Ghia sighed as she pushed open the door to her room. She was tired. Training that afternoon had been beyond trying. She and Rosa had moved out of the basics into advanced magek techniques, and Ghia was using mental muscles she’d not known she had. Now here comes an argument with Jules.
It was inevitable. If their friendship – or more, her inner voice said before she slapped it – survived, it would be all the stronger. Still, she didn’t want it to happen.
Jules would want to know the truth – as is his right as my closest friend – and she would not, could not reveal it. Not yet. She wanted to be able to tell someone she cared for about her powers, but it was too dangerous. I have to wait, she told herself. But waiting might cost me my ability to tell as well as the right person to tell.
Jules pushed through the door and looked at Ghia lying sprawled on the bed.
“You’ve been working yourself too hard again,” he stated, adjusting his fustanella to sit down.
She didn’t say anything. Why argue the truth? A sort of truth. She no longer knew what was truth or fiction, real or fantasy–just hoped she survived long enough to be able to distinguish between them.
The silence stretched. Jules was waiting for her to say something. Ghia could not bring herself to speak or care. Both cost too much energy.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Ghia couldn’t stand the concern in his voice. She would have preferred his anger to this. I can take care of myself. “Of course I am.”
A gusty sigh heralded his response. “I can never tell with you, Ghia. You never tell me anything.”
“That’s not true.”
“It feels true. Don’t you think you owe me a little trust?”
“I owe you nothing, Jules.”
He exploded out of his chair and Ghia thought, even hoped, he might leave. Instead, he began to pace angrily. “I hardly think that’s true,” he said tightly.
She sat up and faced him. “Why?”
“Do you value my friendship so little?”
He was standing in front of her, towering, his face tight with anger and his words more like snarls.
A shiver ran down her spine – not of fear; it would take more than a miffed Jules to frighten Ghia – but of excitement. He was positively dashing like this – as if all rules of manhood had been stripped, leaving the beast that was at the core of every human.
It took every ounce of strength she had to resist kissing him where he stood.
Too bad this fight needs to happen. That might end it.
“No, Jules, but I don’t see what the value I place on our friendship has to do with telling you all my secrets.”
“How about just one?”
“Isn’t it enough that I trust you with my life?”
“It’s the same thing, Ghia.”
“Not when telling you may endanger me.” And you, she thought very privately.
He sat down beside her and grabbed her hand. “Ghia,” he said, and she couldn’t tear herself away from his eyes, which she’d never noticed as so green before, “you are the only person I trust. I would never betray you.” Another thought floated to the surface of his mind and into her view. Tired as she was, she let it come.
Yarrow…Nucalif…terrabane…Jules had seen it all.
A small gasp escaped her lips and she felt herself falling backwards as she began to faint. Rosa! She called, as Jules reached out to steady her.
Before she fell all the way, a fibrous mental tendril caught her and lent her the magea’s strength. A surge of coras, earth-power, flooded her body, clearing her mind and grounding her.
Bring him to me, said Rosa’s cool mental voice, and then she was gone.
Steadied, Ghia took a deep breath and looked Jules in the eye. “You want to know my secrets?” He nodded. “Come with me, then,” she said. She got up and left before he could protest.
Their flight to the castle went unnoticed. Jules seemed concerned about being seen, but Ghia ignored him. Her glamoury protected them. And if anyone did see us, they would just assume us lovers trying to find a private area. She hoped.
Rosa’s contact had renewed her energy and she trotted with vigour. Jules had trouble keeping up.
She wondered why Rosa wanted to see Jules, but trusted her teacher’s judgment. It would make her life easier, at any rate.
The north wing of the castle was empty. Ghia relaxed her glamoury. She could draw on her inner reservoir of strength but didn’t know how deep it went. If she had to use her own personal power at all, she preferred to use what she called her “daily power” – what was available to her without tapping her reservoir. When she concentrated, she could draw upon the power of Althea, or Cora, but that still wasn’t automatic and she was too tired to think about it right now.
Just before the entrance to the first floor of the tower, Jules dug in his heels and ground to a halt.
“Ghia, this tower is closed off.”
She turned and regarded him blankly until he started fidgeting.
“Have you changed your mind?”
“Then stop asking questions.” She turned back and opened the door, dragging Jules in behind her.
The room was empty.
This didn’t concern Ghia. Jules looked confused.
She wanted to sit, but somehow felt that Jules and Rosa would remain standing. Sighing, she stood in one place, shifting from foot to foot.
A lengthy silence passed, in which Jules looked more uncomfortable by the minute and Ghia felt she might collapse where she stood.
“Ghia,” Jules said at last, unable to take another second, “there’s nothing here. I don’t see what…”
“Shh….” her outstretched hand silenced him. “Try to use your medic’s patience.”
Jules’ retort about obvious differences between the hospitalis and the field died in his thoughts as Rosa’s voice entered both their minds.
Bickering will do you no good, children.
Jules’ jaw fell open in shock even as he inwardly bristled at the diminutive. Ghia had to bite back a laugh.
“Who…what…how….” He was unable to form a sentence.
Rosa prefers we mindspeak, Jules, Ghia sent to him. His head snapped in her direction and he opened his mouth to ask something but slammed it shut almost immediately.
How? She picked up from his public mind.
Just like that, said Rosa’s voice.
Who are you?
A friend. Slowly the blend faded, revealing her shape standing at the window.
You’re a tree, said Jules, as if he expected to wake up at any moment.
A long-suffering sigh floated from the magea’s mind as she turned to face them. Ghia, will you please explain?
Quickly the healer gave Jules a summary of all the events leading from her incident at the banquet. His eyes widened briefly before he saw how much of Ghia’s behaviour made sense with this explanation.
I called you here because I have questions for you, Rosa said before Jules could ask. Though I am sure you would prefer your questions answered first. As we have little time, I would like for us to be quick, so please proceed.
Jules didn’t miss a beat. I have only one. Why does Ghia have the eyes of a Magi?
A terrible silence followed. Ghia felt as if she’d been slapped. This was what Rosa had been hiding from her? How could she hide something so important?
I wasn’t sure, child.
Ghia felt a protest bubbling up but Rosa cut her off.
I speak truth. It’s never been done before. I did not even think it was possible.
For what to be possible? said Jules, and Ghia suddenly saw the depth of her teacher’s distress, as if she was projecting unintentionally.
Another silence followed, Jules looking at the two women with questions in his eyes; Rosa at a loss for words; Ghia sinking into understanding and resignation.
I’m part Magi, Jules. It makes so much sense. It’s why I’ve never fit in, will never fit in. I’ll always be an outcast –
When she’d started crying she didn’t know, and was aware of falling only as Jules caught her.
Not to me, he thought fiercely, and she felt like sobbing.
Rosa stood back from them, awkwardly. Ghia didn’t know if she was angry with her teacher or forgave her. I’m too tired for this….
You need to rest, child.
Of course she does – she may be part Magi but she’s still human, Jules shot at the magea.
Rosa looked about to argue, but thought better of it.
Regardless, she cannot rest now. It is of importance that we speak tonight.
Can’t it wait till tomorrow?
No. The world is changing, Medic, and every day is a step closer to what may come.
I still think Ghia should rest first….
I’m fine, Jules. She’s right. We can’t waste time.
Jules looked from magea to healer helplessly before acquiescing.
Instantaneously Rosa came back to her agenda.
Ghia is part Magi. I said nothing because I don’t have more of an answer than that. I know not how or why it happened; it is certainly the first instance I’ve seen of a successful interbreeding experiment.
It doesn’t mean I’m the only one, though, said Ghia hopefully.
No, child, it does not, but I do not know where to even begin in finding your relatives, nor do I have the time to devote to the search. Not now, she added, cutting Ghia off before her thought was formed.
What questions do you have for me? asked Jules a tad nervously.
About the terrabane, mostly.
Jules gave a sharp intake of breath and narrowed his eyes. How….
I caught it from your mind, Jules, and Rosa got it from me, said Ghia before she lapsed into silence again.
What precisely did you see? asked Rosa.
Jules related the story and his musings, catching on that there was no point in keeping anything from the magea. Yet she had some basic questions for him.
Could you please explain the relationships between these people and yourself?
Yarrow is bellica of the first regiment and sister to Empreena Zardria. I’m her Chief Medical Officer. Anala and Aro are bellica and major of the second regiment; Anita and Leala of the third. Caelum is Yarrow’s major.
Ghia noticed that Jules did not mention any feelings between people, much less any of his feelings for Yarrow. Maybe he is sparing me and himself the hurt. I should tell him I know, at some point.
Looking at Rosa, she barely caught the magea’s near-imperceptible head shake. She would have questioned this strange display but the magea was speaking to Jules again.
Caelum is the tall fair-haired man who was late to the banquet?
Jules nodded, and Rosa lapsed into a thoughtful silence.
Suddenly aware of still being held by Jules, Ghia wondered why he hadn’t shifted position. He must be uncomfortable, she thought, and moved herself so he could sit without parts of him going numb. He resettled as well but didn’t let go of her. She smiled inwardly.
When Rosa spoke again Ghia started and realised she’d been dozing. I must be tired.
You have done the right thing, Medic Jules, the magea was saying, in not turning in Yarrow. She is not guilty.
Then who is?
Caelum. Ghia felt Jules breathe in deeply in disbelief. Rosa continued, But he had his reasons, I feel, and would not want to hurt Yarrow intentionally.
But he has, said Jules. If that spy heard anything, Yarrow is in deep trouble.
Yarrow did confess to Caelum, and the spy has reported it to Zardria. And Yarrow does know it was Caelum who did it and has not forgiven him.
How do you know all these things? asked Jules after a pause.
I watch. I listen. I observe. I formulate hypotheses. I do not know why Zardria has not acted; she is harder to watch than other Terrans.
Too many questions, Medic. I have told you what you need to know to ease your mind; now Ghia must rest.
Abashed, Jules nodded and stood before helping Ghia up.
Will we speak more? he asked Rosa before they turned to go.
Undoubtedly, was her reply.
They had reached the door when she called after them. Ghia!
Bring Yarrow, if you can, when next you come. She’ll be home early tomorrow morning.
Ghia nodded, too tired to ask how, exactly, she should accomplish that, before she and Jules left.