Daniel staggered into the bare, single room of his home, leaning back against the rickety wooden door and groaning.
A movement by the fireplace caught his eye and he groaned again. “Really? Can’t you go and be inspirational at someone else tonight? I’m exhausted.”
Hope rose and drifted towards him. “It is when you’re at your lowest that I need to give you the spirit to carry on.”
“Or you could just leave me alone for one evening and give me a break, let me rest, and then give me spirit in the morning.”
Hope bit her lip, looking at him worriedly.
He rolled his eyes, groaned again and limped across the floor, near-collapsing onto the one luxury in this place – an actual bed. It was old and the mattress was thin, but it had blankets and was off the ground, away from the chill of the floor and the scurrying of mice.
He waved a hand at her. “Go on then, give me that stirring speech you’ve been working on all afternoon, I’ll try not to fall asleep in the middle of it.”
Her brows puckered. “You need to eat.”
“From what store, My Lady? My cupboard is bare.”
Hope smiled at him and his heart lept in spite of himself. “But mine is not. I was able to find and gather food for all the settlement this evening. Yours is warming over the fire.”
He gaped at her, then half fell off the bed in the direction of the fire. He didn’t bother standing, and shuffled over on his knees. Hope bit her lip on a sob. “It’s going to get better, I swear it.”
He found the pot, full of a thick, warm stew. There was even meat in it. It would last him four meals at least.
It seemed Hope was a mind reader too. “You’re to eat half at least. You need to get strong again. Trust that I will find you more.”
He found his spoon and began scooping the stew into the carved wooden bowl he’d had since his father had made it for him as a child. In truth he wanted to eat all of it, but he knew, and it seemed Hope did as well, that his stomach was too deprived to cope with such largesse.
He ate, then shuffled back to the bed, warmed and comforted.
He gave her a tired half smile. “That was better than a speech. Thank you.”
She smiled back and moved to sit beside him, her glowing, wafting mists moving to drift around him as well as her. “Hope is about the heart and the soul, as well as the head. I fear I’ve been pushing your people too hard. This will give them the courage to carry on.”
Daniel sighed as she put her arms around him, surrounding his miserable, battered body with warmth and serenity. He frowned at her words. “They’re not my people, they’re yours.”
She laughed and pressed a fond kiss to his forehead. “They don’t see me. It’s you they follow; you they look to.”
He shook his head, succumbing to the weariness and resting it on her shoulder. She smelled like snowdrops and spring. It would be nice if Spring came again.