Light of Dawn came to awareness with a sigh and a wince. The sharpness in her ribs had spread to an overall ache in her body that pounded with each heartbeat and sliced with each breath. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes.
A woman servant noticed her wakefulness and hurried over. She murmured in the garbled language of the Hyksans, offering a smile so wide it was unseemly. These people had a different understanding of proper behavior, and Light of Dawn tried not to be upset at the garish display.
The woman lifted a simple mug from somewhere just out of Light of Dawn’s vision and brought it close. Light of Dawn held back a sigh. She knew the brew would taste vile, and she also knew that it would diminish the pain and aid the healing. Obediently, she lifted her head and drank.
That task accomplished, the woman drew crude shades around the cot and proceeded to help Light of Dawn with necessities. The process did not seem as agonizing as the last performance, which cheered Light of Dawn even as she lay back and closed her eyes against the pain.
A touch on her hand opened her eyes once more. The servant spoke slowly (but not loudly; that lesson they had all learned quickly), carefully pronouncing each word. Light of Dawn concentrated, grateful that the medicine had already taken the edge off the throbbing in her head. After a moment, she had the sense of the woman’s message: none of the Royal Family would come to the hospital this day. Light of Dawn nodded, releasing the woman to her other tasks.
The news was both welcome and troublesome. The past days of speaking with Esthis and demonstrating techniques over and over had been wearing beyond her expectation. Such small things, and yet they tired her, likely because she was already injured. Light of Dawn had to wonder if all teachers tired of rote repetition, particularly when the student could not replicate the effort.
She worried that she was not providing some useful work to cover her presence and medical needs. It would be ill for a Princess to take advantage of others; even in her homeland, the Emperor gave as much as he took from the People. Life and effort balanced one another into harmony, and lying in bed was no way to balance the attention given her.
Light of Dawn turned her attention to the injured men and women in the room. She’d tried to give them aid the day before, but Esthis had required so many demonstrations that healings had been delayed. Light of Dawn hoped it was not too late for any of them.
All but three of the injured had regained consciousness, if only for a few moments. Their healings would take time, but they were well underway. The three still dormant received her concentration now. This long after an attack, what kept them …
The first man’s soul held an ugly pulse, edged with that foulness the torn souls created. One of them– the Riven, they were called, had penetrated deep into the man’s essence with a blunt force. Much like a bruise, the damage hadn’t appeared immediately, unlike the jagged rips and slices of other types of attacks. Had she tended him properly, without distractions or injuries of her own, she would have detected it within moments rather than days. Light of Dawn wound soothing energy around the man, encouraging him to enter into his own healing.
The second man had nearly healed of his soul-injuries, but Light of Dawn checked him over carefully a second and third time. He would not wake, and she feared she had missed some small hurt in a vital area. She prodded and searched, but found nothing in his soul that would keep him bound.
The last was another woman, this one barely old enough to deserve the designation. Light of Dawn wondered if her courses had flowed for a full season-turn yet. Surely she could not–
Her cry brought servants and healers running, all exclaiming and jabbering. One healer, Madai, waved them to silence. He placed his hand over hers.
“What ails you, my lady?”
Grateful that this man she could understand, Light of Dawn focused on him with a steely gaze. “That young woman there.” She pointed at the corner where the near-child lay. “Why has no one tended her babe?”
Healer Madai flinched, then spun around to look at the pale figure. “You mean to say that she is pregnant?”
That brought gasps from the others, who quickly shushed under Madai’s hissed order.
Light of Dawn divided her concentration. “She is a third gone with her time, at least. I have not much experience with gravid injured, as we seldom place them in the path of the Devourers, but I know there are two souls in that bed. The babe took a grievous wound, and the mother spends her own self trying to save it. Is there no outward sign of this injury?”
Madai questioned the servants. One man replied, “We did notice additional bleeding, but it wasn’t much. We thought she might just be having her time.” He was surely a healer’s servant, for he did not blush.
Light of Dawn spoke before Madai could. “I have little experience with physical wounds, but I can sense that the babe’s soul searches for release, to flee the damage it does not know how to heal. I fear both may die if we do not release the babe now.”
The healer paled. “We can’t just kill it! Wait, you said the baby doesn’t know how to heal itself. Can you show it how? Would that strain you too much?”
Light of Dawn spared a moment to wonder why these people fought so hard to keep those who did not want to stay. “I do not know if I can. Rather, I do not know if it can learn. When a babe forms in a mother’s womb, the soul joins it there. This babe’s soul is full-grown, but the person within the soul is as unformed as the body. A born babe needs some months to learn to crawl and walk and become its own being. It also needs time to learn how to learn.”
“Would you try? Please? It is not the child’s fault that this happened.” Madai held her hand in both his, pleading with eyes as posture as much as voice.