I was stirred from my darkness by a deep rumbling against my cheek and a slight sting in my ear. As I became more aware, I discovered the rumbling was coming from Satel’s chest and that he was in the middle of a heated argument. He was angry and yelling- some of his words were in another language, but it was easy to tell that he wasn’t very pleased- and there was a tinge of desperation in his tone.
I soon felt my bottom come into contact with something cold and hard. I guessed that he had set me down on a table, but he kept me close so I could continue to rest my head against his chest. I couldn’t yet open my eyes, but I could feel how I was situated around him. My arms were curled up between our torsos and my legs were spread out on the table, the skirt of my nightgown riding up a bit.
His arms were securely around me, one resting at the small of my back and the other at my upper back around my shoulders so he could hold me close. There was nothing innocent about the way he was pressed against my chest, but I knew on some level that he wasn’t taking advantage of the situation.
After a while, I was finally able to understand what was going on. Satel was shouting at Didra, and she was returning the ire in kind. This went far beyond their usual chatter, and I found myself too nervous to reveal that I was awake.
“Remove her from my sight! I will not risk catching Bulgarms!” Didra snarled, sounding surprisingly panicked. What in five hells was happening that had her so on edge? She wasn’t even threatening Satel for his impertinence!
“What about your promise to help anyone with a medical problem? Are you going to take back the oath you made to the elders?” Satel growled, stunning me with the rage in his voice.
“I am with falcie- I cannot keep the oath as it will risk the life of the unborn. My child’s birth is far too important to risk exposing myself to such danger!” she argued back heatedly. Considering how precious females were to the clan, I could see why she would be above any oaths so long as she could create the next generation. …But if this was going to be a problem, then why weren’t there any men studying to be doctors? Falucite are pregnant for a long time…
“You don’t even know if is Bulgarms- you refuse to even come close enough to confirm it!”
That would explain why they were being so loud. Was she really cowering at a distance? Bulgarms must be a really nasty disease…
“At her age, there is not much else it could be. I can contact a member of the Clystmore clan to aid us, but I fear it may be too late for her-”
“NO!” Satel roared as he clung to me tighter. “I refuse to accept that! Teach me what to do- I’ll cure her myself!”
I was both touched about how he wanted to save me and worried about Didra’s assumption that I was close to death. I did feel a twinge of fear well up in me that I could die from this, but I quickly shoved that feeling to the back of my mind in fear of being discovered.
“The fact that she has a fever means that she is in the advanced stages. I highly doubt you could learn quickly enough to make a difference- and, even though your immune system is working splendidly, you are still carrying the virus and I cannot have you pawing through my lab,” Didra replied, sounding a little remorseful to be telling him this.
“So you’re saying I should just sit back and watch my mate die!?” he bellowed incredulously, upset and frantic over the idea. “How dare you expect me to do such a thing! I love her- I can’t just forget about her and move on!”
“Enough of this foolishness, the both of you,” a new voice said, stopping the fight before it could escalate further. I resisted the urge to twitch as I recognized Cegil’s voice. He sounded calm and in control like always- probably aiming to diffuse the situation could come to blows.
An abrupt silence took over as the argument stopped. My heart was already hammering against my chest after Satel’s passionate confession, and I had to struggle to keep my eyes closed and my body still when I felt something brush against my cheek. I knew that it was Cegil- I’d know the feel of his hand anywhere.
“She does not have Bulgarms,” he soon said, his tone sounding very sure. I felt Satel give a sigh of relief before his body relaxed against me and he muttered a prayer of gratitude to the Maker. I felt the same as he, though I still didn’t want to reveal that I was awake. She may have been standing on the other side of the room, but Didra still scared me…
“Truly? Are you certain?” Didra inquired, her voice also betraying some relief. I wasn’t too sure if she was relieved out of actual concern for me, or if she was happy that she wasn’t going to get sick with whatever I had. Tough call with her…
“The markings on her skin do not correspond with Bulgarms. I understand you cannot risk coming closer while she possesses this fever, so I will not demand it so you can see for yourself,” Cegil continued, sounding like he knew what he was doing. For as long as I knew him, he kind of did always know what to do or say in practically any situation. I’m so glad he managed to get here before something went wrong.
“Then might you have an idea of what her illness is?” she asked, both curiosity and wariness coloring her voice. It was a strange combination coming from her- excited about someone having a disease, but for once utterly unwilling to come closer… that didn’t happen too often.
I felt Cegil’s fingers on my cheek again, smoothing over my cheekbone, then brushing back some of my hair. He was very gentle about it, but it still triggered the rashes to start burning. I couldn’t help but wince softly as he pulled away. He was quiet for a long while, likely contemplating his answer.
“I have an idea, but I do not know what it is,” he eventually said, “Long ago, I met a human man in one of my old landlocked territories. He had a similar skin condition, and was always miserable. He was a seafarer, just like Dantia, and we parted ways when he decided to return to the coastal regions where he was born.”
“So then this is a human condition?” Didra muttered before she paused for a second. “That should not be possible. Have you not mated with her?”
“Of course I have,” Satel replied, sounding offended at the question. I briefly wondered why he didn’t say we’d only done so once, but something told me that he was reluctant to mention it. It wouldn’t surprise me actually if they considered it embarrassing to be celibate.
“It may not be a human condition so much as it is something exclusive to seafarers. Though they are human, they seem to have a closer connection to their sea god, and thus any magicks, curses, or illnesses born of the sea would hold to them only,” Cegil continued, redirecting the topic smoothly. “I hope you do not mind, but I have personally met with the humans she has come in contact with and they show no signs of the symptoms she has. Currently, Dantia is the only seafarer in the homestead.”
Even though I didn’t have a diagnosis, I did feel somewhat better knowing that I might not have infected others with my illness. Lioa and the other falucite were safe. Still, there was an issue of figuring out what it is and how to cure it. Despite that I’d spent the majority of my life by the sea, I knew just about nothing of seafarers, save for the fact that we generally have brown hair and grey eyes.
“Hmm…” Didra seemed to have calmed significantly upon hearing that and stood up, the scrape of a chair the only indication that she was moving. I listened to her footsteps as they drew closer and soon I could almost feel her imposing presence near me.
This time, the fingers that touched my face were smaller and more delicate, and I knew she was finally examining me. I guess with the threat of her being affected removed, she could no longer resist the temptation to torture me.
“If you are wrong Cegil, then may the Maker have mercy upon your and Satel’s souls,” she threatened darkly as she continued her light exploration.
“May the Maker have mercy upon all of us. Remember, Dantia has been here for two months now- if she truly caught something that harms us, then we must all have it already. All we can do is work for a cure,” Cegil reminded her, not one bit fazed by her words.
No one said a word for a long time as the medical specialist gauged my appearance and made mental notes. I was getting tired faking sleep, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to open my eyes and face what was going on. I knew she was going to ask questions that I likely didn’t have the answers to- if not that, then she was probably anxious to use her tools to experiment on me…
“I will consult my books on anything regarding sea creatures and humans of Elit,” she eventually murmured before she issued orders. “Satel, I will need you to take a sabbatical and monitor your mate- report any other symptoms you may notice about her. Cegil, I will need you to travel to the coastal regions and question the seafarers of their known pathogens. Seeing as the ones in your former territories trust you, you should be able to obtain more information than any of us.”
“Thank you, Didra,” Satel muttered gratefully, happy that something was being done for me. He sounded so broken and lost that even I wanted to comfort him. …He really did care about me, didn’t he?
“Do not thank me- as you so rightly pointed out, it is my duty. We are both in a precarious situation, as losing a falcie is just as devastating as losing a mate. I hope that you can appreciate where my priorities lie and not take offense to it,” the evil shrew lady explained as she began walking away.
“I know,” the younger falucite muttered, his tone very quiet, “but I will not apologize for my earlier words, as I meant them.”
“And I will not demand one from you. Now if you gentlemen will excuse me, I must begin my research immediately,” Didra announced before I heard a door open and close. So if she had to leave, then we weren’t in the library… where were we?
“I suppose I should get ‘Tia-dear back to bed. If Didra left, then that means she’s not as bad off as I feared,” Satel mused as his hands drifted down to my thighs and bottom with the intent to lift me. But before he could, something stopped him and he let out a soft grunt of surprise.
“Before you do so, I have one question,” the elder man began before his voice came closer. “How much did you hear, Dantia?”
That time I couldn’t stop the flinch as my farce was exposed. The only lesson I never seemed to have learned was that I could never fool Cegil. I wasn’t sure if I had done anything to give myself away, or if the tall man just knew me too well. Satel’s body stiffened at the same time he turned to look down at me.
“…‘Tia? You’re awake?” Given how surprised he sounded, I must’ve successfully tricked everyone else- or they were too caught up in their emotions to really pay attention.
Now that I was found out, I pushed back to sit up, ignoring the weak feeling in my limbs as I did so. I took a quick glance around to satisfy my curiosity and discovered that we were in a small white room with shelves, glass vials, and various complicated instruments intended for some kind of research. I’d guess this was one of Didra’s laboratories- it’s the first time I’d ever been in one.
“All that yelling woke me…” I admitted quietly, trying not to look embarrassed over being caught. “I didn’t think it was a good idea to bring attention to myself.”
“I don’t blame you. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable my sirsa- the idea of losing you frightened me to the point of being unreasonable,” the blond man told me as he rubbed noses with me. That strange flutter came to my chest again and I felt an overwhelming urge to return the gesture, but I ended up turning my face away instead. My already hot face burned more from his confession.
“Well? Do you happen to know anything that might relate to seafarers and your illness?” Cegil prodded, seeing that out little moment had come to a stall.
I just shook my head to answer him. If I knew anything, then I would’ve said something a long time ago. I had never seen anything like this before, nor had the Wise Man ever mentioned anything to me.
“Heh, I guess you’re not as good at getting information from seafarers as you thought,” Satel teased with a grin to his brother. I hadn’t even realized that Cegil was asking me for the purpose of his new mission.
“I am not too surprised of her answer, considering how far removed she is from her culture. I was merely fishing for a lead is all,” the lavender haired man replied with a small grin on his face. I buried my face against Satel’s neck as the pun caught up to me and I tried hard not to laugh at what should’ve been a very poor attempt at humor.
Only Cegil could pull something like that off- only he could say something like that with a straight face.
“Hah,” Satel laughed once, smiling wryly at his brother.
“If you want a lead, then I do have something- don’t bother looking to pirates for that information,” I offered before the blond man could add anything to that horrible pun and make it worse. “When I was a child, all I had to watch out for was scurvy, and that was because I was on a ship with limited access to fruits. I would guess coastal seafarers have different problems, though I have no clue why I would be lumped with them now.”
Though the world calls us ‘seafarer’, there were too many different subcultures of us to really assume we’re all the same. The pirate and merchant versions spend more time at sea than the coastal and fisherman types, so our lifestyles and the things we were exposed to were radically different.
“So you believe it is limited to those who dwell upon land? I suppose that is a good lead to go by,” Cegil commented before he thanked me and excused himself to get started.
It was just me and Satel left within the room, and all I could do was stare back at him as some …feelings crashed over me. How he’d acted this morning and the passionate words he’d just had with his sister-in-law, made me reevaluate the man standing before me.
For the longest time I’d been accustomed to Cegil’s presence- he would always stand up for me and was constantly my source of protection. But now I was finding Satel did that too. He also fought for me, if I needed it, and gave me the physical comfort that my former guardian never initiated. I didn’t think I needed that, but while I was in this condition, it was appreciated.
I decided then that it was possible to trust Satel completely, and all the excuses and fears fled from within me. I would let him take care of me, and try to return some of the affection- in private. …I still wasn’t the type to be in display.
I wasn’t sure what was running through his mind during that long silence, but he eventually gave me a warm smile before he gently pressed his lips to mine. It was a short kiss, but it was enough to allow me to temporarily forget where I was and what was wrong with me.
“Let’s get you back to bed,” he suggested in a soothing tone before he teleported us back to our bedchamber. I was then treated to breakfast in bed – well, pretty much lunch by then – followed by a cuddling that lasted for most of the day. I didn’t get sick often, and I usually hated having to sit still for so long, but Satel somehow made it bearable.
For the next two days I had gotten progressively worse. Blisters had formed on my forehead, the rash causing excruciating pain. The purple bumps multiplied to cover my body, the oldest ones increasing in size- likely progressing toward the same state as my head. I could feel them ache now, getting worse and worse every day.
My fever never fully went away, but it had cooled enough not to threaten my bodily functions anymore. Ironically, my temperature was equal to what it had been before I we were mated- apparently a human’s natural body temperature was considered ‘feverish’ to falucite.
What was more concerning was the fact that my strength was leaving me- I’d gotten so weak that I couldn’t even sit up on my own anymore. I had to rely on Satel to get me to the bathroom, and even hold me up over the facilities so I could use them. It was embarrassing, but I was also stunned that he would do that for me without judgment or mockery. I was an invalid now, and a waste of time for someone who needed to work, but he stayed by me regardless.
I was extremely grateful to have him by my side- if not for the help, then for the company. He was so convinced that he wasn’t going to catch my disease that he didn’t bother to keep his distance from me at all. He’d lie in bed with me and hold me close… sometimes he’d even read to me to help me get to sleep. The only reasons that he would leave my side were to retrieve food or to grill Cegil or Didra on what they might have found.
It wasn’t until the afternoon of the third day when a breakthrough was discovered. Though Satel wanted to keep his chambers private from anyone other than me, I wanted to be there for it, so he relented and shifted his magicks to let Cegil and Didra through. Despite knowing this, I was quite surprised to see Cegil appear- I was leaning against Satel, trying to doze off for yet another nap, when he suddenly blinked in without a sound.
“Cegil, did you find anything?” Satel inquired eagerly as he gently disentangled himself from me and sat on the edge of the bed. I instantly missed the feel of his body against mine, and I found myself wishing that he would come back- Cegil watching or no. Not that I had any question in my mind that I was sick, but my pitiful need for contact and comfort was just proving that I wasn’t myself.
“The seafarers I have met with seemed to know of what I ask, but they offer no name or cure. All they have suggested was to have Dantia return to the coast. They also urged me to give something to her,” he explained as he began digging for something in his frock coat. He explained that it was just easier to describe me as a coastal seafarer when he made his inquiries, because he was well aware they wouldn’t have helped a pirate. And like hell they’d have wanted me back, otherwise.
“Hmph, I suspect they don’t want to reveal anything incriminating and want her to come to them for healing,” Satel surmised, watching as his brother pulled out a small metal flask. “What’s that for? Are they saying liquor might help her?”
Oh that’s not a bad idea- it’s been a while since I’ve had something alcoholic… though I still wasn’t keen on any hard liquors. Ale and wine were as much as I was willing to drink.
“No, this is filled with seawater from the Sea of Anatil. Forgive my next crude statement, but the seafarer who gave me this said that Dantia is ‘downright daft and has her head filled with kwiad rue’ for not having this on her person,” the tall man explained, adlibbing a little since he didn’t have a seafarer’s accent.
I bit back a chuckle over that- looks like I’ll be insulted by my kind no matter what initial misconception they have of me. Cegil glanced over to me before his long arm reached over to me to give me the flask.
“Do you know what the significance of this is?” he wondered once it was in my hand. “Somehow I doubt it is supposed to help with your condition.”
I turned the flask over in my hands a few times as I examined the cool and shiny surface. I knew the meaning of a seafarer carrying a flask, and Cegil was spot on with his speculation. They gave this to him to summon me back, thinking that I was a member of their seafaring tribe and that I needed to come home. It had nothing to do with a cure.
“This has no meanin’ ta me,” I muttered, too weary to speak correctly. “A pirate doesn’t touch land save fer raids an’ visits ta the pub, so we don’t have use fer the tradition. Only the coasties have reason ta travel inland, an even then they don’t need ta stay there long.”
“But you do know what it is for, correct? You just mentioned traditions,” Cegil prodded, still wanting to know more despite my dismissal.
“I think I’ve heard of this…” Satel muttered, surprising me a little. “When seafarers travel into the land of Kajros, they take with them a flask of seawater to carry Elit’s protection with them. It’s nothing more than a good luck charm.”
Satel did mention before that he had spent time around seafarers- in fact he’d hinted weeks ago that he’d only done it to get to know the mate he was originally promised to. But since the jilted woman was a sea dragon, his knowledge should’ve come from pirates, not the coastals. Actually, his dismissal of it as a ‘charm’ fit right in with what other pirates would think of it as.
“It’s also supposed ta remind the poor barnacle ta ne’er forget who they are, in case the land somehow seduces them,” I added mockingly as I stared at my blurred reflection in the metal. My skin was so red that I looked like I have danced in the fires of Harishul.
“So it was nothing more than an invitation to go back to the coast,” Cegil surmised, sounding very disappointed in learning that. He was hoping for a clue in my recovery that didn’t involve me leaving the homestead. But even if I did go, they wouldn’t cure me once they figure out what I am- many landlubbers didn’t catch that I am a seafarer that quickly, but seafarers didn’t need much to weed out a pirate.
“Seduction indeed! Considering how long you’ve been wandering the continent with Cegil, one would think you’re a traitor to your sea god,” Satel commented as I unscrewed the top off the flask.
Almost immediately the smell of brine filled the air. It might’ve been my imagination, as the scent shouldn’t be that strong in such a small quantity. But if I closed my eyes, I almost felt as though I were standing on a beach.
“Ah’m no traitor- the seafarers cast me aside, so ah do the same ta them. Ah’ve no desire ta return home ta them,” I muttered darkly as I brought the metal container closer to my nose.
I meant to just let the scent of the sea waft in my nose, but something compelled me to bring the neck of the bottle to my lips. My mouth suddenly felt dry and my lips burned as they brushed against the cool metal. Before I could really think, I tilted my head back and raised the flask so that the salty fluid flowed into my mouth and down my throat. My gulps were very loud as I drained almost half of the flask without any thought.
Almost instantly, I felt a rush of energy come to me and a sense of cooling crash over my body. When I came to my senses, I jerked the bottle away from me, some liquid falling unto the sheets. I then found myself staring back at the mildly disgusted winces of the men.
Elit above, what happened to me? It wasn’t healthy to drink seawater- even the crazy assed Wise Man advised against it. I knew it wasn’t good for the body to have too much salt, and judging by the looks on their faces, it wasn’t good for falucite either.
“Were you… supposed to do that?” the giant man asked, hoping I might’ve done it out of tradition.
“No,” I shook my head as I quickly capped the flask to prevent myself from drinking more. “Ah jus’ had a cravin’ fer salt all’a sudden.”
I wasn’t sure if that really was the reason, but I did feel satisfied to taste it on my tongue. I sat up to give the flask back to Cegil and earned a gasp from Satel.
“‘Tia! You’re sitting up on your own,” he pointed out in a stunned but excited tone as I finally realized the same thing. It wasn’t too long ago that I could barely lift my head off the pillows, but all of a sudden my strength returned. Why did the saltwater do that?
“I see… so there must be a connection with the sea and your illness,” Cegil muttered to himself before he glanced over to me. “There was something else I had heard, about a special soup that might be able to temporarily alleviate your symptoms, but I was not sure if it would work before now. The ones who had given me the tip acted as though it would be a waste of time and further insisted to bring you to the coast. The ingredients are products of the sea, so it may very well help you, given how well you responded to the water.”
I narrowed my eyes slightly as I tried not to get irritated with my former guardian. I can understand if he didn’t believe it would work and didn’t want to bring my hopes up, but I was the one suffering and could benefit from a chance ‘remedy’. …Though when I think about it, I’d hate to drink something that could actually be as gross as Didra’s bug blood medicines, only to find it didn’t do anything for me at all. I should just be grateful that Cegil was at least getting the information…
Satel seemed hopeful by the news and was instantly eager to try it out. “In that case, tell me what I need to get. It can’t hurt to try it.”
“I felt the same way, so I already made the arrangements for it. I hope you do not mind, but I borrowed your chef on a short trip to the coast to gather the ingredients. She should have it ready soon,” Cegil answered, stifling a grin as I became annoyed. Tch! So he was going to test it on me anyway- it was so like him to do that. He always dumped things on me at the last second so it would be hard for me to refuse! …He knew me too well.
Though… Cegil and Lioa out on a private expedition together? What an odd pair… and yet fitting, considering they were like parental figures to me. I guess their shared interest in my health and happiness was what initially brought them together, though I wished I knew how they acted towards one another.
“I don’t know why you bother saying ‘I hope you don’t mind’- it seems like you always do things without asking first,” Satel commented with a shrug, not really upset with Cegil’s words.
“I have learned from a certain ‘Wise Man’ that it is sometimes better to act without asking. That way, it would be too late to be told ‘no’,” the stoic-faced man stated, while sparing a glance at me.
“Aww, was I a bad influence on you, Cegil?” I inquired with a chuckle, finally dropping my seafarer accent. I still had itching, burning, and painful skin, but I was definitely feeling a lot better than I was before.
“Well done, ‘Tia-dear. I knew there was a bad boy hidden somewhere in him,” Satel complimented with a smirk before he stood up. “I’ve no complaints over you borrowing my chef so long as whatever you’re concocting helps my sirsa. I suppose I shall head over to the kitchens now and see if it’s done yet.”
“No need- I am already expected to meet with Miss Lioa soon to discuss further trips should this dish successfully aid in Dantia’s recovery. I will return soon- tend to your mate while I am gone,” Cegil said, smoothly dismissing himself before he magicked away.
Satel sat back down with a huff before he crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “The nerve of that man to come into my private chambers and issue orders. I hope you appreciate the things I put up with for your sake, my dear.”
I let out a tiny smirk at the humor in his tone and knew that his little drama didn’t mean anything. Now that I was feeling energetic for the first time in days, I began crawling over to the blond man. He quickly turned and caught my arms as he gave me an inquisitive look.
“Help me take a walk around the room. I want to use my legs while I still can,” I told him, as I leaned more of my weight on him. Satel smiled at me as he agreed to my request and helped me get down.
My legs were definitely wobbly from misuse, but not as weak as before. I was grateful that we had this little breakthrough within days rather than weeks, where it would be too late for me. Satel kept one arm around my waist to catch me just in case and held my hand with his free one.
We only managed a few steps before he leaned in closer and asked quietly in my ear, “Are you up for a little dance? Nothing too fancy, mind you.”
“There’s no music,” I reminded him as I turned to face him and placed my hands around his neck for support. He then wrapped his arms around my waist once he realized that I wasn’t refusing him.
“We don’t need any- let’s just move for the sake of moving,” he replied as he began swaying our bodies side to side. I smiled when I realized that he wanted to celebrate my little victory with me. It hadn’t occurred to me til just then that he was just as thrilled to see me up.
I had no idea how long this would last before my legs would collapse again, nor did I know if the soup Cegil was getting would have the same effects as the seawater, but the fact that I felt better now was a sign that this illness can be broken. I never intended to give up, but I still needed that hope to try and fight more.
Satel and I continued the slow dance until Cegil returned with the food. For once, I didn’t mind being caught- I was far too happy to be embarrassed.
Lioa had made me what was ‘famously’ known as seaweed stew. The broth of it had a base of bean paste and sea salt, and the vegetables consisted of seaweed and a smelly green stock known as imai. There were even scallops in there, much to Satel’s inner displeasure, as he didn’t like eating creatures his body didn’t need.
Like with the seawater, all it did was give me two hours of semi-mobility before I was back in my weakened and feverish state. But it seemed if I ate it consistently, the progression of the rash slowed to almost nothing, although it didn’t seem to reverse it. Even so, that was more then enough to convince me to keep eating it, not that I had any complaints. I used to hate seaweed as a child, but now I find it tasty- unless it was all the salt changing the taste.
Though I had better strength and control of my arms and hands, Satel still insisted on feeding me, and I let him. I wasn’t sure if it was because I had gotten used to it, or if on some level I enjoyed the attention. Either way, he really wanted to do it and I didn’t have it in me to discourage him- I will once I get better, but that was a discussion for another time.
Didra was informed that my illness gave me a craving for salt (or just sea food), and we had hoped that it would narrow down the search for her, but it seemed she was no closer than she was the first day of her search. Cegil tried again to contact other seafarers from different areas, but they were just as elusive about my condition and simply demanded that I return to the coast.
Two more weeks passed by like this, getting no better or worse, when I finally received a diagnosis for my illness. Cegil was quiet about it and simply told us to go see Didra, as the medic apparently wanted to test me first before saying anything. Satel wanted to argue that she should come see me, but I was already going mad from being imprisoned in here for most of the month. I had nothing against Satel, and our time together really helped improve my view of him, but I really needed to get out of these rooms and see other people. I was even willing to be subject to Didra’s mad experimentation just for an excuse to leave. Plus, I really did want to hear what was wrong with me.
I soon found myself in Didra’s cold laboratory, still in my nightgown and sitting in Satel’s lap because there were no other chairs around. I no longer fought against the humiliation of it since I’d had to endure worse things in private. Cegil just stood by us stoically as he waited for his sister-in-law to begin revealing her findings.
When the medic raised her bright green eyes to look at us, she tossed a thick hardbound book onto the cold metal table and slid it towards us. All I could do was stare at it since I had no idea what the title said. I didn’t even know if it was in the language I spoke.
“The Book of Seafarer Myths and Curses,” Satel read aloud before his tone became incredulous. “Wait- why are you reading on myths when you should be looking at your medical documents? ‘Tia’s ailment is real!”
“Calm yourself,” the pink haired woman ordered curtly. “When I was unable to find a disease that matched her symptoms, I consulted this book for insight on the occult beliefs of seafarers. Surprisingly, her sickness is listed within these pages, instead of in a legitimate medical ledger.
“She has what is known as Seafarer’s Madness- a sickness that is allegedly used by the sea gods to punish seafarers when they stray into the lands of Kajros. However, others argue that it is merely a seafarer’s alignment that is rejecting the atmosphere found away from the coast. Since not many of her kind would dare stray far from their lands, observing Seafarer’s Madness is rare, and is thus considered a myth.”
Oh wonderful, only I would pick up some illness that doesn’t exist to others… But, even if it is rare, Cegil saw someone else who had it- and while the coastal dwellers wouldn’t give name to it, they knew what he was talking about. What’s with the secrecy here? Were seafarers embarrassed of this disease? Or was it the rest of the world that didn’t want to believe the origin of it was from a divine curse?
I’d caught Didra’s opinion in the matter when she’d called my kind ‘occult’. While there is no dispute that the gods exists, I had found that many earth and fire based creatures didn’t believe that the gods truly interacted with the lesser species.
“So it is either a curse or an inability to adapt… but surely it cannot be the latter. Dantia has been away from the sea for seven years. Why would she be showing these symptoms now and not before?” Cegil inquired, bringing on a good point. I’d been healthy since long before I came here to the homestead.
“I am under the impression that it is an adult-onset disease. She likely didn’t contract it until recently when she was exposed to that tidal wave. If she truly had not exhibited the signs before then, then I would assume that a seafarer can only catch it while in the sea, and also that constantly being exposed to it constantly weakens the pathogen. This would explain why she seems to feel better after eating coastal cuisine,” the pink haired lady explained while calmly arranging various tools before her on the table.
“But if that’s true, then doesn’t that mean a lot of people might be infected and don’t know it?” I asked, connecting the other clues together. There isn’t a seafarer alive who hadn’t come into contact with the sea, so it’s likely they might never experience the symptoms so long as they didn’t leave the coastal areas for a long period of time. …In fact that would explain why the only advice Cegil had been getting was to send me back.
“Highly likely- in fact I believe that the ‘bug’ is found in the water, and that only your kind reacts to it. Unfortunately, this means the likelihood of finding a healthy seafarer for comparison is slim.”
Satel seemed to understand the meaning of her words faster than the rest of us. I soon felt his arms tighten around me as he sat up in the chair. “What do you mean by that? Why do you need such a person?”
“I am sorry,” Didra muttered with some remorse, “but there is no cure for Seafarer’s Madness. If I may take a skin, hair, and blood sample from her, I can begin research to create a cure- though even then I cannot guarantee success. I would need various samples from other seafarers, and perhaps samples from the each of the five seas.”
Meaning that she would have to spend years kidnapping random seafarers and keeping them long enough to see if they showed signs of the disease. And even if she found a healthy adult, she’d still have to spend countless hours examining each sample to find a common denominator that the healthy one wouldn’t have. Finally, if she ever does find such a thing, then she would have to seek something that would correct the problem, which would require even more years of research. The task itself was possible, but so time consuming that I’d probably be an old woman before she’d even have a breakthrough.
I thought I was being rather outwardly calm for someone who was just told that she was probably going to have to live with the disease for the rest of her life, but inside I felt like I’d been stabbed, the blade burning white-hot. I almost wanted to bemoan my fate and ask Elit what I’d done to deserve this, but that was obviously a loaded question. What hadn’t I done, save for cold blooded murder? Maybe I’d been on my best behavior lately, but there was no hiding the crimes I’d once committed.
However, that was under the belief that I was being cursed- if it were just a simple bug, then my past had nothing to do with this. Ohhh how I hoped for the latter…
“So I just have to…live with this?” I asked in a stunned voice, as I gestured to my reddened skin. I could live with the appearance, but the discomfort and my dependency on a soup made from coastal ingredients wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want to be confined to a bed for the rest of my life either.
“Is there really nothing else we can do?” Satel added after me, also concerned.
“Well, we could try to secure a private town by the coast in the name of the clan and have her live there,” Cegil suggested, trying to think of the best possible solution for me. “If she needs to be near the sea, then that should be the closest option to a cure available.”
I felt Satel tense up under me and heard a noise from his throat indicating, that he was holding back his initial response. He paused for a moment to compose himself and stared at me for a second, then to Didra.
“If that must be done… but I’m concerned about unexplained tidal waves. Is it possible for her to live a little ways away from the sea, but be close enough to be healed?”
It took me a beat to realize that he didn’t want me near the coast, but was holding back his opinion for my sake. He didn’t want to take away my only possible chance to get better, but at the same time, he was apparently worried for my safety there. Even if they could secure a town and domesticate the humans, there will always be visitors would cause me trouble to me- and he was also worried about tidal waves… though that shouldn’t happen again. What are the odds of that- let alone having another one that the Fates couldn’t predict in time?
“From what I understand, the sea air can also weaken the pathogen- I suspect that the moisture from the ocean is carried in the wind and that that is why it aids them. Perhaps the cure may also lie in the sea- right alongside the disease,” the evil shrew mused, appearing interested in the other theory.
So in other words, I didn’t need to be by the sea- I just needed to be where the breeze could hit me. But even then…
“Is there any other option?” I blurted out before any final decision could be made. “I don’t want to live on the coast unless there’s no other way.”
I wasn’t sure exactly how it would be arranged, but I didn’t want to go there only to find that Satel or Cegil couldn’t live with me for some reason. I suppose Cegil could just leave the clan if he so desired, though I didn’t know if he wanted to now that he was back with his family, but Satel… I wasn’t sure how it would work for him. With him still being a falcie, he might not get to leave until he’s an adult.
It wasn’t so much that I was worried about never seeing them again, but that I felt like I’d be lonely living there by myself, just waiting for someone to visit. I may have previously acted like I wanted nothing to do with Satel, but I did like the company- he was someone to talk to. And without him there, there’d be no one… because I absolutely refused to live amongst other seafarers again.
All at once, Satel suddenly relaxed his body and gently tightened his arms around me again in a small hug.
“Yes, I would like another option, too,” he muttered, sounding very relieved at the thought that I didn’t want to leave the homestead. That he didn’t want me to leave, but was willing to respect my decision, really touched me.
Didra stared at us for a long while before she closed her eyes and crossed her arms in deep thought. Once something came to her, she raised her lids and regarded Satel with a tilt of her head.
“I do have another theory but… you must tell me the full truth. How many times have you mated?” she inquired lightly, making Satel frown and stifle a sound of protest.
What did that have to do with anything!? If I didn’t know any better, I would think his family was too nosey about the progress of out relationship! The question was directed at the both of us, but I wasn’t about to answer- instead, Satel hesitated before he glared at the table and muttered his reply, “…Once.”
I actually felt bad to see his cheeks burn with shame, because I knew that it was my fault that he was being humiliated in front of two of his family members. Though I was feeling embarrassed myself for different reasons- what we did in our private time shouldn’t be any of their business or the subject of judgment.
If we weren’t currently in danger of being ridiculed, I’d have laughed at Didra’s reaction. Her eyes widened in disbelief- somehow she was unable to fathom the thought. Even Cegil reacted with surprise, casting a quick look that almost said ‘are you serious!?’.
…Was it really that surprising? How often is a couple expected to mate around here? In the human culture, the less sex a married couple had, the more virtuous and respectable they appeared in the eyes of others- apparently it was just the opposite here. Elit above, I must have emasculated Satel in their eyes…
“It’s not his fault- I didn’t feel ready to… do it more than once. He’s been waiting for me to be more comfortable with the idea,” I said in his defense, feeling the need to clear his name.
“If that is so, then it is highly unfortunate,” the pink haired woman stated while shaking her head to clear the disbelief. “If you have truly not mated in a little more than two months, then it does make sense as to how you would succumb to a human disease. The falucite hormone only remains in the body for a limited time, and if you are not receiving more, then the protections you receive from them weaken. Given the time frame, it is very possible for a severe outbreak to compromise your modified body.”
What. The. Hell!? Was she really saying I became ill just because I didn’t have enough sex? I refused to gaze at the man I was sitting on, in fear that he was now smirking over the news. If what Didra was suggesting worked, then he was all I had for a long term cure without having to live near the coast. How wonderful that this all worked out for him!
Though I suppose I shouldn’t get angry at him just yet- after all, he couldn’t have possibly planned for this, let alone know it was going to happen. But I could fault him for whatever he might say in regards to this development. Just the fact that I needed him must be inflating his ego and sending him the wrong message about the nature of our relationship. I wouldn’t put it past him to believe that this Seafarer’s Madness came about only to prove that we belonged together or something.
“…To be honest, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to mate with you ‘Tia-dear, but I’m not one bit happy about the circumstances. I’m still willing to wait for you as long as you need, but if you want to take this option, I will aid you without expecting any answer about your feelings,” he told me, trying to keep his words for my ears only. I glanced up when I noticed that his tone didn’t have any of the satisfaction or smugness that I was expecting, and I found that he wasn’t smiling at all.
I honestly wasn’t expecting this from him- I thought for sure he’d rub this in my face and tease me for being so stupid about resisting him. But no, he was being understanding and honest- not that he’d ever lied to me before. I’d once said that I tended to make bad first impressions, but it seemed that not only had I made a good one with Satel, I also ended up gaining a bad one of him.
These past few weeks proved to me that he had other sides to his personality besides his outward arrogance, and I had severely misjudged him for it. I had to recognize that when he said he loved me and would never trick me again, he’d meant it. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d call myself an idiot, but I really did earn it this time.
I was silent after his declaration, my mind reeling from the multiple issues that were attacking me at once. I didn’t want to think that this revelation stunned me that much, but it did. Cegil sensed this and decided to intervene.
“Is that all of the options, or are there possibly more? We should have everything laid out so we can reach a sure decision,” he suggested, sparing me from having to answer immediately.
“No, that is all she can do. Seafarer’s Madness will not kill her, and it is easily manageable through those options- these facts are probably what turned the disease into a myth, since any seafarer can hide the symptoms as long as they are near the water. Since there is no urgency for a permanent cure, I doubt the elders will allow me to collect human samples due to moral concerns. If she can manage her illness, then I suggest she simply lives with it until I do have the time and backing for the research,” Didra announced with finality.
It didn’t exactly make me happy to hear that my condition was considered low priority, but I could see why it was. If there is no direct threat to my life, then there was no justification to kidnap and imprison seafarers for the sake of finding a permanent cure. And I really didn’t want to put any innocent people in that position… unless they came from Port Sibest, of course.
“Hmm… I believe ‘Tia and I will have to discuss this in private. If there is no more news to be had, then I’m returning my barriers back to the way they were,” Satel replied, referring to the magicks that kept unwanted visitors out of our chamber. He then helped me stand and was about to teleport us away, but then Didra cleared her throat and held up a scalpel. She wore a neutral expression on her face, but I could clearly see the evil glint in her eyes.
“Are you not forgetting something? I need samples from her while she is still afflicted. I cannot have the two of you going off to mate now and risk inhibiting future research,” she reminded us, earning a wince from me. She wanted skin, hair, and blood samples…
The hair was fine, but how exactly was she going to get the skin and blood from me? And there was no reason to assume that we would mate right then… I believed Satel really did intend to talk it out with me first. I didn’t believe he had an ulterior motive this time.
“Cegil, restrain Satel while I obtain my samples,” the evil shrew lady ordered smoothly before she used her magicks to control my limbs and made me stand and walk towards her.
“Hey! This isn’t necessary!” Satel growled as Cegil used his older and stronger magicks on his younger brother to freeze him in place. I wasn’t sure if the blond was speaking of his capture or of my needing to give samples.
I could only watch with anxiety as Didra made me sit down in her chair and then roll up the sleeve of my arm so she had access to my red, bumpy skin. The smirk on her face grew as her scalpel came closer to my arm, making me wince and shut my eyes, waiting for the end.