AR 12-12-12 Helping the Hurt
The temple of Sif was filled with a dreadful chorus of sounds: moans of the injured, sobs of the mourning, chanting prayers of the clerics, and voices of caregivers trying to soothe the hurting. All these sounds melded together into a surreal melody. As Rissa sat on the cold stone floor, leaning against a wall, she tried to block out the sounds that filled her ears. But even as she did, there was no respite from the whispering phantom voices which had returned to her mind. She hardly noticed them during the day when she was active, but now that she had taken a while to rest her exhausted body, they made their presence known.
Rissa had not meant to stop working when she did. She stopped because Sardi finally broke down.
When Yari had told Sardi the grim news of his brother’s death, they embraced tightly, as if Sardi was afraid to let Yari go. Rissa watched the two boys for several minutes, her eyes blurring with tears of her own. Finally she wiped them away. A little voice inside her said she needed to be strong, there was business left to do. And as her logical self analyzed the situation she knew the skill most needed right now was healers. She approached the boys and inserted herself into the embrace as Yari relinquished Sardi to her. Rissa told her brother to go do what needed to be done.
Rissa’s job was to tend to Sardi and get him moving again. She stressed to him how much the city around them needed every healer it could get, and that included him. She tried to reason with him that there was nothing they could do for Beckum; in Niflheim, he was beyond their reach. All around them though, were people he could help, people suffering who desperately needed his healing touch. Sardi owed it to his brother to do whatever he could to keep more souls from joining Beckum. Her counseling worked: within a few minutes they proceeded together to help the needy as best they could.
Their efforts eventually brought them to this makeshift hospital in Melinir’s poorest quarter. Rissa was assisting a nurse attending the battered when she lost track of Sardi. She found him sitting against this wall, arms around his knees, head down, crying gently to himself. She sat down next to him and wrapped the boy in her arms, starting to cry herself. After quite some time Sardi had cried himself to sleep, his head in Rissa’s lap. Although there was certainly more work to do, the girl was reluctant to move for fear of disturbing Sardi from his much needed slumber. It had been a very long day, and she wished she could sleep too.
Rissa looked up and tensed as she saw her father approaching. She shouldn’t be sitting down on the job, certainly not with a boy’s head in her lap! She shifted with intent to get to her feet, but a gesture from Sven indicated to stay seated. He did not seem the least bit upset that she and Sardi were in such close proximity. Rissa caught a mental glimpse of her father as a warrior, many years ago, mourning the loss of a compatriot, her mother offering him comfort, just as Rissa now did for Sardi. In that instant Rissa knew he understood.
Sven called for Yari and Math, who had been working nearby. As his three eldest children assembled, Sven said, “Your mother and I will pick up Bran and Siffles from Grandpa Matt’s. Your grandmother has been looking after them. After that, we are going home.” His words hung in the air with a sense of finality. Rissa had the sense there was more going on than he was admitting. “Are you sure you all want to stay?”
She nodded as her two brothers both made sounds to the affirmative. Sven placed a hand on each of his elder sons’ shoulders and squeezed firmly. Rissa received a telepathic interpretation of the gesture.
It came first as an emptiness, as a thing her father never had, so made sure all his children grew up with. She braced herself for the onslaught of pictures and emotions that came the last time she touched minds with her father, but it never happened. Sven had no personal experiences related to what he was feeling, sending her; thus the emptiness. Still, it was familiar, and she was able to supply her own memories, filling in the massive gaps, speaking her father’s own language of saying things, without actually saying them.
His smile when she first picked up the flute and blew into it. His grin when her mother first caught her sneaking out. His laughter – a deep, belly laugh, that she almost never heard – when she first lashed out at him in anger. “You’re mad now,” he had said, “and I don’t want to dismiss that; but, one day you’ll forget why you’re mad, and then you’ll laugh with me.”
Back in the present, surrounded by the devastation that was her new world, Rissa chuckled. Her father’s smiled deepened, and he twitched his nose in good humor. That’s my girl, came a voice, unbidden to Rissa’s thoughts. He released his two sons, then nodded at his daughter. No words needed to have been spoken, and so no more were.
As Sven started to leave, Rissa reached out to her father’s mind. I love you Daddy.
Although she was looking at the back of his head, Rissa could clearly see her father’s loving smile in her mind’s eye, and could feel his warm embrace about her, even as he left the room.