They started with finding her a place to live that she could also work in. The problem came with finding a place big enough for her purposes. She’d need a still room for drying herbs and making medicines; an area for patients she needed to keep an eye on overnight; and a place for her living areas. In The Slums, places like this were rare and most already taken.
Which was how Rae found herself standing in front of a large run down building that would need work before she could use it. “ Well, this will be just fine so long as we can repair it. Does someone already own it?”
“Not really,” Tino answered. “It’s why the slums are where the poor go. No one collects rent. If you can claim it, it’s yours. Run down as it is.”
“That’s something at least. Do we have the skill and supplies to repair it?”
“Most of us have the skill,” Santo answered. Now that he was mostly recovered from the infection, he along with everyone else Rae had treated was standing with her examining the only building big enough for her needs. “As for supplies, that could be more difficult.”
“As you already know, we don’t have the money to pay for what we need,” Ada added.
“May not need the money,” Tino told them, rubbing as his chin in thought. “I know a guy who works with lumber and he owes me. I’ll talk to him.”
“He owes you money?” Rae asked.
“In a way. Those of us who don’t have enough money, sometimes work out a barter system. For example, I work in a blacksmith shop. I provided something he needed, so now in exchange he’ll provide what I need.”
“I see.” Rae considered this as she examined the building. “Maybe I’ll work the same way. I do need to survive but I don’t want to charge anyone something they can’t give. A return of favors, so to speak, would be a perfect solution.”
Tino left to see about the lumber they’d need. Everyone else got to work removing what couldn’t be salvaged.
Tino returned with another man he told them was the lumber miller. “He’s agreed to provide what we needed to repay me and one favor from you, Rae.”
She tilted her head. “And what would that favor be?”
“My daughter has been having trouble with her breathing lately. I don’t want to go to the physicians since they will demand everything I have in payment.”
Rae smiled. “I think we can work something out.”
Tino and the miller brought the lumber needed to repair the building allowing them to finish getting it ready for use. It took time. All four of her new friends had regular jobs they had to go to, so most of the work had to be done around their schedules.
Just after a sevenday, Rae stood inside her new home. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do for now.
She wished she had real beds. She’d have to make do with pallets on the floor. Ada, a seamstress by trade, said she could make Rae some blankets as long as Rae could buy the fabric. Rae had agreed. She did have money she’d inherited from her father to pay for some things. It was originally for the ticket to sail to Cavos. Now it would be for funding her clinic.
Turning, she grabbed a basket on her way out the door. She had a lot to do today, starting with collecting herbs for medicines. As she walked through the streets, she looked around with more interest than she had before. This was her new home now. A part of her still felt terrified at the idea of living right under the noses of those who would demand her head if they ever found out about her.
Rae waved to those who wished her good morning when she passed by. It had been a half lunar cycle since her arrival in Corthira and already she was becoming a fixture in The Slums.
Her eyes were caught by the enormous castle at the edge of the city. It was a very beautiful building with tall towers and large windows. She could see the tops of trees over the castle walls in what she heard were impressive gardens. All in all, it was a testament to Vitali’s wealth for all to see.
Vitali could afford such luxuries after all. Their mines were plentiful and generous. Even the common folk could afford nice things now and then. At least, they could outside of the cities. She was quickly learning that within the cities themselves, wealth was not so simple. There were those who would take whatever someone else had without batting an eye. Those, and she included the physicians in this, were no better than the bandits that raided villages out in the country.
She shrugged off her irritation. It didn’t do any good to be upset about things she had no control over. She’d made a promise to her mother. In that promise, bitterness and hate had no place.
Rae waved to guards on her way out of the gates. She had to make sure to be back inside the gates by nightfall. Forest trolls were a problem for the whole continent. As a result, no one lived outside the protection of city walls. Farms were plowed and planted by laborers right outside those walls and the workers returned inside the city or village before sundown when the gates were locked.
She wasn’t too concerned with timing. Most of the herbs that grew around here would be easy enough to locate. Her problem would come when she needed the herbs that didn’t grow here. She was certain there would be someone who could provide what she needed somewhere inside the city. It was a problem she’d have to solve eventually though. If only she could get seeds from those particular plants.
“Oh well. I’m sure Chesed will provide what I need eventually,” she told herself as she stepped off the road and into the forest.
Chesed always did provide for her in one way or another. At least, when possible. The Goddess who looked after her always seemed to take a hand in Rae’s life whenever she needed something. Even when her father fell ill, she felt Chesed’s presence. Her comfort when even her power couldn’t save him. Thanatos had called him to the afterlife and no one could defy the God of the Dead. Not even Goddess Chesed.
Rae kept an eye out as she walked through the forest, stopping each time she saw one of the many herbs she could use for medicines.
When she’d decided she had enough herbs for the moment, she began making her way back towards the city. The moment she reached the road, she felt the rush of pain hit her senses and spun around. There was a young boy laying on the ground crying out as a horse charged towards him. Without thinking, she raced over, dropping her basket in the process.
“Woah,” she shouted out holding her hands up to the horse, moving to stand between it and the boy. More calmly, she said, “Easy. Calm down.”
The horse didn’t seem sure what to make of her at first. It slowed, heaving air in and out as it danced in place.
“Shhh.” She reached out and placed a hand on his nose. “Shhh. It’s okay. You’re okay.”
At her touch, the horse relaxed and let out a long breath.
“There you go. Nice and easy.”
She made sure the horse was completely calm before turning and kneeling next to the boy. He was cradling his left arm against his body and whimpering. Smiling softly, she asked the obvious to help calm him. “Are you okay?”
He shook his head. “Everything hurts.”
“May I take a look?”
She heard other horses approaching but didn’t pay them any attention. Her focus was on the boy. He sat up straighter and held his arm out.
Rae ran gentle fingers over it, though she already knew what was wrong with it. A minor sprain that would heal with time as long as he was careful with it. Over all, he was going to be one big bruise for a while. He winced several times and cried out when she touched his ribs.
“You fell off, didn’t you?” she asked him with a smile.
He nodded. “I was thrown.”
She realized that he talked very well for a boy his age – about six she estimated. Probably educated, she decided. Which meant he came from money. Which would explain the nice clothes and shoes.
“I see. Well, you’ll be okay in a few weeks, but it’s going to hurt a lot in between.”
He didn’t seem to like that idea, but didn’t get a chance to comment before someone on horseback was next to them demanding, “Are you okay, young Lord?”
“Everything hurts,” he repeated.
Rae looked at the man as she stood. The ‘young Lord’ part confirmed that this boy wasn’t just some random child. Getting involved with anyone, even a child, with a title could be bad for her health.
The man who spoke dismounted and rushed over to look the boy over.
Rae started to sidle away, but another man still on horseback gave her a look that told her she had to stay put.
Trying to hide just how terrified she was, she stood silently.
“You don’t seem seriously injured,” the man examining the boy said as he calmed down. “What happened?”
“I see. I told you not to ride ahead of us like that,” the man chided.
The boy looked down, shuffling his feet. “I’m sorry.”
“Just don’t do it again. You’re still learning, young Lord.” The man stood and turned to face Rae. “And you are?”
“My name is Rae.” When he continued to stare, she elaborated while gesturing to her basket, “I’m an herbalist and was out collecting herbs.”
“She stopped the horse from running me over,” the boy chimed in helpfully.
“Did she now.” Without saying anything else, he lifted the boy back onto the horse. The boy struggled for a moment before the man said, “Enough. You can’t stay afraid of getting back on the horse.”
Pouting the boy settled back onto the saddle.
With that done, the man walked over and gathered her basket. He returned it to her saying, “Thank you for helping him.”
She blushed and said, “No need to thank me. I just did what anyone should have done.”
“Should have and would have are two different things.” He pulled a pouch from his belt and placed it in her basket.
With that, he mounted up then lead the way back towards the city. Rae watched them go before opening up the pouch. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head at the amount of coins inside. Whoever those people were, they were very well off to be this generous.
“I guess I can afford beds after all.”
She shoved the pouch under the herbs she collected and made her way back inside the gates.
Back in her clinic, she went into the still room and began setting up to make some of the more common ointments and oils she’d need. Once that was going, the remaining herbs went upstairs to the room she’d selected for drying out to use for later. Not all medicines kept well and would have to be made with dry ingredients.
Once that was done, she grabbed her pouch of money and headed out to craftsman road. She glanced up at the signs looking for the one that would have an image of a hammer and an axe crossed over each other, which was the universal symbol for a carpenter shop. Since a majority of people couldn’t read, most shops just used simple symbols on their signs that everyone could recognize.
She saw three shops with that symbol. Pausing she tried to figure out which one she needed. Underneath each carpenter symbol she saw something else. One had a house frame. Another had cabinets on it. The third had chairs and beds.
Deciding the one with a bed and chair was probably what she needed, she hurried inside.
The shop smelled of wood and oil. She heard the sounds of something rubbing against wood. An older man with gray hair stood next to a long work table where a younger man worked with some sort of tool that seemed to be shaving small bits of the wood away.
The older man turned to her and smiled. “Hello. Can I help you?”
She nodded. “I need a few beds made.”
“You’re in the right place.” He walked over to her, leaving the younger man to his work. “My name is Silas. How many beds are we talking here?”
“I’m Rae, and five would probably be alright for now.”
Silas’s eyes widened with surprise. “Five?”
She expected his reaction. Having one bed was rare enough when one wasn’t one of the wealthy. Five was practically unheard of. “Yes.”
“I’m afraid that will cost you.”
She winced a little, thinking of the clothes she wouldn’t be able to buy or shoes. She hadn’t brought much with her from her home village and was making do for now. “I know. But I need the beds.”
“Okay. Let me work out a cost for you.”
Nodding, she watched him move over to a desk to work out measurements for what he’d need to make the beds.
“How big do you need them?”
“Adult sized but for only one person.”
He continued scribbling notes on a slate for a moment.
While the old man worked, the younger one asked, “What do you need all these beds for if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’m starting a clinic,” she answered. “The beds will be for any patients I need to keep with me overnight or isolate from others.”
Silas looked up at her suddenly. “Are you the new herbalist moving into The Slums?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“I see.” Silas looked back down, finished off a few things, then said, “3 silver coins.”
Rae winced again, then pulled out enough coins from her pouch to equal 3 silver coins.
Silas took them saying, “We’ll have them done in a few days.”
“Thank you very much, sir.”
“No. Thank you. One of the people you treated is a friend of mine. So, we’ll make sure you have what you need as quickly as we can. I would give them to you for free, but I have to make a living and pay my apprentice here.”
She smiled. “I understand. If you would though, I could use help getting them to the clinic when they’re done. I certainly can’t carry five beds.”
“We will make sure you get the help you need.”
“Thank you again.”