The rustle of silken sheets pulled me from the threads of my dreams, coaxing my consciousness awake.
I willed my eyes to open, staring up into a domed copper ceiling, a strange melody hanging in the air.
Where am I? Where is the sword of Tannen?
The song grew louder. I knew that voice. “Maya?” I croaked as despair spiraled over me.
“Shhh!” The soft admonishment soothed my soul as I waited for my mother-in-law to come.
Scents of lavender and kiwi reached me before her shadow. Cool, slender fingers feathered across my blistered forehead.
I tried to speak, grateful for the wet cloth to moistened chapped lips. Traitor tears marched down my cheeks, fire burning in their paths. Soft fabric whisked them away, a kiss pressed to my brow.
“Hush, child.” Maya murmured, stroking my hair. “You live still, by God's grace and recovery woven in prayer. ”
My eyes brimmed with more tears, my throat aching to birth questions I could not keep down.
Her lips curved upwards. “You are the daughter I've never had. Brave...strong...and beautiful. You did well.”
The fiery tears refused to stop. I did horrible, I should've died! I want to scream, remembering the battle, but shame touches me. The fiery streams continued up my arms and neck. A hiss escaped.
“Shhh!' She soothed.
Coolness drenched my upper half as she peeled back the sheets and draped a wet towel across the tapestry of scars and redness.
I didn't dare look at proof of my mistakes.
“Healing takes time, love.” Maya wrestled another pillow behind me, to ease the pain of sitting up. “You will need to drink this.” Her healer instincts were true to form, her mothering side visible.
My body rebelled at the taste of the foul liquid. But Maya's strong hands cupped my chin, pinching my nose. Too weak to fight her, I surrendered to the need to breathe.
The scene repeated it self until the teacup was empty. A few precious sips of Mint water rewarded me.
“The Gauron army marches still.” Maya rose from the bed, gathering the towels and the empty tea set. “They rest in the valley of Zaren...the villagers have staged a festival to distract them.”
She returned with a tray of breakfast. “I thought you were dead when the sword returned without you.” Sprinkling sugar over the treacle, she stuck a finger inside, testing the temperature.
Each painful swallow eased the rumbling in my stomach as my voice slowly returned. “How long?” I managed.
She dabbed at my lips. “Ten days...and then some.” A spoonful of pudding was offered. “Emron found the sword on my bed...Ira turned up with you shortly.”
The laugh sputtered through my lips and I heaved a cough, redness spotting the pillowcase. Ira was the greediest trader south of the mountains.
Maya frowned. “We traded fifty coins for you, he thought you were dead.” Expert fingers tilted me forward, tugging out the dirtied pillow and replacing it. “Else it might have cost more. I wanted to strangle him. Emron wouldn't let me.”
I smiled, knowing it was the reaction she needed.
“There is only one lady knight in these realms and only one Dark Raven.” Maya looked away. “Your husband sends news that all is well. He tells me to worry for both of us.”
Prickles of pain erupted along my shoulders. Maya's leaf necklace glowed as she eased me forward again, wrapping her arms around me in the gesture I craved.
Security, comfort, a different perspective. I cried into her sensible shoulder as she massaged salves into my wounds.
She was the mother I'd always dreamed of. I would treasure her worry. “Love you.” I forced the words out, feeling my earlier emotions melt away.
She sang softly, until my eyelids grew too heavy, soft lips pressing a kiss to the top of my head. “Heavenly Father, Lord.” She began. “Thank you for sparing this life, for showing me that you care about these people and my old heart. Shower your healing upon this child, wrap her in love and peace as she rests. Lead her with strength and honor when she wakes. May she be blessed for serving you. Amen.”
Sleep came for me as the satin sheets offered their thin warmth. “Sleep well, child.” Maya whispered. “Tonight you sleep as my daughter-in-law. Tomorrow you wake as the Dark Raven, lady knight.”
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