ABRAXAS the LOVESICK SEA DRAKE
Milly spent the rest of that day, and next, applying herself to this new chore. It was the first time since becoming Queen she actually felt useful. In this cause, the dryad put her knowledge of wood lore and herbal remedies to good use: Vinegar for cleansing. Lavender and bay for aches and pain. Wormwood and mint for nausea. Yarrow and henbane for sores and fever . . . and garlic—for just about everything. Although these treatments provided some relief, it was a battle destined to fail.
Whatever hopes Milly might have clung to were dashed the day Hannah was brought in on a stretcher. The sight of her housekeeper's rosy complexion now pocked with black and bleeding ulcers brought her to tears. “Pardon me for saying so, Mum,” Hannah whispered. “You mustn't fret over me . . . just thank the stars Your Majesty has been spared this curse.”
Others also began to puzzle why Milly remained one of the few volunteers showing no symptoms. When even the Physician is bedridden, many seriously ill and delirious patients voice their despair at the Queen. “We're doomed for sure now . . .You did this to us! . . . Why are you the only one spared?”
Milly was feeling faint. Not from any plague, but overwork . . . and guilt. How many times had she asked herself that question? Overcome with fatigue and the fate of so many lives weighing on her, she buried her head in hands and bolted from the tower.
She halted at the gatewall only to ponder another question. Not ONLY me . . . other volunteers were also spared—all from the Abbey. Why? This onus was hers to bear—except that poor Milly, the goat girl—could not bear it.
That night, quarantine or no, she stole her way back to the postern gate. Like many areas of the Palace, it was unmanned now, only locked. But Milly was determined, and prayed this wouldn't turn out to be another blunder. Using the Queen's pass key, she slipped out, and fast as she could, ran off into the night.
The next morning in the infirmary, when Hannah was informed that Her Majesty had deserted the Palace, she lapsed into a grievous swoon.