Alice dreaded what she would find when she was finally allowed to visit Timothy. Still, the day came and she would not allow her brother to suffer alone one second longer than he had to. She jumped up and followed Hamish as soon as he appeared at her door.
Timothy looked as gastly as she had imagined. His eyes were dialited and far away. His hair looked unkept and messy. Timothy looked tired and wan. Alice knew him well, despite their long separation and she knew that this was not like him. He was normally full of energy and life.
“What did they do to you, Tim?” Alice asked softly. “What can I do to help?”
“Alice, Alice,” Timothy hummed quietly. “How I have missed you. You cannot stop what they are doing but your very presents gives me strength. They keep me drugged and do not allow me to overhear much of anything. But I have my ways... I know that Raven has agreed to let you have this visit to butter you up. He wants you to do something for him.”
“That’s no surprise,” Alice wispered back to her brother.
“You can’t agree to anything they ask, even if it’s as harmless as picking a flower or as selfless as saving a life. You know Raven and you know that he never tells you the whole story. Bad things are about to happen and Raven will be in the middle of it. I want you to be safe.”
“I’ll stay out of it if I can,” Alice promised. “I’m more worried about you. I know that you can’t do much to stop them but I also know that the drugs won’t stop you from antagonizing them.”
“They’ll be mad at me no matter what I do. I might as well have some fun.”
Alice could not help but smile even though she was mad with him. The smile was instantly whiped off her face when Raven appeared at the door to escort her back to her room. She could not help but remember Timothy’s warning.
“I have thought about your daily outings and I find that they just won’t do,” Raven announced as he and Alice walked.
“You won’t allow me out anymore?” Alice asked in astonishment.
“I have found that the outings are not enough to cure your restlessness. You still seem to bounce off the walls here. Walking outside will not help you. Having a clear, measurable goal will relax you.”
“You are a botonist -- or you want to be one -- and I find that I am in need of a botonist. I am unable to sleep at night. It is a most troublesome thing!” Raven said the words like he was taking a stroll talking to a friend who could understand him with one glance. Alice could not guess at what he was hinting at!
“You want a plant to help you sleep?”
“I have heard that in the olden days plants could enduce sleep. They had to be burned or ground but they all started as plants!”
“I have heared those stories too,” Alice said. “But to bread plants like that I would need a large, well-stocked lab. The university doesn’t just give those away.”
“Don’t fear. I will make sure you have all the supplies you need. Can you create my sleep inducer?” Raven’s voice rose and fell, as if he was trying to hypnotise Alice with words alone.
“I believe that given the right supplies, I can.”
Alice walked Raven around the lab.
“Your breeding experiment seems to be moving along nicely,” Raven commented when he was leaving the lab he had provided for Alice.
Alice worked tirelessly with the plants that Raven had provided. Raven gave her the plants and supplies she listed without question. He never suspected that Alice was not breeding a plant to put people to sleep. She was working on a plant of mythical proportion!
Old stories and ledgends spoke of a plant that could fight rot and infection. Soldiers and housewives alike died from infection every month. The rott could reduce a healthy person to a weak, limp, mess. Alice had seen a healthy young man loose his leg because of it! A plant that could cure rott would be a god-send!
Alice had read every book about the seemingly magical plant. She had some guesses about what the different plants could be but then most botonists had their own guesses. Many university professors had even tried out their theories! This was Alice’s only chance and she had to make it count.
She chose the plants she would breed carefully. Alice mixed barries, willowbark and aloe; sassafrase, oak and dandilion; mihr, berryblossom and acia. She added plants to make the breed hardy and plants to let the breed survive in all weather. The ending speciman was something like a small scrub. She tested it thuroughly at the local free clinic. The healers there were desperate for anything that could help their patients. Medicine was not easy to get in any clinic and the free clinics got even less.
The monk who took the poutice Alice had made from the plant seemed very thankful. The next day a healer approached her and asked for more. Alice knew that the poutice was working.
“I feared I would have to amputate a man’s arm but a night with your poutice on the wound and the rott is gone! I swear my nurse was proclaiming it a miracle,” the healer was telling Alice. “I came to you as soon as monk Bastion pointed you out. Please, can you make more?”
Alice couldn’t bare to say no when she saw hope light up his eyes.
“What is this talk of healing!” Hamish called out when he saw Alice and the healer. “This poutice wouldn’t be made of the plant Raven financed, would it?”
Alice knew that she had been caught!
“It is the same plant I have breeded for Raven,” Alice tried to placate Hamish with a white lie. “The plant will put you to sleep if burned but it can heal rott if it is made into a poutice. This could save countless lives and help Raven at the same time!”
Hamish’s large hand closed around her arm like a vice. He spoke as he marched her back into Raven’s home.
“Raven will hear of this. He will not be happy to hear of this. Raven has a suspecious mind and he will tear the truth from you.” Hamish gave a nasty laugh. “Your brother will not enjoy hearing of this either but for entirely different reasons.”
Hamish tossed Alice into her room with such force that she slipped on to the room’s carpet. The door’s lock gave off a deffining snick after Hamish called to her, “I’ll be sure to share the news with your brother.”
Alice faught not to cry.