She was asleep until she felt something cool against her lips. Instinct and vague memories made her open them. Water trickled into her mouth, cool and refreshing. She drank, and drank again, until she had the strength to open her eyes and look up at the bare branches of the trees.
Her servant was above her, black eyes as wide as they ever got, holding the cup to her mouth. She smiled at it and reached out her left hand. Immediately, the creature scurried to her hand and supported her as she pushed herself up to lean against the trunk of a great oak tree.
She took care not to let herself too near to maples, though all trees held potential danger. If her sister knew she still lived, she might wish to remedy that. She had certainly tried hard enough.
But it had been some time now, and she was still safe. She took the cup from the servant and drank down the rest of the water. It cleared her mind, and she turned her attention to her wounds. She touched them one by one—there were seven of them—and grimaced as she did so, but though they were still red and inflamed, they had long since stopped leaking blood, and she believed that the redness and heat and pain were less.
She turned to the creature waiting by her side. “And what of the court? Have you been back?”
Its voice rattled like the wind through trees. “Of course I have, mistress.”
It had, because she had ordered it. She nodded. “And my compatriots?”
“They have caused to be built a great throne, one larger and more splendid than the one to which you are accustomed, and that seats two.”
She sighed and closed her eyes in other pain than from her wounds. She had believed that without her, things would go on much as they had when she was part of the court—her people could not avoid fighting among themselves, no more than the humans could. But it seemed that the others had come to some sort of truce. Perhaps three were necessary to form a balance.
“And what other changes have they made?”
“None that I have seen, mistress. But I did not stay long.”
No, because it did not wish to leave her side while she was so slow to heal. “Bring me fruit from the market, and more water, and chamomile tea.” An herb should be safe enough. And it would ease her tired mind. “And if there is any news, bring that as well.” When she was ready to sleep again, she would order it back to the court, to gather information there. It was not very intelligent, but until she could go herself—or another servant joined her, which was unlikely—it would have to do.
Her servant scurried up into a tree. She dug her nails into the soil to touch the metals in the earth and rested.