Episode 7: Inner Sanctum
Lesara frowned at her father’s leg where he’d stretched it out on the cot in front of her. “Nothing?” The pale, lilac skin of his bared left leg looked no different from the functional leg beside it.
“Nothing.” He rapped his knuckles twice on the knee.
Lesara looked over him at one of the order’s druids, a dedicated healer. Narel’s brow furrowed as he laid large, blue-skinned hands over her father’s leg again and hummed. Greenish light formed between his touch and the leg. Lesara felt the pleasant warmth and leaned forward, almost reaching out. She felt the hum in her throat but strangled it back.
Most of the order could heal, along with the house druids, but shadow was the Lady of Mystery’s focus. One of the goddess, Elune’s three aspects. Full moon priestesses typically specialized in healing, half-moon rode the balance, but as Ysareline’s heir, her fate rested with the new moon.
Something buzzed in the back of her mind, a forgotten thought or conversation before her mother revived her. It blended with a deep, masculine voice. Lesara shook her head. “What?”
Narel looked up at her and offered an encouraging smile. “Lord Ethan’y’len appears fine otherwise. He’s lucky.”
Lesara nodded, finding Narel’s eyes still on her, the golden glow rather bright, marking his strong gift in druidic magics. She felt held fast, wondering again what the druid path was like and suddenly missing her garden. She realized Narel continued staring back.
“Your hair is tickling my other leg though, if you don’t mind.” Ethan batted and brushed at the loose, dark green strands hovering over his good leg.
Narel quickly apologized and ducked his head, gathering and then tying his hair back. A darker blue flush stained his cheeks and he avoided Lesara’s eyes completely.
Lesara followed suit and glanced around the inner sanctum. No longer content with only one guard and several spells protecting all within the room, Ysareline ordered as many as she could spare and easily fit in with her daughter and injured husband.
Adriala had finally settled on one of the cots in the back for a nap, right next to her father’s. Ranera and Shestelle stood guard, facing each other on either side of the sealed and bespelled entrance.
Two of her mother’s favoured priestesses reclined on wooden benches carved for comfortable elegance, directly across from each other on either side of the large, circular sanctum. Valyndriel curled up with an older tome, her hand obscuring the title. Her loose, violet hair created a waist-length curtain that hid her face. The other, Shalya, simply stared straight forward into nothing, dark green hair pulled back in a sharp and neat braid. Valyndriel was the priestess Lesara kept in easy view, however. Her casual and disinterested demeanor rarely failed at causing uneasy prickles, followed by an itching desire for shields. Any shields.
Lesara forced her eyes away, taking stock of the room now. Supplies of many types lined the walls, while still more lay organized in several chests and shelving units along with two more cots behind Lesara. Behind those, a hidden door in the wall leading to a heavily spellworked fountain of fresh water for drinking and washing. She used it earlier and Shalya helped wash and comb her hair out. The protections there were different, muted, and focused on deflecting attention. It stored A few more boxes of dried foods and a pile of blankets, intended as a final hiding place for only a few while those remaining in the sanctum proper served as diversion…sacrifices to avert suspicion. She knew her mother left a few more defenses on the other side of the sealed entrance as well, likely a few concealed shadowsworn.
“You should rest, My Lady.” Narel’s voice called her attention back, but he still kept his face turned away, busying with a bowl of herbs on the table he set up against the wall by her father’s cot.
“I nearly died today,” Lesara snapped, immediately regretting it when both men in front of her winced away. She softened her voice with effort. “That’s plenty rest enough.”
Ethan’y’len slipped her right hand in his left and squeezed. “You did die, Ta’ele.”
She stared at the bowl of herbs, but felt his tears all the same and set her jaw against them.
“Narel is right, you should rest. Finish healing. Revive magic only works so far without rest.”
She took back her hand and sat on the cot behind her, folding her legs up in front and shook her head. She felt the fiercely ignored sting in her eyes again. She closed them and after images writhed behind her lids like festering worms. She forced her eyes open again. “I can’t. I see them whenever I close my eyes.” She swallowed hard, her voice cracking. “And then I can’t breathe.”
“I can command you to sleep.” Valyndriel’s silky voice crept chills up Lesara’s spine.
Several inadequate excuses flashed, partially formed, through her mind, searching for a polite refusal. She wanted that priestess nowhere near her head.
Narel cleared his throat. “I can make you an herbal infusion, My Lady, it’s less intrusive and will promote healing.”
Lesara met his eyes again and smiled weakly, nodding. “Thank you.” She saw Valyndriel shrug in her peripheral vision, her face never lifted from the book in front of her.
“What happened in the barrows?” She finally asked a question that niggled her off and on about that morning’s events. “What was that?” She pinned her father with an even stare when he shook his head.
Narel busied himself with a pouch of herbs and a second bowl of water already on the cot-side table.
No one answered her. “Was it the legion?”
Ethan shook his head again, but it was Narel who answered aloud. “We call it the Emerald Nightmare. Only a few of us know, and what we know is not much. Something dangerous sneaks around the Emerald Dream these days, dark and old, but it’s not the legion. It’s a rot that corrupts, or outright kills everything caught in one of its black pools. They appear random and isolated, growing until enough Dreamwalkers gather and strengthen the surrounding wilds against it, stop the spreading. We had no idea it created waking nightmares around the druids caught within.”
Lesara watched her father’s expression darken, the pale yellow glow of his eyes dimmed before he closed them completely. “I heard a dryad screaming. Ran to help, but when I got there, she was black and twisted, one still-green arm stretched, shadow creeping up her neck, beginning to cover her face. She screamed for help and I grabbed her arm. I tried to pull her out, but it was no use, I lost my grip and fell backwards. It swallowed her up then. I tried to back up, but my heel was stuck at the edge. I saw shadows and heard terrible whispering. My foot felt like it was getting eaten by hundreds of little insects.” He patted his unresponsive limb. “Slowly, up my leg. You woke me just in time.”
Lesara’s frown deepened and she felt the open worry on her face as she looked back up at Narel. He handed her a bowl, then turned and grabbed the other, handing it to Ethan. “He’s very lucky, indeed.”