After saying farewell to Caelum and watching him go out the door, Ghia turned back to her task of dragging the unconscious Jules up the stairs. It wasn’t easy. He was a lot heavier than she had imagined. She remembered belatedly that he was auxiliary corps as well as chief medical officer, which meant he had had the same military training as any captain. Not for the first time, she wished her powers included being able to move things with her mind.
She got him across the floor with relative ease, then up the first two steps, where she had to stop to rest. With a grunt, she hauled him up the next two steps; then the next two. At the first landing, she dropped his arms and collapsed, exhausted, reflecting that she should have done more upper-body exercise in her youth instead of focusing on running.
Wiping her brow, she moved to grab Jules again when something caught her eye. She looked up just in time to see a girl she hadn’t noticed before open the door to the tavern and head off, down Perimeter Road towards The Tracks. The girl was young and, from what Ghia glimpsed of her, looked not a little like Miranda.
Ghia concentrated and reached her mental breeze out, trying to get a whiff of the girl’s psychic scent. It confirmed her suspicions. The girl was indeed the acolyte healer her mother had taken on in the hospitalis, despite Ghia’s protestations that something had not felt right about the child.
And now I find her in a tavern where she shouldn’t be, for she’s far under the drinking age, walking out obviously after Major Caelum and Bellica Yarrow–who are doubtless being watched carefully by the Empress.
A spy, then. The girl could be no else. Ghia would have to tell her mother when she got back to the hospitalis the next day. Helene might show the necessary outward signs of loyalty to the Sceptre, but her only real loyalty was to her Guild and her hospitalis. She would tolerate no one who reported elsewhere on the activities within her sanctum. The hospitalis was a sanctuary of Althea―it must remain a place of healing, not intrigue.
Ghia frowned then, as something occurred to her. How long had Miranda been in the tavern that night? Someone should have noticed her―a ten-year-old girl. Especially in Circe’s Cauldron! Kasandra was known for running a tight ship: while other taverns might allow youth to drink before they hit the legal age, Kasandra never would. Tyvian! The only reason Ghia was allowed in the tavern at all was because she was Kasandra’s niece!
Some one should have seen her, she thought, still frowning as she looked at the door. I especially–why could I not sense her? Why was my sight clouded?
“Ghia!” The healer jumped at the sound of her aunt’s voice, and saw Kasandra stood at the bottom of the stairs, hands on her hips, glaring at her niece. “Are you going to stand there all night with your head in the clouds, or are you going to get him up the stairs so you can finish cleaning the tavern?”
Ghia ducked her head in apology, a small blush rising on her checks. “Sorry, Aunt,” she said, and bent to drag Jules a bit farther. With effort she got him to the next set of stairs and dragged him up a few before having to stop again.
Kasandra’s mouth twitched, repressing a giggle at the sight of Ghia trying to drag a thirty-something-year-old military officer up a flight of stairs. “Would you like some help?”
Ghia shot her aunt a sardonic look. “That would be nice.” Could have offered before reprimanding me….
“Ah, ah,” Kasandra said, waggling a finger at her niece. “No snotty thoughts, damisela, or I’ll not help you.”
Ghia stuck her tongue out. Kasandra stuck hers out in return. The two women laughed, and then Kasandra bent to pick up Jules’ legs, and together they half-carried, half-dragged him up the stairs to find an empty room.
It wasn’t until they reached the first floor that Kasandra informed Ghia the only available room was the healer’s.
Ghia stopped herself from groaning. “That’s on the fourth floor,” she said, whispering so as not to wake any patrons. “Why didn’t we just roll him behind the counter in the taproom and be done with it?” It was a rhetorical question, spoken in jest, but Kasandra answered anyway.
“Because then he’d be underfoot as I cooked the morning meal. Come on. We won’t get him any farther standing here and talking,” she added, gesturing with her chin down the hall to the next set of stairs.
It took nearly an hour to get Jules up to the fourth floor and into the small bed in Ghia’s room. She made sure he was comfortable, taking off his boots and putting them beside the bed, and stripping off most of his clothing to throw into the wash, before she went to help her aunt finish cleaning up in the taproom. Once the floor was swept and the dishes cleaned and the laundry done and hanging up in the boiler room to dry, Ghia and Kasandra bunked down in the tavern-keeper’s bedroom, also on the fourth floor, which had two beds in it instead of one. Absolutely exhausted, Ghia was asleep before she touched the mattress.