It’s been a while since I was inspired to do one of these. But I was, and I can promise that this is part of something far more. I was also inspired by my families recent trips to France and to the commemorations in Arras where our Great Grandfather was a Tunneler. So from a song and from a family history comes a small part of a much greater flood of stories to come one day.
Others were getting suspicious. Young men would come into the hospital near death, or about to lose limbs, and they would have almost miraculous recoveries.
Mathilde knew the truth about the miracles. The truth was, it was all because of Mathilde and her two dads.
Mathilde had been born to a doctor and his wife in Paris. Both were now dead and Mathilde had nearly joined them. Her mother had been the first to fall sick, and her father had worked so hard to save her. He could not, and a fortnight before her death he became very ill himself. Mathilde nursed them both but she could do little ease their suffering. Her mother died one cold morning and her father followed a few nights later. Paris was under martial law at the time and many areas were controlled by factions. A deeply religious man decided that Mathilde had to be infected too and could not be allowed to leave her house to infect others. She was boarded inside, screaming for help. Hysteria saw many others suffer as she did. She was left with the bodies of her deceased parents to die of illness or starve to death.
Luc and Milo were drawn to her cries and found the emaciated nineteen-year-old woman very near to death. They did not fear the illness, they were near immortal Children of the Night, and they offered Mathilde the chance to become one of them. There was an instant bond between the three and Mathilde agreed. She was transformed that night and she had never regretted the decision.
For though they were reviled and hated for what they were supposed to be, they had great power to help others. And with the world being torn about by war now, many years later, that was what they were doing. Few of their kind had the gift to heal, but they did, and they would willingly use it.
“We’ve got more coming in, the trucks are already arriving outside,” another nurse said. She side-eyed Mathilde as she spoke. “We’re going to need a miracle to save most of them from what I’m hearing.”
Mathilde was not sure if that was permission or acceptance of her gifts from the older nurse, but if miracles were needed, she would give them. The men were dying in their thousands and Mathilde and her fathers could only do so much.
The hospital began to echo with the screams of the injured, it was the ones that weren’t screaming that Mathilde went to first.
Her breath caught in her throat as she stood beside one young soldier. He was not a French boy, one of the soldiers come to aid them. She had never seen him before in her life but Mathilde felt an instant connection.
“He is too far gone, Mattie.” Luc stood beside her. “Too much magic would be needed to save him, seek out others.”
“I cannot, Father. I cannot explain it but he must be saved.”
Luc let out a curse and shook his head. “Begin then, my daughter. I will aid when I return.”
Mathilde nodded and knelt beside the stretcher on the ground. The room was chaos and no one had time to watch what she was doing. Mathilde considered turning the young man, something inside her wished to do so. But he was in no position to give consent and the result could be a greater monster than the Germans.
He needed blood, a lot of blood. He drank from her wrist and she worked her blood into his wounds. She willed him to heal but there was nothing more that she could do than she was. She was weak from the loss of so much of her blood and she needed to feed. She could not.
She would never drink from the dying or the injured. It was unconscionable.
There were more to save. Hundreds, thousands. This boy was in the hands of the Gods or his God.
Mathilde worked with the others until she collapsed. Luc found her and fed her while Milo aided her boy. They were all exhausted but Luc and Milo were less picky about who they fed on so could aid Mathilde when she needed. They had to make sure their daughter was taken care of, the same as any parent.
“He lives, though whether he shall recover is no longer with us. We have done what we can. He will wake if he is meant to.”
“I think he is meant to.” Mathilde got up off the floor where she had fallen. Luc supported her, she was still weak, even after feeding. “I need to see him.”
Luc helped her through the wards to where the boy had been put. In the low light, she could see the steady rise and fall of his chest. She touched his forehead to see if he was fevered.
He was not but her touch disturbed him.
Luc let out a sound of laughter that was far too loud in the dark ward and he quickly stopped himself. “Did he say….?”
“I think he did,” Mathilde replied and tilted her head to look at the boy. He seemed about her own age. “Maybe he is dreaming of a good home cooked meal.”
“I think most here do,” Luc agreed. “He speaks which is a good sign that he will be okay. You must rest if you wish to help others.”
Mathilde nodded and let herself be put to bed. It seemed there would always be more to help.
It took four days for the boy to wake and when he did he seemed energised. He might have sprung out of bed but his leg was not yet healed. It had taken a lot to keep him alive. The magic had not gone far enough to heal him completely. It would be a few weeks before he was back on his leg, and maybe a month before he could be sent back to the front lines.
Everyone called him by his last name O’Connor and Mathilde did too. Though he often asked her to call him husband. He was absurdly cute with his daily declarations of love for the young nurse, and many of the other soldiers she tended got threatened with being taken out back and thrashed when they flirted like he did.
He healed quicker than expected. Another miracle. And Mathilde almost regretted the help she was giving him. He’d be leaving all too soon.
“Come on, Lass. At least promise me a dance after we get out of here.”
“You make it home alive from the war and I’ll promise you that dance.”
“What about us, love? Can we get a dance too?” One of the other men asked. He was to be discharged this week, well enough to go back and fight again. It pained Mathilde to know that many she healed would not make it back home.
“Get home safely and we’ll talk about it.”
“You slay me, Lass,” O’Connor teased. “What does a fella have to do to make you his own?”
“I’m not sure I’m the right woman for any gent,” Mathilde admitted. She was so drawn to O’Connor and her fathers would often exchange knowing looks. Mathilde couldn’t give in though. She was not like he was.
His last night came all too soon and Mathilde allowed herself a private moment with him in one of the storage rooms.
“Could you love a boy like me?”
“Write to me, come back safely to me and we’ll see what happens,” Mathilde promised. She couldn’t help herself, she had real feelings for O’Connor in a way she could not explain.
“I’ll come back for you. I’ll always come back for you.”
He kissed her and Mathilde melted against his body. The kiss was passionate and left them both breathless.
“Come back then,” Mathilde said and she fled, tears streaming down her cheeks. She knew she would be broken if he joined the others in the mass graves that were far too full. She had saved his life and healed his wounds, but she could not protect him as he returned to the fight.
There were only so many miracles they could give, and far too many in the world needed them. All Mathilde could do was keep her secret and pray that he would be safe. Keep two secrets.
Because truth be told, she could love a boy like him. In fact, it was quite certain she had loved him since the moment she had stood beside his stretcher.
Why else did her heart tell her he must live?