Magda’s sobs became hysterical. “They’re dead. He killed them. It’s my fault.” She tried to escape Lilavati’s grip but Lilavati held onto her.
“Sweet child, they are not dead,” Lilavati said. “I can see Odilie’s chest moving. She still breathes, which means she is alive.”
“My katali, we should go find Ludger,” Manas said. He was shaken by what he saw. “I want to make sure he’s all right.”
“I am in agreement,” Lilavati said. She rose to her feet, still holding Magda. “I am bringing her with us. She should not be left alone right now.”
“That’s a good idea,” Manas said as he stood. The three of them walked back towards the main camp.
It was eerie to see the entire company. They’d all fallen where they stood. Lilavati watched Manas move swiftly to pull those in danger of being burnt out of the way of the fires as they picked their way through the ghostly camp towards Ludger’s tent.
The northern sorcerer was on his hands and knees, breathing harshly. He looked up at their approach. “It’s done, Great Lord,” he said, his voice both rough and weak. “They will awaken soon. I’ve implanted in their minds also that we were the victims of a sorcerous attack, and that I tried to protect the camp but chose the three of you as the priority.”
“What can we do to help you, Ludger?” Lilavati asked. She passed Magda to Manas and knelt beside the weakened sorcerer. “How may I serve you, now that you have done this for us?”
Ludger chuckled weakly. “It’s odd to hear a noblewoman ask how to serve her servant,” he said.
“I am not of noble birth, though I have wed a northern lord,” Lilavati said. Ludger tried to get to his feet. Lilavati supported him and guided him into his tent. “Is there something that will restore your energy quickly? Or is it that we must wait and let you sleep?”
“Do you remember that drink you made me after my battle with Theda?” Ludger asked.
“I do, though you will have to talk me through it again,” Lilavati said as Manas and Magda ducked into the tent.
“I’m willing to do that quite happily,” Ludger said. “We’ll still need to stay here a few days.” He paused. “I didn’t sense the ghosts last night, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t try to attack.”
“I heard nothing and I did not see them this morning when we left our tent,” Lilavati said. “Yet I will admit I did not look that hard.”
“Great Lady, let’s get my drink made first,” Ludger said. “Then, if you think you’re strong enough to handle it, you should go to the boundary of the camp and look to see if the spectres are still there.”
“If they have departed, I could draw them back by my presence,” Lilavati said.
“That’s true,” Ludger said. “I have everything we need to recreate the barrier, since I’m sure it’s been damaged. I’ll give it to you so you can set it back up. We still have barrels of salt as well, so don’t worry. We can protect the individual tents as well.”
“I will do as you say, Ludger,” Lilavati said.
“I don’t like the thought of you risking yourself like that with no guard to protect you, katali,” Manas said.
“Sikha, even should I have a protector, they would be useless against the weapons of the incorporeal attackers,” Lilavati said. “There is nothing solid for them to cross blades with and a ghost’s axe will pass through a mortal man’s shield.”
“She’s right, Great Lord,” Ludger said. “I’ll send her with some protection. It won’t be much. My magic has been severely drained by this spell, so don’t expect much from me for the next several days.”
“I understand,” Manas said.
Lilavati went around under Ludger’s direction and fixed him the correct drink. She added more of certain herbs and less of others. She also added more of the intoxicant than he’d had before. He swallowed the mixture down as fast as he could before handing Lilavati back the mug. “Thank you, Great Lady,” he said. He leaned over and picked up a necklace. “Put this on. If I’m right, this will keep you invisible to the ghosts.”
Lilavati pulled the chain around her neck. “Thank you,” she said. Ludger nodded. He handed her a bag, his eyes drooping. By the time Manas led her out of the tent, Ludger was asleep.
Lilavati kissed Magda’s cheek and then shared a more passionate one with her husband before heading to the boundary. She walked the circle, watching for the ghosts. She saw nothing, but instead of feeling comforted she felt strongly that something was wrong. She made sure the barrier was fully restored before rejoining Manas and Magda.
As Ludger promised, everyone was back on their feet within the hour. Many of them checked on Manas and Lilavati. They were very glad to see them unharmed, along with Magda. Once the line died down, Manas turned to Lilavati. “You were right,” he said.
to be continued…