Rae wasn’t sure what happened, but after treating Gio and his strange illness, dock workers started coming to her more often. Which is how she found herself standing in front of a boy with an upset stomach and a man in his thirties. Both were dock workers, and it broke Rae’s heart that the child had to do that kind of work. The man had noticed something was wrong with the boy and decided to bring him to someone for a checkup.
“I was a little concerned about him,” the man was telling her as she examined the boy. His throat and face seemed a little swollen, which indicated an allergic reaction to something.
“It’s no trouble…Uhh…” She glanced at the man, realizing she didn’t know his name.
“Oh, sorry. My name is Mirko. The kid works with the same dock crew as me. His name is Pietro D’Amore.”
That last name. She looked at the boy. It was given to those with no parents, which explained why he was working on the docks. There was no one to take care of him.
Smiling, she placed a hand on Pietro’s head. “Well, Pietro. I’ll have you fixed up in no time.”
The boy managed a small, pained smile in return.
She moved over to her medicine cabinet and grabbed what she’d need for the boy. At least this was an easy fix. Just a little something to calm his stomach and reduce the swelling. Probably something he ate given the stomach pain. She finished mixing the medicine and added just a touch of magic.
Returning to the boy she held out the drink. “It’ll taste bad, but it’ll also help a lot.”
Pietro wrinkled his nose but downed the medicine.
Rae laughed at his gagging sounds then asked, “What have you eaten in the last day?”
As he told her, she considered the possibilities of which one caused his illness.
Before she could say or ask more to pin down the cause, the door to her clinic swung open. A well-dressed, obviously wealthy man strolled in as if he owned the place. He looked directly at her and said without preamble, “The physicians of this city wish for you to stop.”
She stared at him in confusion. “Stop what?”
“Stop treating people.”
“So, you want me to stop working?” she demanded incredulously.
He answered as if she’d actually asked a question instead of a rhetorical one. “Precisely. You are not a physician.”
“Not technically,” she sort of agreed. Though really, she was more of a physician than any of the ones in Corthira to her mind. “I’m an herbalist.”
“Not at all,” he clarified, glaring at her.
Rae considered him calmly. “And what business is it of yours what I call myself?”
“I am an actual physician,” he sneered. “The other physicians of the city, myself included, have decided that you needed to be informed of your place.”
“Is that so?” She felt the irritation she’d been harboring against the physicians here bubble to the surface. Gesturing to all the people waiting to be treated, she said, “Then as you see, you and the other physicians have plenty of work to do, so you don’t have time to bother me.”
“These people can’t afford proper care,” he sneered.
“Then what do you care what I do with them if you aren’t going to help them?”
“You are taking from our business and you are just an herbalist.”
“You weren’t taking their business anyway.”
The physician drew himself up to his full impressive height. “I’m warning you, stay out of our business or suffer repercussions.”
With that he stormed out as agitated as when he came in.
Rae watched him go then sighed. As if she would let threats stop her. He couldn’t possibly know the lengths she’d go to ease people’s pain, but she did. There was nothing she wouldn’t sacrifice to help someone else. She’d already paid the ultimate price once. She’d pay it again gladly. His threats only forewarned her that someone didn’t like what she was up to. Well too bad for them.
She smiled at Pietro. “It’s okay. Let’s get your tummy taken care of.”
“Aren’t you worried about the physicians?” Mirko asked Rae with concern.
Rae smiled and shook her head. “Not really. They may try something, but it won’t stop me. Unless they kill me, nothing they do will stop me.” She turned her attention back to the boy. “Now, let’s find out which food made you feel bad.”
Mirko smiled at her. “You are unique.”
She looked up at him in surprise. “Huh?”
“Most wouldn’t be so giving. Most would have been scared into quitting just now.”
Rae shrugged. “I’ve been accused of being a self-sacrificing fool and I’m okay with that.”
Mirko’s eyes widened a little then softened. His voice was so quiet she didn’t hear him say, “I see.”
“I said that he started to feel bad after eating the blueberries.”
“Then he probably can’t eat those.”
“Can’t eat them?” Pietro asked his brow furrowed in confusion.
“Yes. Some people react badly to certain foods,” Rae explained. “Your body doesn’t like them, so it makes you sick when you eat them.”
“Oh.” Pietro smiled at her. “Then all I have to do is not eat blueberries.”
“Right.” She chuckled. He was just too adorable.
Mirko and Pietro left to return to work now that the boy’s stomach was calmed down and he knew how to avoid feeling that way again. As they left, Mirko told her, “You know you’re not alone in this city, right?”
She tilted her head, “What?”
“There are many like you. Like me. Like Pietro here. We have more. We’re not…normal.”
Her eyes widened as she realized he was talking about magic. Maybe this was a trap of some sort. Trying to lure out someone of magic by making them think you too were magic. She looked down, trying to think when she saw his hands. They were glowing a little. A soft green just like her own magic. Her eyes jerked back up to Mirko’s face. He smiled and nodded again before leading Pietro away.
A healer! He’s a healer. That magic was unique. Only those blessed by Chesed could possibly possess it.
“So, he was being serious and trying to be kind,” she muttered to herself thoughtfully. She smiled a little. Just like a healer to reassure someone else at risk to themselves, because what if he’d been wrong about her.
She hurried back into the clinic. “I’m coming.”
She couldn’t stop thinking about Mirko for the rest of the day. He was the only other healer she’d ever met. Questions buzzed through her mind like bees. Did he learn how to use his power all by himself like she did? Did Chesed still talk to him occasionally just to check in? Did his powers work the same way hers did? Could he also feel all the pain around him?
Hopefully she’d have a chance to ask him all of this at some point.