Jorg swept his sword around in an arc, aiming for her head. Lilavati tried to duck, to parry, but neither were entirely successful. The sword was hit with tremendous force, sending impact tremors down her arm. She received another slash wound, this time to her temple.
Jorg laughed. “You won’t be able to beat me, Southern slut,” he said, dropping her title completely. “I’m going to kill you slowly, cutting you apart piece by piece. Perhaps I’ll give the Great Lord a piece of your hand, a finger maybe, to hold as I behead him.”
“You will do no such thing,” Lilavati said, swinging the sword wildly.
Jorg easily blocked her clumsy strike and moved in as swift as lightning. If not for the grace of her internal feline, she’d have been skewered right through the left shoulder. As it was, the lightning sword crackled through right shoulder again. She ignored the pain, numbed by the already damaged nerves, and tried to shove the blade into his back. He moved away before she could get very far with that.
He toyed with her for several minutes. Lilavati knew she was in trouble when her vision blurred and she couldn’t tell where he was. “Are you having trouble, Southern slut?” Jorg asked. “You’ve lost a lot of blood. The ground is positively soaked. You’re actually walking in mud made from your scarlet life force draining from your body.”
Lilavati’s grip on the sword was slipping. “I do not care if I die here,” she said in that low, husky voice that sounded almost like a growl to her ears. “I will protect my beloved and Ludger from a creature of unspeakable horror, like yourself.”
Jorg slapped his blade into hers again. This time it fell from her hand. When she went to grab it, he kicked her in the stomach. She collapsed and was unable to rise again. “As I thought,” Jorg said. “The Southern slut is too weak to be anything but a corpse.” The last thing she saw was Manas opening his amber eyes. She met them one last time as the sword descended towards her chest. Pain seared through her and everything went black.
It was dark and silent. She heard nothing, felt nothing, smelled nothing, tasted nothing, saw nothing. She shuddered. This place was a far worse hell than her life had been. She tried moving, to see if something would happen. The sensation of being suspended in nothingness remained. She closed her eyes as if to blot out the darkness she was surrounded by even as she descended even darker into it.
It was so faint that at first she didn’t believe she’d heard it. But when it grew progressively louder she attempted to orient her body on the sound, looking for the source of her childhood name.
A tiny speck of light glimmered in the distance. She wanted to go to it, to reach out for it and touch it, but she couldn’t figure out how to make her body move. She glanced down at her bloody, torn clothing, and looked up again.
The light was right in front of her. “Ishani,” it whispered again. Lilavati reached out and cupped her hands around the white orb.
It was warm. She drew it close and hugged it to her chest. She didn’t know why, but she felt that’s what it wanted. It continued whispering her child name and each time it did she felt comforted.
As she floated there, feeling at peace for the first time in a very long time, hands seized her and began pulling her away. She almost lost grip on the light. She grabbed it again, pulling it up to her chest. She felt the warmth enter her body, soothing the tiikeri and filling her, making her feel whole again.
One final whisper of her name and it was silent once more.
“By the Twelve, katali, open your eyes,” Manas pleaded with her as someone held her.
Lilavati tried to, but they were too heavy. She tried to speak but found her chest was too constricted to speak the words. “Great Lord, the late captain’s sword shot her full of lightning. She may not be able to respond to you as of yet,” an unfamiliar voice said. It took her a moment to remember the name that went with it – Dieter. This was Dieter, the quiet young scribe.
“She is awake and aware though.” Ludger’s voice was weak but harsh. His breathing rattled in his chest. “Great Lord, we can’t leave this camp for a few days. She needs time to heal and I have to rest. Strapping her into the saddle will just cause even more damage to her, and if you want magical protections you’re going to need me in top shape. Right now, casting a light spell will knock me out.”
“I don’t have any argument with that,” Manas said, his voice shaking. Lilavati felt something wet and warm fall on her face. “I should have listened to her, Ludger. I should have done something about Jorg before this.”
“Do you forgive her for pointing out a flaw in your character, Great Lord?” Ludger asked.
“No, I’m not ready to do that yet,” Manas said. “Perhaps one day.”
“Make it soon. She needs you as much as you need her. Having this hanging over the both of you won’t do either of you any good,” Ludger said.
“I’ll consider your advice, Ludger,” Manas said. Lilavati heard grunts and limping footsteps as servants helped Ludger back to his tent. “Please katali, open your eyes so I know you and I can have that talk.” He kissed her forehead and held her closer, and she heard him muttering prayers to the Twelve.
to be continued…