Inylene’e was engrossed in organizing her meager supplies and jotting down herbs she’d need from Elraien. Really she had barely more than bandages and a few easily-collected basics she’d picked up herself. The list was rather long, but once she was stocked, she’d probably be able to make them last a long time.
“Excuse me. Is the healer in?”
Inylene’e jumped and yelped. She turned around to see an amused Tanya standing just inside the doorway. Inylene’e hadn’t hear Tanya come in. She took a moment to recover. “You startled me!”
“I knocked twice,” Tanya pointed out. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“I guess I was so caught up making my lists I wasn’t paying attention. It’s not your fault,” Inylene’e said waving it away.
Tanya fidgeted a little. When Inylene’e had asked her to stop in as soon as the place was finished, she thought she’d indulge the healer.
“Have a seat.” Inylene’e gestured to on of the narrow beds she’d had installed for use by patients. It was soft and comfortable. Tanya made her way over and took a seat.
“I like that scent. What’s in the potpourri you have?” Tanya asked.
Inylene’e hung a kettle of water in the fireplace. The fire had burned low, but the softly glowing grey and white coals were still more than hot enough to boil water.
“Hm? Oh, just a few dried herbs,” Inylene’e said with a vague wave of her hand. In fact, it was specially chosen and mixed to help relax patients or other customers. She took a seat on a bed next near Tanya’s to wait for the water to boil.
“So how do we do this? Do I have to take my clothes off or something?” Tanya asked self-consciously.
Inylene’e blinked. She was pretty sure Tanya hadn’t come for the “whole healing” treatment. She shook her head, “Um, thanks no.”
“I thought you wanted to give me an exam. First customer and all that…”
“No, I wanted you to come see me,” Inylene’e corrected. It was clear Tanya didn’t understand, however. “We need to have a talk, as healer and patient.”
It was Tanya’s turn to be confused. “Patient? But you haven’t even examined me yet.”
“That’s… not actually true, Tanya. I don’t need patients to strip for me to see what ails them. I was quietly examining someone else to be sure they were healthy — my friends’ health being something I take seriously — and you were nearby when I used some magic to detect if anything was wrong. Luckily, everyone was healthy except…”
“Except me?” Tanya began to look alarmed. “But I feel fine! There isn’t anything wrong with me.”
“You might feel fine right up until it’s progressed to the point it becomes incurable.”
Tanya stilled. “What is it?”
“Ovarian cancer.” Seeing Tanya’s blank look, Inylene’e explained. “Sometimes, when something in the body is out of balance, a cancer can develop which eats away at vital tissues. In this case it’s something specific to woman — avonian women, especially.
“Inside a woman’s body there are organs that are vital to having babies. One of the organs that enables this is very sick inside of you. This sickness will spread throughout your body if it isn’t healed. That’s going to take a great deal of time to make sure it’s healed right. And I can’t guarantee that it will work, nor if even it does work, I don’t know whether your organs will still allow you to have children.”
Tanya looked really alarmed. “But I feel fine! I’m not sick, Inylene!”
The kettle startled to whistle. Inylene’e didn’t answer but got up to take the kettle off the fire and prepared a couple cups with fresh ground tea and then added the hot water. When she turned back to Tanya, her patient had regained some of her composure.
“How do you know if it’s true?” Tanya asked.
Inylene’e was puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“You told me Vanima was angry with you. You told me she was punishing you. How do you know the magic she gives you even tells the truth?”
Inylene’e handed Tanya a cup, which she took with both hands, then raised her own cup to her lips and blew on the scalding liquid. Finally she put it down. “Vanima isn’t angry with me any longer. She hated what I did and she lashed out. I understand why she did, and I accept it. What I did was audacious in the extreme. In the end it was fair — she is shaped by the people that know her. Potentially, so am I now. I believe it’s actually brought me closer to my goddess. She loves me, but she must sometimes punish even those she loves in order to teach. I love her as well. Now, after what we’ve been through, I trust her completely.”
“That’s fucked up, Inylene’e.”
“No, that’s faith and trust.”
“Whatever. But I guess there isn’t any reason to deceive you, even if she is still mad at you for tricking her.”
“No, there isn’t.”
Tanya took a moment to blow on her own tea and then took a drink. “Okay. So what are my odds?”
“Of surviving the cancer? Very good, as long as you see me starting tomorrow night and every third night thereafter until I’m certain the cancer is gone,” Inylene’e said.
Tanya shook her head. “No, I mean for having children one day.”
Inylene’e looked sympathetic. “That I don’t know right now. I noticed the cancer early and that’s good. But I don’t have a good answer for you regarding that yet.”