The following morning, Rae came downstairs with her bag and saw the innkeeper setting things up for the day. “Good morning, sir. How are you feeling?”
He turned and smiled at her. “Good morning, Miss, and I feel much better this morning. That medicine really did the trick. Haven’t slept that well in days.”
Rae smiled with satisfaction. “Don’t forget to keep using it for a sevenday. It may seem better, but it won’t go away completely until then.”
“I won’t forget. Thank you.”
Rae waved off his thanks as she gave back the key. “I just wanted to help.” As she left, she called over her shoulder, “May the gods bless you.”
The innkeeper couldn’t help but think they did when they lead her to him. He’d known the cough was worse than he led everyone to believe but he couldn’t afford a physician. She’d probably just saved his life.
Rae hurried back to Ada’s little home to check on her patient. Santo was sitting up and talking with his wife when Rae arrived.
“Good morning, Ada.” She turned her smile to Santo. “And it’s good to see you awake now.”
“It’s good to be awake.” He winced. “Though it still hurts.”
“It will for a while.” Rae knelt next to him and pushed the blanket off his leg so she could get to his injury. “Other than the pain, how do you feel?”
“His fever broke during the night,” Ada answered for her husband with a wide smile. Happiness transformed her from a simple, tired woman to radiant. “It’s all thanks to you. Right, Santo?”
Her husband nodded with an indulgent smile. “So, you’ve told me.”
Rae showed Ada how to treat the wound and change the bandages. “This way you can do it yourself. It will have to be done three times a day until the wound closes up again and the swelling goes down completely.”
Ada nodded and listened carefully as Rae instructed her. Once that was done, Rae gave Ada the jar of ointment.
“But won’t you need it?” Ada asked.
“No. I can always make more.”
Ada teared up again as she took the jar. “You’ve done so much, and I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to repay you yet.”
Santo took his wife’s hand in his as he spoke to Rae. “Yes, you saved my life and we’ve done nothing for you.”
“If you really want to do more. Save that jar, and when someone else needs a wound treated for infection, help them in return.”
Ada nodded enthusiastically. “I will.”
“Good.” Rae hoisted her bag over her shoulder again. “I’m off then. I have a ship to catch. Take care, Ada.”
Rae made it to the port this time and was walking down the dock looking for a ship heading to Cavos when she heard someone shouting her name. Turning, she saw Ada running up with another woman beside her.
The two women were out of breath and had to take a minute before explaining. Ada started by saying, “I’m sorry but my friend needs your help. Her daughter is sick and no one knows why.”
“Why not ask a physician?” Rae asked.
“I did,” the woman answered. “They won’t help me because I don’t have enough money to pay for any treatments.”
Rae hesitated, her grip tightening on the strap of her bag with indecision.
“Please,” the other woman begged. “My daughter needs help and I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried everything I know. When Ada told me you helped her husband, I hoped that maybe you could help my daughter.”
Rae felt the squeeze of sympathy on her heart and knew she couldn’t walk away. “Okay. Take me to her.”
After treating the woman’s daughter, it was too late to find a ship and buy passage, so she stayed the night in the inn again. The next morning, Rae came downstairs to find someone waiting for her.
“Please, my brother broke his arm. The innkeeper told me that you would help us?”
Rae held in her sigh of frustration with a smile and a nod. “Of course. Let’s go.”
When she returned that night, she told the innkeeper she’d need the room for yet another night.
He pushed the coins back towards her when she tried to pay him. “No charge anymore.”
“It’s the least I can do,” he interrupted her. “After the medicine you gave me and for helping my neighbors. You aren’t getting paid for any of this, so a free room is nothing compared to what you’re giving away.”
She wasn’t sure she agreed. After all, she was only doing what anyone else should do if they knew how, but the innkeeper wasn’t going to budge so she simply thanked him.
The next morning, yet another person was waiting to beg for her help. It didn’t end there. It seemed all of The Slums needed something. One after another came begging for her help once they heard she asked for nothing.
After several days of this, she came across one that no medicine would be able to save. A woman named Berta had caught The Fever. Her body burned from the inside, fighting something that couldn’t be seen by the human eye. Racking coughs shook her so hard she could barely get enough air to supply her body’s needs. Food and drink didn’t stay in her stomach no matter what it was.
Rae didn’t need to examine her to know the horrifying truth. “There is nothing that can be done with medicine.”
The woman’s husband, Tino, begged, “There must be something. Anything. I’ll do anything you ask.”
“It’s not a matter of payment. It’s impossible within the bounds of the law.”
“You mean there is something that’s not legal?” Tino demanded.
Rae hesitated then nodded. She was taking a risk admitting this much, but her heart couldn’t help it. It was the only option.
“I don’t care what it is. If it saves her, I don’t care,” Tino shouted.
Rae felt a squeeze on her chest as she watched tears roll town his face with his frustration. It was somehow harder watching such a big, strong looking man crumble. But saving Berta’s life would mean risking her own.
“Please,” Tino asked her again.
“Very well,” Rae caved with some reservations. However, it wouldn’t be the first time she’d risked her life to save another. If she survived, it probably wouldn’t be the last.
Turning, she placed her hands on the woman’s bare stomach and focused. Her power worked through touch and love. After a moment, both her hands began to glow the color of spring leaves. Green was the color of life, of rebirth, of healing. So, when a healer used their magic, that was the color everyone saw.
She heard the gasp behind her but kept her focus on the task at hand. If she stopped for even a moment, she’d have to start over. Depending on the amount of magical energy she had left, that could be a fatal mistake for her patient.
Going through the process one step at a time, she repaired the damage done to the lungs, then helped the fever burn away the unseen enemy attacking it. To her magic’s eye, it was black and coating the inside of the woman’s body. Rae let out a relieved breath as her magic worked. She’d been afraid the disease had spread too much for her to help, or that Death had decided to interfere. When Thanatos called, even a healer couldn’t save someone.
After she’d burned the last of the disease away, she sat back. Her body shook slightly and now felt as if it weighed as much as a mountain troll. She felt like she’d been running for leagues.
“Okay. She’ll be okay.” Her words slurred. “Just needs…a…little…rest.” With that she collapsed.
When she woke, Rae expected to find herself in a cell, arrested for magic. Instead, she found herself still in the home she passed out in, only laid out among some blankets in a makeshift bed.
Pushing herself upright, she looked around to see Tino and Berta sitting together across the room with Ada and Santo.
Ada stood and moved to kneel next to her the moment she sat up. “Are you okay? We were worried.”
Rae watched them warily. “I’m not sure. Why are you here?”
“Well, Tino and Berta are close friends and came to get us when you collapsed.” She gave Rae a solemn look. “They told us what happened. All of it.”
“And you didn’t turn me in?” Rae asked slowly. “You’re not afraid of me?”
They shook their heads.
“You saved me,” Berta answered. “How could I be afraid now?”
“You’ve been helping everyone this whole time,” Tino added. “You’re the only one that’s helped us. So, to be honest, it’s partially self-preservation. Who would help us if we turned you in?”
She smiled a little. “Thank you. But surely the physicians…”
They were already shaking their heads.
“We told you, they charge more than anyone in The Slums can possibly afford,” Ada told her bitterly. “In fact, physicians are the reason some of the people in The Slums ended up here. They went into debt getting a physician’s help.”
“That’s what happened to us,” Tino informed her. “Berta had complication during her pregnancy. It took all we had to afford the care she needed from the physicians.
“Oh, I see.” Rae looked down at her hands as she clenched them. They shamed the profession her father had been so proud to be a member of and shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves physicians. “Then, there really isn’t anyone to help those with nothing to give.”
They shook their heads.
“Please,” Berta begged, “I understand you are planning on leaving Vitali?”
Rae nodded. “For obvious reasons, it’s not really very safe for me to stay here.”
“But, if you leave, who will help us when we’re sick or injured. Those of us with nothing have no one.”
“I…” Rae wasn’t sure what to say. “I’m sorry, but it’s a death sentence for me to stay.”
“Please,” they all begged. “The Slums need you. We’ll keep your secret.”
Rae looked at each of them. She had tended to them or their families in the last sevenday since she’d arrived to Corthira. Sitting back, she opened her senses. The pain that swarmed her was immense.
Healing powers were both a blessing and a curse. Those with her power felt the pain of others as if it were their own. She felt their bruises and scrapes. She knew who was sick, who was in agony, and who was dying.
Rae closed her senses back down so that she only could sense those within her immediate location. She couldn’t leave them knowing that she’d be condemning most of them. The smile she gave them must have told them her answer because they all seemed to sink with relief.
“Okay. But I will need a few things in order to help effectively. Magic does not solve everything.”
“We will do whatever we can.”
“Let’s get started then.”