Three weeks into the month, I got the surprise of two letters at once. One from the temple requesting my services as soon as possible, and the second from Romanian (Maybe I should call him by his middle name ‘Lee’? Wasn’t I supposed to call him your highness or something, technically?). Preparations for our arrival had been completed ahead of schedule and he hoped to be able to see us in three days time.
Gus walked in to me quickly cleaning up to head to the temple and made his grumpiest face yet.
“Is there any chance you could avoid passing out or getting a nosebleed this time?”
“It’s not like I try to get like that.” I undid my braid so I could use a polished hair stick Milly had lent me to pile my hair atop my head instead.
“Then actively try not to get like that. Please. I beg of you.”
After hearing the strain in his tone, it was no surprise that he followed after me to the temple. Hal even expected it, giving me the same warning to not return unconscious or anemic.
Priest Miurian just short of ran to meet us the moment we stepped through the door. His blond hair looked more mussed than usual.
“I’m not sure if you can do anything,” he said as he ushered us along. “So don’t feel pressured. It’s just…I can’t send him away. The man has spent every penny to his name just to get here.”
“He doesn’t know anything about her, does he?” asked Gus from beside me.
“No no. He’s been to two temples already with their healers. Not that they would have had the strength to do anything more than Dorius…”
Yo, why are you letting the government of this nation hoard all the healers? I mentally shot up to heaven, since I might as well being in the temple.
‘Agency,’ came back the familiar voice. ‘Save your energy.’
Freedom, agency, blah. Seems to get that you also had to accept the consequences of others bad choices. Really, though, someone should do something about that loser of a king.
‘What do you think I’ve prepared a hero for?’
I stopped in place. Had I heard that correctly.
Gus and Miurian looked back at me in confusion.
“Is everything alright?”
Up until now, Nehcor hadn’t said anything about what Gus had to do as a hero. It would have helped me tremendously if he had said, then I could’ve known what kind of education Gus had needed, or at least what to prepare him for.
But now to know it might have something to do with overthrowing the king…dude, rebel heroes got killed. They killed lots too. Politics was messy, messy crap, with short-lived glory and even shorter lived lives.
‘Agency…’ whispered through my head.
But that didn’t mean Gus got to choose the consequences.
I shook the thought from my head and hurried to catch up with them.
In one of the blessing rooms, with the facing mirrors and bright lighting, I found a haggard man dressed in dusty clothes that had once been well to do holding on to the floppy, drooling form of a child. They could have been five or seven, but I had long ago decided not to try and judge the age of a child.
My chest ached at the man’s wan face and shadowed eyes. He had the usual dark colorings and olive skin that was common to this part of the world, as well as his child. They both looked like they could do with a bit more weight to their bones.
Since I had plans to be a ducal healer, I hadn’t thought to protect my identity before going in. That being said, I also didn’t freely give it to him, and Priest Miurian had insisted he had made the man swear to secrecy, though he hadn’t the magic or money to have it sworn on metal.
“Please…” was all the man said as he held out his child to me.
The girl, with unfocused eyes, knobbly joints, and ragged nails, didn’t even look at me. I couldn’t tell if she was looking anywhere. Back in my home world, this level of mental disability would be strapped to a specialized wheelchair with tubes and all sorts of things hooked up to her.
I touched the girl’s head, but also touched his head as well.
“You look like you could use a good meal,” I said.
His brow bunched up and his lips quivered.
“Please…” he just said. “She’s all I have. My little girl…I don’t need anything else in this world.”
Aching even more, I softly let my hand run down his hair, gritty and greasy from travel, and looked back down at the girl. I thought quickly.
“I’ll do what I can. You should get something to eat.”
“But I don’t have any money.”
“That’s okay,” I looked to Priest Miurian, hoping to convey what I needed through my eyes. “Miur, could you please get him a meal and keep him out for a bit? I’m going to do what I can for his daughter.”
The man, who had been holding his daughter out to me, curled his arms back in at my words. “No, I can’t leave her.”
“You’ve been under a lot of stress caring for a kid this age and size, haven’t you? All by yourself?”
His eyes shook. “How did you…yes…”
I gave him the softest smile I could manage, hoping to convey my good intentions. “Even parents with the healthiest and most well-behaved children need a break so that they can come back refreshed and able to be the best parents they can be. You need a break. Please trust me, I won’t do anything but love on your baby.” I couldn’t help but reach out to touch him again, choosing this time to squeeze his time, always the physical person. “You’re going to be okay.”
Eyes wet, he gave his daughter one last squeeze, then carefully let her roll out into my arms. Her head flopped over and drool smeared on my arm. Still, I lifted her head to a better position on my shoulder, listening to her raspy breathing. Her hair had been cut short to her ears, most likely so she didn’t gag or pull on it. Though at this point, I couldn’t see her even lifting her arms, though her legs kicked a bit on being shifted, proving this was a mental disorder and not a paralytic.
Priest Miurian gave me one last look, as though to ask if I was sure, before guiding the man out and into the hall.
I waited a few seconds before gesturing Gus over.
“I don’t know how much I can do,” I told him. “I think this sickness is in her brain.”
I didn’t have to say anything more. He instantly realized what I was thinking and drew back, eyes wide.
“No–Lil, eyes were one thing, I can’t–I’ve never–”
“Calm down. I said think. Let me take a look first.”
I closed my eyes and set my hands against whatever bare skin of the girl was nearest.
The moment my senses were in I came upon a mess. Her organs were failing due to malnutrition, the muscles about her throat and mouth were worryingly atrophied, and the rest of the muscles in her body weren’t doing all that great either. It took me a while of searching for the cause as I compared the components in her blood to what I knew it should look like.
“Calcium,” I muttered. “She has too much calcium. Her body must not be able to get rid of it adequately.” Most likely another genetic disorder. “Calcium probably clogged up her neurvous system too.” I pulled back so I could focus more on talking and what Gus and I could do. “The only reason I recognized the calcium is because it’s similar to the bone I cleared out of the duke’s son’s system, but it’s also smaller. I don’t know if I can get it out the same way I did his, it won’t clot as easily, but I can direct it to her kidneys. So all you need to do is look into her brain and nerves and clean out the calcium.”
“I don’t even know what calcium is!”
“Hush, Gus, stop panicking. This is a great opportunity for you to learn.”
“But what if I hurt her? No, I can’t–you’re crazy–”
I arrested his gaze with my own, staring him down hard.
“You won’t hurt her,” I said. “You haven’t hurt me so far, have you? You’ve practiced enough for that. All you have to do is compare her brain to mine and your own. Your magic will tell you what’s wrong based off how your own brain is. Just find the excess and push it out.”
“To the blood. I can handle it from there. Take as much time as you need too. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” And if nothing else, I had at least some faith that Nehcor would stop me ahead of time if this was a bad idea. I was in direct line of communication with him while in the temple, after all.
‘Yes, I’m with you.’ I had never felt more reassured to hear that irritating voice again.
“You can do it. Just think of how happy that man would be, or this little girl. I’m sure she’s trapped in her mind somewhere in there, wishing she could at least talk to her dad.”
The girl twitched in my arms.
Gus saw it, and bit his lips. He hesitated for a bit longer, clenching and unclenching his fists. Then, finally, he kneeled down beside me and set his hands on her head.
“Very brave,” I said softly, warm with pride.
“Don’t talk to me like I’m a baby,” he snapped. “Be quiet so I can concentrate. And do your job too.”
With that, I closed my eyes as well, and set to work sending in my magic to find the minute threads of calcium.
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