Getting up, he grabbed a white towel from a stack on a shelf nearby and pressed it to his face. It was quickly turning red. It was the only bit of color in the room of white and grey. Still holding the towel to his bleeding nose, he opened the supply closet door and peered out into the hall in both directions. There wasn’t a person in sight. He stepped out into the hallway and closed the door behind him. He moved quickly away from his hiding place. He had to take the towel away from his nose in order to climb a ladder up to the next deck. The blood began to drip quickly again as he climbed.
On the next deck, he pinched his nose with the towel to try and slow the blood flow, but winced in pain. He looked around for a moment and then realized where he had to go. He stepped quickly along forward, but had to stop after a moment and lean against the wall because he was feeling lightheaded. He took a few deep breaths and continued on. At last he came to the cabin door he needed, and knocked. The door popped wide open and the broad body, big stomach, and round rosy face of Father Ian appeared.
“Good to see you, Captain Dechantagne!” boomed Father Ian’s voice. “Don’t stand out in the hallway. Come in. Come in. Good gracious, what has happened to you?”
“I cut myself shaving,” said Terrence, pulling the towel away from his face. “I was hoping that you could help.”
“I should say you have!” Father Ian let out a long whistle. “Sit down. As a matter of fact, I have just the help you need right here. Sister Auni here is just the person to set you right again.”
In the corner of the room, unnoticed by Terrence until this moment was a very thin woman in the long white robes of a church acolyte. Her jet black hair was cut straight across her forehead, and hung down low in back. She had deep set grey eyes and prominent cheek bones. She stood up from her seat and was several inches taller than Terrence, though only about half as wide at the shoulder. When she spoke, it was in breathy tones.
“I’m very please to make your acquaintance, Captain Dechantagne. May I take a look at your nose please?”
She placed long thin hands on either side of his face and tilted his head upward so that she could look at his injury.
“Razor slice,” she said. “I would expect to see an injury like this in a tavern brawl.”
“Sorry. No taverns available,” said Terrence.
“In the name of the Holy Father I see your pain,” she said. “In the name of the Holy Savior I heal your wounds.”
Terrence felt life flowing from her hands. Not only did his nose stop stinging, but the pain in the back of his head and in his shoulders that he hadn’t even noticed before went away. The residual stinging in his eyes also went away. He was sure that any redness caused by the White Opthalium was gone now. Sister Auni pulled her hands away from his face and smiled.
“I knew I came to the right place,” Terrence said.
“Of course you did, my boy,” said Father Ian. “Perfect timing, too. The sister and I had just finished our prayer session. You are just in time to see her back to her cabin.
“You couldn’t be in any safer hands,” he said to Sister Auni.
“Oh indeed,” she said. “I know that already.”
Shrugging, Terrence offered his arm to the acolyte and led her out of the room.
“Good night to both of you!” Father Ian called out in his thundering voice, and then he closed the cabin door behind them.
Walking through the narrow halls of the ship, Terrence usually found it difficult to escort a lady and had to walk in a sort of shuffling sidestep to make room, and if the woman was wearing an evening gown, it was pretty much impossible to walk side by side in any case. This was not so with Sister Auni. Not only did her clerical robes flow straight from her shoulders to the floor, her entire form was scarcely as wide as his two hands splayed out side by side. Her shoulders seemed almost too narrow to hold up her normal sized head.
“Sister Auni!” A young woman Terrence didn’t know came running down the hall toward them. “Sister Auni! Mrs. Duplessis is having her baby, and the doctor wants you there as quickly as possible.”
“Lead the way, child,” said the acolyte.
The three of them made their way through a series of hatches and corridors until they came to a closed cabin door. A group of several women and girls were standing outside in the hallway. The door was quickly opened and the young woman who had fetched her, led Sister Auni inside. As she turned to close the door after her, she looked into Terrence’s face.
“Thank you, Captain Dechantagne,” she said in her breathy voice. “But I think I shall go on from here alone. Have a pleasant evening, and watch out when you are shaving.”
Terrence stood thinking for a moment. Then he gradually noticed that he was being watched from all sides by the six or seven females around him. He felt as though he had stumbled onto a stage without a script, or stepped into the middle of some savage ritual whose codex he didn’t understand.
“Ladies,” he said, and slowly backed out of the hallway, and then turned and made his way up to the topside of the ship and out onto deck.