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Once more, in the light

   
Aria shook her head. "I've got a fistful of reports I need to get through. After that, I'll have questions. Until then- thank you, all, so much."

The tired elf gazed out of the window. "I don't think they were ever planning on killing us, would have held us there forever if you hadn't arrived..."

"If I may," Callach inquired in his most sensitive voice as he waited for the elf to accept but one question.
"Who is the man we rescued together with you and the Lady Violet?"

Perhaps not quite forever, but given Aria's expected lifespan it chilled Iliana to imagine for just how long her friend's torment could have been prolonged.

"If you need anything of me," Iliana assured Aria, "you need only send word. I will come at once."

Aria needed rest more than she needed to read through the reports, though Iliana knew no good would come of saying so. And for all she recognized in her friend the necessity of sleep, Iliana had ignored in herself that very need. She should wash, and then sleep herself while she had the chance. It was hard to trust that this relative quiet could, much less would, last.

"I don't know," Aria replied to Callach's question with a frown. "I can only imagine how he is involved."

"Thank you Iliana, so much," she smiled. "Now get some rest, both of you. You look awful and you're making the place look untidy. Sleep, eat, return to me when you're feeling fresh. I can wait that long for you."

Leaning in close, Iliana pressed a dry, gentle kiss upon Aria's forehead.

"I'm so relieved that you're here," she whispered, her voice as rich with love as it was soft. "It is so good to see you."

With a small, familiar smile, she squeezed her friend's hand before taking her leave of the infirmary. At the door, among the last of the lingering impressions of restorative magics, she turned back and offered a solitary wave. Aria could be trusted to know her own interests; it the elf said it was good for Iliana to leave and to rest now, then it was safe to leave Aria here and do so. As the hall outside the room went blurry with Iliana's weariness, she wiped her eyes and knew that she would find it difficult to be any good to Aria as she was now.

The floor clipped softly beneath Iliana's boots, as she walked on in search of someone -- perhaps a member of the medical staff -- who could point her in the direction of a room, a bed, a pallet, a scrap of floor, anyplace to lie down and sleep.

Callach offered a polite bow as Lady Aria left the room. "I must say you handle yourself marvelously considering you were chained to a wall just hours ago, mylady. I hope to see you even better next time."

The changeling nodded to Iliana too. "I will do as the Lady commands and find some rest. I trust our performer friend will constrain himself from doing anything to attract attention. We need to stay incognito until we know who and what we are up against. I wish you a well-deserved and peaceful rest, Iliana."

The tone of his voice was considerably less sarcastic than usual. Perhaps he was tired, or relived they were not being chased.
Or perhaps the usual Callach was but a mask, and now he was too weary to keep up the acting.
There was no way of telling.

He walks off to find a room for himself and delicately places various objects in front of the door to warn him if anyone should enter uninvited.

Chained to a wall? Iliana frowned at Callach's indelicacy, and the presumption that Aria was at all better. Aria was strong, but she was not invulnerable. It had been less than a day since she was released from that putrid dungeon, and from the close grasps of tortures and deprivation. Had Aria not screamed upon waking, just minutes earlier, as she fled the remembered horrors lurking just beneath her consciousness?

"Rest well, Callach," Iliana acknowledged the changeling with an inclination of the head. When Callach invoked their performer friend and Iliana almost grinned. It seemed not a solitary conversation could pass without the changeling speaking of Dazzle; she wondered whether Callach had taken a shine to him.

A pair of healers stood mid-way down the hall, allowing for privacy behind the infirmary doors. Approaching, Iliana bowed from the waist.

"Thank you for everything you've done," Iliana said. "I can't express how grateful I am that my friend was so kindly met by your expert care."

The halflings acknowledged her gratitude with a practiced professionalism. Before returning to the infirmary, they directed her to a room, a few scant halls away, where she could rest. Iliana walked there, half asleep already.

Even so, after closing the door, she sought out the still bowl of water upon the dresser. Stripping off the layers of clothes and armour, she washed away as best she could the cling of sweat and grim. The water went black with filth before she was finished, but when she turned the bowl fully round the water appeared clean again. After a handful of turns, she was able to finish, her skin red from scrubbing.

Brushing her curls smooth, she fastened them in a simple braid. Too tired to pray, she nevertheless did, muttering just above hearing a stream of nonsense syllables that broke upon the sudden swell of her tears. She found herself abed, not remember how she'd gotten there, fists twisted in her pillow, curled up beneath the sheets.

She prayed against the war, but there were no gods outside the faithful themselves. Who was she praying to? It didn't matter. All that stood before Khorvaire and war were people like herself, mortal and breakable. And so she would stand, with her prayers to no-one and her sword and whatever strength she possessed. She wondered if she would die of this, and whether she was afraid of dying. She wondered why she'd left Aria alone in the infirmary, why she hadn't simply taken up the bed beside hers to sleep. But it was too late now, and Iliana's limbs were heavy, and the bed so soft.

Sleep.




 

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