Aidan’s eyes fluttered slowly open. She was aware of being in bed, with a warm body next to her. She turned her head
to look at the person, and was almost blinded by pain. Everything was jumbled and painful for ages, it seemed to Aidan, and
then it subsided. Somewhat.
When she could see again, Darcy was leaning over her, his hand on her face, his eyes worried. "How are you, Sulla?"
Aidan smiled. She thought that if she woke up one more time to find Darcy still not speaking to her and in a new unreachable
location, she would die. Her heart would break and she would die. Please, don’t let this be a dream.
"My head hurts. That’s a bit of an understatement. If I move around much more, I think I’ll be permanently blinded.
I'm not feeling my best, you could say. Are you okay, Darcy?"
He nodded, but managed not to jostle the bed around too much. "I'm fine, babe." His hand was still on her right cheek, his
eyes still worried. "You--I thought you were dead."
Aidan managed a weak smile. "I almost wish I was. You'll have to fill me in on what happened last night after I--went unconscious,
but not right now. Right now I'm waiting for my headache to subside so I can get up and vomit in the bathroom instead of on
Darcy sat up and helped her up, very gently. Almost gently enough that her head didn't spin, that she didn’t black out
from the pain. Almost. She didn't throw up right away, but she almost didn't make it to the toilet. Darcy held her hair back.
When she had finished, she sat on the floor with her forehead leaning against the cool porcelain of the toilet while Darcy
stroked her head. She looked up at him after a while. "Thank you."
He made a gesture as though waving her thanks away. "Do you need anything? Juice? Toast?"
"A pot, I think, especially if you're planning on leaving at some point for any length of time. That way I don't have to worry
about getting myself to the toilet next time. And I don't think I want to put anything into my stomach just yet. Maybe in
a few hours."
"Do you want me to leave?"
Aidan smiled. "I want you to go to the bathroom sometimes, and to eat, and maybe shower. And since I'm probably going to sleep
a lot for the next couple days, I don't expect you to sit here and watch over me for hours on end." She reached up to touch
his cheek, but briefly, for she felt weak. "I mean, if you really want to, I guess that's cool, so long as you do take care
of yourself and eat when you need to."
Darcy chuckled. "You talk a lot when you're otherwise incapacitated."
Aidan fought the urge to stick her tongue out at him. "I think I'm done here for a little bit at least, will you help me to
my bed? And then I'm serious about the pot. Then you are free to do whatever you wish."
Darcy helped her up, gently, and helped her walk back to the bed. As she lay down, she said, "Maybe you should think about
moving your stuff today. That's a bad neighborhood, you know?"
"I'll consider it. Let me get your pot."
Darcy stepped back into Aidan's room quietly. He walked through her sanctum and behind the bamboo screens to where she was
laying. He set the pot down gently; it looked like she'd fallen asleep again.
He hadn't made much noise, but her eyes fluttered open and she smiled when she saw him. "Darcy, my love ... "
His heart lurched. He still hadn't gotten over it. He knelt beside the bed and placed his hand on hers, and she adjusted her
hand's position so they were holding hands. There was pain in her eyes, but there was also pure happiness, behind the pain.
Her grip on his hand tightened, and he felt the slightest stirrings of fear at the weakness of her grip. He leaned toward
her and his other hand went to stroke her cheek. He kissed her, very gently.
Aidan wandered in and out of a dazed consciousness all day. She was never sure if she was dreaming or awake. She remembered
Darcy sitting by her bed, telling her he loved her. She remembered trying to tell him to go do something, to stop sitting
there, but she wasn't sure if anything came out. She remembered seeing her Avatar, Blaize. She saw her family, not just her
aunts and uncles and cousins, but her parents as well. She saw her friends, Moon Rising; Epona and Raven, Yellow Wolf and
She wasn't sure if any of it was real.
The only times that stuck out in her memory as probably being real were when she turned over to heave into the large pot Darcy
had brought up. Darcy was usually there when that happened. She didn’t eat that day.
At one point, Aidan stiffened, because moving any more than that brought pain, and looked at Darcy, sitting on the floor by
her bed. "Moon Rising! We were supposed to meet for Full Moon last night! They'll be so worried about me!"
"Shhh." Darcy had moved to his knees, and placed one hand on her cheek. "Julia called a couple hours ago. I told her you were
sick, and that we'd explain everything later. I think she and your friends are going to come visit you tomorrow or Friday."
Aidan relaxed in her bed, and nodded slowly. "Thank you."
"So what did happen, Darcy?"
"I'm not sure exactly. Kyril and I were waiting inside the mausoleum, and through the mindlink, we realized you guys were
losing. But then ... you slipped out of the mindlink, and I could tell through the others he had cut you with his knives and
you had gone down. I shifted myself and Kyril to look like more of them, and we ran into the Horizon Realm. I still had the
mindlink, but I wasn't really thinking about it, or anything that was going on."
Aidan gazed up at him, her hand on his arm, his hand on her face.
"I thought you were dead, I wasn't really thinking about much. But when we got up there, he was dead. And you were alive.
Knockout poison. Now that I stop to think about it, that makes sense. The torture room?"
Aidan shuddered, then closed her eyes as waves of pain went through her. She had no idea what time it was, but the windows
were dark. It was one of those rare times of coherency. Or a dream.
"Whatever happened, I'm glad of it." She suddenly felt tired, heavy, as if something were pulling her down. She tried to fight
it, to stay awake, to ask Darcy what he'd done today, to make sure he'd eaten. But darkness consumed her and she slept.
By midafternoon on Thursday, Aidan was eating Saltines and drinking root beer. Never a lot, especially at once, but it was
something. Better than the past day and a half. She was also conscious for longer periods of time. Darcy was there a lot,
at least when she was awake.
Thursday evening, Moon Rising came to visit. Julia, also known as White Feather, carried a small plant with bright yellow
flowers. Sun-haired Epona clutched a paper bag with a bottle in it. Yellow Wolf, a Dreamspeaker, was empty handed, as was
Flidais, with her dark brown hair done in tons of tiny braids. Raven carried a plastic grocery bag. They all looked worried.
Aidan smiled when she saw them, and tried to sit up without getting dizzy or needing to vomit. Darcy helped her. "Hey, guys.
It's good to see you. I'm really sorry about last night. But I have a good excuse. I wasn't conscious."
"Yeah, like that's a good excuse!" Epona shook her head, but smiled.
"Sulla, what happened?" Flidais' eyebrows were drawn tight. She didn’t smile at Epona's quip.
Aidan hesitated. Yellow Wolf was a Mage, and Julia was what the Mage community called a Consor; she knew about the Mages,
had seen Magick, was okay around it. Hells, Jules probably knows more about the Mage community than I do. Julia and
Yellow Wolf would have the whole story. Or as much as Aidan and Darcy remembered.
But the others ... they were what Mages called Custos. They knew about Magick, knew that it was more real than what they as
hedge-witches did, but ... a real wizard's duel? She didn't know how they'd take it.
On the other hand, Aidan hated lying to her friends. Which was why she didn't have many Sleeper friends, and most of the ones
she had, knew something. So she chose her words carefully. "I got into a fight, and the bastard used a knockout poison on
me. Darcy here brought me back, but I was unconscious until much later that night, or early yesterday morning, and I'm still
pretty much unable to move."
"A knockout poison?" Epona's blue eyes were wide.
"Yeah, it was on his knife. I think I'm gonna have a scar."
Yellow Wolf broke the silence with a grin. "Well, we brought you a few things. The rum might have to wait a few days, but
we've got cookies and a pretty plant that made us think of you, Miss Phoenix-fire."
"I saw the plant. Did you buy the cookies, or make them?"
Raven held up the plastic bag. "I'm reusing it. The cookies are my famous chocolate chip cookies."
Aidan smiled. "Oh, and I can't eat those right now, either. They won't stay in my stomach and your cookies are too good to
waste that way. But stay a few minutes and eat my cookies and drink my rum. I can't promise how long I'll be awake, but I've
been doing better."
After about ten minutes, much too short a time for Aidan, who hadn't seen most of Moon Rising for too long, she started feeling
sleepy again, and Darcy shooed them out of the room.
They each gave her a brief hug before going, and as she started slipping out of consciousness, she watched Julia give Darcy
a hug, and heard a few words of their conversation. "Yellow Wolf and I will come by later tonight to hear the whole story."
There was a pause; either no one said anything, or it was too quiet for Aidan to hear. "Darcy, are you two ... " there was
another pause before Julia continued. "I'm so happy for you." And then darkness enveloped her.
On Friday, Aidan was awake for long enough periods of time that she grew irritable about being in bed with nothing to do.
She asked Darcy to help her learn about Entropy. “Or are you sticking to that ridiculous thing about not being my Mentor
Since Darcy didn’t know anything about Entropy anyway, he got some books from the library for her. “Jishne wasn’t
happy about the books leaving the library, but I told him how prickly you are, and that he had to babysit you if I couldn’t
have the books.”
“You did nothing of the sort.”
In response, he simply raised an eyebrow.
“Now, before we begin with the books, tell me what you know about Entropy. What element?”
“Entropy’s actually Fire and Earth.”
“Entropy’s chance, right? The ability to make things happen the way they possibly could, but not exactly as they
might if left to their own devices. Well, Fire’s chancy, unpredictable. It’s why you like me so much.” Aidan
grinned. “But it has to be grounded in what’s possible. I could use Entropy to make a door handle fall off or
to increase the probability that someone forgot to lock their door; stuff that’s probable. That’s where Earth
“Sounds good.” He reached toward the stack of books.
Sunday afternoon, Darcy came into Aidan's bedroom. Aidan was almost finished with the last book on Entropy from the library,
and she was eating again. And walking. Slowly.
Darcy sat down on the bed next to Aidan. She was sitting up, with her feet tucked under her, and the blankets piled around
her. He kissed her cheek. "I've got a present for you, babe."
She looked up. "Why?"
"For all the good work you've been doing with Entropy." He pulled a small velvet bag, out of his coat pocket and handed it
to her. She opened it and poured its contents into her palm and laughed. She was holding two dice. The translucent kind, with
white spots. One red, and one green.
"I figured you could maybe use them as your Focus for Entropy. Red for Fire, green for Earth."
Aidan smiled fondly and snuggled against Darcy as he put his arm around her. "Thank you."
On Monday, Aidan took the books on Entropy back to the library herself. She spent a few hours working on her woefully neglected
novel. And she spent some time with Darcy.
She practiced a few times with Entropy and her new Focus. Mostly she amused herself and Darcy by breaking and fixing a few
things, small things she didn’t care too much about being broken permanently. She did have a tendency to want to try
things that shouldn’t be possible, though. She successfully made a pen dry up, but failed to get her pencil to split
in half the long way.
Tuesday evening was Gwennie's birthday party. Darcy came with Aidan for the dinner with her family, but he wouldn't let her
go to the club with her cousins (and her aunt Guenivere) afterward.
"Darcy! I'm fine! I'm much better! I can walk again, and look, I ate two rolls and all my vegetables without puking!"
Darcy shook his head and smiled at her.
Aidan had been talking quietly, but Julia was sitting nearby. "What, Aidan, you think you'll go to the club and leave me behind?
I don't think so. You and me and Darcy will hang out together. And maybe your cabal-mates?"
Aidan sighed. "Are the two of conspiring against me? I don't know who'll be home, but the three of us can definitely hang
out, even without my cabal-mates."
Before they left, Bridie reminded everyone about Thanksgiving dinner, as if anyone needed the reminder. "And all of you, feel
free to bring your cabal-mates and other important people." She smiled in Darcy's direction. "We're looking forward to a big
Aidan felt better enough to try a few of Raven's excellent cookies, but she tried to get Julia and Darcy to eat most of them.
And she ended up saving quite a few.