred lights from a display beside her bed played starkly off her convulsing frame without regard for her misery.

Once the attack had passed, she lifted a limp hand to rub at sleep-encrusted eyes and looked groggily at her helper. No, her helpers.

Four figures knelt before her in front of another tightly packed bookcase, their heads bowed. They wore strange clothing, simple and uniform, and they glowed with the same unearthly light that illuminated the room. She looked at their apparent leader, the woman who had helped her, and rasped something unintelligible.

She looked up, apparently deciphering the attempt at speech, or at least garnering the general meaning. "Worry not, my liege," she said in a cold, clinical voice. The words were an attempt at soothing, but the manner in which they were delivered sounded more like she was reading them off a card. "We are your servants, here to protect you. We are your will made manifest."

The girl blinked, still groggy and confused. She… remembered something about this, didn't she? Some sort of… dream she'd had. Or something. It was hard to think. She was still so very tired. Numbly, she stared at the strange glowing woman as she stood.

"Worry not," the woman repeated. "All will be well, now that we are here. Sleep once more. We will wake you soon."

Sleep. That sounded good. She didn't want to sleep forever. But a little nap, for just a bit longer… yes, that sounded good.

"We will guard you as you rest," intoned one of the other figures, as their leader laid a cold hand on the girl's forehead. "Sleep, and regain your strength."

She slept.