S&S: Guardians Of The Dead Part 12

It was a wealthy village. Not only did they find small clay bottles with ground herbs in them, but after searching only a few houses, Ludyrr discovered a mortar and pestle. The mortar held its heat better than wooden bowls. It would keep boiled water warm much longer.

“I found this!” She held the mortar up like a prize, when she returned to the home.

“You’ve done well, Ludyrr.” Elynir said.

“What do you mean by that?” Ludyrr snapped back.

“I only meant that you did a good thing, that’s all.”

“It was a compliment, you idiot.” Ibagghi said.

“It did not sound like a compliment!”

Elynir stayed quiet for a time. When she noticed Ibagghi handling the powder jars, she tried again. “Ludyrr, do you know what herbs those are?”

“Why are you asking me?” Ludyrr thundered at her. “I don’t know anything about herbs!”

“You don’t know Burdock?” Ibagghi asked.

“I know when to eat it, and when not to eat it!” Ludyrr answered.

“Do you know Everlasting Life? Do you know Rue?”

“No! I told you already!”

Ludyrr stormed away, striking the sliding door tapestry so hard it fell from the wall.

Dinieve and Endieve, who’d been keeping a straight face all this time, let loose with their laughter.

“That idiot can’t tell a compliment from an insult.” Ibagghi shook her head, before she motioned at sleeping Afiruk. “And this one, this sapling, lives in a giant tree and she is deathly afraid of tall heights. What a sorry lot we turned out to be.”

“You speak for yourself.” Endieve said. “My daughter and I were selected because we have all the good qualities needed to continue our line.”

“And that loudmouth out there?” Ibaggho asked. “Do you really think she was the best her clan had to offer? I tell you, I think she was the very worst.”

Elynir didn’t like the implications of that. She was in many ways an average woman, but in magic she was considered the best of her clan. Perhaps she was more than average, if she didn’t look down on herself so much. The rest of them: Ibagghi, Afiruk and Lydurr, were not standing out in any important way. If true, that meant half of the Sleepers were discards.

#####

When Ludyrr returned, and probably because it was growing very cold outside, the rest of the able women were surrounding Afiruk and humming. Their humming created a frequency of energy, and if their moonstones were functioning, they could store that energy in them until it was needed. Since the gems were used up, the energy went toward Afiruk. It wasn’t a healing energy, not exactly, but it did promote good health into better health. Their magic, white magic it was called, enhanced the small woman’s natural healing process, that is, her fever, to work better at cleaning out whatever had caused the infection to occur. Another way to explain it; if Afiruk had a cut, their white magic would not heal the cut itself, but it would encourage her body to heal itself better, and also slightly faster.

“Come on.” Endieve told Ludyrr. “We need you. Stand with us and help Afiruk.”

Ludyrr didn’t argue. She took her place at the end of their half circle, next to Ibagghi, and she shut her eyes and hummed as the rest.

“She will be very weak tomorrow.” Ibagghi estimated. “But the worst of it should be past.”

“We need to find new moonstones.” Dinieve said. “If we had them charged up, we could be helping Afiruk with them, and humming for ourselves.”

“I’m so sore I can barely lift my arms.” Ludyrr said.

It was becoming very clear to her, Elynir felt, and surely also to the others, that many times Ludyrr only spoke for attention.

#####

They were tired, and hungry, and so their magic session only last a short while. Each woman felt within herself when the ability to draw magic from the ether dwindled away. Elynir expected to outlast the others, but she didn’t. She felt drained right after Ibagghi and Ludyrr. The mother and daughter outlasted all of them.

“I know I’ll be nice and warm tonight.” Ibagghi grinned. “All I need do is squeeze in next to Afiruk. She’s giving off so much heat I’ll probably sweat half the night.”

“You are lucky.” Endieve replied. “My daughter pokes her elbows into me when she turns, and if not the elbows, it’s the knees that get me. Come, dove, we’ll sleep in the next room.”

This could become another tense moment, Elynir thought, as the two women left. “Ludyrr?”

“What?”

“I prefer not to sleep alone. Since you have such a large body, you’ll have to keep me warm tonight.”

“What do you mean by that? What do you mean I have a large body?”

“You idiot-girl,” Ibagghi scolded her. “It may not be as cold in here as sleeping outside is, but it will still be cold. Does that sink into that block of wood you have on your shoulders?”

“She said I had a large body.”

“Oh, no, you’re as small as a mouse.”

“Stop calling me an idiot.”

“Then stop acting like one. Choose a room for you and Elynir to sleep in, and keep her warm like the rest of us are keeping. Do you understand that much?”

“Of course I do!”

When Ludyrr faced Elynir, the blonde said nothing, but she did walk into one of the two rooms still empty. She used the fire-light from the social room to spread a blanket out on the bed carved from the wooden wall. Elynir removed her clothing until she stood in her undergarments, before she lay down and waited for her sleeping partner.

Ludyrr carried a second blanket. She tossed it onto the bed, on Elynir’s legs, before she too stripped down to her underclothes. Elynir heard her grumble as she undid her brassiere and set it on a dusty shelf. Next, the tall woman spread the blanket out and slid herself next to Elynir.

Elynir expected for Ludyrr to speak, but she only lay there with their arms touching. She turned to her side, facing away from the tall woman.

“Are you cold?” Ludyrr finally asked.

“Yes. Put your arm around me. I’ll close my eyes and pretend you are my husband from long ago. He hated me, you know.”

“Your husband hated you?”

“Not at first. I meant when I was wakened from the Long Sleep for a season. My husband was more than sixty years grown, while I… I suppose I would have been twenty-two or three then, if today I am at twenty-five. He hated that he’d grown old while I had stayed young. He called me a spring flower as an insult.”

“It wasn’t right for him to say that.” Ludyrr decided. “You weren’t having a time enjoying yourself. You were asleep all those years.”

“Were you married?”

“No, I never married.”

“So you had no child?” Elynir assumed.

“I did. I had a boy named Corty. I just didn’t tell anyone who the father was.”

“Why not?”

“Tomorrow.” Ludyrr said. “Tomorrow I will tell you.”

As scandalous as Ludyrr was now, Elynir thought, surely it was a scandal that had gotten her into the mess they were in now.

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