Before I can process what’s going on, I’m by Baolarah’s side. She’s panting heavily, and her eyes are closed. I pat her head and the side of her face. Stupid cat! She better not die on me. Mother goes into the house and brings out a small bucket of water and some rags.
“Here, wipe her wounds clean,” she says.
“I thought we didn’t have any water,” I respond, taking the rag from her.
“I never told you we didn’t have any. I only told you to get more.”
If Baolarah wasn’t on the verge of death, or I’d be really more upset. I don’t have time to argue, and I’m sure I wouldn’t get anywhere anyway. I snatch the rags from her and gently clean Baolarah’s face, paws, and back. I go as slowly and softly as I can, but every now and again, she lets out a soft growl.
“I’m trying to be gentle,” I whisper softly. “I know now not to get on your bad side,” I chuckle to myself, trying to lighten the mood.
I guess it’s working a little because she weakly licks at my hand. Hmm, I think she likes me after all. Mother comes back with a bunch of jars of who knows what and some bandages. Where does she keep this stuff? She takes a little out of some of the jars and mixes them together.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” She answers flatly.
Letting out a deep breath because now is not the time to be, well, myself, I try another approach.
“What is that, and what does it do exactly?”
“They’re salves to treat her wounds to reduce the pain and make sure she doesn’t get an infection. If you’re done cleaning, then go in the house. There’s a jar with small thorns that look like claws.”
“Yes. Small and brown. You’ll know it when you see it. Go now.”
I go into the house and look among the rows of jars. Luckily, she has the sorted by type: leaves, roots, thorns, berries. A little weird, but it makes my job easier. I look through the thorns, and I come across a jar filled with something that looks like curled up claws. They kind of look like Baolarah’s claws. Is that why we’re using them? I grab the jar and head back outside. When I approach Mother, she’s leaning over Baolarah and rubbing the salve in her wounds. After she finishes, she slowly runs her hand over the injury, and it gradually closes up. If I wasn’t already standing here looking at it, I wouldn’t believe what I just saw. And if I didn’t already know how nasty Baolarah’s wounds were, I wouldn’t know just by looking at the faint dark mark left behind.
“W-what did you just do?” I can barely get it out. I almost drop the jar in my hands.
Mother must not have anticipated me finding the jar so soon because she jumps when she hears my voice.
This isn’t something that she can easily explain away or pretend I didn’t see. And I’m not letting her tell me on another day that we both know may never come.
“Tell what you just did, and don’t lie,” I say through gritted teeth.
She stares at me for a moment. I know that she’s thinking of what to say or how to say it. Finally, she lets out a deep sigh and looks up at me.
“I promise I will tell you after we get Baolarah more stable. Is that fine with you?”
There is a fearful look in her eyes; is what she has to say that terrible? Either way, I’m finally getting some answers.
“Fine with me. What do we need to do next?”
“There should be some water left in the pot. Start the fire and let me know when it starts to boil. And don’t burn yourself.”
I roll my eyes and go to start the fire. Why does she always have to treat me like a child? As if I wouldn’t know better than to burn myself.
You try to hold fire one time, and you never hear the end of it.
I knew it was hot and probably not one of my best ideas, but I had to make sure! I start the fire, injury-free, and wait for the water to boil. After it finally starts to boil, I alert Mother.
“Ok, it’s boiling. What now?”
“Take these and put them in the water, and I’ll take care of the rest. You sit here with her.”
I put the weird claw things in the water and come back to sit with Baolarah. Mother gets up and tends to the pot over the fire. I reach down to pet Baolarah’s fur. Looking closely, I see the scars that were once open wounds. I want to touch them, but that might not be a good idea. What if they reopen? Do they still hurt? I decide against it. Mother’s about to finally tell me something, and I don’t want to ruin my chances with her yelling at me. So, I stick to petting, and I guess that’s all I need to do since Baolarah starts purring. After a while, Mother comes back with a bowl of some light brown liquid and sets it down.
“Make sure she drinks this,” she says. “It’ll help her feel better and ease some of the pain.”
Baolarah tries to ease and turn over to get to the bowl, but she immediately falls down with a painful grunt.
“Come on, no need to reinjure yourself,” I move the bowl and put it near her mouth. She lazily laps out of the bowl until it’s all gone. I give her a little pat, saying, “good girl.” I even throw in a little kiss on her head. See, I really do care about her. She better remember this the next time she growls at me.
Standing up, I walk into the house, eyeing Mother as I walk by her. She gets the hint because she follows after me. I sit down at the table, running my hands across the freshly carved table. I recently built us a new table, with lots of instruction, of course. I slowly feel the wood’s thin grooves, the pale brown almost the same color as my skin. I’m too busy admiring my work to notice she’s already sat down. She clears her throat, and I’m brought back. I look up, and she’s staring intently at me. I give her a slight nod to let her know that I’m listening.
“Yes?” I ask, raising a brow.
“I can’t tell you where I’m from, but I did come to know the elders in the village some time ago. When I arrived, it was before sunrise, and not many were out yet. I tried to make myself unnoticeable, but someone noticed me making my way around looking for food scraps. Luckily it was Denchi. He took me in only after he swore to not let anyone know of my presence. He provided me with some clothes since his wife recently passed and food.
After a short while, he told me of a place in the woods that the villagers don’t dare go for fear of the large beasts that roam. I agreed to live here and even decided to provide them with help to cultivate their crops and provide them with medicine and herbs, especially in colder times. In exchange, all I asked was that they not let anyone venture into this part of the forest under any circumstances. Denchi also told Tetyh and Emerta, and they also agreed to help them. Emerta, as you’ve seen, was and still skeptical about me. But he decided to protect me along with the others. They even came to build this house.”
I take a moment to process everything she just told me. After asking for so long, I finally get some answers, even though she’s still withholding a lot of information. The village is protecting her. From what? She provides them with help for food and sickness? But how? I can tell that she wants to continue, so I let her.
“So, to answer your question, I’m a healer of sorts. Where I’m from, that’s what my family did. So, I learned a lot from them when it comes to making medicines and other things. But more than that, I’m able to help things grow. I’m not sure where I learned it; I was told that I was born with it. I taught myself how to combine both practices, and that’s what you saw.”
She looks away after that. I take that as a sign that she’s done, at least for now. She had a family and ran away for some reason. She has some abilities that, if I had to guess, not other people have. But these abilities have helped the villagers. And I’m sure that they can help them in more ways than what she’s doing now. If she could heal someone with just a touch, I’m sure she wouldn’t need to spend so much time searching the forest for plants and berries and taking up space with these jars. And by her, I mean me. But she can’t leave, and they can’t come here. I hum to myself, deep in thought. Then it hits me. Aderran, you beautiful, smart boy!
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