Over the next fifteen days, Rae settled into The Slums with no trouble and had plenty to keep her busy.
The beds came nearly a sevenday after she ordered them. Silas and his apprentice brought them to her personally, making sure to help her set them up. To her surprise, Silas had made her two more beds, waving off any objections she made or attempts to pay him more.
“I’m sure you’ll make it up to me at some point,” he answered with a smile. “I’m not getting any younger. Eventually, I will need your services, I’m sure.”
Rae smiled. “And you will always get help here.”
After she had beds, she officially opened her clinic. When the sick and injured from The Slums came to her, all she asked is that they provide what they could to the clinic. Some collected herbs for her. Some gave a few hours a day to help her in the clinic. Others provided bowls, pots, towels, blankets, and even in one case a few tables. All of which went into her clinic for use.
Her personal things were still very lacking. She kept deciding she just didn’t have the money for new clothes, cooking utensils, or even her own personal bed. Not that she had much time to notice. She was kept very busy.
True to their promise, the few people who knew she had magic, didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone. None of them so much as hinted at it out loud after that initial conversation they’d had when she agreed to stay.
Her only annoyance was that she didn’t have all the herbs she needed. There was one in particular that she could use for helping calm upset stomachs, like the one on the little boy she was currently treating.
“I have some things that will help, but it will take time,” Rae told his worried mother. The father was out working in the fields at the moment.
“But he’ll be okay?”
“Most likely. It’s hard to say at the moment.”
That was a lie. Rae knew he’d be fine as long as she fused her magic into the medicines she made. She had discovered years ago that she could use her power to give her medicines a boost, making them much more effective. Adding a touch of her magic was now a routine part of her medicine making process. However, this used her energy and she only had so much to go around.
She poured medicine into a jar and held it out to the mother. “Here. Make sure he drinks half a cup of this once a day and he should be fine.”
After the grateful mother and her son left, Rae commented to no one in particular, “Suka root would have worked better. I haven’t been able to find any while gathering herbs yet.” She sighed. “Well, what I have will work, just not as effectively or quickly.”
“Maybe you should ask around at the docks,” one of her patients, a man who’d broken his leg, suggested to her.
“Don’t tell her to go down there,” someone else snapped at him. “You know the people along the docks are all cutthroats and murderers.”
“Are they really that bad?” she asked.
“They’re run by Luca Ramberti, and he’s no pushover.”
“Smart as a whip that one,” one of the other patients agreed. “Ruthless when it suits him.”
“It’s because of him that The Docks have their own set of rules. But that is where you might find things you can’t find elsewhere. Ramberti has access to a lot of cargo.”
Before the conversation could continue her door burst open and two men carrying a third hurried inside. “Help. We need help. Gio needs help. He can’t walk anymore.”
Rae rushed over. The whisper of her magic told her this man was dying. “Get him on the bed. What is his name?”
“Gio,” they answered, setting their sick friend down on the bed.
The moment one of them released his burden, he straightened saying, “I can go get a physician.”
“Don’t bother,” Tino told them. He had taken to helping Rae every chance he had since she’d used her magic to save his wife. “Rae can handle anything and without all the problems that comes with using a physician.”
Rae was ignoring them at this point. She checked Gio’s pupils, breathing, heartbeat, and temperature, all while calling his name trying to get a response. He gave no indication he could even hear her.
Covering his body was a strange rash. Blisters filled with a clear liquid dotted his skin. Many had been popped and were surrounded by scratch marks. His breathing was shallow, like his lungs were having trouble functioning. When she’d opened his mouth, she saw more of the rash inside it and down his throat. This wasn’t an illness she’d come across before.
“How long has he been ill?” she asked.
“The rash and fever started about two days ago,” one of his friends answered.
She looked at him in surprise. “He’s gotten this sick in just two days?”
“Even The Fever doesn’t attack that quickly,” she muttered, more to herself than the others around her.
Hurrying over to her stove where she kept a pot full of boiling water, she grabbed a cup and placed several herbs on the bottom before pouring hot water into the cup.
“Help him sit up,” she ordered, carrying the cup over. “I need him to drink this.”
Tino did as she said, since his friends still seemed unsure about letting her help Gio without getting a physician.
Rae knew Gio didn’t have time for them to be indecisive. Placing her hand on Gio’s back, she let her power flow to that point of contact. No one could see the glow around her hand as she used just enough power to get him to drink the medicine.
Once he’d finished, Tino laid him back down for her. Between her magic and the medicine, the man’s breathing was already better than when he’d come in. Placing her hand on his forehead, the senses her magic provided told her that the fever was already slowly going down. He was still critical, but she had bought him a little time.
“I have to make something more potent for him,” she said as she tucked the blanket around him. She didn’t think it would work, but she had to try.
Mixing the things she needed together, she made an ointment for him then infused some of her power into it. She still wasn’t sure it would be enough. Something had to be done about that rash and the blisters. Each one he’d scratched open was developing an infection. And if these spread into his mouth and throat, that might be why his lungs were having problems.
Washing her hands thoroughly with hot water, she wished she had some vera. It might help soothe the itch even better than the herbal mixture she was using. She picked up the ointment telling herself, ‘I’ll just have to make do.’ It wasn’t like the ointment wouldn’t work. She was just certain it would work better with vera mixed in as well.
Spreading the ointment over his skin, she realized she was going to need to get to the areas under his clothes. Without batting an eyelash, she grabbed scissors and cut it all off of him. Several of the women in the clinic gasped and blushed before averting their eyes. Rae proceeded to spread the ointment over the blistered areas of his skin. She had to make more of the ointment before she was done.
The moment she was done, Rae sat with a frustrated sigh. The medicine was only treating the symptoms and while sometimes that was enough, such as with The Fever, it didn’t seem to be doing the trick this time. She had to do something about the internal damage to his lungs and throat. However, the only way to treat those was by inhaling something. None of the medicines she had would work for this situation.
“I just don’t have all the things I need,” she muttered to herself. ‘Maybe I should break my rule and just heal him,’ she considered.
She looked up at Tino.
“Is he going to be okay?”
Rae looked past him at the man’s friends, who were watching her with hopeful faces. Making up her mind, she stood back up. “Yes, Tino. He’s going to be just fine.”
Tino understood what she wasn’t saying and turned to Gio’s friends. “Hear that. I told you Rae would take care of him. Now he’s going to be needing new clothes. How about you go get him some?”
The two nodded eagerly and hurried off. Happy to be able to do something to help.
Once they were gone, Tino and Rae hurried to get the others in the clinic taken care of and out the door. As soon as the last person left, Rae rushed to the dying man’s side again. Taking his face in her hands, she let her power flow once again. She didn’t worry about the external damage. That she could treat. What she wanted to mend was inside him. The lungs. Her power eased the pain and cleared away the blisters that had formed. Gio drew his first normal breath since he’d become sick.
Rae smiled with relief, then promptly passed out.
As usual, she woke a few hours later and was starving. Tino and his wife, Berta, were both there. Berta was holding a bowl of soup.
“How are you feeling, Rae?”
“I’m fine.” Rae sat up and gratefully took the soup.
“You passed out like that when you used your power to cure Berta too,” Tino pointed out with a puzzled expression.
“Magic comes at a cost,” Rae explained between bites. For her this was all normal, so her tone remained matter of fact. “For most magi, it’s like running for miles. It leaves the body tired and needing food. I think it’s a defense mechanism. Kind of like why you’re tired when sick. The body is insisting you do what it needs to in order to make sure you take care of it. Magic is as necessary for me as air or blood. If I were to use every last drop, it would cost me my life. So, my body gets tired so that I’ll pass out before reaching that point.”
“You wouldn’t go that far, would you?” Tino asked her. “Use up all that energy, I mean? Even if you could?”
Rae looked up at him, finally hearing the tremor in his voice. His muscles were tight, and a frown marred his usually happy face.
Needing to put him at ease, she smiled warmly. “No worries, Tino. I’m fine. Just a little sleep and I’m good as new.” Before they noticed she hadn’t actually answered the question, she stood up. Handing the empty bowl back to Berta. “Let’s go check on Gio, shall we.”