“Hold still. This won’t hurt. I promise.” Korin gave his best reassuring smile to the terrified little girl. He looked up at the girl’s mother who wore a similarly stricken look as she held her daughter tight as she could while still allowing Korin access to the girl’s broken arm.
This was a greenstick break, fresh and clean. The bone hadn’t pushed through the skin, and the mother had known to bring the girl straight-away to Korin. An easy fix.
Korin took the little girl’s wrist in one hand and laid his other hand across the break as lightly as he could. He closed his eyes and focused, reaching into the arm with his magic. The first thing he did was pinch around the nerves at the little girl’s shoulder to dull the pain.
The little girl gasped, and the shocked terror relaxed into sobbing tears. Korin worked fast while mother and daughter both were focused on her crying. The old shape of the arm was there. The bone remembered how it was supposed to be. Korin focused on that shape and fed a burst of energy into the girl’s arm.
With an audible snap, the bone popped back into place, as solid and true as if it had never been broken. The little girl screeched with surprise and tried to jerk away, but Korin held tight to her wrist. He still needed to repair the rest of the damage, realign flesh and muscle and torn blood vessels back to where they should be. “Just a little bit more,” he murmured, as soothing as he could manage from the half-trance of magic. “And then you’ll be back to climbing trees.”
Attuned to her body, Korin felt the chemical jolt of new fear at the mention of trees. Maybe she wouldn’t be so quick to go climbing again. Which would be sad, if this trauma scarred her emotionally when Korin had made sure it wouldn’t physically. But children were resilient and…wait.
There was something not quite right. What was it? An…echo, maybe. A twinge of something as Korin was feeling for the arm as it had been, moving through the feel of the injury itself.
And now he was alert, he noticed other things. Like the fact the girl had no bruising anywhere else on her body. If she’d falling out of a tree, as she’d claimed, there should be at least superficial injury elsewhere.
Korin’s first worried thought was that someone had broken the girl’s arm—an abuse she was afraid to say. Except that would leave bruising too. Maybe not visible, but Korin would be able to see the broken capillaries and crushed skin from hands gripping too tight or a sudden blow.
No, it was as if this girl’s arm had just snapped all on its own. With no outside force marking her skin in any other way. Which wasn’t possible.
Unless that strange little echo Korin felt was magic. Someone else’s magic. Another wizard had done this.
“All better,” Korin said, opening his eyes. As he pulled himself free, he released the nerves to the girl could feel again. If he’d done his job right—and he had—there would be nothing left to cause her pain.
The little girl was still crying, but now had both her arms wrapped around her mother, giving no sign that either one was causing her any trouble. “Thank you,” the mother said, sincere, but awkward. She couldn’t meet Korin’s eyes, and was already gathering herself to stand.
Because once he was done healing them, they always remembered he was a wizard.
Korin was used to it. He stood, giving her the polite excuse to do the same. The woman was definitely nervous of him, and the little girl was still terrified. And maybe there was nothing unusual about that, or maybe… “Can I ask…did you see her fall?”
The mother shook her head, and her eyes slid away from Korin’s, guilty and afraid. Korin didn’t know what to make of it and when he said nothing else, the woman lifted her daughter and left without another word, winding her way around the chairs and tables that filled the bar side of the guesthouse.
Since the bar wasn’t open yet, Marta—the guesthouse’s owner—let Korin use the room to deal with anyone who came to him for help. It was quieter than the always-busy kitchen and meant Korin didn’t have to take strangers up to his room.
Korin had been here not-quite a month and word of his presence was spreading through the neighborhood—through the whole city. People were getting to know his skill as a healer and—more importantly—the fact he gave his magic away for free, unlike the Wing wizards who lived in the nicer parts of town and charged more money per healing than Korin had ever seen in his life.
Korin stretched. This morning had been a busy one. In addition to the little girl, he’d seen three men with injuries that had gotten infected, an old woman with a broken hip, and a boy with a stomach virus Korin was going to have to keep an eye out for in case it spread. A solid morning’s work.
Korin had never stayed in one place for this long. It was a little scary to think that he was gaining a reputation, that people were learning his name.
He turned to see Verania standing in the door that led back to the kitchen. She wore a bright smile on her pretty face and held a steaming bowl of chicken and rice in her hands. “Thought you might be hungry after all that.”
Korin returned her smile. The upside of hanging around in one place—friends. People who cared who he was and how he was. People he could like. People he could trust. “Thanks, Verania.”
She brought him the food, made him sit back down, went back to the kitchen to find him something to drink. All the girls who worked here liked to fuss over him. Marta, too, in her own surly way. It made Korin feel like he belonged. It made him feel like he was home.
Verania returned with a tall glass of pineapple juice, which was Korin’s current favorite. “Anything else you need?” she asked.
Korin smiled and shook his head. Verania gave a wink and a twirl, making her bright skirts swirl wide as she left. Flirting. Not seriously. Marta had made it clear from the first day Korin had moved in that she didn’t approve of fraternizing.
Not that Korin would have been interested. Not in the girls. And besides, he had someone.
Maybe. Sort of.
Korin couldn’t hold back the smile when he thought of Ádan. Handsome Ádan with his bright grins and irrepressible cheer. Dangerous Ádan with his secrets and his oaths to people Korin didn’t know how to trust. Ádan who had saved Korin’s life, but in doing so, had pulled Korin into the middle of a horrible secret Korin didn’t know if he could face.
Ádan who had now been away for two weeks, summoned by Prince Lysander zhi Ritalle to join the prince in his entourage. Lysander had been in Ulek, at the war front, but he wanted his friend next to him on the journey home. As Ádan had apologetically reported to Korin before riding off.
Korin missed him. Korin didn’t miss him. Korin wanted him back right now. Korin thought it might be better if he never saw Ádan again.
But mostly, Korin filled his days with helping the people who came to him. There’d been no sense obsessing when Ádan was away and Korin couldn’t do anything about it.
And now Korin had a new question to worry about—what had happened to that little girl? Was he imagining things, or…was it possible a wizard had done that? If so, why? And who?
Korin finished his food, took the dishes back to the kitchen, then stuck his head into Marta’s office. She sat at her desk, working her way through a ledger, a woman of unguessable age with greying black hair and a will of iron. “What is it, Korin?” she asked without looking up.
“You need anything from me today?”
She stopped with a finger on the last line she’d been studying, looked up at him, considering. “No, I think we’re good. You going out?”
“I was going to go to the parade.”
She grunted, dismissive of the whole idea. “Go on with you. You got money?”
“Enough. I’ll be fine.”
She grunted again and returned her attention to the book. Finished with him.
Korin was out the door before anyone else could show up to stop him.