Ghia sat on a bale of hay, watching Anala practice with her new sword and shield.
The Naratus was a beautiful weapon. This was an opinion held by Ghia, who didn’t like weaponry or fighting in general.
Unless it’s Jules doing the fighting, she thought with a smile. Then I quite enjoy it.
The Naratus, Rosa had told them, was one of the Great Powers, weapons forged by the Magi at a time of great strife for their people. He’d been made together with the shield, his sister the Magisphere. Each Great Power was forged from a pure element. There was more history to it, Rosa had said, but it didn’t bear getting into. All they needed to know was the Naratus had been forged from lightning, and the Magisphere from earth. Only one of Magi blood could handle the weapons – for anyone else to touch them would mean death.
The blade of the sword was covered in markings strange yet familiar to Ghia’s eye. Rosa said it was the ancient, written form of the Magi language, Ereneden, but she wouldn’t translate what it said. The hilt was a zig-zag, like a bolt of lightning, and the pommel was wrapped in a black, incredibly tough leather. The thing fairly crackled with energy, and sparks flew when Anala struck the wooden target with him.
A few more hits and Anala turned to face Ghia, breathing hard, sword tip resting on the hay-strewn floor of the military’s training room.
“I dinnae think ‘e likes me,” she said with a small smile.
“I’m sure he likes you just fine, cuz.” Oh, she was happy to have her voice back! “The wooden target, on the other hand…” she trailed off and looked pointedly at the thing, which was covered in scorch marks.
Anala glanced over her shoulder. “Aye, but…” she said, regarding the sword. “‘e’s almost painful ta hold. ‘ere, ye feel.” She handed the pommel to Ghia.
Ghia went to grasp the sword, but he moved away from her. Anala no longer held him; the Naratus balanced by himself on his tip, and Ghia’s hand chased him around, unable to make contact.
Soon the healer gave up, not really wanting to hold a sword anyway, and leaned back on her bale of hay. Anala went to grab the sword, but before her hand reached him the Naratus fell by himself into her palm. A happy humming sound arose from him.
“He likes you,” Ghia said decisively, stretching her hand.
“I ken that,” Anala said softly, and she sheathed the Naratus. The leather was the same kind that was on his pommel. “It’d be a mite awkward switchin ta sword and shield after sa long two-handing,” she said thoughtfully, looking at the shield that rested on her arm.
The Magishpere was a circular shield, and even more beautiful than her brother. There was a sun-burst motif of stones – zircon of various colours, Rosa had told them – on her face, alternating between green and brown shades as they radiated from the centre stone, which was incredibly large and seemed a blending of the two colours. Rosa had told them the two weapons were connected, and that the grounding power of the Magisphere would absorb any magekal or otherwise energetic blasts directed at the bearer before channeling the same energy into the Naratus so it could be used against the attacker.
What were you fighting when you made these, Rosa? Ghia had asked.
The Magea had not replied, though Ghia had seen a shiver shake Rosa’s branches.
“How’s yer hand holdin’ up?” Anala’s voice cut through the healer’s thoughts, and she realised she’d been sitting there, absentmindedly flexing it.
“It’s fine,” she said, looking at the hand that was no longer a claw. “Still hurts a bit, and I can’t hold a quill to save my life. But it gets better every day. Are you done practising?” she added, noticing the admiral looked ready to go.
Anala nodded and passed Ghia her cane so the healer could get up.
Before she’d left Atherton – bearing a letter from Anala to the regiments on their way home from Harbourtown – Rosa had healed Ghia’s hand for her, but not the knee.
I’ll have to re-break both to heal them, child. You won’t be able to walk for a while.
Just the hand, then, Ghia’d replied and gritted her teeth. Unimaginable pain had shot through her as Rosa re-broke each tiny, individual bone in her hand and wrist, re-set them, and used Coran energy to make them start to knit. She’d instructed Ghia to exercise the muscles and be gentle with the hand, for it was not a perfect fix.
No worries there, she’d said. I have no desire to lose it again.
Then the Magea had left – not before teaching Anala the basics of how to use her new weapons, and instructing the women in a few more magek techniques. If you wish, you should teach her more of what you know, Rosa had said to Ghia alone. It’s well time she got a better hold of her powers.
Ghia had no idea how Rosa would get the letters and message to the homeward-marching bellicas without causing a small riot. She just trusted her mentor would get help.
Now the only thing left to do was wait. And practise.
That was the hardest part – the waiting. Especially when both women wanted nothing more than to ride out to the Town Square and kill Lord Exsil Vis themselves. The man had hurt Anala so soundly it was a miracle the woman contained her rage, and Ghia was beside herself worrying over her aunt. What they could see of Atherton showed destruction or occupation. Had Kasandra escaped? Where would she have gone?
Goddesses, she hoped her aunt had made it. She didn’t think she could handle more loss at the moment. First Molly, then Jera and Giselle, and Aro – ah! Aro, her loyal paxwoman. Something she’d never thought she’d have. Jera and Giselle had been family, caustic and sweet members of a group bound to Ghia not by blood but by love. Oh, and Molly…. She’d thought she’d calmed that grief, but the fresh wounds had merely opened the floodgates of sorrow again. Why she felt such a connection to the young rebel, she didn’t fathom but she had sensed the moment Molly’s heart stopped. As if a mountain of grief had suddenly formed out of the foundation of her soul.
A thought struck her.
“Anala,” she asked as they made their way down the hall, for Anala was now Ghia’s self-appointed escort. “You witnessed Molly’s execution, did you not?”
“Aye,” the admiral said, sadness on her face.
“Did you…did you feel anything, physically, when she died?” The question was hard for the healer to voice, but it had to be asked.
Anala didn’t answer right away; her face told Ghia she was thinking back.
“Aye,” she said at length. “Twas as if me heart were being buried alive under a mountain of grief and pain. Felt – suffocated, ye ken. Why d’ye ask?”
Ghia couldn’t breath with the shock of the truth that had just hit her. “Dear Goddess,” she said, wondering why she hadn’t seen it before. “Anala, when one Magi dies, all the rest feel it.”
Anala’s eyes widened. “Ye mean ta say…”
“Yes. Molly was Magi.” She took a deep breath and thought back to her time in the dungeon. “And unless I’m off my guess, Jester is one too.”
“We’d ‘ave ta find ‘er then,” Anala said quickly, determination suffusing her features.
“I will, Anala. Tonight.”
Casting her consciousness out from the castle that night, Ghia had little hope of finding Jester. The girl could be in Mudflat by now, for Goddess’ sake.
It was to her great surprise, then, when she found the girl’s energy – and Lt. James’ too, she noticed – in the enemy camp.
The healer wasn’t able to make direct contact with Jester, who was sleeping, but she ascertained that both were safe…well, as safe as one could be in a Vocan seraglio. There were others in there too – denizens of the city. Mostly women, but a few young boys. And James. She searched for anyone she might recognise, and half-happily found none. Not a huge victory. Nevertheless, she felt better thinking her friends dead rather than at the mercy of Lord Exsil Vis.
Casting herself further, she searched the town for Kasandra. The Cauldron had been burned to the ground, which brought tears to Ghia’s eyes, and her aunt was not in the hidden room below the cellar. She knew Kasandra – the woman would have escaped.
So where was she?