Where conventional medicine had thus far failed, they had turned to magic to try and discover the cause behind Hildegard’s mysterious illness. Thankfully, Cat and Turi were no longer the only ones looking out for her.With the return of part of the first Legion to Rome, Hanne had come home to help care for her adoptive daughter. With Albion still out of town, they had found the foremost experts in magical healing and curses that they could find.
Cat always hated letting strangers look over Hildegard. She disliked the doctors who had poked and prodded her to no avail. All of her tests said that physically she should be perfectly fine, but clearly there was something wrong. Now, Hildegard’s room was cramped with people gathered around her. Hands were waved, lights shimmered at their fingertips, and they traded comments with each other and with Hanne, leaving Catarina out to stew in worry.
“Well they were right in thinking it wasn’t mundane.” Doctor Abigail White (Technically the only M.D. among them) corrected her glasses as she stood up from where she had been kneeling over Hildegard. “I’m not sensing any damage for me to heal.”
“Then it is magic?” Hanne asked.
“Almost certainly” Another one of the mages said. Cat didn’t recognize her from around the city, but she worried her the most. She was dark-haired and dressed in a long cape, her name was apparently Sybilla, and she was currently under guard by Aurelio and others, who waited outside the door for them to finish. “And it’s malevolent magic on top of that. Otherwise it would be much easier to find.”
“Are you finding anything at all?” Hanne asked, and Cat could hear the note of frustration and desperation in her voice.
“I believe I am” Sybilla nodded “There is the trace remnant of something malevolent within her…what exactly it is or where it’s centered…I cannot say.”
“That seems more a notion than evidence of anything.” Hanne furrowed her brow.
“I can corroborate that” The third was younger than the rest, around Cat’s age and dressed not unlike a nun, a thick tome carried under her arm. She was from the Vatican, a student of Catholic ritual and exorcism named Stella Notaro. “I’m definitely getting results that show evidence of an evil presence in your daughter, General.”
“But can you do anything to help?” It was Cat who spoke up now, out of equal frustration and impatience.
All three “Doctors” exchanged glances before Abigail spoke up. “I’m afraid that without more to go on…there’s simply not all that much to be done.”
“Well you need to do something!” Cat shouted. It had been weeks, and no one had done so much as lift a finger to actually help. One after the other they had strolled in, said they couldn’t do anything, then strolled out. All the while Cat had been looking after her adoptive sister along with Turi.
“We’re not giving up” Abigail said “We have no intention of stopping. We just…need to find out what might be causing all of this. There are a number of possibilities, and they all need to be explored before we can take our next steps.”
“Stella nodded in agreement “If there is an evil spirit lurking in your sister, we promise that we will cast it out before things get any worse. But this is dangerous and difficult work. You know how it is, you can’t just snap your fingers and magic things better.”
Cat frowned, she did know how it was. She knew all of what they were saying was true, but it didn’t improve her mood in the least. It didn’t change the fundamental truth that there was nothing Cat could do to help Hildegard All she could do was sit and wait while these three continued their experimentation, trying to hide that they were likely just as ignorant as Cat was.
Cat stormed away from the others, ignoring Hanne’s calls as she grabbed her coat, flinging it over her shoulders as she headed out from the townhouse. Her footsteps were heavy on the stairs, causing the wood to creak and bend beneath her stomping. By the time she had reached the bottom, she had pulled the bluish-green jacket tightly around her, the hood up and scrunched around her face, and she left the building with nothing but a door slam in her wake.
Cat kicked a rock in front of her as she kept her eyes on the ground, not looking up, stuffing her hands in her pocket. Let someone come and bump into her. Then they’d know just a small fraction of what she was feeling! All of her trainings as a mage, all of the power she kept being told she had, everything about having a great future and destiny and she wasn’t able to help her sister!
It wasn’t fair.
There had to be something she could do. She kicked the rock far, watching it bounce off the concrete into the road, spinning on its side aimlessly as it tried to settle.
She felt a shoulder bump into hers, the other person not doing anything to soften the blow. Cat’s temper flared as she threw back her hood and turned to face whoever was so stupid enough to get in her way now, of all times.
“Yo.” Rosa said, chewing on a piece of gum. “What’s up?”
“What’s up?! I’ll tell you what’s up! You just bumped right into me, you jerk!”
“Eh, it’s no big deal.” The redhead shrugged. “Wanted to see if you were going to look up first. Kinda like chicken, heh.”
“You didn’t think of saying anything, no ‘Hey look out’?!”
Rosa drew herself to her full height as she shifted her weight to her back foot. “What’s your problem, Cat? We ain’t in the ring, you don’t need to bite my head off.”
“My problem is that I’m trying to get some peace and quiet and I run into you! My sister is dying and I know you don’t even care because that just means there will be no one to stop you from bragging that you’re unbeatable now! You don’t even care that she’s sick!”
“Nah, that’s not right.” Rosa said, her eyes narrowing. Her entire body seemed to tense up as Cat finished her rant. “I care about your sis. I hope she dies so she doesn’t have to listen to this bullshit.”
“How can you say th-!”
“Do you think I want to hear your whining instead? Jeez, Cat, could you be any more selfish? You have a family that’s still livin’ and you’re complaining and moaning more than anyone else in this city. How many of ‘em lost their sisters or mothers, meanwhile half the city is bending over backwards to find a cure for Hildegard ‘cause she’s Hanne’s daughter and you’re here, crying your head like a little baby. Grow up.”
“Grow up?! How can you say that to me?! You spend all your time bullying people on the field rather than helping anyone at all!”
“Whatever. You do whatever you want, Cat. I’m done talkin’ to you for now.” Rosa said, with a glare. She pulled the gum from her mouth and stuck it between her fingers, before flicking it at Cat’s shoes. “Later.”
Cat fumed as she shook her foot to knock the gum loose from her shoe. She didn’t have anything else to say to Rosa as the redhead walked away, her hands in her jean short pockets. All Cat knew was that Rosa was nothing but a complete and total jerk.
“That’s enough fresh air…and people…” She said to herself as she pulled her hood back over her jacket and turned around to start walking home. She saw the legs of people as she walked by, but nobody said a word to her and they all seemed to give her a wide berth. When she got back to the townhouse, she stormed past Hildegard’s room where Hanne was still sitting, heading to her own and shutting the door. As angry as she was, however, Cat shut the door quietly, so as not to disturb her sister.
She lay down on her bed and put her arm over her eyes as she tried to steady her breathing. She could feel it getting raspy and wheezing as her body wanted her to cry, but she refused to let the tears fall. Cat just needed to take her mind off of the situation with Hilde, off of this illness that wasn’t going away.
Cat opened the drawer to her nightstand and pulled out the special leather book. There was one person she could talk to, who always seemed to make her feel better. Cat flipped open the book to the last page and scribbled hello in big blocky letters.
A: Ah, hey there, Cat! What’s up? Why so shouty?
C: Does it really make the ping louder when I write big?
A: No, not really, but your picture grows a huge mouth! Haha, it’s like half the size of your face!
Cat couldn’t help but smile. She put the book on the mattress and rolled over onto her side to get more comfortable as she continued to write.
C: It’s been a long day here. And Rosa’s still a jerk.
A: Oh no, what did she do now?
C: She said she wished my sister was dead! I don’t know what her problem is.
A: I’m sure she didn’t mean it quite like that, but that’s still terrible!
C: Yeah, I can’t believe her.
A: It’s kind of funny. You have to deal with your red hothead and I have to deal with mine!
C: Who’s that?
A: Mm, she’s kind of a bully where I live. Well, at least to me.
C: You shouldn’t let bullies pick on you, Asha!
A: Hehe, I know, but it’s not that bad. She’s not mean, she’s just…blunt.
A: Ah, she’s coming over here.
C: Well, if she’s mean to you, I’ll give her a piece of my mind!
A: Hehe, thanks Cat, but I got it…
C: Are you sure? Hey, it looks like someone else is writing. This book is weird!
Christie: What are you doing over here? We’re supposed to be working!
A: Ah…Nothing, Christie…
Cat blinked a few times, as she saw text clearly being transcribed from the area around them. As far as she knew, the book only operated by written communication not verbal. Just how did Sheh make this book? She’d have to ask. Still, the other girl, this Christie, was off screen.
Christie: What’s that book?
A: I’m talking to my friend, Cat, the one I told you about?
Christie: This is that phone thing? Lemme see!
A: Umm, sure.
Christie: So what I just write? Hey, what’s that picture there?
Cat started to write “Heya, Christie” before the quill fell from her fingers in surprise. She let out a gasp as she stared at the picture of the red headed girl peering over Asha’s shoulder. The pony tail was shorter, her face a bit more tired and thin but still, it was unmistakable.
This girl was identical to Rosa.
The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9551?chapter=32&sl=227