Sunday afternoons were for gathering plants in the woods for her potions and medicines. Tisha the Healer, as she was called in the nearby village of Thessa, meandered through the woods, reveling in the varied, verdant shades of green around her and the music created by the small and large creatures who lived there. More comfortable surrounded by the trees and nature than people and houses, Tisha took her time when she gathered her herbs and roots, hoping she wouldn’t run into any creature with the ability to speak.
She shook her head at herself as she lifted her foot to keep from stumbling on a protruding root. I’m a healer and I barely like weres, fairies, or humans, she thought, smirking at herself.
She changed her thoughts and concentrated on the woods around her, focused on the specific plant she needed for Chrissa, the little girl who had sickened over night with a strange illness no one could diagnose. What she needed was actually a root with an orange flowering plant attached to it. The only time the plant flowered and could be detected as the correct root was near dawn.
Tisha had risen before the sun rose in the hopes of finding the elusive root. Because she wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with the child, she wanted to at least give her something that would ease the fever so she would have time to figure it out. Chrissa’s mother had sent for her after dinner last night after the village doctor could find no clue as to what ailed her. Unfortunately, Tisha hadn’t been able to give a diagnosis either. She’d promised to come back with the potion as soon as she could find the root, and Chrissa’s mother had been grateful.
A pair of fairies flew close to her face, flittering about, smiling at her. Tisha smiled at them and decided to ask them for help. The fairies who lived in the trees often helped her when she couldn’t find exactly what she needed. Helpful fairies were a rarity; they didn’t like large creatures that towered over them and usually stayed among the leaves when weres, humans, or any other creature was around. But they seemed to like Tisha, who was a regular in their woods.
“Good morning, sweet ladies,” Tisha greeted in her smoky voice. They twittered their greeting, their voices almost too high-pitched for Tisha’s ears. Humans couldn’t hear them at all.
“Tisha the Healer, welcome,” Periwinkle spoke.
Tisha had nicknamed the ones she saw regularly. Fairies never revealed their names to any other species than their own. The one who’d spoken was the sweet shade of the flower. Her hair and dress were exactly the same color, and her skin, while close to the shade of a human’s, was tinged the same blue. Periwinkle’s friend, perhaps sister, Tisha wasn’t sure, she’d nicknamed Bell because she was the exact green of a bell pepper, Tisha’s favorite vegetable. All fairies had diaphanous wings that hummed when they flew.
Bell’s lovely face scrunched in a charming smile. “You seem lost today, Tisha the Healer.”
Tisha smiled. “You always know when I need help. I think you fairies hide some of your powers from the rest of us,” she teased.
The fairies exchanged glances and looked back at Tisha, their eyes twinkling mysteriously. Periwinkle answered Tisha. “You crash through the woods noisily when you can’t find something. When you know where you’re going, you’re as stealthy as a cat.”
Tisha laughed, her big breasts jiggling attractively enough to draw the eyes of the fairies. Bell smiled. “Tisha the Healer, you should not spend your life alone. But don’t worry, you won’t.”
Tisha tilted her head to the side and giggled. “You’re predictions are so vague. It would be nice if you would tell me that on All Hallow’s Eve I will meet the man of my dreams dressed in a red cloak riding a green horse.”
The fairies tittered, Periwinkle covering her mouth with her hand. Bell flew close to Tisha and whispered, “You will find him soon, Tisha the Healer. But I can’t tell you more than that.”
Tisha’s smile slipped. The fairies had always predicted small things that had come true, but never something that might be life-changing. She wasn’t looking for a man in her life; men complicated everything. She replaced her smile quickly.
“Sweet fairies, thanks for the information,” Tisha said, bowing her head just a little to them in appreciation.
Bell inclined her head as well. “Now, Tisha the Healer, what is it you’re looking for?”
“I need the root of the plant called a titian. It has an orange flower.”
Periwinkle giggled and landed on Tisha’s shoulder to rest her wings. Fairies were about the size of a child’s forearm and weighed no more than a six-week-old kitten. “You silly, we know what a titian is.”
Tisha grinned. “I know, sweet fairy, but I like to hear myself talk.”
“Your voice is lovely, Tisha the Healer,” Bell complimented as she landed on her other shoulder.
“You are welcome,” Bell returned. “If you will walk to the left of this tree and immediately turn to your right, you will find a boulder. Behind that boulder is the flower you need.”
Tisha sighed a breath of relief. “Thank you so much for helping me today, lovely ladies. You don’t know how much you’ve helped me.”
“Ah, but we do Tisha the Healer.” The two fairies lifted off her shoulders and hovered above her. “We hope little Chrissa is healed soon.”
Tisha tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. “Do you two know if she will get better? Or what is wrong with her?”
Again the fairies exchanged glances and looked back at Tisha. “Tisha the Healer, we cannot tell you the outcome of human affairs,” Periwinkle said.
Tisha nodded and smiled at them. Bell winked at her and smiled a knowing smile, and Tisha felt better about Chrissa and her mysterious illness. The pair had revealed no real prediction, but the wink and smile was a positive move. Tisha waved as they flew up into the tree leaves and disappeared. She turned to the left and walked around the tree nearest her, then immediately looked to her right. The boulder, large, gray, and covered in moss, was exactly where the fairies had told her it would be. She circled it and found the plant.
The sun had been up for only fifteen minutes, but already the flower was closing its petals to protect itself from the sun. Hurriedly, Tisha dug the plant up and uprooted it. She put the entire plant into her basket. She knew what the root’s properties were and what she could use it for, but she could experiment with the plant to make sure it had no other medicinal uses.
She scurried back as quickly as she could to the path that led to her little cottage on the outskirts of the woods. Sometimes with certain plants, the medicinal properties had to be reaped as soon as the plant was out of the ground. The titian was one of those plants, but luckily it didn’t have to steep once extracted. She’d be able to take the medicine to Chrissa as early as lunch if she got started right away.
When she stepped out of the woods on the path, she admired her cottage from afar. The thatched roof had only a few months ago been repaired after a harsh winter. She kept cats around to help with the ever-present mouse problem, but honestly, she just loved the three little cats roaming her rafters. The cottage was a two room home, the living room and the kitchen one of the rooms, and her bedroom the other. Simple and well-maintained, her home always smelled like various herbs, plants, and flowers. Her kitchen doubled as her work space, and she rarely let anyone inside.
The cottage was in a clearing with many trees shading it from the harsh summer sun. Occasionally, traveling fairies would stop and ask to sleep in her trees, which they found charming and interesting. Tisha had never asked her fairy friends, but she felt like the fairies could talk to the trees, or at least could understand when the trees whispered. She wished she could also speak with them; she bet they had so much to teach, but no such luck.
As she studied her home, she noticed a man, a human man, sitting on a stump in front of her cottage. His large torso and muscular arms indicated he was a laborer, and the crooked nose on his face showed he also liked to spar. She sighed a little; she’d really wanted to start on Chrissa’s medicine, but it looked like she had a patron. She put on a smile as she walked up.
“Hello, sir,” Tisha greeted while walking up. “Is there something I can do for you?”
The man laboriously rose to his feet, and Tisha saw the rip in his pants and the mostly-dried blood around the rip. “Good morning, ma’am. The villagers told me you might be able to help me?”
“Please sit back down, sir. What happened to your leg?” Tisha had dropped her basket to the ground to move forward and ease the man back onto the stump.
He grunted as he sat back down. His face was a little pale, but Tisha hoped that was from the pain rather than a loss of blood. “Well, I actually came to Thessa to join the builders working on the new worship building. On my way into the village, a group of teenage weres started messing with me. I fought back, and one of them shifted and clawed my leg up pretty good.”
Tisha shook her head as she stepped away from him to go inside. “Give me just a second. I need to grab a few things from inside.” He nodded as she pushed open her door and latched it behind her.
As she gathered the necessary items, such as clean linen and witch hazel to clean the wound, bandages, and scissors in case she needed to cut his pants, she mumbled to herself about the prejudices of her kind. Weres and other supernaturals dominated this world, outnumbering the humans by at least five to one. But that didn’t mean they dominated humans just because humans had no special powers. She hated the fact that weres still attacked humans with no provocation. And those in power, the witches, wizards, and weres who ruled, created no laws to prevent this behavior. Sometimes I don’t like this world much, Tisha thought as she located the witch hazel in her cupboards.
When she turned back to the door, she startled back. Elizabeth, her ghostly best friend, was standing between her and the door, and Tisha had nearly walked through her, something she found quite uncomfortable.
“Gods, Elizabeth! Why do you try to make me walk through you?”
Elizabeth sniffed. “I like to feel your warmth.”
“Well, I don’t much enjoy the cold,” Tisha replied.
“You’re so mean sometimes.”
“Yes, yes, I know, I’m horrible,” Tisha placated sarcastically. She and Elizabeth had had this exact conversation since Tisha had bought the cottage from the village holy man five years ago. She’d inherited Elizabeth along with the cottage.
Elizabeth had moved to the window and was peering out at the human. “What’s wrong with him?”
“A group of teenagers attacked him.”
Elizabeth looked back at her. “Weres?”
“Yes,” Tisha answered as she opened the door to walk out. She heard Elizabeth tsk at her answer and knew she’d hear all about how when she was young, humans, like she had been, had dominated the world.
“All right, sir, let’s take a look at that leg.” Tisha kneeled in front of him and pulled open his pant leg. Luckily, the claw marks weren’t deep, just long. They’d bled quite a bit, and Tisha hoped that most of the dirt and grime had been washed away. “I’m going to pour this witch hazel over the wounds to wash it, then I’ll clean it, put some ointment on it, and bandage it. You won’t be good as new, but you should heal.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I’m Hank.”
“Tisha. This is going to sting a bit.” He hissed when she poured it over the wound. As the blood cleared, she could tell these were werewolf claws, but she asked to make sure.
“Yes, the one who hit me was a werewolf, but I’m not sure about the other two. They didn’t shift, only laughed,” he said, bitterness tainting his voice.
She glanced up at him. “Our world certainly isn’t always a beautiful place.”
“No, it sure isn’t.” He looked at her and smiled. “Thank you for helping me.”
“You’re more than welcome,” Tisha said as she dabbed ointment onto the wounds. “I’m going to give you some of this to put on it tomorrow. And you’ll need to change the bandages. After that, you should be ok as long as you keep it clean.”
Hank nodded, watching her as she tied the bandage tightly around the wound. “So not all weres are bad,” he said with a chuckle.
She smiled. “Nope. Just like all humans aren’t bad.”
Hank stood and shook her hand. “How do I pay you, Tisha?”
“Um, most people trade. Some give me money. However you can pay me, that’s fine,” Tisha said.
Hank reached into the pocket of his pants, pulled out a coin, and handed it to her. “Is this enough?”
Tisha’s eyes widened a little. “Hank, this is too much. Do you have anything smaller? Or maybe we could work out a trade?”
Hank smiled at her. “You deserve this much for the good work, I’m sure you do.”
She shook her head. “Well, thank you.” She raised the coin. “I’ll put this to good use.”
He lifted the jar of ointment in a salute to her and said, “Thanks for the ointment. Hope we run into each other again.”
“If you need more, just let me know. I’ll be in the village off and on. How long do you think it will take y’all to build the worship building?”
“Oh gosh, I’m not sure. We only just started. We’ll be here through the summer at least,” Hank answered.
“Then I’m sure we’ll see each other,” she replied, shaking his hand once more. “Have a safe walk back to the village. I’m sorry I don’t have a horse you could borrow.”
“It’s only a two-mile walk, but thanks,” Hand replied and turned to leave. He limped a little, but he’d make it and be able to work without too much pain. The ointment she’d given him did have a painkilling property. He’d paid her so much more than she had expected, she decided she’d carry some ointment with her and give it to him just to be nice.
Elizabeth floated close to the door as Tisha walked in, leaving it open so fresh air could waft in. “What a handsome man,” she commented in her breezy voice, watching Tisha retrieve her basket and lifting it up on the table to begin preparations for Chrissa’s medicine.
“A bit of a hulk, don’t you think?” Tisha replied.
“A hulk?” Elizabeth chuckled. “I forgot you like your men less beastly, so to speak.”
“He wasn’t beastly! Just . . .” Tisha searched for a word, “mountainous.”
“Yes, I suppose he wasn’t your type,” Elizabeth murmured morosely.
“Why do you care so much about my type?”
“I’d like to see a man around here so I can see some children. You’ve become boring in the last five years. I need some stimulation.”
Tisha didn’t answer. She removed the titian from her basket and began searching for her knife. She needed to first cut the root and then squeeze the juices into the concoction she’d made the evening before. As she worked, she thought about the attack on Hank. She wondered why the teenage weres had attacked him just because he was human. She hoped the new worship building fulfilled its purpose, which was to teach tolerance. Anyone could worship there, no matter what deity he or she worshiped. Tisha prayed to her goddess that the villagers would not only learn tolerance, but would also apply it in real life.
“I wish I could figure out how to make a tolerance potion. I’d spike the water supply,” Tisha mumbled under her breath, drawing Elizabeth’s attention away from the window.
She floated to the table to watch Tisha as she worked. “I wish you’d find someone to give your love potion to.”
“I wish you’d mind your business.”
Elizabeth let out a ghostly snort. “Tisha, I’m a ghost. I have no business. So I mind yours.”
“I’m so lucky,” Tisha replied sardonically.
Elizabeth ignored her tone and continued. “In my day, a woman your age would be married.”
“I’m sure. But in your day, weres were the minority. Things were different.”
“Not that different. Although maybe a little better,” Elizabeth said. Then her transparent brows furrowed. “Of course, people died at a younger age then. Damn you, dysentery.”
Tisha giggle. Elizabeth often damned dysentery, the disease she’d contracted from drinking water straight out of a creek. Elizabeth had entertained her with the disturbing details of her lengthy illness and painful death. She was fascinated by the fact that Tisha had a medicine that eased the symptoms of dysentery and often, if caught early enough, could cure it.
Elizabeth interrupted her thoughts. “You know, Tisha, you’re such a beautiful woman. Your skin is the color of cocoa mixed with just a splash of milk.”
Tisha smiled. “What a lovely compliment. Thank you.”
“And that ample ass and bountiful breasts! I bet when you walk through the village, all the men turn to look at you.”
“And you’ve ruined it,” Tisha commented. “I sometimes wonder if you were really a man back in the day.”
“Nope. I just appreciate a beautiful woman. And a beautiful man, for that matter. Of course, I never get to see one of those.”
Tisha finished the medicine for Chrissa and poured it into a glass bottle. She placed the stopper in the opening and carefully put the bottle into her pocket. She cleaned her work area and put away her supplies. She’d learned from her mother, who’d had the same gifts as she possessed, that a dirty workspace hurt more than healed because inappropriate substances may get into the potion or medicine.
“I have to go into town, Elizabeth,” Tisha said.
“Poor Chrissa. Her illness reminds me of mine,” Elizabeth said.
“Don’t start feeling sorry for yourself,” Tisha warned. “And don’t put bad vibes out there. I’m hoping to figure out what’s wrong with her so I can heal her.”
“No bad vibes from me, Tisha,” Elizabeth replied as she floated up to sit in the rafters. She looked around. “Oh yuck.”
Tisha looked up at her. “What?”
“There are snakes up here now.”
“Good. I prefer snakes to mice any day.”
“Until one falls on your neck.”
Tisha rolled her eyes for the hundredth time. She closed the door and latched it, shaking her head with a smile. She and Elizabeth bickered constantly, but she couldn’t imagine her life without her. What would she do if I ever actually brought a man home? Tisha thought with a giggle as she followed the road that led to the village two miles away.
Tisha hurried into the village and made it to Chrissa’s family’s home by eleven that morning. She rapped her knuckles against the door and waited patiently for her mother to answer. The door swung open slowly, and Chrissa’s mother smiled wanly at her.
“Oh, goodness. You’ve not slept at all, have you?” Tisha asked gently.
Chrissa’s mother, Betia, replied hoarsely, “I couldn’t. Her breathing is so shallow. Oh Tisha, I’m so scared.”
Tisha put her hand on Betia’s back and rubbed. “I know it’s scary, but you have to rest so you can take care of her. If you get sick, what will happen then?”
“I know, you’re right, but with Mateo gone until next week, I’m the only one here.”
“Of course. Let me have a look at her. I brought a potion I think will help,” Tisha said. She sidestepped around Betia, who moved to close the door. “Oh, Betia, leave the door open. Some fresh air in here will do you both some good.” As they moved to the back room where Chrissa’s bed was located, Tisha had another thought. “Also, if she feels up to it later, you really should take her out into the sunshine for a bit. Not too long, though. You don’t want her to get too hot.”
“The doctor said the dark would be better for her,” Betia replied.
“Has the dark helped so far?”
Betia chuckled mirthlessly. “Not a bit. I’ll take her outside after you leave.”
Tisha reached the bed where the little girl slept. She touched her forehead; she didn’t feel nearly as warm as she had yesterday, but she still felt warmer than she should. When Chrissa opened her eyes, Tisha’s widened. They were bloodshot like a drunk man’s, and she seemed unable to focus on her.
“Good morning, lovely,” Tisha said quietly. “How are you feeling?”
The small shoulders shifted in a shrug. “No better,” she whispered. “But not worse.”
Tisha smiled. “I like that attitude. Your fever seems lower than last night. Have you been drinking lots of water?”
“Mama wakes me up constantly to make me drink,” Chrissa replied with a pout. “Tell her to stop.”
“She’s doing what she has to so you can get better.” Tisha pulled the medicine out of her pocket. “Want to go outside in the sun later?”
Chrissa brightened perceptibly. “Yes, please!”
“I’ll remind her,” Tisha said, glancing back at Betia with a wink. “And now I’m going to make you mad. You have to take this potion.”
“Potion?” Chrissa looked at it with the distaste of a twelve-year-old. “Do you mean medicine?”
Tisha chuckled. “I do. But let’s pretend it’s a magic potion. Sounds much more fun.”
Chrissa sighed the sigh of a martyr. “Fine. Do I have to drink all of it?”
“Every drop if you want to get better.” Tisha un-stoppered the medicine and handed it to her. “Bottom’s up, lovely.”
Chrissa upended the bottle and drank it in one gulp. A smile flitted across her face. “It didn’t taste that bad.”
Tisha leaned closer and whispered, “I put some mint in it to take away some of the bitterness.”
“Thank you,” Chrissa said. She laid back down and murmured, “I think I’ll go back to sleep now.”
Tisha rose and followed Betia into the front room. Betia handed her a basket full of eggs as payment, which Tisha gratefully accepted. She loved eggs but hated chickens and didn’t want to raise any of her own. She loved receiving eggs as payment.
“Oh, thank you so much! You know how I love eggs,” Tisha said.
“No, thank you, Tisha,” Betia said. “I’ve never been more scared in my life.”
“I’m hoping this medicine will work. I’ll come back in the morning again to check on her.” Tisha hugged Betia. “Don’t forget to take her outside after she wakes up.”
“I will. Thank you so much for everything,” Betia said.
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