Winds of Change

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“Everbloom,” Gabriella prompted over their evening meal of roast galdor and spiced vegetables.

“Mm,” Rick, said, his mouth full, “I know this one.”

Gabriella smiled over her cup of cider. “You’re not allowed to answer.”

Fiorra grimaced. For the last three days since they had been home from their Market trip, Gabriella had been drilling her mercilessly on First Cycle Healing knowledge, mainly properties of herbs and plants. She was beginning to see them in her sleep, so total was her education throughout the day. She pushed her vegetables around, thinking.

“Everbloom. It grows only in the marshes and swamps on… long slender stalks, I think, and has five part leaves with small white flowers. It blooms spring through early winter in the right conditions. Its flowers should be boiled after harvest in wine or vinegar and… hmm. Mixed with a poultice of its crushed leaves, it will dissolve a blood clot. Women use it in baths on their wedding nights to give the impression that they are virgins.” She glanced up at Gabriella.

Rick, however, answered first. “Right you are.” He winked knowingly at Dar across the table. “Women are sly creatures, aren’t they?”

Gabriella cleared her throat with a raised eyebrow at Rick and observed dryly, “Fiorra, you are correct, although the latter application is doubtful in effectiveness.”

“No wonder he memorized that one,” Emanuella chuckled as she got up with her empty plate and walked into the kitchen. Fiorra couldn’t help but feel some pride as she noted that Emanuella wasn’t limping. She expected there was some tenderness in the leg, but there would be no scar, for she had slathered the arrow wound with miltemp ointment, which prevented scarring. Rick, however, would have a scar, though minor. The Rider’s sword had cut him to the bone, and severed some muscle fibers, which were still healing even now.

That was the part of Healing that required kyor. Anyone could memorize herbs and remedies, and apply poultices and smelly liniments and grind dried leaves to fine powders, Fiorra thought as she helped to clear the empty dishes from the table. But true Healing involved using your kyor to “see” into another person’s body – see their blood cells, their muscles, their bones and tissue, their organs. And as if that wasn’t enough, you had to know what was what, and put it back together again, and know how to do it. With your kyor. Which, she expected, was why she slept so soundly the night of the attack. Gabriella had assisted her, had shown her the outlines of the muscles in Emanuella’s leg, where Fiorra had seen clearly the venomous form of the leech bolt, seeping Emanuella’s energy with each beat of Emanuella’s heart, each race of her pulse. Fiorra had never been so frightened as when she had pulled the leech bolt from Emanuella’s leg, seeing with both her eyes and her kyor, so afraid that she would do more harm than help, her hands shaking as Emanuella thrashed in pain.

Rick’s wound had been much simpler, she mused. No enchanted object had been lodged in it, for one thing. She had simply cleansed it of dirt and cloth, and used her kyor to reattach the muscle strands. She hadn’t needed Gabriella’s assistance for that, though she’d consulted with her briefly. The process was known as quick-healing, though, and took a great deal of energy from both the patient and the Healer. Rick would be sore for a while and would have to build his strength back up, but he would be fine.

She stretched and curled up to watch Rick and Ander pit themselves at a game of chips. Poor Ander. Almost everything he did was illusionary now, she was sure it was a wonderful break for him to use a real game board and game pieces without focusing on keeping their appearances up.

Dar nudged her. “Wake up.”

Fiorra opened her eyes and found that she’d been dozing. Yawning, she excused herself sheepishly to bed, where she slid under her blankets and fell asleep staring into the fire.

The fire popped and crackled. She turned the page of her book, studying still, though she tried to be quiet lest she disturb the sleep of her comrades. So much had yet to be learned, and so little time remained to her. She leaned her chin on her hand and bent her head to her book.

Springweed: Fragrant Springweed is found in sunny patches of lower altitudes of the mountains and grows to a height of one foot tall with spongy, branching stems and long, dark green single leaves. The small, yellow flowers of Springweed should be crushed and added to teas with honey to compensate for the pungent taste of the petals. Springweed will produce a general feeling of well-being and relaxation, ease sore, sprained, or strained muscles, and soothe aches and pains. In larger doses, Springweed will induce sleepiness. Healer’s Note: Springweed is best not used on infants younger than three Cycles.

Stralikspur: Stralikspur is found chiefly in the southern regions in shady forestland. It has a woody stem and grows approximately half a foot high with small, oval leaves of dark green color. While the leaves can be added to a salve to draw out infection, Stralikspur’s main effectiveness is concentrated in its roots. The roots are ground and made into a poultice that is primarily used to prevent or stop bleeding. One successful application will usually stop bleeding, or staunch the flow of major bleeding (a second application will stop the bleeding altogether.) Stralikspur is often used by midwives to staunch the flow of vaginal bleeding after birth.

Fiorra sighed and turned to the next page.

“Quite the devoted student, studying even in the moonlit marks,” observed an amused voice.

Her head jerked up. “Barcik,” she breathed. She must have fallen asleep. She was asleep and dreaming. How else would he be here, in her cabin, in the middle of the night? And how like her, to dream of studying….

Barcik bent over her shoulder, curious. Every sense was alert as she breathed in his woodsy scent. “Ah, Springweed. Quite popular. Something you could use just now,” he judged, raising an ironic eyebrow at her. He glanced back at the page thoughtfully. “What they don’t tell you about babies here is that if you boil it first and then add it to their milk, a colicky baby will go right to sleep. Boiling eliminates the pungency of the petals, which is what upsets the baby’s stomach, but still retains most of the healing properties. Unfortunately, most mothers have been raised on the idea that springweed is not to be given to infants, and so they stay up nights with their colicky children.” Barcik smiled then. “Whatever are you doing, studying in your sleep? I’ve witnessed many a strange dream, but this one is quite a new one for me.”

Fiorra stared at him, torn between elation at seeing him and the surety that she was losing her mind. Dreams were not supposed to be like this. They were just supposed to happen, not acknowledge directly to her that they were dreams…. Barcik raised an amused eyebrow at her, waiting. She shook herself and decided to go wherever the dream took her. What else was there to do?

“I guess I’ve been studying too much during the day. It’s been weighing on my mind, and so it was the first thing my mind had on its agenda,” she replied ruefully. She shrugged.

“But why are you studying at all?” Barcik asked. “You’ve already been accepted to the Academy. You are a Third Cycle student.”

She sat up from where she had been laying comfortably on her stomach. Hastily she pulled up her night dress, wishing it were her tunic. But it was. Puzzled, she stared down at her tunic and tried to remember if she had gone to bed without changing into her nightclothes. Then again, this was a dream. Who was she to dictate the rules of logic to the world of fantasy?

Barcik caught her gesture and a smile quirked at the corners of his mouth, but he said nothing, waiting again for her to reply. “I just wanted to get ahead,” she answered feebly. She noted that he looked rather tousled, wearing just an untucked shirt and trousers, and felt marginally better.

Barcik nodded and sat down comfortably with his elbows resting on his knees next to the fire. She marveled at the sight of him in her sleeping quarters, in her cabin at all. She still remained disbelieving. “And how was your trip home?”

She snorted. “It started out well enough.” Fiorra tossed her hair behind her shoulder and relayed the events of her trip, careful to keep out details of location, as Gabriella had requested them to. Although why she bothered, in a dream, she had no idea….

Barcik’s eyes grew wide when she recounted the details of the attack. “You?” he interrupted her when she related how she’d shot three men from her tree with her bow.

She stopped and looked at him. “What would you have me do, sit idly by as my family was slaughtered?”

Barcik conceded this point and motioned for her to continue, though she thought he measured her by a new length now.

When she told him of having to remove Emanuella’s leech bolt, he raised both eyebrows. “You did this by yourself?”

“My – older sister guided me, but - yes, I did it alone. By myself. Why?”

He rose easily to his feet and surveyed the sleeping figures in the room. It did not take him long to distinguish Emanuella as the only other female in the room. “This is she?”

Fiorra nodded.

“May I?”

She realized that he was asking her permission to appraise her work. She flushed with pleasure – it would be nice to have another opinion besides Gabriella’s. Gabriella could be so mysterious sometimes…. Fiorra nodded to Barcik, who looked rather excited. She winced as his boot fell on the wooden planks of the floor.

“Shh, don’t wake them,” she whispered.

He gave her that mocking look over his shoulder that told her she was being silly. This was her dream, after all, how could he wake them from the depths of her mind?

Skillfully, he pulled Emanuella’s blanket back and rolled her ever so slowly onto her back. Fiorra held her breath, but Emanuella did not stir. A faint golden glow appeared around Barcik’s hands as they hovered over Emanuella’s healing wound, probing and examining.

Finally, he met Fiorra’s eyes as he gently pulled the blanket back up over Emanuella. He crossed his arms over his chest and stood staring at her. Fiorra held her breath. Had she done that badly that even another student could see her mistakes? Surely Gabriella would have fixed them for her had they been so bad as that. Barcik shook his head again as if puzzled. “Removal of enchanted objects is a Fourth Cycle Skill.”

What, she thought angrily, did that have to do with anything?

“You did an excellent job, for your first serious wound. To have removed an enchanted object at the same time – she was lucky you removed it when you had, or she would have lost a great deal of energy. Fortunately, it had not stolen more than her surface reserves. Leech bolts are nasty things. Or so I’m told,” he added hastily. As an afterthought, he added, “Who is the other with the shoulder wound?”

Fiorra, glowing under his praise, pointed Rick out. Barcik, heedless of Rick’s snores, inspected the wound, his hands glowing with Healing energy. He had barely inspected the sword wound when he straightened and shrugged. “Very good work. You certainly don’t need to be studying in your dreams when you have such control as this.” He smiled at her.

“How do you know this is a dream about studying?” she asked suggestively. Why not? Who would ever know? This was only a dream, and she certainly would never dredge up the gumption to be so daring in real life. She might as well live it up in her dreams, after all.

Barcik raised an eyebrow as he smiled. “Fiorra, you have been full of surprises tonight.”

“Try me any other day and you may find the same,” she teased. She didn’t know whether to be horrified or embarrassed at her behavior, but in dreams, nothing counted. It was like trying on different shoes, she thought, you’d never wear some, but they were fun to try on….

Barcik had crossed the length of the small room. “Then perhaps we should wait until another day to do just that. For now, however, we both need some rest.” There was, she was pleased to detect, a distinct note of regret in his voice.

“This is a dream, isn’t it? Dreaming is sleeping,” she pointed out.

“Ah, but this kind of dream is not restful, you know that. This requires more energy than normal sleep patterns. Another time. We both need to rest. Dreams such as these take up more time than you think,” he reminded her.

She smiled. Probably he was right. But she wouldn’t let him capitulate so easily. The chances of seeing him in one of her dreams again were so unlikely as to be nil. She never remembered her dreams. “I think you’re just scared,” she sighed dramatically.

He grinned fiendishly and picked up her hands. “We’ll have to test that theory, you and I, one night.”

She saw his image fading slowly. “I thought you were supposed to be changing my mind. You’re not doing very well, you know. You’re still a pig.” She smiled triumphantly.

He kissed her fingertips as he faded completely from view, but his laughter rang in her mind.

(Oh!) Fiorra sat up all at once, gasping for breath. The room was dark, the fire had burned down to near ashes. Breathlessly, she took in her surroundings. She was wearing her nightdress. Emanuella was snuggled deep under her bed furs. Rick was fast asleep in an entirely different position. And there was no book at the foot of Fiorra’s pallet. (Idiot!) She threw down her covers irritably and padded into the kitchen for a drink of water. A long time would pass before she slept again, she knew.

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