Screams wake Meah, jarring her from the blackness of sleep. She sits up and looks around the dark camp. The moon, high in the sky, casts light through an opening in the trees. But it still takes a moment for Meah’s eyes to adjust enough to allow her to see. She stares down the line of slaves in front of her, but finds many who were woken by the screams are already back asleep.
She hears the screams again and looks to the second carriage. A number of slaves from the line behind it have gathered around two women.
Meah moves towards the huddled group, but her chains prevent her from moving too close. When she tries to move closer, the man she’s attached to roughly pulls back on the chain, nearly pulling her over.
The small huddled group opens a little and Meah can see one woman holding a second in her arms. She is screaming and tears are pouring from her eyes. The second woman stares straight ahead with empty eyes. Meah doesn’t understand what’s happening, but she recognizes the look in the second woman’s eyes. It is the same look her parents had before they died.
“Her sister is dying,” Jaxon says.
He is sitting against a tree close to her, watching. “There is nothing to be done for her.”
Meah looks at the group huddled around the two women. “Why doesn’t anyone use their magic to help her?”
“The power to heal one so close to death is rare. None of the magic users we have collected wield that kind of power.”
Meah’s eyes meet the sister of the dying woman. She stares back at Meah with pleading eyes. How many times had she seen those kinds of eyes aimed at her? But those times had only been for a mild illness or a small cut or bruise. This woman is dying, but those pleading eyes still bore their way into Meah’s mind.
“Let me try,” she says, turning to Jaxon. “I’m a healer. Let me try.”
Jaxon leans forward. “She will be dead in a few minutes. You can do nothing.”
Jaxon thinks carefully then stands. He unchains her from the line of slaves, but keeps the shackles on her wrists. She hurries to the second line of slaves and forces her way to the two women. She swallows as she stares at the pale face of the dying woman.
“She’s dying,” the healthy sister says. Meah drops to her knees, looks into her eyes, and she softly strokes her cheek.
Turning her attention to the dying woman, she places a hand on the woman’s face. She flinches. The woman is cold to the touch. She leans down and places her ear on the woman’s chest. Her heartbeat is very faint.
Jaxon watches, keeping his thoughts from his face.
Meah sits up and places her hands on the woman’s chest. She closes her eyes and takes a deep, calming breath. She has never tried to bring someone so close to death back before. Illnesses in children were simple, but this is something beyond her experience.
The familiar warmth grows inside her chest, but as she concentrates she feels something else, too. She can feel the woman’s warmth. It is so faint, Meah isn’t sure she is truly feeling it. She imagines the warmth in her chest moving down her arms and into the woman. She feels it mix with the woman’s fainter warmth and a strange sound echoes in her head. It takes her a moment to realize what it is. It is the woman’s heartbeat. The image of the woman’s heart appears in Meah’s mind and she can see the weakened muscle. There is a strange lump disfiguring one side of the heart. Meah fills her mind with images of the lump disappearing. She can see some of the woman’s cells gather around the lump, slowly eating it away. Once it is gone, the beating of the heart grows stronger. She can feel the blood easily moving through the muscle and spreading throughout the woman’s body.
“By the Great Goddess!” one of the gathered slaves says in awe.
Meah opens her eyes and falls back. A hand is there to catch her. She takes deep breaths, her heart suddenly racing. The stricken woman sits up, color returning to her cheeks. She touches her chest and turns to her sister.
“It’s gone,” she says in disbelief. “The illness is gone, Mava.”
“Rava!” Her sister cries and wraps her arms around her. They hug tightly and those standing around them open the circle wider as all eyes fall on Meah. They speak words of praise, wonder, and fear. The two sisters stare at Meah with large smiles and bow their heads.
“Thank you! You are gifted by the Great Goddess!” Rava says, squeezing her sister tighter.
“They said your village held a talented healer, but they never suggested you were a Life Healer, Meah,” Jaxon says in Meah’s ear. She looks up and is surprised to realize he is the one who caught her.
“Life Healer?” she asks, trying to sit up. Her head is light and she feels drained.
“The kind of healing you did is a rare magic. You pulled that woman’s soul back from near death. You might even be able to bring someone all the way back from death one day.”
“Am I to be killed for such a power or released?”
Jaxon smiles, but there is a sadness in his eyes only Meah can see. “You are to be treated better than these lesser slaves. You will fetch me a very high price at the Arena. The people love to see slaves who can wield such rare power.”
He lifts her to her feet. Although she stumbles, he supports her easily. He removes the shackles from her wrists and leads her to the carriage she had been attached to. He orders three of his men to empty the carriage and they quickly unlock the door. They force those inside out and chain them to the back.
Meah looks at Jaxon with wide eyes when she realizes what is happening. “No, please. Don’t do this. I’ll walk. Let them ride. They’re weaker than me.”
The slaves plead, but the men finish shackling the last of them to the line. Jaxon forces Meah into the carriage, throwing her roughly onto the wooden floor. He shuts the door and locks it. She quickly stands, having to lean over to keep her head from hitting the top, and runs to the door. She tries to force it open, but the metal is too thick and the lock too well made.
Jaxon leans on the bars. “You are to be treated well. They only pay more for the rare ones if they are healthy. That way they can put you in the games sooner.”
“At least allow the weakest to ride with me.”
Jaxon ignores her and turns to the camp. “Everybody up! We leave now! We have a schedule to keep!” He meets Meah’s eyes once before moving to the head of the caravan.
Meah looks around the carriage. It is much larger with only one person inside, but she feels as though the bars are closing in around her. She can feel the eyes of those now forced to walk glaring at her.
The carriage jerks forward as the groduns are attached and forced to move. She falls to the floor, but instead of sitting up she pulls her knees to her chest. Tears roll down her cheeks and she curses her magic.