Bulgarian: Къщата на седмия менует – Kŭshtata na sedmiya menuet
By the time Stefan was warm enough to get out of the tub, the bathroom was completely steamy. He said that the warm, moist air felt good in his lungs, which made sense to me. He’d had a little healing potion by then, too, but that could only heal the cuts and bruises the merrow had caused, and soothe some of the inflammation in his throat from coughing; it couldn’t force out the rest of the salt or other foreign materials. He also said that the herbal tea he’d been brought also felt good going down, so we made sure he had plenty of that.
The nurse had set up something similar to a humidifier in the fireplace in my room. It was basically a cauldron of water with lots of medicinal herbs in it, and a little healing potion for good measure. The water could be kept just below boiling, and the herbs and liquid topped off later in the night. It would be the best they could do for him for now; back on Earth, he would have been taken to a hospital to make sure he didn’t suffer any after-effects from having seawater in his lungs.
I could tell that Stefan was surprised that I was in the bath with him, especially with him being naked. He was to embarrassed to say anything about it out loud, though, what with so many other people being in the room. Making a show of being a gentleman, he hid as best he could beneath the water’s surface and insisted that I get out first. Kadri and I stepped behind a changing screen on the far side of the bathroom, where I could take off the last of my clothes and put on a robe before heading into my bedroom to find something to wear to bed.
Brom and Evander had come up a little while before that, eager to check on Stefan. They’d also from him some thick pajamas to wear to bed. They’d suggested that they could help him back to his room, but there was no way I was going to let him out of my sight– or my reach. I was still terrified for him, and he wasn’t exactly in tip-top condition after nearly drowning in the ocean of a magical world. I’d already decided that he’d be sleeping in my bed, where I could keep him warm and keep watch over him throughout the night.
It took quite a while for things to really settle down that evening. Stefan tried insisting that he was fine, that he didn’t need Larsa to help him out of the bath, or Killian to keep him steady so he didn’t fall over while getting dressed, or Lord Thorne to help him walk to my room. He had to learn the hard way that being dragged down and almost killed by the merrow had taken a lot out of him; he could hardly speak, and exerting himself made him double over in a fit of coughing. He almost fell down at least twice, and then he actually did fall when he stumbled across an uneven part of the floor. That jarred him enough that he threw up from all the coughing that triggered, and he was brought more herbal tea the cream to help soothe his throat.
I went out to join Lord Thorne in helping him up, and told him in no uncertain terms that he was to get into my bed and get some rest. I wasn’t going to allow Stefan to keep declining the help that he clearly needed. Thankfully, he started listening when it was me telling him what I needed him to do, and he finally curled up under a thick blanket, his head sinking into a pile of pillows.
Everyone else understood right away that it was time for them to go. The bathroom was a mess of wet clothes, sand, and seaweed, but it could be cleaned the next day. We all needed some sleep. I gave out hugs and thanked them all for helping Stefan, and soon it was just me and Kadri in the main room. She made a huge yawn, and I urged her to go to bed, too; the second bedroom in my suite was all hers. She agreed, and we headed to our rooms with one more hug.
I’d placed the key on the dresser earlier, in a dish made of shell and meant for collecting loose jewels and things. Kadri had washed the silver ribbon with red embroidery and tied it in a bow on the key to help it stand out; it was still right where I’d left it when I closed my bedroom door and slipped into bed. I wrapped my arms around Stefan and was asleep before my mind had any time to wander.
The dream I had that night was a strange one. The first thing I saw was a moon, large and full and much paler than the one I could see from Earth. It felt like I was so close to it…
“Moon-gazing again?” I heard a voice behind me ask.
I swirled around and saw Stefan in a doorway– or it looked like Stefan, but dressed up as a viking king and acting the part. I realized then that I was dressed as a queen, though in the ancient Celtic style. We were on a balcony, somewhere incredibly high up. I looked around and saw that it was some sort of tower; the tallest one I’d ever seen, let alone been in.
“I hope you don’t mind me being here,” he said.
I shook my head quickly. “N-no… why would I?”
“I consider it quite a privilege to be in your presence, Leila.”
Coming from him, my name sounded– how can I describe it? Some combination of smooth and resounding and… and affectionate. I felt my cheeks heat up from the way his voice sounded, and also from the way he looked at me.
“Why are you dressed like that?” I asked him.
“You don’t know?” he replied, giving me an endearing smile. “We are all the kings and queens of our own dreams.”
“What if I don’t want to be a queen?”
He shrugged, though not unkindly. “You can become whatever you want.” he took a few steps closer to me and reached for my hands. “I only hope you’ll let me join you in whatever you do next.”
The way he gazed at me, it was like he was looking straight into my heart. I couldn’t look away; not that I wanted to, My breathing was quickening, and all i could think about was getting closer to him and those immense blue eyes that said more than his words could ever express.