Ghia awoke to late afternoon sunlight filtering in through her window. She had not moved from the position in which she’d fallen asleep. She found she could not move now. Every muscle wanted to quit on her – rather, she wished they would quit, to stop the aching.
A strange noise from beside her bed made her flick her eyes upwards. Jules reclined in the chair, head tilted back and mouth open. He was snoring.
She smiled, or tried to. Her facial muscles hurt, too. The sentiment remains. A warm feeling spread over her, though not reaching her muscles, and suffused her whole being with an emotion she lacked words for. Suffice it to say Jules’ steadfast loyalty, in staying through the night and otherwise, made her feel good.
As if alerted by her being conscious again, he awoke, looking around and taking in his surroundings, confusion on his features. His eyes locked with hers and remembrance occurred. He smiled.
“Good morning, Princess.”
“It’s afternoon,” she croaked, “and I’m not royalty.”
He shrugged. “If the boot fits….”
“It doesn’t.” With a struggle and more than an ounce of pain, she raised herself upon her arms. Stubborn pride made her do it even if her ligaments wouldn’t. “Anala and Aro?”
“Gone, as of last night. I assume Anala’s on her way?” It was a question directed at her, she realised slowly. She closed her eyes and reached. Yes, Anala was on the road to Harbourtown. She rode quickly, and Ghia reached into her mind a bit to sense her emotions.
“Yes, and she’s not happy about it.”
Jules snorted. “I should think not. Do you know why she was sent?”
“Didn’t Aro tell you?”
“I stopped asking when I learnt she was sent alone.”
She nodded in understanding. Lovers old and new were loathe to separate. Aro’s pain was great.
Briefly Ghia explained Anala’s assignment to Jules. His lips curled back into a snarl.
“Zardria’s made a misstep. Anala is well-loved. If she’s harmed as a direct result of the Empreena’s orders….”
“What makes you think anyone will know? Anala was sworn to secrecy as to her mission. The fact that Aro knows is a breach of that oath; our knowing will sentence her to death. If we tell others, making it well known among the citizens of Athering, it will mean our heads as well. Our hands are tied.”
Jules made a noise of frustration in his throat. “What about your Magi powers? Can you use those to help her in some way?”
She sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. “I already have, Jules. I can do no more – she’s not trained to link up with me. I can only trust that what I left her with will work if she needs it.”
“Will she even know?” He got up and stretched. “I mean, she’s human. She can’t consciously use what you gave her, whatever it was. Right?”
Ghia bit her lip and remained silent. Should I tell him? We’re not even sure.
She half-expected Rosa to answer her private thought. When there was silence in her head, she went with her intuition – or my Magi self. Which is which, I don’t know anymore.
“Anala’s part Magi as well, Jules.”
He turned slowly, fists resting on his hipbones. A silence passed as he regarded her. “Are you sure?”
“No,” she said.
Genuine surprise registered on his face. “Ghia? Unsure? Perish the thought.” She glared at him. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “What makes you think she is?”
Ghia pursed her lips. This was tricky. She didn’t know how to explain what she’d seen, or felt, exactly. She just knew, or thought, that was the case. The same feeling of home was there, but muted, somehow. Like it had been pressed down by something else.
She shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know how to explain it. I just…”
“It’s alright.” He held up a hand. “I understand. It’s hard to express. Maybe someday you can show me,” he added, hope in his voice.
She smiled, and her face cooperated with only little pain. “Maybe someday,” she said noncommittally, and Jules returned her smile. A comfortable silence enveloped them as they sat and stood looking at each other, smiling stupidly. Jules walked over to where she sat on the bed and suddenly she felt embarrassed. She quickly looked away, blushing, and heard his near-inaudible sigh on a psychic and aural level.
“Jules?” her voice sounded small and childish to her own ears. She cringed and tried again: “What happened at Voco?” Ugh. Better, barely.
Jules grew more silent, if possible. A pause stretched as he thought of what to say. “I don’t know,” he said.
She gave him her “I don’t believe you” expression.
He sighed and dropped down on the bed beside her. “I don’t, really. I was a low-ranking medic in Mena’s first regiment. I spent all my time in the hospitalis tents.”
“So you have no idea as to what happened with Yarrow and Anala?
He shrugged. “I know it was they who infiltrated Clifton and cornered Lord Exsil Vis. I don’t know what happened after that, except that we might have won had Mena not died.” He went silent. Ghia wanted to leave him to his sadness, but she had one more question.
“Did Anala and Yarrow seem different after the battle?”
“Oh, much different. Before Voco they’d almost been friends, and a lot less serious. After…well, it’s rarer to see either one smile. I had no idea they cared so for Mena,” he said as an afterthought.
“Didn’t Yarrow try to avenge her?”
“That’s how the story goes. But it doesn’t seem like Yarrow, truth be told. Or any bellica who realises the dangers of her job….” he trailed off.
They sat in silence, mulling over an event neither had witnessed.
Ghia had no idea how much time had passed when her stomach growled, informing her it was time for an early supper. She tried to get up but her muscles still hurt too much. She cursed mentally and tried again. Jules got up himself before helping her up. She stumbled a bit but he held her fast.
She was pressed against his chest, one of his arms encircling her waist, the other still holding her hand. Their eyes met, and Ghia felt as if a lightning bolt had hit her. The look in Jules’ eyes was so intense with some raw, unidentified emotion that all she could do was stare at him, lips parted, eyes wide open, breath stopped. The longest second in history passed and then his head bent towards hers.
Before anything could happen, Ghia ducked her head and pulled away. The moment broke. Thank Cora. Blushing furiously, she stood staring at the floor until her composure was regained. This was difficult, as Jules still held her hand in his, but eventually she managed the feat.
Jules cleared his throat. “My Lady,” he said, curtsying a little before her and gesturing for her to precede him. There was no mockery in his tone nor his eyes.
“I’ll forgive you that one, on account of my being hungry,” she said imperiously. She swept past him, heart beating frantically in her chest.
He shook his head, laughed, and followed her out.