Sunday, October 16, 2011

Intermediate, Or: Translation

Pt II of "Priorities and Sanity", by a popular request of one.

The first weeks fall into no particular chronological order in Emilia's memories. The book is basic healing magic, sacrificing one's own energy to put into another. She takes to it well. She heals a dove, stitches up a dog's paw, and learns how to use the fire magic she has to cauterize wounds and sterilize surgical instruments--she's not performing major surgery yet, but she's well on her way to helping. It's the first few weeks; she hardly expected even that.

Somewhere in the middle of that, Dr. Johnson tells her to call him "Professor". She asks why, mostly out of surprise, which is how she learns he isn't a native speaker of her language.

"The vocabulary translates imperfectly, but it's the closest way to phrase it I've found."

Emilia's confused a moment before the obvious clicks into place. She assumed the oddly precise diction to be part of his persona in general, but it made just as much sense as a side-effect of a learned language. He had grown up with different vowels, probably; his diphthongs were always strangely pure. She almost asked him what he spoke first, but he was handing her another book, and this one taught healing humans.

And some point that must have been after that, Professor would tell her about that particular book, about the effect it had on nearly every student who would not be a healer. "Humans have a resonance to them," a similarity in wavelength that threw many mages-in-training. Even if you knew a spell quite well, even if you had used it before, even if you were only thinking of using it on a human, could be jarring. The book was the first test, because the feeling would distress, but not harm. "Usually, the sensation is akin to a papercut."

Professor eyes her closely and watches her cast the spells, asking a great many questions. So many distractions that they annoy her, but when her focus finally breaks, she just winces at the sting and says, "Sorry."

He nods. "Good. No resonance issues." And that must have been before she knew about the human-human resonance, because Emilia remembers not knowing. It strikes her as an odd thing to be such rare knowledge, but supposes that only healers have to worry about it.

She remembers asking, though she's not sure if it was immediate. "Healing something more like yourself has a greater chance of shifting injuries, rather than simply healing them. Casting such a spell on one's identical twin, for instance, is the most dangerous, as it has the issues of casting on someone your phenotype, genotype, age and gender. Healing a sibling or non-identical twin is roughly as dangerous in practice."

And then Emilia's first resonance. Not her first human--that was an octogenarian, of significantly different racial background. Not even, oddly enough, her fellow student, who could almost be her sister. Privately, Emilia believes she was more careful because of that, though admitting so means stating that she was not careful with the burned eight-year-old, which isn't quite right.
Suzy is bawling. Not the poorly suppressed sobs that Emilia had seen in her patients, nor the dead-eye look a few of them had, nor choosing to allow oneself to weep because of a lack of pride, just...bawling. No choice one way or the other. Pain meets lacking inhibitions; tears fall.

"H-Help me. Mama said you could help me!"

Emilia flinches. Professor's eyes are on her back, but he's done too much that day, or something, there's some reason that means she has to help this girl who's in pain and it doesn't matter that she's exhausted too, she just has to fix the burn that's running up the poor thing's arm all the way to her shoulder and so she just

Emilia forgets absolutely everything she's been taught, grabs the girl's arm, and jerks the pain straight back, snapping Suzy's skin to perfection.

Emilia jerks back and hisses a syllable she heard Professor say exactly once, when a mother mid-messed up labor came in. Suzy's burn had been on her left, and this burn is on Emilia's right arm--the one she'd grabbed at Suzy's hurt with--but beyond that, it's identical.

"Resonance," Professor said, softly.

Emilia nodded. She had enough control not to be outwardly distressed over the pain, but it took the whole of her focus. "Would you take Suzy to her father? I need to treat this."

Professor nodded and took Suzy's hand.

Resonance is difficult-nearing-impossible with a sibling. A twin is more difficult, but at that point the bell curve is already so low that people hardly notice. Which means...

Emilia ran the burn under cool water, then set something warm on it to keep the blood flowing.

It was as if whoever created the universe decided that healer's couldn't be selfish. No matter the training, a healer would always auto-resonate. No healing mage could self-heal.
In a little cooldown room, now, where doctors can go and not have to worry about patients or next of kin who insist they could have done more. Emilia sits at a table with apple juice in a sippy cup, because it's definitely one of those days.

"What happened today?" Professor says it in a gentle tone, which meant she screwed up badly enough to warrant eggshell treatment.

"I obsessed over the wrong detail and got resonance."

Professor nods and hands Emilia a jar of something. "For the burn. Finish the thought."

The last three words fall into a rhythm, and Emilia guesses this was another thing from his original language. "I...I think I don't fully understand what you mean by that."

"Answer what you think I asked, then."

Emilia adjusts the coat she'd hung over the back of her chair, pretending it bothered her. She unscrews the lid of the ointment jar and notices that it actually smells nice--vanilla? Her eyes dart to his with surprise, and then she has to answer. "I focused on an end result rather than what I should have done to achieve it. In doing so, I endangered both the child and myself more than I needed to."

"Finish the story." That same rhythm. Whatever it was, it turned the order polite, curious and gentle rather than demanding.

Emilia sips at her apple juice. "It is good to remember such things." She stares at the ointment a moment. "This is non-magical?"

"Correct." Brief, even for him, as if it were not his place to interrupt the story she was telling.

"I think..." Emilia looks at her arm. What she saw as a mirror of the scars is much milder. The resonance injured her, but not severely. She would scar, just a bit, but had she gotten this from pouring hot water on herself, she would treat it mundanely and carry on. "The main character keeps what scars she gained. For remembrance's sake. Not out of guilt, that would be childish. Just is good to remember such things."

Professor nods and the spell breaks. "As you wish."

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