Walking ahead of Aliyah and Cala, Alma guides the two mortals to her sleeping chambers. Though the women know where her chambers are, the protection spells set upon the room’s threshold would never allow them in unaccompanied. Doria, still unconscious after Sky’s intervention, does not seem to burden the women with her weight.
They are used to heavy lifting, the goddess assesses. Three Rats does not raise delicate ladies.
They cover the distance from the secondary building’s door to the storage room, and then down the stairs, all the while picking up a trail of curious Bunnies. When they finally reach the door to her room, Alma opens it with ease and steps in, quickly getting out of Cala and Aliyah’s path.
“Please, place her in there,” she requests, pointing at the pool. As an afterthought, she adds. “Be careful with the ledge.”
Silently, almost reverently, Cala and Aliyah enter the room and head for the pool, their fragile burden still out cold in their arms. Before reaching the pool, Aliyah, who is holding the priestess’ legs, kicks off her boots with practiced ease, then peels her socks off with her toes, and finally steps into the pool, not hesitating to get her uniform trousers soaked. With great care, they lower Doria into the pool, leaving only her head above water level. While Cala immediately takes station at the edge of the pool, by the priestess’ side, just to make sure Doria won’t submerge, Aliyah climbs out of the pool to stand dripping from the knees down, and stares open-mouthed at the wonders of Alma’s room. The cage and the fountain on the wall, the bookshelves and the cozy little alcove by the pool, the cool peace of the sound of running water and of the soft light of the orb all make the young woman’s eyes widen with fascination. As she looks around in awe, remembering what this former room used to look like, was supposed to look like, wondering how it got so much bigger all of a sudden, Alma approaches the pool and kneels by Doria’s head.
After a swift, meaningful glance at Cala, meant to reassure the woman that her friend is safe here, the goddess leans over and gently nudges Doria away from slumber. The naiad slowly begins to regain consciousness, but her heavy eyelids keep drooping closed as sleep tries to reclaim her.
“Doria, I know it is difficult,” Alma tells the naiad in a soft voice. “But I need you to stay conscious for a moment.”
“Where am I?” the priestess murmurs.
“You are still at the Station, in my room,” the goddess explains, speaking slowly, in a soothing tone. “This is my pool and you will be safe here until you recover.”
“I need to go to my lady.” The naiad struggles weakly, but Alma holds her shoulder to prevent her from rising.
“You are in no condition to go anywhere. We will go to her,” she says in a matter-of-fact voice. How the naiad manages to struggle still is beyond her comprehension, but she knows Doria wouldn’t be able to stand on her feet, let alone walk.
Doria’s eyes flutter open fully, and she grips Alma’s forearm as she locks eyes with her. “Please, help her. She’s in so much pain...”
“We will help,” the goddess reassures her. “But I need to know how to get to her, Doria. Tell me, where is the entrance to her temple? Are there defenses that might stop us from helping her?”
Doria nods, closing her eyes for a moment in sheer exhaustion. “I’ll tell you everything you need to know,” she says a moment later. “But, please, hurry!”
Alma leaves the room to find the Bunnies standing outside, looking in. Mayumi straightens immediately at the sight of her, as if expecting orders, while Sage looks concerned for their new guest. Young Kori looks confused and somewhat annoyed, but Cherry and Merri start in immediately with excited questions.
“What’s going on? Who’s the new girl?” Cherry asks, her ears perking up in excited curiosity.
“Her name is Doria,” Alma explains, “and she has been attacked by some very bad people. She needs to stay and rest in our room.”
“Why she no have her room? Our room crowded!” Kori protests, his arms crossed over his chest, his face contorted in a frown of annoyance.
Alma sighs, looking at her youngest awaken Bunny and seeing just how much he has still left to learn. “She needs water, little one. And you,” she strokes his cheek, being rewarded with a little smile from Kori and a soft caress to her hand. “You need to learn how to share.”
She turns to all the Bunnies to ask, “Now, please, be nice and stay here with Constable Lamore and Corporal Kaur while I go out with Sergeant Gwydion.”
“You goin’ out on a date again?” Cherry cries in surprise. “With a different guy?”
“Two in one night?” Rosemary adds, her eyes wide as well. “Don’t you need to rest or something?”
Alma sighs and smiles beatifically at the Bunnies’ assumptions. “This is work,” she explains patiently. “And last I checked, I was old enough to look after my own life, little Bunnies,” she adds, half joking, half serious.
“Work. Right...” Cherry mutters.
The goddess rubs her eyes in mild frustration. “Just... behave.”
As Alma leaves, she catches, through the corner of her eye, the movement of Bunnies going into her room. Shortly after, Cherry’s voice sounds, loud and pleased, from within the room.
“Ooooooh, she’s pretty! Nice shoulders...”