The City of the Bells (Vol 3)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 36 (v.1) - Chapter 36

Submitted: September 09, 2019

Reads: 12

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Submitted: September 09, 2019

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March 12 in The Year 726 AF


It was a rainy Tuesday, one of those days where there's a steady rain interspersed with strong wind gusts and sheets of water seeming to blow entirely sideways.  The rain had started on the previous Friday so, when Kurt and Sandro had seemed a bit under the weather on Monday, Sandy  kept them home from school, presuming that they might be coming down with colds.  Unfortunately she was wrong.  When she went to get them up Tuesday morning she found them both still in bed with their hands over their stomachs.  


She didn't have to wait for their, "We don't feel so good," to realize that they were truly ill.  She'd had way too much experience with guardsmen faking being ill, or just hungover, to ever be fooled about whether or not someone was sick.  Her first thought was that it was her fault for introducing them to a highly spiced Sicilian dish the night before.


She checked both of them and couldn't find anything wrong beside their being pale and both of them trying not to move, as even slight motion seemed to make their abdominal pain worse.  It could be the food, but, at the same time, their reaction looked to be a bit extreme for that, maybe, or, then again, perhaps not.  Truthfully, she had no idea.


Reviewing the duty roster in her head, she found both good and better news.  The Guard medic was off today.  The doctor on call was Kaho Fukui.  She was likely to be more gentle with the boys than a man who usually had to put up with whining soldiers.


After she'd propped the boys up high enough to drink, she'd fixed tea and put it where they could reach it.  


"I'm off to get Dr. Fukui.  She'll figure out what's what and get you fixed right up."


Kurt struggled up on one elbow, "We're not going to die, are we?"


Sandy smothered her, "What a silly thing to say," retort before it even began to emerge.  The boys had lost both parents suddenly when the plague tore through their village.  


She stroked each of their heads, then stepped into the middle of the room and looked at them.  "No.  People get ill like this all the time.  It's probably from making you eat such spicy food for the first time yesterday, but, the thing is, it could be one of several different minor illnesses that look much the same early on.  We need Dr. Fukui to tell us which of those things it is so we can do the right treatment.  OK?"


They nodded, clearly reluctant to see her go, but go she must if she were going to get help.


"Right then. I'll be back as soon as I can.  It should be well under an hour, possibly as soon as 30 minutes."


She closed their door slowly and carefully, then took herself to the mud room where she kept her rain gear.  Throwing on a slicker and snugging her belt tightly she braced herself and opened the side door.  Instead of the expected downpour, she found herself facing an ominously dark, cloudy sky but no rain.  Thanking God for the blessing, she walked briskly down the road.  No running on wet cobbles, or there'd be a third patient, and Kaho was prone to be none too gentle with people who got hurt because of their own stupidity.


She was lucky in that, since she was on call, Kaho would be at home, which was only about a 15 minute walk.  If she'd been working at Dr. Kastner's, it would have taken much longer.  In addition, being at home, she'd have her emergency kit ready to hand.  


Once Sandy had explained the situation, all Kaho had to do was pick up her kit and put on her own rain gear.  They were out the door within five minutes.


After they'd arrived and hung their things in the mud room to drip, Sandy lead the way to the boys' room.  She opened the door and stood back to allow Kaho to enter first.  Kaho strode forward and froze about a meter past the doorway.  Some seconds later she introduced herself,  "I'm Dr. Fukui.  I can see some of what you need from here, so your mother and I will be making up a special tea.  It'll be easier for you when I do my examination if you're already feeling better.  OK?"


They nodded, somewhat hesitantly, but the idea of feeling better soon was highly appealing.


Kaho stepped back, closed the door, grabbed Sandy's arm, pulled her down the hall, and then downstairs.


"I need you to get Miranda Donetti and Archbishop Comfort, and I need them right now.  Tell them I don't mean in a few hours when they have more time or when the rain lets up.  I mean as soon as they can get here without hurting themselves on the way.


"While you're doing that, I'll get things started upstairs.  I'm almost 100% certain of what's going on, but I'm going to need the two ladies to confirm it for me...and to figure out what we need to do next."


Seeing surprise and the beginnings of shock on Sandy's face, Kaho hurried to reassure her, "No, they don't have some strange or fatal disease.  Their lives are definitely not in danger.  It's just that something weird is going on magically.  I can sort of see it, but I have no idea how it happened or what to do about it.  That's why we need experts.


"No questions now.  Every question you can possibly ask will be answered before the day is out, IF you get going."


She took Sandy by the shoulders, turned her around and gave her a push in the back.  Then she headed toward the kitchen.  She knew that very strange things happened in this world.  She was one of the strangest herself, being a Lightweaver.  This though...  


Well, as Dr. Kastner had taught her,  "When you don't know everything you need to do, start with what you do know.  After you've done that, it's likely that whatever you need to do next will declare itself."


Once in the kitchen she unpacked the appropriate herbal combination.  She'd start with a tea to help with pain and nausea.  Once it had taken effect, she'd get the blankets off the children and see whether or not her initial impression was correct.


------------------


By the time Sandy returned with Miranda and Lucina Comfort in tow, the boys were asleep.  Kaho had made the tea substantially stronger than usual as she didn't want the children to hear anything that might be said.


Glancing at Miranda and Lucina, she was relieved to see that they looked to be no more than moderately irritated.  Good.


"Right then.  Sandy, your mind needs to be that of the Sergeant and not their mother for the next few minutes.  You're not to say a single word when we're in the children's room.  You'll understand later."


Turning to the others, she bowed.  "Thank you for coming.  In all my years, I've never seen anything like this before.  But, seeing as I'm only 23, I don't have your experience.  I'm hoping that you'll know what to do."


Miranda and Lucina looked at each other with questioning eyes, then turned to follow Kaho, who was already on her way up the stairs.


When they reached the children's room, Kaho put her finger to her lips, the others nodded, and she led them in.


Sandy noticed that the boys were now covered only by light sheets.  Kaho took ahold of Kurt's sheet and pulled it down half way, exposing his chest.


Even with all her years of training, Sandy had to clap her hands over her mouth to keep from shouting. 

.
Lucina and Miranda walked closer and bent forward, trying to make themselves believe that they were imagining what they were seeing.  Unfortunately for their peace of mind, Kaho continued pulling down the sheet and exposed the rest of the body.  


One glance what all that was needed.  Sandy staggered out of the room.  If she was going to faint, she didn't want the noise to awaken the children.


Miranda turned to Lucina and whispered, "You ever see anything like this before?"


Lucina likewise answered, "Nope.  Now what do we do?  I haven't the slightest idea."


After cogitating for a few seconds, Miranda had an inspiration.  "Master, I'm going to try something.  Please bear with me.  I promise that, at worst, I'll look like an idiot.  At best, it'll shatter your ideas of how the world works, but that's the worst I can think of."


She gestured at the children.  "No matter what happens it won't harm the girls."


Lucina glared at her with suspicion oozing out her pores, but she nodded briskly.  "Go ahead then.  Get on with it."


Miranda bowed her head, took a deep breath and said, "Master O'Malley, please, we desperately need your help."


"Well, well.  We need to remember such an historic occasion.  The first time you ever asked for help without trying all kinds of silly things by yourself first.  I'm almost amazed that you called me, especially after what I did to you last year."
O'Malley winked at Kaho and Lucina who were staring at them open mouthed.  "Miranda can be a bit difficult at times, but overall she's a good child.  Now, what is it that you need...."


As they were speaking, O'Malley had been turning and caught a glimpse of Kurt.


"Oh....  My....  God...."


Looking back over their shoulder, O'Malley chuckled, "Yes, it is a bit redundant, but sometimes you just have to say it, right?"


They took two steps and held their hands about a half a meter above Kurt's body, then froze in that position.  From where the others stood, it looked as if they'd stopped breathing too.  


All three of the ladies were full of questions, but they knew that there were times when trying to satisfy your curiosity could be extremely dangerous, and this was likely one of those times.  


Eventually O'Malley took a deep breath.  "I see.  So that's what it is.  Their father was a very foolish man.  Almost broken with grief, but very, very foolish even for someone in his state.  Then again, that's when we're most likely to do something like this."


Their voice took on a stern tone, and the building trembled with their words, "The one who cast the spell though....  That one was anything but foolish.  'Proud', 'reckless', and 'greedy' are the first words that come to mind.  Doing something this heinous just to see whether or not you can is not something that I'm inclined to forgive."


They snapped their fingers.  "Kaitlin, attend me."


There was a gust of wind and a winged creature with beautiful, multi-colored scales covering its entire body and tail appeared in the room.


"What is your wish Master?"


"Find the person whose image I'm about to put in your mind.  Convince him that using spells like the one he cast on these children is a 'bad thing'.  Take however long you need to be sure that he truly understands, to the depth of his being, but be absolutely certain that he retains his sanity.  Punishing someone who doesn't comprehend why they're being corrected is counterproductive."


"It shall be as you say Master."


There was another brief gust of wind, and the creature was no longer present.


O'Malley shook their head.  "Some people just have learn the hard way."


Miranda cringed.  Lucina noticed and would have given a great deal to know what Miranda had done in the past to incur this O'Malley's wrath.  However she'd long ago learned that digging up someone's painful past just to satisfy your curiosity is of itself an evil deed, and she had no intention of even thinking of doing so.


"Right then.  Time to fix this.  Attend me Miranda and Lucina.  If you 'watch' carefully, you'll probably learn a bit of something new."


O'Malley moved to the center of the room, then raised their arms and put one hand a few centimeters above the center of each of the girls' chests.  The others said nothing, but all three of the watchers were wild-eyed.  O'Malley didn't seem to be stretching, but the beds were almost three meters apart.


Next O'Malley gradually lifted their hands and a ghostly image of each girl appeared, rising as O'Malley's hands did.  O'Malley continued raising their hands, and, by the time they were a meter and a half above the girls' bodies, there were three ghostly images of each girl below each hand.


O'Malley began softly. "Tragedies do strange things to us.  The history you got was partially correct.  The girls' mother did indeed have stillborn twins a year before these two were born, but those children weren't girls.  They were boys.


"What happened after that was the opposite of what you heard.  The girls' father's mind was bent by the event.  After these girls were born, he spent months looking for a mage to 'fix the mistake' of his 'boys' being born in girl's bodies.


"He finally found a mage to take on the challenge.  Of course he couldn't change their sex, but he realized that he probably could make everyone see them as boys.  It's quite a complex spell, and I must admit that he cast it beautifully.  His only mistake, besides doing it in the first place, was that he never noticed, or perhaps he never thought to check, that the girls' mother also had a mage gift.


"That's why his spell never affected her, and by the time the plague took her a week after her husband died of it, the rest of the village was convinced that it was she whose mind had broken and caused her to insist that her children were daughters and not sons.  


"As a matter of fact, their mother had at least as much power as Miranda here does.  Totally untrained, but substantial. And that explains the amulets.  About an hour before she died, she laid her hands on the crosses the girls wore and made them swear never to take them off, as they would 'protect' them.


"While she was holding them, she used all of her power to try to fix what the other mage had done."


Shaking their head gently side to side, they continued, "I have to give her credit.  She had a high fever and was nearly delirious, which is why she didn't exactly cast the spell she wanted.  What she wanted was to break the spell that made people think that her girls were male.  What she did when she was casting her spell was say, "Damn it!  They're NOT BOYS!


"The strain of the casting made her unconscious, and she died an hour later.  The spell did work though, and from that moment on, everyone who encountered them thought of them as girls."


O'Malley shrugged. "That's why we have what you see here.  On top is their true female form as it should be at their age.  In the middle is the boy form that was imposed on them by the mage the girls' father hired, and on the bottom you can see a somewhat ambiguous form, neither male nor female.  That's left over from their mother's casting.


"Only the one on top is the true self, so, what we need to do is get rid of the others without harming the original, which is going to be a bit tricky.


"If you look closely you'll see that all of the forms are connected to each other by hundreds of threads, and the bottom one connects to the body.  What I need to do is sever all the connections to the two lower forms, dispose of both of them, and then reconnect the true form with the body.


"The hard part is that if it takes more than a tenth of a second, or if any of the threads I repair are mis-connected to one that isn't its true counterpart, the child will die.  


"That being the case, I'll just pop into No-Time....


"There done, and a fine job if I say so myself.  Which I do, since nobody else saw me do it.  I suppose I could have taken you into No-Time with me, but none of you are quite ready for that yet."


Brushing their hands together, as if ridding them of some dust, O'Malley turned back to Miranda.  "You did well to call me little one.  It looks like there's hope for you yet.  Not that I ever doubted it.


"You can find me at the store whenever.  Just be sure that you've finished that new book first."


With that O'Malley vanished leaving three befuddled beings in the room.


Before they could say anything to each other, O'Malley popped back in.  "I forgot to tell you.  'Kurt's' true name is Hannah.  'Sandro's' is Tabitha.  Toodles."


Kaho turned to Sandy, whose mouth was still hanging open, and, with a perfectly straight face, said, "Right then Sandy.  Let's get the girls cleaned up.  Then I'll teach you how to make the tea they'll need if they ever have cramps like this again.  They may not.  Some girls only do with their first few monthlys or even just the first one.


"I'll leave teaching them about what's going on with their bodies to you.  It'll do you good."


She turned a half circle.  "Speaking of leaving things to others, Madame Donetti, Archbishop Comfort, I shall leave it up to you illustrious ladies to figure out how to explain to everyone that the girls really are girls, just as we'd originally thought when they first arrived.  I'm sure you'll be able to fabricate some sort of plausible explanation for their temporary "boyhood."


"You may not convince everyone, but nobody in their right mind would ever disagree with either of you when it comes to matters of magic.  Besides, it'll be ever so much fun to watch you pummel your minds while you try to figure out how to fix this mess."


After getting the girls taken care of, Kaho took Sandy's arm and gently pulled her out the door then downstairs to the kitchen where, as promised, she taught Sandy about how to make the herbal tea and which shop carried a proper mix of the herbs.  As it was the only shop in town that handled that particular mixture, it was always busy.


Later, when Miranda and Lucina were about to follow Kaho out the door, Miranda paused and stared after Kaho's receding back with a flinty expression.  "That girl....  She's always going on about how little she likes to talk, but, somehow, once she gets started, she always ends up talking more than almost anyone else I know."


Lucina chuckled.  "That may well be true, but it doesn't help our problem."  She gestured upstairs toward the girls.
"How in the world are we going to fix this?"

 


© Copyright 2019 Charlotte Braun. All rights reserved.

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