ashes and snow

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Eira woke up to voices. A groan left her lips as she breathed out. She felt like she had been run over by a carriage or maybe even two, her limbs sore. Her memories were fogged and swirling around in her mind.

What had happened again?

She pinched her eyes close against the white light that turned on. Her hands twitched for a second before she was able to raise them to her face. Somehow, she wasn’t as in control of her body as she usually was. It worried her.

A click sounded through the room.

She couldn’t move much, but she knew that two people were talking. The words flew into her left ear and left the right immediately. She couldn’t decipher any of them to meaning. Memories of a white room floated her mind again then, leaving a wave of misery.

She breathed in deeply and held her breath for a second.

It didn’t take long to remember everything that had happened. Arkyn had come to the medical room she lay in with... Hedwig. The royal doctor. He had left with the promise of return.

And then, she had been with Arkyn and-

Everything was black after that.

Had she blacked out on him? Her brows furrowed, and she let out a quiet grunt. She ran her hands over her head, her hair. She would be damned if she couldn’t clearly remember what had happened in between them. What if something had slipped out of her delirious lips?

She moved her hands back to her sides, sighing. It was useless. If she had said something, she wouldn’t be here.

He would have tried to kill her, at least.

“She is waking up.” The first phrase she could finally pull together, understand without having to think twice. Every word before had been dull, flying way out of her reach. Her lips opened to breathe out the air in her lungs.

Footsteps were nearing her.

She felt eyes on her but didn’t bother to open her eyes. Even after only having woken up again, she still felt tired. There was a weight on her chest, pressing her down. Memories had lingered.

The past continued to haunt her.

“Eira?” a small voice asked. Her brows furrowed at the familiar tone. It was not Hedwig, but-

“Why doesn’t she open her eyes?”

A hand laid down onto her forehead. She flinched only the slightest. “Give her a second.”

The other person sighed. “Alright.”

Now she finally recognized the voice. It was Cailin. A smile tugged at her lips.

She slowly opened her eyes, blinking against the bright light above her. She looked around the medical room. It was like she remembered, a metal table to her left, the wide window to her right, and the red and gray stone walls. Her gaze drifted over Cailin and Hedwig, searching for a third face.

But it seemed like Arkyn had left. There was no trace of him.

She couldn’t even smell him. Her hands clenched at her sides. Somehow, it felt like her powers were suppressed.

She swallowed and looked at Hedwig. He was looking right back at her, waiting.

Eira didn’t know for what, though.

She furrowed her brows. The questions were stuck in her throat. She remembered that she had drunk, but it still didn’t feel like it had been enough. Maybe she was craving for too much again. Several days could have passed. She wouldn’t know.

“I see,” Hedwig murmured, tilting his head, “you’re at a loss for words?” A second passed before a wide grin bloomed on his face. He stroked his hair back behind his ear and shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” he chuckled. “I know that you’re thirsty, your majesty. I’ll quickly get you something.” He turned and left the room through the door to her left.

Eira lazily raised one of her brows. He’d vanished before she even had been able to say anything. Now she was alone with Cailin. Her eyes drifted to her, taking her in.

The girl was holding a small wooden bucket, a cloth in her other hand.

She was wearing a grey, high busted dress that reached her ankles and white shoes. The upper part of her dress was adorned with various patterns, the sleeves just as simple as the rest.

Eira gave her a soft but tired smile. It was good to see her again. After all this mess, she was glad to be able to talk to her. Maybe she was able to forget for some time, suppress the emotions that were still swirling around her mind.

“How are you feeling?” Cailin asked, moving to her side. She sat down at her hip and took one of her hands in hers. Eira gave her a small smile and squeezed her hand.

“I’m fine, Cailin. I’m doing much better ever since you’re here,” her voice sounded rough like her vocal cords had been mistreated with sandpaper. She swallowed against the pain that had worsened with each syllable and tried not to groan. And somehow, Cailin’s reaction made it worth it.

The girl’s cheeks crimsoned before she hid them behind her long hair. A grin spread over her face, lightening up her emerald eyes.

A second passed before she spoke again. “I’m so glad that you’re feeling better,” Cailin whispered, stroking over Eira’s forehead with the warm cloth. Eira closed her eyes and sighed. This was quite calming.

Gently, she moved the cloth over her eyes to her cheeks and then carefully over her whole face.

Eira felt manky like she hadn’t taken a bath in days. How long had it been since she had been awake? Nobody had even told her how long she had actually slept.

Weeks could have passed, and she wouldn’t even know.

“How long-” her throat closed up against her will. She let out a cough and raised her hands to her mouth. Considering how dry her mouth felt, she must have been asleep for another day or two.

“How long did you sleep?” Cailin guessed, tilting her head to the side. Her long, brown hair brushed against the thin blanket that lay over Eira’s legs.

Eira nodded and swallowed. She sniffed and laid her hands down by her sides again.

She hated this. So much.

“Well...” Cailin drawled out, mindlessly drawing patterns on her thigh. Her gaze fell down to the blanket. “When king Arkyn had brought you here, you were unconscious for two days, fighting a heavy fever. I was told that you were awake for almost half an hour before you fell asleep again.”

The girl bit her lip and met her eyes again. “I guess you were asleep for another day and a half after that.”

At least she hadn’t been out for weeks, she thought. She shook her head and sighed deeply. There was probably so much she had missed. She would have to get back on that sooner than later.

Cailin’s face fell. “I’m sorry that all of this happened, Eira. If I hadn’t left, maybe he would have-”

Eira could do nothing but lay her hand over her mouth, halting her. She stared into her eyes and shook her head. “No, Cailin,” she whispered, her voice barely there. It hurt her throat, but she needed her to understand. Even if it was all a lie, she didn’t want her to worry. Not about this. “Don’t blame this on yourself. This was all him.”

She needed to keep spinning her deceptions.

Godsdammed, she hated lying to Cailin, but it was the only thing she could do to keep both of them safe. Hopefully, it would get better with time.

“But-” she mumbled through the hand over her mouth.

“No,” Eira rasped and shook her head. She moved her hand away from Cailin’s lips. She needed to get her to think of something different, give her something to do. “I will not allow you to blame yourself. Now please, help me get cleaned. I feel so manky.”

Her hand fell heavy on her stomach, and she grunted. There had been other things she hadn’t been able to do these last past days. “Before we can do anything,” she groaned with a raspy voice as she sat up with Cailin’s help, “I will need to use the restroom. I won’t last much longer.”

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