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Arden Chapter 25:
After the Storm

Brownyn heard voices a long way away. The stone floor she lay on was warmer, white than she remembered. And softer. Through heavy eyes she saw tall blurred shapes move back and forth. One looked like a cloud. She heard a soft, gentle sound. Something touched her face. Then blackness.

*****

Some time later, hours or weeks perhaps, Bronwyn opened her eyes again. Things were clearer now. She was in a bed. Other beds were nearby. She tried to turn her head to see them but something was stopping her turn her neck or lift her head from the pillow. She couldn’t move her arms or legs either. Something very heavy but very soft was holding them down.

Bronwyn blinked slowly. What was she trying to look at? She couldn’t remember. Maybe if she closed her eyes for a moment it would come back to her.

Chester wiped the damp cloth across her forehead again.

*****

Bronwyn woke up. She lay in a bed, alone in a small room. Sunlight beamed through the window on her left, brightening and warming the room. Was this room familiar? She thought she remembered more people. She touched her forehead. It was dry. Next to the bed was a chair and a small table. On the table was a wooden bowl containing a damp cloth. There was no-one else in the room.

The angle and freshness of the light told Bronwyn it was early morning. The bed told her she must be injured. The thumping that awoke in her head as she tried to move told her she hadn’t recovered yet.

But nothing else seemed to be injured. She wore no bandages or splints. Nothing was broken. She moved slowly and stiffly but she could still move.

And she could still remember. The courtyard, the firestorm. Donovan. They must have won. She would be in a prison cell, or worse, if they had not.

Bronwyn wondered if she should get up, go outside and try to find someone, but the door was so far away she wasn’t sure she could make it.

Maybe in a few more minutes, after she had closed her eyes.

*****

The next time she awoke Chester was sitting in the chair reading. He must have been waiting for her to wake up because he started speaking while Bronwyn was still forming words in her head.

“Bronwyn! You’re okay!”

“I’m fine,” she said quickly. It took Chester a moment to respond, like he was thinking carefully about what he wanted to say.

“Are you sure? Should I fetch someone? You don’t sound yourself.”

What was he talking about? She knew she sounded fine. She told him so again but he only looked more concerned.

“Don’t try to talk,” he said, patting her arm. “I’ll get Morrigan.”

This time she didn’t fall asleep. The room was different now. The shadows harsher, and the light from the window spilled on to the floor, not the opposite wall. She must have fallen asleep for a couple more hours.

Chester returned shortly with Morrigan and a physician. The physician felt Bronwyn’s forehead and very slowly guided her to a sitting position while Morrigan and Chester spoke.

“Don’t say anything,” said Morrigan, “Just nod or shake your head. Can you do that?”

Bronwyn nodded.

“How bad?” Morrigan asked Chester.

“I could understand her but she was slow to respond and slurred her words.”

“I’m not slurring my words,” said Bronwyn.

“You see?” said Chester.

Morrigan leaned closer “Hmm. Bronwyn do you know who we are?” She nodded. “Do you know who you are? Good, you look surprised at that question. Can you answer some others for me?” She nodded again, slower this time. What was wrong? “You are Bronwyn of the Earth, a Mage of the Truth?”

That wasn’t right. Why didn’t he know? She shook her head. “No,” she said.

“That sounded like a ‘no’,” said Chester.

“Don’t say anything, Bronwyn. Are you of the Flame?” said Morrigan?

Nod.

“A Mage of the Truth?”

Shake.

“A Guardian of the Peace?” said Chester.

Nod.

“Do you know who the king is?” said Morrigan.

That one puzzled her and it must have shown on her face.

“I think she knows there is no king,” whispered Chester.

Nod.

“Well her hearing seems fine,” says Morrigan. “And she is improving since our last conversation.

“What last conversation?” she said, but they didn’t understand her.

“Has she eaten?” Morrigan asked the physician.

“Very little. Mostly water since she was brought to this room. Some broth.”

“Are you hungry?” Morrigan asked Bronwyn.

She realised she was. Very hungry. She nodded emphatically.

“Bring her some food, then. A stew if there is one.”

“I’ll stay with her,” Chester said.

Bronwyn didn’t say anything else. There didn’t seem to be much point. The food arrived quickly, stew, bread, an apple and a cup of wine mixed with water. Chester settled the food on the table. He filled the spoon and offered it to Bronwyn while he held the bowl. He was trying to feed her.

She rolled her eyes and took both bowl and spoon and fed herself. Whatever was wrong with her only seemed to bother them when she talked, so she stayed silent and enjoyed the steaming food and let Chester do the talking.

“Do you remember what happened? Yes? The rebellion? The courtyard? Okay, okay, I’m just making sure. You’ve been asleep for the last four days. Oh, that part you don’t remember? Do you remember the whirlwind you made? I hope you do. It was incredible. I don’t know how you did that and how….ok, I’ll move on.

After Rydan and the Mages fell the reinforcements arrived from the nearby cities just as we feared, but they were on our side. Donovan took charge of Lorin and declared martial law until things could get under control, you know the looting and so on. Many people have returned to the city and the rebuilding work has begun. It’s going to take some time, though.”

“Sallus?” said Bronwyn.

“That sounded like Sallus,” said Chester. Bronwyn nodded. “He is under guard in the cells. Yes, he’s still alive. Once a new government is in place he can be tried for what he did. What government? I don’t know yet. Donovan is helping for now but he doesn’t want to rule. Morrigan says they are putting together a coalition of merchants, nobles and politicians from here and some from the other city-states. And Mages of course. Sallus is gone but it’s not like all the Mages have vanished, is it?”

“Who? Which Mages?” said Bronwyn.

“I understood that! You’re getting better. Ovette is the only one I know. I think she was the first Mage to be invited into the coalition.”

“Oh good,” said Bronwyn. “She seems like she means well.”

“Means well? Yes she does have that reputation, doesn’t she.”