Beau woke up sick.
She had suspected it when she went to bed the night before, but had hoped that the sore throat and headache building behind her eyes had more to do with sorrow and exhaustion than actual illness. But today the whisper of pain had turned into a shout directly at the base of her skull, which grew louder every time she moved. Her joints felt creaky and slow, as though she had tried to work out without stretching in years, despite the fact that she had done her usual pre-bedtime stretches the night before. Her throat felt tight and her face felt hot, but her core was freezing, and she noticed that her sheets were wet with sweat.
“Goood Morning Beau!” Trilled Jester from the other side of their room.
“Ungh,” moaned Beau, pulling the covers back over her head.
“Wake up sleepyhead!” Continued Jester as she turned on the magical lantern that hung from their wall, filling the room with a natural-looking yellow light. Beau groaned louder and turned over, mashing her face into her pillow. Then she decided it was too hard to breath like that and with great effort turned her head so that one bloodshot eye was squinting up at Jester. At least there weren’t any curtains to open or sunlight to let in – Beau didn’t think her fragile head could have handled that.
Jester stood by the door to their room, already fully dressed.
“If you don’t get up soon you’re going to miss breakfast! And if you miss breakfast, you’ll be too hungry to go shopping with me! Which you promised to do!” Jester reminded her, with far too many exclamation points for this early in the morning.
“Just give me a minute,” was what Beau tried to say. Unfortunately, it came out as “ ‘us immg mmit.” She cleared her throat and tried again.
“Just gimme a minute Jess,” she said from under her blanket, only slurring the words together a little. “I’ll be right down.”
“Ok!” Replied Jester cheerfully, still not noticing anything out of the ordinary with Beau’s post-waking grumpiness. She let the door slam behind her, the sound sending shock waves through Beau’s poor head. Beau lay still for a long moment, then another long moment. Then she groaned and rolled onto the floor, pulling her blanket with her.
Beau sat up and considered her usual vestments dully from her spot on the floor, before ignoring them altogether and simply pulling her coat on over her sleepwear and fastening it tightly against the chill in her center. She lifted one hand half-heartedly to her hair, preparing to brush it out and put it up in her usual top-knot, but the thought of keeping her hands lifted over her head for that long was exhausting. She was decent enough, she decided, stumbling out the door and towards the stairs. Hopefully Jester or Caduceus would notice how wretched she felt and offer to cast a restoration on her -- without her having to ask.
“Beau, are you alright?” Was the first thing she heard Nott ask as she gingerly made her way into the dining room and slumped down onto the first available chair.
“Who, me? I’m fine,” She said with what must have been a ghastly smile, willing her teeth not to chatter.
“You don’t look fine,” Nott regarded her suspiciously. “You look like something the cat dragged in.”
“Speaking of cats, where is Caleb?” Interjected Fjord. “Wasn’t he saying last night that he needed to come shopping with us? Something about being out of paper.”
“He remembered that he had more of that special ink that could turn regular paper into spell paper,” explained Nott. “He was up very late last night working. We should let him sleep. You really do look awful, Beau.”
“Thanks,” she rasped out through her sore throat.
“No, she’s right. You look sick,” said Fjord walking around the table to place a hand on her forehead. Beau glared up at him, trying to convey that she was submitting to this indignity only because she might throw up if she moved too fast right now.
“Beau! Are you sick?” Jester exclaimed, walking in from the kitchen carrying a plate of what looked like scones. Caduceus followed behind her, carrying a teapot. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I don’t think I’m ~sick~, per se – “ began Beau.
“She’s sick.” Fjord cut her off. “Come feel her forehead, Jester.”
“You could have just told me when I woke you up,” said Jester, coming around the table and replacing Fjord’s hand with her own. Fjord’s hand had been almost uncomfortably cool, but Jester’s blue one felt like ice on her forehead. Beau shivered again as a wave of Jester’s familiar magic cascaded down her back. The shivering stopped and the headache receded, as Jester’s hand went from unbearably cold to its normal coolness. Beau felt like someone had removed a few of the layers of cotton wool that had been wrapping her brain. She smiled up gratefully at Jester.
“There you go! I used a Greater Restoration, so that should take care of all of it,” Jester smiled and smoothed her hand back over Beau’s hair.
“You’re welcome! Hopefully I don’t need that spell slot for anything later,” laughed Jester. “Do you feel up to going shopping now?”
“Honestly…” Beau hesitated. Despite the Greater Restoration, she still didn’t feel one hundred percent. Already she could feel the headache creeping back in. And her throat wasn’t feeling any less sore. “Is it ok if I don’t? I guess I just really didn’t sleep well last night and I’m still kind of tired and achy. I just want to get in a good workout and then maybe take a nap. Do you think we could go shopping together another day? Or even this afternoon?” She felt bad refusing Jester after having promised, especially since Jester had just healed her, but shopping really was the last thing she felt like doing right now.
“I’ll go shopping with you, Jester,” said Nott. “I’ve been wanting to get a few things for Luc and Yeza.”
“Ooh, present shopping!” exclaimed Jester. “We can get some things for my Momma as well! I guess I can let you out of shopping for today, Beau,” she added teasingly.
“Hey, I was also going to go shopping. What am I, chopped liver?” Said Fjord in mock outrage.
“It’s just not the same,” replied Nott haughtily. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand the sacred sisterhood of shopping together. Jester needs another woman on this trip.”
“Of course not!” Said Jester at the same time. “I would have been perfectly glad to go shopping just the two of us, Fjord. But I’m also glad you’re coming too,” she added to Nott.
“If no one starts eating breakfast, it’s going to get cold,” observed Caduceus mildly. “And then no one is going to want to go shopping, because you’ll be too hungry.” This effectively ended the conversation, although Fjord and Nott exchanged a few more barbs as Nott tried to steal his scone off his plate. In the commotion no one noticed Beau drink only a cup of tea for breakfast, before quietly slipping back up the stairs.
Shoutout to ArbuscularMycorrhizal and their fic "Here with me," for making me hungry for Team Human sickfic! I don't usually like to post unfinished works, but this is turning out to be much longer than I anticipated and I wanted to get this first chapter up so I have something motivating me to finish it. Next chapter should be up be Friday at the latest!
Also, how do write Jester without putting ten exclamation marks or writing "she exclaimed" in every sentence? Tune in for next time when I try to figure out how many different ways I can say "Caleb muttered"
Chapter 2: Caleb
Caleb is sightly better than Beau at asking for help... but only slightly
Caleb was sick.
He had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning the night before – if you could call it morning, in this strange city without dusk or dawn. He had buried himself deeply enough in his work as to block out all distractions, including bodily functions, so when he woke groggily at about 11:15 AM he was taken off guard by how utterly wretched he felt.
His eyes were burning and gritty. He was freezing cold – cold enough that he assumed that he had kicked all of his blankets off in the middle of the night, but as he started to gain more and more awareness he realized that not only were they all piled on him, some of them were wet with sweat.
His whole body hurt, in more than just the usual ways. His skin felt sensitive and painful – even the lightest brush of fabric on his arms sent lighting bolts of pain through familiar scars on his arms, while fresher wounds ached, deep and throbbing. He lay perfectly still for approximately eight minutes, before roughly tamping down the part of his mind that desperately wanted to stay curled in a ball for the rest of his mortal life and sitting abruptly upright.
That was a mistake. His ears roared and his vision narrowed to a single point. He came back to himself at the sound of Frumpkin meowing and pawing gently at his cheek. He lifted a shaking hand to pet him.
“Good kitty,” he murmured, carefully scritching the ruff behind Frumpkin’s ears. I should get up, he thought to himself. Get dressed, go out – he had told Jester and Fjord he would go shopping with them, although they surely must have left by now. But there was always work he could do. He ought to be trying to get into contact with Essik, or researching something about Yasha or the Laughing Hand. Still, it took him nearly twenty minutes to convince himself to get out of bed and another thirty to realize that sitting at his desk in an empty library, staring blankly at his spellbook, was doing no good to anyone.
“This is ridiculous,” he said out loud, to no one. His voice grated uncomfortably in the back of his throat. His mind felt like it sometimes did after he saw a fire he had set, like he was watching himself from a balloon tethered somewhere behind his own head. He ought to just find Caduceus – or Jester, though that seemed less likely – and see if he could convince them to cast a restorative on him. One of them would surely agree he was utterly useless in his present state.
Caduceus was not, as Caleb had hoped, in the kitchen. Caleb resigned himself instead to having to climb the steep stairs that lead to the garden tower – something he had no issue with on most days but seemed utterly daunting now. He stopped, swaying, nearly halfway up and had to hold on to the wall for a moment, hoping that he wouldn’t have to sit down in order to catch his breath. A part of him worried that if he did so, he would sit there until someone found him, which was not how he had planned to let anyone know he had been ill.
Caleb found Caduceus at the top of the tower, watering some of the plants he was cultivating beneath the faint sunlight of the tree. They were a strange mixture of plants – some familiar, from seeds that Caduceus must have collected during his travels. Others were plants that Caleb had to assume were from deep within the Savalirwood, and others still were Xorhasian, looking strangely alien amongst all this familiarity. Caleb cleared his throat, hoping to get Caduceus’ attention subtly. This backfired by triggering a coughing fit that nearly sent him to his knees.
“Mr. Caleb!” Cool firbolg hands caught him around the shoulders, holding him upright. “What’s wrong?”
“Sorry,” he gasped out. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… I was only –”
“Take it easy,” Caduceus said soothingly. “You’re alright.” Then he frowned, feeling the heat off Caleb’s skin.
“I’m alright,” repeated Caleb hoarsely, looking decidedly not alright.
“Are you sure there isn’t something I can help you with?” Asked Caduceus, still frowning.
“I…” Caleb trailed off. Asking for help had seemed a simple enough proposition when he was considering it in his room; he was of no use to the group if he was ill, and Caduceus had never seemed to grudge using his spells to heal those in need. But actually voicing the request seemed horribly self-important – it wasn’t as though they were about to go into battle, where his spells might be needed to keep the others safe. And it wasn’t like he had never researched through a sickness before; was it really worth it to ask their healer to waste a high level spell just so that he could feel a little better? Didn’t he deserve to feel like this anyway, to feel his sins in his body the way they stained his soul? He was burning, just as he –
“Come now, none of that,” Caduceus’ voice cut through his thoughts. Caleb realized that he was sitting down. Caduceus had guided him over to a bench beneath the tree and was half kneeling in front of him, his hands on Caleb’s shoulders. “Miss Beau was sick this morning – is that all this is, or did something happen?”
“Ja,” mumbled Caleb, dizzy with relief at not having to explain himself. “I mean no; I mean yes, I am sick, that’s all. Wait—” He cut himself off, sitting up a little straighter. “You said Beau was also ill? Is she alright?”
“She’s fine, Jester fixed her right up. There must be something going around – I wonder if it’s only contagious to humans, or if we should be on the lookout for the rest of the group to get sick as well? Hmm,” continued Caduceus, starting to distract himself. “I know a tea that’s good for warding off sickness. Maybe I should make a pot of it for everyone at dinner. I wonder if it would be good with some –”
Caleb coughed, not entirely on purpose.
“Sorry, I was rambling, wasn’t I?” Caduceus smiled and shifted his right hand to the top of Caleb’s head. “Now, Jester used a Greater Restoration, but honestly a Lesser should do the trick, and I’d rather have more slots left in case you aren’t the last person to get sick.” As he spoke his voice rumbled soothingly in his chest, not unlike Frumpkin’s purring. Caleb felt a familiar warmth wash over his body, chasing away some of the fever chills that had racked him since he woke up. When Caduceus pulled his hand away, Caleb was awash in the sweat of a fever suddenly breaking, but his mind felt clearer than it had all day.
“Better?” Asked Caduceus, smiling.
“Ja, Danke,” Caleb said, and went to stand up. He watched Caduceus’ mouth move, as though he were saying something else, but it was impossible to hear over the roaring that filled Caleb’s ears. His vision began to narrow to a single point, and he was at once convinced he was about to vomit and not entirely sure that he had a physical form at all.
Dimly, he heard Caduceus call to him again. He was back on the bench, his head between his knees. The roaring had finally begun to recede.
“—back with me, Mr. Caleb?” Caduceus was saying. His hand was a gentle pressure between his shoulder blades.
“…Ja,” murmured Caleb, lifting his head. “I am sorry, again. I shouldn’t have tried to stand so quickly.”
“When was the last time you ate something?”
“Um,” Caleb thought back. “Lunch yesterday, maybe? I was busy.”
Caduceus said nothing, but frowned at him in clear disappointment. Caleb shrank back a little, looking properly chastened. Caduceus’ disappointed face wasn’t the worst in the Nein – that honor went to Jester – but it served its purpose well.
“Why don’t you come down to the kitchen with me?” suggested Caduceus after a sufficient pause. “I was going to make a soup for lunch, something light and easy on the stomach. Does that sound good?”
“… Yes, thank you.”
“Here.” With Caduceus’ help, Caleb rose slowly to his feet. He swayed for a moment, clutching on to the firbolg’s arm, then righted himself and stepped away. After a moment's pause, Caduceus followed him down the stairs, watching him with concern.
Caleb my boy, why must you be so WORDY? Average Mighty Nein member overthinks things eight times a minute actually statistical error -- several members actually never think about anything until after they've done it. Self-loathing Caleb, who overthinks everything 100 per second, is an outlier adn should not have been counted.
Come check me out on tumblr, I guess. You can find me at vethandbren for critical role things, or undyingdoom for general tomfoolery. And many thanks to everyone who commented on the last chapter! Each one filled me with warm fuzzy feelings like you wouldn't believe!
Next chapter will hopefully be up by Sunday, or Monday morning at the latest. I am determined to get this story finished in a reasonable amount of time!
Chapter 3: A Meeting
The Mighty Nein have an unexpected planning session.
Beau had gone up to the war room, intending to enjoy a leisurely morning workout before maybe taking a nap. Unfortunately, less than five minutes into her warm-up she realized that the “nap” part of her plan was much more likely than her “workout.” Her limbs felt like jelly, and her spine ached when she tried to take a combat position. She moved half-heartedly through a few forms, before sitting down on the floor to rest her eyes… just for a minute. That was where Jester found her, nearly two hours later.
Shopping had gone well, in Jester’s opinion. She had found a sweet shop that seemed to specialize in candying … all sorts of things, and she and Nott had had a grand time rearranging all of the displays while Fjord unwittingly distracted the shop keeper. Jester had run up to her room, intending to show Beau the candied insects she had purchased, but Beau hadn’t been there. Undeterred, Jester had checked the tower (empty), the hot tub (empty), and the kitchen (Caduceus and Caleb, but neither of them knew where Beau was) before remembering that Beau had been going to work out in the war room. It seemed awfully quiet for her to be working out in there, but maybe she was meditating?
Beau was not meditating. Beau was sitting half-slumped against the wall, her eyes shut and her cheeks flushed.
“Beau, are you all right?” Jester called, coming over to kneel beside her. Her shoulder was fever-hot under her hand.
“Beau? Can you answer me?” Jester gripped tighter, worry coming into her voice.
“Whassat?” slurred Beau, opening one eye. She groaned low in her throat. For the second time that day she squinted away from the light as Jester tried to wake her up. “Leamme alone. Wanna sleep.”
“You can’t sleep here, silly!” Jester tried to inject some lightness into her voice, but she couldn’t stop the tremble from coming through. “I don’t understand why you’re so sick though! My spell should have healed you.”
“Maybe it’s like, a weird Xhorhassian sickness? I ‘unno.” Beau’s eyes shut and she leaned forward into Jester, resting her head in the crook of the tiefling’s neck. “Fuck, how are you so cool? I mean, not like that – not that you aren’t cool, but, y’know –”
“Most tiefling’s run hotter than humans, but I’ve always run colder,” Jester replied, “But Beau, the reason I feel so cool right now is because you’re really sick.”
“I feel really sick.” Beau muttered into Jester’s neck. “Fucking awesome, ugh. I think m’gonna throw up.”
“Oh! Well, hang on, let me get a bucket, or – “ Jester looked around the empty room in vain, “—or maybe just throw up on the floor and not on me!” Beau pulled back and hung her head, taking a few deep breaths, then sighed and relaxed back into her.
“No, I think I got it under control for now.”
“Oh, I don’t know what to do!” Jester fretted. “I could cast another spell, but if a Greater Restoration didn’t fix it, I don’t know what will!”
“Do you think Caduceus knows?” mumbled Beau, still listing against her. “Because this fucking sucks.”
“He might!” said Jester, brightening. “I think he is in the kitchen with Caleb. Do you think you can make it down there?”
“Of course I can!” said Beau indignantly, making no move to rise.
Eventually Jester got Beau to her feet and put an arm around her waist, steering her gently down the stairs. They found their way to the kitchen, Beau swaying alarmingly at a few points along the journey.
In the kitchen they found Caduceus standing at the stove, humming quietly to himself, while Caleb sat at the small table, slumped over Frumpkin in his lap. Caduceus looked up at them as they walked in. Caleb didn’t move.
“Caduceus,” Began Jester, depositing Beau into a chair next to Caleb, “or Caleb, really. My spell didn’t work on Beau! She’s still sick. Do either of you know anything about –” she cut herself off. “Caleb, are you okay? You don’t look very good.”
Caleb raised his head to look at her, but said nothing. His blue eyes, usually piercing, seemed unusually glassy.
“Caleb,” said Caduceus, walking over to the table with something in his hands. “Hasn’t eaten since yesterday, which is probably why he still doesn’t feel well after I cast a restoration on him.” He set the dish of soup down in front of Caleb, then surveyed Jester and Beau thoughtfully. “Hold on, let me get a few more bowls.”
“But I cast a Greater Restoration on Beau this morning, and she’s still sick!” cried Jester.
“What’s this about Caleb being sick?” demanded Nott, also entering the kitchen.
“No, Beau is sick,” corrected Jester.
“I’m alright, Nott,” is what Caleb tried to say at the same time, but it came out in a raspy croak.
“You ARE sick!” said Nott, shrill and a little triumphant. She hurried over and climbed up on to the table to get eye level with him.
“Is this where everyone has got to?” asked another voice as Fjord entered the kitchen.
“Oh good, we’re all here,” said Caduceus, returning with another round of bowls. “I made lunch.”
Unfortunately, the arrival of more food was too much for Beau, who abruptly turned and vomited onto the ground.
Everyone moved at once. Jester squealed in dismay as she tried to move her skirt out of the way, mostly succeeding. Caduceus lunged forward to catch Beau as she leaned out of her chair, hanging her head and gasping. Fjord jumped, and hurried over to the crowd around the table. Nott whirled around to face Beau, and Caleb put his head down on the table and desperately tried not to join Beau in throwing up.
“Okay, so Beau is definitely still sick,” said Nott, “and so is Caleb!”
“Is that true Caleb, are you sick too?” asked Jester. “Even though Caduceus healed you?”
“I… well, I did not want to say anything after you so were so gracious,” he said softly, slowly lifting his head back up so he could look at Caduceus, “but while I initially felt some relief, it faded quickly. I now feel almost worse than I did before.”
“Hrm,” said Caduceus, helping Beau sit up again. “Well. That’s a problem. Can someone bring me something to wipe her face with?”
“So you don’t have any ideas?” Jester said, putting her hand on her hips. Fjord had started rooting through cabinets trying to find a cloth of some sort, but didn’t seem to be having any luck.
“I mean, I only cast Lesser Restoration on Caleb. I could try casting a Greater. But you already tried that on Beau, didn’t you?”
“I did. I don’t understand why it didn’t work!” Jester felt almost petulant. Fjord finally found a cloth, and brought it over to Caduceus, eager to help. Caduceus took the cloth and began gently wiping Beau’s face with it. “Wait, Beau – what was that you were saying about this being a Xhorhassian sickness?”
Caduceus dropped the cloth her had been using on the floor, covering the puddle. Beau tried to focus her eyes on Jester, and almost succeeded. “I mean, I was mostly joking,” she said. Her voice was absolutely wrecked. “Do you think that could be it?”
“It’s worth looking in to,” said Fjord. “I wonder if Essik or Professor Wacoh knows anything about this?”
“I really don’t want to go talk to Wacoh right now,” muttered Beau, slumping down onto the table.
“No, Beau, you need to rest!” insisted Jester.
“Yeah, that’s not what I meant,” said Fjord. “I can go talk to her. Essik too.”
“By yourself?” asked Nott derisively.
“I can go by myself,” said Fjord, on the defensive.
“It’s just that you’re so weak –”
“So it’s settled.” Interrupted Caduceus. “Fjord and Nott will go and see if they can find out anything about an illness that can’t be cured by clerical magic. In the meantime, Jester and I will fight this the old fashioned way.”
“Are you all right with that, Caleb?” asked Nott, running her hands through his hair anxiously. Caleb took a moment to answer.
“Ja… although,” he added, in a voice that was scarcely above a whisper, “I am… worried. About all of you. What if this disease is dangerous to more than humans? Perhaps Beau and I should be quarantined?”
“If this disease is contagious, we’ve almost certainly caught it by now,” said Caduceus, “Besides, the two of you need to be looked after.”
“I don’t,” said Beau, muffled into her arms. Everyone ignored her.
“Don’t worry, Beau,” said Jester cheerfully, startling Beau with a gentle hug around her shoulders. “We are going to take such good care of you! Everything is going to be fine.” Everyone else could see that despite her words, she looked worried.
Here, have some dialogue before I really jump into the h/c!
Once again, thank you to everyone who has commented or left kudos on this story! I spent a long time as a consumer of fan content, but it was Critical Role that finally got me creating again and a big part of that is how welcoming Critters are <3 Expect another chapter next Friday at the latest.
Chapter 4: A Little Looking After
Everyone needs a little looking after sometimes
Fjord left to seek out Essik, and Nott went with him, although not without Caleb reassuring her that he would be alright in her absence – and Caduceus confirming that he would look after her boy. That left Jester and Caducues standing in the kitchen, eyeing Beau, who was still slumped onto her arms, and Caleb, who had managed about two bites of soup and seemed to be morosely contemplating a third.
“Are you sure you don’t want some soup, Beau?” Jester asked encouragingly.
Beau groaned and turned her face a little to the side so she could speak without lifting her head. “I’m sure.”
“Jester, why don’t you take Miss Beau upstairs and get her into bed?” Caduceus suggested softly.
“I can get upstairs by myself,” muttered Beau, eyes still closed.
Jester rolled her eyes. “Beau, stop being ridiculous. The whole fun of being sick is having people take care of you! Let me take you upstairs, and I will give you lots of pillows and get you a cool cloth for your forehead, and read to you, and sing you songs – all the things my Momma used to do for me whenever I got sick! I bet you will feel better in no time.”
Beau said nothing for a moment, her eyes still shut and her eyebrows still scrunched together in defiance. Then she opened them and sighed. “Yeah, I guess that sounds… nice. Thanks Jester.”
“C’mon,” said Jester encouragingly, guiding Beau up and out of the chair. Beau leaned into her for a moment, then straightened, but did not remove Jester’s supporting arm from her waist. Slowly, she and Jester made their way out of the kitchen. That left Caleb and Caduceus.
“Mr. Caleb, do you think you can eat a little more of that?” asked Caduceus as he finished cleaning the result of Beau’s exposure to the food.
Caleb, who had finally taken a third bite, laid the spoon down and shook his head. He swallowed and studiously avoided looking at the last of the vomit on the floor. “Er, n-no, though I appreciate the trouble that you took to make it.” Caleb tended to look nervous at the best of times, but now he was especially pale and sweat was beginning to bead on his forehead again. The attention of the group seemed to have left him on edge, and his shoulders were drawn up tight even as Caduceus could see him shivering slightly.
“It wasn’t trouble,” said Caduceus in the most soothing way he knew, as though Caleb was a spooked horse he was trying to calm. “I was just hoping you’d be able to eat a little more – your body needs food to heal itself.”
Caleb swallowed jerkily, and then visibly steeled himself. He reached for the spoon with the air of one attending their own execution.
“But if you think you’re going to be sick, then you shouldn’t,” continued Caduceus hastily. “Better to hang on to what you already got, and try again later. Although – when was the last time you drank any water?”
Caleb, who had sagged visibly in relief, frowned. “I… honestly do not recall, which is strange. I would assume sometime yesterday evening, but I was deep in my research and my memory is… unclear.” Then he gulped again, a distinctly green undertone visible on his pallid face. “But if you want me to, as you say, ‘hang on to what I’ve got,’ please do not try to make me drink any water right now.”
Caduceus studied him for a long moment, concern wrinkling his brow. Then he seemed to come to a conclusion and nodded firmly to himself, saying, “In that case, I’m sure you’ll be much more comfortable in bed than sitting at the kitchen table. Why don’t you let me help you?”
Ultimately, Caleb was too exhausted to protest. He let Caduceus help him out of the chair and across the bottom floor of the Xorhaus into his room. It was not that long of a walk, but he was still leaning on Caduceus’ arm more heavily than he would have liked by the end of it.
When Caduceus lowered him onto the bed he sat still for a moment, head drooping, then slowly slumped over onto his side. His eyes were open, but only just. The green was mostly gone, replaced by a fevered flush along the top of his cheekbones, highlighting the pallor of his face.
“Mr. Caleb, do you think you’d be more comfortable in something a little lighter?” Caduceus kept his voice soft and low. “I know you sleep in your coat and shoes when we’re on the road, but that can’t be what you usually wear at home.”
“This is the first home I have had in a long time,” said Caleb, his voice rougher and more open than Caduceus usually heard from him. “But you’re right,” he continued, struggling to sit up again. “I should at least get my shoes off.”
Before he had managed to so much as get his elbow under him, Caduceus had knelt by where his feet still rested on the floor and had gently undone the buckles on his boots. Without a word he gently removed them, then straightened and went to help Caleb remove his coat as well, but Caleb shook his head, clutching the edges of his coat with trembling hands.
“I am cold enough as it is,” he nearly whispered.
“You’ll be more comfortable under the blankets,” urged Caduceus, “and you might feel cold, but you have a fever and I don’t want you to overheat.” It took a bit of coaxing, but he managed to get Caleb stripped of everything except for his shirt and undergarments, and under the covers. Caleb drew them up to his chin, still shivering slightly. Caduceus dimmed the lamp in the room, then left, closing the door softly behind him.
Caleb was dozing when he returned a minute later, with a pitcher of fresh water, a glass, and a clean cloth draped over his arm. He stirred when Caduceus set the pitcher down on his bedside table after filling the glass.
“Before you go to sleep, do you think you can drink some water for me?” he asked, his voice a rumble deep in his chest. “Even if it’s only a few sips. Lack of water might be part of why you’re feeling nauseated.”
Caleb murmured something in a language Caduceus didn’t understand, then opened his eyes to where the blue was just barely visible between his eyelids. “Ja, I will try,” he murmured. Caduceus propped him up and held the glass steady as Caleb wrapped a shaking hand around it, helping him to take a few long sips before he drew it back. As Caduceus placed the glass back on the table, he was surprised by Caleb reaching out to touch his wrist.
“Thank you,” whispered Caleb, his eyes now completely closed. “You did not have to do all this.”
“I suppose not, but why wouldn’t I?” asked Caduceus, pouring a little water onto the cloth and wringing it through. He folded it and laid it gently over Caleb’s eyes. “Everyone needs a little looking after sometimes, and I happen to be good at it.” Caleb said nothing, but shivered a little. He let his hand relax and drop down off Caduceus’ sleeve.
“Get some rest, Mr. Caleb,” finished Caduceus, standing. “I’ll be back to check up on you in a little while.” Caleb didn’t answer, so Caduceus assumed he was already following his advice. He turned the lamp all the way down, and left to go check in on Jester and Beau.
It took me a little longer to write this chapter than I wanted, mainly because I got sick myself! That's probably karma of some kind. Next chapter, featuring the girls, will hopefully be up by Monday morning again. And man, if all of Jester's sentences end in exclamation points, all of Caddy's end in question marks! He likes to ask questions, I guess.
Once again, shoutout to everyone who has left a comment or kudos on this fic. I love you. No really, I do <3
Chapter 5: Attention
Jester is here to love her friends and eat pastries, and tragically, she is all out of pastries.
Beau had never actually changed out of her nightclothes, and she didn’t object when Jester helped her pull off her coat and settled her under the blankets. She was surprised a moment later, however, when Jester returned to her bed with another blanket and two more pillows.
“I stole one of these pillows from Fjord, but I’m sure he won’t mind,” said Jester brightly, beginning to tuck the blanket over her.
“What… am I even going to do with all of these pillows, Jester,” mumbled Beau, squinting up at her. She didn’t object to the second blanket, snuggling down into it as she shivered.
“Oh! Is it too bright for you, Beau? Hang on,” Jester realized, abandoning her attempts to swaddle Beau to jump up and turn down the lamp that hung on the wall.
“… Thanks,” said Beau gratefully, the softer light much easier on her sensitive eyes. “But seriously, I don’t need this much bedding.”
“Of course you do! You’re sick,” explained Jester, going back to arranging the extra bedding into a sort of nest around Beauregard. “Being sick means you get lots of blankets and pillows, and whatever you want to eat and drink, and someone to sit with you and sing to you and tell you stories. I used to pretend I was sick, sometimes,” she added conspiratorially, “Or at least I would pretend that I was sicker for a little longer than I actually was, because then I could enjoy it without, y’know, actually having to feel all gross.”
“Huh,” said Beau, trying to process this. She couldn’t imagine pretending to be sick as a kid. Even if it had led to more attention from her parents – which she sincerely doubted – Beau couldn’t remember a single point from her childhood where she had actually wanted her parents to pay any more attention to her than they did.
“Anyway,” continued Jester, seemingly satisfied with the state of Beau’s bed for the time being. “Is there anything you feel like you could eat or drink? I could bake you some pastries! That’s what I always used to want, and I’m sure Caduceus would help me make them.”
“Ugh, definitely not pastries,” moaned Beau, turning faintly green at the thought. “Really Jester, I don’t want to eat anything right now. Maybe just some water?”
“Okay, I’ll be right back!” and Jester left, leaving the door slightly open. Beau lay very still. Her head ached – every beat of her heart sent a pulse of pain behind her eyes. She was so, so tired but she was freezing cold except her face was too hot, and the back of her neck itched and her throat hurt and her mouth tasted like vomit and suddenly, irrationally, she found herself remembering the time when she had caught a pox of some kind, when she was very young, maybe six or seven at most.
She remembered lying there, miserably tired but too itchy to sleep and crying her eyes out wishing her mother would wake up and come in and do something to fix it. She remembered the relief she had felt when the door to her room had finally opened and she had seen the tired, but lovely face of her mother, only for her to tell her to quiet down and go back to sleep before leaving her alone again.
Jester came back in. “Oh no! Beau, what’s wrong?”
“’m not crying,” said Beau, because she wasn’t, and she didn’t, absurdly, want her mother. Jester set down the glass of water she was carrying and touched her forehead, feather-light. Somehow that made everything worse. “s’just… no one’s ever done this kind of shit for me before. And it’s nice, but it’s a lot, and everything just sucks right now and, and…” She really was crying now, something she wasn’t sure she’d ever really done in front of Jester.
“Shh, it’s alright Beau, shh.” Shit. Now Jester’s voice was wobbling and there were tears in her eyes as well. “Do you want me to leave you alone?” Despite he words, Jester didn’t make any more to leave. Instead, she gently brushed the tears away from Beau’s cheeks.
Beau was silent for a long moment. “… No,” she finally murmured, shutting her eyes. “I’m sorry for freaking out like that.”
“Beau,” Jester admonished, “you don’t need to be sorry. Being sick sucks! It’s easy to get overwhelmed when your body isn’t cooperating with you. Maybe I can do something to take your mind off of it! Would you like to me to read Tusk Love to you?”
Beau smiled a little, but shook her head. “Thanks, but I really just want to go back to sleep.” Then, in a smaller voice, “but I can’t get comfortable, everything hurts.”
“Hm,” said Jester. “Hang on, I have an idea. Can I try something?”
“Sure,” said Beau, too exhausted to try and keep up with what Jester was doing. Dimly, she heard Jester rummaging around on her side of the room, then she as moving the pillows on the bed. Finally, she felt the bed sink as Jester sat down near her head.
“Here,” whispered Jester, slipping strong arms under Beau’s shoulders. “Can I move you over a little bit?” Beau nodded her consent, and let Jester readjust her.
She realized that the pillow she was lying on was on top of Jester’s legs. She felt a hand stroking very gently through her hair, then running down the shaved sides of her head.
“Is this okay?” asked Jester, still whispering. “This is something my Mom used to do for me, when I was little and couldn’t sleep.”
With something to focus on other than her discomfort, Beau felt the tightness in her neck finally ease. The band that had been wrapped around her forehead seemed to loosen ever so slightly, and the nausea began to abate with it. “Mmph,” she mumbled, “‘anks Jess,” If Jester replied, she didn’t hear it, already slipping into sleep.
When Caduceus came up a few minutes later, he found Jester sitting on Beau’s bed, gently stroking Beau’s hair with one hand and holding a book in the other. Beau looked pale and feverish, but seemed to be sleeping peacefully, sprawled over Jester’s lap. When Jester saw him, she smiled and put her finger to her lips. He left them too it.
Jester and Caduceus have super different caretakeing styles, but that's ok because their friends require lots of different kind of care.
A short chapter tonight, but the next one is longer. Things are going to start heating up ... Literally. At this point I'm pretty comfortable saying that this fic updates Fridays and Sundays, but I expect to have a little more time for writing this next week than I usually do so... we'll see.
I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post a comment or leave kudos on this story! <3
Chapter 6: Long Night
The Mighty Nein settle in for a long night
The rest of the day passed in relative peace. Jester sat with Beau until she was certain she was asleep (and so were Jester’s leg and tail), before carefully disentangling herself and going downstairs to find Caduceus. They worked on the on the roof for a little while, but the top of the tower was too far away to hear if Caleb or Beau stirred, so they didn’t stay up there too long. Mostly they spent the afternoon in the kitchen, quietly trying to devise “the best possible dinner for sick people!” (it was soup, only very slightly different than what Caduceus had made for lunch). Every so often, one of them would run upstairs to peek in at Beau or Caleb and declare them still asleep. Taking care of sick people, as it turned out, was kind of boring.
Once when Jester went to check on her, Beau was kind of stirring. She had kicked one of her blankets off and way lying half-twisted in the other one. But she didn’t really rouse through Jester straightening the blanket, and when Jester placed a fresh cloth on her forehead the only acknowledgement was a slight murmur of her name, “- ‘ester?” before she subsided back into sleep. This worried Jester, but Caduceus didn’t seem too outwardly concerned.
“More than anything, her body probably needs rest to heal. Her fever isn’t too high just now – I would let her sleep. If we can’t wake her up for dinner, I’ll be worried then.” Despite his calm demeanor, he did look a little worried.
Caleb, as far as Jester could tell, hardly moved at all. The third time she took her turn to look in on him and saw him lying, motionless, she was struck by a sudden fear and went quickly to his bedside. But as she got closer she realized she could see his chest rising and falling. He didn’t look entirely at peace – there was a crease between his eyebrows that normally smoothed out when he slept, and his cheeks were still flushed with fever – but Jester decided to take Caduceus’ advice and not disturb him.
Fjord and Nott returned that evening with good news and bad. Professor Waccoh, it seemed, was very busy working on some new project and had not been inclined to see them without Beau or even Caleb’s presence. Essik had gone a little better – they had been able to get an audience with him and, even better, he had said he remembered hearing something about such an illness. Unfortunately, “something” was all he remembered. He had promised to do what digging he had time for, and to get back to them if he remembered anything more helpful.
They had also, apparently, stopped at an apothecary where Nott had bought a few potions and medicines which purported to cure various ailments. She took these into her lab while Jester and Caduceus were finishing dinner, and garden announced that two of them were just flavored water, one was mostly whiskey, one was straight up hallucinatory drugs, and one might actually be helpful to bring a fever down.
“At least, I think it is,” she explained, showing it to the rest of them. “It’s got like, plants and things. That’s good for you, right?”
“What kind of plants?” Asked Caduceus, interestedly.
“Meadowsweet, mostly,” said Nott, sniffing it. “I guess it could be something Xhorhasian like it. Anyway, it probably won’t hurt them.”
“Should we risk it if we’re not sure?” interjected Fjord, frowning.
“Caduceus, what do you think?”
Caduceus smelled the liquid. It seemed to be, as Nott said, herbs in some sort of tincture. It certainly smelled familiar, like the herb that Nott had named. “I… don’t actually know about using herbs for healing, but it does smell like meadowsweet.”
“What do you mean you don’t know about herbs for healing?” demanded Nott. Jester and Fjord both also snapped to attention.
“I know a lot about healing magic and how the body works, but my family tended to the dead and the dying. I’m not actually a doctor,” he reminded them.
“I guess we have just been assuming that you know what you’re doing,” said Jester, feeling a little foolish. “Should we be, I don’t know, asking someone else for help?”
“We asked Essik, didn’t we? And I have taken care of a fair amount of sick people. At the very least, I think I’ll be able to recognize when we aren’t be able to handle it anymore. I don’t think we’re there yet. Besides,” he continued, handing the tincture back to Nott, “humans aren’t too common in this area. I’m not confident that any doctor we find here would know what to do with our friends.”
“Maybe I can look for a doctor that would tomorrow?” suggested Fjord. “Just in case.”
“I think that’s a good idea Fjord. Just in case,” Jester echoed. She didn’t like to think about Caleb and Beau getting sicker than they already were. But Fjord seemed like he needed some way to feel useful. Although honestly, she didn’t feel that useful herself. Without her spells, she wasn’t much of a healer. The idea that Caduceus didn’t know what he was doing either comforted her a little, but it also made it much more scary.
Dinner was more soup. Thankfully, Beau woke easily when Jester actually tried. But she was a little delirious, and she did not want soup.
“Fuck! Off! Jester,” groaned Beau, pulling the blankets back over her head. Then, immediately after, “aw, fuck, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. Please don’t leave.” It scared Jester a little, how fast Beau was cycling through emotions. She had gone from angry to looking like she was about to start crying again.
“I’m not going to leave, Beau,” she said, trying to project a cheeriness into her voice that she didn’t really feel. “I just want you to try to eat a little, okay? You won’t get better if you don’t eat anything.”
Beau cracked open one bloodshot eye. She had buried her face most of the way in one of the pillows in an attempt to escape the offending soup, and the front of her hair was plastered to her face with sweat, while the back was tangled into a horrifying knot. She looked miserable. “Okay,” she mumbled, already starting to tire from her earlier outburst. “But Jes, I don’t wanna throw up again.”
“You won’t,” Jester promised, based on absolutely nothing. “Caduceus and I made this soup specifically so you would be able to eat it. Why don’t I help you sit up and I can braid your hair while you eat?”
Beau, propped up on stolen pillows and successfully distracted by having her hair brushed and braided, managed to eat about a quarter of the soup before stopping very suddenly. Jester, remembering how this had gone the last time, very quickly got the mostly-full bowl out of the room, where Beau wouldn’t have to smell it anymore. Once she was laying down again, hair braided and a cool cloth over her eyes, with the promise that Jester would be back in “just a minute,” Jester made her way back down to the kitchen, nearly running into Nott on the way there.
“How is Caleb?” She asked, seeing the half eaten dinner that Nott was also carrying.
“Sick,” reported Nott, “And quiet, but that’s not too weird for him – although usually it means he’s had a bad day.”
“I mean, he kind of definitely did have a bad day,” offered Jester. “Being sick is pretty bad.”
“That’s true. How is Beau?”
“Sick,” frowned Jester, “and more… weepy than she usually us. But I think they’ll be okay.”
“Of course they’ll be okay!” Nott’s voice was loud in the otherwise quiet hall. “Why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got us to take care of them. And Caduceus, and Fjord too I guess.”
“Of course, Nott. You’re right,” Jester nodded firmly to herself. “They’re going to be fine.”
Jester was woken in the night by the sound of movement from Beau’s bed, and a soft groan. She rolled over to see that Beau had managed to twist the covers around herself in a way that looked desperately uncomfortable. With a small sigh, Jester stumbled out of her own cozy bed and across the room, but when she touched Beau’s arm she was horrified by the heat coming off of it.
Beau was lying sprawled, as though she had been trying to rearrange her bed but hadn’t had the strength. Her blankets and sheets were soaked in sweat, and the wisps of hair that had escaped from her braid were stuck to her forehead, but her skin was dry and hotter than Jester had ever known a human’s skin to be.
“Beau? Beau can you hear me?” Beau whimpered through cracked lips when Jester shook her arm, but otherwise lay completely limp. “Beau, can you wake up for me please?”
Desperately Jester grabbed the cloth that had fallen from her forehead and wet it from the basin, gently sponging at Beau’s pale forehead. The monk didn’t stir. Her breathing was erratic and shallow.
“Fuck,” whispered Jester. “Fuck, fuck, what do I do?” She grabbed Beau’s hand and lifted it to her cheek. It was hot, dry and callused. The arm attached to it moved as easily as a dolls. It was terrifying to see Beau so still.
She took a deep breath and cast Message.
“Caduceus? Can you come and help me? Beau is worse and I’m not sure what to do! I don’t think humans are supposed to get this—” The spell cut her off. But a moment later she heard Caduceus’ sleep-roughened voice answering.
“Don’t panic, I’ll be right there.” Short and too the point. Jester sat on her knees and waited for what felt like an eternity. She wiped the cloth across Beau’s forehead and clutched her limp hand in hers. Finally the other healer appeared, looking rumpled and sleepy.
“Alright Miss Beau,” he said, his voice rumbling deep in his chest, “let’s see what we can do here.” He bent down and took her other hand in his, and bent low over her forehead. “Jester, have you cast anything yet?”
“No,” said Jester, hating how her voice was quavering. “I thought spells weren’t working.”
Caduceus made a familiar motion and cast Lesser Restoration, pink light that looked a little like lichen appearing and disappearing on Beau’s body out in a radius from his hand.
Beau gasped and broke into a sweat. Her hand in Jester’s seemed a little cooler, and her breathing eased. Despite this, Caduceus looked grim.
“Whenever I cast that on Caleb before, it seemed to help at first. But he said the effect faded quickly, and then he felt worse, not better. This is a temporary fix, we need to get her cooled down.”
“Still, I should have thought of it,” said Jester, a little put out at herself for panicking in the face of Caduceus’ quick action. She was supposed to be a healer too! Suddenly, she was distracted from the moment by a frightened voice echoing through her own head.
“Jester please come help! Caleb is very warm, and he won’t wake up, and I don’t know what to do! Youcanreplytothismessage.”
“Shit! Okay, I will be right there,” she looked up at Caduceus. “That was Nott. Whatever this is, it’s happening with Caleb too. She needs help.”
“Go, quickly,” said Caduceus, “I’ll look after Beau. I might have an idea.” Then he raised his voice. “Fjord! Wake up, we’re going to need your help.”
Jester didn’t wait to find out what Caduceus needed Fjord for. She ran down the stairs two at a time, her heart beating wildly with worry for her friends. She slid to a stop in front of Caleb’s room and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself before striding forward, pushing the door open.
She could hear Nott’s voice rising and falling with anxiety, but for a moment she could see neither her nor Caleb – the bed was empty and unmade. Then she realized that the sound was coming from behind it. She stepped carefully around the bed to see Caleb lying still on the floor, curled on his side with the blanket pulled half over him. Nott was crouching by his forehead, running her fingers frantically through his hair. She looked up at Jester in relief.
“I wanted to keep an eye on him, so I slept in the laboratory,” she explained, wringing her hands as Jester came up and knelt by Caleb. “But I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I heard him fall. I think he must have been trying to get up.”
Jester put her hand on Caleb’s shoulder, feeling the same heat through the thin material of his shirt. The wizard looked still, but she realized she could feel him trembling faintly under her hand. His eyes twitched minutely under his eyelids, but like Beau he did not stir, even when Nott patted his cheek and called his name in a voice growing louder with worry.
“Don’t worry Nott, he’s going to be fine,” she said with false cheer, and cast Lesser Restoration. Warm blue light washed over Caleb’s thin frame. She hadn’t realized how much tension he was holding in his body until she felt him relax, coughing weakly. Sweat stood out on his brow.
Nott let out a little “oh” of surprise, and took his hand again, holding it close to her chest. “Caleb, can you hear me?” His eyes didn’t open but he stirred, letting out a soft moan, and his hand gripped a little tighter around Nott’s small ones for a moment. Nott turned to Jester, her yellow eyes wide with excitement. “It worked!”
“It won’t work for very long,” said Jester, suddenly feeling very tired. “And I can only do it a few more times.”
“What happens when you run out of spells?” demanded Nott, clutching Caleb’s hand a little harder.
“I don’t know, okay! Caduceus said he had an idea. For now, I guess help me get him back on the bed.” To Jester, Caleb was not particularly heavy. Still, it’s always easier to lift someone who is helping you at least a little, and Caleb was dead weight. It didn’t help that he whimpered as though frightened when they tried to move him, flinching from their hands but without enough strength to pull away. By the time they got him situated back on the bed, Nott was nearly in tears. She bent next to his head, hands fluttering over him but not really touching, whispering soothing nonsense.
Suddenly Fjord appeared in the doorway, carrying Beau bridal style in his arms. While Fjord had the advantage of nearly a foot in height, she was much more densely muscled than him, and he was clearly staggering a little under her weight.
“Caduceus said to bring them to the hot tub,” he gasped, shifting her so that she rested a little more comfortably. Jester couldn’t really tell in the dark of the room, but Beau seemed just as lax and pale as the last time she saw her. “Said he has an idea.”
“Okay,” she said. Nott gave a sharp nod of affirmation. “We’ll be right behind you!”
Carefully, she lifted Caleb into a similar bridal carry. He was taller than her, which made him awkward to carry, but he really didn’t weigh much. His skin was starting to heat up again, the magic of her lesser restoration already wearing off. His head lolled against her shoulder, another whimper escaping his lips. She ignored it, following Fjord and Beau to the hot tub room with Nott trailing closely behind.
When they arrived, she saw that Caduceus had filled the tub with water but hadn’t heated it. “We need to get their temperatures down,” he explained grimly. He offered to take Beau from Fjord, but Fjord shook his head, clutching her to his chest.
“I’ve got her,” he said, face set. With Caduceus steadying him, he climbed directly into the tub, still cradling Beau. Jester could see Beau tense and gasp as the water covered her, arms coming up weakly to push Fjord and Caduceus away. Fjord bent his face down over hers, speaking rapidly in a soothing tone of voice. Jester caught the words “first mate.” Slowly Beau relaxed into him, though it was unclear how much she understood what was happening or if she was just too weak to keep fighting.
When Jester climbed into the tub holding Caleb, the effect was instantaneous. His limbs jerked sharply and he threw his head back, arching his back and giving a thin, inarticulate cry. His breathing, already erratic, sped up until he was gasping and his whole body shook. He didn’t try to fight the way Beau had, but he was clearly and utterly terrified.
“Shh, Caleb, shh. It’s alright, it’s me, Jester. You’re just going to lie here in the water and you’re going to feel all better, shh, it’s alright, I’ve got you,” she repeated to him desperately. Seeing his distress, Nott came over to try and help but he would not be calmed. His body lost its tension and he sagged against her, spent, but his breath still came in gasping sobs. Jester realized, aghast, that he was crying in a way she had never seen Caleb cry before. Utterly silent, but uncontrollable and terrifying. He didn’t respond to Nott’s panicked assurances that she was right there, or Jester whispering that he was safe.
“Caduceus, how long do we need to keep them like this?” She asked at last, feeling tears on her own cheeks.
“Hopefully not that long, but this might not be the last time we have to do it.” Caduceus’ face was drawn with exhaustion, as Jester was sure her own was. Slowly, she felt Caleb’s sobs subside as he sank into an exhausted stupor. She concentrated on not letting his face dip below the surface of the water. It was going to be a long night.
:D :D :D
Just the one chapter this weekend, but hoo boy was it a doozy! Y'all didn't think it could be fluffy cuddling and sponging foreheads forever now, did you? I definitely headcanon that Caleb was bathed against his consent while he was in the asylum, which is why he reacts so violently to it here.
I'm going to be travelling next weekend, so I'm not sure when I'll get the next chapter up. I'll try to write some before I leave, but it will probably depend on how much work sucks this week. At least this one was nice and long! As always, thank you to everyone who commented, kudo'd, subscribed, ect. You are, in the immortal words of President Liam O'Brian, "the wind beneath my dead wings."
Chapter 7: The Cain Instinct
Beau and Caleb sleep. Fjord and Nott have a conversation.
Eventually the two humans’ temperatures dropped to a level that Caduceus deemed acceptable, and he, Jester and Fjord carefully removed them from the tub and got them somewhat dried off, while Nott went to rummage through their drawers and find something comfortable for them to wear. Caleb had ended up in his only other shirt, and a fresh pair of underwear, and she and Jester carefully maneuvered Beau into one of Jester’s own nightgowns.
Now she sat, half perched, on the edge of Jester’s bed, where Caleb was sleeping restlessly. They had decided it would be easier to put the two invalids in the same room for the time being, so Jester had taken a few things and gone to sleep in Fjord’s room for the time being. Jester had been reluctant to leave the sickroom, but Nott and Fjord convinced her and Caduceus that they would probably need their spells to deal with the upcoming day. Now she sat on Caleb’s pillow and watched as he slept, restlessly.
His face was drawn and pinched into its usual lines, plus a few new ones that spoke of pain and discomfort. The hollows of his cheeks and under his eyes were stained faintly violet, while the rest of his face was horribly pale. His hair was matted and still wet from when Jester had held him in the water, and he still trembled faintly from time to time. Nott had hated watching him struggle in the water nearly as much as he had seemed to hate it himself. She busied herself with trying to gently untangle and braid his waterlogged hair, making soft shushing sounds whenever she caught him whimper on an exhale.
Across the dimly-lit room she could see Fjord slumped on the floor next to Beau’s bed. His head was tipped back against the wall, and his eyes were closed, but he had reached up and was holding one of Beau’s lax hands in his own. Usually Beau slept in a messy sprawl, arms and legs stuck out from her bedroll at odd directions and snoring louder than she would ever believe. The only exceptions Nott had seen before were if it was very cold, in which case Beau curled herself into an impossibly tiny ball not unlike the one Nott preferred to sleep in, or at times she felt she needed to be hypervigilant. At those times Beau would sleep the way Veth might have one imagined all monks slept – usually half upright against something, staff laid loosely across her legs, more meditative than sleeping. She had slept like that during the Iron Shepherds, or while they were in Bazzoxan.
Now she lay flat on her back, limbs straight and still, head tipped a little to one side, like a doll that had been laid gently down. Not uncomfortable, but unnatural. Nott fussed at Caleb’s hair a moment longer, tucking it back behind his ear. She let her hand linger at his cheek a moment, stubbled and overwarm. He was lying on his side, half-curled – the way he slept when they were safely inside and his silver thread was up. He stirred a little as she moved away from him and her heart clenched as she turned back shushed him, carefully readjusting the cool cloth on his forehead. As soon as he quieted she slipped down from the bed, silent as a shadow, and tiptoed across the room to Fjord.
“Hey,” she whispered, inches from his nose. Fjord’s eyes opened and his whole body jerked back, a cry beginning to escape from his mouth. Nott lunged for him, trapping the noise behind a small green hand and frantically shushing. Beau stirred a little at the disturbance, moaning low in her throat, and they both froze, waiting. But she didn’t rouse and after a few silent moments Nott and Fjord went back to staring at each other.
“Was that necessary?” hissed Fjord, his eyes narrowed. “You almost gave me a heart attack!”
Nott glared, now practically in his lap. “I was TRYING to be QUIET, not that you were any help at all!”
“What was wrong with a message spell? Or coughing from a polite distance away? Or making some noise as you were walking over or literally ANYTHING other than sneaking up on me and waiting until you were right next to my face to say anything?”
“The Cain instinct.”
Nott shrugged. “My brothers used to do that to me when I was really little – they stopped once I got better at it than they were. We used to call the game ‘the Cain instinct’ but I don’t really know why. No idea who Cain was. Anyway, we should move Beau.”
“What? Why? Where should we move her?” Nott rolled her eyes. Fjord could really be unbelievably dense sometimes.
“Not like, move her move her. I’ve just literally never seen Beau sleep on her back, ever. I think she would be more comfortable if we helped her lay on her side or something.”
“Oh,” Fjord considered for a moment. “I suppose you’re right – I’ve never seen her sleep like this before either. On her side, do you think?”
Nott considered. “She usually sleeps on her stomach, I think, but I don’t want to suffocate her by accident. Let’s try side first.” Carefully, she crept up onto the bed next to Beau. The monk didn’t stir.
“I’ve never seen her this still,” whispered Fjord as he helped Nott roll her gently onto her side. “It… worries me. Ordinarily Beau would have us both pinned to wall by now.”
“Speak for yourself,” said Nott primly. But inwardly she agreed with him. She almost wished Beau would wake up as they moved her, despite how quiet they were trying to be. The only movement from the monk was a fine, intermittent trembling that belied how fever-hot her body was, even after the water. Together they maneuvered her into a more natural-looking position, half-curled on her side like Caleb was. Nott took a moment to move her sweat-damp hair out of her face as well. When she looked up, Fjord was watching them intently.
“You’re good at this,” he offered, after a moment.
“What?” Nott startled at the unexpected compliment. Fjord raised his hands a little and shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t just mean you. Jester and Caduceus, of course, are healers, and Caduceus especially always seems to know just what to do and say. And you – you’re not a healer but you know how to take care of people. I never really learned how to do that.” He gestured helplessly to Beau. “I feel like I’ve gone from being useless in one sense to useless in another. I have no idea what to do or if anything I am doing is even helping.”
Nott cocked her head to one side. “When were you useless?”
“I … what?”
“You said you’ve gone from being useless in one sense to useless in another, but I don’t remember you being useless at any point, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
Fjord spluttered, “What do you… I clearly meant when I didn’t have any powers. What do you mean I wasn’t useless? What about with that dragon?”
“Oh yeah!” Nott reconsidered, “you were kind of useless with the dragon, yeah. But there were plenty of times you weren’t useless, even without your powers. And there’s been plenty of times you were useless with your powers!” She was still whispering, but her voice was getting louder the longer she spoke.
“Thanks, that really makes me feel a lot better,” said Fjord dryly.
“Ugh, I think you’re deliberately misunderstanding me.” Nott sighed and looked down at Beau, her eyebrows knitted together slightly in worry. “You’re not useless because we don’t… we don’t keep you around to be useful, right? You’re here, staying up all night to look after them. That’s all that taking care of people is. It’s being there when they need you. That’s what’s important, not having powers or always knowing what to do or being able to summon a sword or anything.”
“I… thank you, Nott,” whispered Fjord, carefully taking Beau’s hand back in his own. “I think I really needed to hear that.”
She rolled her eyes again. ‘Don’t mention it, really. Now –” She froze as she heard a sound from the other bed. Caleb made a sound somewhere between a choked off cry and a whimper and rolled over, his body arching unnaturally. Nott was at his side in a flash, with Fjord close behind her.
Caleb’s eyes were open but unseeing. His breath came in short, airless gasps and his limbs jerked uncoordinatedly. Round beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. Fjord tried to gather the thin body in his arms to keep him from falling off of the bed, despite being knocked across the face by an errant arm.
“Nott!” He cried, all pretense of trying to be quiet lost. “Get Caduceus! Hurry!” Nott stood frozen for a moment, horrified, then turned and ran out of the room as quickly as her legs could carry her. On the other bed, Beau lay silent and still.
Idk I just work here.
Sorry about the long break! I had an extremely busy week, and then I traveled, and then Labor Day happened, but I think I'm FINALLY back in the groove and hopefully this should go back to updating at least once a weekend until it's done. Have some Team Green shenanigans in a quiet moment before the storm. Don't worry, everything can and will get worse!
I know I say this every time, but seriously thank you to everyone who has commented on this story. I love you guys like Nott loves fucking with Fjord <3
Chapter 8: Exhaustion
Caduceus is doing his best
Caduceus was exhausted.
At the beginning of the day he had been concerned by the existence of an illness seemingly untouchable by the Wildmother’s power, but since none of the rest of the group had seemed worried he figured it best to keep calm and focus his attentions on helping where he could. By the time he figured out that the only reason everyone else was calm was because they assumed he knew what he was doing, it was far too late to allow for panic. He hoped that Fjord and Nott’s investigations would lead to someone who could help, but privately he was beginning to doubt that there would be mundane healers available in Roshonna who were capable of what and Jester were not.
Waking to find that Caleb and Beau had taken a sharp turn for the worse had frightened him more than he wanted to let on. He had drawn on what little experience he had with healing non-magically, mostly practiced on animals, and it had seemed to work, but he wasn’t so foolish as to believe that he would be able to sleep uninterrupted for the rest of the night. Still, he took the opportunity to catch as long of a rest as he could before his friends took another turn for the worse.
It wasn’t nearly long enough before he was woken by Nott bursting into his room. He startled out of a half-doze, still mostly dressed, and missed quite a bit of her high-pitched and rapid explanation as he searched for his staff and healers kit and stumbled out of bed and down the hall. He was at the door to Beau and Jester’s room before he was properly awake, and therefore not prepared for what awaited him when he entered.
Caleb lay, seizing, on the bed nearest the door. His eyes were half-open, unseeing, and his body twitched and shook in Fjord’s arms. The half-orc held Caleb grimly by the shoulders, bracing his body against the bed so that he could not fall off of it and injure himself. Fjord was speaking in a low voice to Caleb, soothing nonsense like what he had whispered to Beau earlier in the tub, but Caduceus could see the panic in his eyes and the relief as he lifted them to see him standing in the doorway.
This was the reason he’d saved his Greater Restoration. He took Fjord’s place bending over Caleb, Fjord gratefully moving aside to let him, and placed his hands flat on Caleb’s frail chest, closing his eyes and calling on the greatest reserve of power he held. Caleb’s breath hitched under his hands as the spasming muscles relaxed, soft pink light enveloping his body. Caduceus slumped forward, resting his weight on the edge of the mattress and breathed slowly along with the wizard. Caleb’s body was warm and still wracked with faint shivers, though his eyes stayed stubbornly closed.
Nott surged forward with a cry, climbing onto the bed next to him. She picked up the cooling cloth that had fallen when the seizure began and replaced it tenderly. Caduceus smoothed his hand down the length of Caleb’s arm, imagining he could feel the sickness under the surface – overpowered for now, but lying in wait until the next moment they were distracted. He wanted very much to go back to sleep.
“Caduceus, what was that?” asked Fjord from where he sat on the floor between the two beds.
“A seizure, I think,” he murmured, his voice low in his chest. “A misfiring in the brain, as I understand it. A high enough fever can cause it, but it usually doesn’t happen past infancy. In an adult human it’s… worrying.”
“Fuck.” Fjord was quiet for a moment. “You know, I think that’s the first time in all this mess I’ve heard you call it ‘worrying’. Really puts a damper on things.”
“Really? I’ve been thinking it this whole time.” Caduceus turned and met Fjord’s eyes. “Anything that cannot be broken by Her power isn’t something to be taken lightly. But there was no point in panicking earlier, and there isn’t one now. We’re doing the best we can.”
Fjord held his gaze for a moment, then nodded slowly. “I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you’re right. As soon as it’s morning, I’ll go back out and try again to look for help. Maybe Essik has heard something back by now.”
Caduceus just nodded, not really feeling up to articulating why it was he felt that this particular problem would have to be solved by the Nein. They turned their attention back to Caleb for a moment, where Nott had taken her customary place on his pillow and was humming scratchily, one hand tangled in his red hair. His face glowed white and waxy in the dim light from the hallway, and they could see the scars on his arms, silvered and purple where one bare arm lay extended across the covers. His shivering had died down a little, but there was still a faint sheen of sweat on his face. For a long moment, everything was quiet.
A sound from the bed behind them made Fjord and Caduceus turn around in a jolt of fear. Beauregard, who up until that point had been lying perfectly still, unconscious, was moving. She gasped out a sound that was half a breath, half a whimper and rolled her head to one side. Fjord scrambled to her side, not quite bothering to stand up all the way. Caduceus took a moment longer. Nott stayed on the far bed but froze, watching intently.
The sickness underneath her skin had risen up, threatening to consume her. Her chest under Caduceus’ hand was aflame, as her body began to shudder under the same ailment that had seized Caleb earlier. Fjord swore as her elbow clocked him solidly in the nose, her body beginning to jerk wildly. Her breaths came loud and uneven, harsh in the late-night silence of the room.
“Caduceus!” cried Fjord desperately, leaning over Beau to wrap his arms around her, despite his already bruised face. “Do something!”
He tried, placing both hands flat against her heaving chest and closing his eyes, casting Lesser Restoration and praying, pleading for it to be enough. But there were no great reserves of power left in his tired soul, and he already knew that this spell would not be enough. The light coursed through him, through her, and for a moment her body, drawn tight like a bowstring, seemed as though it would relax. But then she jerked forward again, only Caduceus’ hands on her chest and Fjord’s around her shoulders keeping her on the bed.
“I… don’t have enough,” he said softly, ears drooping forward. “Lesser Restoration won’t stop this. Whatever this is, it is more powerful than me.” It’s strange – he’d never really noticed how tiny Beau was compared to him. All his friends were smaller creatures, but Beau’s force of personality always seemed to make him notice it less. Now it was hard not to realize that a single one of his hands was enough to span her fragile rib cage.
“What do you mean, you don’t have enough?” demanded Nott, slipping down from Caleb’s bed and scurrying across the room to Beau’s side. The seizure was growing worse, Beau’s eyelids half open and the eyes beneath unfocused and rolling wildly.
“That was the last Greater Restoration spell I had,” he explained, voice slow with worry. Sweat was beginning to bead on his forehead. “I can’t… I can’t do anything about this until I rest. I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to do.”
Fjord and Nott stared at him. “Then what are we going to do!” cried Nott, her voice shrill and terrified. “Should I wake Jester?”
“I don’t know if Jester will be able to do anything either,” reminded Fjord. “Remember, she used her Greater Restoration on Beau this morning.”
“Maybe she’s slept long enough? We have to do something, don’t we?” Nott was twisting her ears in her hands, panicking. “You said that this was dangerous for them!”
“It is,” gritted out Caduceus. “But I don’t know that Jester will be able to do anything right when you wake her.” Caduceus’s own spells were replenished not only from a full night’s sleep, but from taking an hour at dawn to commune with the Wildmother. He had seem Jester do something similar, retreating to her room or bedroll with her sketchbook to talk to her god. Still, he didn’t really understand Jester’s relationship with the Traveler – it was certainly different than the one he shared with Melora. Perhaps she didn’t need to prepare her spells the same way he did.
“It’s worth a try,” said Nott, voice quavering slightly. “I’ll be right back.” She darted into the next room, leaving Fjord and Caduceus to continue holding Beau’s shaking form.
A few moments later she reappeared with Jester following closely behind her. Lines of exhaustion creased her face. Her nightgown rustled as she knelt beside the bed. “Oh no,” she murmured, taking in the sight.
“Caduceus cast Greater Restoration on Caleb, and that fixed it,” explained Nott, wringing her hands. “You can do that too, can’t you?”
“I can’t though!” cried Jester, tears filling her violet eyes. “I cast that spell this morning, and even if I had gotten a full night’s sleep I would need to talk to the traveler first. Oh, Beau!” She began crying in earnest, placing one of her own hands on Beau’s forehead. Caduceus watched her attempt her own lesser restoration, but it wasn't enough.
Helpless in the face of whatever was eating their friends from the inside out, they waited breathlessly as Beau’s shuddering slowly subsided, leaving her limp and hot on the soaked-through sheets. They all breathed a little easier when she finally lay completely still again, although privately Caduceus worried what sort of damage such a prolonged seizure might leave. They went through the motions of cleaning the sweat from her and Caleb, changing the sheets and placing cooling cloths on their foreheads.
By the time they were both resting peacefully once more, it was nearly the time when dawn would have been arriving. The stillness of the Xorhassian night began to give way to the sounds of a city beginning to wake and move about. Jester had fallen back asleep, curled on her cloak on the floor rather than leave again. Fjord took up his spot next to Beau again, eyes closed in exhaustion by not letting go of her hand. Nott curled against the crook of Caleb's neck, still humming reedily. Caduceus sat against the eastern wall, trying to meditate but having to fight against slipping into a doze. Caleb and Beau slept, finally appearing peaceful. Together, they waited for morning.
So... lets just pretend they're still level 9 and only have one 5th level spell slot.
Sorry for the late chapter! My goal is still to get one up every Sunday from here on out. Thanks so much to everyone who has left a comment, each one honestly means so much to me <3
Chapter 9: Caleb again
Caleb isn't really sure what's going on
Caleb wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.
He remembered Caduceus all but putting him to bed, and then spending the afternoon slipping hazily in and out of uncomfortable consciousness. He remembered, at one point, Nott coming in and refusing to leave until he had eaten at least a half a bowl of soup. He remembered being vaguely aware of Frumpkin’s warm, purring weight on the blankets beside him, the slowly expanding and then subsiding pound in his head, the chills and sweats that overtook him by equal measure.
Then, he remembered fire and water.
He remembered burning, first. He was on fire, no more than he deserved, but Jester was there and Nott also and they didn’t need to be on fire, but he couldn’t seem to warn them, and one second they were there and the next he was floating and the next he was back in the asylum and he was in the water, and he struggled but Jester was there, Jester and Nott, and he couldn’t seem to warn them, couldn’t make his mouth say anything but “stop” and “please,” and he had still been burning and then finally he had been flung into dreams that made far less sense, dreams where Yasha was there and she had eaten his cat, but it was okay because Frumpkin was still there, but he was a ghost, or Yasha was a ghost, and Frumpkin turned to him and said “light them up, pretty,” but with Trent Ikithon’s voice. And then he was burning again. It always seemed to return, eventually, to the burning.
Coming awake was like coming up for air in a stormy sea, barely gasping a breath before another wave crashed over you. At first he was aware for only seconds at a time, feeling the mattress beneath him or the blunted claws of a goblin at his head before being pulled under by another wave of sleep. Slowly, he woke enough to realize that his whole body hurt, from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, and that the person whose hands were gently stroking his heavy hair was Nott. Finally, he managed to shift his head and open his eyes, and upon doing so was immediately assaulted with further issues.
First, and perhaps foremost, this was not his room. A more awake, less ill Caleb would have recognized it immediately as being Jester and Beauregard’s room, but waking up somewhere he hadn’t fallen asleep had never ended well for him and his first response was to try and sit up, ready to fight, or flee.
The second was that if he thought he felt like shit when lying perfectly still, it was nothing for how absolutely wretched he felt upon attempting to move. His head barely made it an inch off the pillow before he fell back with a whimper. Not only had he been kidnapped in his sleep, but his enemies had clearly replaced all of his limbs with leaden rods that would not respond to his will, and had placed some sort of clever explosive device behind his eyes that detonated in an explosion of pain and dizziness as soon as he tried to move.
The third was that there were other people in this room, and as soon as he tried to escape they all began being very loud at once. A very familiar voice, right by his ear, stage-whispered “he’s awake!” and that reassured him, although he wasn’t entirely sure why. As soon as he tried to move the voice all but shrieked “Oh no, don’t try to get up, Caleb!” and then someone else was talking, and then two someone’s, and then a very tall person was leaning over his bed and saying something that Caleb didn’t hear because he was suddenly so tired, as though his single attempt to sit up had cost him more than three back-to-back fights with no time for a short rest in between. He opened his mouth to ask whoever had kidnapped him to please be quiet but all that came out was a moan. Then the wave crashed down, and he went under.
His next awakening was easier, by inches. Some amount of time later – and he didn’t know how long exactly, and that bothered him, but he was certain it was still early morning – he surfaced again, a little, and this time he knew, at least, that it was Nott beside him. He opened his eyes without trying to move sand saw a blur of pink filling his vision, which after blinking a few times resolved itself into a vaguely Caduceus-like shape.
“He’s awake again!” He heard Nott exclaim in his ear. He winced, and then winced again because wincing hurt.
“Well hello Mr. Caleb,” Caducues’ voice was low and soothing, but still grated a little against the open wound that was his entire being at the moment. “Can you tell us how you’re feeling?”
Caleb’s mouth worked a moment, trying to remember how to form words. Finally he croaked out a single, “bad,” then a, “where?”
“You’re in Jester’s bed,” murmured Nott by his ear, blessedly quieter than anything else she had said so far. That news was startling enough that he tried to turn his head to look at her, which sent a wave of sick dizziness and pain down his spine. He closed his eyes and outright whimpered.
“Easy now, Mr. Caleb,” said Caduceus from somewhere far above him. “You’ve had a rough night, and you’re still very ill. Don’t try to move overmuch.” There was a large, soft hand on his brow, unlike the small rough ones he had only just realized were clutching his own. “Hmm, his fever hasn’t broken entirely, but he definitely feels cooler. How is Miss Beau doing?”
Beau? He forced his eyelids open again. If he turned his head slowly enough, all the rocks and sand weighing it down would settle in increments and it didn’t hurt as much. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was too much to ask both of his eyes to focus at the same time – the other bed in the room was a blur of color, surrounded by indistinct shapes who sounded a bit like Jester and Fjord. “Beauregard?” he attempted. Nott shushed him, not ungently.
“It seems like her fever’s gone down as well,” reported Fjord’s voice from very far away. He was distracted from it momentarily by the feeling of a firbolg hand under his head.
“Caleb,” Nott was saying from somewhere behind his ear, “Caduceus is going to help you sit up a little so you can drink this, alright?” ‘This’ turned out to be not water, but a grassy, lukewarm tea that Nott was holding to his unsuspecting lips. He got down three swallows before closing his mouth tightly against a fourth.
“Hmm. Do you think you could drink just a little more?” Caleb could feel the rumble of Caduceus’ voice in his skull, as he realized that he was now leaning against the healer’s chest. The thought of trying to drink more of that tea turned his stomach, but he was willing to try if Caduceus thought it was important. As screwed his brows together and tried to muster up the will to explain, Nott interrupted.
“He doesn’t have to have it if he doesn’t want it!” and then a little softer, directed at him, “you don’t have to have it if you don’t want it, Caleb.” So that was nice, then. Nice of Nott. The thought made him chuckle a little to himself.
“Caleb?” Her blurry face filled his vision. “Are you… laughing? What’s funny?”
“Nice,” he wheezed out, the laughter turning to shivering. “You are… nice.” The goblin face floating in front of him twisted into a frown, and he felt a small, clawed hand rest itself on his face. He closed his eyes.
There was more talking now, but he couldn’t follow it. The ground he was lying on was shaking, or – no, that was Caduceus. He was still lying propped against his chest. At least he thought he was. It was hard to tell, really, with his eyes closed and everything floating like this. Everything was floating until he tried to move, and then all of a sudden his entire body was weighed down with very sharp rocks. He stopped trying to move, and instead laid very still, content to let himself drift. He was very, very tired.
This chapter doesn't really advance the plot at all, I just wanted to write Caleb being sleepy and confused.
I'm not going to pretend to know when the next chapter will be up! I promise this IS going somewhere and it WILL get finished but I want to write some Whumptober stuff and that may take up a lot of my writing time in the near future. I also have two other WIP's that I don't want to start posting until they're finished, to avoid, well... this. So look out for those in the near future.
Thank you so, so much to everyone who has commented, left kudos, bookmarked, ect. I love you. No really, I do.
Chapter 10: Essik
Essik really isn't that grumpy, it's just his face.
Essik’s sleep was interrupted by the unfortunately-familiar feeling of a little blue tiefling charging her way into his thoughts like a stampeding moorbounder.
“Hi Essik! Did you find out anything else about a weird sickness that comes back after you heal it with magic? It’s really, really important.”
He took a moment to quiet his annoyance at the intrusion. She sounded subdued, as compared to her usual eternal-sunshine that was hard to be around for long, but also hard to stay angry with. He was glad to be bringing her good news. “I have. I was planning on heading over later this morning to share what I learned – should I hasten my departure?” He listened for a second message, but none came – and now he was worried. Worried enough, though he might have denied it, to dress and head immediately to their … “household”.
He arrived at the door and knocked, a little impatiently. There was no sound from inside. He waited a minute, knocked again, and was just about to knock a third time when the door opened and revealed the half orc, squinting down at him.
“Essik.” The man leaned heavily on the doorframe as he spoke, “We appreciate you returning so quickly – what have you found out?”
Essik raised his eyebrows. “While the information I bring is not exactly state secrets, I am not accustomed to having conversations standing on a doorstep. Were you planning to invite me in, or...?”
The half orc – Fjord, straightened in embarrassment, “My apologies, of course – come in. It’s been a long night.”
“Indeed.” You look it, he did not add. It didn’t seem necessary. He followed Fjord into the oddly silent house, even for this early hour. The anxiety he had felt when Jester sent no second message returned. “And where is the rest of your party?”
Fjord grimaced. “Upstairs.”
“So … shall they be joining us?” prompted Essik when it became apparent that there was nothing else forthcoming, “or am I to speak to you alone?”
“It doesn’t have to be just me,” said Fjord, looking vaguely hurt – indeed, that had not been Essik’s intention. Sometimes he had the suspicion that his wry sense of humor was not always as well-received as one might hope. “I can go get Jester, or Nott. But Caleb and Beau are… in a bad way. Someone has to stay with them.”
Essik dropped all pretense of haughtiness. “How do you mean, in a bad way?” Fjord and Nott’s report of the previous day had described a relatively harmless, if inconvenient, illness. Was he incorrect in his diagnosis? “I must insist you take me to them at once.”
Fjord led him up the stairs and through the hall, before pausing before a door. “A moment, if you will.” Essik inclined his head in silent acquiescence. Unlooked-for worry hooked within his gut and hung there, invisible but present. After a few moments, the door opened once again and Fjord spoke, “come in, quietly please.”
He entered a grim sickroom. His eyes were drawn immediately to the figure of a human man on the bed to the right. Caleb Widogast lay lax in uncomfortable-looking sleep, breaths hitching unevenly in his chest. His face appeared pale and gray in the low light. The goblin girl sat at the head of his bed, carefully dabbing at his forehead with a cloth as the Firblog who had been kneeling beside the pillow slowly straightened to face Essik, as though his knees pained him. Essik acknowledged him with a nod.
A low moan from across the room drew his attention to the other bed, occupied by the monk. Her face was wan and her hair stuck to her forehead with sweat. She didn’t move, but made a sound of distress low in her throat. Jester sat behind her, propping the sick woman up with Beauregard’s head resting on her chest. She was murmuring something soft and comforting. The air in the room and stale and oppressive, as though the sickness was something tangible hovering in the air. This was not a situation he had been prepared for.
“So as you can see,” said Fjord softly from behind him, “if you know anything about this illness, please tell us.”
Essik straightened and drew in a breath, steeling his voice as though he were addressing the court and not the wan and worried Nein. “I… believed I remembered an account of the illness you described to me yesterday, where magic gives only a temporary relief. We call it ‘nightsickness.’ It is uncommon among Drow, and unheard of in races such as goblins or orcs. I have mostly heard of it affecting dwarves and the occasional half-orc or elf that passes through these parts. But it is a passing sickness – uncomfortable, certainly, but I’ve never heard of it being life-threatening.”
“Have you ever heard of it’s effect on humans?” Caduceus asked, gravely. The question hung in the air for a moment.
“I.. have not. As you know, humans are rare in the empire. But surely it cannot be this different.”
“Why not?” inquired Jester. Essik found he had no answer for her. A motion from Caleb brought everyone’s attention to the near bed. Nott whispered his name hopefully.
“He woke a little, earlier,” Caduceus explained quietly, as Nott tried to coax him to drink a little water, though he wasn’t truly awake. “Beauregard… has not.” Disturbingly, Jester looked as though she were about to start crying. Essik had the sudden hysterical thought that if she did, they would all begin weeping, himself included. He hoped it did not show on his face.
“What causes this nightsickness,” asked Fjord, eyes glittering, “and how do we cure it?”
“Nightsickness as I know of it is caused by travelling in and out of Roshonna too often and too quickly,” Essik explained into the stillness of the room. “It has something to do with the magic that we use to keep the city cloaked under darkness. It is an imbalance in the body itself, not a wound or an infection, which is why it remains unaffected by divine magic. There is a place outside the city limits that specializes in curing it, but again, this is not… the typical presentation of symptoms. I don’t know how much they would be able help, even if that is indeed what this is.”
“Is there any way we can find out for sure?” asked Jester, wringing her hands together.
“… Actually, there is. There’s a reason this condition is called “nightsickness.” It can be hard to keep track of, under cover as we are here, but the symptoms tend to get much worse at night, and are somewhat relieved with the dawn – even if you cannot see it.”
“That would make sense,” said Caduceus thoughtfully, rising from his position on the floor and leaning heavily on his staff. “They seemed ill yesterday, but not dangerously so. It was after we went to bed that things got worrisome.”
“But it’s morning now,” squeaked Nott sadly, “and they aren’t any better. If anything, they’re worse!” At those words Jester’s face, which had brightened a little throughout his explanation, fell again.
“But it isn’t morning?” Now Essik was confused. “The sun won’t rise for nearly thirty more minutes.”
The Nein stared at him. Then – “Essik, I swear we didn’t mean to disturb–”
“It’s just that usually we rely on Caleb to tell us what time it is –”
“Well, we certainly appreciate your help so early in the –”
“Wait!” shrieked Jester, causing Beauregard to whimper a little in her lap, “Shit, sorry Beau. Do you mean that I messaged you in the middle of the night to come over and help us and you came right over? You do like us, don’t you!”
“I… have never denied it,” said Essik stiffly. The conscious members of the Nein were staring at him with looks he didn’t quite know how to parse. “I have also teleported you at not inconsiderable danger and cost to myself several times, called in favors to allow you access to prisoners and information, and personally taught,” he nodded at the figure on the bed, “… your wizard information that could get me in some trouble if word of it got to the wrong ears. What in any of that would make you think I didn’t like you?”
“You’re always so grumpy about it though!” explained Nott. Essik raised a dangerous eyebrow at her.
“What I think Nott means to say,” interrupted Fjord smoothly, “Is that I guess we assumed you were just… tolerating us for unknown reason.”
“I guess we are just very used to people not liking us!” said Jester, disturbingly cheerfully. “I always knew that you liked us though! It’s just that everyone else didn’t believe me.”
“I think, Mr. Essik, that we are not a very trusting bunch,” said the firbolg cleric slowly, meeting his eyes. “We tend to assume the worst of people. I am very glad to be proven wrong. Now, how many minutes did you say it was until sunrise?”
“About 25 now,” was all Essik could think to say.
“In that case, I think we could all use a cup of tea while we wait.” Caduceus started towards the door, leaning on his staff. “Would anyone care to join me in the kitchen? I don’t think we all need to be in this sickroom right now.”
“I’ll come,” said Fjord.
“As will I,” said Essik, grateful for the chance to stop looking at motionless figures in the room.
“I’ll stay with them,” murmured Nott tiredly, settling herself back into the spot where she must have spent much of the night.”
“I will too,” said Jester loyally. “You’ll bring us up some tea though, right Caduceus?”
“Of course we will. We’ll bring some back up for all of you – Caleb and Beau included.”
“If I am correct about it being nightsickness,” Essik reminded him on their way out the door.
“Don’t worry,” said Caduceus, “You got here just in time. I have faith.”
Essik: The M9 are chaotic, annoying idiots and if anything happened to them I would kill everyone in this room and then myself.
I... kind of love Essik's POV? He's so prickly on the outside but I maintain that he's soft on the inside.
New chapter will be up... someday lol! I mean to get one last Whumptober up before November, but after that I intend to start work on an original novel for NaNoWriMo and I'm hoping to still work on this once a week but we will see how burnt out I get.
To everyone who had written a comment for this fic: I love you. Yes, you. You know who you are <3