Ihloden woke up to find a crowd of people about him and Nurilah shaking him violently. “Ihloden! Ihloden!” her screaming was registering faintly in his ears. The sun was shining straight into his eyes but he was too tired and confused to even close them. “Can you hear me Ihloden?” Nurilah asked, her voice a little louder. He nodded slowly and tried to lick his dry lips. Then as if the movement awoke his body, pain hit him again like a wall. He felt his body arch up in pain and his screams, now able to be heard rang out into the morning. Nurilah grabbed him and buried his face in her chest. He kept going unconscious of how loud or how long he was going. He only knew that he was totally exhausted when he was done.
Nurilah picked him up and carried him to her house. “Tell his mother and sister,” she called back to the silent crowd. Nurilah placed him gently on her bed and stripped him. He would have felt ashamed under any other circumstances. But as it were he felt as though he was in a dream. He could barely move his arms or legs or breathe. Nurilah had washed him, and was treating his wounds when his mother and Shila came barging in.
“Ihloden!” they both screamed rushing toward him, then stopped. Their eyes opened wide with horror. They turned to Nurilah.
“Who or what did this to my son?” his mother asked. Nurilah shook her head.
“I cannot answer that question,” she said in a low voice, “But we can speculate later. For now; a hand here will not hurt.”
They both rushed forward and with trembling hands helped Nurilah place ointment over his wounds and bandage them, wincing every time he made a noise. He tried to call out to them but the words could not come out of his mouth. So he gave up and let them treat him. Afterward with a parting kiss on his brow from his mother and Shila, they left the room. Nurilah threw him a knowing glance and left the door partially open. She did it on purpose so he could hear what was being said.
“What do you think caused the wounds?” his mother asked.
“Soldiers?” Shila asked.
“Not Soldiers,” Nurilah said her deep voice resounding loudly in the room, “It was not human what made those marks, but it seemed more like some kind of animal.”
“An animal!” his mother cried, “What kind of animal could have done that! Did you see how deep they were, how wide? Did you see? What kind of creature…..” her voice trailed off in a sob, “Why is this happening to him? Why?”
Ihloden heard Shila soothe his mother gently. “What I want to know,” she said, “was what was he doing out in the woods? I know that he must have had something to drink but he has never wandered off the wrong way. Never. No matter how drunk he was and Ihloden gets pretty drunk. I would know. So why was he in the woods?”
Nurilah sighed, “That is a question only he can answer. And right now and possibly for a few days more, he would not be able to answer that question.” She paused, “Do you want to take him home or leave him here with me?”
“You keep him,” his mother said sounding very tired, “I will have work. I….I won’t be able to care of him.” A sob caught in her throat again. Ihloden felt his heart break in his chest. He hated his mother sad. He had seen the way she was when his father died in the war ten years ago, against Lyficen. How she had mourned his father, her eyes red from crying every night, her smile almost never there. And now when she was beginning to come back to being like her old self he came and caused all this. And for what? An age old legend about some Griffin. He would have chided himself if it all had not been true. If he hadn’t known that the creature that caused the wounds on his chest was none other than the griffin from the age old legend.
“Don’t worry Marian,” Nurilah said, “You know I will take good care of him. I will have him back to you in perfect health in a about a week or so.” Shila answered, “Thanks you Nurilah. Thank you for always being here for us and mostly for him. He….he really appreciates you. Just in case he’s never said it.”
Nurilah laughed, “He does not need to. I know it. That’s the way things are between me and him. We know each other’s feelings without ever having to say them.” They chatted a few minutes more, then Marian and Shila came to bid him farewell. They both kissed his cheeks and forehead making him blush a little and then left. Nurilah saw them out and then came back to him. She rested her hand on his head. “My boy,” she said solemnly, “You are going to have a very tidy fever tonight.”
She was right. It was the worst feeling ever, just short of the experience he had with the blue flames. He was so hot he was gasping for air. He felt like he was being engulfed in a suffocating blanket of heat. He could feel his chest heaving up and down, trying to suck in air, his fingers clawing at the sheet on the bed.
“Easy Ihloden,” Nurilah kept saying, wiping his body down with water. Realizing that it was not working she was soon pouring bowl of water over his body. Ihloden thought that the night would never end. Then he felt himself get cooler and air began to flow into his body. A groan escaped his lips as he sank back into the wet bed. He was totally exhausted. He just wanted to sleep. Nurilah helped him off the bed onto the floor. Stripped off the wet sheets, put on dry ones and dragged him back on. He was lying on the flat wood of the bed. She changed his bandages also and then sat beside him. “It will be better tomorrow night” she said, “the worst is over. The medicine had begun its work. Fever like this is the sign.” She patted his head, “I am going to sleep now Ihloden. I will sleep on the floor beside you. If you need me, reach over and touch me, okay?” Ihloden managed a nod, his eyes were closing fast. “Rest well my boy,” he heard Nurilah whisper as he dropped off to sleep.