My soaked clothes and the cool wind made me shiver as I was carried down the hallway.
As we got closer to the open door leading to my room, I tried to tell dad about the monster, but the way he held me made it so I couldn’t sign to him.
[Monster! Monster! There’s a monster! Careful! Monster!]
I yelled as we got close, realising he was about to step in, but it didn’t stop him.
He crossed the threshold, lamp in hand, but to my surprise there were no monsters. My window was still broken and the rain was pouring in, but there were no monsters at all. Not even a trace.
Suddenly I remembered something important.
[Darkie! We need to get Darkie!]
He stopped walking and looked down at me curiously.
Even if I wanted to sign, I didn’t know how to spell his name. So I kept repeating his name while pointing toward the bed. His brow furrowed. Probably misunderstanding what I meant.
I repeated while pointing.
He looked toward the bed. Suddenly a spark lit up in his eyes and he headed to the side of the bed and bent over as I gripped his neck so as to not fall.
Once he straightened back up, he had the bunny in hand and gave him to me.
[Darkie! I was so scared! Are you ok?]
“I’m fine Silika, but the monster…!”
I shook my head
[We’re fine now. Dad scared them away, I think.]
“Ah! I see! Dad!”
If Darkie could move, I’m sure he would be nodding wisely like Hare used to do when he was teaching me.
While I was busy talking to Darkie, Lionheart approached the broken window. After looking around for a moment, he turned around and picked up Sparrow from the top of my closet.
I had been so scared that I had completely forgotten about him! I’m so sorry Sparrow…
Dad whispered a few words to it and it flew away.
Looking around one last time and seeing I had calmed down, Lionheart turned back toward the hallway, leaving the room in darkness.
We headed toward the stairs and headed up the stairs toward the third floor.
Third floor? Why there?
I guess we can’t go to his room since it’s all messy but… Wait. Why was his room so messy in the first place?
We reached the top of the stairs. It felt warmer up here. Maybe it was because the third floor was mostly made of wood? Wood always felt warmer than stones. We turned left and he stopped for a moment in front of a set of closed doors. I recognised the place. It was where I saw the portraits. Lionheart, dad, looked at it longingly.
I felt a sudden shiver run through my body all the way up to my nose.
It might be warmer here, but my clothes are still soaked and cold…
Noticing my discomfort, Lionheart shook himself from his torpor and continued walking. We reached the intersection and he opened the door. Immediately warmth washed over me. Beyond the threshold, a flame gently danced in the fireplace illuminating a study packed with books, memorabilia and strange apparatus. The room was built in the corner of the mansion and so the walls were slightly inclined where the roof met the room. Windows were fitted in alcoves all along the walls and even at night, I could tell the view must have been quite impressive.
There was something… Calming about the room.
The desk was a mess and I could see trays, plates and glasses scattered about the different surfaces, but when looking at the equally scattered books and letters, it all came together and gave the room a feeling of familiarity.
He walked right in and sat me on a red couch facing the fire.
Lionheart disappeared from my vision for a second before coming back with a towel in hand.
He patted me down and removed as much of the water as he could, but the dress was completely soaked through and the raging fire in front of me only served to make it stick uncomfortably to my skin.
-Let’s get you out of that dress. Otherwise you will get sick.-
Dad signed to me.
I nodded in agreement and lifted my arms high, waiting patiently. After a few moments of waiting, I turned to Lionheart expectantly.
Why wasn’t he pulling it up for me?
His expression was uncomfortable but after a few more moments of patient staring, he finally helped me remove the soaked dress which he promptly hung on the back of a nearby chair. He wrapped me up in the blanket and rubbed my arms and back strongly to soak out any and all remaining water.
A sneeze was coming up in my nose. It felt uncomfortable as it stayed in place for a few seconds before coming, tickling my throat as it did.
-Are you cold?-
Lionheart signed to which I nodded.
His lips pursed in a guilty expression and he picked me up, still wrapped in the towel. He got closer to the fire and sat me down on his knee. He stared into the flame for a few moments and I followed his gaze.
The fire was very pretty. It looked like small red dancers frolicking about. I felt calmer as I watched them and my eyes became heavier.
-Why did you go down the hallway?-
Dad asked me, taking me out of my daze.
I tried to rub away the sleepiness from my eyes before answering.
-I was scared of the monsters.-
I simply answered.
Wouldn’t it have been more dangerous to stay in my room?
I couldn’t see his expression, but I could tell from his wavering hands that he was confused.
-Yes. The one from the basement. They got in my room and in the backyard. They even broke my window! I was scared they would eat me…-
I explained with trembling hands.
I felt a palm on my head as Lionheart gently ruffled through my hair.
-That must have been scary.-
I nodded as I curled into a ball.
His leg was so big that I could almost fit entirely on top of it. I tapped my toes on the soft fabric of the pants for a bit before bringing my feet back down to the rough carpet. The contrast felt interesting.
-But why did you go there? There are plenty of servants still up elsewhere at this hour.-
Is that right? Even when it’s dark. Regardless, it wasn’t what I had been thinking of back then, so I shook my head.
-I was looking for you.-
-So you could protect me from the monsters.-
But you weren’t there… And your room was…
Suddenly I remembered something important.
-Daddy! I think the monsters got in your room! They broke everything!-
Lionheart smiled sadly.
-No it wasn’t the monsters. The room was already like that. There are no monsters in the mansion.-
-But I saw them! There was one in my room and a ton of them in the garden!-
He rubbed his chin for a second.
Why did he look so calm? Was he convinced? Or maybe he didn’t believe me… Maybe he’s thinking about how to get rid of the monsters!
-What did the monsters look like, Silika?-
I tried to remember. They were hard to see in the dark, but I guess the big light they made was at least a clue.
-They were… Dark… And tangly! They looked like big spiders with snakes for legs!-
After a short pause, he signed to me.
-Did the monsters look something like this?-
He extended his hand and spread his fingers wide and with his other hand he pointed to the back of the room.
Curious, I followed his finger. Far against the wall, I saw the faint outline of his fingers.
He nodded and I looked again.
It looked vaguely similar, but I had difficulty keeping my eyes open from the fatigue.
-But they made big lights…-
That’s right! I didn’t imagine that. The monsters made HUGE lights!
Lionheart looked perplexed.
I was on the verge of falling asleep but I wanted to know.
-Lightning… Is something… The sky does when he’s angry.-
The sky gets… angry? Who's the god of the sky? Is there one? I can’t remember….
I don’t remember anything after that beyond Lionheart’s gentle hand on my head and the warmth coming from the fire.
When I woke up, I was sleeping on the red couch, dressed in a gown and covered by a heavy fur blanket.
As I tried to sit up, I felt my head spin and it made me wince. Lionheart, who had been sitting at his desk, quickly stood up and came to check on me.
He put his palm on my forehead and grimaced.
I felt an itch down my throat and tried to clear it, but instead threw myself into a coughing fit. I closed my eyes and coughed harder, hoping it would make the itch leave, but it became even worse.
Dad brought me a glass of water and I gulped it down. The cool liquid helps sooth it for a moment, but as soon as it was past, the itching came back as distracting as ever.
I handed him back the empty glass and took a deep breath, but the pressure in my head was going nowhere.
-How are you feeling?-
Lionheart asked me.
I tried to think of a way to describe how it, but that only served to make my head feel stuffy.
He nodded and helped me lay back on the couch. I closed my eyes.
A few minutes later, Stash came to the room accompanied by an older woman I had never seen before.
She smiled toward me and said a few words, but almost immediately Stash intervened. He explained something to the old woman who’s eyes lit up and nodded seriously.
She bent down and waved kindly and I waved back before turning to Stash and Dad.
-This person here, my lady, is a doctor. She is here to examine you.-
Instinctively, I backed away and balled up.
What did he mean by doctor? Examining me? I don’t like it. It sounds like back then. Maybe she will also think I’m bad and…
The doctor smiled and raised her hands. By now I was familiar with the gesture. Stash and Lionheart had often done the same when they wanted to say they wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want.
The butler leaned forward.
-I apologise, my lady, I did not explain properly. Do you know what a doctor is?-
I shook my head.
-Is it like a kinsmann?-
Stash’s moustache danced for a moment as he thought about my question.
-Not quite, my lady. A doctor is a person who looks after a person’s health. They do not partake in the domain of the gods.-
I released my knees slightly.
-She’s here to examine… My health?-
-That’s correct. She is here to determine if you have any illness and offer treatment.-
I said, remembering the black goo I was fed after the accident.
-I don’t really like medicine…-
-I will ask her to only offer the best tasting ones, my lady.-
Stash signed with a smile on his face.
Not quite convinced but unsure how else to proceed I nodded and allowed the doctor to examine me.
She opened her satchel and took out what looked like a stick with a circular piece of glass at the top. She gently opened my mouth with her thumb and looked down my throat with the glass apparatus.
She held it there for several seconds and I had to resist the urge to bite down until she released her hold. While I chewed on air until my jaw felt normal again, she discussed a few things with Stash and Lionheart. She pressed her hand on my forehead and then on the side of my neck without even looking at me. She gripped the side of my throat and held it in place for a few moments before releasing her grip. She turned to me again and brought her glass circle to my face and stared at my eyes.
Through the glass I could see that her eye was ridiculously bigger and it made me laugh. The doctor smiled and continued looking. She then turned my face to the side and pulled on my ear. Probably giving it a look over.
After another long moment, she nodded and released me. Stash brought me a glass of water and while I drank, the three of them continued speaking.
My nostril suddenly tickled and I let out a sneeze. Stash promptly wiped my nose with a handkerchief.
The doctor asked the butler something, to which he nodded before, allowing the doctor closer once again.
She started pulling up my sleeve, but I instinctively stopped her and looked around the room.
Did they see the marks? Please tell me that they didn’t see…
Lionheart came closer and patted my head for a moment.
-It’s okay, don’t worry. She just wants to make sure everything is healing well.-
So he knew.
Maybe he saw it last night?
I felt relieved in a way, but also sad. As though I didn’t have control over what people knew of me.
The doctor started examining my arms, my back, then my legs… By the end of it, I think my body held no secret for her.
After the examination was over, Mili arrived with breakfast in hand.
She helped me get dressed into a more comfortable gown while the three adults spoke to each other.
She sat me down on the sofa and set the food in front of me. As I ate breakfast, I slowly started feeling better.
The adult spoke calmly, but I didn’t mind. The doctor didn’t seem like someone who would get angry and seeing the way they were speaking, they weren’t angry. They looked calm and maybe a bit worried.
Although my throat still ached and my head felt swollen, it felt like things were about to make sense again.