Isana thrust her hand down at Fade's chest, calling out to Rill to let her perceive the fallen man's body through a water-fury's senses. In the wake of her collapse, the effort was simply too much. Isana's head felt as if it would burst asunder in an explosion of pure agony, and her own heart labored in a sudden panic as she lost the strength to remain upright.
She let out a weak cry of purest frustration, then gritted her teeth and focused. Giving vent to her emotions would not help the stricken man beside her.
"Help! ' she called. It sounded pathetically quiet, and she was sure the sound would not carry past the closed wooden door. She struggled to draw a deep breath and tried again. "I need help in here! Healer!"
At the second cry, the door slammed open, and Giraldi took one look around the room and spat a vile curse, limping badly as he rushed to Isana's side. "Steadholder!"
"Not me," she told him, weak and frustrated. "Fade collapsed. Not breathing. Healer."
The old centurion nodded sharply and rose to rush from the room at a pace that was surely dangerous to his crippled leg. He called out down the hall, and footsteps came running. Guards appeared, first, and within a minute they had escorted a young woman in a simple white gown into the room.
She was a pale creature, her skin so white that it almost seemed translucent, and her hair-quite short, for such a young woman-pale and fine as cobwebs. Isana felt certain that her youth was genuine and not the result of watercrafting talent, though why she felt so Isana could not say. The healer's eyes seemed too large for her long, thin, somehow sad face, and were of a brown so dark that they looked black. The circles of weariness beneath her eyes stood out almost as vividly as violent bruises, and she carried herself with the brisk, sure manner of confidence Amara would only have expected in someone years older.
The young woman went to Fade at once and knelt to place her fingertips on his temples, her manner competent, professional, if somewhat weary. "Stead-holder," she said, as she concentrated on her own furycraft, her eyes closed, "can you tell me what happened to him?"
"He collapsed," Isana said. Giraldi returned, and she was torn between a surge of gratitude and one of embarrassment as he simply hefted her back into her bed. "His conversation began rambling. He was shaking. Then he fell down into a fit. He stopped breathing, and I couldn't find his pulse."
"How long ago?"
"Not two minutes."
The young woman nodded. "There's a chance, then." She raised her voice until it carried like a trumpet, ringing off the walls with a volume worthy of a centurion on a battlefield. "Where is my tub?!"
A trio of groaning young legionares came through the door bearing a heavy healing tub, sloshing water over its edges. They plunked it down even as the young healer divested Fade of his cloak, sword belt, and boots. At a nod from her, the guards in the room lifted his limp body into the tub.
The healer knelt behind the tub and placed her hands on Fade's head. "Step back," she said, in a tone that suggested she said it often. The guards hastily withdrew from the tub and out of the room. At a nod from Isana, Giraldi went with them.
The healer was silent for several seconds, her head bowed, and Isana had to restrain herself from shouting for the girl to hurry. Then the air in the room began to tighten, somehow, an odd sensation, like an unseen wind pressing against Isana's skin. The healer's fine hairs began to lift, one by one, away from her head, as if carried in a gentle updraft, though Isana could feel no air moving. She was still for a moment, then breathed out in a murmur, and what looked like tiny flickers of lightning played over the tub.
Fade reacted violently, body suddenly arching up, drawn as tightly as one of Bernard's hunting bows. He stayed that way for a moment, then subsided into the tub again and started coughing, a wet and fitful sound.
Isana's heart leapt up as the slave breathed again.
The healer frowned more intently, and Isana saw the water begin to stir in the tub, as it did when she worked her own healing furycraft, though only for a moment. Then the healer grimaced and lifted her hands from Fade's head. She moved around the tub and lifted his wounded hand. She unbound the kerchief wrapped around it and leaned down, sniffing. She drew her head away in a sharp little motion, turning her face away from the injury, then lowered his hand into the water.
"What is it?" Isana asked.
"Garic-oil poisoning," the young woman said.
"What's that?" Isana asked.
"Many weapon merchants in the southland preserve their weapons with an oil mixture that includes a tincture made from the oil in the hides of garim lizards."
"And it's poisonous?" Isana asked.
"Not always intentionally. But if the oil isn't mixed correctly, or if it's left out too long, the garic oil turns. Goes rotten. If it's on a weapon that inflicts a wound, the rot gets into the blood." She shook her head and rose. "I'm very sorry."
Isana blinked. "But... you healed him. He's breathing."
"For now," the healer said quietly. "Your friend is a metalcrafter, I take it?"
"Wounded during the attacks?"
"Defending me," Isana said quietly. "An arrow. It struck his hand."