Elecia came in as Aldrik situated himself next to her. She had clearly spent some of the night acquiring and preparing a new flight of potions for Vhalla to ingest. As the healer was leaving, Aldrik requested that she find a book for them to read.
Vhalla wondered if he had known what she needed to feel better. Or if, somehow in his own turmoil, he needed the same things as she. They spent the day tucked together, ignoring the world.
Aldrik didn’t even part from her when it came time to bathe again. He sent Elecia away, announcing that he would do it himself. Vhalla tried to avoid either of them helping her, but her attempts were futile.
“I can do it myself,” she insisted. “I don’t need you.”
“You’re right, you don’t need me. But I want to help you.” He guided her to the steaming bathwater.
“Aldrik, you don’t want to do this, it’s. . . very messy.” She had more eloquent words to describe the situation, but she didn’t use them. Clarity and eloquence bred heartbreak for her as they laid out neatly the situation she was in.
“Blood does not scare me.” Aldrik begun undressing her.
Vhalla grabbed his wrist. Tears of frustration and anger welled up in the corners of her eyes. Every word was trapped in her throat with no hope of freedom.
“If you want me to go,” he whispered. “Tell me plainly. Tell me to leave your side, and I will.”
She shook her head. She didn’t want him gone. She needed his presence and his love just as he seemed to need hers. The emotion persisted even when his hands washed away the blood that slicked her thighs.
The distance in his eyes eased as the days passed. The only time pain showed was when he focused on the sight of her barren neck. But Aldrik didn’t speak of it, and Vhalla didn’t force the issue. She could apologize and make excuses until the world ended. But it wouldn’t change anything.
The only thing that mildly helped was the day that Elecia deemed her healed enough to attempt recovering her magic from the vessel. It reminded them both that, despite what Vhalla had given up, hopefully something was gained.
“All right, Vhal,” Fritz began. “There isn’t much here. It should—should—be enough to have a Vessel to start calling to magic through your Channel. But you’ll need to withdraw every last bit of magic, to be certain.”
“Might it not work?” Vhalla asked nervously.
“If there’s not enough to unblock your Channel, the magic will just fizzle the first time you try to use it.”
“How do I withdraw it?” She didn’t allow herself to be scared. There wasn’t any other option but success.
“I’ll help you,” Fritz encouraged. “You hold it and imagine the watch is your Channel. Feel it, know it, and welcome it into you.” He curled her fingers around the watch and grasped her hand. “I’ll help push the magic out, help it move towards you.”
Vhalla nodded, nerves stilling her tongue.
“Are you ready?” He continued at her small nod, “Here it goes . . .”
He closed his eyes, and Vhalla did the same. Just like the very first time she had ever tried to use her magic, Vhalla imagined something just beyond herself, and tried to touch it. The world didn’t rebuild magic on a whim, nor did she feel a whisper of sorcery on the wind. There was only a subtle tingling in her fingertips.
Vhalla guarded her every hope. She felt as though she was on the edge and only needed one more good push to hold everything in her grasp. Her breathing echoed in her ears as she mentally reached for the truth the watch held.
She was the Windwalker. She would fill up the hollow that had been carved from her, fill it up with a new future.
“Vhalla, enough.” Fritz released her fist. “Don’t push too hard now.”
“But you said get it all.” Her eyes fluttered open.
“I think you did.” He inspected the watch. “You don’t want to expend magic, looking for magic.”
“So did it work?” Vhalla stared at her hands.
“We’ll know soon.” Fritz blinked his eyes a few times, shifting his vision to study her. “Your Channel will need more time to restore, if it’s going to. By the Mother, Vhal, if you think you even feel the hint of magic, do not be too eager to use it, or you’ll drain it all and be back in the same position as before.”
For the rest of the day, Vhalla remained on bedrest. She was getting bored of it, especially now that the bleeding had slowed to occasional spotting. But between Aldrik, Elecia, Fritz, and Jax, she had no option but to take it easy.
“How do you feel?” Aldrik asked as they settled for sleep.
“Tired.” Despite resting all day, it was true.
“I’ve always loved watching you sleep. Seeing you at peace.” He brushed hair lovingly away from her face. “I plan to do it forever.”
“Even now?” she whispered, wanting to hear the words between his words.
“Even now,” he affirmed.
There was pain still, but it was beginning to fade even for Aldrik. No matter how much they lost, they still had each other. And, so long as that was true, they could continue to meet the dawn.
Dawn, however, came too early for either of their tastes. Vhalla rolled over tiredly, a light sneaking through a crack in the curtains to hit her face. She felt so exhausted. Aldrik’s arms tightened around her, and he nuzzled the back of her neck.