This chapter is told from the point-of-view of Stefan Nilsson.
It was still mostly dark when I could open my eyes again. The curtains hadn’t been properly shut, and moonlight was streaming into the room. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton, and I have to admit that it was kind of hard to keep my eyes open. I rolled over and pulled the curtain fully open to gaze out the window.
If there was more than one moon in this world, it wasn’t in this part of the sky. It wasn’t exactly the same as Earth’s moon; it had a slight blue hue to it, and the patterns in it were different. It was large and full– or at least mostly full– that night.
I was keenly aware that I wasn’t in my own bed. These weren’t the soft sheets and fuzzy blankets that I slept with. The pillow wasn’t as plush as the ones I kept, and the smell was completely different. Not that it smelled bad, but it smelled of the forest and the animals that dwelt in it.
Not feeling quite ready to get out of the bed, but wanting to look around the room while I shook this fog of exhaustion, I rolled back over. It was a small room; a simple room. There were the stone walls, lined with wooden bookshelves, a desk, a simple armoire, and some other basic wooden furniture. There were lots of old books on the shelves, paper and notebooks and a quill on the table, next to a bottle of ink. Thankfully there was plenty of moonlight to see by, and my eyes did a decent enough job of adjusting to the room. Further down, I could see a sort of hat stand, a couple worn, dusty hats hanging from it, and a walking stick in the rack below. There was also a short cape that looked a little dusty from lack of use.
It took me a while to prop myself up on my elbows. I had no idea why I felt so exhausted, and why even that simple movement felt so difficult. As hard as I tried to see if anyone else was in the room, there was no other bed, and nobody else.
So where was Leila? I had to get to her and ensure that she was safe. I don’t know what had made me fall asleep so quickly earlier, but I was still really groggy, and if she was under the effects of the same thing, it was probably having a much stronger effect on her. I had no idea what it was, or how it had happened, but I hoped that it wasn’t something that could hurt someone’s breathing if taken in a high enough dose. I tried to stop myself before my mind got carried away with its worrying; this wasn’t going to be a worst-case situation, right? But I couldn’t take chances when it came to Leila’s safety.
I managed to swing my legs around and get my feet onto the floor. It took a couple more minutes for me to be able to sit up, but I had to rub my temples to get my head to stop spinning. I wanted more than anything to lie back down and go back to sleep, but I reminded myself again that I had to make sure Leila was safe. I could hear myself grunting as I forced myself to stand up. I leaned against the armoire; my breathing felt ragged, as though I were exhausted, and I was having to work twice as hard to keep my eyes open. No sense sleeping standing up, I told myself.
Eventually, I stumbled out of the small room. I saw the room I had been sitting in earlier, with the arm chairs and couch and table. So I’d been sleeping in one of the side rooms I’d seen earlier. I don’t remember walking there myself though. Didn’t I fall asleep in the chair? There was a pair of glass doors leading out to what I presumed was some sort of patio or balcony, and a couple layers of curtains. The thicker curtains were pulled aside, their heavy fabric resting on hooks on either side of the doors or windows they would otherwise have covered, but the sheer curtains still covered the glass, allowing the moonlight to filter in and give the room a sort of ghostly glow.
There was a lot more open floor here, and I had to be careful to not stumble on my way across the room. I remembered there being another door on the other side, and I hoped that was where Leila was. I got to about the middle of the room and leaned on the back of the couch for a couple minutes. In my exhausted state, it looked like the most comfortable couch I’d ever seen, but I kept telling myself not to lie down on it and go back to sleep.
I kept walking across the room, refusing to give in. I eventually reached my destination. The door was closed, but thankfully it wasn’t locked. I opened it slowly, relieved that it didn’t creak. It was a heavy, strong door, and probably very old, but properly cared for. The room beyond it was much darker, so I gave my eyes a couple minutes to adjust while I leaned on the door frame.
There were countless smells in this room: old leather, polished wood, and various herbs. Above it all was my most favorite scent: Leila’s. Just a little bit flowery, but also rich and mysterious… And, strange as it may sound, very natural.
I could just barely make out the outlines of the furniture. Even in the dark, everything seem big and ornate, including the bed. It was incredibly quiet, leading me to believe that there were many wall-hangings to absorb sounds. The curtains were probably incredibly thick, too. What I could hear, though, was a lovely sound. Leila was breathing calmly as she slept. She was at peace. Resting. And she was okay.
I slipped all the way into the room. The mound her body made beneath her blanket was dimly outlined, by the light from the main room, but as soon as I shut the door, she was lost in shadows. Through that darkness, I made my way to the foot of her bed, paused long enough to resist the urge to lie down on the floor right where I stood– the fur rug beneath me was thick and plush– and then continued around to the far side.
The comforter covering the bed was velvety silk, and the batting inside seemed to be of the highest quality. I moved slower as I stepped along the far side of the bed, not wanting to make a sound that might wake her. Once my hand found the pillows, I pulled down the blanket and slid onto the mattress. I was still in the clothes I’d been wearing earlier, so most of my body was covered, but the sheets felt soft beneath my fingertips, although a little cold.
I slid over to the middle of the bed, close to Leila but not right up against her. The pillows I laid my head on felt like the most luxurious things ever to be made, and I nestled into them as I puled the blanket close around me. I couldn’t stay awake, but at the very least, I could be close to Leila while we slept off whatever had made us so exhausted.