And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll
Lirssa fell asleep on the couch in High Spires in the small, aching hours of pre-dawn. The clatter of footsteps some time latter was a raucous prelude to the chorus of fractious whispers.
?You can stop trying to decide if you should wake me.? Lirssa spoke without opening her eyes. ?I?m awake.? At least enough to speak.
The whispers broke into a chittering as birds disturbed from their roost. Lirssa couldn?t help but wince at the sound. A drumming headache increased, crashing forward from the back of her head.
?I?m not that awake,? she groaned, pulling the blanket over her head. Someone had put a blanket over her. She didn?t remember doing that.
She heard Esmund, the High Spires house father, gather while whispering to Lirssa to rest more. But the images of last night skipped around in her mind, flashing moments so clear that the emotions bubbled up into her tightening chest. Her weary body could not convince her mind to get back to sleep.
Lirssa saw the bloody mire of the Sanctuary as the battle folded into final squalls of death throws cut short by weary arms with bloody weapons. She heard the cries and calls as she and Theolin raced through the streets to High Spires. Ached as the vision of a terrified family of Trilodians replayed in her mind. They were desperate to get to a safe haven, blocked by a band of Temple fanatics. How clearly she could see the expressions on their faces barely change from terror to fear laced with gratitude when Lirssa and Theolin dispatched their attackers. This was an image burned over and over in her mind by repetition of experience as lynch mob after lynch mob were given their due while she made her way to High Spires.
High Spires remained an oasis tempered with the shadows of Knights in the corners of the gabled Victorian style home. Lirssa anguish sank into the ocean of weariness she felt inside when her mind replayed the sight of Maureen and Esmund opening the door. They had looked worried. She knew she did not look well with the cut to her ribs still trickling blood, staining her clothes.
Then the couch. A burning at her side. Sleep.
Lirssa pulled the blanket down and opened her eyes. Fingers crept to her ribs finding a bandage there. She smelled the spicy tea before she saw it. Murmuring her thanks to Maureen, she barely hid the wince as she sat up to accept the tea for a desperate sip.
Maureen had seen her share of battles in her forty years. The handle of a hatch poked up behind her back where it was still strapped in preparation for the evening. The woman clearly saw Lirssa?s wince, but she also didn?t fuss over her. ?Once you got here, we sent the Knights on to help more of the citizens. We saw to Theolin?s injuries before she demanded she go on as well.?
Demanded was just about right. Lirssa smirked and nodded. ?I should do the same. I need to check on Summerlane.?
Maureen shifted on the table she claimed as a seat. ?You saw it defended Lirssa. All the children from the foster homes are here or there, and safe. I saw until word comes otherwise, you best trust to the people you sent there to protect it.? One flop of her hand encouraged Lirssa to drink more, and Lirssa did so. ?I don?t know what you did last night, but you look like a ghost. You need rest.?
Lirssa felt like a ghost; insubstantial and barely in touch with the world around her.
He stood guard at Summerlane, and she had no way of knowing if his own strength was holding out or not. They both had been through far too much in the past several months, and still she had asked it of him. They were perhaps more siblings than blood could vouch for.
?No, Maureen, I?m sorry.? She drank more tea. ?No doubt you?re right, but it isn?t over, and I?m still standing.? Or she would be. As soon as she stood up. That took some concentrated effort. The couch was far too comforting, and her body wanted to sink back under the blanket.
But she did stand, straightening her aching back and pulling at the bandage of her ribs. Maureen only nodded and smiled. ?You will want to see a healer about that when you?re done. It?ll suit for now.? She picked up Lirssa?s knife belt and handed it to her. ?Don?t worry about here. They barely pecked at us all through the night, and Esmund and I know what to do. We?ll wait the rest of this storm out.?
?I?ll send word when I?m done,? Lirssa said as she belted the weapons around her once more. They shared an understanding nod, and Lirssa was out the door making her way toward the Cardinal Inn and helping all who needed it along the way. There was a show that afternoon and then work at the inn to follow. She?d rest sometime. Some time later.
She did not look back at the house for fear there would be little eyes watching and little hands waving goodbye.