Lord Dechantagne sat across the desk from Father Galen. The Priest was into his sixties now and was starting to look it. His hair had long ago turned to grey, but he still had the kindly face that those of Augie’s generation had always known. For them, it was as much a symbol of the church as the crucifix.
“Thank you very much for the donation,” said Father Galen. “The purchase of land for a car park will allow more of our members to attend, and will probably improve safety as well.”
“Precisely why I don’t consider it a donation,” said Augie. “It’s more of an investment in the colony.”
“I am a little bit surprised. I know you’ve been attending church here with your family all your life, but I rather expected you to devote your attentions to the shrine.”
“I hope you won’t be insulted if I tell you I’ve given the shrine a similar donation, for a similar purpose,” said Augie. “While it’s true that my mother is Zaeri, the Dechantagne’s have always been strong supporters of the Church of Kafira, if not always notably devout.”
“Well, you know my mind on the matter,” said Father Galen. “Interfaith cooperation can only be good for the people of Birmisia Colony.”
“Then we are in agreement.”
There was a knock at the door, and one of the church acolytes stepped inside and presented the father with a note on a silver tray.
“It’s from Mr. Clipers, the Zaeri Imam.”
“Timely,” said Father Galen, picking up the note and reading. A frown crossed his face. “He asks me to come to the Tice home at Citizen Street. He says it’s an emergency.”
“I’ll drive you,” said Augie, jumping up. “That’s Ascan’s house.”
“Friend of yours?” asked the priest, grabbing his sick call kit and the Holy Scriptures.”
“I know him from shrine. His sister is Iolana’s best gal pal.”
Twenty minutes later, they were pulling up in front of the Tice home. It was a small cottage less than a quarter mile from the Zaeri Shrine. Hurrying inside, they found a dozen friends and family in the parlor, all looking pale and drawn. Ascan Tice met them and practically dragged the priest through a doorway to a back room.
“Willa, what’s going on?” the young lord asked Ascan’s sister, a beautiful twenty-eight year old woman with long flowing raven hair.
“Oh, Augie! It’s horrible! Noémi is so sick.”
“When did this happen? She looked fine on the Sabbath.”
“It just happened—hours ago, maybe. We were baking bread and she started to act nervous-like. Then suddenly, she broke out in cold shivers, and complained of a headache. I got her to bed and thought she could rest a bit, but when I went to check on her thirty minutes later, she was sweating buckets. And her sweat was blue.”
A frown on his face, Augie stepped back through the door the priest had gone through. In the bedroom beyond, he found the stricken woman in her bed, and just as described, she was covered in blue perspiration. Father Galen was bent over her, in the midst of casting a healing spell. Ascan knelt on the other side of the bed, weeping. Mr. Clipers looked on. Augie stepped up next to him and whispered in his ear.
“Does this blue color have something to do with her dark skin? I mean, because she’s Mirsannan?”
“No. It’s the disease. It’s called The Blue Sweat or just The Sweat.”
“How come I’ve never heard of it?”
“I don’t think anyone has seen it since the fifteenth century,” replied the Imam.
“Then how do you know about it?”
“We’re taught about it because it is the only disease known that is resistant to healing magic. I just hope Father Galen does better than I did. He is known for his healing abilities.”
At that moment, the priest finished his prayer and stood. He glanced at his Zaeri counterpart and shook his head ever so slightly.
Augie took the statuette from his pocket, clasped it tightly, and whispered “Senta.”
The sorceress appeared right in front of him, and right beside Mr. Clipers. Her pink hat just matched her pink day dress, and was tied onto her head with a wide strip of lace.
“Now?” she asked. “At tea time?”
“Mrs. Tice is sick,” said Augie. “Neither Mr. Clipers nor Father Galen can do anything for her.”
Senta looked down at the young woman, now tossing her head in delirium, and moaning in a low voice.
“I don’t know what you expect me to do. I buy my healing draughts from the church, just like everyone else.”
“Can’t you do something? Anything?”
“I wouldn’t even know what spell to cast.”
Noémi Tice suddenly opened her eyes, cried out, and slumped over. Father Galen bent over to take her pulse.
“She’s dead,” he said, standing back up.
Ascan let out a howl and then continued weeping.
“Wait a minute,” said Senta. “This thing isn’t catchy, is it?”
Augie looked at Mr. Clipers, who shrugged.
“Kafira’s twat!” she growled. “Rezesic idium uuthanum tortestos paj.”
Then with a pop, she disappeared.