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from Aradia's Diaspora by Susan Woerner

Copyright © 2018–2020 Susan Woerner

Scene 80

Having found a healer, we had to stay in the port for two days while she worked on Ursel. The healer’s place was full of mostly good smells of herbs. It was light and cheerful, just the opposite of what I’d imagined. She had quite a large number of people in her home waiting for their turn to see her. As soon as Ursel hobbled in the door, however, the healer brought her into another room despite the grumbles of many waiting there. She had an assistant triage the others.

“Is it really bad?” I asked her after several minutes had passed in silence.

“Mm,” was her response. I couldn’t tell from the sound of it whether it answered my question in the affirmative or not.

“It does not pain me as it once did,” Ursel added. I think we were all hoping for more conversation.

The healer turned to the glass jars lining the walls in this room. I took in the surroundings - to one side was a wood block table upon which sat various implements including very sharp-looking knives and multiple sizes of mortars and pestles, along with a pitcher of water. A small fireplace, not really large enough to heat the entire house, but certainly useful for heating things, like the poker I saw resting in the deep orange embers. What was that for?

“You had a tangle with Shadows I see,” the healer finally said not looking back at Ursel but at her jars instead.

The three of us looked at each other. How did she know it was a Shadow wound?

“Do not be too surprised,” she said, “the Malefici have been all around the land and I know what Shadows can do to people.”

She dropped some green dried herbs into a large mortar, added what looked like shriveled mushrooms from a second jar, and began grinding down the mixture. She looked over at Artio.

“You are her lover, are you not?” she asked Artio.

Artio nodded.

“Ah. Bear women. So strong. Too strong sometimes. I am going to ask you to hold her down,” she said as she added a little water to the mash she was making.

“And you, captain,” she said, nodding toward me, her hands still working the herbs which were now a thick paste in the mortar, “you will do something for me too.” She motioned with her head for me to come to the table.

“See that knife there,” pointing with her lips, “no, the one in the middle.”

It was one of the smaller ones, but the edge looked as sharp as a scalpel. I picked it up carefully, the metal gleaming in the light.

“You need to clean it,” the healer said as she massaged the paste of herbs which she placed on a cloth on the table, “run the blade across the hot end of the poker. Do it until you feel the heat rise from the handle to your hand. Then it will be clean enough.”

Ursel watched the whole proceedings up to this point witho...

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