Another day, another crisis, she thought as she made her way to the clinic. At least the tavernkeeper was no trouble.
Before she’d even had a chance to speak, Sebastien had answered her question. “I’d have no problem with whatever ye’d be needing ta be doin, Healer, if’n ye could do one thing for me,” he’d said.
“I’ll do my best,” Ghia said, knowing what he asked already, and hoping that it would be someone who wasn’t too far gone. There were only so many she could bring back from Muerta’s door before she drained her powers.
“Anala Tanner’d be in tha clinic. Please…save her, if’n ye can.”
Ghia forced herself to smile at him. “Anala’s my friend. I have no intention of letting her die.”
It had been gravy after that. She had the tavern reorganised to be a hospice, and transports waiting to take the ones she could save to the clinic. Now came the job of reorganising the clinic, but she was sure with the help of that head healer it would go smoothly.
The clinic was full, but nowhere near the crisis level the clinic in the slums had reached. No illness for healers to catch, either, only injuries. An easier job, to be sure. But still tiring. After this was over, she wanted a vacation. It was long overdue.
Knowing vacation was nothing more than a dream, she pushed her wishful thoughts aside and worked on finding the Head Healer. Seeing the woman with the karykos on her lapel, Ghia approached her respectfully. “Head Healer Ghia of Athering,” she said. “I’m here to help.”
The woman frowned at her. “I’d be Emily, but I dinnae see a badge on yer clothing. The Head Healer’d be Helene, besides.”
Ghia stopped herself from a display of temper. “Swiftshock broke out in Atherton over a tredicem ago and Helene fell ill. I’ve not had a chance to change my outfit to match my station.” I was too busy doing my job, she let hang unspoken in the air, and the woman looked shamed. But only a little bit. “Where are those who are past Althea’s dominion?”
The woman gestured to the stairs. “Upper ward.”
Ghia nodded once, suppressing a grimace. It would be much harder to move them to the tavern from the upper floor of the clinic, but she had no choice. “I’ve got transports with those who can be saved coming from the tavern. Get your healers to organise painkiller for them, please. I’m going to see who can be saved.”
“I’d’ve already told ye, they cannae be. Do ye nae trust me judgment in me own clinic?”
Ghia turned from her progress to the stairs and glared at the older woman. “A better question would be if you trust mine.”
They glared at each other for a few moments before Emily looked away, face flaming, and turned back to her patients.
Another battle won, Ghia hurried up the stairs to the critical ward. When she reached the room, she did sigh in defeat. The room was crammed with dying people, and there were only so many she could help. Unless I let anger take me, and unfortunately I feel I have none left, only sadness. Besides, that would be a dangerous road to walk. Didn’t Rosa tell me as much?
She made eye contact with the healer on duty. “I’m looking for Bellica Anala,” she said quietly, not wanting to search all the beds in the room.
He nodded, as if confirming something to himself. “That’d be her name, then. I’d thought so, but…well, she’d not be lookin’ like what I heard tell about Anala.” He pointed to a bed in the far corner and walked towards it. Ghia followed quickly as he chattered on. “Came in two days ago. Dinnae know who she was; dinnae know the man with ‘er. Terrible wound, and there’d be some traces of strange drug in ‘er system. Couldnae do more than what’d already been done, but ‘e refused painkillers for ‘er,” and he pointed to the man sitting by Anala’s side, brown hair back in a messy queue, bloodstained clothing adorning a defeated looking body. His eyes remained locked on Anala, his hands poised in a prayerful position. “Said she ‘ad ta live, that tha pain would keep ‘er from Muerta. Couldnae convince ‘im otherwise, and he’d fly into a rage if’n we tried ta give ‘er any, sa eventually we gave up. ‘e’s been at ‘er side nonstop. ‘asn’t slept.”
Ghia nodded and thanked the young healer, who disappeared. Slowly, she moved over to the bedside and knelt by Anala.
The bellica looked near death. If Ghia had been an ordinary healer she would have written off Anala as a lost case, doomed to a comfortable death. But I am no ordinary healer, she thought as she examined the bellica’s prone body. I will not let Anala die. Even if it kills me, though I doubt it will. Nor do I wish to work myself to death – Jules would be very mad indeed.
Allowing herself a small smile at the thought of the Chief Medical Officer, she lifted up the bandages on Anala’s torso to see the extent of the wound. Through some miracle, the gaping wound in the bellica’s side had not caused her to bleed out yet. Is it still a miracle if I know the source of it? Thank you, Rosa.
Not getting an answer and only half-expecting one, she turned to the man at Anala’s bedside. He looked to be about Jules’ age – a very tired, overtaxed Jules. Carefully she laid an arm across Anala and touched his hand gently. Bloodshot eyes met hers and he seemed to notice her presence for the first time.
“Who are you?” he croaked.
“Ghia. I’m a friend of Anala’s.” he nodded and retreated back into himself. “And you?” she prompted, hoping to get him talking.
“Stout-Heart,” he said automatically. “Lares Stout-Heart. I’m her paxman,” he said as an afterthought.
That’s new, she thought, but made no comment. “Well, Lares, can you tell me what made this wound?” Of course, I can read it in your mind – but the words don’t make much sense.
His eyes flickered to his belt, where Ghia saw a strange weapon, and suddenly realised what his jumbled thoughts meant. “Pistol shot. I was too late to stop it.” His eyes closed once, briefly, painfully, and when they opened again there was fresh wetness on the orbs. “It’s a very effective weapon.”
“But you wrapped the wound very well,” she said gently. It wasn’t a question. The events of the past six days were etched on Lares’ soul. Ghia didn’t need to be a mind reader to understand what had happened. But it does fill in some useful details.
“Aye. For all the good it will do. They tell me she’ll not live; there’s naught anyone can do.” He stopped as his voice caught in his throat, and when he continued it was in an anguished whisper. “Hope died for her and still…still I fail my lady.”
Lares’ pain washed over Ghia and she nearly reeled from it. She wanted to comfort him somehow, to ease his pain, but needed more urgently to ease Anala’s pain. Mayhap I can do both at once. “You have not failed, Lares. I’m here to save Anala.”
Without waiting for a reply or giving further explanation, Ghia laid her hands on Anala’s stomach and dove into the bellica’s etheric body. Briefly she saw the empty healing store she’d left the bellica, the remains of her temporary glamour, and what Rosa had added before she was stopped by a strange presence. It appeared to her as a bird of orange flame, but with a beating heart of water in its chest. Before she could wonder how fire and water could blend like that, it spoke in a strange tongue that she nonetheless understood.
“Who dares intrude on my territory?”
“I come to heal. I am a friend,” Ghia responded, surprised she could not only understand the language the bird spoke in but could speak it as well.
Grudgingly the bird subsided and Ghia moved onto Anala’s injuries. She’d have to talk to Rosa about the bird and the strange sounding language later. Belatedly, she realised the bird must be the bellica’s magi-self.
She moved through the wound quickly, repairing vessels and arteries and veins and capillaries so blood could flow again. No major internal organs were damaged, thanks be to Althea, and there seemed to be no remains of pistol shot, though how Ghia knew this, as she had never seen pistol shot before, she could not say. Blood flow restored, she then regrew muscle and sinews, forming a support for those same veins and arteries, and then replaced the skin. Scarring was inevitable – even my powers are not that great – but she didn’t think Anala would mind overmuch.
Scanning the surrounding areas, she found no other injuries. Now Anala must eat something and work on restoring her strength, she thought as she slowly left Anala’s body. A few days of proper nutrition would flush the remains of the drug from her system and restore her former capability. Coming to herself, Ghia lightly touched the bellica’s mind, which drifted in nightmares, to let her know it was safe to wake up.
Opening her eyes, she looked into the stunned, terrified face of Lares. “What are you?” he asked in a small voice full of wonder.
Ghia shrugged. What could she say?
“She’d be a healer o’ extraordinary power,” came a voice rusty with disuse from the bed.
I could have said something like that, I suppose.
Lares looked at Anala in astonishment. “Anala. Alive. You’re alive! And awake!”
“‘Twould appear so,” the bellica replied dryly, and Ghia let out a soft giggle. “Though I’d be a mite confused as to what in Tyvian is goin’ on – last I remember, we’d’ve been on Voco and you’d’ve been Exsil Vis’s man,” she said, frowning at Lares.
Ghia watched Lares swallow the obvious lump in his throat, and sensed that now would be a good time to leave. She rubbed Anala’s arm gently and bid a silent farewell. As she walked away, she could hear Lares begin to explain with “Well, it’s a long story, but….” and she had to smile. It’s always a long story, isn’t it?