Everyone is a million and one names and faces to a million and one different people, and the White Elm’s high priestess was no different. Miranda had struggled with the stuffy title of ‘Lady’ when she’d first ascended a few years previously, but now took it in her stride, answering to ‘Lady Miranda’ within the council as naturally as to ‘Mandi’ at home or to ‘Dr Rhode’ here at work. They were all important names and important roles, but it was this one that most grounded her. It was while operating and diagnosing that Miranda felt most honest to herself – the mind could only be with the job, with the patient and the medical process. At home she found herself wondering about her patients or the myriad of issues that constantly arose for the White Elm; at Morrissey House she found herself wondering about her partner Gordon and whether he’d eaten the dinner she’d left in the oven for him. At the hospital, there was no room for her other lives when a person’s actual life depended on her. At the hospital, Miranda’s thoughts were focussed and sharp.
As a sorceress, and leader of a major nation of sorcerers, there were instances when even her sacred hospital life could be shaken.
Her colleague Qasim contacted her in the operating theatre while she was in the middle of performing a routine coronary artery bypass. Contact for sorcerers of their level did not involve phone lines. She paused, gloved hands raised to avoid the risk of contamination or error in the open chest of her patient, as he showed her the vision he and Renatus had shared. As clear as a video file on a monitor it played out in her mind, the scene of Lisandro and Jackson, brothers-turned-enemies of the White Elm council, making light and tasteless comments about killing young people in Prague.
What should we do? Qasim asked, his gravelly low voice resonating with familiarity inside her head, almost as if he were standing right beside her. His tone was pointed and direct; he knew what he wanted her to say, and this was why he was asking her instead of her cautious pacifist co-leader.
“Dr Rhode?” a nurse prompted, noting the absent look on her face and her prolonged pause. “What is it?”
“Give me a moment,” Miranda requested, thinking quickly. Virtually borderless, the magical community Miranda’s council governed extended across the world, and any threat of Lisandro’s was their responsibility to address. It had been months since any of her twelve co-councillors had had an opportunity to approach or apprehend the renegade sorcerer, and Qasim was even now securing a crime scene connected to the former councillor, a dead mutineer nailed to a tree. Now this? It couldn’t be coincidence. Though she was in no position to help or even direct the situation, she wasn’t going to place any restrictions on her very capable colleagues that would compromise their ability to take care of this.
The council had made a reluctant agreement not to hunt for Lisandro in Belarus – despite knowing that was where he was. Czech Republic was not Belarus. Fair game, as far as she was concerned.
This vision is deliberate, Qasim told her. He wants us to follow. I’ll stay at the scene in case he’s trying to draw us away. Renatus can handle himself in Prague.
Miranda had no doubt that the gifted young third-in-command could hold his own against his own godfather, but also knew her co-leader would never agree to sending him in if there was any danger posed. Even if the boy was no longer a boy. Even if this kind of dark peace-keeping was his job.
Keep me posted, she said without ever moving her lips, because Qasim wasn’t in the theatre to hear her. He wasn’t even in London. Sorcerers of their level communicated telepathically without much effort, and the ancient magic that bound them as brothers and sisters of the White Elm connected their minds in a single sacred ring of thirteen.
Qasim’s presence withdrew from her thoughts to attend to the situation. He was a senior councillor and didn’t need to be told to organise with Elijah to track Lisandro’s position, or to have Renatus ready for deployment, or to look out for possible targets in the Czech Republic. Miranda pushed thoughts of sorcerers and councils far from her mind and tuned her full attention to the needs of her anaesthetised patient. A theatre nurse was waiting with the tools of the trade.
“Alright,” she said to her medical colleagues. “Continue.”
It should have been a straightforward surgery. She was good – very good. It helped to be a Healer of great ability, of course, but so too was she simply an excellent surgeon. A hard worker at medical school. A devoted professional since her internship here at the Royal London. A steady hand and keen eye.
Minutes passed. Gawain, her co-leader, got in touch.
They’ve arrived. Nothing out of the ordinary yet but I don’t like it.
They? Miranda repeated without pause. She had stopped the heart and begun the painstaking process of grafting the new arteries into place. The council was made up of thirteen of their nation’s most powerful and competent sorcerers. Which ‘they’ had arrived in Prague?
Renatus and Anouk. And Aristea, Lord Gawain answered her reluctantly, and she understood why he didn’t like it. Young scrier Renatus was capable of taking care of himself, as was Russian Telepath Anouk, but Renatus’s apprentice Aristea was an untested element in an already unpredictable scenario. She wasn’t even old enough to be a junior member of the White Elm.
Any sign of Lisandro or Jackson? Miranda asked, wishing she didn’t have to ask. If Gawain said yes, she knew she wouldn’t be able to shake such a worrisome distractor. The last thing she needed was an interruption to a major – albeit commonplace – surgery like this one.
No, Gawain said, all she wanted to know, but Elijah can’t reach our people. Some sort of barrier…
Miranda forcibly blocked him out. She couldn’t worry about what Elijah, teleporter extraordinaire, was being obstructed from doing, or anyone else on the White Elm, or even anyone in Prague who might be at risk. The closing-up of a patient needed to be as precise as the rest of the operation. She was a Healer, yes, but the sorts of surgeries she performed here at the hospital were outside the realm of what she could do with her power alone. Magic couldn’t move an artery from an arm or leg into the chest, and magic wouldn’t prevent an infection – good medical practice and clean work were still the best ways to ensure that.
She wasn’t tuned into the White Elm’s collective mind but that didn’t stop her from noticing their sudden panic.