The Lost Key


{Part of the Cease the Suffering Series} Hamza has been keeping a couple of secrets from his guild. But it all unravels before him when an old friend is held for ransom...for the Tree Key.

Action / Fantasy
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Quests involving the search for the missing, be them explorers or soldiers, rarely ended well. They were usually, and rather unfortunately, body recovery missions. However, as the ever reliable Guardians Guild escorted in three Lagaard Soldiers that were reported lost in the third stratum into the hospital, a sigh of relief was shared amongst all the healers.

"Great job, everyone," Dr Stiles said as he directed them to an emergency patient ward.

"This is all of them," Axel said as he helped a frost-bitten and shivering soldier onto a bed. "They're all accounted for."

"They're suffering from frostbite and hypothermia," Lynus explained to Dr Stiles as the two of the stayed at the back of the group, allowing the emergency staff to take care of the patients. "But no physical injuries."

"We'll be sure to warm them up," Dr Stiles reassured with a smile, again grateful for the Guardians' luck and courage. "We appreciate the hard work."

But Axel and the others waved him off good-naturedly. The fact that they were useful was all the thanks they needed or wanted. "Nah, think nothing of it," Axel said before he and the others exited the room in order not to get in the way.

Lynus moved to follow, but Dr Stiles pulled him to a stop.

"Ah, that's right. Lynus? I'm a tad busy at the moment; could you do a house delivery for me?"

Lynus brushed back a strand of his orange hair. He was intrigued. He didn't know the hospital did house deliveries. "Yes, of course."

Dr Stiles smiled, having expected such a response and walked over to the reception desk to pick up a brown paper bag and a slip of paper. "Here's the address and here's the parcel," he said as he handed them both to Lynus. "I appreciate your help."

"It's fine," Lynus replied politely before making his way over to Axel and explained to him the unusual request.

"House visit?" Axel questioned as he slipped his arm around Lynus' shoulders, pulling him against his side.

"Hm," Lynus hummed as he curled closer to him and placed his hand against Axel's back and tilted his head back. "I think he might be kicking me out."

Axel gave a small laugh as they made their way out of the hospital. "You have worked hard today," he said before he leaned his head down and kissed Lynus on the lips. "I'll see you back at the inn."

"Won't be long," Lynus promised as he slipped from Axel's arms and they parted ways, Axel headed to the inn while Lynus followed the directions of the slip of paper Dr Stiles gave him.

As Lynus walked hurriedly through the streets, mulling over his latest medical research, a sound pulled him to a stop. He lifted his head up and looked around, his gaze quickly falling upon a figure hunched over a stair railing at the bottom of a set of steps leading into a residency. The man seemed to be having difficulties breathing, his gasps raspy and harsh.

With his silver hair and lute strung across his back, he was instantly recognisable.

That sound…it wasn't from someone who had a few too many drinks at the bar. They were sick. Very sick.

"Mr Cedric!" Lynus gasped as he rushed forward, shoving the parcel and directions into his bag. He placed his hand on Cedric's upper back, feeling him shuddering under his hand. He was hyperventilating, so Lynus uttered a refresh spell to ease the stress on his lungs, as well to help calm him down.

He then waited until Cedric had settled himself down somewhat.

"Oh, it's you, Lynus," Cedric wheezed breathlessly as he lifted his head to look directly at Lynus. Besides his flushed cheeks, he looked pale and sweaty. "Sorry for the sight…"

"What happened?" Lynus asked gently.

But Cedric shook his head and offered him a shaky smile. "It's nothing," he insisted. However, a moment later, his smile slipped from his lips and he drew in as shuddering breath. "C-could you just help me inside? J-just fell short…"

"Of course," Lynus said as he slipped an arm around Cedric's back, his hand resting against his side. He then grasped at Cedric's arm with the other, allowing Cedric to be fully supported against him. "Here."

It took a few minutes to help Cedric up the stairs and in through the front door, but Lynus was a patient person. While getting inside and into a more comfortable environment would be the best thing for Cedric, pushing him to get there would be the worst.

Reaching the top step, Cedric fiddled with the door before unlocking it. Lynus then helped him inside, the older troubadour taking a moment to catch his breath as the door slipped closed behind them.

"Here will be fine," Cedric insisted.

Lynus, however, was having none of that. He wasn't the type to simply escort someone sickly into through the front door and expect them to be alright on their own. Oh no, he wasn't going to leave until he made for certain that Cedric would be alright. This event may have happened to him before, but that didn't mean a thing.

"Hamza has warned you about me, right?" Lynus stated more so than asked.

A breathy laugh past through Cedric's lips and he nodded his head idly. Wisely, he wordlessly pointed toward a door. Hopefully it was his bedroom.

Again, Lynus waited patiently for Cedric to catch his breath and to will himself forward. Being sick was a very exhausting experience. And when one was this ill, all they wanted to do was to lie down and sleep.

Reaching the room, Lynus was glad that it was in fact a bedroom and he helped Cedric over toward the bed. Cedric dropped down onto the bed with a sigh of relief. He then set about struggling off his lute and cloak in order to get himself comfortable.

Once he had Cedric comfortable in his bed, Lynus briefly remembered the parcel Dr Stiles had given him. It was a moment after that that he realised the directions were leading him to Cedric's place.

So the parcel…?

Lynus reached into his bag and pulled out the package. "This must be your medicine."

Cedric glanced over in Lynus' direction before glancing at the paper bag in his hands. He then offered him a polite smile. "Yes, Dr Stiles always ensures that I have enough."

"Let me prepare it for you," Lynus insisted.

Cedric looked genuinely grateful. "You really are a delight."

As he carefully lined up the dosage of the medicine, Lynus took a moment to glance around. Cedric's house appeared to be a quaint little town house. Single story with a small kitchenette and bathroom. Not exactly a bachelor pad by any means, but cosy nonetheless.

"You have a lovely home," Lynus commented.

"Thank you," Cedric replied sincerely. "It's too big for one person, but too small for a guild."

Lynus nodded his head idly. He, however, found his attention immediately drawn back to the medicine he was preparing. The medicine was for the throat and lungs. Normal medicine for troubadours who over exert themselves. But this concoction…seemed to be extra concentrated. It wasn't a soothing agent…

Cedric's voice pulled him out of his thoughts. "You must be feeling confused."

"Sorry," Lynus automatically apologised, turning to give Cedric his full attention. "I'm not being nosy."

Cedric gazed at him for a moment, in complete silence before once more offering him a small smile. "…It's fine. It's a bit of a sad tale, really. Especially for a troubadour."

Picking up the medicine, Lynus slipped into a chair next to Cedric's bed. He handed Cedric his medicine, wanting him to take it before he said or did anything else. Taking the medicine, Cedric swallowed it quickly, a distasteful grimace on his face. He had taken this medicine for quite some time, it seemed.

"I'm unable to sing," Cedric suddenly said as he rolled the medicine bottle between his two hands. "It's too painful, I'm afraid."

Lynus was shocked by the admission, but his feelings soon turned into sincere empathy. "Did something happen for you to lose the most of the function of your lungs?" he asked gently.

A faraway look appeared in Cedric's eyes. "…Monster attack. My lungs were seared. I was very ill. And haven't recovered fully."

S-seared lungs?

Lynus immediately wanted to ask him what the monster was and where it happened, but he sensed that Cedric was holding back the details. Either because he wanted nothing to do with the memories or he was protecting something. A secret.

And Lynus had no right to ask someone to give up their secret to him. So he held his tongue.

"I'm actually very lucky to still have a voice at all," Cedric said, trying to sound up-beat and optimistic. But that mournful expression soon appeared on his face again. "But…I cannot sing. For very long, at least. Not in a way that's useful."

…To lose one's abilities, the only thing they were good at…

Lynus didn't want to imagine what that would feel like. He couldn't fathom living in a world where he didn't have his healing abilities. Without them…what good was he? What could he possibility do without them?

"I have good days and bad days," Cedric said. "More good than bad, thankfully."

"Did you make the decision not to explore anymore?" Lynus asked gently.

Cedric sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "Dr Stiles actually recommended it."

Lynus felt his stomach clench at the lost emotion in Cedric's eyes. "It must have been hard for you. Not being able to sing."

"I can still write songs," Cedric said with a forced smile on his lips. "And I can still play my musical instruments. But…I would like to sing again."

"I want to help," Lynus abruptly stated without a second thought. "If you'll let me."

Cedric looked genuinely surprised. He turned to gaze at Lynus for a few silent moments, gauging his sincerity. However, a forced smile appeared on his lips, giving Lynus the inclination that Cedric had received several offers of help in the past, and none of them resulted in any positive results.

"Oh, I'm sure you have better things to do," Cedric said.

Reaching out to gently take Cedric's hand in his, Lynus looked straight into his eyes. "The health of others is very important to me," he said without any hesitation.

As another look of surprised spread across Cedric's face, Lynus turned to his bag and dug around for a moment, pulling out a notebook. He placed it on his lap and flipped through the pages until he found a blank one.

"Is it ok if I ask you a few questions?" Lynus asked as he picked up a pencil.

… … … … …

Hamza quickly made his way through the streets of Lagaard. When Axel complained to him that Lynus was taking so long with a house delivery, Hamza was fairly certain he knew who the recipient was.

It was usually around this time of month that Cedric received a new batch of his medication. While he would not be remotely surprised if Lynus lingered behind to speak with the friendly troubadour, Hamza couldn't help but feel a sense of concern as well.

Cedric hadn't been feeling well lately.

Just as Hamza reached toward the front door, it opened before him and a certain orange-haired medic appeared on the other side.

Hamza blinked. "Lynus?"

"Ah, Hamza," Lynus greeted with a smile as he took a step away from the door to allow Hamza to step inside. "Good, you're here. I was just leaving and didn't want to leave Mr Cedric alone for long."

Hamza followed Lynus silently as he led him toward Cedric's bedroom. He continued to stay quiet as Lynus prattle idly with Cedric. He couldn't help but raise an eyebrow due to the amount of fuss Lynus was making over Cedric. Something must have happened.

"Mr Cedric, you need to stay in bed for today and when I get my hands on some mint leaves, I'd like you to try the steam inhalation technique I told you about." Lynus then abruptly turned his attention back to Hamza, looking up at him with a somewhat hopeful expression. "Oh, right. Hamza? Do you have any plans for the rest of the day?"

Hamza blinked before shaking his head. "Well, no."

"Good!" Lynus smiled happily as he clapped his hands in front of him. "I'd like to head to the second stratum to gather some mint leaves. Just a quick visit."

"Take Tobyn with you," Hamza said as Lynus gathered his belongings in preparation to leave. "He wants to document more information on gathering materials."

"Ok," Lynus said as he nodded his head eagerly before turning his attention back to Cedric. "I'll be back to check on you, Mr Cedric. Take it easy!"

Then he was gone.

Honestly…Lynus really had no idea how much of an impact he left on people.

A whirlwind of healing.

Shaking his head, Hamza approached Cedric who was sitting up in bed. "Did something happen?" he asked. Cedric looked pale and tired, but not as badly as he had witnessed previously.

Cedric chuckled lightly. "You have a very sweet medic on your side."

Quickly putting two and two together, Hamza realised that Cedric must have told Lynus about his illness and symptoms. That would explain why Lynus was eager to gather more mint leaves from the second stratum.

Which would mean…

"Did you tell him how?" Hamza asked softly as he took a seat next to the bed.

Cedric shook his head. "He never asked what kind of monster attacked me. He was…very considerate."

Hamza felt torn. What had happened to Cedric…Where it had happened…He didn't want to keep secrets from his guild. But he had his reasons not to tell them. It was traumatic. He didn't want the same thing to happen to them.

"They're good kids," Cedric suddenly said, as if reading his thoughts. "They know their limitations."


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