Clawing back towards the waking world, Ali became aware of two things. One was pain – mostly a throbbing headache, but also some all-over aching and stiffness; the other was the scent of lilacs.

That was a bit curious – it was well past the early spring when lilacs were in bloom – and that in turn provided something to focus on other than the pain, which was quite welcome. Oh, to be sure, some floral scents were frequently distilled and used in perfumes and incense, but lilac was – regrettably, from Ali’s point of view – not a common choice for that.

It also served as a reminder that Ali wasn’t at home, because the Arcine manor didn’t have lilacs on the grounds these days, blooming out-of-season or otherwise, nor was the scent favoured among the staff. As fragments of the evening before sorted themselves in Ali’s memory, this wasn’t terribly surprising – but one thing Ali couldn’t remember was actually getting into bed.