Winds of Change

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Intent on her undertaking, Barcik’s deep voice startled her out of her haze of concern for Emanuella as she peered through the items on the shelf in the Herbal shop.

“Fiorra. You missed my class this morning.”

“I – I know,” she stammered.

He peered into her face intently. “You don’t appear ill. Have you a good reason? Any classes missed must be excused by –” He stopped. “You’ve taken four pears.”

“I – I have?” she blinked her eyes guilelessly, assuming her roommates’ favorite expression. She hoped fervently he fell for it.

“Open your robes.”

She held her breath. Apparently not. Inside her robes were four pears and a peach commandeered from morning meal by Sessla and Karess, who thought she had been up all night studying in the Academy Library and had fallen asleep. Pears kept you awake throughout the day.

“Are we not feeding you enough or do you truly plan to eat all these?”

“Fiorra,” Barcik prompted, still waiting.

Caught, Fiorra had nothing to say, no lie ready. “My.…” She rolled her eyes and glanced to the side helplessly.

“You still haven’t told me why you missed this morning’s class.”

“I needed the fruit to make a restorative potion, and for energy for….”

She peeked at him. His eyes caught her hesitant gaze and bored into her, unrelenting.

“For?” His single tone was steely, his eyes narrowing.

“For my sister,” she blurted. “She was found outside in the snow, beaten by upper level Weaponry students at her Detention, and – she’s taken fever now – and,” Fiorra’s voice was desperate.

Barcik’s entire face had changed. “Where is she now?” She recognized the calming, taking-control demeanor of a Healer but she was too worried to expend the effort to scoff.

“In her dorm in the Weaponry Academy. I’ve been sneaking in and out of there since yesterday morning.”

He blinked. “What? Why was she not taken to the Healers’ Wing? Take me to her, now.” Barcik threw a glance over his shoulder, calling to the clerk in the shop that all purchases were on his account.

“But – but – ”

“Fiorra, now.” He placed his hand in the small of her back and ushered her forcefully out of the shop.

She felt some relief that a Healer Adept would be seeing to Emanuella, though she knew she herself would face charges of some sort later for not attending classes without an authorized excuse.

She followed meekly behind his flowing Master’s robes, much intimidated, and pulled her own student robes closer about herself. He grabbed a courier on their way and told him to post a sign on his door that afternoon classes were suspended for the day. The second courier met them along the way with his Healer’s kit.

Barcik shook his head, muttering to himself and finally acknowledged Fiorra. “Your sister, then is the Kin’keska girl they’ve all been talking about.”

Fiorra did not trust herself to speak but simply nodded with as much respect as she could summon. Barcik would know what to do. She half jogged to keep pace with his long stride.

They entered the Common Grounds of the Weapons Academy and garnered more than a few curious looks. Barcik’s determined glare, arrogant bearing, and raised eyebrow of scorn from a Master upon those beneath him quickly encouraged students to glance away as he strode purposefully through them. Fiorra was impressed almost against her will and hastened to be witnessed in his company.

“What Cycle?” he asked Fiorra.

“Third. But her room is the Bell Tower room.”

Barcik glared at her again and she felt exceptionally diminutive. She had never seen this side of him before.

“What have you treated her with so far? Report to me on her condition,” he demanded as they began climbing upward.

“Well, I heard early yesterday that a Kin’keska girl had been found beaten and left outside all night – ”

“Don’t tell me how she came to be that way, the how’s of her condition are obvious. Report what her condition is,” snapped Barcik as they twisted about the staircase on their way to the uppermost level.

Fiorra rushed to keep up with him, her robes flapping behind her. Two students flattened themselves against the stair railing to avoid being run down by Barcik. She took the stairs two at a time and resolved offhandedly to find a better exercise regime than that she had already chosen.

“She – some of her teeth are cracked, especially in the front –”

“And you thought to feed her fruit?” scoffed Barcik with disgust. He stopped on the last stair to scowl down at her.

Fiorra paused, her mouth working but no sound escaping.

“Go on.”

She drew a breath. “She’s got broken ribs, a fractured shoulder, numerous gashes and abrasions. I know she was left outside in the snow all evening, so it’s very possible she took infection, though I’ve cleaned all her wounds. She’s burning up, though, of fever, and I couldn’t smuggle broth in, so I got fruit to make into a Kataya Potion, a juice that she can drink, plus Gosha tea, and water. I’ve also,” she stopped, panting, as Barcik stood staring at her with an inscrutable expression, “wrapped her ribs and her wrist, which is broken, I think. I’ve put snow on them from time to time to bring the swelling down.”

Barcik’s blue eyes bored into her for a few seconds longer before he nodded shortly and banged into Emanuella’s room.

Nixy was still there, sitting by Emanuella’s side and studying aloud, though Rick and Ander had gone, she informed him. Nixy’s eyes traveled the length of Barcik’s impressive frame, though all she said was, “Thought I’d stay and watch over her, you know, help her get on with her classes and what not. It’s no wonder she’s asleep, I’m reading her this book on Kyor Fundamentals and she’s out like a taper.”

“This is Emanuella’s dormmate, Nixy, Master Barcik.”

“Nixy, your efforts are undoubtedly appreciated, but you should not be missing classes,” Barcik admonished gently.

Nixy shrugged. “How about we say my father endows the entire Academy with a sizable donation each Cycle. They’ll tolerate a missed class now and again. Besides… if she grew worse, well, someone needs to take care of things, don’t they?”

Barcik deferred to this and said, “Let me see her.”

Fiorra, in a fleeting moment of bravery, said, “Her name is Emanuella.”

Barcik had seated himself next to the bed already but spared a mere glare for Fiorra. She shrank back into the shadows at the foot of Emanuella’s bed. Nixy, noting this exchange, said nothing, but crossed her arms on her chest as she leaned against the wall.

“Broken teeth – dislocated shoulder, not fractured, three cracked ribs, two broken, spleen nearly ruptured, right wrist broken, nose broken, ear canal ruptured, concussed severely, fever requires immediate attention….” Barcik looked up from his preliminary observation of Emanuella.

“Explain to me why she wasn’t taken immediately to the Healers’ Wing?”

His eyes were accusatory, flicking from one to the other.

“I – didn’t know,” Fiorra stammered. She had no idea how to admit someone to the Healers’ Wing, nor even where it was.

Nixy’s eyes blazed. “I found her on the steps outside before dawn, passed out. Laying face down, she looked like any other drunk who’s passed out. It was dark in the corridor, I didn’t get a good look at her. I know she cried out a bit, but until I got her into bed and got some light going did I realize she was beaten to an inch of her life. I figured she’d been raped by some bunch of assholes and left for dead. She was frozen and all bloody, so I changed her clothes, warmed up some melted snow, and washed her cuts up a bit, and kept her covered, built up the fire high – and that’s when all her brothers and sisters started trickling in. They never made as if to move her and seems like it’d hurt her more than anything to go down those steps, if her ribs are cracked. And we’ve been doing just fine, especially her. Giving her poultices and teas and such.”

Barcik listened to this outburst patiently and then said, “Ah, yes, all of your collective healing knowledge being what it is,” he lifted his eyebrows sardonically, flicking a disgusted glance at Fiorra. He then continued, “While all of you have indeed done very well,” he paused with effect, not looking at Fiorra this time, though she felt his severe disapproval penetrate her, “you are wrong. Emanuella needs to be observed in the Healers’ Wing, as her needs are quite crucial. As for moving her, I assure you, the poultices and teas she has been given keep her pain and fever merely at bay, they do not cure it. I will make arrangements immediately.”

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