Unlike Quendry and the others, I had not been in a battle and used up all my bound spells, much less the various other defenses I have learned that I should wear most of the time. I didn’t even get fully dead before Heal the Awful Wound and some prepackaged healing spells had me alive and uninjured.
Dizzy and nauseous though, more than simply dying once would usually cause. I think that the Jinteros weapon had some side effects or aftereffects or something to make returning to life miserable — figuring that the people it killed would be returning to life instantly enough, so it should trouble and torment them some anyhow. Nasty weapon. I made mental notes for possible future enchantments.
Phaniet was howling at me not to put myself in danger for her sake, like a good little subordinate Cani. I ignored her. Vae was chasing the weapon around with a many-fanged net of Mutoc Magiador. I ignored her too. My stomach was trying to escape my belly through every available opening and maybe even making a new one. I ignored it too.
Breath of Life is a rather substantial spell designed for just this situation. It simultaneously heals the body sufficiently to support life, and gently reattaches the spirit to it as it does so. I didn’t know about Vae’s spirit tethers, and I didn’t know how much time I had, so Dancing in the Garden of Statues to snag most of a minute of time for me to work without any time passing for anyone else. Brandy-boiled useful spell, that; the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, I believe, but worth every thousand lozens. Though I will say I’ve never used half the time it gave me to puke into a heavily-consecrated and violently purified (up until that instant) silver bowl before.
With my patients out of crisis, and several days of work on my big important enchantment project thoroughly ruined, it was time to try to sort things out.
Me: “Welcome back, everyone.”
Vae: “The Conversation I deserve now, Sythyry, ten million times or more.”
Me: “You may be right about that, Vae.”
I looked at my patients. Usually Breath of Life wakes the dead up instantly, when it works at all. The situation was more complicated here, and I stopped The Conversation and did lots more healer sorts of things.
Me: “Windigar? Windigar? Can you hear me?”
Me: “Glad to hear it, Windigar. Don’t worry. This is Sythyry; you’re back on Strayway. Just rest. I know you feel awful from dying a few times. Just rest. You’ll get better in a few weeks.”
Which is to say, he’s feeling simply terrible, hurting everywhere and utterly drained and utterly miserable, and there’s not really anything I can do about it. This is perfectly normal for someone in his situation.
I know exactly what to do with Windigar. Bed rest. Lots of food. Lots of wine. Some light entertainment, like peaceful music or someone reading to him. Good artwork and flowers and incense and such. When he’s got enough energy for it, hire an Orren masseuse / prostitute. The goal here is to remind him that life is actually pretty fun, and has appeals that his creator god does not, so he should stay here.
Prognosis: Complete recovery plus a substantial gain in vitality. After such an experience, one’s spirit becomes quite good at holding on to the body.
Me: “Ochirion? Can you hear me?”
Me: “She’ll be here in a minute. This is Sythyry, you’re on the Strayway, everything will be OK.”
Well, that is somewhat worse. Ochirion didn’t die as often as Windigar; he had fewer bound spells saving him. He was probably dead for longer. He is far younger and less resilient. So, unsurprisingly, he’s in somewhat worse shape.
I know exactly what to do with Ochirion too. More or less the same as for Windigar, except that the masseuse / prostitute will have instructions suitable for a child. It’ll take less time for him to recover because he didn’t die as often, except it’ll take more because he’s so young, so I don’t quite know which one will recover faster.
Prognosis: Complete recovery plus a massive gain in vitality. Children learn faster than adults. If Ochirion wants to become a warrior or adventurer, he’ll have quite a head start. This is important to know now. His parents will have a head start trying to talk him out of it.
I’m not worried about either one of them. Those are standard cases, textbook cases of repeated death.
Me: “Quendry? Quendry?”
Quendry: (no response but slow, shallow, agonized breathing)
Quendry: (no response)
Quendry was not waking up. His body and spirit were as healthy as a half-dozen cley and several useful tools from a master-healer could make them. But he was young and fragile, he had been dead for many minutes, he had been shaken around in the rush to get him to me … he was unluckier than Ochirion, ultimately, is what counts. He was in a coma and wouldn’t wake up.
I was worried that it was because of me being fuzzy and distracted from recently dying myself. So I got a skilled master-healer from Eigrach over. He inspected my work in considerable detail and offered me a job.
I know exactly what to do about Quendry too. I’m even sufficiently skilled to be able to do it, which, say, the master-healers of Eigrach are not.
Arfaen: “So, he’ll be better soon, from your healings?”
Me: “No, I’m afraid not. He’ll need more healing, and there’s the problem. I know what to do. I don’t have the supplies to do it, though.”
Phaniet: “I am sorry! I am in charge of supplies, and I have failed you! What are we lacking, though? I have been careful to keep the long list of Things That Must Be On Hand At All Times, on hand at all times, and they were as of yesterday evening.”
Me: “Not on our standard list. A Grace of Mircannis.” Which is to say, a bit of the favor of the goddess of Healoc, made manifest in physical form, and very useful for advanced magic of all sorts. And none too common.
Phaniet: [tucking her tail between her legs] “I see the problem. No, we don’t have one of those.”
Me: “And thirty years ago I had two of them on hand. Curse that Pleensy a dozen ways! He stole them to pay a karcist so that he and Targeenniss could bear poor pain-wracked Lithia, and here I don’t have them to heal your son.”
Arfaen: “I’ll buy one!”
Me: “No. You haven’t the money. You haven’t a thousandth part of the money.”
Arfaen: “I’ll … I’ll sell myself if I need to, and everything I have…”
Phaniet: “Don’t you already belong to Sythyry?” (Arfaen doesn’t.)
Me: “The actual problem is that they’re not commonly for sale. You can’t walk into a shop and buy a Grace, not even one of the more common sorts of Graces.” (Which Graces of Mircannis are, I would say, but some people would disagree with me.)
Arfaen: “What can I dooooooo?” The word came out as a howl of pain and woe. “I’ll do anything!”
Me: “Your job on this ship is cooking.” I’m sure that stung a bit; she has not been all that diligent about it, and nearly everyone aboard has complained about her scarcity in the kitchen. “My job on this ship is wizardry, and I’ll take care of it.”
Arfaen: (The biggest blush that ever Cani blushed, and her tail a hundred million miles between her legs.) “How can I pay you for the Grace?”
Me: “You can’t.”
Arfaen: “What can I doooooo? I must save my son!”
Me: “Really, do the cooking. I’ll track down a Grace of Mircannis, and figure out how to buy it, and pay for it. As best I can.”
Phaniet: “Boss, buying a Grace in an emergency like this isn’t gonna be cheap.”
Me: “I know.”
Phaniet: “If we can get one at all.”
Me: “I know.”
Phaniet: “And you just got killed.”
Me: “I know.”
Phaniet: “Saving my life.”
Me: “I know.”
Phaniet: “OK. You find the cursed and/or blessed thing. I’ll go out and get it.”
Me: “With my money, mind.” Phaniet probably can’t afford one either, though she might be able to pay for it. “And take Inconnu to help. I don’t feel at all good, and I don’t want him crawling on me trying to ‘comfort’ me.”
Phaniet: “A mild day in Oix, when Sythyry doesn’t want a cute and sexy Orren crawling on zir!”
I scowled. I was feeling rather post-dead, and that is not a pleasant feeling.
Phaniet: “Oh. Arfane? If we ever need someone to offer seven years’ service to Kvarse for some big healing sometime, you might consider being the one. ’cause that’s how this sort of problem is usually dealt with.”
Arfaen: “I’ll do that!”
Me: “After Quendry’s grown up, maybe.”
So that is that. Except for a massive amount of work and danger. At least we’re entirely on known, standard medical technology there.
Prognosis: If I can get the proper treatment, complete recovery and a lot of extra vitality. If I can’t, I suppose we rush him to Ketheria, back up the tree past the pirate city that totally hates us, and (if we survive) someone volunteers to serve the goddess Kvarse for her healing him. We’ve got … maybe two weeks.
Feralan: “Hi! Hi Sythyry! I’m back home!” He sounded cheerful and energetic.
Me: “How do you feel?”
Feralan: “I feel great!“
Which is very, very worrisome. Nobody should ever feel great after dying repeatedly and starting to wander off to their creator god. By standard medical science, he should be in far worse shape than Ochirion, probably about like Quendry except (in the best case) able to recover naturally.
Feeling great is prima facie evidence that we’re far, far outside anything that’s in the textbooks or Healer’s Guild common wisdom. We’re into the area of exciting and exotic medical case studies. This is not where I like to be, when I am doing medical treatment.
Feralan hopped off the gurney, and ran over to his mother Zascalle to hug her.
Zascalle: “Oh, horrid staring gods! What happened to your eyes?”
Feralan’s eyes were full of short black spikes. His ears and mouth too. They stuck out a half-inch past his pupils. When he blinked, his eyelids went through them as though they weren’t there. They were made of pure, elemental Locador.
Thiane: “Sythyry! Do something!”
Me: “I need to understand what’s happened before I can do anything, Thiane. This will take a little time. Please don’t shout at me while I’m doing it.” I had rather a headache, and really would have liked to go off and while away a few languid and delightful hours puking.
Zascalle: “Does it hurt, Feralan?”
Feralan: “It doesn’t really hurt, exactly.”
Thiane: “But what? But what, Feralan?”
Feralan: “Everything sort of looks funny. Sounds funny too. Echoey, sort of. Stripey, too.”
So we investigated as best we could. Our best guess is that that Locador demon that Vae turned into a sticky spirit web got stuck very deeply in Feralan’s soul. Or maybe merged with it; we can’t tell. The spiky black stuff is live Locador demon, or, maybe demon/Rassimel. We can’t exactly tell that either.
Zascalle: “Unstick him at once!”
Vae: “Fortunately I have my days-abandoned earmuffs back on, and need not recognize that Zascalle may want help with something.” (Not her exact words — actually, she didn’t notice.)
Me: “Not really. I don’t know how.”
Zascalle: “You’re a wizard! Do something!”
Me: “Do you really want me whacking around and doing surgery on Feralan’s soul with a burning, poisoned machete?”
Zascalle: “What good are you, so-called wizard? All I ever see you do is hump Orrens!”
(Not true. I haven’t done that since before she was born.)
Me: “I need to know what’s happened to Feralan, before I can try to undo it. Also I’d like to know if it’s happened to anyone else ever, so maybe I can get some extra clues about it. I haven’t heard of it before… but maybe nobody’s ever turned a Locador demon into a spirit spiderweb and snagged a nearly-dead spirit back to a body and then fed it with massive urgent teleport spells.”
Vae: “The best thing to do it was that I could think of. Not much time did I have to contemplate the sorceries! Not a bit would I let Feralan die!”
Me: “I will try to figure it out and heal it.”
Zascalle: “How long will it take?”
Me: “I have no idea.”
Zascalle: “How much time will you need?”
Me: “I still have no idea.”
Zascalle: “He’s my son! I demand to know!”
Me: “He’s my responsibility, and I have no idea.”
Zascalle: “What sort of duration of this curse are we talking here? Minutes? Hours? It had better not be more.”
Me: “I need a bowl.”
Zascalle: “A bowl?”
Phaniet brought me one, and a non-consecrated one, bless her tail. It is generally considered bad form for a healer to vomit in front of clients. I did not manage that grace.
Zascalle: “He’s my responsibility, mine and Thiane’s! I have a right to the information!”
Me: “You know everything I know”
Thiane: “You cannot lie to a Cani!”
Me: “I really don’t know how long before I have any useful clues. It doesn’t matter how you ask the question, I still won’t know the answer until I know the answer.”
Phaniet: [After looking at my expression and using Cani non-Mentador-telepathy on me.] “Out of the lab! Now, now!”
Which is not the correct and good and kind way to treat the parents of two exceedingly sick or doomed patients, not in the slightest. I was glad she did, though.
Feralan: “Can I go too?”
Me: “Yes. Keep track of any unusual sensations or feelings or thoughts or anything, though. Write them down if you can.”
Thiane: “Come along.”
After they were gone, Phaniet took me to a particularly scrying-proof corner.
Phaniet: “Why were you lying to them?”
Me: “I wasn’t exactly.”
Phaniet: “Lying by omission, maybe? You didn’t tell them everything.”
Me: “No. I have an awful suspicion that Vae did merge Feralan’s spirit with a Locador demon in an extremely intimate way. That would explain how he recovered so fast, for one. But it means two bad things, at least, if it’s true.”
Phaniet: “Must I guess them?”
Me: “First of all, he’d be a monster, in a practical if not technically-correct sense. I don’t imagine that many prime cities will let him in, say.”
Phaniet: “That’s bad.”
Me: “And it’s not at all obvious that the two spirits will separate after death. So he might be stuck with that blending, not just in this life, but in all his lives, until someone does something about it.”
Phaniet: “That’s very bad.”
And it is. We’re used to thinking of death and rebirth as the Grand Cleansing. Very few sorts of unpleasantness follow us from one life to the next — except for the personal displeasure of a god, of course. It is extremely upsetting to think that this spirit-blend, which is far worse than mere divine disfavor, might be perpetual even after rebirth.
Phaniet: “Couldn’t Mircannis fix him, after he dies?”
Me: “Presumably. But would she? She might. She might also destroy him completely, disposing of a ruined spirit; she did that to that mentavore that one time.” I hope Phaniet knew what I was talking about; I barely did. “Or she might send him off to be a Locador demon — to avoid annoying ‘Here’. The elemental Vae caught might be one of ‘Here’s children, which could take precedence over Feralan just being one of Mircannis’ prime spirits.”
Which is to say that the situation could well be worse than if the four primes had just stayed dead. That way we’d just have four people who’d get reincarnated in the usual way eventually. (Well, we wouldn’t have them, we’d have a time of considerable mourning. But the world would have them.) As it is … Feralan is at risk of something far worse than simply being dead. Unless I can manage to fix it.
Me: “Don’t tell Zascalle and Thiane, please. I don’t know it for certain.”
Phaniet: “I won’t.”
Me: “The rest of it is true. I’m not an expert on spirits, or elementals either. When you have some free time, look in some registries for wizards who are, and make a few guesses who would be good to ask for help.”
Phaniet: “Best we can do. How long do you think it’ll take?”
Me: “Get the skyboat fixed, fly back to Ketheria or somewhere, consult with wizard, make enchantments for fixing it and more enchantments to pay for the consultation. A few months if we’re lucky.”
Phaniet: “Zascalle will not be happy.”
Me and Vae
Well, what do you say when your oldest friend has kidnapped several other friends, mostly children, and zoomed them all around the universe, gotten them into various forms of trouble, and, in the end, gotten them killed and cursed?
In the case of Vae, I look for a few positive things to say, first. She knows quite well the evil she did, by now. And it is important to me that she be encouraged to think that she can, with effort and care, improve herself. I don’t actually know that she can, or not past a certain point, but, if she believes that she has some chance of self-improvement, she will continue to try to behave well.
I want her to try to behave well.
It should be obvious, at this point, what would happen if she stopped trying to behave well.
“I am glad that you managed to stop fighting and bring the primes back here to get healed, Vae,” I said.
“The though not well-done was that, for it worked the great woe on Feralan. The even Quendry, who is gravely hurt,” said Vae. She created a row of eyes on her left flank, all of them weeping glass daggers.
“I will get to that,” I said, “But I will give you a review of your full set of deeds, and some parts of it exhibited more self-control and rationality than you sometimes manage.”
One of the eyes on her flank stopped crying.
The Conversation took approximately forevery and a half, and might have done a dry leaf’s weight of good, or might not. In the long term, enough dry leaves can weigh a ton, though the long term may be long indeed.
- Heal Quendry
- Offer everyone a chance to leave and avoid further nendrai-doom
- Figure out what to do about Thenel
- Fix Strayway
- Go back to Ketheria and try to figure out anything to help Feralan.
- Figure out what to do about Jinteros.
- Declare victory in vacationing, go home, and not leave Vheshrame Mene for a few centuries.
- Puke some more.
- Figure out how to evict this nausea curse.
- Sleep a lot
- Get to work on long-term plans.