Photo via Visualhunt
Lilavati knew that Ludger and Theda were watching her the entire time they were traveling that day. The storm drew closer and Lilavati could see everyone pulling out cloaks and covering things that were in burlap and canvas sacks.
Ludger tossed something to Theda. “Here, Great Lady,” Theda said, helping Lilavati put on a strange article of fabric. “The Great Lord sent this for you. It’s his spare rain cloak.”
“He said to tell you that you’re to stay in the cart, even when they cover it with canvas,” Ludger said. “Which is the same thing you were going to hear from me, so it’s good to know he understands how fragile you are.”
“How soon before we need to cover it?” Theda asked. The sky darkened and a blast of wind caused Lilavati to pull the cloak tighter around her.
Ludger smiled wryly at Theda. “How about now, Preester,” he said.
Theda jumped out and started helping where she could. It didn’t take long before a large piece of canvas was thrown over the top of the cart. Lilavati curled up on her side and waited.
“Let me out. Father, please let me out. I am not dead. Mother is. Father, let me out.”
Lilavati jerked, as if she’d been stabbed. She opened her eyes wide and tried to sit up. Her head brushed the canvas, but to her, it felt like wood. She shuddered and struggled against the cloak, which was now a burial shroud that she should never have been given.
“Father, father, I am not dead. I did not die. The tiikeri killed mother, not me. Why am I being wrapped in a burial sheet with her? Father, why will you not answer me? Father, why are you letting them say I am dead? Why do they call me a spirit? Father, they are hurting me. Father, father, do not go. Do not leave me!”
Lilavati screamed and thrashed around, struggling to find a way out of the hellish vision that now held her attention. She screamed her throat raw and still no one came. A little voice in the back of her mind told her that he was coming, her tiikeri. The one who would protect her, who was her mate, who stood with her. Once again she let the darkness consume her.
She woke but didn’t know where she was. Lilavati shuddered and tried to sit up. She was weaker than before. Someone sensed her movement for an arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer to a very warm body.
Lilavati turned her head. She found herself staring into a pair of accusatory amber eyes. “I told you to rest, dark scholar,” Manas said. “I wanted you to stay beneath the canvas, and yet I was told you nearly ruined the supplies by pulling it off. Why?”
Lilavati closed her eyes. The tremors started again. “It was a vision,” she whispered, not realizing she was speaking in her own tongue. She felt Manas pull her even closer, until her head was against his chest. She rested her cheek against it, listening to his heartbeat.
“What kind of vision?” Manas asked.
“Of my father,” Lilavati said. “And – I think – myself and my mother. Yet it was not my mother, for this woman was dead and my mother lives.”
“Tell me,” Manas said.
“We were being wrapped in a burial sheet. Mother was dead, which was why she was being prepared for her tomb. But I was still alive. My father watched everything happening. He was glaring at me, as if he hated me,” Lilavati said. Her voice broke. “I was pleading with him, asking him why I was being buried with my mother since I was still alive. He walked away, never answering me.”
“Do you know how your mother died?” Manas asked.
“A tiikeri,” Lilavati said. “She was killed by a tiikeri. I was telling my father it killed her, not me. I could not see either my mother’s face or my own body. But I saw the cold masks of the mortuary priests from the temple, and I saw my father’s hatred.” Lilavati burst into tears.
She heard muffled speaking, and then Manas’ voice cut across everything. “I don’t care what you say. Ludger, I’ve been weaker than this and still ridden. You’ve also said you had a few other saddles similar to mine. Do you have one that will fit Lilavati’s horse? And be comfortable for her?”
“Yes, Great Lord,” Ludger said. “But -.”
“There will be no more discussion,” Manas snapped. “I have given my orders. You will obey them.”
“Yes, Great Lord,” Ludger said. He stalked stiffly out of the tent.
“Great Lord,” Theda said, her tone sharing with them both her feelings.
“Preester, I am well aware of your thoughts on this. You’ve been telling me every chance you could get for the past two days,” Manas said. “No harm came to Lilavati, other than what her visions gave her. You say you can’t, as of yet, rid her of these dark dreams?”
“No, Great Lord. I’m not even sure what it was in the potion that affected her, and I’d rather not make the Great Lady even sicker by experimenting,” Theda said.
“I see,” Manas said. “Either find a way to end the curse, or start searching for a way to preserve my dark scholar’s mind when we draw closer to Phiri Hu.”
“I’ll do as you say, Great Lord,” Theda said.
“The rest of you, leave,” Manas said. “I’ll send one of my guards to summon you again if I need you.” Lilavati heard several soft voices, and the sound of fabric being moved. Then there was silence. Manas held her for a few heartbeats before drawing her in as close as he could. “My dark scholar, don’t ever do that to me again.” His voice cracked. “You are the other half of my soul. You are my life.” He paused. “You are the inkosi tiikeri, and I am your beast.”
to be continued…