Now that the docks were safe for her, Rae went there more often. Incoming ships came with all sorts of goods from all over the world. Many of them would make things much easier for her and her patients.
“Hey, it’s the nice lady!”
Rae heard the shouting but didn’t really pay it much mind until someone was grabbing her hand. Surprised she looked down and saw the young boy who’d fallen from his horse during one of her herb collecting trips.
“Hello,” she greeted shifting to crouch in front of him. “Are you all better now?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“Who is this, Dante?”
Rae looked up at the man standing behind the little boy. He was imposing in a way similar to Luca. His shoulders were straight and proud. A man who knew his worth. His clothes, while simple looking, were well made. His long hair was tied back at the nape of his neck. Dark, intelligent eyes gazed down at her with calculation. As if he was studying her and deciding where she fit in the world.
“This is the nice lady,” the little boy answered, looking up at the man.
Rae stood back up and clasped her hands behind her back.
“The one you met in the forest when you fell?” the man clarified.
Dante, as the man called the boy, nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, Lord Father.”
So, the man was the boy’s father. This would make him a noble. Not good. She did not need to get close to anyone with any authority within the government. That would not end well for her if they were to find out about her secrets.
“I am glad to have the chance to meet you myself. Dante’s tutor told me about you and that you were compensated for your help. Still, I wanted to thank you in person.”
“It was nothing,” she answered a bit nervously. His gaze was so intense it made her nervous. “No need to thank me.”
“You don’t have children, do you?”
She shook her head.
“Any parent would say it is necessary. You saved my son. There is nothing that would be thanks enough for that.”
Before Rae could think of an appropriate response, a man shouted out, “Sir, the ship has arrived.”
The nobleman glanced over his shoulder then back at Rae. “I’m afraid we must go. Please excuse us.” He looked down at his son. “Dante, say good bye.”
Dante stiffened then bowed to Rae, all seriousness. “Until we meet again, Miss.”
Rae smiled as she curtsied to him. “Of course, young Lord.”
The nobleman’s lips curved into a smile as he bowed to her. Then the two of them disappeared into the crowd.
Rae watched them go then continued her search for Luca. He had told her he had most of the herbs she’d been looking for.
“Well, hello again, Rae.”
She turned to see Mirko putting down a heavy looking crate. This must be the day for running into people again. “Hello again. How is Pietro?”
“Much better now that he knows to avoid blueberries.” Mirko chuckled as he shifted around then sat on the crate. “How about you? How are things going?”
“They’re going fine,” Rae answered as she faced him. “I’m just here to get some herbs that someone found for me.”
“Yes. Luca Ramberti.” Mirko’s smile faded away. “A ruthless man who doesn’t bat an eyelash at killing others.”
Rae nodded. “I gathered as much. But, he saved me.”
“There are plenty that he hasn’t saved.”
“I’m sure you’re right, but it’s not for me to judge.”
His smile didn’t reach his eyes. “I guess not.”
She wasn’t sure what to say to that, so she chose to say nothing and moved to a topic she’d been wondering about for a while now. “By the way, are you really like me? I mean, all of it?”
Mirko nodded. “I received Chesed’s blessing when I was about nineteen years old.”
Rae’s eyes widened. “I’ve never met another healer before.”
“We’re a rare thing, that’s for sure.” He considered her for a moment before asking. “Is it wise for you to run a clinic? I assume it would be difficult to hide what you are that way?”
She shook her head. “Not really. Besides, the people here need a healer.”
“Just like a healer to risk your life for the sake of others.” He shook his head with a self-mocking laugh. “We are a couple of self-sacrificing fools.”
“It’s the hallmark of our kind,” she agreed.
His laugh faded. “But, don’t you think there are those who don’t deserve to be saved?”
Rae looked up at him in confusion.
“I was born with magic. You know that in this country, that means I was born with a death sentence.” Bitterness crept into his voice. “The humans are the reason I was blessed. I saved another magus from persecution and it cost me dear.”
Rae sighed. “I agree that people can be cruel sometimes. But, they aren’t all bad. Actually, most are really good.”
“Even the physicians who hired someone to cause you trouble?”
She looked at him with surprise. “How did you know about that?”
“The grapevine. I’d be surprised if everyone didn’t know about it.”
“Oh.” She looked up at the sky. “Yes. Even them. While I think they are in great need of a lesson in what it means to be a physician, I don’t think they’re evil. Very few are truly evil in my opinion. There are shades of black and white in every person.”
They sat in silence for what felt like hours before he broke it. “But, are we supposed to keep saving those who don’t deserve saving? Work ourselves to the bone, sacrifice all that’s in us, and care when it breaks our hearts, just so they can walk all over our kindness? At what point are we really the fools we’re called and not just good people?”
“My mother told me something once. She told me to be sweet, even when others are bitter. To love when others hate. See the world as beautiful even if that world can’t see it. She wanted me to be the good in the world, because where there is good then there is magic. If I am the good, then I become the magic.”
“That’s a tall order,” he commented.
“My mother lived by that and now so do I.” She smiled at him. “If that makes me a fool, then so be it. I’d rather be a fool.”
He laughed. “That’s healer logic alright. We would sacrifice everything for others. Heart, body, and soul are in the palms of their hands even if they would abuse that.” He stood with a sigh. “Well, I better get back to work. I hope we can chat again. It’s good to hear someone else who agrees with me for once.”
“And doesn’t see it as foolish?”
He nodded. “Until next time, Miss Rae.”
“Just Rae.” Something occurred to her. “I never did do a formal introduction, have I?”
He shook his head.
“My name is Rae Morandi.”
His eyes widened with surprise.
Rae didn’t notice because she saw Luca coming out of his warehouse with a satchel. “Oh. I better go before Luca leaves.” She waved hurriedly as she rushed across the street to talk with Luca.
“Welcome, Rae,” Luca greeted when he saw her hurrying towards him. “I trust no one else has given you trouble?”
“If they have I don’t know about it,” she answered. She was sure none had but Luca’s men were so efficient she wasn’t sure she would notice anymore.
He seemed satisfied with her answer. “That’s good. I have those herbs you needed.”
“Thank you so much.” She accepted the bundled plants he pulled from the satchel he carried. “These will help immensely.” Her pleasure intensified when she saw the vera plant. “Vera leaves. I didn’t expect you to find them so fast.”
“I have friends from all over,” he said with a shrug.
She considered him. Luca always came off as calm and unassuming, but he commanded The Docks the way the King commanded the whole country. It was hard to believe he was as ruthless and cold as others described him at this moment. She may not have believed all the rumors she heard if she hadn’t seen the look in his eyes the night those men had attacked her clinic.
“Thank you,” she said again with a warm smile. Despite his hidden side, she didn’t think he was a bad person. Just powerful.
“It is I who am thanking you, remember?” He waved her off, though he smiled as he did so.
After she got the new herbs from Luca, Rae started down the docks back towards The Slums.
She thought back on her conversation with Mirko. Yes, she had no doubt that Luca would be ruthless when he felt the situation required it. However, someone who could inspire as much respect as he did from those around him couldn’t be all bad. Those who didn’t know him well were afraid of him, yes, but those who did were not.
Of course, maybe she was just a fool to think so.
It had been nice to hear someone with the same thoughts and doubts she had. Healers walked a fine line between foolish and caring. She knew a majority of others would believe they leaned too far into the foolish category. It felt less lonely knowing Mirko also had those thoughts and came to the same conclusion she did.
Although, she did wonder about his bitterness with humans. Not that she could really blame him. The way things currently were between humans and magi were not going to foster good feelings. That bitterness was something she’d heard from almost every magi she’d ever met. Maybe the only reason she wasn’t bitter was because she had been born human.
She sighed, wishing there was something that could be done about things and knowing there wasn’t. Even a healer couldn’t cure all the wrongs of the world.