When Goal awoke again, her grandfather stood over her. He had taken a hold of her left hand, and was caressing it gently.
“Vrezh,” she greeted, her voice barely rising above a whisper.
“Goal,” he greeted back. Leaning down, he kissed her hand, then straightened up and murmured, “Even the thought of losing you is intolerable.”
She looked down to her right leg and saw that it had acquired its own splint. A slight ache intensified when she tried to move it, and she stilled the rest of her body as she moved her head to scan the chamber. Lex was slumped over in another cot.
Her grandfather followed her gaze and reflected, “To think that I absolutely forbade any more joinings. Now I am in his debt.”
“I feel so much better.”
Her grandfather smiled, “Kim made a good call.”
“The ice mentor?”
“Who’s also a doctor?”
He seated himself onto a body chair close to her cot, saying, “Mythran, too. Did she tell you that? Formerly from the House of Ran. My sponsor when I first followed the call of Pallas-Metis myself. All of us in ice have benefited from her care at one point or another. She likes to say she is as old as the change in our climate, but that’s not entirely accurate.”
Goal observed, “She reminds me of Peg.” Tzalque Peg had been the clan physician of the House of Pallas for two decades, and was still mending members whenever their scrapes took a more serious turn.
“Peg could be her granddaughter. In many ways,” acknowledged her grandfather.
After a moment of silence, Vrezh resumed, “You know about your husband? Zur sounded the alarm when he got to the Vinyat station, and that sent all of your father’s companies into ice to find you. Well, now that we know you’re alive, I think Eden will just bring one company with him. I expect him tomorrow.”
Goal nodded briefly.
“Yours wasn’t the only attack,” her grandfather informed her, “It was part of something bigger. I don’t know too much, but the notices I got indicated several attacks in several places, including Zyss. Eden will tell us more when he gets here.”
“Ven attacks?” Goal clarified.
Vrezh nodded wordlessly.
Goal didn’t have to be told that a wave of attacks meant trouble, and reflected, “We’ve had peace for a decade, ever since our agreement to form alliances and turn them into citizens.”
Her grandfather observed, “Right. And yesterday the Ven ventured all the way here to target you. Oh, there is no doubt they targeted you. Thank God they didn’t know a whole lot about ice.”
“No surprise there,” Goal responded, “Many Ven are told over and over to stick to their own kind, so they don’t learn much about us or our world.”
Vrezh shifted forward and clasped her left hand between his, “This once, I’m glad of it. I doubt they’d have left you to freeze to death if they’d known more about our world. Not after coming all the way here to kill you.”
“Pretty stupid, even for Ven,” she conceded. “I mean, they must have known we were coming to see you. They must have known there were at least some people living here.”
He gave her hand a squeeze, “Well, let’s not underestimate them in turn. Kim insists that we tell only your parents that we have found you alive for now, and your unit, of course. Let your aggressors think that you have perished, that they succeeded.”
“Won’t they grow suspicious if my body does not appear?” Goal protested.
“That’s easy enough to remedy. Your father can find your body in a few days.”
She smiled, “Good plan.”
They both heard Lex stir. Goal twisted her head and saw that her former uncle had sat up. When her grandfather looked in his direction, Lex averted his eyes and said, “I didn’t want to defy you.”
Giving her hand another squeeze, her grandfather replied with quiet intensity, “You’ve done some excellent work here. We are in your debt.”
Lex looked up. Through their linked minds, she could sense the tension in him dissolving, but his face betrayed none of his feelings. Then again, her grandfather probably was the one man on Alnos who didn’t need to read her former uncle’s face to understand his emotions. He said, “You know Kim wants you to continue. I agree. With your help, Goal will heal as fast as she would in Zyss.”
Lex averted his eyes again and said, “As you wish. But …” He paused, his face becoming even more neutral, “I know Kim doesn’t want to have anyone else join with Goal. But what if you joined with me?”
Goal’s grandfather showed a moment of surprise. He considered Lex’s proposal, and then began to nod slowly, “That could speed things up. I recommend you stay with her conscious mind, focus on pain relief, and I’ll focus on the cellular repair.” He shifted back towards Goal, let go of her hand, and brushed two fingers up and down each arm, then down each leg. Just like Ice Mentor Kim, each time his fingers neared the breaks, he slowed, stopped for a few breaths. Goal felt a tingling through the dull ache radiating from the broken bones.
Lex got to his feet, stepped out for a few moments, and returned with a second body chair. He set it down next to the Vrezh’s chair, and sat down very close to him.
“Renew your link with her first,” Vrezh ordered.
Lex feathered a caress up her cheeks and temples with both hands and slid his fingertips into position as Goal closed her eyes. The golden light of his first contact ebbed up around her until it suffused her inner vision. She sighed. Next to her, she felt her grandfather shift, then felt the energy inside her grow stronger, brighter. The tingling in her limbs started up again, grew stronger than the ache even around her broken thigh-bone.
Good idea, Lex, she sensed her grandfather communicate soundlessly. And a moment later, Lex commanded, Sleep, followed by, Your body needs to repair itself. Sleep will reduce all distractions. A pulse of well-being followed, a calm pleasure that permeated her body and limbs down to her fingertips and toes.
With a breathy moan, she let her mind grow quiet again, and was soon dreaming of a warm spring meadow full of bright blue crocuses and yellowbells. Lex glided her over the wildflowers reclining on a solar, lowered her into a flowery embrace punctuated by red and black butterflies. Sunlight always speeds recovery, he quipped, sitting down next to her solar, leaning against the board. A spring breeze cooled her face and seemed to play with his golden hair. The Zhoni sunlight warmed everything: The dew-misted spring meadow, her healing limbs, her soul.