“Have pity,” Barna moaned. He carefully put his head in his hands and leaned his elbows on the desk of his work-station.
“I have no pity for fools who leave their good sense behind,” Hannes replied. Barna moaned again and buried his head in his arms.
Yosha chuckled as he set Esthis’ tool-bag where she had pointed. “Now you know how I feel when I get done scouting around with my soul.”
Hannes barked a laugh, prompting Barna to moan and shudder. “Alright, siblings. We’ve work to do today. And if lack of judgement makes that harder, well, hopefully it makes us wiser. I’m with the generals and secretaries today. We’ve got a lot of frightened people to deal with. Esthis, I need half your effort to be on the Repellers and half to be on more helms. The ones we have are already in use, but I want every man on the walls to have one. Barna, quit moaning and start working on those numbers of yours. We need the Repellers up and running now. Annat is already out with her contacts, helping quell the panic and get us more information about what Luvaris is up to.”
He turned to Yosha, who had been standing quietly by. “And you, little brother, since you’re feeling so much better, will be in charge of both the Riven-injured at the hospital and our soul-defenses. Learn what you can from Miss Límíng, see if you can convince her to work with us, and translate between her and whoever Es and Barna send down with their machines.”
Yosha bowed. “I won’t fail you, my king.”
“I know you won’t,” Hannes replied. He clapped Yosha on the arm. “Alright, so we’ve got our orders. If you need more hands, get them. I’ve put out a call for workers to aid with assembling machines and doing the basic tasks that don’t need much training. That should free up the trained hands for the delicate work. But if you need more help, get it. I’ve offered a tax consideration and small payment for those who volunteer. If you think you need to offer some other compensation, let me know; I’ll probably approve it. Let’s get to it.”
He turned on one heel and left the workrooms. Esthis gave Yosha a quick hug and pushed him to the door. “Get going, you. And mind that you send updates every hour! My assistants are good, but they can’t tell me everything you can.”
Yosha dotted her cheek with a kiss. “Yes, Mother Esthis.” He darted out before her fist could connect with his arm.
Light of Dawn tried to quiet the hiss her breath made between her teeth. The same women had returned this morning to aid her with necessary things, and now that they had completed their ministrations, Light of Dawn wanted to rest.
She also wanted to determine if she could understand another phrase spoken by the women. Much as she had tried, Light of Dawn had not been able to pick out another intelligible word from the women who acted as healer’s aides. What had brought that one phrase to her attention? How had she understood it?
Haggith, the woman whose words had made sense, stood and gathered up the basket of linens. She said something to Shiphrah, the other woman, who replied. Haggith stepped into the hall and spoke to someone Light of Dawn could not see, and a male voice responded.
The man who stepped into the room wore the short, white over-robe that Light of Dawn had learned was the customary garb of the healers of Hyksas. This man she also recognized: Madai. He seemed a competent healer. His manner was far more familiar than the healers of her land, but she did not consider it an affront. Overt displays of emotion seemed to be the way of these people.
Madai exchanged words with Shiphrah before turning a large smile to Light of Dawn. He spoke directly to her, and his words made no sense. He made some motions, but Light of Dawn had little understanding of his meaning.
On impulse, she lifted her hand to him. He paused for a moment, then smiled and grasped it. Carefully, Light of Dawn opened herself to his soul.
As she already knew, Madai was a good man and well-dedicated to his work. He carried no wounds and few scars. His soul was as healthy as she could have hoped to see.
“Say again what you spoke to me,” she told him, letting some of herself flow through the link. Putting oneself into a healing was considered dangerous and thus one of the first cautions given to apprentice soul-healers, but this was not a healing. It was the lightest of touches, little more than an observation.
The healer started a tiny amount. He looked at her with wonder, then at their joined hands. After a moment, he spoke again. His words remained a garble, but she could feel the core meaning of them through the connection. He wished her a good morning and wondered how she felt.
Light of Dawn opened the link a bit wider. “I am no worse than before,” she told him.
His eyes widened and his jaw slacked. Light of Dawn felt a triumph such as she had not had in many years. Coming to this place, being so grievously injured and placed in such danger had combined to give her an opportunity she had longed for.
She could learn new skills, could contribute to the knowledge of her people. Not in more generations than anyone cared to count had any healer the chance to attempt such learning, to make such experiments. If only she had paper and ink! Instead, she made careful mental notes.
More footsteps clattered up to the doorway, prompting all three of them to turn and look. Yosha halted in the doorway, some surprise on his haggard face.
“Am I interrupting something?” he asked.
“Ah, Bright Soul!” she could not resist crying out. “Come and see what I have learned to do!”