Posted by: rebeccajrobare | February 26, 2012

After the Empire, part 1

There were no guards at the entry to the grounds of the Imperial Hospital. Shana wondered what emergency could have drawn them both away. But there were no people milling about in the street, so it wasn’t an emergency inside the Hospital. Shana shrugged, and went inside.

The Administrators’ building seemed unusually quiet. First-day mornings were usually busy, with folk complaining about the days of rest being too short, or talking about the parties they had attended. But when Shana reached her floor, folk were huddled in knots speaking in soft voices, casting worried looks at each other, staring into mugs of coffee without drinking it.

Shana set her bags down near her desk, inside the screens that divided her desk from the ones around it. At the end of the row and down three columns sat old Eramie, who’d been here longer than anyone. She was sitting by herself staring at the papers on her desk, compulsively shuffling them, pushing them around, but she didn’t seem to be reading them or organizing them in some logical way. It was just movement.

That was even more unusual. Eramie was always in a good mood, unfailingly helpful and ready with a quiet joke. Shana approached her.

“Eramie?” she said.

The older woman started and as she turned to face Shana, her arm dragged across her desk, scattering papers to the floor.

Shana knelt and began to pick them up. “Eramie, what’s going on?”

Eramie, usually self-conscious about being clumsy – the woman was crippled from illness, but fiercely independent nonetheless – ignored the disarray. “They’re saying that the Empire is gone.”

“Gone? What does that mean, gone?”

“That they’re gone. The army’s gone, the governor, all the functionaries – they’re saying most of the healers are gone from the hospital, though I don’t know whether I believe it.” Eramie had been a healer before the illness took her magic, and she was contemptuous of any healer whose devotion to their patients was lacking.

Shana put the stack of papers on Eramie’s desk and sat back on her heels. “But – but they’ve been here forever! I mean, hundreds of years, at least. What do we even do without the Empire? What about the Hospital? They have all the money, all the healers – should we even be here?” Shana shook her head. “Maybe we should all just go home.” She looked at Eramie curiously. “How did you even get here? Don’t you come on the Omnibus?” The Omnibus was an Imperial form of transport, for those who could not ride horses or walk.

“I hired a private cab,” Eramie said primly. “I don’t know what’s happening yet, but I still have a duty, until someone relieves me of it, and I intend to see that it’s done.” But her hand tightened on Shana’s shoulder, and Shana put her hand over Eramie’s, and the two women sat like that together, wondering, until Annan came and said, “Come, we’re gathering in the ampitheatre. We have to decide what to do.”

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Responses

  1. I’m intrigued by both of these. I hope you get the time to work on them. : )


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