Posted by: rebeccajrobare | March 25, 2012

After the Empire, part 2

The Hospital’s ampitheatre was designed for young healers, or the public, to attend lectures or demonstrations of healing techniques. It was not, really, all that large, and when Shana, Annan, and Eramie arrived, they had to squeeze themselves in. A seat on the first tier was vacated for Eramie, but the upper tiers were full, and only those who were old or infirm had been given seats on the lowest tier; the rest stood on their feet in a sweaty, packed in mass.

That mass fell silent as the Heads of the Hospital, two Magisters and two Mistresses, pushed through a crowd that tried to give them what little room it had. Finally, the younger of the Magisters stood on the lone table. Still the room was silent, and Shana, who had rarely heard such silence even while proctoring exams, began to shiver with anxiety. Annan was clutching herself, and Eramie was focused intently on the Magister, as though trying to read his mind in advance of hearing whatever announcement was to be made.

It was the First Mistress of the Hospital who spoke, though she brushed away the young Magister’s hand and declined to climb onto the table. She was not young, and was not even a Magister, but she was widely acknowledged to have been the best healer in the Avarita Colony for twenty years before her election to First Mistress fifteen years ago. The young Magister who was now the Second of the Hospital had been her protege since his return from the Imperial City, and considered the most likely to succeed her if she ever retired. He gestured for quiet, realized that it was unnecessary, and shrugged. The First Mistress patted his foot before she began to speak.

“The rumors are true,” she said. “The Empire is gone. The Army gave us no warning and has left us no defenses. The barracks emptied overnight, and there are no more soldiers or officers or officials. As of sunrise, Avarita is alone as it has not been in four hundred years.”

No one raised a voice, but Shana heard gasps and sobs in the crowd. She glanced at Emarie and saw tears falling down the older woman’s face, though she wept in silence. Annan had begun to pick at her hair. Shana herself felt ill, and found herself covering her mouth as though afraid of what might come out of it.

“Magister Lores, Magister Lee, Mistress Farlan, and myself have considered since hearing the news. The Hospital remains open! Our vows were maid to the Empire, but they were also made to the people who look to us for healing and succor. Now the Empire has broken its vows to us, and the only faith we have to keep is to those people who need us. We will remain at our posts.”

“But how will we be paid?” Shana recognized the voice; it was Mariman, a young Master healer who had expected to find more excitement and better pay than he had in the Empire’s farthest outpost.

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