Chapter 13

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She was first aware of voices talking around her, sliding in and out of her awareness. She couldn't make out what they were saying, and some part of her longed to ignore them and sink back into deep sleep. She had the nagging feeling that something important had happened, though, and that someone was worried about her, but she couldn't remember why.

Am I back home? With mom? Maybe one of those voices was Salaki chatting with Xaiel, the two of them waiting for her to wake up so they could decide on what to eat for breakfast. That would make sense. Xaiel had chosen last time, so it was her turn next.

But then why did she feel so worried? And now that she listened a bit closer, none of them sounded like Salaki or Xaiel. They all seemed foreign, other than one...Elkeri?

Her hazy brain continued to fumble over itself, trying to place where she was. She struggled to open her eyes, heavy eyelids refusing to budge. Her whole body felt frozen in place, still curled in the throes of sleep. With an inward grunt, she kept trying to move until, finally, she managed to shift on to her other side. A burning blade stabbed through her chest right as she moved, making her screech in pain.

"Kusarel! Don't move, you'll hurt yourself." A claw pressed her down, avoiding the area that felt like it was on fire. Kusarel took in a few deep breaths, trying to get the pain under control. She wanted to paw at the wound to make it calm down, but she knew that was a horrible idea. It would only make it worse.

A few more moments passed and she felt her body relax just a bit, enough for her to return to the present. She blinked her eyes open and raised her head, looking at the room she was in. Three gryphons perched around her, staring with similarly concerned expressions. One was Elkeri, another appeared to be a familiar soldier, and the third she didn't recognize.

"I'm glad you're up. You've been out for four days," the unfamiliar gryphon said with a soothing purr. Kusarel could hear hints of fear under that calm tone, though.

But why would she be afraid? And why am I injured?

Suddenly her memories snapped back into place. Of course this gryphon would be scared of her--she looked just like Apael, who had taken a chunk right out of her chest and face.

"I told you, it's alright," the familiar soldier said to the other gryphon, probably in regard to her fear. "She fought Apael. She's on our side."

"I suppose that's true. But don't give any information."

"Information about what?" Kusarel asked, trying to sit up. She felt so undignified, spread on the hay bedding beneath her in a sprawl. Shaking her head, Elkeri pressed her claw down on Kusarel's torso, gently forcing her back down.

"You have to stay still. The healer is still fixing you up."

The gryphon who had sounded afraid gave a quick nod, glittering eyes staring out from beneath cloth that completely covered her head and beak.

"Yes, you still need a few more days of recovery. At least. I'd prefer a whole additional week, if I have it my way."

Kusarel started to bow, then remembered that wouldn't work too well with her lying on her side. "Thank you very much for healing me. Um, what's your name?"

The healer pointed a talon at her covering and said, "Sorry dear, but I'm not giving away my identity. Hence the mask."

She cocked her head to the side, wondering if she had insulted the healer in some way. "But why? Did I do something wrong?"

"She's part of the resistance, Kusarel," Elkeri broke in. "She's playing it safe."

"Oh." She couldn't think of anything more to say, though she knew she sounded like an idiot. A real member of the resistance! I can't believe it. But isn't this dangerous?

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