Julen smiled as he shook hands, slightly amused that the gnome hadn’t volunteered his own name. It reminded him of his meeting with Aranel. Of course, Julen doubted that the gnome had deliberately withheld the information -- more likely, it simply hadn’t occurred to him. From what Julen knew about gnomes, he understood that they spent a lot more time thinking about machinery than people.
When the gnome had finished gathering Julen’s requested items, Julen thanked him. Then, he took the rags and pot of water over to Ramas’s bed. Kneeling on the floor beside it, Julen began to dip rags into the cool water, before laying them over the worst patches of the boy’s burned skin. While engaged in this task, his back was turned to Railtus and the gnome. Which proved fortunate, because when Railtus took charge of the situation, giving orders as if it was he, instead of the gnome, who owned the airship, the grin on Julen’s face wasn’t entirely appropriate for his position as Railtus’s footman.
Well, he’s definitely fully recovered.
After the gnome left, escorting Railtus to some quiet corner of the airship, Julen continued his ministrations. The gnome had referred to Ramas as his apprentice, and the boy certainly looked like he was about the same age as the apprentices who worked in Effie’s bakery. It pained Julen to see someone so young so badly injured. He couldn’t help wondering what twist of fate had tossed a human child into such a strange life. The gnome seemed quite nice, probably a much more pleasant master than Effie, but where were the boy’s parents? Did they miss their son? Did he miss them?
As much as Julen tried to work gently, Ramas’s eyes betrayed his pain, even though he was too weak to speak of it. Desperately, Julen wished he could do more to alleviate the boy’s suffering. When he was young, and sick with one of childhood’s many diseases, his mother had told stories to distract him from his misery. But he only remembered bits and pieces from her tales -- a handful of vivid images, thin and fragile as confetti. Besides, he was no storyteller. The only thing he could do was...
And he couldn’t do that. Could he? The airship was huge, and there were only four people in it, none of whom seemed likely to turn him over to the Judges. But he’d never done it deliberately before. It was always an accident, something that happened despite his best efforts. To intentionally summon it seemed like crossing a line he could never step back over. But if it might ease the boy’s torment...
Softly, Julen began to sing. It was a simple song, about animals marching two-by-two, with the single rule that each animal needed to be larger than the one that came before it. So it made sense to start small. Closing his eyes, Julen pictured two fireflies, bright dots of light blinking and dancing in the air. Then a pair of butterflies, doing tricks on the wind like brightly costumed acrobats. He couldn’t be sure if he was actually casting any illusions, since opening his eyes to check would break him from his trance, but he shaped each mental image as clearly as he could, while repeating each slightly altered verse.
And in the air over Ramas’s bed, swirling colors coalesced into the shapes of marching animals.