Saku dreamed he was flying. Not with Angel this time. Not as cargo. He dreamed he spread his arms wide and drifted alone, weightless through a cold, rumbling sky. His body numbed, lost all traces of the Angel's poison, and he felt good, whole for the first time since stepping on the hive beneath that rotting log.
He smiled, and his mouth filled with icy water.
The shock of it drew a gasp that let more of the liquid in. He coughed, tried to move his body and found he'd grown too chill for thrashing. He limbs responded slowly, made a lethargic dance of his struggle to survive.
"Shhh. Hold still. I've got you." That voice had no drone to it. It sounded outside his mind, without the buzz behind it. "Don't fight me. There. Horatch!"
Saku heard a girl talking, but his lips were too cold to answer. Instead, he made a sputtering sound, a smacking of his mouth that evicted less water than it allowed back in. His body lurched to one side sharply, and his shirt tugged away from his shoulders, letting the water inside.
"Horatch, oh help!"
He tried blinking, but the weight of darkness over his eyes remained. Black, a whole world of nothing but a girl's voice chanting a name he didn't know.
His body moved, slammed against something more solid than the currents he rode. He felt no pain, his body had cooled to the point he experienced almost nothing except the vague sensation of motion. He tilted and the blackness he stared at shimmered.
"You're heavy. The wet clothes are dragging. I'm not sure..."
Something stabbed hard enough into his spine to awaken his nervous system. The pain was dull, certainly, but he recognized it and groaned against the offense.
"Cold." His lips found sound again. Now, a creeping shiver took him, beginning in his toes and fingers and increasing in force as it traveled nearer to his torso. He was cold, freezing, and his body realized it and shook in earnest. "S-so c-c-old."
He moved slowly, one long, dully-painful stretch at a time. The girl, the owner of that voice, dragged him from the ice and back into a world that didn't drift or fly. Solid ground beneath him brought back his memories, the hive under the log, the Angel's stings, and his subsequent fall to earth. It brought back pain as well. Along with the shivering of his body, he felt the soreness, the bruises beneath the cold and the constant throbbing of his thigh where the Angel delivered her Truth.
She'd used it to control him. Saku understood here, removed from her influence. The Wisp had put poison inside him and gained access to his mind. She'd buried him alive, healed him and transformed him into a vessel for her message.
He was special. He had a job to do. But she'd had to use her poison to remind him, and that had taken a toll on his weak, human flesh.
He groaned and tried to move his body. If he could find his way back to her, perhaps, he could still do his duty. He pressed his hands into the ground, and felt the vines sliding under him, the ground slipping past as his rescuer dragged him along.
"Wait. Please." He blinked and blinked, but his eyes still found only darkness, a faint shimmer. Shadows moving across a black field.
"I need to get you warm. We have a fire."
"Wh-whhh." His question died in the next round of shivering and the girl only hauled on him, tore another swath out of the vines beneath his back and made the blackness dance. She either caught the meaning behind his nonsense, or answered him by coincidence.
"My name is Milyi. You've been in the water a long time?"
Saku tried to move his head.
"We need to get you dry as fast as we can."
The vines slid away again. The darkness shimmered. This time, when he stopped moving, the girl let him lie. Her steps pattered against the ground, and Saku made out the sounds of her rustling in the brush, the banging and crackle that meant she'd started a fire
He heard it long before the warmth got through to him. Her voice returned, asking him questions he couldn't answer. His body had had enough of abuse. Now it seized up on him, ached and stiffened so that he couldn't even blink for her any longer.
Still, gentle hands tugged at his clothing, removed the sash and robes, Angel's gifts. The markings of his office. He tried to tell her not to lose them, that they were special and must be protected, but his tongue flapped uselessly and the only sound that came out was a nonsensical moan.
She rubbed him with fronds. The leaves scored brisk circles over his exposed chest, legs and arms. He'd seen this done before back in his village. It was a trick used often, though usually with coarse cloth, when a child was ill. The motions got his blood flowing, but with that came the horrible itch, a sensation that crawled over his body and that he couldn't even abate by scratching. His arms still lay like weights at his sides.
The girl worked, the fire crackled, and eventually, Saku felt the heat. It spread slowly, and brought more fatigue than relief. His mind dulled and fell away toward sleep. Only the girl's words remained, a song in the background.
"Get you warm. Have to get him warm."
Saku drifted with her words, wondering at it as he fell to sleep. If she called and called for her Horatch, why did no one answer her?