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       Slumber, p.22

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 
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  “For havens sakes,” L complained. They picked me up, dragging me over to a seat at the table. I slumped back in it, thankful to be off my feet.

  “L, there’s water boiling over the fire. Bring it.” L’s mother scooted into a chair opposite me and smiled softly. “Ye be Rogan, that right?”

  “Yes, ma’am,” I replied politely.

  Her grin widened. “Ma’am. Ye be hearin’ that L. Perhaps ye can be learnin’ some manners.” L grunted.

  “I be Sarah Moss. Ye met L – Elizabeth, but she be preferrin’ L – and my husband Jonas. And that one there.” She nodded warmly at the little boy. “Is Jonas Jnr.

  We just be calin’ him Jnr.”

  “I’m pleased to meet al of you,” I wheezed out. “You have no idea.” Tears, I couldn’t control, spiled over my lids.

  “Aw lass,” Sarah tutted. She turned to L, who had placed the hot water before her. I watched through blurry eyes as Sarah roled up a cloth and dipped it into the water. “L, why don’t ye and yer papa make us up some bowls o’ stew, eh?”

  L and Jonas did so without complaint.

  I, on the other hand, waited warily as Sarah leaned over with the wet cloth and dabbed at the blood on my face. I winced as she touched my bruises. My nose must have been swolen as wel. I was so glad I couldn’t see myself.

  For a while al Sarah did was wash away the blood on al my cuts. She drew a deep breath and put the cloth aside. When she turned back to me, it was with only her hands. At the touch of her soft fingertips on my face, my eyes widened at the tingling rush of energy that shot through my nose. My eyes teared as the sweling disappeared, as my cheeks returned to normal, the cut on my lip disappearing. Not a word did I say as she turned those healing hands to al my wounds, even my feet.

  Sarah looked exhausted by the time she settled back in her chair. L and Jonas had ladled out the stew and were already busy eating.

  “You’re a Dravilec,” I whispered in amazement.

  She nodded. I shook my head, glancing between Sarah and L. A Dravilec and a Glava in the same family. L caught my look and seemed to understand. She smirked at me.

  “How is that possible?” I asked.

  Jonas replied, “I have Glava in my family history. Sarah, Dravilec.”

  That realy wasn’t what I meant. What I had meant was that, for a world whose mage were apparently dying out, I’d encountered many of them. Haydyn’s evocation wasn’t the only thing in Phaedra changing. More mage were being born. I chewed my lip. I wondered what this meant.

  Of course, the Moss family didn’t know I’d encountered many more like them, so my puzzlement was bemusing for them. I shrugged it off. This wasn’t the time.

  At Sarah’s insistence I ate the stew given to me. I ate it slowly, my stomach stil fragile. But as I ate the stew and warm bread, and sipped the apple juice Sarah had made, my body began to shut down in a sudden lassitude, now that it felt safe.

  “No, no, Lady Rogan.” Sarah shook me and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt. Of course. She had healed me. I smiled dopily at her. I could have kissed her for that. “We need to get you washed up first.”

  Again I was too tired to argue. Sarah shooed the rest of the Moss’ from the room and set about undressing me. I let her wash me, as my own mother had done years before, too exhausted to be embarrassed. She was gentle with me, even rinsing my hair out and plaiting it into a coil on my head. At last she puled one of her own clean, soft, cotton nightgowns over my head, and taking me by the hand she led me into the room at the back of the house. It was smal, with two single beds and a chest of drawers opposite them. Floral curtains were puled across the window. In the bed closest to the door, lay Jnr, already fast asleep. In the other bed was L. She sat up in cotton longjohns (it didn’t surprise me she didn’t wear a nightgown to bed), the bedcovers puled back.

  “She alright?” L whispered.

  “She wil be,” Sarah replied softly and took me over to her daughter. “She just needs sleep.” She turned to me now. “Ye can share L’s bed. She don’t mind.” At that moment, I didn’t care if she did or not. I crawled over the bed and slipped in under the covers. L craned around to look at me. “Make yerself at home,” she grunted and then slid in too, puling the covers around us. She reached over and puled the other side of the quilt up so that I was completely covered. “Night ma,” she turned back to her mother.

  “Night, L. Proud o’ ye, lass.”

  “Thanks ma.”

  I must have falen asleep as soon as my head hit L’s pilow because I didn’t remember a thing after that.

  Chapter Twenty Six

  The next morning I awoke snuggled up next to L. She had given a huff of laughter because I’d trapped her in my embrace and she couldn’t get out without waking me up. I had blushed beetroot, but she’d merely shaken me off when I tried to apologise.

  Apparently everyone else was already up for breakfast. It was mid-morning, L told me. They’d let us rest longer. I was grateful. I already felt so much better than I’d ever thought I’d feel again. L gave me clothes to wear. We were of a similar height. I puled on the soft trousers and shirt, warily eyeing the stockings and boots she gave me.

  The boots were a little big but I puled them on. I knew my feet were going to be a wreck soon. As we dressed for the day, L mentioned I’d woken her up with my nightmares. I couldn’t remember that and I apologised profusely. She shook me off again.

  “I only mentioned it because…” She seemed embarrassed and I raised an eyebrow at that. “Wel because ye might be wantin’ to talk about what happened to ye.

  Ye can talk to me.” She shrugged and turned away from me.

  I smiled sadly at her back. “Thank you, L. I don’t…” I bristled at the way my body stil clenched in fear at the thought of the Mountain Man. “I can’t just yet, but thank you.”

  L shrugged again and headed into the main room.

  Breakfast was delicious. Eggs, toast, goat’s cheese. More of Sarah’s delicious apple juice. The Moss’ were kind and considerate of, not only me, but each other and I enjoyed their teasing banter at the breakfast table. Their home was happy and warm. It was so nice to see that again after what I’d encountered up here in the Alvernian Mountains. It soothed my jangled nerves.

  L told me she knew about Haydyn and the Sleeping Disease. None of them looked particularly worried by that and I realised it was because it didn’t realy affect them way up here where the evocation didn’t reach. But as L went on, I gathered they realised the importance of the evocation for the rest of our world. They knew there was no stopping me. And I could see in L’s eyes that she knew for me it was personal; that I felt about Haydyn the way she felt about Jnr.

  “So the Pool of Phaedra.” L shook her head. By now I knew she was seventeen, Haydyn’s age, but she spoke to me like I was twenty years her junior. “Quite a quest. Ye’ve certainly made a muddle o’ it so far, isn’t ye.”

  “L, be polite,” Jonas scolded.

  L gave him her favourite gesture. A shrug. “Just sayin’.”

  I gave her my favourite expression. A glare. “I’m doing my best. I won’t stop until I get that plant, even if I have to face a milion Mountain Men to get it.” I watched L’s eyes glimmer with a hint of respect at my determination.

  “Wel, I be gettin’ an idea,” Sarah piped up. “Our L is as tough as they come; knows these here mountains better than anyone. If ye folow yer magic to the Pool, L

  wil be keepin’ ye safe and right.”

  “Although I don’t appreciate bein’ offered up as a guide without my say so, I do see the wisdom in the suggestion,” L agreed. “I’l do it.” I rather liked the idea of having a savvy, crossbow-toting mountain girl with me but I didn’t want to endanger anyone else. “I appreciate the offer, but you don’t have to help me. You’ve already done so much.”

  L glowered at me. “I don’t offer help unless I be wantin’ to. I’m comin’; isn’t no yes thank ye, no thank ye about it. I leave yer lily white ass to
saunter through these here mountains and Phaedra wil be doomed – ye eaten alive by the Aran and Phaedra falin’ to nothin’ without that Princezna o’ yers.” Minutes before I’d thought having her along might be a wonderful idea. Now I grimaced. With L’s obnoxious, superior attitude I met as I wel have brought Wolfe along.

  Then I remembered the Mountain Man.

  I eyed L’s crossbow leaning against the wal at the fire.

  I pasted a strained smile on my face. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

  ***

  We left soon after, both us outfitted in warm jackets, each with a pack of supplies. L carried her crossbow and I carried one of Jonas’ hunting knives. I’d lost my pack and dagger at the stream when the Mountain Man had taken me.

  We took off at a brisk pace, and I marveled at how rejuvenated my body felt, as if I had never undergone what I had. The boots didn’t begin to rub as quickly as the maid’s from Arrana had, but when I did eventualy feel pain niggle, I ignored it.

  Our march upwards was quiet until we broke for a late lunch. I was sweating in my jacket already. As we sat to nibble on the biscuits and bread Sarah had given us, it soon became apparent that L was bored with the quiet.

  “Ye don’t talk much for a fancy person with fancy learnin’.”

  I shrugged.

  I thought that would be the end of it but as we began walking again, L encouraged me to tel her about my ‘fancy’ society life. Anything I said or explained to her was answered with phrases such as, “Wel that just sounds stupid.” and “What would ye be wantin’ to do that for?” Surprisingly, I began to enjoy L’s chatter. Her speech may have been of the mountain people but its rough slaughter of our language belied a keen mind and sharp wit. I couldn’t help but agree on some of her assessments when I told her about some of the scandalous things society members got up to.

  L was pragmatic and straightforward, much as I’d always thought I was. She knew the mountains wel, traipsing through them without a care, physicaly stronger than I. I puffed a little to keep up with her. She began to wonder how I’d survived this far without her, especialy when I squatted to relieve myself and she saved me just in time from squatting on poisonous leaves. After that L began pointing out the different species of plant in the forest; what each of them was caled and what their properties were capable of. I was amazed by how knowledgeable she was on the subject and she told me her grandfather had taught her before he died a few years ago.

  Hours later, when we stopped for the night, my magic vibrating through me stronger than ever, L didn’t build us a fire. When I asked why, shivering in my jacket, she told me it would attract the mountain dogs. My heart had thudded in my chest as I remembered warnings from Brint about the dogs. I was glad L said we should huddle together for heat.

  We fel asleep with our arms tight around one another.

  ***

  “Who’s Wolfe?” L asked as I tripped over a tree root I hadn’t seen. I picked myself up, dusting the soil off my hands. It was early morning, we’d already eaten, and we’d been walking for half an hour.

  I glanced sharply at L.

  She smirked at me, her young fresh face bright with amusement. “Ye said his name in yer sleep, last night. And the night before.” Whatever she saw on my face, it had her laughing. “Ah I be seein’. I just got a wee picture o’ ye kissin’ a fine-looking specimen o’ a man. Wee bit soft perhaps, but mighty fine.”

  I felt the heat of indignation. “Wolfe is anything but soft,” I snapped.

  L grinned mischievously. “He yer man, then? Yer betrothed?”

  Like a thirteen year old I blushed, shaking my head. “It’s complicated.”

  I was rewarded with a scowl. “I can be keepin’ up.”

  With a weary sigh, I went on to tel L about my family, about what Syracen had done to them. That Wolfe was Syracen’s son. How al these years I’d thought Wolfe had been after revenge. How I had recently discovered what Syracen had done to Wolfe. That Wolfe had feelings for me. That I had feelings for Wolfe but I knew that acting on them was a betrayal of my family. I talked myself hoarse, surprised by how much I’d come to trust this girl in so little time. L listened patiently, her eyes betraying her interest and her sympathy.

  Stil, when I was finished, she scratched her cheek and said gruffly, “Wel, I isn’t no expert on these here things but from what ye be telin’ me, sounds to me as if ye be gettin’ things a wee bit backward.”

  “Backward?” I puffed out of breath, glowering at her back. L turned around and caught the look. She chuckled at my expression and reached down to pul herself up the suddenly steep incline of the mountain.

  “Wel yer parents tried to protect ye, told ye to run. They died for ye basicaly.”

  “Yes,” I replied through clenched teeth, hissing the ‘s’.

  “Wel that be sayin’ to me that they was good folks. They just wanted ye to be free and happy.” I frowned, wondering at the direction of her point, and if she was ever going to make it. “Yes?”

  “Wel if this Wolfe man – haha, wolfman.” She chortled and then noticed my beligerent expression. “Never mind. If this Wolfe makes ye feel free, makes ye happy, don’t that al that be matterin’ to yer parents?”

  “But his father kiled my parents. Being with his son would be a betrayal of their memory.”

  “That don’t be makin’ no kind o’ sense. Ye brought yer parents murderer to justice, Rogan, and ye saved Wolfe and his mother from a life o’misery at that evil-doer’s hands. And this Wolfe person, he sounds like he be an upright kind o’ fela. And don’t he be some kind o’ nobility?” I swept the sweat off my forehead, my fingers trembling. “A Vikomt.”

  L grunted. “Lass, ye be gettin’ yerself a rich man. That’s every parents dream,” she joked.

  When I didn’t respond, she threw me a wicked smile that transformed her from ordinary to pretty. “Ye joined giblets with yer Wolfe, then?” I frowned, searching my brain for a translation.

  L laughed at my confusion. “Has he bedded ye, Rogan?”

  I roled my eyes at her forthright question, my cheeks flushing red despite myself. “No,” I bit out.

  L sobered quite abruptly. “Ye a maiden then?”

  “Yes. Aren’t you?”

  “O’ course.”

  I nodded, having expected as much.

  “Think on this then, Rogan…” she stopped to freeze me in her guileless gaze. “What if I had no’ got to ye? Is that how ye would have wanted it? Raped and abused by a stranger in these here mountains, instead of it bein’ right and true with the man ye love.” I felt cold. Stumped. Panicky little flutters shaking off the ice she’d created inside me with her directness.

  “If there be one thing these here mountains learn us, Rogan, it be life is often harsh… and always temporary. Don’t run from love because ye lost so much o’ it as a child. Instead… love while ye can.”

  Gulping back the emotion clogging my throat, I somehow managed to respond, “Is that what you intend to do, L?” She threw me another quick grin before turning back up the mountain. “As soon as I be finding love like ma and papa’s.” As I folowed her, I felt myself drowning in L’s practicality. I had been since the moment I met her, and now that pragmatism of hers was starting to make sense.

  And with Wolfe, I didn’t want it to make sense.

  “My plan wasn’t to marry – ever.”

  She snorted at that. “My plan for this week was to show Jnr how to be layin’ a trap without takin’ his hands off. Instead I’m stuck up in these here mountains with the dumbest smart person I ever be meetin’.”

  “You know, L, I’m feeling overwhelmed by your kindness and charm.”

  “I try to leash the potency of the charm but it’s too exhaustin’.” L grinned crookedly back at me.

  I shook my head and burst into reluctant laughter.

  ***

  By the third day, we had made it up through the Alvernian Mountains with little mishap. We’d heard a few howls in the distance
that had given us pause to worry but so far we hadn’t come across the mountain dogs.

  My magic told me we were close. Very close.

  It was mid-afternoon, and the mountain had already begun to plateau under our feet. L suddenly drew to a stop as a new scent drifted by us in the wind. It smeled like lilacs and damp moss.

  “I guess we be here.” L smiled at me. At my confused look she pointed in front of her and I walked around her, my feet throbbing, but I didn’t care. Light sparkled through the trees in front of me, and I grinned in relief.

  “We’re here.”

  Together we took off at a run, and burst out of the trees into the bright light. Before us the grass at our feet slid down towards a glistening lake, enclosed on al sides by higher ground. A smal waterfal cascaded down from one of the mountains, descending into the lake, causing puffs and foam to rise in the water. Fresh lilacs and orchids bloomed around the edge of the lake, interspersed with dewy plants and buttercups. I stared in amazement. It was the most enchanting place I’d ever seen.

  “Wow.” L nudged my shoulder. “Impressive.”

  I nodded, smiling in awe. “The Pool of Phaedra.” I was finaly here. My lips trembled and I felt tears prickle behind my eyes.

  “Yer no’ be gettin’ al watery are ye?” L teased.

  I gave her a little push and she laughed. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Impulsively, and so unlike me, I threw my arms around her and puled her into a hug. At first she tensed with surprise… and then tentatively she put her arms around me and hugged me back. When I eventualy stepped back from her she gave me a look, pretending she was bemused by my affection. I grinned at her and then walked around her, folowing the tug of my magic.

 
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