I lie back on the bed, adjust myself and close my eyes.
I begin to simply think back for now of that night the youngster in blue walked into my house and I was appalled they had send such a one and thought it another insult from the council.
Marani was serving my evening meal when I knew him to be approaching and gave permission to enter. I told her to bring more food because I knew he had my new apprentice in tow who would be arriving later, confused and stranded out on the dark road for she had failed to pay attention to her guide.
He walked into the house and came straight into the morning room, sat down without invitation and said absolutely nothing, yet I could feel his discomfort at my presence even then as clear and sharp as any waving flag of silk above his head.
I took some wine and noted that we both tracked the girl’s progress, and a painful progress it was, towards the light I set for her in the tower when it became apparent that she would not find her way without some help.
She was a strange one, that was for certain. She had a strength and when she finally came in, she didn’t enter like an apprentice would but like an outraged princess.
She ignored us both and stripped in front of the fire. Here now, there would be me in that chair rather than that other, the other from that time.
Oh but how much more I would enjoy and know to enjoy her form, her movements!
Oh how much more I would appreciate her absolute innocence and her absolute resolve to have no-one know how frightened she truly was.
I would have offered her wine and swiftly dismissed the boy.
She would have taken it, surprised and perhaps a little shyly grateful for she had not known a great amount of care then, indeed.
Her brown eyes would have looked into mine and I cannot help but close mine briefly in return for I can feel her now without those denials and non-understandings that plagued me then. I savour the moment and when I open my eyes again, I smile and force the rough, old fashioned link that in turn forces her to pull me into herself in defence, a brilliant movement that I truly did not expect and never had experienced until that moment.
Out of control, I fall to her and know her, recognise her, allow myself to be there with her unknowing self for a moment before withdrawing regretfully.
“An interesting lesson,” I say to her but there is a smile in my voice and a softness that widens her eyes, innocent that she is and altogether herself, unburdened by my memories, unburdened by the memories of me.
“I am Lucian Tremain,” I say to her.
“I am Isca,” she responds in a reflex and without having to pause and think.
She holds the wine glass in both hands and asks me, “Are you to be my teacher?”
I can’t take my eyes off her and she becomes uncomfortable, blushes and pulls on her undergarment, pulls her legs closer, curls up into herself and puts the glass down, so she can hold herself with her arms.
“I will teach you what I can,” I say gently and send her a re-assurance, a finely balanced vibration that is just enough to calm her but without her noticing it in consciousness.
She sighs and relaxes, picks up the glass again and takes a small drink.
“Are you Serein?” she asks me, shyly but behind this is her burning desire to know everything, to experience everything. I have to smile again.
“No,” I say to her. “I am – “ I stop and can’t think of how to describe myself to her in such a way that it would make any kind of sense in the context. She is holding her breath for me to finish the sentence, so I just let my thoughts speak what they will.
“I am a very old man who once was in the service of the Serein council,” I say to her. She breathes in at last and on the outbreath comes the next of the endless questions that race in her mind, “Are you a magician?”
I smile at her again and have to shake my head.
“Yes,” I answer her gently, “I am.”
Her stomach growls so loudly it nearly makes me jump and I have to laugh.
“Go ahead, eat,” I say. “The goldenfruit is especially good this year. You can ask me whilst you’re eating.”
She looks with desire at the food then back at me, still unsure.
“Will you not eat with me?” she asks in a small voice.
I consider this and must smile yet again.
“I will eat with you,” I say and watch her start to help herself, then stop and ask if I would like her to serve me. I nod and she takes a plate, hovers her hand over various items and checks back by looking at me what I might like to find on that plate when finally it was handed over.
I give her small signals and a hand held up flat so she knows when to stop.
She gets up and flinches. The pain in her feet and back stabs through me perfectly. I get up immediately and walk around the table to her, take the plate and put it down. I kneel before her, and touch her legs, disappear the last streaks of mud and heal the cuts and bruises in a single downward sweep.
She looks down at me, astonished, fascinated, at a loss at what to think/do/say.
I hold out my hands to her and she hesitates for a second before putting hers into mine. I turn them over so I can see the cuts in her palms from where she had fallen on the road. She gasps as they simply disappear. I can’t help myself, I kiss each one in turn which causes her to gasp again, then I rise, take my plate and return to my chair.
She is still standing, looking at her hands, then at her legs, picks up a leg and angles her head to see the sole of her foot. She wriggles her toes, turns back to me and says with wonder, “The Serein cannot heal like this.”
“No,” I say and pick up my glass to take a drink. “They can’t, but we can.”
Carefully, she kneels down behind the table and picks up a piece of goldenfruit. I take one too and synchronise myself to her so as she experiences the delight of it, so do I. It shudders me with pure pleasure. I have missed this sensation and I never knew I did.
“Is that why I was sent here?" she asks. “Because I – you - …”
I consider how much to tell her at this point. In a way, it didn’t matter why the Serein had decided to send her to me. Everything was new and now and as it had never been before.
“You are my apprentice because I am someone – most probably the only one – who can teach you still,” I say and wait with interest for her response.
“Will you teach me how to heal like you do?” she asks and her eyes are big and wide with wonder and excitement.
“I will show you what I know,” I say and she experiences a sense of extraordinary good fortune, extraordinary delight, undeserving entirely of such a wonderful turn of events.
A thought strikes me and I take a wide range sweep of her home village, seeking a familiar resonance pattern and I find it immediately.
On this night, her brother is still fighting for his life, a laboured breath at a time, and indeed just as she had always feared in her worst imaginings, he is quite alone and there is no-one to care for him.
I don’t want to bring the dead back as her first introduction to refined pattern work and so I finish what is in my glass and say to her, “Get dressed. We have an errand this night that will teach you about healing.”
She has a mouthful of bread and meat to cope with but immediately springs to her feet, picks up the dripping robe. I dry it for her at the distance and with a small scream she drops the steaming robe which is perfectly dry even before it has settled back onto the ground.
She looks at me with fear and I smile and send her a gentling and a first thought communication, Don’t worry. It is a simple little trick you can learn soon enough.
Cautiously, she picks up the robe with her fingertips then holds it properly and touches it all over. She turns to me and flashes me a delighted smile, then quickly pushes it over her head, pulls her long tangled hair through and stands up straight.
I AM READY! she sends at such volume and with such force that I cringe in pain.
“Oh I’m so sorry,” she says out loud and claps her hands before her mouth.
I hold my head for a moment and until the ringing has stopped, then I laugh at her and say, “You’ll learn. I’ll learn too, to keep my shielding around you until you have learned to control your links.”
She nods repeatedly, most seriously and is still mortified that she hurt me, that she is making a bad impression on me.
“Nothing you can do will make a bad impression on me,” I tell her. “Be calm. I know you need to learn, that’s why you’re here. Mistakes are a necessary part of this process so we may know what works, and what does not. Simply remember to not repeat your mistakes as best you can avoid. Now, bring your stone. You will need it.”
She picks up the stone quickly and puts it in her pocket, comes around the table and stops before me, wondering where we will go on this atrocious night, not wanting to leave the warmth of the fire but absolutely excited too at the chance of this new adventure.
I offer her my hand and she takes it this time without hesitation.
Here in this timeframe the doorways are much less bright for they have not been travelled in a while; yet it doesn’t matter for I could perceive them still if they were a hundredth of this. There is one to the garrison which I take from the horse plains in a flash and then translocate us the rest, straight into the gabled attic room beneath the ill fitting planks that are covered in straw and dirt I remember so very well.
She gasps in surprise and then again in absolute horror as she realises where we are and sees her brother so near to death. The boy is most meagre, thin and pale, covered in old ingrained dirt and old bruises and burning up with fever, beads of sweat on his face and neck.
She lets go of my hand and runs to him, calls to him but he does not respond at all.
Pleadingly, she looks to me, her brown eyes full of tears I know so well. I have caused an ocean of those in another time, in another universe.
Gently, I link with her, link with her stone and move into the pattern world where the disturbances in the child become clearly visible. She is close to me and watching/partaking in my repair work and I move aside so she may complete the task. She does so deftly and without hesitation, she has understood how it works just by watching me.
Look, she sends me and directs my attention to a strange form of energy buffer above the child’s head. Look, there’s the starfield I made for him and send him only yesterday! It arrived, I made it on the road and it arrived!
I remember the starfield well enough and adjust it a little to be more applicable to that particular individual, then deepen the child’s sleep and send him a strengthening that vibrates throughout him at every level of his starving being.
I open my eyes and so does she, and she looks up at me with heartfelt pleading.
“Please,” she says, “I cannot leave him here.”
I half shake my head and say, “We will take him to Tower Keep. Marani will take care of him. She is - experienced with children.”
“Thank you, Master Lucian,” she whispers and the tears start up again.
I go to the bed that is no more than a dung heap and let go off my distaste as I pick up the filthy child. He is virtually weightless but she is watching me so I curtail the desire to tuck him under my arm and keep him in a gentle lifting embrace instead.
“Hold on to me,” I instruct her as I return us on the three point movement that is so seamless these days back to the entrance hall at Tower Keep.
Marani is still here and I hail her.
When she sees me with the child, she nearly faints and her thoughts are enough to tempt the patience of a saint, yet for some reason it doesn’t seem to bother me as once it used to.
I hand the boy over to her and tell my new apprentice that she is excused and may ensure her brother’s safe installment in one of the upstairs rooms before re-joining me.
She sends me a wordless Thank You that is as sincere as she herself is in this here and now and I go back to the morning room, eat some more golden fruit, drink some more wine and track her conversations with Marani as the two women unite to take care of the child.