An hour past midnight, Liora asked one of the servants to get Caldor.
The girl clasped tightly to Cáel’s hand. The boy’s breathing was labored but she needed to believe he would pull through. Her gut was telling her he had to live. He wasn’t going to die; the boy had to pull through.
The door opened as the king lumbered in. That hadn’t been the person she had asked the servant to send for. Charn couldn’t do anything to help the prince, only Caldor could.
The king stood on the other side of the bed, taking his son’s hand in his before glancing at her. He had dark bags under his eyes. His strong shoulders heaved with each heavy breath.
“Yah’re still here,” the king growled.
“Of course - I’m not leaving - he’s my friend,” Liora snapped. Her empty stomach gnawed away at her patience and lack of sleep hadn’t made her pleasant company.
“I see,” Charn grumbled, cracking his neck.
The red bear didn’t want to fight her. He was too tired. No, too worried to care about getting in an argument with her now.
“I don’t care if you don’t like me - the feeling is mutual. I’m here for Cáel - just like you are - like it or not,” she added, her tone sharper than she had expected it to be.
The King smirked. Charn didn’t like the Morzi girl, but he did respect her stubborn nature. Despite everyone telling her not to speak her mind, she did. She didn’t hold back. He couldn’t understand why others weren’t like that.
“Yah’ve done good by me son,” Charn breathed. “Even if I told yah to leave yah’d just tell me off or find yar way back here. I’m stayin’ and if that’s a problem then go.”
It didn’t bother her. She understood why he had to be there. Cáel was his son. If anything, it was expected for the king to be with his son at such a crucial time.
Cáel’s hand twitched. Her friend hadn’t opened his eyes; he was wheezing. Where was Caldor? The servant should have told him about the prince and he should have been there.
I won’t let you die. That thought darted through her mind over and over again, as she tightened her grip on her friend’s hand.
Light was beginning to pierce the inky sky when everyone had gathered in the room around the boy’s bed. The reason Caldor had taken so long was that he was gathering those closest to the boy to see him off on his journey.
Caldor checked his fever. Liora checked his lungs.
The boy was fading.
“His time is coming,” Caldor whispered.
No. Liora couldn’t listen to the old sage say that.
There came a whistling noise from the window. Liora lifted her head. The whistling changed to a chirping before she noticed the bird dance across the balcony railing. The birds were supposed to have migrated south for the winter, but for some reason this one had stayed behind.
It was the little grey bird with the speckled wings; the bird that had hit her window. Liora had forgotten about that until now. She had thought she had mistaken the bird for dead, when it could have just been stunned. That was the logical conclusion to that thought, but what if logic had nothing to do with it?
What if somehow she had healed the bird?
Looking at her hands cupped around Cáel’s fingers, Liora had to try.
Please, please, please. Liora begged, squeezing her eyes tight. Heal him.
There was a tingling in her arm that danced up into her finger tips. The tingling was sharp at first but slowly faded when she loosened her grip on the boy’s hand. She opened her eyes.
The boy was laying there in the same condition he was before. Her arm was just numb from leaning on her elbow. It didn’t work. Of course it wouldn’t have. She had the strange gift to see things, not heal things.
Looking over the room, Liora noticed that everyone had found their own corner to pass the time. Foe and Marcia were by the fire in quiet conversation. Caldor was looking through the cabinet for things he would need to prepare the boy for burial. Charn was kneeling on the other side of the bed, muttering the rhythmic prayers that sounded more like grumbled humming.
The room was quiet enough to hear the Sisters singing in the temple. They had been singing their prayers all night, in hopes of being heard.
The Gods wouldn’t hear them. Well, maybe They heard them, but the Gods didn’t care. They didn’t care about the people of Gaitan. Caldor was right to say they were left to fend for themselves in this cruel world.
Cáel jolted and began coughing. He gasped for breath where he could, but his thin body shook with every cough. Caldor had rolled the boy onto his side, so the sage could rub his back in hopes of easing the boy’s hacking. Everyone was standing at attention while those who were at a distance drew closer to the bed.
Liora hated seeing Cáel in such a state.
Suddenly the coughing stopped.
“No!” Liora shouted, panic tearing through her voice. “Cáel, breathe! You have to breathe!”
Liora shook him, hoping that would bring him back. Her chest ached, her head spun. She couldn’t breathe. Everything around her was like a hazy dream. This was a vision… this had to be a vision.
She felt so disconnected. It was her hands shaking the boy. It was her voice shouting at him, but it wasn’t her. It couldn’t have been her… this couldn’t have been real.
“Liora…” Caldor placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder, “Let him go.”
“No! He isn’t dead!” Liora shouted, shaking the boy harder. “Cáel, please. Please, please, please breathe, Cáel!”
His frail body moved with each push. There was no resistance. His head bobbed up and down with each shake. His eyes didn’t open. His chest didn’t rise or fall. He was cold. All the remained was his empty shell.
“Liora, stop!” Caldor took her by the arm before she tore away.
“Don’t!” she hissed, flashing a look that made Caldor’s blood freeze.
“Foe,” Caldor glanced at his friend at the end of the bed, “can you?”
Liora noticed the Steward make his way towards her. He wasn’t going to take her away. Not until Cáel was back. She got hold of the boy’s nightshirt just as she felt the heavy weight of the Steward’s hand on her shoulder.
Cáel had to live. She had seen it.
“Cáel, breathe - damn you! Don’t leave me!” the girl screamed, smacking her fist against his side, tears streaming down her cheeks. A sharp burn tore through her hand as everything around her faded to black.
Caldor heard the strange, yet distinctive noise. The sound that resembled air pushed into a metal bucket. The light had made that noise, but now so did the girl?
Where else could that flash of light have come from? They were inside a castle fortress and it wasn’t the season for lightning storms. The light that shot out of her had thrown her backwards away from the bed, but upon looking at Cáel, Caldor couldn’t see if the light had touched the boy’s body. There were no scorch marks and no burns.
Looking back over his shoulder, he saw Marcia kneeling over the girl’s body.
“I didn’ do that,” Foe croaked. “Did I do that?”
“No, dear friend, you did not,” Caldor muttered. “Is she all right, Marcia?”
“Yes, she’s knocked out but I think it’s for the best, considerin’ the state she was in,” Marcia turned to her husband. “Foe and I will take her back to her room. We’ll leave yah two alone.”
Foe picked the child up and lumbered over to Charn who only stared at the girl with knitted brows. His jaw clenched and his eyes glistened with tears.
Placing a hand on the king’s shoulder, Foe dipped his head before saying, “I’ll be back.”
Caldor turned back to the boy. With one hand, Caldor rolled the boy onto his back. His ginger curls were plastered to his forehead with sweat. His emerald eyes were hidden behind the sunken lids.
The fight was over.
Fifteen long years of hunting for a cure had lead to this poor boy passing away from something unrelated to the sickness he was born with.
Glancing up towards the king, Caldor could see the look of utter defeat across the man’s face. His shoulders shook as he forced himself to keep his composure.
There would be time to mourn his son, but this moment was not it. There were preparations that needed to be done. Assemblies had to be made, and the council had to be informed of the news. Cáel would be cleaned in the apothecary and prepared for a temporary rest in Demor’s catacombs until the spring.
The Sisters would run a memorial. Derm would enter a month of mourning and once the month was over no one would speak of the boy again. His name would be mentioned in history but would not be allowed to be uttered in conversation.
Cáel was gone and those that truly knew the boy wouldn’t need reminding of that.