The walls of the apothecary were covered with books and vials. They were all unique in their own way. There were vials in coloured glass, others were leaking onto the shelves staining the books beneath. The apothecary was tidier than the old sage’s room, but there was much work to be done to make it usable.
The books in leather or coloured material were on varying topics from harvesting plants to harvesting organs, from common sicknesses to 1001 ways to die. Those weren’t the books she was going to grab. Well, maybe the common sicknesses, but nothing else fit what she was searching for. Liora was making a pile on the floor, hoping at least one out of the hundreds of books in the room could have a way of helping her friend.
With all that knowledge, there had to be something.
Carrying another armful of leather texts to her pile in the middle of the dark, damp room just down the hall from the kitchen, Liora sat. With a wiggle and a tug, Liora tightened the cloak around her before scouring the first book atop the crooked pile.
Water lung, winter lung, lung fever, winter fever and winter creep were all common names for what the prince was suffering from, but there was no common cure. Some people recovered on their own. Others drank teas and slept the sickness away, while others passed on to the Eternal. The last was the most common. Winter creep - as her people called it - took many elderly during the cold months. Young children were also victims. Her mother had been one.
Healthy and happy, no one had expected her not to recover, but for whatever reason Suzara faded away. Her mother suffered for weeks struggling to breathe. Naygu had tended to her, while Liora - five at the time - just sat by watching. She could remember praying to the Gods to heal her mother, but they didn’t answer.
Naygu had given Suzara a special tea made from monkshood and poppy tears to ease her pain and let her pass away in her sleep. Liora wasn’t angry with her mother for making that decision; she understood that drinking the tea was better than suffering. She was angry with the Gods.
They didn’t listen to her prayers, but They were willing to take her mother. They never listened to her prayers, but They were content to take away her people. The Gods never listened, but They were comfortable with tormenting her friend. She was tired of Them. Tired of Them taking and never giving anything in return. This time she wouldn’t pray. This time she would find the answers on her own.
Taking another book from the pile, Liora flipped to the pages that focused on winter sicknesses. There was a part dedicated to Water Lung - the Dermite name. The page listed the usual symptoms - which the prince had - along with suggestions on ways to help him. The book listed all the ideas they had already done, such as: hot teas, penicillin, forcing him to sweat out the fever, and camphor on his chest or under his nose to open the airways.
The book only had the basics. She didn’t need basics. She needed drastic. The girl needed untested theories or experimental treatments.
“Argh!” she screamed, throwing the book across the room. The heavy text echoed with a thunk before sliding into the work table against the wall. Pellar would have come up with some wild idea, although they wouldn’t have been anything worth considering.
Caldor had hid himself in his room after properly diagnosing the boy. Charn hadn’t been pleased, and had shouted at everyone to do something, but there was nothing. Foe had been tending to the king. Marcia was tending to the prince. At this point in time, everyone needed to do something to distract them.
The prince had been dying for fifteen years but no one wanted that day to come. No one thought his life would end like this.
No, it won’t. Liora gripped her hair in her hand, giving it a tug. He won’t die.
Grabbing another book, she opened to the same sections as the others. One of these books had to have the answer. She just had to find it.
The pitter-pattering of her bare feet echoed down the hallway. Her toe almost tripped her when scurrying across the navy carpet in the hall. A book was clutched to her chest. Her hands felt her heart beating through the cover. The leather was ratty and the pages were stained with various marks. It was old but it had something that - maybe - they hadn’t tried yet.
Passing her room and another door, Liora stopped at the end of the hall before Caldor’s. She could see the flickering light of fire escape the gap beneath the door. The light danced off her dress and made her toenails sparkle in the yellow light.
There was no answer. The sage didn’t call for her to open the door. Was he not in? No, he was. The man wouldn’t have left a fire blazing in his room, with all those books about.
Leaning her ear against the cool wood, she heard the sound of his pen scratching furiously across paper and the familiar tapping noise of his foot against the chair leg. The sage was in. He was just ignoring her.
Pressing down on the brass handle, Liora took a deep breath before seeing if the door was locked. With a click, the door opened filling the hall with more light from the sage’s room. Hopefully what she found would cheer her mentor up and lead to curing her friend.
“Caldor,” Liora squeaked, opening the door wider to reveal the disastrous state of the room.
More of his bookshelves were empty and more books were piled onto the floor. Tea cups were scattered about, some full others not. Had the old sage even tried to sleep, or was he just running on biscuits and tea?
Liora couldn’t understand how a man so particular was so disorganized. He was the one that said that cluttered rooms led to cluttered minds… then again Caldor’s mind was filled with scattered thoughts.
“Master Caldor,” Liora said, louder this time.
He didn’t stop writing.
The sage was hunched over in his chair while his woolen winter hat dangled over the arm. The smell of ink and paper was in the air, with a hint of burning wood and sweet tobacco. The candles were lit along the sill, most replaced since her last visit, while his pipe sat on a pile of books beside the desk, which at first glance she mistook as part of the desk. At least he had the sense of moving the books away from the fireplace.
No, it was likely the servants that had done that and not her mentor.
Moving to stand beside him, Liora peeped at the notebook he was scribbling in. The words were in Chijin but she was able to make out some.
Girl… foresight… only survivor… Morzi…
“What’s that?” Liora asked, pointing at the page. “Why are you writing about me when you should be finding a way to help Cáel?”
Caldor stopped, putting his pen back in the well. Black ink splattered over the side, making an inky ring around the base. The sage leaned back in his chair, folding his hands atop his notebook. He looked up at the girl beside him. He could see her piercing eyes burning into him like two hot coals.
“There is nothing we can do, my dear,” Caldor sighed, seeing as the girl shook her head before tightening her hands around the book in her arms. “We might as well move onto other things. He has suffered long enough, do you not think? Maybe this is his time.”
“He’s not dead yet! We can still help him. Cáel can still get better. See,” Liora opened the book, “a Master Healer by the name of Romerel Tauten says we could use a mixture of camphor and…”
Caldor raised his hand, but Liora pushed it away.
“Camphor, mint and a low dosage of nightshade. It can open his lungs… possibly-”
“Kill him,” Caldor cut in. He didn’t like that she had ignored his hand but he was impressed with her passion. “I considered that, but such a treatment is for those in the early stages and are not Cáel.”
“But…we can’t… we can’t just do nothing!” Liora shouted, throwing the book to the floor. “We’re healers. We heal. How can you just sit there and not be trying to find something?”
“And not try to find something,” Caldor corrected.
Liora turned, kicking over a pile of books before picking up Caldor’s notebook from the desk and throwing it across the room. She screamed, feeling a burning ache in her chest. The room was already a mess; her tantrum wouldn’t make it worse.
Grabbing at the bed, Liora threw the pillow against the wall and tore the quilt onto the floor. She breathed heavily, her face burned, but she wasn’t done. With a kick, another pile of leather texts toppled over before the tension in her chest began fading.
The girl caught sight of the raised bushy brows of her mentor, who was still sitting in his chair. She could tell by his long face that he wasn’t impressed, but she was feeling better.
“Done?” Caldor asked. The girl was normally so reserved. She was breathing heavily, and her locks were tussled and tangled. He saw her nod before continuing. “Now, I know this is hard, my dear, but as healers we need to accept that there will be people we will not be able to save.”
“No,” Liora snapped back, “I can’t accept that.”
The girl had accepted her mother’s death. She had accepted her people’s murder. Accepting difficult things wasn’t hard for her, but something inside her wasn’t letting Cáel go.
Liora stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Caldor stared, wondering if he should follow the girl. She was upset and he knew he should at least try to console her but he didn’t know how. Marcia would notice. The woman would know the right way to comfort the child. All he was good at was research and puzzles. But, what good were they if they couldn’t comfort those you cared for?