It was rare for Lynus to be given a day off from the hospital, but after being part of a party that rescued a squadron of missing guards, healing them until they reached the hospital, Dr Stiles insisted that Lynus take some much earned time off.
“What have you got in mind for your day off?” Axel asked him as he slipped into the bathroom of their room, to prepare himself for the day.
“Hm,” Lynus murmured as he perched a hairband between his lips and raked his fingers through his hair, pulling the strands back into a small ponytail. He grabbed the band and tied it around his hair three times. “Honestly, I’d like to gather some stones from the second stratum. I haven’t actually worked with any of those yet.”
“I think Tobyn wants to re-examine the eighth floor,” Axel said from the bathroom, over the sound of running water. “Once he hears we’re considering it, he’ll tag along. There’s a blank spot there that’s been pissing him off for ages.”
Lynus chuckled as he slipped on his medical coat. “I think the whole second stratum frustrates him.”
Well, Lynus shouldn’t say too much. He also held some resentment for the Scarlet Forest. With all those dangerous vines on the ground, ready to tear apart anyone’s feet should they step on them. Unfortunately, there were some places where they had no choice but to cautious step over these ‘moving tiles’, as they were called.
Well, at least there were no pits for them to worry about, unlike the fourth stratum…
Axel stepped out of the bathroom with a towel around his neck, wearing a sleeveless black shirt over his dark blue pants. He sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots. “If we’re lucky, we’ll be in the labyrinth for only a few hours. After that, we should head to the bar and piss off Cass for a while.”
Again, Lynus laughed. Cass had once made the mistake of complaining about how Lynus and Axel were too lovey-dovey toward each other. The sight of them together incited jealousy amongst the patrons, he claimed. That, of course, only prompted Lynus and Axel to be more open in their affection for one another, riling Cass up even more.
“Sounds good,” he said as he reached for his medical bag.
But as his fingers brushed over the strap of his bag, there was a knock at the door. It was a slight knock, but one he recognised nonetheless. He knew that Hamza was on the other side of the door.
A sense of curiosity washed over him as Lynus grabbed his bag and placed it upon his shoulder as he crossed the room to the door. He opened the door, readjusting his bag on his shoulder as he did so, and found Hamza standing expectantly on the other side.
Hamza offered him a small smile. “Ah, good,” he said. “Lynus, there is a guard here to see you. Sent from the hospital, apparently.”
“Oh?” Lynus murmured in surprise before a concerned frown appeared on his lips.
Something must have happened. It wasn’t often Lynus has a guard sent to him from the hospital. Usually, if anything untoward happened that required his presence, Darrell or Angie would come get him themselves. Besides, Dr Stiles was more than capable of running a hospital that was filled to the brim with patients. He had done so for years.
Lynus glanced over his shoulder at Axel, catching his gaze for a moment before Axel stood up from the bed and moved toward him, to follow him. Hamza then led the two of them down the stairs to the foyer of the inn, where a guard covered head to toe in national Lagaard armour stood, fidgeting impatiently on his feet.
“Are you Lynus?” the guard asked when he noticed their presence.
“That’s right,” Lynus said as he nodded his head slightly. “Can I help you?”
“Ah, Dr Stiles has requested your immediate presence at the hospital,” the guard announced before his fidgeting unexpectedly intensified, as if intensely nervous or uneasy. “It’s not urgent, well it is urgent, but not urgent urgent as in, like a code blue or something. Maybe important, but not life-threatening important. Ah, well…could you just go to the hospital please?”
…So much for his day off. But that was just the way of a medic and healer.
Still, something felt a little…abnormal. “Did Dr Stiles tell you anything else? Did he give you a note?” Lynus asked.
“Note!” the guard all but shrilled in realisation before he began to pat down his armour. “Y-yes, a note. Now where is it…Hah! Here.”
Lynus offered the guard a small smile as he took from him a piece of square paper that had been folded in half. “Thank you,” he said before promptly unfolding the note and reading.
Come to Ward C as soon as you can. Your opinion on a patient would be much appreciated.
Dr D Stiles
“Ok, thank you,” Lynus said as he turned his attention to the awaiting guard. “I’ll be at the hospital as soon as possible.”
“Sir!” the guard saluted before promptly turning on his heel and marching through the entrance of the inn, his armour clanging and clacking the entire way.
…Sir? Force of habit for the guard, perhaps?
“Is something the matter?” Hamza asked as he and Axel moved to stand on either side of Lynus.
“The note doesn’t offer much, I’m afraid,” Lynus replied with a slight frown, subconsciously leaning toward Axel as he slipped a hand to rest on the small of his back. “Just to go straight to Ward C to offer my opinion on a patient. Nothing else.”
The note was honestly a little concerning. Dr Stiles was being purposely vague, but why? Sure, Dr Stiles valued a patient’s confidential rights, but he would at least list the patient’s vital signs and the abbreviations of the tests that had been conducted. The note was short and direct.
Lynus almost didn’t believe that Dr Stiles had written the note, but he recognised the man’s handwriting.
“Sorry,” Lynus sighed as he tilted his head back to look up at Axel. “I better get going. I don’t know how long I’ll be.”
“As per usual,” Axel said, but there was an expression of understanding on his face nonetheless. “Don’t push yourself.”
Lynus granted Axel a grateful smile before pushing up onto his toes to kiss Axel softly, but unfortunately quickly on the lips. “Stay out of trouble,” he said as he reluctantly moved away from Axel and turned to leave the inn, quickly tracing the same path he would use to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
The quickest and easiest way to get to Ward B was through the reception area and waiting room. At this time in the morning, the waiting room usually had a few patients dealing with the after-effects of binge drinking or family and friends waiting for visiting hours.
But as he stepped through the main entrance of the hospital, Lynus was stunned to find that every seat in the reception area and connecting waiting room was taken. Most startling, though, was that they didn’t appear to be explorers. Some were young children being cradled in their parents’ arms. The others were elder sitting in wheelchairs or middle-aged still dressed in their night clothes. Coughing and murmuring echoed through the area as nurses and medics flittered in and out as they tried to deal with as many as they could.
…He was just at the hospital yesterday afternoon. What in the world could have happened?
Quickly making his way through the controlled chaos, Lynus made his way to the front desk.
“Morning, Darrell,” Lynus greeted, inwardly surprised to find the redheaded medic standing there, going over the roster. He usually hated dealing with the front counter.
“Hm?” Darrell muttered as he lifted his gaze up from the clipboard he was holding, his bloodshot eyes immediately locking onto Lynus. “Ah, morning.”
“Didn’t you have nightshift?” Lynus asked, his concern growing. “Why are you still here?”
Darrell simply indicated toward the full waiting area with a tilt of his head.
Lynus felt a frown tug at his lips as his gaze flickered over toward the reception once more. “What’s going on?” he asked bluntly as he turned back to Darrell. “It wasn’t like this yesterday.”
“Not a clue. They started late yesterday afternoon and haven’t let up since,” Darrell grumbled in response.
Lynus’ frown deepened and he was about to ask Darrell what kind of symptoms these non-explorer patients were exhibiting when the appearance of a familiar brown-haired doctor strode into view.
“Lynus,” Dr Stiles said the moment his gaze fell upon him, an expression akin to that of relief on his face as he immediately made a beeline toward Lynus. “Good, you’re here.”
Dr Stiles’ haggard, frazzled appearance was rather alarming. “Is something wrong?” Lynus immediately asked.
“This way,” Dr Stiles said as he placed a hand on Lynus’ back and led him into Ward B, immediately launching into an explanation along the way. “We’re experiencing a few baffling cases of patients being unable to move or woken from their sleep. There is no accidental poisoning or ingestion involved, from physical examination at least. There appears to be literally nothing wrong with them. These cases are more akin to those of explorers in the labyrinth. Yet the family members of these patients insist that they’ve never set foot inside Yggdrasil.”
It took Lynus a moment or two to let it all sink in when he found himself standing in the middle of Ward B. He silently hoped that he didn’t look as surprised as he felt when he realised that the eight beds in the room were all occupied. No one was moving. No one appeared to be even conscious.
They weren’t in the critical care unit, though, so their conditions must not be overly concerning.
“Do what you need to do to make them comfortable,” Dr Stiles suddenly said to him. “We can talk about the specifics later.”
In other words; get straight to work, ask and answer questions later.
“Y-yes,” Lynus murmured as he allowed Dr Stiles to take his medical bag before he walked toward the first bed of the ward.
He gave a slight nod of his head toward the nurse inspecting the patient’s vital signs before he focused completely on the blond-haired patient lying prone on the bed. Their eyes were lightly shut, but clamped together as if in pain or discomfort. Their lips were slightly parted as they breathed in through their nose and out of their mouth. Their skin, however, was pale and clammy.
Lynus stood by the bed and raised his hands to hover a few inches above the patient. Being thorough, he started from the first chakra point, carefully working his way through each individual function before moving on. Nothing was out of the ordinary until he reached the Sixth Chakra, and he was surprised by how dark but small and silent the dark abnormality was.
It was a curse or a spell. One that put the patient into a deep, almost eternal sleep. The blockage was small, but quite potent. Honestly, if Lynus had not been carefully checking the patient’s chakra points, it blockage could have easily been missed.
The spell, no curse, it…it wasn’t from a monster. The curse of a monster was primal, vicious. This curse was… malicious, it’s intention clear; cause as much restriction to the patient as possible, yet be subtle about it as well. A human was responsible.
A hexer was responsible.
He filed that thought away to the back of his mind as he instead focused on removing the blockage. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Since he had the location pin-pointed, a small refresh spell should be enough.
As Lynus uttered the healing spell, he jumped slightly as a small hiss of pain slipped passed his lips. When he removed the stranglehold the hex had on his patient, the sensation of the curse dissipating was akin to that of an elastic band snapping. And the tail end literally whipped him in the chest.
The patient’s response was just as swift. Lynus placed a hand against his chest and took a step back as the patient suddenly sat up in bed, looking around in a bewildering fashion. He allowed for the other nurses and medics to step in and inspect the now moving and conscious patient.
Lynus furrowed his brow as he rubbed the middle of his chest with his hand. That feeling…was it somehow connected to the curse he had just removed? It happened just a split second after he removed the curse, so it couldn’t be a coincidence. Was it a side effect, designed to hurt the one removing it?
Leaving the newly awoken and baffled patient in the capable hands of his fellow healers, Lynus quietly moved to the next unconscious patient. Raising his hands, he wasted no time seeking out the sixth chakra. And like the previous patient, their sixth chakra was blocked as well. This patient wasn’t asleep, though. They were being paralysed. Not enough to cause full body paralysis, but enough to render their every movement slow and sluggish, and for an unnerving tingling sensation to run through their joints.
It physically hurt them to move.
Drawing in a deep breath, Lynus grimaced in anticipating as he released the blockage. He bit the inside of his mouth when he felt that sharp pain in his chest again. He was subtly ready for it this time, but it still hurt and it surprised him by how piercing it was. It really felt as if something had physically hit him in the chest.
The patient on the bed jolted, as if hit by electricity before flailing to sit up in bed, wide eyed and breathing erratically. Their reaction, however, was completely understandable. From what Lynus could diagnose, they had been almost ‘locked in’ into their own body. Being able to move was such a relief to them.
Lynus could hear the patient mumble something about thanking the heavens to be able to move again, but he didn’t have the time to ask them any questions about how they came to be in such a state. He could feel the expectations and excitement from the families of the other patients in the ward. They were hoping and waiting for him to inspect their loved ones.
He shouldn’t keep them waiting. Being trapped in their own body, unable to move or awaken was terrifying, and they’ve waited long enough. Questions could be asked and hopefully answered afterwards, after everything had calmed down somewhat.
As he made his way over to the next patient, he took a moment to idly inspect his chest. There was nothing physical there. No red swelling from being struck. Just a slight ache.
His third patient was just like the first; cursed to sleep. The same chakra. The same location. The same reaction.
The next three patients were exactly the same. It was getting beyond ridiculous. Something was going on. Having several patients suffering from the exact same curse was not coincidental.
What in the world was really going on here?
As he released his seventh patient from their curse, Lynus was starting to feel lightheaded and breathless himself. His chest was really starting to hurt now. But there was one more he needed to inspect, so he ignored it and continued with his work. He could mutter about the ache in his chest later.
Lynus gritted his teeth as he removed the curse from patient number eight and breathed a sigh of relief when his patient sat up in bed, just like all his previous patients. There, he was done. Every single patient in Ward B was awake and conscious. Maybe now they could start getting some answers.
There was no doubt that the entire event was bewildering to those present, though. Watching as Lynus went from unconscious patient to motionless patient, raised his hands for a few moments before he uttered a healing spell which caused the patient to abruptly regain consciousness, before he quickly moved on to the next patient. He was sure that his fellow medics and the family of those in the ward were staring at him with dumbfounded expressions on their faces.
Lynus, however, couldn’t waste his time musing about how he must look. He was too busy trying to work out in his head how these patients could come across such curses and who would want to inflict them.
“You looked baffled.”
Dr Stiles’ voice pulled Lynus from his thoughts and he immediately turned to face the head doctor. “They’ve been cursed,” he said simply, keeping his voice quiet so not to alarm anyone within hearing range. “Or rather, they’ve been hexed.”
“Hexed?” Dr Stiles muttered, immediately looking alarmed. “All of them?”
“Yes,” Lynus replied firmly as he gazed over at all the now conscious patients. “I can’t tell you much about them, to be honest. Only that there’s a difference between a monstrous spell and a hex. Although these hexes in particular are rather faint, juvenile in regards to those that monsters in the labyrinth can use, they’re still very potent to non-explorers. Adventurers can develop a form of immunity to hexes and spells, if they’ve dealt with them, of course.”
Dr Stiles held his chin in thought. “Yes, that makes sense. Chances are the patients in critical care could also be suffering from these hexes.”
“Critical care?” Lynus repeated with a shocked expression on his face as he turned to look at the head doctor.
There was more?! The critical care ward only had one patient when he was there yesterday! What could have possibly had happened to result in so many critical care patients in such a short amount of time? He hadn’t heard anything traumatic happening in the labyrinth last night.
They…couldn’t be domestic patients as well, could they? More cursed domestic patients?
“Did they appear last night?” he asked.
Dr Stiles sighed loudly as he lifted his hands to rub at his temples. “Yes. All within hours of each other. Unconsciousness, delirium, coughing of blood. Some appear to be poisoned, but there is no poison located anywhere in their systems.”
Lynus was silent for a moment. “…Wish for me to inspect them?”
Dr Stiles gave him a grateful, yet somewhat apologetic smile. “Yes. That technique of yours has been spot on every time.” He then clasped a hand on Lynus’ shoulder. “Anything you find will be helpful.”
“I’ll get to work them,” Lynus said as he retrieved his bag from Dr Stiles and hurried from the room.
Looked like he won’t be heading back to the inn for a while. He hadn’t anticipated something like this…
As Lynus headed for the Critical Care ward, dodging medics and wandering patients along the way, he almost bumped into a familiar blonde-haired nurse.
“Morning, Lynus,” Angie greeted, although his usual perkiness and enthusiasm had been reduced severely to a half-hearted grin.
Lynus gave Angie a knowing smile, completely understanding of her exhaustion before noticing that she had a carry bag over her shoulder, one that was used when one was running errands. “Oh, Angie, are you heading out?” he asked.
Angie sighed despite trying to maintain her smile. “Dr Stiles has a few errands he needs for me to do.”
Lynus nodded his head as he chewed on his bottom lips for a moment. “I’d hate to add to it, but could you tell Axel that I’m going to be at the hospital for possibly late into the night?”
“Yes, of course,” Angie immediately responded.
“Thank you, I appreciate it,” Lynus said before letting the blonde-haired nurse go about her errands while he hastened his steps toward Critical Care.
As he stepped inside the ward, Lynus felt his heart drop into his stomach. Although a few of the medics and nurses appeared surprisingly relieved to see him, Lynus was immediately filled with a sense of dread. Eight beds, all of them full. The patients appeared conscious, though withering in pain and muttering incoherently in their beds.
Eight more patients. Eight more patients who could also be cursed. He wasn’t entirely sure he could deal with them all…
Pushing aside his apprehension with a shake of his head, Lynus dropped his bag to the floor near the door and went straight to work. Much like he had done in Ward C, he went from patient to patient to assess them, immediately locating the sixth chakra.
And what he found was alarming.
They were also cursed. Similar to those of Ward B, but these were more…vicious.
After he released the eighth patient of the ward of their curse, Lynus felt drained but had to remain standing tall when he realised that he had become the centre of attention of healers and patients alike.
“Their bodies are turning against themselves,” Lynus explained to the other healers in the ward, purposely avoiding the use of the word ‘hex’ as he didn’t want to cause more concern that there already was. “That’s where the poison is coming from. Their bodies are producing their own deadly poison. We need to find a way to stop them from producing too many antibodies and white blood cells.”
He could remove the curses, or rather clear the patient of the dark remnants of the hex, but they still needed to repair the damage that had already been done.
“Let’s start with Theriaca B added to their IVs,” Lynus continued to instruct. “Let’s start with 100mls each before slowly reducing. We need to hit this poison hard and fast. I need to do some more research, so I’ll leave it up to you.”
“Right!” Clearly pleased that they had been giving a task to do, the medics quickly set about getting to work.
With the way Lynus was feeling, he felt that he would only get in their way so he made his way over to his bag, picked it up quickly and moved to leave the room. He tried not to stagger out into the busy corridors. He didn’t physically do much, but he felt alarmingly tired. It was most likely due to his lack of experience with curses.
He clearly needed to do more research on the topic of spells, curses, and hexes. He knew how to release them, but not much else. He needed to know how they work, how they interfered with a person’s immune, circulatory, or nervous systems. And, ultimately, how they could be prevented and stopped altogether.
Before making his way to the hospital library, Lynus quickly entered the staff breakroom and had to lean against the counter for a moment. He squeezed his eyes shut as he rubbed at his chest. There were…too many curses. He was starting to feel ill and off-centre himself.
A hand was suddenly but gently placed upon his back. “Are you all right?” the familiar voice of Darrell asked.
Lynus glanced up at his fellow medic and offered him a tired smile. “Ah, it’s nothing,” he said before he sighed and shook his head slightly. “It’s just…dealing with these hexes is causing my chest to ache a bit. I think it’s a reaction of the hex, hurting whoever removes it as well. For the ultimate spite.”
Darrell immediately frowned at him, though he did not look remotely surprised or confused when Lynus mentioned the words ‘hex’ and ‘curse’. Dr Stiles must have told him what occurred in Ward B.
“You should rest for a bit then,” Darrell said as he removed his hand from Lynus’ back. “If Dr Stiles finds out it’s been hurting you, he’d throw a fit.”
A tired laugh slipped passed Lynus’ lips. “You’re right,” he said as he moved to sit down on the closest chair. “It’s…unnerving, though. There have been too many domestic curse victims.”
Darrell looked equally concerned and frustrated as he ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah. I can understand if they were explorers, but they’re not. Chefs, bakers, shop owners. They shouldn’t be coming into contact with curses.”
Lynus shook his head slowly, almost finding it difficult to comprehend what he had just discovered. “What is going on?”
“I don’t know,” Darrell muttered as he leaned his back against the counter and folded his arms roughly across his chest. “It’s like…a curse plague or something.”
Yeah, a curse plague alright.
Hexes and curses don’t just happen. They don’t occur naturally. Someone or something was placing these curses upon innocent people, either directly or indirectly. Could a hexer have gone rogue for some reason? Or maybe they were just testing their skills upon the general public to build up confidence to enter the labyrinth? Or were they intentionally being malicious?
There had to be a hexer involved, there was no way that all these patients of different backgrounds and social circles could stumble across the a cursed object. Unless there was numerous of them scattered all over the city. Could a curse-maker be purposely dropping cursed items around for any innocent to accidently stumble across?
Whatever the reason, someone or something was cursing these patients. And it had to be stopped. But how?
Lynus rubbed at his forehead in a frustrated manner. All he could do for now was the remove the curses and make the patients as comfortable as possible. Besides, he didn’t even know where to begin looking for said curse-makers. Searching for dangerous troublemakers certainly wasn’t his forte.
At the sound of someone yelling his name out in alarm, Lynus immediately jumped to his feet and turned around, only to find himself looking down the barrel of a gun that was pointed directly at his head…