ashes and snow

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twenty-four


Her chest rose heavily as she pried her eyes open. Her upper body convulsed upwards, and her hands grasped onto the sheets under her. She breathed in deeply.

Where was she?

She looked up onto the white ceiling above her and furrowed her brows. Was she still in that room?

Thoughts were flying through her mind, and she wasn’t able to really grasp onto any of them. She groaned as a wave of pain ran through her entire body.

Her body went limp, and she fell down again. She was breathing heavily against the pain, her limbs shaking.

“What-” she brought out shakily, her voice only a rasp of what it used to be, “What is happening to me?”

There was movement beside her, a hand that grasped onto her own. She felt its warmth and realized how cold she had to be. Something was definitely wrong.

Two faces appeared in her vision. She had to blink several times before she could really see them. A pair of blue eyes was the first she recognized.

Arkyn was holding her hand, his eyes blazed with emotion. “What is happening to her?” he repeated her question. His gaze flew to the man that stood on her other side. Eira’s gaze followed him. Her movements were slow, each muscle crying out in pain.

To her left stood an old man with grey hair. He had dark brown eyes, and his dusky skin was adorned with many birthmarks. He gave her a small smile.

Eira didn’t know what to say. She didn’t recognize him.

“I apologize your, majesty,” he spoke softly. “All of this must be confusing for you. My name is Hedwig, and I am one of the royal doctors.”

She swallowed. Only now, she noticed the dryness of her mouth. Her tongue felt like sandpaper against her gums. She let out a short cough.

Hedwig nodded his head and turned. “You must be about dried out,” he murmured to himself. Eira’s eyes fell close again, and her head rolled to the side. She felt so heavy. There was rustling beside her.

Fingers softly stroked over her cheek.

Eira gave no reaction.

She overheard a liquid being filled into a cup. Her fingers clenched. Maybe it could help her heal this desert inside of her, only a drip and-

“You must drink.” A hand cupped the back of her head and pulled her up. Her breath hitched, and she fought to open her eyes. The world around her was blurred.

Cold porcelain touched her lips. Finally, something wet met her dried out lips. She swallowed, and her hand reached up to grab the cup. But to her avail, Hedwig stopped her and pulled away.

“Careful,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze. He looked into her eyes and laid her hand back down onto the mattress. “You need to take it slow, your majesty. You haven’t gotten to eat or drink anything in days.”

He laid her head back down. She stared up at the ceiling, not taking any effort to think about what he said. Her mind was haywire, a complete mess.

She wasn’t even sure if she wasn’t only dreaming about all of this.

Maybe she was, and she was still stuck inside that room, loss thick in her hammering heart. A whimper left her lips at the thought.

“Answer me, Hedwig. What is happening to her?”

A heavy hand touched her head and tilted it to the side. She stared mindlessly at Hedwig’s chest. He moved his face until it was only inches away from her’s and used his thumb to open her left eye wider.

His gaze was searching, looking for something she didn’t have any idea of.

A second later, he pulled away.

“We were afraid that the witch had cursed us with another death,” he explained. He laid the back of his hand onto her forehead. The skin around his eyes wrinkled. “But I don’t think she was strong enough.”

A second later, he stepped back. He turned to the metal table that stood next to him and took a pen into his hand. Eira and Arkyn watched as he wrote something down in a brown, old book.

Eira opened her mouth but was unable to utter a single word. It was useless, either way. There was no way she could tell him that he was wrong. Hedwig turned back to them.

“We gave you a potion to help fight the magic.” His eyes flashed with interest. “I don’t know how, but her magic had found a way to survive even without its owner. This has never happened before.”

Eira breathed in deeply and reached for her own magic. It felt suppressed, caught in a cage it couldn’t escape from. She felt powerless, human.

She swallowed and closed her eyes. “How long, how long will-” her throat felt clogged, and she wasn’t able to speak anymore. A croaked sound left her throat, causing Arkyn’s focus to snap to her. He took her hand in his again.

“It should take a couple of days,” Hedwig said with a sigh. “But we’re not sure what to expect after this, so we’ll see. We’ll do the best we can.”

“This will pass, right?” Arkyn asked. She looked up at him and saw something close to worry in his eyes. It was unnerving.

Hedwig moved back to her bed, gazing down at her. Now to sets of eyes were watching her, brown and blue. She only wanted to be left alone. Their presence was bickering her.

“She’ll get over this,” he assured his king. “If everything goes as it should, I don’t think that anything could go wrong. We must make sure that she drinks the potion and gets enough rest.”

He turned around and grabbed the cup again. He gave it to Arkyn.

“I’ll return shortly.” Hedwig turned and walked out the door that Eira only now noticed. It stood to her left, far behind the metal table Hedwig had used.

Arkyn cleared his throat. She looked up to him and furrowed her brows. She wasn’t willing to even try and say anything. Everything hurt too much.

“You need to drink,” was the first thing he said to her. His voice was rough, his eyes blazing down on her.

He took a step forward and used his left arm to slowly help her up into a sitting position. Now, she was leaning against the headboard of the bed, the feeling of heaviness stuck inside every limb.

Arkyn sat down next to her and held her head up as he lifted the cup to her lips. The sweet drink soothed her dried out lips and filled her with warmth. She swallowed and drank until there was nothing left.

A few seconds later, Arkyn stood up and rounded the bed.

He placed the cup onto the metal table and returned to sit next to her. Her lids felt heavy. She murmured something unrecognizable, unable to form any words.

Her head fell against his shoulder, and her eyes fell close. A heavy hand fell on top of her hair, and he pulled her closer to his chest.

No words were uttered.

She fell back into this whole of nothingness, a sweet blanket that wrapped around her with warmth.

There was something content over the darkness that greeted her, an old friend that invited her to him from time to time. It had been a long time since she had been there.

And she felt so exhausted.


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