Disclaimer – As much as I love Valdemar, I don't own it :)  That all belongs to Mercedes Lackey.  However!  Lyrissa, Alie, Karm, Jesin, Andil… they belong to me ^_^  Of course, you're welcome to use my characters… provided you tell me ;)  Since this is my first fanfic, any questions/comments can be sent to dazz1eu@yahoo.com  and would be greatly appreciated ^_^  Just don't be too harsh, neh? ;)

~ Chapter 1 ~

Healer's Collegium:

            "Lyrissa Lorhart, from the Border."

            The scribe nodded and made a notation in the books.  "Referred from the local Healer's Temple?"

            "Yes."

            More scribbling, and the scribe handed Lyrissa her appropriate papers.  He then nodded to the young boy to his left.  "Follow him, he'll show you to your quarters."  He extended his hand.  "Do you have the reference letter?"

            The girl nodded, not saying anything else, giving the sealed parchment to the scribe before following the boy dressed in the pale green uniform.  He seemed to be cheerful, obviously thinking that Lyrissa's silence was due to shyness.

            "Hi!  My names Bryant.  So you're from the Border?  I was raised in Haven so I bet it's really different out there, huh?  Lots more people than you expected?"

            Lyrissa barely nodded, but not saying much.  Bryant frowned a little as they padded down the hallway.

            "Well, don't worry.  You'll get used to it…" A shrug but still no signs of emotion from Lyrissa.  Bryant, slightly at a loss about what to do with this overly quiet girl, decided to ask the generic question all Trainees asked each other when they first got to the Collegium.  "So, when'd you find out you had the Healing gift?"

            Deadpan eyes turned to face the chattery Trainee, eyes that halted Bryant's cheerful questions.

            "When my sister found the Havens."

~~ ^ ~~

            ::My roommate is a little creepy…::

            Alie glanced across the room to where her roommate was sitting on her cot.  However, that was all her roommate seemed to be doing.

            Supposedly, the girl's name was Lyrissa, from the Border area.  She had managed to pick that up from Bryant when he had dropped her off.

            But if she didn't know better, she'd swear she had acquired a statue over a roommate.

            The bags had been left unpacked, and the only reason why Alie knew the girl moved at all was because she saw her leave at the morning bell for breakfast.  She never said a word, and while Alie didn't mind if her roommate had a strong desire for privacy, this was just getting a little scary.

            It was worse when she actually chose to ask a question.  The few times Alie had tried to be friendly, those clouded blue eyes simply focused, not on her, but a spot slightly past her.  As if she had been to the Havens and back and knew everything that would come to pass.

            Alie was always the first to look away.

~~ ^ ~~

            It was that girl again.

            Every morning, after breakfast, she would help to clean up the dishes even though she wasn't part of the clean-up crew.

            And every morning, after she had rinsed her own utensils, she would spend a good portion of a candlemark scrubbing at her hands.  Karm was starting to think that she would rub her hands raw if she continued with this behavior.

            Almost regular as clockwork, she would pause while scrubbing her hands, staring at them as if they were not truly cleansed.  Karm could see her shaking, ever so slightly, as if in fear.

            What could there possibly be to fear in his kitchen?

            Karm was the easy going sort, and the first time he had seen her, he had simply let her do as she liked, thinking she was originally part of the crew.

            The second time, he had questioned the other Trainees as to why she seemed to be so stubborn about her hands.

            The third time, he had tried to ask her himself and had only been the recipient of cloudy blue eyes.

            By the sixth time, he was starting to get unnerved.

            As he glanced over, he abstractly noticed that the water carried slight tendrils of red being drawn down the drain with the usual soap bubbles.

            Red?

            Dropping the plate he was washing, he grabbed at the girl's hands.

            They had begun to bleed.

~~ ^ ~~

            Healer Jesin shook his head, looking up at his charge.  Lyrissa was the epitome of meekness, head down and hands tucked behind her back.  Of course, it was those hands that had caused such a stir in the kitchens today, and right before class too.

            Lyrissa was definitely a mystery.  Jesin made it a point to always keep tabs on all his students, so he had copies of all the reference letters each had carried with them to the Healer's Collegium.

            Evidently the local Healer's Temple in her area had made it a point to keep track of all the youngsters with potential.  They were all checked at an early age since for some reason, the area had a strong streak of producing people who had a strong Gift.  Lyrissa had been old enough that the Temple didn't think her Gift was going to manifest itself and the channel would stay closed.

            Until the day she had collapsed at the Temple steps, close to death.  The Temple had gone into a frenzy, trying to figure out what exactly had happened.  She had blood stained on her clothing, but no wounds.  The Healer who had first probed her for any Gift also now received a strong shock; Lyrissa now had a very strong mental shield as if it had always been there.  As if she had been trained for years.

            The Healer could, quite frankly, not get Lyrissa packed fast enough to ship her towards the Collegium.

            However, the reference also held an interesting dichotomy.  It claimed that before the Gift had manifested, the girl had been bright and cheery.  Holding a passion for animals, they had adored her and she had adored them in return.  It also mentioned a younger sister, one who had followed Lyrissa around like a baby chick would its mother.  In fact, it painted such a carefree, gentle picture that if the reference letter hadn't been from another Healer, Jesin would have thought the writer had been observing another girl of the same name.

            This Lyrissa was quiet and moody.  The strong shields were there, but the eyes did not sparkle; they were cloudy.  Her voice did not brim with happiness but instead held no emotion at all.  Her walk was slow and calculated, not carefree and with abandon.  And there certainly was none of this "passion to volunteer for just about anything".  In fact, he could hardly catch her attention in class!  The girl was always staring blankly at her desk, never volunteering a word.

            Tapping the desk absently with a finger, he looked up to study the girl in front of him, still in the same meek position.  With a mental sigh, he tried to keep his voice soft and open, "Lyrissa… is there anything wrong?  Anyone bothering you, or would you like to move?  Are the classes not interesting enough?"  The fact that the Queen's Own had the insufferable torture of the Blues when she first arrived as a Trainee had put all Collegiums on an alert to anybody who could also similarly be bullied.

            Lyrissa merely shook her head.

            Jesin studied Lyrissa for a bit longer, unsure what to do.  If a student admitted no problem, then there was little in his power to try and help.  It couldn't be something terribly horrible or the Queen's Own would have been, politely but firmly, breaking down doors to get to the little knot of misery she would be able to sense.

            With a wave of his hand, Jesin gestured for Lyrissa to leave, "Well, if you should need anything, please just say so.  We may be your teachers, but we want to make you feel comfortable.  Anything at all."

            Lyrissa only nodded, eyes still fixed at a point somewhere inbetween her feet and Jesin's desk.

            ::I'm going to keep a close eye on her…:: But he nodded as well, and Lyrissa left to head to the stables, where she was supposed to assist Healer Andil in the tending of a few injured animals.

            Jesin followed a few moments later, intent on seeing if perhaps the contact with animals would revive any sort of emotion at all in this almost... shell of a person.

~~ ^ ~~

            "Ah Lyrissa, there you are."

            Healer Andil stood, brushing off hay from his trousers as he watched the new student pick her way to where he was.  She kept her head down, not looking at him in the eye.

            :: She's certainly a shy one :: thought Andil, but he merely put on his most charming smile and gestured towards the small pen behind him where an injured lamb was held.  Keeping the injured in the stables seemed best, since they stayed warm and had no chances of accidentally wandering into a foul situation.

            Lyrissa hardly ever said a word, but that was fine with Andil since he was never one to engage in chatter.  It didn't seem so long ago that he had been the shy Trainee, but while he was no longer shy, old habits died hard; he still didn't talk much unless it was absolutely necessary.

            :: But enough daydreaming ::  he scolded himself mentally, moving over to the newest admittance to the stables.  The poor lamb had been bitted by a ChangeBeast, but a small one luckily, so it had survived.  Although usually such a lamb would be tended by its owner, this one had been brought to the Healer's Collegium for the Healers to study the wounds inflicted by such creatures.

            While it wasn't a pleasant idea, it was unfortunately always possible that a human would be the next to receive a similar wound.  Healers liked to be prepared.

            Lyrissa had always been good with the animals.  While quiet, they seemed to immediately take to her and settle down.  Those in pain seemed to know that the strange human was here to help.  Perhaps there was some Animal Empathy as part of her gifts; Andil would have to check up on that.  Funny how she never showed any emotion, though, even when the animals were practically lying in her lap.

            Bending down, he looked over his shoulder to notice that Lyrissa seemed transfixed by the sight of the wound.  She too, bent down, hands gently grasping the leg which had been wounded.  At first, that was all Andil thought she would do.  Perhaps she was Healing and he merely couldn't sense it?  Her shields still seemed to be up, which made it unlikely.  Plus, the lesson wasn't supposed to be to Heal, though, but to bandage after Andil had done his work.

            Calling upon his own Healing gift, he looked at the lamb's injury, the small bacteria likely to cause infection appearing as small purple glows.  It wasn't anything serious – it didn't seem like this particular ChangeBeast had been poisonous.  Andil was about to drop his gift and reach for light disinfectant and bandages when he paused and frowned.

            A dark glow was threading its way through the purple.  The purple pulsed at a steady beat, then started to expand, growing in number.  The infection was spreading, and quite rapidly!

            Jerking his head up, he looked at Lyrissa, still clinging to the leg.  Her face, usually so blank of emotion, seemed frozen in an expression of terror.  Yet, Andil could tell it was her work that was causing the sudden infection – she was doing a Counter-Healing!

            "Lyrissa, what on earth are you doing?"  Yanking Lyrissa's hands off the lamb's leg, Andil quickly sent a strong hammer of his Gift at the dark glow to chase it away and hopefully stop the proliferation of the bacteria.  Forgetting himself for a moment, he slapped at Lyrissa's face, hoping that such a blow would knock her back to reality.

            His shock and anger combined with his attempts to not lose his head made him quiver with suppressed emotion.  "A Counter-Healing!" he yelled, standing up and glaring at Lyrissa.  "Girl, we do not do that sort of thing!  We do not poison, we bring relief!"

            Her face, still full of terror, was not faced towards him, though.  Lyrissa was staring at her hands.

            "The blood…"           

            That but a stop to Andil's rant.  Blood?  There was no blood?  Lyrissa's hands were a little chapped, but there was no blood.  "Lyrissa?"  He ran a hand through his hair, his multitude of emotions having him speak more than he usually did.  "Look, I'm sorry I lost my head but –"

            Lyrissa looked up, her eyes full of terror and revulsion.  The blue eyes, usually so clouded, were crystal clear with emotion now.

            "The blood… Jinny…"

            And then she fainted.

~  So what do you think?  Good, bad?  Chap. 2 will hopefully be done soon =)  See you then! ~