Everything was soft and warm, with the smell of wild flowers coming from all around her. Snuggling into the covers, Emel let out a long and content sigh. Then came the frightening thought: She had no idea where she was, or how she got there. The last she could remember was-
“Easy there, Emel.” A woman spoke in hushed tones as the mage shot up to a sitting position in bed. Her long brown hair was carefully plaited, and a slender pair of glasses rested on the bridge of her nose.
Glancing about, some clarity soon came to Emel. She was back in her room at the inn, dressed in her nightclothes, and there was no sign of Million. The sounds coming in from the open window were ones of bustling activity and good will, with musicians playing and children laughing. Rubbing at her eyes, she turned to look at the woman kneeling by the bed, a wet flannel in hand. “Where’s Million?” She asked in a slightly groggy voice.
Setting the flannel down in a bowl, the woman reached for a pewter cup filled with spring water. “Have something to whet your throat.” She smiled. “I’m Shia, the town physician, and your friend is just getting some supplies for me. I figured you were due to wake up soon, and thought it best that she was not leaping on top of you right away.”
Gulping the contents of the cup down, Emel sighed with relief. “Nice to… aah, meet you Shia. She’s okay though, right?”
The physician laughed. “Aside from worried about you, she is perfectly fine. You haven’t even asked about yourself yet, Emel.” Chuckling a little at the sheepish look on the mage’s face, she continued. “You passed out on the way back last night. Million carried you here, and has been awake watching over you. It’s just exertion from spell casting so take it easy today, drink plenty of fluids and eat well.” Pausing, she hastily added, “just not alcoholic beverages. The festival is under way as you can hear.”
Slumping back onto the mountain of pillows behind her, Emel’s stomach gave a rumble of hunger. “Sorry to have been a bother.” She admitted. “How much did she say about what happened?”
“No bother at all.” Shia stated, passing over a plate of lightly buttered, thick slices of bread for her to eat. “Million said that you cast four spells at once in a fight to get back the Baton, and you then used the Staff of Enar to destroy the hive.”
Emel was thankful for having the bread to nibble on at that point to hide her emotions. As lies went regarding the closing of a hive, Million was very quick on her feet. The staff belonging to the mage who banished the demons beforehand could easily be believed to do something that momentous. Swallowing, she nodded to Shia. “We only worked it out when we got down there, if I’d have known beforehand, I’d-”
“None of that talk for now though.” Shia interrupted. “Concentrate on resting up. You may be able to do magic, but the power comes from inside you and can easily be over-exerted.”
The door carefully inched open, drawing their attention to it. Million’s head popped around the door and, on seeing Emel awake, she bounced into the room sparing the shortest moment of time to drop the basket of supplies off before flumping down on the covers near Emel.
“Morning sleepy. It’s almost midday.” Million grinned, before peering at Shia. “And she says I’m hard to get started in the morning. Sure, I like to linger by the campfire, and spend a little time stretching and yawning, but I’m up and dressed before lunch. I swear, heroes these days.” She rolled her eyes.
“Be nice, she wasn’t well.” Shia chided gently, smiling in spite of herself. “She’s good to be up and about now, but plenty of rest, non-alcoholic fluids, and good food. I need to prepare these for the copious cases of overindulgence I’ll see tomorrow.” She hefted the basket of supplies. “Make sure you two are not among my patients then.”
“I promise, Shia. Thank you for attending to me.” Emel said with a bow of her head.
“Got a liver like iron, me! No worries here.” Million called, waving to the physician as she left. Sitting silently, she waited a moment before speaking quietly. “I was worried, Master. You were talking to me one moment, the next you were falling…”
Emel placed her hand on Million’s. “Sorry… you did good on explaining the hive though, about the staff?” Her stomach grumbled again.
“I think on my rather large feet.” Her demon replied, before pulling the covers back. “You’re going to get bathed and dressed now and I’m taking you to lunch. Bread and butter’s nice, but not suitable for two powerful heroines.”
“You’re ordering me around now?” Emel asked with an arch of an eyebrow.
“Deputized by Shia, town physician of Mel-daku, to pester and order you until you’ve recovered.” Her demon beamed. “The bath’s already run.”
Sighing, Emel hauled herself out of bed. “Yes, Nurse.” She mumbled. The sound of her companion’s laughter filled the room as she gathered various salts and lotions for bathing with.
A far cry from the subdued town they had arrived in, Mel-daku was awash with brightly coloured bunting and market stalls. As they wandered to a small restaurant set amongst flowered borders, Million explained that runners had been sent out to the nearest towns that morning informing them the festival was on, even as the townsfolk worked overtime to get everything ready.
The burgeoning coinpurse that Million carried wasn’t even touched by buying lunch, despite Emel’s repeated pleadings. “You have done so much for this town,” the restaurateur smiled with a shake of his head, “let me do this for you.”
Million was taking it better than she was. “With the hive gone, their militia can concentrate on other things. The roads will be safer, and no corruption of the surrounding countryside means they can expand more. Maybe even explore the earthworks that way. I think we can let them buy us lunch and stay for free in exchange.”
“I don’t want to get used to this though.” Emel replied with crossed arms, before unfolding them so she could have another bite of the lightly seasoned, tender meat on her plate. “We shouldn’t do good for the rewards, just-“
“For the sake of doing good.” Million said at the same time, before tearing into a chunk of meat with her fanged teeth. “Heard it lots of times before. And you’re right, but remember, you asked to pay and he said no. You can’t force the issue, can you?”
“… Fine.” Emel sighed. “We’re going shopping after lunch though. And paying. I need to replace all my spellpowders and potions, you need some more clothes, and we should take our time to replenish our supplies before we go out adventuring, make sure we’re prepared. The rest of the money we’ll set by for later expenditure.”
“I love it when you get all fiscal minded.” Million grinned, gesturing at Emel’s nose. “Your nose crinkles when you’re thinking on expenditure. Now… important question time: Dessert menu?”