The men continued speaking but Lilavati lost the train of the conversation as she once again slid into the half dreaming state she seemed to exist in. Twisted dreams and odd visions held her captive as she struggled to maintain her sanity.
She was barely aware when someone pressed food and water to her lips. She ate and drank what she was given and then lapsed back into the encroaching madness. Manas’ voice couldn’t even break her free from them. The only time she seemed to be closest to reality was when Manas went through his transformation. The invocation of his curse drew her out of her stupor enough that she was able to interact with him. Beyond that, she existed only in the timeless world of her nightmares.
Physical pain shattered that dreamworld, though only for a moment, before her mind dragged her back into hell. She screamed silently as she fought the chaos. The visions grew darker and more violent. Brutal deaths, stone crumbling, the world burning. All of these played out before her unwilling eyes.
Soft light drove away the nightmares. Gentle fingers brushed something wet from her cheeks. She realized they were tears. “Her eyes are open, Dieter,” an unfamiliar feminine voice said.
“That’s a good sign.” The soft spoken scribe moved into her line of sight. “Great Lady, I need you to try to move. Nothing much. Just try to turn your head towards me.”
Lilavati was exhausted. The visions had given her no surcease as she drifted in and out of semi consciousness. But she dredged up the energy she needed and strained her neck. Her head slowly moved. It took most of what she had left, but she was able to looked at Dieter.
Dieter smiled. “That is a very good sign, Great Lady,” he said. “Bianka, get some pillows under the Great Lady’s head and shoulders and wipe the sweat off her face. After the past several days that had to be hard.”
“All right, Dieter,” the young woman sitting next to Lilavati said. A pale face covered with a mask of freckles and topped with a mop of curly red hair moved into her peripheral vision. She lifted Lilavati up with one arm while the other pushed soft cushions and pillows behind her. A cloth soaked in warm water scented with herbs wiped the sweat from her forehead. “Be easy, Great Lady. You should be fine now.”
Lilavati opened her mouth. “Thank you,” she whispered, the only sound she could make.
Bianka smiled. “You’re welcome, Great Lady.” She looked over her shoulder. “Dieter, should we let the Great Lord in to see her now?”
“No. We need to let her recover a little more before we do that. You know how agitated he’s been,” Dieter said. “He could do her more harm than good.”
Bianka nodded. “Great Lady, the Great Lord has been – difficult – to deal with since your injury. The only one who’s been able to keep him under control is Ludger. We hope that, with your recovery, you can soothe him and return him to his normal self.”
Lilavati could only blink. It seemed the tiikeri was taking control more and more of her beloved. That wasn’t a good sign. “Great Lady, don’t let what Bianka said worry you,” Dieter said. “Ludger’s doing a good job of keeping him from doing anything rash. There are many who are impatient to be on the move, but we told Ludger and the Great Lord that moving you would most likely kill you so we’ve been in the same campsite for the past three weeks.”
Lilavati gasped. “Great Lady, this is the longest spring we have ever seen. It should be well into summer now, which is why the older members of the Great Lord’s retinue were worried. But either we will never enter summer and go straight into autumn from spring, or this is a year where we will see a longer spring and summer and a shorter autumn,” Bianka said.
“It means a much harsher winter if it happens that way,” Dieter said grimly. “I’ve seen three years like this, and read about several more. We still need to be home by the time autumn hits, but I think we have the time.”
Lilavati felt her eyes grow heavy. Panic set in and she whimpered. “Great Lady, you need to sleep,” Bianka said. “Don’t worry. The drink I’m about to give you should help keep you from having nightmares. Your dreams may not be completely pleasant but you won’t be trapped in them either. If they trouble you too much you’ll be able to wake yourself up.”
“Someone will be with you throughout the night, Great Lady,” Dieter said. “Bianka will stay with your for now. Valeska will take her place in a few hours. Romy will take the shift after that. If you manage to sleep through the night, you’ll find Odilie with you in the morning.”
“I don’t think she knows any of us, Dieter,” Bianka said.
“I have no doubt she doesn’t,” Dieter said. “We’re the lowest of the low when it comes to the servants. That’s why we’re able to do this.”
“Yes, but if we succeed, the Great Lord has promised us a great reward,” Bianka said.
Dieter’s smile was bitter. “Do you think, in his present state, he’ll remember?”
Bianka drooped. Lilavati coughed. “I remember,” she whispered, forcing the words out even though she was exhausted and her throat hurt.
Dieter looked at her. “Do you really think you’ll remember, Great Lady?” It took the majority of her remaining energy but she managed to nod. “You said your memory, in spite of pain and chaos, was good. I’ll trust to that, Great Lady. Please don’t let him forget us.”
Bianka pressed a cup to Lilavati’s lips. “Great Lady, you need to drink this,” she said. “It’ll help you restore your strength.” Lilavati swallowed as much as she could of the sweet liquid. As she drifted off to sleep, the tiikeri inside of her stretched and purred.
to be continued…