Jourd’Juno, 20th Decima
Ghia splashed her face with cold water and revelled in the sensation of tiny droplets caressing her skin, wiping her clean. Turning over a new leaf, she thought and almost laughed.
Since her training had begun, she’d developed a new sensibility to, and appreciation of, the smaller things. Her sense of smell had heightened: she could smell spring on the air with not just her nose but her mind. Her awareness of her “auric field”, a term new to the healer, had risen, meaning she could no longer be surprised from behind. That was a useful skill to gain.
The auric field, Rosa had taught her, was a circle of energy surrounding her body which controlled her own personal energy signature. If its powers were harnessed correctly, her powers would have a steady base. The entire universe is made of energy. The auric field is what connects your energy to the rest of the universe, and protects you from it as well. Think of the bottom of the field as roots connecting you to Cora’s – Althea’s, pardon me – energy, the energy of the earth. The top is like branches, reaching out to Ryllo – or Kore – and the energy They provide. The sides are like a shield, like rocks, and they protect you from the energy of other people. You choose what energy comes in and what goes out, and you choose what your energy looks like to others. To those sensitive to energy patterns, it is seen as your energy signature. To everyone else, it seems your mood, if it is noticed at all.
She had learned much in the past few tredicems, particularly, that the secrets to controlling her powers lay not in boundaries and blocks but in being aware of everything at all times while learning to focus her attention on bits and pieces of information. Her ethics had changed – disintegrated, almost. She still refused to root in someone else’s mind, but what now disclosed itself so readily to her to her was so much more, that she had no need to root for answers in the first place. Her curiosity had lessened.
Her healing powers had improved, too. Control of her auric field had taught her to draw upon the energy of the earth for healing, leaving her personal energy stores intact, so that now, while healing another, she could keep herself from total exhaustion, self-damage, or, in the extreme, death. Her mother would appreciate that, even if she could not tell Helene of her training. I’m grateful I was granted leave; so my absences were not noticed.
Beyond the training, she and Rosa talked, as much as time permitted. The magea was a great conversationalist, for a being who could not speak aloud in any manner Ghia could have understood, and she had a wonderful sense of humour. Rosa credited her years spent among Terrans with that development.
I find your species to be quite amusing, she said with a smile.
I suppose that’s a compliment, Ghia replied, deciding not to take offense. What was the point?
It is. My species had too many tragedies to be very amusing, I thought. Or maybe, because of my own closeness to said tragedies, I can find no humour in them.
It does not bear speaking of, child. They have long ended, many thousands of years ago. The only remaining tragedy for me is my continued existence, and I have decided to make peace with it, and the race who brought it about.
Terrans, Ghia said. It wasn’t a question, but Rosa nodded in response. I’m sorry.
Why? You have not wronged me nor my people.
But my kind has. I feel sick, thinking about the wrongs we wreak on ourselves, one another, our world, and those different from us.
Do not trouble yourself with the doings of your ancestors overmuch, my child. And you may have less to feel guilty about than other Terrans.
Ghia frowned. What do you mean?
Rosa sighed and Ghia knew the magea felt she’d said too much.
Your powers, Ghia. Have you never wondered where they came from?
Fleetingly. My foster-family taught me the secrets of magek, so I figured I just was naturally adept at the hidden powers of all humans.
Rosa shook her head. No, Ghia. Your powers are not Terran, and therefore you need not be governed by Terran codes of conduct in your use of them.
A chill crept down her spine. She was Terran, so how did she end up with non-Terran powers?
I do not know, the magea answered. Again, Ghia realised she’d projected her fear.
So…if my powers are not Terran, what are they?
Rosa hesitated before answering, signalling that Ghia would only hear part of the truth, if any at all. I cannot answer that at present. It must be further investigated. Now, where were we? she added, ending the conversation. Dutifully, Ghia turned her attention back to the lesson, leaving her questions for later.
That had been over a tredicem ago, and Ghia still had not had her questions answered. The magea had her reasons, Ghia supposed, but it frustrated the healer nonetheless. Hadn’t she gone to be trained for answers in the first place? It was irksome to be so denied when she felt herself so close to solving the mystery of her origins.
Be careful what you wish for, child, said Rosa’s voice in her head. The answers may not be as you would want them.
Were you listening to my private thoughts, Magea?
They were not private and I was merely contacting you to let you know your friend the Medic will be here before the day is out.
Jules? He’s coming home? How did you… she started to ask but trailed off as she sensed Rosa was already gone.
“I hate it when she does that,” she said aloud.
Her thoughts quickly shifted to Jules’ return, surprised to note feelings of excitement. She had certainly not lacked for company during the month of leave, for spending each day with Rosa had staved off any loneliness. Looking within herself, she saw the depth of her feeling for Jules and quickly backtracked, frightened by such strong emotions. She was too young to get caught up in such thoughts. And too busy.
Sighing, she set an early-warning ward just beyond the city limits and tried to find something, anything, to occupy her time until his return.
She’d set herself to the arduous task of cleaning the tavern from top to bottom, much to Kasandra’s delight, and the ward notified her just as she’d finished.
With surprise she noted Anala and Aro also traveled with the mail caravan. Was leave over already?
She checked the calendar in the taproom and saw that leave was officially over the next day. There would be a huge influx of people the rest of today and possibly tomorrow.
Fun. She put her cleaning supplies away and quickly readied to greet Jules. Before her training, she would have showered the sweat and dirt off, but, with her new knowledge of the hidden energies that governed the world, she was able to think herself clean. It wasn’t so simple as all that but it was the simplest term Ghia had come up with to describe the process.
“Mail caravan’s here,” she said to her aunt as way of farewell, flying down the stairs.
“You’re certainly dressed up for retrieving the mail, Ghia dear,” Kasandra said, eyeing the peplos Ghia had flung on.
Ghia had little money for nice clothing and so instead had taught herself to sew. All her clothing was handmade and therefore sturdier than anything she might have bought. The clothing at Market was well made but not made well enough for Ghia. She believed clothing was made for wearing and so wore it into the ground. Most peplos were made for formal occasions. It was unusual for Atherian women to wear aught but breeches and shirts in their daily lives. Ghia didn’t care what was usual–she cared about what was comfortable.
This peplos had not been worn as much and was made of softer fabric than the others, done in a forest-green colour that contrasted nicely with her hair. It had half-length, knotted open sleeves and a low-draping front. Instead of a belt she wore a thicker piece of fabric, almost an underbust bodice–another unusual fashion but one that fit her curves perfectly. She thought she looked stunning in it. That she held any opinion about how she looked said something, because Ghia hardly ever gave a second thought to her appearance.
“I’m greeting high-ranking military officials,” she said loftily. “It’s only fitting that I put a little effort into my appearance.”
“When he’s going to be covered in the dirt and stink of the road?” Kasandra gave her a knowing smile.
Ghia felt the blush threatening to rise but firmly held it in check.
“As you obviously know why I’m dressed up, Aunt, I don’t need to say anything else. May I go?”
Kasandra nodded, for once ignoring the girl’s cheek. To be in love during wartime is hard enough – why should I begrudge the girl her happiness?
The thought drifted into Ghia’s mind and she immediately shifted focus, keeping her aunt’s thoughts outside the safe-limits zone she’d established in her mind. She wasn’t so practised as Rosa at keeping others’ stray thoughts at bay. She’d not had thousands of years to become adept.
“Gracias, Tia.” She kissed Kasandra on the cheek before leaving the tavern.
Atherton seemed fuller than a few days ago; Ghia had to push through crowds to get to the North Gate. Wish I had a horse. I think I have almost enough put away. Maybe I’ll see what bargains are to be had. Be a nice birthday gift to myself. As her thoughts ran to breeds of horses, which one would be most beneficial to her lifestyle, she realised she knew nothing about horses. I’ll have to ask someone. Jules?
As if the thought was a call to the medic, she spotted him, riding beside Anala and Aro, as she rounded a corner and faced the North Gate. They were headed to the castle. Ghia ran to intercept them.
Jules! She called mentally, so only he could hear her. His head snapped up and he saw her waving furiously. He smiled widely and waved back.
Reaching their horses, she dropped into a curtsy. “Medic Jules, Bellica Anala, Major Aro, I trust you journeyed well?”
Her words were cut off – Jules had jumped down from Suki and wrapped Ghia in a hug. His essence, psychic and otherwise, washed over her and, amid the jumbled emotions, thoughts, and scents she caught, she noted with a bit of triumph that her aunt was wrong – he wasn’t covered with the stink of the road. He smelled like Jules–a good smell.
Then she wondered why she was thinking that at all. She pushed aside her emotions and blocked out his. We’re friends, she told her heart sternly, but she knew it would ignore her. As usual.
Jules had released her and was looking at her oddly. “Ghia,” he said in a low voice so Anala and Aro wouldn’t hear, “do you realise your eyes are bright gold?”
Merde. On her first day of training Rosa had done something to awaken Ghia’s powers fully. That had turned her eyes bright gold, much to their mutual surprise. She’d asked the magea what it meant, but Rosa had evaded the question, saying she didn’t know. This Ghia knew to be a lie, deducing that her new eye colour had to do with her apparently non-Terran powers.
As she couldn’t very well go around Atherton with such a strange eye colour, one so obviously not her original, the first skill Ghia had been taught was a simple glamoury. If she projected an image of hazel-green eyes, anyone not trained in magek–which included everyone in Athering–wouldn’t see through it.
In her excitement to greet Jules, she’d dropped the glamoury. Foolish and a bit frustrated, she quickly brought it back up and knew she’d succeeded when she saw Jules blink in confusion.
She smiled engagingly. “Come now, Jules. You must be seeing things.”
He might have protested, had Anala and Aro not joined them at that moment.
“Good afternoon, Healer Ghia. How did your vacation fare?” Aro was saying.
“Relaxing, and blissfully uneventful.” Her lie was accepted by Anala and Aro, but Jules apparently intended to seek her out later to talk to her. Ah, well. I should have known I wouldn’t be able to fool him.
“And yours, Bellica, Major? Did you decide on Aeril, or someplace else?” It was all formality, these words, this way of speaking. Ghia could figure out exactly where they’d been and what they’d done with a feather-touch of her mind. She didn’t, only because, despite what Rosa had said of her freedom from Terran ethics, she would feel guilty if she did. Habits held for almost two decades were hard to break.
There was another of those frequent silent exchanges between the two officers, but this time Ghia sensed something else, something deeper in the glance. Suddenly it became apparent to her: Anala and Aro had done what Yarrow and Caelum should have done years before. Pushing aside her guilt and looking just a bit deeper, she saw Aro’s long-held love for Anala and wondered why she’d not noticed it before. Because he’s good at hiding it, her inner voice answered, and because they are outshone by the other bellica-major pair, where love is coming from both sides and broadcasting more brightly than the sun.
Right, she answered the inner voice she’d always considered separate from herself. Wrenching herself back into the present, she nodded understandingly at their answer, about escaping cities for the wilderness.
“Isn’t that cabin right by Lover’s Lake?” Aro nodded reluctantly. The duo’s fear of being discovered hung between them, and Ghia decided to let them keep their fragile secret. “I’ve heard the hot springs north of there hold special therapeutic properties. I’d love to go and investigate – professionally speaking, of course.”
She caught their inward sighs of relief and almost laughed to herself. As if they have anything to fear from me. But the healer knew no one trusted anyone else these days.
She said her farewells to Anala and Aro as they walked their horses to the castle stables. Jules lingered, his hand on her elbow.
“Are you going to tell me the truth, Ghia?” She glanced up at the slightly angry tone in his voice. His jaw was clenched but otherwise he looked fine, belying his roiling inner emotions.
She tried to inflect her voice with just the right amount of superiority, “This is hardly the time or place, Jules.”
“Then when is?”
“Never, if you’re going to act like that.” How dare he presume he can know all my secrets!
Instantly he softened. Ghia heard a mental apology. Before he could say it out loud, she spoke. She couldn’t handle another awkward Jules moment, not right now. “I work at the tavern tomorrow night. Business should be slow.”
He nodded. “I’ll see you then.” He would have bent down to hug her but she was out of his grasp and through the crowd before he knew his own intent.
When did things become so complicated?