Slumber Page 59

“We be headin’ near the outskirts of Shadow Hill,” L whispered abruptly. “Ye need to be keepin’ that pain quiet.”

I didn’t reply. I just heeded her warning.

Sometime later, when I heard voices way off in the distance, I guessed we were at Shadow Hill. Jonas and L had grown tense beside me and were walking almost tentatively. I could tell they were worried I’d somehow give them a way, but after what I’d just gone through, I had no intention of putting myself in a position to be abused again.

There was a horrible moment when we heard the woods crashing to our right; the whips and rustles of trees and plants, the hard thud of a heavy foot in the soil. My rescuers looked at each other wide-eyed and then quickly pushed me behind a thick tree trunk, warning me with their eyes to stay there. They scurried off to find a tree each to hide behind. I didn’t dare look behind me, or peer around the tree. My heart thud thud thumped in my chest as I heard a man whistling and humming under his breath. I then heard a hissing noise and saw L roll her eyes from her place behind the tree across from me. I think perhaps the man was relieving himself.

After a while the humming and noise of him crashing through the woods faded into the distance and a grinning L came out from behind her tree, Jonas behind her. I glowered at her. I’d never met a girl as cocky as this one. Without a word, they put their arms back around me, helping me, and we set off again.

Half an hour later, quiet tears rolled down my face. I was in agony. The back of my head throbbed, my cheeks felt stiff and bruised, as did my mouth. The cut on my lip stung. The rise of my breast throbbed, my wrists felt raw, the pain from the broken skin sharp and nipping. My ankles were the same. I tried not to let my legs get too close together so they didn’t rub off one another. And my feet. They felt shredded and swollen.

I expected L to make a comment on my tears but she just looked at me and picked her pace up a little. I tried to keep up, and as dark fell over us, L and Jonas led me off the trail path into the thick of the woods. Wariness clung to me but I tried to shrug it off. L and Jonas were helping me. I really believed that. But my body, still in shock from what had happened, still regarded everyone with fear and suspicion.

We walked perhaps another hour, this time deviating enough from my magic for it tug at me, like a child pulling a friend’s hair in frustration. I didn’t care this time. I needed to rest. Just for a minute. Only a minute.

Finally a well-built shack appeared in a tiny clearing in the woods. There was a vegetable garden outside, and a goat tied to the wooden framing of the porch. It was the homeliest looking place I’d seen since venturing into the mountains; like something from a fairytale. As we hobbled up the rough-hewn path, the door to the house burst open, candlelight from inside streaming out to greet us. I almost wept in relief. A woman’s silhouette framed the doorway, a child’s face appearing from behind her skirts.

“Thank haven,” the woman whispered into the night. “I was gettin’ worried.”

“Ma, we need some o’ yer medicine,” L called out to her as we drew towards the porch. Jonas and L helped me hobble up the steps until I was facing the woman. Her expression changed instantly as she took me in, her smile disappearing into angry concern.

“Dear haven, what did he do to that child?! Get her in here.” She gestured us inside briskly. It was easy to see who L had inherited her gruffness from.

In I went with them, looking down at the little boy who stared at me in horror. I gazed around in wonder. We were in the sitting room/kitchen of their home. Two rocking chairs sat on either side of a large, glowing fire. I was huddled over to the table that took up most of the room. There were empty plates and cups on it. In the kitchen the smell of stew wafted out to me and my stomach clenched. There were two doors, one at the back and the other on the wall opposite the fire. I gathered it led to their bedrooms. Their home was warm and welcoming and cosy. My body gave way at the relief and I crumpled between Jonas and L, both of them crying out to catch me.

“For havens sakes,” L complained. They picked me up, dragging me over to a seat at the table. I slumped back in it, thankful to be off my feet.

“L, there’s water boiling over the fire. Bring it.” L’s mother scooted into a chair opposite me and smiled softly. “Ye be Rogan, that right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied politely.

Her grin widened. “Ma’am. Ye be hearin’ that L. Perhaps ye can be learnin’ some manners.”

L grunted.

“I be Sarah Moss. Ye met L – Elizabeth, but she be preferrin’ L – and my husband Jonas. And that one there.” She nodded warmly at the little boy. “Is Jonas Jnr. We just be callin’ him Jnr.”

“I’m pleased to meet all of you,” I wheezed out. “You have no idea.” Tears, I couldn’t control, spilled over my lids.

“Aw lass,” Sarah tutted. She turned to L, who had placed the hot water before her. I watched through blurry eyes as Sarah rolled up a cloth and dipped it into the water. “L, why don’t ye and yer papa make us up some bowls o’ stew, eh?”

L and Jonas did so without complaint.

I, on the other hand, waited warily as Sarah leaned over with the wet cloth and dabbed at the blood on my face. I winced as she touched my bruises. My nose must have been swollen as well. I was so glad I couldn’t see myself.

For a while all Sarah did was wash away the blood on all my cuts. She drew a deep breath and put the cloth aside. When she turned back to me, it was with only her hands. At the touch of her soft fingertips on my face, my eyes widened at the tingling rush of energy that shot through my nose. My eyes teared as the swelling disappeared, as my cheeks returned to normal, the cut on my lip disappearing. Not a word did I say as she turned those healing hands to all my wounds, even my feet.

Sarah looked exhausted by the time she settled back in her chair. L and Jonas had ladled out the stew and were already busy eating.

“You’re a Dravilec,” I whispered in amazement.

She nodded. I shook my head, glancing between Sarah and L. A Dravilec and a Glava in the same family. L caught my look and seemed to understand. She smirked at me.

“How is that possible?” I asked.

Jonas replied, “I have Glava in my family history. Sarah, Dravilec.”

That really wasn’t what I meant. What I had meant was that, for a world whose mage were apparently dying out, I’d encountered many of them. Haydyn’s evocation wasn’t the only thing in Phaedra changing. More mage were being born. I chewed my lip. I wondered what this meant.

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