Mirrored from Sythyry.
The Rassimel I was trying to meet hadn’t gotten back yet. However, I did run into the Rounses and Noritts, who had just been told some predictable bad news by Moika Hastralan. (Moika is one of the nicest healers in the guild, and I’m sure she she offered them a substantially cheaper healing which they still couldn’t afford, and I’m sure she was very sincerely sad to turn them away.)
They recognized me at once, perhaps because I am the only Zi Ri in the Healer’s Guild, or, perhaps because I am the only blue Zi Ri in Vheshrame. “Dr. Sythyry! Dr. Sythyry! A moment of your time, if you please?”
“What — a moment of my precious time, which I could otherwise spend by waiting, fussing, writhing, and fidgeting, for the person I wish to speak with has not yet returned? An unimaginable intrusion!” They looked a bit distressed and started to plead, but I silenced them with, “I meant ‘Certainly, what can I help you with?’ Sorry to talk like a Zi Ri just now; it’s a bit of a congenital problem with me.”
They didn’t even grin. Unimaginable, that a day full to midnight of disasters and disappointments should leave them unwilling to appreciate oblique lizardly humor! Instead they started to tell me about the accident and how unhappy their poor child was.
“Zie doesn’t look unhappy now,” I pointed out.
“This is because zie is asleep on the couch, zir head pillowed on Tansy’s lap, exhausted after a truly terrible day,” they noted, and told me more of the woeful story.
“Hold a moment — you must be the family of farmers that Estertherio told us about,” I said after a while.
“Yes, yes, Estertherio offered us only tiny advice and not so much healing, … how much does it cost for you to cast a spell for someone?” asked the farmers.
“The standard market rate is approximately an arm and a leg. I don’t charge a mid-limb extra for Herethroy. Even an arm and a leg is a poor trade for an antenna,” I said.
“Can you see your way to helping us for a price that we can afford?” they asked.
“Well, it’s really not the sort of emergency that requires instant attention,” I said. “You could save up for a few years. Chances are, I suppose, zie’d have zir antenna back before zie was really looking to get married.”
They looked rather sad. It was a well-practiced look.
“Besides, I’m down to a very few cley tonight, and I ought to save those for emergencies,” I said. This is true. Emergencies love to happen at the hour before dawn, when nearly everyone’s cley is the scantiest. Someday I will figure out how to turn off emergencies’ alarm clocks, and then everyone will be much happier.
They looked rather sad. They were in superb form with their sad looks, really. Masterful, absolutely masterful.
But I remembered something, and, more importantly, where something had come from. “On second thought … or actually about eleventh thought … I will do it. It will make someone happy, in a possibly important way.”
Allam waved his antennae. “It will make Elecampagne most gloriously happy! Zie has been bearing up bravely, so bravely, but zie is truly miserable.”
I dipped my head. “I imagine it will make zir happy as well.”
“Then who?” wondered Tansy.
“And how much will you charge us?” asked Allam.
I brought out a gaudy red thimble-chalice from nowhere in particular; it certainly hadn’t been in this universe per se. (Which is only appropriate; it was not made in this universe, so there’s no reason at all for it to stay here all the time.) “There is no possible way you could afford my usual fee for this, nor the nineteenth part of it even, so I will charge you … let us say … three terch.”
The farmers gasped and boggled in delighted amazement. “Three terch? That is all?” You can buy a bun and a mug of kathia for three terch, if you are not overly fussy about how good they are.
I had to add, “Oh, and you mustn’t tell the other healers about it; I am not taking the guild’s pay scale seriously. My actual payment, or reward, will be something entirely different.”
The farmers gasped and boggled again, not the least bit delighted. “We know that you lust after Herethroy…” It never was a secret that Mynthë and I were married in all but name for many decades. It was a bit more of a secret that, although Mynthë was a Herethory born and bred, she [*] wasn’t actually a Herethroy when she could avoid it. I’m sure this gave the farmers a bad impression — which is to say, a good but incorrect one.
[* -- Sythyry uses an distinctive and rather archaic-sounding unspecified-prime pronoun, making it very clear that you know zie's not referring to Mynthë in the ordinary way. This is translated, a bit feebly, into using 'she' for a co-lover who should be called 'zie' -bb]
Tansy curled her antennae. “I am the one who broke off Ellie’s antenna. I shall do whatever is needful to get it set right. My husband, my wife, I trust you will not mind overmuch…”
At which point I blushed until my wings all but caught fire. “No, not that! I have definitely got to stop speaking Zi Ri style to upset parents! What I mean is, I have a Glory of Mircannis that was stolen from a temple that the healer-goddess built to herself. I will use it on your cosi, because Mircannis will probably approve of it, and, I hope, be somewhat less pissed off at me for stealing it. I am, of course, always glad to assuage the misery of a twelve-year-old peasant cosi, but — with all due respect — the good will of Mircannis matters more to me than that of Elecampagne Rounse.” (I didn’t personally cause it to be stolen, or I’m sure it would be too dangerous for me to keep, but it was stolen and staying on the better side of a Verb Goddess is generally a good idea.)
By which time I had remembered which spell to use — I doubt I have used it thrice since I grafted it, a century ago — and fed it the day’s power of the Glory. Ellie stirred in zir sleep, roused just a touch by the immense force the goddess brushed across her, and stretched both antennae. As often happens, using a Glory to cast a spell did more than the spell should have done by itself; in this case, it took care of both spells. Zir parents and … however one describes the Noritts with respect to zir … burbled something along the lines of, “We owe you more than immeasurely much! We submit to you the greatest of thanks!”
“Well, technically, you owe me three lozens,” I admonished. “Terch, I mean.” I can’t remember ever being paid in terch, and certainly not for spellwork. “But you can pay in produce, if that’s more convenient for you.” Unwise of me! They might well have pulled a chicken out of a bag and handed it to me, and where would I be then? (Answer: trying to carry a ferocious and vicious bird nearly as big as myself back to somewhere I could deal with it, without using any cley.)
“Well … yes! Of course!” cried the farmers, and gave me my fee — in three little amber-kissed shells, thankfully, and not a watermelon twice my size or some such horror.
“Then we are even,” I said, “And I thank you for your business, and hope that the rest of your stay in the big city is as you wish it. But hark! I think that is the gentleman I came here to see. Good night, good farmers, and may battalions of blue beetles bounce you to your beds.” (The next time I make a silly benediction like that, I really ought to back it up with something concrete.)
I made a proper courtly bow, as from a superior to a generic inferior, and flapped into the corridor. Whereupon three master-healers set upon me and demanded, in no uncertain terms, to know what I had been up to with a spell of that pandulceous character and traumatic force. I did my best to fail to explain, but I they figured it out — when they saw the biantenna’ed Miss Elecampagne Rounse, if not before.
I got rather more than three terch worth of scolding about wasting such a resource as that, let me tell you! More than three lozens’ worth, even. I wound up promising to send the Guild chapter in Vheshrame a few exotic healing spells, bound, for free, by way of apology.
And that was the end of the matter of the farmers, as far as I was concerned. They, of course, had a different opinion.