Mist carefully poured the wine into each small bottle of herbs, tilting the bottle gently to keep the sediment out of the medicines. It wouldn’t hurt the medicine, of course, but it didn’t look good, and she didn’t want patients worrying that the tincture had spoiled. She placed the last of the wine by the stove to use for cooking, then carefully tapped a cork into each of the small medicine bottles.
Then she went to look out the door and windows. Orchid and her friends were nowhere in sight, nor were the neighbors. “Good, I can finish this properly,” she murmured.
She pushed them together, gathered them into one wing, and reached inward, wakening the Goddess’ fire. The herb tincture was proper, good medicine in its own right, but worked better with a touch of magic. A touch of her finger sealed each bottle tight, pouring in the magic that added to the properties of the herbs, and kept them pure and unspoiled, the wine sweet.
She was lost for a time in the swirl of magic, of color and texture and healing energy. As she came out of the trance, she heard girl’s voices on the wind, and thanked the Goddess that the girls hadn’t come upon her before she was done. Orchid might or might not be fireborn, but waking the gift early was hard on a child. Remembering her own childhood, Mist hadn’t even told her daughter that the gift ran in the family.
“Mist, come quick!” Cirrus yelled.
*Healer, hurry!* Frog whistled.
Mist dumped the bottles into a storage hammock, and rushed to the door. “Orchid—where’s Orchid? Is she all right?” Orchid was a daredevil, and always in the lead, but she was nowhere in sight. Had she broken a wing? Mist grabbed the tabletop, wanting to rush right out after her daughter, though she had no idea where to look. Her claws gouged into the hardwood.
“There was this baby!” Cirrus flew in a window and crashed into the pile of pillows, sending pillows flying everywhere.
“I wanted to hold him, but Orchid said he would drown.” Frog landed on the windowsill, claws making furrows in the wood, panting hard.
Cirrus sprawled on two of the pillows, panting. “But the baby is fine – oh, and so is Orchid –“
Mist took a breath again, and released her grip on the table.
Frog spoke again, still sounding out of breath. “It’s the mother, the baby’s mother, all red and flaky and just laying there!”
Cirrus jumped up, grabbed her hand, and pulled her toward the door.
“Slow down, girls. You have to tell me the whole story, so I know what supplies to take.” They nodded, they’d heard her say that before, to nearly every frantic relative who flew in seeking a healer. She looked pointedly at her windowsill, and told Frog, “Grab a pillow and sit down.”
Frog climbed off the windowsill, giving the gouged wood a guilty look. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “Orchid said to hurry, the mother could die.”
Mist thought through the bit they’d said so far. “The baby—a lakeborn baby?”
“Or seaborn. Orchid wasn’t sure.”
“And the mother too?”
“Yes. We found her by the woods, just lying there, all red and flaky.”
“But we carried her!”
“She didn’t make a sound when Orchid’s toe scratched her.”
“Or when her legs splashed into the water.”
Cirrus stood up when Frog mentioned water, and went to pour some from the waiting jug into cups for herself and Frog.
Mist relaxed a little. Out of water, lakeborns could get dangerously dehydrated. “You got her into the water?”
“Yeah.” Frog nodded vigorously. “Orchid said we had to.”
“Was this woman furred and chubby, with a long flat tail?”
“No. She was thin, and had flowers drawn all over her skin.”
“Ok, then she’s lakeborn.” Mist paused, what else did she need to know, that a six- and seven-year-old would have noticed. “Did she have any cuts or bruises?”
“No, not until Orchid scratched her when we lifted her.”
“And Orchid stayed there alone?”
“She said—“ Cirrus looked worried.
Of course it was her daughter’s idea to stay alone with an unconscious stranger. “It’s OK, Cirrus, Frog, you did good. Let me get some things together. You eat, and put together some food for Orchid, and then you can show me where this mother and baby are.”
Mist grabbed the bag that was mostly lakeborn remedies, and added quite a lot of bandages, an extra container of burn cream, and a selection of fruits from the bowl on the table. She hoped she wouldn’t have to poultice the young woman’s sunburn, but better to have the supplies and not need them.
By the time she was done, Cirrus had one of her smaller spare pouches buckled around her waist, and Frog was curled up in the pillows, looking tired.
“Frog, do you want us to leave you at your house before we go? You look awfully tired.”
“No! I’m coming. Cirrus might get lost.” A blatant excuse—none of the girls ever got lost.
“Frog! How can you say—“
“Girls, stop it. I know you’re worried, so let’s get out there and see what can be done.” Still, as she followed them, Mist watched both girls carefully for signs of fatigue. She didn’t want to turn one emergency into two or three.
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