The captain and Hoede seemed to reach some kind of agreement.
Through the glass, Joost saw Hoede enter the cell and give the boy an encouraging pat. There must have been vents in the cell because he heard Hoede say, “Be a brave lad, and there’s a few kruge in it for you.” Then he grabbed Anya’s chin with a liver-spotted hand. She tensed, and Joost’s gut tightened. Hoede gave Anya’s head a little shake. “Do as you’re told, and this will soon be over, ja?”
She gave a small tight smile. “Of course, Onkle.”
Hoede whispered a few words to the guard behind Anya, then stepped out. The door shut with a loud clang, and Hoede slid a heavy lock into place.
Hoede and the other merchant took positions almost directly in front of Joost and Rutger.
The merchant Joost didn’t know said, “You’re sure this is wise? This girl is a Corporalnik. After what happened to your Fabrikator—”
“If it was Retvenko, I’d be worried. But Anya has a sweet disposition. She’s a Healer. Not prone to aggression.”
“And you’ve lowered the dose?”
“Yes, but we’re agreed that if we have the same results as the Fabrikator, the Council will compensate me? I can’t be asked to bear that expense.”
When the merchant nodded, Hoede signaled to the captain. “Proceed.”
The same results as the Fabrikator. Retvenko claimed Yuri had vanished. Was that what he’d meant?
“Sergeant,” said the captain, “are you ready?”
The guard inside the cell replied, “Yes, sir.” He drew a knife.
Joost swallowed hard.
“First test,” said the captain.
The guard bent forward and told the boy to roll up his sleeve. The boy obeyed and stuck out his arm, popping the thumb of his other hand into his mouth. Too old for that, thought Joost. But the boy must be very scared. Joost had slept with a sock bear until he was nearly fourteen, a fact his older brothers had mocked mercilessly.
“This will sting just a bit,” said the guard.
The boy kept his thumb in his mouth and nodded, eyes round.
“This really isn’t necessary—” said Anya.
“Quiet, please,” said Hoede.
The guard gave the boy a pat then slashed a bright red cut across his forearm. The boy started crying immediately.
Anya tried to rise from her chair, but the guard placed a stern hand on her shoulder.
“It’s all right, sergeant,” said Hoede. “Let her heal him.”
Anya leaned forward, taking the boy’s hand gently. “Shhhh,” she said softly. “Let me help.”
“Will it hurt?” the boy gulped.
She smiled. “Not at all. Just a little itch. Try to hold still for me?”
Joost found himself leaning closer. He’d never actually seen Anya heal someone.
Anya removed a handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped away the excess blood. Then her fingers brushed carefully over the boy’s wound. Joost watched in astonishment as the skin slowly seemed to reform and knit together.
A few minutes later, the boy grinned and held out his arm. It looked a bit red, but was otherwise smooth and unmarked. “Was that magic?”
Anya tapped him on the nose. “Of a sort. The same magic your own body works when given time and a bit of bandage.”
The boy looked almost disappointed.
“Good, good,” Hoede said impatiently. “Now the parem.”
Joost frowned. He’d never heard that word.
The captain signaled to his sergeant. “Second sequence.”
“Put out your arm,” the sergeant said to the boy once again.
The kitchen boy shook his head. “I don’t like that part.”
The boy’s lower lip trembled, but he put out his arm. The guard cut him once more. Then he placed a small wax paper envelope on the table in front of Anya.
“Swallow the contents of the packet,” Hoede instructed Anya.
“What is it?” she asked, voice trembling.
“That isn’t your concern.”
“What is it?” she repeated.
“It’s not going to kill you. We’re going to ask you to perform some simple tasks to judge the drug’s effects. The sergeant is there to make sure you do only what you’re told and no more, understood?”
Her jaw set, but she nodded.
“No one will harm you,” said Hoede. “But remember, if you hurt the sergeant, you have no way out of that cell. The doors are locked from the outside.”
“What is that stuff?” whispered Joost.
“Don’t know,” said Rutger.
“What do you know?” he muttered.
“Enough to keep my trap shut.”
With shaking hands, Anya lifted the little wax envelope and opened the flap.
“Go on,” said Hoede.
She tipped her head back and swallowed the powder. For a moment she sat, waiting, lips pressed together.
“Is it just jurda?” she asked hopefully. Joost found himself hoping, too. Jurda was nothing to fear, a stimulant everyone in the stadwatch chewed to stay awake on late watches.
“What does it taste like?” Hoede asked.