posted by jillyfae
the middle of the night
The throbbing in her head had teeth and flames this time, and she couldn’t seem to move at all. She tried to moan, to ask for Mihalia, but all she heard was a raspy whimper.
“Shhh…” a voice, calm and comforting, as unlike that last furtive conversation with Mihalia as possible. “Don’t try and talk, sister. Darana says you damaged your throat when you forced magic through it.”
Naessa blinked in confusion, her vision slowly clearing and forming a familiar face smiling down at her in what looked strangely like guilt, or worry, or possibly relief. She started to open her mouth to say something, ask anything that might elicit a sentence (or an expression) that made more sense, when she heard a familiar chuckle to her side.
“You can’t just leave her with that, Ninnion! You know better than tell your sister not to talk without also answering every question you can think of her possibly asking.”
Naessa swore she could hear her eyes creak and groan as she slowly shifted her focus and saw Ferron next to her brother, his eyes twinkling with his usual hidden humor. His face was also colored by an odd, emotional expression she couldn’t interpret.
“Let me see if I can hit the basics in order, so you don’t try and ignore your healer’s advice.” Naessa blinked at her cousin, imagined herself nodding in agreement, and tried to pretend she was settled comfortably, rather than feeling muscles and organs she hadn’t even known she had burn and spark all over her body.
“We are very glad you’re awake. You’re in the infirmary, so Keeper Darana can keep an eye on some bizarre magical thing you did to yourself. All the young ones are fine and back with their families. Mihalia is,” here the twinkle faded, as Ferron’s voice briefly faltered, “doing better, and has visited you every morning, so you can check on her yourself when she and Ashoa arrive bearing tea for all in the morning.”
“They’re all dead, Naessa.” Ninnion’s voice softly interrupted Ferron’s list. “You fried one to a crisp when you attempted to channel a mage bolt through your body. The scouts had almost caught up to their camp when you lit up the night. They charged the rest of them, and brought you all home. Aunt Rielle told us the story when we got back a few days later.”
Naessa felt her hands clench in shock, squeezing tightly and crushing her blanket as she stared at Ninnion, her eyes wide, her mouth opening and closing before she could stop herself.
“I’ve got something else you can keep at hand, da’len,” came Keeper Darana’s pleasant voice, as she slid a carved length of wood under Naessa’s hand and slowly settled onto a third stool, set on the opposite side of Naessa’s cot from her brother and cousin.
“It’s a Mage Staff.” The Keeper raised a hand to stop Naessa as she attempted yet again to open her mouth and ask a question. “I know we don’t usually give these to under-age Firsts, but as you obviously have an aptitude for Mage Bolts, which are safest when controlled by a proper staff, I decided to make an exception.”
I can defend myself now, Naessa thought, her hand almost stroking the wood as she transferred her tense grip to the new weapon, and my clan. As she recognized the fear and worry she carried simply by its decrease, and saw the echo of her realization in Darana’s grim smile, Naessa decided she’d received the staff as much to help heal her mind now as to train her magic in the future. She could feel herself relaxing as she listened to her mentor, her fingers finding the grain of the wood beneath them.
“You’ve been unconscious nearly a week, Naessa. We’ve already moved camp, to help Mihalia and the little ones work past the bad memories. You did a lot of damage with that uncontrolled magic bolt, and you’ll need to heal another few days before you can talk, and a few more before you should try getting out of bed. So even though I know you have lots of questions, you need to sleep.”
With that brief pronouncement, Keeper Darana placed her hand on Naessa’s forehead, and Willed her young charge to sleep. This time, however, the darkness was warm and comforting, and Naessa surrendered willingly.