Dawn wanted to ask Ginny if Annie would be okay, but if the answer wasn’t good, she didn’t want to force Ginny to say it in front of Annie—or listen to the silence. So she just bit her lip and focused on helping her friend walk. Luckily Annie was small and light, because she really didn’t seem to be able to keep herself steady. When they got to the steps, she and Ginny just lifted Annie by the arms.
They finally reached Ginny’s office, where Ginny had Dawn wait in the doorway, holding Annie up, while she pressed a button in the wall next to a bookshelf. The shelf came down to reveal a cot on its other side. Dawn wasn’t sure whether it was magic or just a very clever Murphy bed.
Without waiting to be told, Dawn helped Annie get onto the bed. Annie clutched the edges of it with apparent gratitude, taking deep breaths through her teeth.
“Is the pain back?” Dawn asked anxiously. She’d assumed the pain block would last at least until Ginny chose to take it off.
Annie shook her head. “Feel sick,” she gritted out.
“Mm, yes, that can happen.” Ginny was pulling things off the shelves, pouring liquids from one bottle into another. She shook the smaller bottle, then stepped close to Annie. “This may feel strange, but still no pain, all right? Are you ready?”
“Do it,” Annie muttered through her teeth. She was looking very pale. Dawn grabbed her hand.
Ginny poured the liquid—though it was so viscous Dawn wasn’t sure that word applied—onto Annie’s chest, directly onto the burn. It hissed and steamed up where it touched her skin. It looked like it was spreading only to the edges of the burn and then stopping there, but it was hard for Dawn to be sure, since the liquid was entirely clear.
Ginny kept pouring until the bottle was empty. The liquid steamed on Annie’s chest for a few moments, then evaporated, leaving behind a shiny but less angry-looking red spot. Ginny breathed a deep sigh. “Good, that’s much better. Annie, would you like me to take off the pain block now or—“
“Off now,” Annie said. At least, Dawn thought that was what she had said. Her lips were tight over her teeth and she wasn’t really producing vowels; she had closed her eyes.
“All right.” Ginny touched Annie’s forehead for a moment. Annie gasped and started breathing harder, but her face relaxed and she opened her eyes.
“Does it hurt?” Dawn asked.
“Yes,” Annie said. “But not like before. Thank you, Ginny.” Her voice had returned to normal, and Dawn felt her shoulders relax a little.
“I’m not done yet. This will hurt a little more, but it should never again be as bad as it was at first.” Ginny reached out again and started tapping Annie’s burn mark, touching very lightly with the pads of her fingers. At the same time, she began a sing-song murmur just under her breath, so Dawn couldn’t quite tell whether she was speaking English. Annie hissed, and her hand tightened on Dawn’s, but she didn’t protest.
After a few minutes, Dawn realized that the bright color of the burn was fading and Annie was relaxing a little. At last Ginny pulled her hand away with another sigh. There was sweat on her upper lip. “All right. You’re healed enough that the pain should be manageable, and infection is no longer a risk. Let me do one more thing for you. You can sit up if you like.”
Annie slowly pushed herself upright, holding onto Dawn’s hand with one hand and then pulling her feet in so that she was sitting cross-legged on the cot. Ginny had turned her back to them and was doing something Dawn couldn’t quite see.
When Ginny faced them again, she was holding a pad of gauze the size of her palm. “This is a poultice,” she explained. “It’s holding herbal medicine that will help the burn heal more quickly.” She pressed it against Annie’s burn mark and tugged to arrange the edges until it covered the whole thing, then started taping it down with white papery-looking tape. “Leave it on at least until tomorrow morning, as long as you can stand it. The tape will loosen if you get it wet, so you’ll have to take it off when you shower.”
“I can hold off on showering for a day or two if that will help the burn heal,” Annie said.
“Very good. When you take it off, if you don’t think it looks better, come see me. You may end up having to go to an actual doctor, but I think I caught it early enough that magic is enough.” Ginny smiled. “And you can take ordinary painkillers if you need them at this point.”
Annie let go of Dawn’s hand and touched the poultice with both hands. “I think I will.”
Ginny nodded. “Now, before you go… I need to know what really happened.”
Dawn looked at Annie. “I didn’t see it.”
“I think I was falling asleep,” Annie said, touching her forehead lightly. “My eyes definitely closed for a second. I was holding the feather, but it must have fallen into the flame. When I realized it was on fire, I tried to throw it to the ground, but it went the other direction and stuck against my chest.”
“Where was Mardalan while this was happening?” Ginny asked.
“She was talking to Celeste,” Dawn said. “She was helping each of us decide what kind of spell to do with our candles, and Celeste was last. At least that’s what she did with me.” She looked at Annie to see if she had a different impression.
Annie nodded. “She’d suggested spells to do with wind or breath. She didn’t really seem excited when I suggested doing a spell for calm, but she agreed that my combination was excellent for that purpose.” Dawn bit her lip to keep from laughing—Annie’s impression of Mardalan was spot-on.
“Had you been feeling anxiety?” Ginny said.
“Well, yes, Mardalan kind of freaks me out,” Annie said. “It’s getting a lot better, though, since she’s actually doing a pretty good job teaching. But my calm spell was more because I’ve been sleeping so badly. Maybe I just overdid it, and that’s why I started to fall asleep.”
“What was your spell, if I may ask, Dawn?”
Dawn looked down, embarrassed, but she didn’t want to hide the truth from Ginny. It wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, after all. “To see the future of my relationship with Rico. But I didn’t even start the spell. I’d barely gotten the candle lit.” That made her remember. “Celeste and Mardalan were sort of arguing.”
Ginny’s eyebrows went up. “Was Mardalan angry?”
“I’m not sure. It just seemed like they were disagreeing. Mardalan was trying to keep it quiet, so I couldn’t hear them, even though Celeste sits next to me.”
“I’ll have to speak to Celeste,” Ginny said.
“You don’t think Mardalan could have caused this to happen, do you?” Annie asked, gesturing at her poultice.
“It doesn’t seem likely with my current information, but it also seems that she may not have had enough safety in place.”
“She called you quickly,” Dawn said. “Not right away, but she seemed like she was in shock. We were all so freaked out none of us knew what to do—except Dale.”
Annie smiled. “I’m going to have to take Dale out for pizza or something. Him and Celeste. Celeste is the one who reminded Mardalan to call you, Ginny.”
“What did Dale do?”
“He started to splash water on me.”
Dawn nodded. “When I realized what he was doing, I created water and splashed it on her, too.”
“Yes, that was smart. I’ll thank him when I see him, and I’ll let Celeste know I need to ask her about what happened. Thank you for your help, Dawn. Annie, if you haven’t been sleeping well, some extra rest will certainly do you good.”
“Yeah, that sounds good.” Annie swung her legs over the side of the cot and held her hand out to Dawn. Dawn let Annie lean on her arm again—the cot was high enough off the floor that Annie was awkward sliding down. “And I’ll see you tomorrow, Ginny.”
“Thank you, Ginny,” Dawn said.
“Of course. It’s part of my job.”
As the two of them left the office, Dawn heard the Murphy bed sliding back into the wall.