Esthis poked Barna’s shoulder, causing him to yelp and half-jump out of his chair.
“You know, there are these things called beds; they’re great for sleeping in. you should try one sometime,” she commented.
“Oh, leave off,” Barna muttered. “It was just for a moment.”
“Mmhmmm. A moment that lasted all night.”
“Really? What time is it?”
“Past breakfast. Which I, your loving sister, have brought for you. Eat up and tell me what we’ve got for today.”
Barna ate slowly, but eventually the food and hot jeela woke him. He then filled Esthis in on the progress his team had made.
“That’s wonderful! I’ve got four of the new mods ready, so if you can get those programme cards to me, I’ll slot them in and we can give them a go. As long as nothing blows up, I’ll call it a success.”
Barna nodded around a mouthful, trying to swallow before he mumbled, “Sho will I.”
“Not with your mouth full,” Esthis teased. “Alright, now that you’re awake, here are the designs I’ve got for power plants, power conduits, overflow dumps, and dispersion fields. I think that your specs will be enough to contain this, especially since we were able to modify our approach with Liming’s advice. Now that we don’t have to use such a broad spectrum, we can really focus on where it’ll hurt the Riven.”
“Yeah, looks good. Now, I’m not sure what you mean in this note here. You say that …”
Two heads bent over the pages, exchanging ideas and building new machines.
Light of Dawn picked at the coarse weave of the coverlet, worrying a small knot into a small hole. The babe was still alive, though its soul yet wanted to fly free. The child mother had learned to guard herself and not pour her energy recklessly into the fetus. The man who had the ugly bruise in his soul was healing slowly but well. The man with no reason to be dormant was completely soul-healed, and the healers were tending him. All the other patients were nearly recovered.
What am I? What … what do I mean?
The questions continued to plague her. Her status as Princess had always been enough. She’d thought it had been enough. In this land, she was no Princess. She was a stranger with one useful skill, a badly needed skill, but any of her People could have done the same service.
Who am I?
For the hundredth time, she cast her gaze over the living souls around her. Each burned with its own Self, it’s own identity. Some were purer than others, some held secret sorrows, some blazed with inner purpose, some quietly bore through life. They were people like any other. Some wounds she could heal, and some only the bearer could heal.
As she looked deeper, she noted that many of them had a glow that she was not accustomed to seeing, a quality that few– no, none of her People had. That something was the same thing that blazed inside Yosha, making him Bright Soul of Pure Heart; he simply had more of it than they did. No, not more … He had let it spread further in himself than these had. One man who passed through the halls of this healing house shone as brightly as Yosha did.
Whatever this quality was, it made these Hyksans different. As she watched them, she saw how easily they interacted with one another. Certainly, some were more standoffish than others, some definitely extroverted and some calmly reserved, but they seemed to have a connection.
Yes, something brought them together, gave them a shared purpose. Even the least servant, who emptied the pails and washed the soiled sheets, had that sliver of hope in him.
Light of Dawn would watch and discover what made them so sure that they mattered beyond their titles.
Hannes leaned back on the couch and scrubbed his face with both hands. He didn’t groan, but he allowed himself a long sigh. “Who would have thought that I would wish for a traditional bloodbath of a war?”
“Not I, certainly,” Annat commented as she stepped into the room, “but I must confess that I can understand your reasoning. Bloodbaths we know and understand. This war of souls and undead bodies, who has ever experienced before?”
Hannes leaned his head over the back of the couch. “I don’t know of anyone who has, and I’ve been asking everyone I can think of. Why do people panic so easily?”
His sister sat on the couch opposite him. “Because we are human and destined for error. The unknown frightens us because we do not know how to respond to it, and we often hasten to create responses. Those responses are usually incorrect, which brings more fear, more hasty actions, and a cycle that leads ever downward.”
“Remind me to make you the Chief Philosopher of the kingdom,” Hannes muttered.
“Don’t forget to make me Chief Philosopher of the kingdom,” Annat replied.
Hannes cracked one eye open and rolled it down to glare at her. She looked back with a bland expression. He snorted. “And people say you have no sense of humor.”
“Humor has its place, as does everything else,” Annat replied.
“Fine.” Hannes hauled himself upright. “Thank you for the information, Sister; it was just the thing to make those ambassadors think twice. I imagine they’ve scuttled off to rethink their strategies, so I may get a half-day’s peace from them. Your men are watching our dear citizens who have tried to throw their lot in with others?”
“Men and some women,” Annat replied.
“Fair enough. Sex is certainly no hindrance to ability, as you have well-proved. Alright, let me get going to my next appointment. Once I figure out what that is.”
Heber stepped out of the corner he’d been standing in. “You have an afternoon gathering with the Guildmasters, my king, to informally hear certain ideas for the upcoming taxation changes.”
“How exciting. Will there be any wrestling or sparring?”
Heber politely shook his head.
The king stood and stretched. “Never any luck. Let’s get this over with; I’ve got a war to get back to.”