(This story is a sequel to "Close to the Edge", and is related to the "Willow Healer Storyline" - see listing for more related stories.)
Evervale lifted her hand out of the water. It was now numb from the cold river. She looked at it critically, ignoring Halfmoon’s attempts for attention. Her wolf friend finally settled for putting his head in her lap.
As her hand slowly thawed, Evervale felt the fingertips pulse slightly, but there were no burn marks. It was strange to have felt that pain, yet have nothing to show for it. Still, she was glad. She didn’t want anyone to know what had happened. Willow was obviously sorry and Evervale didn’t want to get her in trouble.
But she worried over keeping it a secret. She knew Chief Windburn was very angry with some tribe members who had kept Willow’s magic a secret from him. Evervale chewed her bottom lip anxiously. Deep down, she knew she probably should tell the chief. She sat motionless, considering her options and thinking about what had happened over the last few days.
Everale was still accepting that the tribe had a healer and hadn’t completely processed what that all meant. Naturally, her first thoughts after hearing the news went to the Preserver-wrapped elves who had been stored away for years. They were all sick or injured, waiting for the birth of a healer to release them from their unnatural sleep.
Knowing nothing then of Willow’s reluctance to her new powers, Evervale had rejoiced at the news! Finally she would get to meet all those elves she’d heard so many stories about. All of the stories of how they ended up Preserver-wrapped were so sad. She felt especially bad for Farscout whose unborn child was wrapped up along with his Recognized lifemate. She couldn’t imagine the pain he must feel in the waiting. She also couldn’t imagine how he felt right now.
And that’s when Evervale fully realized the pressure Willow must feel. She looked back to the place where the new healer had sprinted into the forest, apparently horrified and frightened by what she’d done. She felt tears welling in her eyes as she thought of how frightening it would be to try and heal those elves after so much waiting. What if something went wrong? Would the others blame Willow?
Evervale shook her head. She thought she understood what Willow was feeling. But when she’d discovered her own powers, what pressure did she feel? None at all! The tribe already had a plantshaper, and as a result, she had a built-in mentor. And besides, a plantshaper rarely held another’s life in her hands. Willow was alone and all of the tribe was looking to her to save long-missed loved ones. Willow had saved Pathmark’s life, but it had obviously taken a huge toll on her. It might be a long while before she can tackle those in wrapstuff.
Appropriately sobered of her initial excitement over the news of a healer, Evervale raised her hand for another look. The skin was the normal shade of light cream now that it had warmed back up. Touching her thumb to each finger, she found that the pain was mostly gone. Halfmoon lifted his head at her movement.
Looking into his large golden eyes, Evervale said aloud, “I can’t tell anyone. I just can’t. She’s been through so much.” Halfmoon looked at his elf friend quizzically, not understanding what she was saying.
Evervale wearily pushed herself up from the ground. Halfmoon stood and panted, his long tongue lolling from the side of his mouth. Not caring about her catch anymore, she threw him the three fish she’d started gutting earlier. After a split second of amazement, he gobbled them down greedily. Evervale had more important things than fish on her mind. She made sure she had her knife, then grabbed her spear.
“Come on,” she said as her wolf friend finished off the last of the fish. “Time to act like everything’s normal.” Halfmoon followed his elf friend through the brush licking his lips, blissfully unaware of the turmoil still running through Evervale’s mind.