1-11 Trouble Comes to Westwind, Part 2
Once back in the medical center, it was a waiting game. Serena stayed with Narik as all waited for a turn in his brother’s condition, whether it be favorable or unfavorable. In the meantime, the herbalist ordered a small platter of food for the large brother, from which he only nibbled. She found this interesting that while most people would have lost their appetite under such stressful conditions, Loki had told her his bloodline had a ravenous fervor for food that only death would put them off of. And with Narik’s bulk, he and his father shared a most impressive feeding schedule – even for the Whoticore bloodline.
After one hour dragged into two, Serena was secretly becoming more concerned. Most people would have responded almost immediately by such a large infusion of fluids as Dr. Colton was pumping into Erik. His urine output showed little reaction – which should have slowly started increasing by the end of the second hour – and his skin was just as lacking in fullness as when they had brought him in. The doctor had even increased the humidity in the room by an impressive amount, just to facilitate the infusion of moisture into the Whoticore’s body by all means necessary.
Narik had not noticed Serena’s concern until Dr. Colton returned, then even he knew Erik was in more trouble than with a simple issue of dehydration.
“His condition hasn’t changed and frankly, that’s impossible. We’ve done everything correctly,” he assured them.
Serena looked at the young man in the hospital bed, intently studying his pale features and the lack of luster to his skin, weighing Colton’s words against her vast herbal and medical knowledge.
There was something about his appearance that bothered her. It had not changed in three hours and that too was impossible. And experience had taught the herbalist that when the possible is ruled out, it only leaves that which dwelt in the realms outside science and the physical world.
She looked up at the doctor. “Has he gained weight?”
While the doctor thought it an out-of-the-blue question, he was used to Serena’s impulsive queries leading to solutions that otherwise would not have come to light. “He should have with all the water we’ve infused into his system, even if only a few ounces.” The doctor grunted, turning over the need to check Erik’s weight in his mind. There was no harm in it, even if only to placate the herbalist. Colton motioned for his assistant to come over and they brought out a portable stretcher and prepped Eric to move.
“He looks no different than three hours ago,” Serena told Erik’s sibling, seeing his puzzlement. “He has no plumpness to his face and he just feels – wrong. As wrong as when we brought him in.”
They moved the stretcher once loaded over to a scale. Colton compared the result to the admission record they had made when Erik had been brought in. “You were right on the money, Miss Serena,” he announced. “He has not gained an ounce!”
“How can that be?” asked Narik.
“It can’t,” the doctor shook his head. “it’s impossible.”
“Clearly not, if that is the case,” Serena frowned at his disbelief.
“What do we do about it?” Narik asked them.
“That is a much better question to be asking,” agreed Serena, gazing at the unconscious Whoticore. “I think perhaps, I need a moment of quiet to reflect on the situation.”
Colton nodded to his assistant and they headed for the door. “Call us when you are ready, Lady Serena.”
When they were gone, Serena returned to Erik’s side with Narik on the other side of the bed. She sighed. “I truly wish lady Sari had accompanied you. I need to know more about this vision, what brought it on beyond a simple passing of life.”
“It wasn’t simple,” muttered Narik under his breath. “Nothing about that night was simple!”
Serena’s attention drew back to the large Whoticore. “There was more you haven’t told me, that much I sensed,” she stated more than asked him, crossing over to his side of the bed. Narik started to speak, but she held up a hand to stop him. “I respect you would perhaps want Erik as head of the household to speak for you, dear Narik, but as he is incapacitated, that leaves you in temporary charge. It is a difficult position to be in, especially if you feel imparting such missing information to me would be a breach of some confidence between you both, but your brother’s life is at stake. You must weigh all these factors in your final decision,” she finished.
He blew out a breath, his shoulders slumped slightly and head lowering, shaking in conflict. Serena was being too kind to him – and Erik. Once she knew the truth of her father’s death, he feared she would turn on them in anger and throw them out of Westwind. Then what would become of Erik? It was almost too painful to think about.
The herbalist laid a hand on his large shoulder in sympathy. “Are you afraid I will judge you and Erik harshly for some foolish actions that led to this?” she asked him softly.
Her gentle manner brought tears to his eyes. She was so maternal, so loving, unlike their own mother, that thinking of her as such had been almost effortless when Loki had brought her to their household, declaring their joining.
In the end, however, in light of Erik’s dire condition, decorum and discretion simply didn’t matter. Once upon a time, if she had been a stranger, their father might have lied in some clever way that would gain her cooperation and spare the reputation of the House, but Narik wasn’t as clever and he really didn’t want to lie to or deceive her.
“Yes, all right,” he decided aloud. “You’re right. With Erik’s life at stake, I can’t keep something from you that would maybe save him. But I think we’d better sit down for this.”
Serena nodded and let him lead her to a small couch in the corner of the room not far from Erik’s bedside.
He started with the details of Sarilayna’s words during Jim Solare’s passing, careful to omit Young Jim’s identity, then went into what he saw when Erik get caught in the crossfire of the vision and how his brother had collapsed into unconsciousness. In another few seconds afterwards, when Narik was able to get him upright, Sari had come out of the vision and the two had helped get Erik into their master bedroom and into bed.
Narik then picked up on Erik’s account, starting with him finding himself on a desolate, lifeless plain.
Serena had, like all inhabitants of their world, been raised on the terrible stories and facts of the deadly province between Moonville and Mountainville, and showed no surprise at hearing of its lifeless state. She accepted its authenticity as a genuine vision, much to Narik’s relief, running the facts of Erik’s illness against the physical description of Plainsville so vividly detailed by the Whoticore male.
“It does explain the thirst you recounted,” she agreed. “A state of dehydration mirroring what his soul experienced in such a realm.”
Her companion continued. Serena’s gaze turned to Erik during the part of the tale where Narik described the desolate landscape, the crumbling steel, two-story building and the corroded interior complete with depleted nuclear fuel rods. He omitted any details of the scenes inside, that it was a crematorium or that anyone else had been present with Erik.
He finished, also omitting Erik’s encounter with the stillborn child and adult woman pleading for his help.
“Pain,” Serena repeated in a hollowed voice barely above a whisper.
Narik paused. “What?” he asked.
“Pain. Can’t stop – “ she trailed off, gripping the edge of the couch to quell an intense wave of panic washing over her.
The Whoticore steadied her. His touch seemed to stop the sensation and she came back to the present, looking at him with a brief look of confusion.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
Her hand went to her head. “Yes, I just felt – very hot for a moment,” she told him, swallowing. “Uncomfortably so.” She held back the truth that for an instant, that she had been pushed out of her body, impelled by a searingly painful sense of being burned alive.
“Is this too much to hear right now?” Narik worried.
She looked at the Whoticore, wondering that herself. Then her gaze turned to the window, to the skies above the grounds beyond. It was well past midnight now, yet the skies seemed to shift from darkness to sunset, then melting back into the deep evening again. Of all the brilliant stars and constellations above, one caught her eye. “Pleiades,” she whispered. “Rebirth…Must go…”
“Stop the pain…” she finished, eyes unfocused.
It triggered a memory for Narik. “Erik mentioned the Pleiades. That it was in the skies overhead. So large it almost covered from horizon to horizon.”
His words brought her back again to the present. “What?” she asked him, the memory of what she had seen and said fading.
“The Plei – “
“Lord Whoticore?” a voice came from the doorway. They both looked to see a slight, wiry youth standing there wearing a resort staff uniform. He appeared rather nervous.
“Yes, that’s right. I am,” he replied. He and Serena stood and crossed over to the door.
“Sir, I was sent to tell you there is something wrong with one of your mounts, at the stable. You need to come right away,” the messenger told them.
“Our horses? What happened?”
“I was not told, sir,” he replied. “I was just told to tell you, but sir, there’s a stench so bad about the place, it’d make you gag. Just a warning, mind you.”
Serena and Narik traded confused and concerned looks. “Go,” the herbalist told their guest. I will stay here with Erik.”
“Thank you,” the Whoticore nodded and quickly followed the pageboy out.
Once Narik had left the building, Serena turned her full attention back to his brother, still unconscious and unmoving. It was not often she ran across a physical ailment she could not diagnose, in fact, it had not happened for a few years now, but then she had to remind herself that this instance was not completely of the body.
That being the case, she was still learning when it came to the subtler, non-physical realms. She had only been introduced to the world of psychic sicknesses a mere seven months ago by Lord Loki. The knowledge he had had time to impart to her – among which was the fundamentals of chakra work – had been an eye-opener. And not in the realm of her having never worked with them before, but her realizing that her reading the energy patterns and auras of a patient all her career now had a name – chakra healing. She had smiled then and now at the irony. If her father had known that she had been unconsciously healing in part on a metaphysical level for years, he would have had an absolute fit!
“Father,” she whispered aloud. “He was in the Whoticore mansion near or during the time you took ill. Perhaps he knows something – “ she began to say, turning to head back towards the door.
“Oh…” she stopped short when Luna fidgeted abruptly. Serena’s hand automatically went to her abdomen, cradling the precious bundle inside her. She gently rubbed the area, “You have been so quiet lately, little one, I thought you asleep.” Smiling at the reminder that her pregnancy was still well in hand, the herbalist took another few steps towards the door only to be firmly kicked by Luna yet again.
“How strange,” muttered Serena at the coincidence. “If only you could talk. I would swear you do not want me to leave him.” Turning her concentration inward, she moved again towards the door, but at a slower pace.
The unborn child shifted, pushing back on her mother’s spine. It had the unpleasant effect of making Serena’s legs unsteady as unequal pressure was put on her nerves. “I can see you are going to be an acupressurist when you grow up!” The herbalist exclaimed, reaching out to grab a chair next to the bed.
She missed and instead grabbed hold of Erik’s leg next to a part of the bed frame that wobbled unsteadily. She looked down at the bed, gasping. It was being overcome with corrosion which was spreading out in all directions from somewhere underneath Erik.
“Oh no!” At the same time the realization of her grave error hit her, a sense of euphoria overcame the fear and vertigo, banishing them completely. Within her, Luna too was awash in the sensation…
Narik and the runner crossed the resort property, the messenger hard-pressed to keep up with the longer-striding Whoticore. Several times Narik stopped, uncertain which direction to go until his guide caught up with him and redirected him towards the stables. It delayed them a bit, adding to the tall Whoticore’s urgent concern, now not just for Erik, but for whatever had happened to his brother’s mount as well. It didn’t help that the few wrong turns he had taken had confused him as to the path back to the medical center, adding to the beginnings of a most foul mood.
When the resort buildings had been left behind and the lush greenery thinned enough, giving way to the grasslands at the edge of the property, it soothed Narik’s temper – until they hit something new that turned that temper into a twinge of surprise and disgust.
“Ugh! What is that stench?!?” he growled, annoyed.
“That’s what I warned you about, sir,” the messenger reminded him, grabbing a scarf to put over his own nose.
Narik grabbed his riding ascot and hastily tied it around his own face to keep the foul odor at bay as well. It helped, but as he feared when they got closer, the smell increased to a point the scarves did little to quell their stomachs.
They passed Forge and several stable hands leading horses away out to an adjacent pasture, animals and humans visibly upset by the stink. Narik and the messenger were the only ones actually heading towards it.
Stopped by the blacksmith, who had two large equines in hand, the man looked at Narik. “My sympathies, Lord Whoticore. He was a fine one. Such a shame!”
Narik’s eyes widened. “What? No, not ‘Mist – “ he exclaimed.
Forge put up a hand to stop him. “No! No, ‘Mist is fine. He was the first one I pulled out of the stables, what being right in there with Onyx.” He gestured towards the pastures. “‘Mist is safe. He’s towards the center of the pasture, asserting his dominance over the bays and hoarding the mares for himself, as usual.”
The man would have laughed as that sounded like Night Mists’ usual behavior, but the stench and chaos around them wasn’t currently conducive to mirth at the moment. “Then what the Tartarus is going on?!? And Onyx, what – “
“I’m sorry,” Forge sighed. “We don’t know, but Goddess above, don’t go in there if you have a weak stomach, Mi’lord. At least the poor thing isn’t suffering anymore.”
Narik looked to the messenger. “You stay with Forge,” he ordered. “No need to lose your dinner over this and I require you as a guide back to the medical center.” He began walking towards the stables. “I won’t be long.”
A few moments later, they caught sight of Narik returning, heading back towards the pasture. He was grim and slightly paler than usual.
Neither the page nor blacksmith spoke. Narik took a couple of deep breaths. It was then that the other two noticed the smell had lessened. “Why is the smell – “
“A trick I learned recently with our father’s passing,” the large Whoticore explained. “After seeing what I just did, I’d almost swear he and Onyx perished under similar…” he paused, the color draining from his face. “Oh HELL!” he shouted. Looking to the pasture, he put his fingers to his lips and let out an ear-splitting whistle.
In the pasture, Night Mist perked up, grunted and galloped towards them.