Horribilis, Pt. 7

Anya threw open the doors to the unused room where she treated all her patients and the two women walked inside. There was a cot, a desk, a large free-standing shelf with bottles and jars, some clear and some opaque, some labeled and some not. There were liquids and powders and dried herbs and fresh herbs, and on the top shelf, where most of the villagers would not be able to reach (although Chana could just barely reach it) and Anya herself would need to stand on a chair or a stool, were Anya’s most prized possessions of all: the ancient and irreplaceable books from before the Gods’ Judgment. Those dusty tomes had survived where their authors had not, and for the information contained within, the ancient secrets about the stars and the body and the plants and animals of the world, they’d been guarded as jealously as gold and silver, as wives and daughters, as the last scraps of food in a long hard winter.

Chana stood before the shelf, her gaze drawn upwards. “Someday I’ll have to copy those all down again,” she said softly. “I’ll have Magos tan some skins as thin as he can, and I’ll make ink from ash and oil, and I’ll write it all down.” She paused for a moment. “I’ll have to write down how to do those things as well.”

Chana said nothing. She wasn’t sure if the old woman expected a reply or not, but it didn’t matter. She cleared her throat and said, “Well, then. Enough of that. Let’s see if you can do this without any instruction, shall we?”

Chana glanced over her shoulder and smirked. “But what if I pick up some poison and rub it into my wound and die? Will you say something to stop me then.”

Anya let out a single laugh, a sound more like a dog’s bark than anything else. “Child, if you poisoned yourself after all I’ve taught you, you deserve it. Now, then. Get to work. If you talk any longer, you’re apt to get an infection from wasting time.”


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