Hamza rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his palms forcefully, hoping that the motion would will him to stay awake for just a little bit longer. It was late at night, rather early in the morning. Pitch black outside with no moon to be seen.
The only light in the room was being emitted from the fireplace, of which was burning strong as it usually was this time of year. The roaring flames and the crackling of wood offered a sense of peace and security. And after what had transpired the last couple of days, it was greatly needed.
On the couch located closest to the fireplace lay Axel and Lynus. Axel was lying upon his back with Lynus lying atop of him, using his chest as a pillow while Axel kept both arms wrapped around him firmly. Axel’s head was propped up slightly with a pillow so that his face was close to that of Lynus’, his lips against his forehead. They were very intimate, sweet, and appeared as they would any other night.
But tonight, with the dark rings under Lynus’ eyes and Axel holding him more firmly than usual, gave the indication that things were indeed not of the norm.
The fact that the entire Guardian guild had chosen to bunker down in the tearoom together was another sign.
Idly, Hamza gazed around at the other occupants in the room, taking a moment to mentally remind himself that they were all present and safe.
Shen was lying down on a futon with Magnus nestled at his side and head resting on his chest, but the ronin himself was not resting. He was alert and ready to jump into action without a moment’s notice. The tight grip he had on his blade and the one he had around Magnus’ shoulders was a testament to his readiness.
Jhon and Tobyn occupied another futon, the two blonds having only just agreed to find rest there a mere half an hour ago. Before then they had been helping with the research and putting together makeshift charms in hopes of warding off curses and hexer. Now, though, they rested together, Jhon on his back while Tobyn curled up against his side. Though Jhon was the protector, the way that Tobyn had positioned himself next to him, his bow and arrow at the ready on the floor next to them, it appeared as Tobyn was the one who was in protective mode.
More so than usual.
On the other couch in the room lay Macerio and Lirit, curled up together on one end, Macerio with his head upon Lirit’s shoulder and Lirit resting his head upon Macerio’s. A blanket was draped over them, but they held hands above the blanket, interlocked together tightly.
And, finally, choosing to stay inside for the night was Rahas. He laid on the floor in front of the fireplace, using Chi-hung as a pillow, the white tiger more than happy to let him do so. Though it appeared that Rahas was indeed sleeping, releasing small puffs of air as he snored, Chi-hung was restless. His ears and the tip of his tail kept twitching, jolting suddenly and he would tense. He wouldn’t move though, so there was no cause for alarm. It was just signs that he was as tense as everyone else.
Hamza rubbed at his eyes again and turned to look over at Cedric who had chosen to stay the night as well. He sat at a small table and chair setting in the corner of the room and idly flipped through a book in front of him.
He was about to tell the troubadour to get some sleep as well or risk agitating his lungs when he heard the soft sound of footsteps outside the room. Out of habit and protectiveness, he turned to look and watched with a hand sneaking out to his sword as the door opened.
But the man with willowy white hair and maroon robes was familiar to him, and Hamza found himself relaxing, though only by a fraction.
“I had heard some gossip,” Mahogany said softly as he closed the door behind him and silently made his way over to where Hamza and Cedric were sat. But as he moved across the room, his gaze was focused upon Lynus who lay peacefully asleep.
Hamza had noted from their previous encounters that Mahogany would look at Lynus with a peculiar gaze. Not a menacing one. Not a malicious one. But one of interest and curiosity. And yet there appeared to be a sense of knowing in his gaze, too.
He couldn’t help but wonder what the hexer knew about Lynus.
“He found a way to prevent the repercussions?” Mahogany stated more so than asked when he finally reached where Hamza and Cedric sat.
“He did,” Cedric was the one to answer as he set the book he was reading onto the table in front of him.
“Interesting,” Mahogany murmured as his red eyes flickered over to Cedric. “Do you know how?”
Cedric shrugged his shoulder ever so slightly. “By the use of a crystal, but that’s all I know.”
Mahogany unexpectedly made a sound of understanding. “Ah, that would make sense,” he said before he shifted his gaze back over to Lynus. “Still, to think that he removed so many at once. Quite talented. He lives up to his title, it seems.”
Hamza had no doubt that Lynus’ reputation would just soar after what he had done for those patients today. But he wasn’t sure that was a good thing. The words that that malicious looking dark hunter uttered to him all that time ago returned to the front of his mind.
He truly didn’t like the fact that Lynus name was known widely in Lagaard. But, hopefully, his dubbed title Miracle Medic would be more known than his actual name. Though Lynus was embarrassed by it, it was a better option. Because there were certain to be some…deviant people who would love to have a personal medic of such calibre.
“Hmm…” Mahogany humming in thought pulled Hamza from his own musings and he felt his stiffening slightly, defensive and protective.
“Is there something else?” Hamza asked.
Mahogany continued to look at Lynus, watching with interest as he moved slightly in his sleep, curling closer to Axel and nuzzling his head under his chin. “No. I’m just musing,” he finally responded. “Perhaps the biggest threat to these rouge students is a medic who can remove all of their hexes. I hope they haven’t realised this yet.”
Hamza felt himself wince and he shared an equally concerned look with Cedric. “What do you think they’ll do?” he asked as he turned his attention back to the hexer.
“Uncertain at this point,” Mahogany replied as he turned his gaze away from Lynus and looked directly in Hamza’s eyes. “But…your Miracle Medic is your best bet of getting through this unharmed.”
Hamza simply nodded his head in understanding. While he accepted it as a fact, he certainly didn’t like it. Lynus was pushed to his limit as was.
How much more could he take?
He hoped they won’t ever find out…
… … … … …
Lynus felt dizzy and disorientated as he tried to peel open his heavy eyelids. His head throb from his pulse rushing through his ears. It took him a few long moments to find the strength to open his eyes. And it was made more difficult by the comforting feeling of someone with a strong and calming aura carding their fingers through his hair.
Finally finding the strength to open his eyes, Lynus soon realise that though his vision was blurry he recognised his surroundings. He was in the tearoom in front of the fireplace. He was lying comfortably upon Axel’s chest, his head nuzzled under his chin and with his landsknecht’s arms around him tight and secure.
Lifting his head, Lynus’ gaze collided with that of Axel’s worried blue eyes. “Axel.”
Axel continued to run his fingers through his hair that was thankfully loose from his ponytail. “How are you feeling?”
It honestly took Lynus a moment to find the words. “…Just a little tired,” he said before he managed to lift a hand and gently touch the side of Axel’s face. “I’m sorry.”
Axel sighed as he pressed his cheek against Lynus’ hand. “I know. There was no other way.”
“The amazonite stone you gave me,” Lynus said as he felt the weight of the stone against his chest. “It protected me from the curses.”
Axel didn’t say anything in reply to that. He didn’t even make an attempt but Lynus could feel his unfair and unreasonable guilt nonetheless. The amazonite gemstone was there for him, but Axel wanted to have been the one to help him.
Even though Axel tried to rationalise with himself that it was something that simply could not be helped, his guilt and helplessness of Lynus pushing himself was still there. And it was honestly painful.
He understood why he felt that way. He truly did. Which was why he was determined to find a way to stop these terrible hexers before anyone else got hurt. Before Axel irrationally blamed himself for something else.
Before something happens that he may not be able to heal.
The sensation of two familiar auras approaching alerted Lynus to Jhon and Tobyn even before he heard their footsteps. With a bit of effort, and with Axel’s strong hands helping him, he managed to slip away from Axel’s warmth and perch himself on the edge of the couch just as the door opened and the two blonds stepped inside.
Ever the protector, Jhon’s gaze immediately glanced over to where Lynus and Axel were sat. Axel having also lifted himself from the couch and sat closely next to Lynus. For a fraction of a second a flicker of surprise appeared in Jhon’s eyes, but he soon smiled with pure relief.
“Lynus, how are you feeling?” Jhon immediately asked as he made his way over to where they were, Tobyn right behind him after closing the door to the tearoom.
“A little tired to be honest,” Lynus replied with a tired smile, of which grew into one of relief when he noticed that Jhon carried a gemstone in the form of a charm in his hand.
Good, it seemed that they were able to make some charms and tokens while he was resting. He knew they would be able to do so without him
“But I was able to sleep peacefully knowing that you all had everything under control,” Lynus added as he managed to push himself to his feet.
Even though Axel immediately stood up with him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, Jhon still reached out to steady him.
“We managed to make a few charms that, from what that book says at least, should protect from curses,” Tobyn explained as he motioned over to the desk in the corner of the room that was covered in books and scraps of paper, as well as remnants of crafting and jewellery work.
“We’ve decided to give them to Dr Stiles and a few medics at the hospital,” Jhon added. “They’re on the front line, after all.”
Lynus reached out for the charm that Jhon held and it was quickly placed in the palm of his hand. He immediately felt the strength of the rose quartz crystal that shone within. The energy of the crystal was soft, inviting, loving, and caring. It should be able to ward off lower, hateful energies of the hexes and curses.
“With these charms I should be able to teach them how to remove the curses without them hurting them in return,” Lynus mused aloud as he trailed his fingertips over the soft pink stone.
“We don’t know if they’ll work,” Tobyn murmured.
“They will, don’t worry,” Lynus immediately comforted as he handed the stone back to Jhon to hold and to keep. “Do we have enough materials to make more?”
Tobyn glanced over at the table and nodded his head once. “A couple more,” he replied as he turned his attention back to him.
Jhon nodded his head as he shifted on his feet, unable to hide his unease and restlessness of not being able to do anything physical to help their situation any more than he already had. “We’ve asked Thompson to help out. He and Abigail are working on a few experiments as we speak. Hamza, along with Shen and Cedric, has just left to visit them now.”
Tobyn was also visibly agitated as he folded his arms crossly over his chest. “Other guilds are on the lookout for these hexers, too. It’s only a matter of time before we find them.”
“We need to be even more cautious,” Axel added as he curled his arm tighter around Lynus’ shoulders and tugged him closer. “I doubt these hexers will take kindly to being cornered.”
Lynus was about to voice his own thoughts when he felt a familiar presence draw near. He fell silent and gazed at the door to the tearoom, watching as it opened and a man in maroon hexer robes stepped in. “Mahogany?”
Mahogany didn’t appear remotely surprised to see Lynus awake and standing. Instead he simply nodded his head and turned to close the door behind. “I take it you’ve at least gotten part of your energy back?” he unexpectedly asked.
“Well, I’m conscious, so that’s something,” Lynus replied with a small smile as the mysterious hexer walked over to where they stood.
“Good,” Mahogany replied in a simple manner. “It takes time to place a curse, and they can only place one curse at a time.”
Another small piece of good news. With the charms aiding his ability to remove the curses without receiving repercussion, they were finally gaining some ground in this…plague.
“We may have a bit of time to gather our wits before there is another onslaught like the one you encountered yesterday,” Mahogany added before his tone turned cautionary. “Still, you must be careful. These students are driven by ego. They will not take kindly to the removal of these curses.”
“We have these charms now,” Lynus said in return. “They’ll be able to aid us also, won’t they?”
Mahogany pressed his lips together in a thin line and his usual stoic face creased into a subtle expression of concern. “To some extent. But…”
“But?” Axel prodded.
“They protect from one kind of hex at a time,” Mahogany said. “So you’re not completely safe.”
Tobyn bristled. “Are we wasting our time?”
“Not at all,” Mahogany immediately answered, unbothered by the biting tone in Tobyn’s voice and simply motion to the charm in Jhon’s hand. “The best thing to do is to use these accessories to protect the ones who can remove them.”
Jhon lifted the charm to gaze down upon it. “We could also create the charms that will protect us from the curses that would affect us the most. For example head bind for Magnus and…fear for Macerio.”
“That would be the best course of action,” Mahogany replied with a nod of his head.
Again Tobyn bristled while both Lynus and Axel felt a wave of dread and concern rush through them at the thought of Macerio becoming confused. He was also unpredictable when he was under a spell that inspired fear and dread. Could they find a way to protect him from both?
What of the others? There had to be a way to create a charm that could at least lessen the devastating effects of the hex on someone.
Lynus sighed and rubbed his forehead with his hand. “…I need to go back to the hospital,” he murmured before he winced and glanced up at Axel. “Dr Stiles is mad at me, isn’t he?”
Axel leaned forward and pressed a light kiss to the top of his head. “He said that he wanted you to return just so you can teach him your technique before kicking you out.”
Another sigh passed Lynus’ lips. “Yeah, I thought he would…” he shook his head and looked back to Jhon. “Have you presented the charms to the hospital yet?”
Jhon shook his head and quickly walked over to the table and picked up a large leather pouch sat amongst the books and scrolls. “We were actually debating on whether we should make more and hand them all at once or give the few we have here.”
“I’ll take them,” Lynus immediately said as he reached out for the leather pouch and immediately felt the combined etheric energies of the crystals within. “These crystals should protect them from the repercussions.”
“Before that; let’s head upstairs and freshen up a bit,” Axel suddenly suggested. “You still have dark rings under your eyes.”
Lynus immediately lifted a hand to his face, resting it against his cheek. “Do I?”
Jhon smiled at them, but it was a tight smile that was both polite and filled with concern. “You two go ahead and freshen up. We’ll continue to make more charms.”
Axel curled his arm further around Lynus’ shoulders and tugged him toward the door. “Won’t be long,” he said as he led Lynus out.
As soon as they stepped out of the room, however, a familiar orange-haired troubadour descended the stairs. And the very moment he touched the bottom step, Lirit looked over in their direction.
“Lynus,” he said with wide eyes, his voice almost a squeak due to barely suppressed emotions as Lirit hurried over to him.
“Lirit,” Lynus said in return as he took a step forward and Axel allowed him to do so, though he kept close, even as Lirit abruptly enveloped Lynus in a tight and concern-filled hug. “I feel that I should apologise.”
Lirit shook his head as he buried his face against the crook of Lynus’ neck and tightened his arms around him. “Don’t do anything like that again,” he mumbled.
Lynus sighed as he ran his fingers through Lirit’s hair in an attempt to offer the worried troubadour some comfort. “I’ll try. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that.”
For a long while Lirit simply held onto him, his face pressed against the side of his neck. And Lynus allowed him to simply cling to him. Though Lirit wasn’t crying, he was very shaken up. Scared and worried.
Finally though reluctantly all the same, Lirit loosened his arms and pulled away from Lynus. But he grabbed onto his shoulders and looked him worriedly in the eyes. “You’re not heading back to the hospital, are you?”
Lynus wished he could offer Lirit more comfort and reassure him that everything would be all right, but for now all he could do was offer him a gentle smile and an honest answer.
“Only for a little while,” Lynus replied, which earned him a distraught look from Lirit so he continued. “I need to show them how to find these curses and remove them. Axel is coming with me, so he’ll make sure I don’t overstay.”
That seemed to offer Lirit some comfort and reluctantly once more he removed his hands from his shoulders. “Only show them how to remove the curses. Don’t do anything else.”
Lynus offered him another reassuring smile as Axel quickly slipped an arm around his shoulders once more. “I promise.”
… … … … …
The fact that Lynus was walking into the hospital dressed not in his medical coat with his hair pulled back, instead wearing a woollen cardigan that felt a size too big with his hair down around his shoulders and framing his face felt…awkward to put it lightly. He didn’t even have his medical bag with him, which only added to his discomfort.
“I’ll stand back and observe,” Axel said as they moved deeper into the back hallways and corridors. “But know that I am watching you like a hawk.”
Lynus laughed softly into his hand before he turned around to face Axel to pull him to a stop and to place his hands upon his chest. He then pushed himself up onto his toes and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said as he pulled back to look into Axel’s eyes. “I promise I won’t push myself like I had to yesterday.”
Axel squeezed him around the waist lightly. “I’ll make sure of it,” he said firmly.
Lynus could only smile and let him indulge in his protective urges. They were appreciated, though. And in all honesty Axel had ample reason to be protective towards him.
At the sound of his name, Lynus stepped away from Axel and turned to see Dr Stiles quickly making his way toward him. His hair and clothing were dishevelled and he had dark rings under his eyes. Clearly he had continued working during the night with an hour or two here or there. Dr Stiles wore an expression of concern, though Lynus himself couldn’t help but allow a worried frown to tug at his own lips.
“I’m all right; just a little tired,” Lynus answered before Dr Stiles could ask him and he met with him half way. He immediately gave the other man a hug, of which was promptly returned. “And from the looks of things, so are you.”
Dr Stiles sighed as he rested his chin a top of Lynus’ head for a moment before he pulled back to instead take Lynus by the shoulders. “Everyone is. But at least we had some time to catch our breaths. We can’t let anything like what happened yesterday happen again.”
No, they couldn’t afford to let something like that happen again.
Dr Stiles’ grip on his shoulders tightened a fraction and he leaned forward so that he was eyelevel with Lynus. “Tell me how to find and remove these hexes.” It wasn’t a demand, but it wasn’t a question either.
Even so, Lynus wasn’t at all surprised by it. “I should be able to show you. I take it there are more patients?”
“Yes, unfortunately. Not as many as yesterday, but enough to cause trouble,” Dr Stiles answered as he straightened his posture in an attempt to ward off his exhaustion. His eyes, however, flickered to look behind Lynus and he gave a slight nod of his head. “I take it Axel will be accompanying us?”
“Absolutely,” Axel answered as he moved to stand next to him and pressed a hand against the small of his back. “I will physically manhandle him out of this hospital if necessary.”
A wry smiled appeared on Dr Stiles’ lips. “Ah, good,” he said before his eyes unexpectedly narrowed in a parental way as he focused his attention back to Lynus once more. “And from the looks of things, that should be easier now. You’ve definitely lost a couple of pounds since yesterday morning.”
Lynus could barely suppress a wince. “O-oh, have I? A-anyway, we’ve managed to make a couple of amulets,” he said in an attempt to change the subject and to also bring everyone’s attention back to what it was they truly needed to focus on. “They should protect you from the repercussions. And more, if necessary.”
He turned toward Axel and retrieved the leather bag that contained the charms from him. He reached inside and pulled out a charmed that held a Prehnite stone. Thanks to the leather string and anointed oils, its energy had been enhanced to allow for Dr Stiles to wield it immediately. There will need to be a cleansing of the stone at a later date, but it should be at full strength for at least a couple of days.
The light green stone caught the light and shimmered softly as Lynus handed the charm to Dr Stiles. “Wear it around your neck and under your shirt so it comes into contact with your skin.”
Dr Stiles didn’t hesitate to take the charm from him and he soon had done what Lynus instructed. As he began to fold down his collar to appear a little less dishevelled, he turned and led Lynus toward the IC ward once more. Of course Lynus immediately followed and Axel followed behind him, albeit somewhat awkwardly. But Lynus was glad that Axel was there and close at hand. If a patient should succumb to a fear or confusion spell, Axel would be the ideal person to put a swift end to any trouble.
The IC Unit thankfully only held a few patients. Not to full capacity like yesterday. And Dr Stiles wasted no time in leading Lynus toward the nearest patient. Standing on either side of the young man’s bed, Lynus instinctively began to assess his current state.
Because of his previous experience of not only removing hexes but sensing and locating, Lynus was able to quickly diagnose the patient with a simple check of their aura. But he didn’t say anything because he needed Dr Stiles to be able to make a diagnosis of his own. Dr Stiles himself wouldn’t be satisfied until he could as well.
But here came the hard part. His skills were self-taught, after all. He wasn’t fully confident he could relay the information needed in such a short amount of time.
“Here, hold your hand here,” Lynus instructed for Dr Stiles to lay a hand against the patient’s forehead. When he did so Lynus pressed his hand a top of his. “Now, focus on their presence, on their aura. Don’t look directly at the patient, but rather the air around them. You’ll see a very subtle array of light. For now ignore the different shades of colour. Look for the dark spots. One right there, above his navel. Can you sense it?”
Dr Stiles’s brow was deeply furrowed and he seemed frustrated. But his expression smoothed out into an expression of relief. “I can.”
It was honestly a relief to Lynus as well. “Use refresh. Don’t hesitate. I’ll protect you from the repercussions.”
Again with his brow furrowing slightly in concentration, Dr Stiles uttered a refresh spell and the two of them were able to feel the sudden ‘snap’ of the curse relinquishing the person. Though there was indeed a feeling of the hex’s removal, there was no accompanying sharp pain to the chest.
“…It worked,” Dr Stiles murmured.
“Yes,” Lynus said with a satisfied smile.
“I can take it from here,” Dr Stiles suddenly stated as he lifted his head and searched around for someone or something. “Teach Darrell and Angie the technique. I don’t have time to finesse it, but I can heal these patients.”
“Of course,” Lynus immediately replied and turned to leave.
But before he move too far Dr Stiles suddenly snared him by his elbow and pulled him to a stop. “After that I want you outside the hospital for the foreseeable future.”
Lynus immediately frowned and opened his mouth to protest, but Dr Stiles cut him off as he looked at him sternly, but not harshly.
“As of right now, you’re of more use outside of the hospital,” Dr Stiles said. “Find the hexers responsible, do more research, protect your guildmates, and protect the citizens of Lagaard. Only you and your guild can do this. No one else.”
Lynus found himself staring at the head doctor for a moment which allowed for the words he just spoke to sink in. He was right, wasn’t he? The best possible cure for this hex outbreak is to find the ones responsible and stop the curses there. His experience at removing curses would be much needed for his own guild’s sake.
“Yes, I understand,” Lynus quietly replied. “Everyone is in safe hands here.”
Though exhausted, Dr Stiles managed to give him a small smile that held a hint of relief. “Try to take care of yourself for once,” he said as he released his grip on Lynus’ arm.
Lynus managed a small smile of his own. “We’ll see.”