Chapter 8, Part I
When Cujol teleported us to Didra’s lab, I thought my heart had stopped. Satel was lying on the table with his vest just destroyed from Didra’s haste, his ugly wound exposed for all to see. His skin had already turned very pale and there was a precise, deep cut that started from right above his hip and ended just below his ribcage at his lower back. Surrounding it was a sick purplish hue that was rapidly spreading outward, despite all attempts to stop it.
Didra had her hands hovering over him with a strained look on her face as she used all her power to keep him alive. I was in such a shock to encounter him on his obvious death bed, that I had barely registered the fact that I had shouted his name. I also didn’t really notice Cujol offering his services until he rushed over to them and began to take over for the pink haired medic.
All I could do was stare, rooted in place from fear as Didra rushed to her medicines to fix whatever was wrong with my mate.
Satel had been very still the entire time and his face had lost almost all its’ color. His eyes were closed, but the skin around it was darkening and it seemed like it was sinking. It was like he was turning to bone right before my eyes. Suddenly my feet began to move and all I could think about was how I was losing someone dear to me again. This wasn’t by the same method, but death was death- it had just truly sunk into me that Satel could very well die at any second.
I walked around Cujol and gazed down at the platinum blond’s pained face before I held out a shaky hand to feel him. But Didra turned in time, almost as if she sensed me, and slapped my hand away.
“Don’t touch him!” she yelled firmly with an undertone of panic. “His body is trying to eliminate the toxins and they’re escaping through his sweat. Even in a slightly diluted form, sea dragon venom can still kill you instantly.”
That was when I first heard his problem- he was poisoned by a sea dragon. I didn’t know how exactly it could affect falucite, but I did know that it could be deadly to come into contact with sea dragons when they’re angry.
I thought back to that ‘exchange’ that Makhis’ra had seen- that must’ve been when it happened. If only he had kept a wider berth around her…
I clenched my hands at my sides and shook my head. This was no time for ‘if only’s- falucite were stronger than humans, but if I could die easily from it, even with my mate-strengthened body, then that means he only had a slim chance to survive. But Didra wouldn’t be working so hard on the medicine if it were a lost cause, right?
“What can I do?” I inquired suddenly, wanting to help out. If I could help make a difference, then it would increase his chances of survival. Anything was better than watching him slip away- and I was willing to do whatever it takes to prevent that.
“You can do nothing,” the evil shrew woman replied, sounding annoyed. “But please tend to Aared since I cannot.”
“A-Aared?” I muttered in a shocked tone before my eyes drifted to the high chair in the corner. The little falcie was currently screaming and throwing a fit over the sudden noise and lack of attention. There was a high chance that we intruded on his naptime. This wasn’t the type of ‘help’ I was very willing to do, since I knew nothing of caring for babies.
…But I couldn’t tell Didra that while she was in the middle of mixing a red fluid- most likely the antidote. I decided to suck it up and at least try to pacify the falcie- at least getting him to stop crying should be something of a relief in the already chaotic room. As I approached the child, I hesitantly reached out for him and lifted him up from under his arms. He quickly let out a piercing wail and kicked his legs, becoming even more difficult than before.
“For Maker’s sake Tia! He’s a falcie, not a disease! Hold him properly,” the medic growled with a sneer, her hands shaking as she tried to stir in something blue to the mix. It was both disconcerting and fascinating to see her so shaken- it meant that she was worried about Satel. It was proof that she did care about him, but it wasn’t good that he was in such a dire state for her to express such concern.
I wasn’t sure what ‘properly’ was, but I tried to mimic how I’d seen most human mothers carry their young. I somehow managed to maneuver his wriggling chubby legs around my waist before I supported his bottom with one arm. I then moved my other hand from under his arm to behind his back and tried not to wince when his slobbery face pressed against my upper chest.
After a while, his wails were reduced to disgruntled whimpers, but he wasn’t completely comforted. He probably knew it wasn’t his mommy holding him, but he was somewhat grateful that someone was giving him attention. I was a little relieved when Garroe had arrived with Maetira, but he was quickly drafted into helping before I could hand him his son.
However, my discomfort in holding a baby was soon forgotten when Maetira managed to feel her way to Satel’s side. The hood of her robe was down and for the first time, I saw something other than confidence or contempt on her face. Her jaw was clenched and her lips were pressed tightly together in a frown- she was trying to keep from crying.
“You idiot!” she suddenly screamed, her voice both distraught and furious. “Why did you confront her!? You should have fled!”
Maetira was the one who had first warned him of Cyirlie’s plans to visit, and she had done so for the sole purpose of protecting him from her. I wasn’t sure if Satel was even conscious, but he should be surprised to know that no matter how much Maetira picked on him or treated him like dirt, she truly did love her little brother.
“Garroe, hold him up for me,” Didra requested as she approached the table with some kind of purplish concoction. “You should not be affected by the escaping venom as long as you do not have deep cuts in your skin.”
The eldest brother gently moved Maetira to the side and propped Satel up for Didra. The pink haired woman had to pry his mouth open because his jaw had stiffened and set shut. She then carefully positioned the rim of the glass at his lips and let the viscous liquid trickle down into his mouth.
“Hold steady, Grandfather- give it at least one minute to take overtake the venom,” Didra ordered once all of the antidote was in Satel.
We were all very silent as we waited for a change in Satel’s appearance. I found myself holding my breath as I cautiously approached the table with Aared and peered down at my mate’s pale features.
Cujol soon lowered his hands with a sigh. “I feel no more resistance- the toxin must have been purified.”
“But why does he still have the marks of the venom? He does not appear to be improving at all,” Garroe noted as he carefully laid his brother back down. We all turned to Didra for an explanation, hoping that her knowledge of medicine and biology would have an answer for this.
“Since we are not dealing with the average dragon, Satel’s condition is more dire than norm. Much of his body had been damaged before we could control the situation, and our regenerative powers can only work so fast. He is still breathing, for now, but he might not survive should his vital organs and nerves not regenerate in time,” she replied before adding in a quiet tone, “I apologize, but I have done all that I can for him. If he can maintain life for the next three hours, then he should survive.”
So there was still no guarantee that he would make it? My throat suddenly started to hurt and I felt my eyes burn- it was my first sign that I was about to cry. Was there really nothing else anyone could do? How could he still die after being cured of the poison? He promised that he wouldn’t leave me!
I knew that at this point, he had no say in it, but I was too hurt and scared to care. All I could think was not again. It was selfish, I know, but I couldn’t stand to see him of all people die- even though it wasn’t the same as the Wise Man’s, it was still something that could take him away from me forever.
It was too painful to see him lying there so still with his skin white as a sheet and his breathing so shallow. If he was still somehow conscious, he could’ve been suffering right then and there, and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t even comfort him because I couldn’t handle the venom. This was too much and too cruel- and he was only in this state because of some vengeful dragon.
Why didn’t I try harder to stop him confronting her? Why did I just watch? I could’ve taken his place had I just stood up and made my presence known! In my distress, I completely ignored the fact that this was what Satel had wanted. He’d faced her himself to make sure I wouldn’t be the one lying where he was- but I, instead, would no longer be breathing.
Suddenly, Aared began patting my face with his tiny hand. Hot tears had escaped my eyes despite my efforts, and he touched them with a look of curiosity. He was no doubt surprised that the ‘big people’ could cry like he could.
Everyone else seemed too preoccupied with their own regrets and grief to notice me. Cujol and Garroe remained near the table with their heads bowed while Didra glared at her shelves with her arms crossed and a perplexed look on her face. Maetira had found her way to a chair against the wall and slumped over, appearing defeated and miserable.
“Is there anything we can do for him for the time being?” Garroe eventually asked as he raised his head and looked to his mate.
“…If these are truly his final moments, then it should be spent in the comfort of a bed,” she replied after some hesitation. Even Didra didn’t want to think about the possibility of Satel dying. He may have annoyed her at times, but she had never hated him.
The pink haired woman then trained her bright green eyes on Garroe, then on Cujol before she made an order. “You both should take him to one of the guest rooms. Should he live, he will suffer from a massive fever, so be sure to dress him in something light.”
It comforted me a little to hear her plan for the possibility of him surviving- I desperately hoped that he would. I didn’t want to think he was already gone, but it was hard to with the way the others were acting. He was still breathing, so it wasn’t over yet. He just had to fight it…
Both men nodded before they summoned their magicks to lift Satel from the table. Garroe paused once his brother was floating in midair and glanced around. “Where is Cegil? He should aid us as well.”
“He is on his way,” Maetira mumbled, answering without her usual nicknames. She must’ve sent someone to inform him what had happened. Not a lot of time had passed since Cyirlie had stormed off in a huff, so it was actually surprising that Cegil already knew about it and was on his way home. Either news traveled fast, or the Oracle predicted the worst-case scenario and sent for him just in case.
“We have little time to wait for him- as long as he appears for Satel, then I have no complaints,” Cujol replied before urging Garroe to keep moving.
My feet were moving before I realized it and I found myself following after them. I couldn’t bear to be separated from him now- I was so afraid that if I let him out of my sight, it could be my last view of him.
“Tia, remain here with me. I have something I must discuss with you,” Didra requested before I could reach the door. I wanted to ignore her and follow them anyway, but I knew by the tone of her voice that she had something very important to say. Besides, I still had her falcie- I couldn’t continue to carry him all day, even if I barely noticed him in my arms anymore.
I felt a hitch in my breath as the men left the room with Satel floating between them. Some part of me wondered why they didn’t just teleport, but I figured it had something to do with his condition. It might’ve been risky to his recovery to try it or something. I numbly turned around to face the room once again and waited for the shrew to say something.
Instead of getting straight to business, she decided to summon water into her basin so she could cleanse any trace of venom from her hands. I tried not to get annoyed with her delay and resisted the urge to say anything to rush her along. While I was standing here, Satel was teetering on the edge of life and death. I needed to be by his side- maybe my presence would somehow help him get through this…
“Cegil should be the one to speak with her…” Maetira commented from under her cover of blonde hair as she kept her head down. “He is the one who knows what it is like to lose a mate.”
My blood ran cold when I discovered why Didra wanted to talk to me- she wanted to prepare me for the worst. I didn’t want to hear it when there was still a chance for him to live. I knew it was a dumb thought, but what if hearing it would make things worse, so much so that he wouldn’t recover?
“Cegil can offer the emotional support and advice, however, I need to inform her of her rights after he expires,” the medic responded, going back to her frosty, professional attitude.
“He’s not dead yet,” I muttered harshly, feeling betrayed that she would suddenly speak that way. Why did she bother to insinuate that he could live if she didn’t believe that he would?
“Do not be a fool,” Maetira cut in, her tone sounding more tired than angry, “while we falucite could easily withstand sea dragon venom, no one has ever survived the Great Evil. We cannot expect Satel to be any different.”
“I do not mean to bring your hopes up, but she is not entirely correct- it is possible to survive Cyirlie… however, no one has ever received the antidote in time. Even with him arriving so quickly for aid, I have given Satel only a five percent chance to live- but it is five percent more than what anyone else would have had,” Didra intervened, seeking to inform me properly of where we stood.
I didn’t know that his condition was that serious… It made me even more furious with myself for allowing this to happen. If only I knew this was coming… If only I could’ve stopped him…
“But it’s five percent that I can pray on- I don’t want to hear anything you have to say in regards to the ninety-five percent left,” I said, choosing to stay hopeful- or maybe I was in denial. I didn’t want to accept someone so healthy and strong being brought down by something so preventable as organ failure. The poison wasn’t even an issue anymore! Besides, maybe Ralishaera, the fire goddess of luck and fortune, would grant me that five percent- she had been rather kind to me before, despite my being a follower of Elit.
I wanted to storm out the second Didra took Aared from my arms, but I found myself unable to move- someone had used their magicks to prevent my escape.
“I don’t want to hear it- he’s not dead, so it’s not necessary,” I growled warningly, but neither woman was interested in letting me go.
“Regardless of the outcome today, eventually you must be made aware of what would happen. Should he fall, you will no longer receive his hormones- you would have as much as a year before they fade from your body and you once again become an average human,” the shrew-lady began, apparently unconcerned with my feelings on the matter.
“So? I don’t care about that!” I replied impatiently, wishing I could look away from her. I didn’t know that my extended life was linked to mating with him- I thought it was a permanent thing upon becoming his mate. But even so, it didn’t matter to me if I resumed my normal aging- if Satel wasn’t going to be there, then I didn’t want to live for almost a thousand years.
Didra didn’t let my outburst stop her from continuing. “No matter what you are, you are still welcome to stay with us as part of the family. We will not treat you any differently than before. Furthermore, as Satel’s widowed mate, it will be your duty to decide the course of action we shall take in regards to his possible death.”
“…What does that mean?” I inquired, a little curious and a bit nervous over hearing that. I wasn’t really that stunned to hear how I would still be considered part of the family as they were very family oriented, but I didn’t understand how I would still have any importance or duties in the clan.
Maetira decided to answer that for me. “No matter the outcome, the Great Evil intended to assassinate Satel. That is nothing less than a threat and a challenge to us. Should Satel be unable to speak for himself, then you must be his voice and tell the elders if we should fight her to avenge him, or forgive her and remain at peace with her enclave.”
How could I even think of revenge right now? Sure, some part of me wanted to wring Cyirlie’s long neck if I could get away with it, but Satel needed me now. Focusing on his well-being was far more important to me at the moment.
“Is that all?” I snapped, hoping they would let me go soon. They both seem surprised at my outburst, but then dismissed it as my way of grieving. Of course, I wasn’t grieving- not yet anyway. I didn’t want to give in to it until I had no choice.
“I suppose. At least you are now aware of your rights- perhaps you will come to understand them later on,” Didra answered with a sigh before I felt my muscles respond. I immediately rushed out the door, only to freeze in the middle of the hall when I realized that I had no clue where they had taken him. I had to wait there until Didra and Maetira came out to show me the way. They pretended not to notice me as I just stood there with my head down, and said nothing as they quickly lead me towards my mate.
Satel was placed in a guest room with a door. I suspect they chose it for my benefit, giving me the freedom of leaving and entering in an emergency. Since no one was able to enter his bedchambers anyway until an elder disrupted the powerful magicks, everyone just decided that this was the logical choice.
As soon as I entered, I took a moment to orient myself with the room before stumbling about. The room wasn’t a large as the bedchambers I shared with Satel, and it had soft blue walls with dark green carpeting. Since it was only a guest room, there was only a sizable bed, a plain dresser, and a table with a few chairs.
The first person I noticed was Cegil, and I immediately rushed over to him and wrapped my arms around his waist. I didn’t think about when he appeared or what he thought of the situation- all I did was press my face against his frock coat and let some more of my tears escape. I felt his large hand on my upper back as he tried to console me.
“He has not improved since he was brought here,” he informed me in a saddened tone. I turned my head towards the bed we were standing beside to see my mate laying there.
Garroe and Cujol had removed his clothes and put on a white pajama set that matched his now colorless skin. The blankets were pulled up to his chest and his platinum blond hair was freed from its braid to flow around his head and along his sides. I wasn’t sure who, but someone arranged his hands to rest together on his chest, making him appear as if he were already dead.
But, his chest slowly rose and fell, proving that he was still with us, and that gave me hope.
I wasn’t sure how much time had passed since I came into the room, but everyone eventually found a place in the room to monitor him. I wanted to stand right next to the bed, but Didra informed me that it wasn’t such a good idea. Even with the antidote in his system, Satel still had toxins leaking from his skin, the fumes of which could still severely harm me. To ensure that I wouldn’t do anything stupid, Cegil kept a firm grip on my shoulder and made sure I stood next to him about three feet away from the bed.
After a while, more people came in to see Satel. Makhis’ra and some of the elders appeared, as well as some of his cousins. I noticed that a lot of the non-elders seemed rather young- perhaps from the same age group that had condemned Satel for being born. Now that he was ill, they were more sympathetic towards him and started reminiscing the few fond memories they had of him.
I tried to drown out their voices and kept my eyes trained on Satel, but soon I realized that something was wrong- he wasn’t breathing any more. “Satel!”
Cegil anticipated my lunge and caught me around my waist to prevent me from reaching him. Didra soon passed her falcie over to Garroe before she walked over to Satel and reached for his wrist. She felt for a pulse before her head lowered and she shook her head. I felt like my own heart had stopped before I let out a scream of agony.
Suddenly, I didn’t care about my life anymore- I wanted to kiss Satel and die with him, but Cegil held me back. Had I not been so upset, I probably would’ve broken free from his hold easily.
“Please, don’t die!” I begged to Satel’s still body, still hoping that he could somehow come back and make it. “Please! Maker! Elit! Stupid Fates! Please bring him back! I want him back!”
I didn’t care about the audience, nor did I care who I was praying to- Satel was dead, and my heart died with him.