Long Night

Her long ears picked up the barest of sounds. A crunching, heavy step beside her. Then another. A voice, saying something she couldn’t understand, as though spoken underwater. A touch on her shoulder, half felt. Silannah tried to move, speak, but nothing came. Who are you, her voice cried inside her head. Please, just leave me here. Just let me die. Oh gods…no…put me down…let go of me! Her body too weak to do more, she lost herself to the darknesss again.

Ælithil carried her as carefully as he was able. Settling onto his saber, he wrapped her tight to his chest and rode back to the cottage. Once they had arrived, he gently laid her on the heavy bearskin rug. Her clothes were soaked through, and had started to freeze to her skin. Slowly, he pulled each piece from her, tossing the garments aside. He bound her leg to stop the bleeding, but setting now would be dangerous. It would have wait. He carried her naked form to the bed and covered her with several blankets. The runestone beside the bed was providing plenty of heat. He watched her unmoving body for a while, panicked every time she seemed to stop breathing. He carefully pulled her hands and feet out from the blankets, trying to prevent shock.

She shivered suddenly, her awareness returning. She managed to open her eyes for a moment, but she was unable to make much out. Where am I? What’s happening? Everything hurts… Her fingers throbbed at the tips. She tried to move them, but it felt like they were made of lead. Again that voice…

Ælithil looked up as he cleaned, just as Silannah’s fingers twitched. “Aunt Sil?” He touched her hand gently, finding them still ice cold. “Can you hear me? Come on, Aunt Sil.” He reached under the blankets, laying a hand on her back. Oh thank the gods. She’s a little warmer. He sat down next to the bed, waiting. It would be many hours before he was to receive any real sign that she was recovering.

As the early morning light broke through the window, he swept up the last of the broken bottles. Settling down in his nook across the room, he watched her breathing, terrified. Este. Ælithil. I will keep my word. I will. Her voice seemed stronger in her mind. “I will keep my word,” she murmured. Within moments, he was at the side of the bed.

“Aunt Sil? Shan’do?” He called to her for what must have been the hundredth time.

“Ælithil?” her voice croaked out as her eyes slowly opened. She was home. He had brought her back. In her mind, she was unable to choose between being angry, or grateful.