Joss Whedon owns "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and related characters; Tamora Pierce owns "The Song of the Lioness Quartet" and related characters; I own nothing.~*~*~
When the rescuers came down Chitral’s Pass carrying not only the body of the Lioness, but that of a mysterious blonde woman, Thayet instinctively knew the gods were playing a far deeper game than anybody realized. It was beyond Alanna of Trebond and Olau being the favored of the Great Mother; this was something that she doubted even the great theologians could understand. As she was only the disgraced princess of a war-torn nation, Thayet was at a loss to explain what had occurred in the mountain pass.
But those thoughts would have to wait as she stood in the hallway outside of the rooms the two women were assigned to. The Doi healers had been and gone, leaving Alanna’s wounds bandaged and treating both women for frostbite. Now all that was left was waiting for them to wake.
“Who do you think she is?” Buri asked Thayet, appearing next to her princess from the common room below stairs. The younger girl was dressed comfortably in K’miri leathers and smelled like the scented fires the innkeeper was now burning in celebration of Alanna’s achievements. He was already predicting several good seasons, and not even the appearance of a woman nobody could identify dampened his good cheer. Not everybody felt the same way, however, leaving Thayet and Buri as the only two who were willing to attend to her while she slept these last few days.
“I don’t know,” Thayet answered with a shrug. “I think Faithful does, but he’s not saying anything.”
“Of course that cat knows,” Buri snorted. “He’s been hiding in the her room ever since they were brought back. Even with Liam watching over Alanna, I would think Faithful would at least go visit his mistress at least once.”
Thayet remained silent, but secretly agreed. Liam had been furious to find Alanna gone and Faithful complicit in her actions. There was more to it, Thayet was sure, but neither the cat nor the Shang Dragon were in a talkative mood at the moment.
“What do you make of the weapon they found her with?” Buri continued, refusing to leave the subject now that she’d started. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before.”
“Neither have I,” Thayet agreed quietly. The weapon in question, a bright red blade reminiscent of an ax with a wooden spike extending from the handle, currently kept the mystery woman and Faithful company behind closed doors. Thayet had touched it once, and even for somebody not Gifted, she could feel the power coursing through it. Again, she suspected Faithful knew what it was and its purpose, but the cat was being stubbornly silent whenever Thayet asked him. But then, that was a cat for you.
“I think it’s my turn to care for Alanna and brave the Dragon’s wrath,” Buri commented, spying two maids coming up the stairs, trays in hand.
Thayet, in no mood to deal with Liam’s sullen silences, agreed, and took one of the trays before dismissing the maid. Early on, they decided that only they would be the ones to help care for the patients. While everybody else was wary about entering the woman’s room, it was the opposite problem with the Lioness. The first time Thayet heard the servants fighting over who would serve Alanna, she’d pulled rank and said that only she and Buri would do so; Coram still recovering from the drinking binge he’d embarked on when Alanna left.
Quietly entering the room, she placed the tray with broth and water on the table next to the bed. Its occupant looked achingly young as she slept, her blonde hair fanned out around her petite face. Curled up at her feet, a black cat with purple eyes studied Thayet for a moment before returning to his nap. No, she would get no answers from Faithful today.
“Who are you?” Thayet whispered, wondering what answers would await her when the woman woke up, and whether or not she would like what she had to say.