(chapter continued from previous post)
Lost in thought, she decided to heed advice and go back inside. She’d been away from Lysandra long enough anyway.
Kaveri, perched on the couch and softly singing unfamiliar songs, broke off when Narcissa came in, and greeted her with a smile. “Feel a little better?”
“Physically. Lirit is talkative.”
Kaveri’s eyebrows rose. “Talkative? I don’t believe she’s ever said anything to me. She did tell you to trust us…”
“And warned me to roll off the couch just before the vulture struck. This was more like an actual conversation. I think they feel bad.”
“Well, they should! I love Lirit and know she loves me, but they’ve been allowing the other bloodline to get away with too much for too long. And now this? I don’t care that they did help even the odds by not healing them, I certainly hope they do feel bad. This should never have gotten this far.” She sighed. “Of course, your expert moonblood bodyguards haven’t really covered ourselves in glory by preventing it, either.”
“You’ve been in Enodia for less than a month, and you think you should have ferreted out all the people involved in a conspiracy dating back at least five generations?”
“Hm, it took us four years in Galimont and that was maybe two decades old by the time we arrived. Still, you’d think we would have learned something. Or at least managed to keep you safe if it did happen. Between accidentally changing you and not noticing the net had been cut enough to let someone winged through and letting that stag do the damage he did, we’ve failed you badly.”
“No. We’re still alive. So you haven’t failed.”
“I wish I were as forgiving.” Kaveri stood up and moved away from the couch. “I’m guessing you’d like to be alone again. I’ll be close, and I’ll hear you if…” She stopped, eyebrows rising again.
Narcissa turned around, to see what Kaveri was watching behind her.
The same nurse who had checked on Lysandra before, and two others, and with them was Aithre’s Oracle. She wore, as always, her saffron dress with its indigo serpent borders, and the coins dangling from a silver chain belt jingled faintly as she moved; like most women, in this heat, she’d forgone a mantle entirely, but did have a saffron veil over her loose mostly-silver hair. The thick-bodied arm-length snake that had been draped around her neck in the agora earlier that day was no longer present, but of course the blue-black serpent tattoos spiralling around her forearms remained.
“Stay, please,” Aithre’s Oracle, the high priest of her temple in Phleion, said to the nurses, before turning her attention to Narcissa. “I come with a private message and a gift. The message is from Neaira. She has been pleased and proud of your work in her name, and would have preferred to see it continue, but under the circumstances, she reluctantly frees you of your oath to her, and what you do in the future is between you and your mother. Your vow not to marry is your own concern.” She came nearer, standing on the far side of Lysandra’s bed, and her face turned grave. “My poor sister.” She laid a manicured hand on Lysandra’s forehead, the other on her chest, and closed her eyes.
Narcissa’s breath caught. Oh, surely not, this has only happened a handful of times in all of Enodia’s history…
“By the grace of both Neaira and Makarios, who are as we speak receiving deeply sincere and emotional prayers and offerings all over the city. By the grace of Scyron whose gratitude you have both earned in the past by your defence of justice. By the grace of the five moons, who wish to make amends and want Neoma’s children not to grieve. By the grace of Briseis who watches over the Diamantian bloodline. By the grace of Aithre, who loves you both very much. Be well.”
It felt to Narcissa like the entire world paused for the space of three of her own rapid heartbeats, as though they’d reached the end of the stanza in a poem and hadn’t yet begun the next. And in that space, the next stanza was rewritten, no longer quite in continuity with the events in the last.
Lysandra took a deep breath, much deeper than the shallow ones since her injury, and then another. The Oracle smiled and let her hands fall.
After the third breath, Lysandra’s eyes blinked open. Almost instantly, her forehead furrowed with confusion. It took her three tries, pausing to lick her lips after the second, before she could say, “Cissa?”
Narcissa dropped down onto the edge of the bed and caught her hand, aware of the tears streaking her cheeks but not caring. “I’m right here.”
“That was… ow. Worse than Agathon making me ride his stallion. But…”
“You’re entirely healed,” the Oracle said gently, and leaned down to kiss her forehead. “The same blessing will ensure that the rest of your household recovers without complications, though I cannot promise no long-term effects. Miracles, after all, don’t come by the dozen. If you ever feel you have nowhere to belong, you will always be welcome with us.”
“I… thank you?”
“We’ll come soon,” Narcissa told the Oracle. “With a proper offering. Once my cousin catches up.”
The Oracle inclined her head. “If you’ll excuse me? It has been a long and busy day. You have my personal thanks for declaring that Aithre’s children have a gift which can be of benefit to all Enodia. You gave a number of people who greatly needed it a sense of pride and worth as well as public acknowledgement. It is, however, keeping my sisters and brothers and I busy.”
“I’m completely lost,” Lysandra said plaintively, as the Oracle left and the nurses executed a tactful and rapid retreat, probably to start telling people what they’d just seen—after all, that was the point of witnesses.
“Sorry,” Kaveri said, “but just to make sure…” She flipped back the sheet and drew her knife to slice through the wrapped bandages around Lysandra’s torso with such brisk efficiency Lysandra barely had time to process what she was doing.
Dried blood remained, outlining the sharp edges of the stag’s hooves and the incision made in the struggle to repair the damage, but the skin itself was unmarked.
“Just checking,” Kaveri said. “I’ll, um, be nearby.” She ducked around the screens, and Narcissa heard multiple familiar voices immediately demanding verification.
Narcissa leaned down to hug Lysandra fiercely; her sister’s arms wrapped around her in return, and while she might be bewildered, the strength in them was normal, and so was the temperature of her body, and the beat of her heart when Narcissa let her head rest against her chest for a moment.
“You were hurt so badly, I was so afraid you were going to die…”
“Did you…? But we’re not in moonlight.”
“No. This was a lot of gods together. I might have, if you’d gotten any worse. I don’t know. I didn’t want to decide. But I didn’t. It’s been a very busy day, and you slept through it all.”
“Sorry.” She squirmed, and Narcissa let go, helping her sit up; absently, Lysandra gathered the sheet around her. “Maybe you can find me some clothes, and you can tell me what I missed?”