I resumed my work, half fearing I had done something wrong. However, by the time my shift was finished, I had convinced myself otherwise. No one had told me not to speak with patients.
When I presented myself before Madame Arnata’s desk, I held myself tall, ready to present an account of myself.
“Sit, Defender Ilar.” She waved to a seat off to the side.
Once I was seated, she pinned me with an evaluating look.
“When I told Master Silas that I had pressed you into service in the wards, he informed me that it would be a waste of your skills.”
“I am not above menial tasks.” I felt good, unlike what I had been feeling of late. My teaching sessions with Ariana were long and dreary exercises in frustration for both of us. Lotus hadn’t returned.
Madame Arnata continued. “We have some difficult cases of mind-trauma. Puzzles that require someone skilled in mind-work to unravel.” She sighed and folded her hands before her. “All of our mind-trained healers have been called out to support the troops at the front. Don’t tell anyone this, but the Elitists are still out there, or at least their techniques are still being used. Between the sato cases and the strippings, we are struggling to keep up with the needs. Some of our best healers have returned babbling incomprehensibly or dead. The saboteurs and assassins are working their way through our ranks.” She shivered.
“That man in the small room?” I asked.
“He was one of our best healers.”
“And the name he called?”
She grew pale. “His daughter. They lost her to the Elitists. She is still missing.” She took a deep breath. “He had finally decided that she must be dead right before he left for the front. Now he spends his days calling her name.”
“How can I help?”
Madame Arnata visibly gathered herself before answering. “Comfort them. See if you can help them. Communicate with them if you can.” She frowned. “To be honest, I am not completely sure how you can help them, not being defender-trained as you are, but I would like you to try.”
“I am not trained in mind-healing.” I could trigger a sato, which would cause a patient to harm others or himself. Or worse, I could harm someone without intending to.
Madame nodded. “I know. But you have an advantage above us all. You have training. You can speak to them with your mind. None of us can do that and none of the Talents remaining in the compound are willing to risk touching thoughts with one who has been in contact with an Elitist.”
Unease stirred in my gut. “I need to speak to Master Silas.”
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