2. The Healing

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            The door to the Listener’s Tower swung open and we all shied away from the light. Something has gone wrong with Tane, I thought, struggling to stay seated and still until called upon. A Flare, Second Stage, rapped his knuckles against the door, unnecessarily requesting permission.

            “The one named Gaius has been summoned to the healing hall.”

            My heart pounded as I stood; I was sure that Tane had been attacked at the Precipice. I maneuvered through the pairs of Listeners, trying to ignore the way their curious hands gossiped in each other’s palms. When I reached the door and tried to pull my sash over my eyes, the Flare told me it would not be necessary.

            I frowned. So I would be the one doing the healing. My hands clenched into fists many times as the Flare and I rushed to the healing hall.

            For a Flare warrior, he was rather immature in looks and in thought. The Flare was short for his age, his features still young and ready for change. His hair was light and cropped short. His thoughts were centered around getting approval from his superiors only; I could tell he didn’t care about the girl in the healing hall.

            I tried not to visibly start at the mention of a girl in his mind. It must have been Tane. She must not have made it to Earth. The Flare cleared his throat—a sound I had always found unpleasant—and squared his shoulders. I watched his stony expression as we neared the healing hall.

            I desperately wanted to ask him if he knew why I had been called. I was a fairly advanced healer, but there were others—better ones. The walk to the large, dimly lit room seemed to stretch on and on.

            Palleman was at the doorway, his hands behind his back and his expression grim. I had not seen him since the beginning of my Third Stage. He only came to Listeners in our dark rooms for training.

            His face was lined with stress and heavy decisions. He motioned for me with a quick incline of his head. I looked to my right; the Flare had already left.

            “Brother Gaius,” he greeted. I nodded to him, unable to speak because of my Stage. “She is not likely to live. You must hurry.” His voice was slick and even.

            There was a crash that sounded like infant thunder. A low groan followed it. I felt all the blood rush to my toes. I was suddenly light-headed. I swallowed back my dread and made my way into the room.

            Saera? Tane’s personal winged attendant was thrashing in pain around the room. Her dark straight hair was stringy in some parts because of the drying blood in it.

            Saera’s wingspan was at least twice my height, so as she flapped about, her wings hit the walls. The Flare warriors that lined the walls had to continuously dodge the feathered weapons. She would bruise them or worse if she continued on that way. My heart leapt and sank at the same time, my mouth going dry.

            It wasn’t Tane, but the sight was still chilling. Saera flapped her wings and whimpered as if she couldn’t stay still but it pained her to move. Her hair was matted to her face with sweat, her skin paler than I remembered. And blood. There was blood everywhere. It flowed from her shoulder and stained her left wing. A strip of flesh hung limply from her back; I had to force myself not to look away.

            Flares lined the walls, trying to make her calm down. Feelers would not have been able to be around her because of their heightened sense of touch. They would have been able to feel all the pain and discomfort just as strongly as Saera.

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