Whenever I’m conscious, I hear footsteps on the hardwood. My Lord, clergymen, the doctor – even Fritjof’s mother. It seems I’m causing quite a stir – they refuse to give up even though I’ve accepted the reality of my situation; I went to my family to help them, and am now cursed like they are. And I will die like one of them.
Never in my life have I been so incredibly wretched – which is saying a lot. The very air stings my skin. My face is swollen, crusted, chaffed like dried seawater. My eyes are going to burst from my head. Every breath is pain in my mouth, through my throat, to my chest. My pulse is in my teeth. Twitching or uttering breath takes long moments of deliberate preparation. If only there were anything I could do to spare myself beholding Lady Death’s face just one more night…!
Friar Ignatius and Brother Erasmus enter with the skald, Saga. I feel like I’m thinking through heavy fog; his words make little sense. I must be delirious, as I feel like laughing – not at the poor man, but at it all. How is it possible to be so terrified and yet so cavalier? Yet that is how I feel.
My Lord lingers nearby. He’s invited me back into his own bed (even if he refuses to join at the moment), despite proclaiming that I’m not to go near it until I am well again. I hear Sir Knut has offered drink to ease the pain. My heart skips a beat as Solfyre peers into the room with a ball of flame in her hand. I know well to fear her, and all magi, but her reputation is… poignant. When the light and shadows retreat with her, I notice the room is far more comfortable than before. Perhaps more than the fire spell, though, my heart is warmed by the stalwart willingness to aid me, an outsider, by the Benalian community.
My Lord tips the drink to my lips, a wild reversal of roles… he can be so tender, when he chooses. I am assured once again that they’ll find a solution, come Helheim or high water. I hardly have energy to register their words. It will take a miracle.
The clergymen believe they can lift the curse with a ritual of Benalus. The very idea petrifies me, but what am I to do? To call the Lion’s gaze upon me… what will it entail? Though whatever it is, if it can spare my life, I will agree to it.
Brother Erasmus helps me to cleanse my hands with holy water. The friar is reading from the Testamonium, and Erasmus asks if I will face the might of God. Nothing could frighten me more. With everything I have left, I ask him to begin. Erasmus carefully lifts a sizzling coal from the censer with a pair of tongs and takes my hand. He turns my palm upward, and presses the ember to my wrist.
I don’t know what happened to my body. My mind fills with the image and overwhelming presence of an enormous white lion. He has a huge and kingly mane, and his sunset eyes burn. Burning. Sizzling. Scorching. I feel his might. I hear someone asking that he drive away the curse and forgive my sinning. It feels like eternity, staring into the fiery eyes of God, but when the coal is lifted from my skin, finally extinguished, I fall back into my body. I try to strangle a scream – somehow I’m still not empty of tears. I lay exhausted and in agony, trembling from what I’ve just experienced.
And then Erasmus murmurs, “…Now once more,”