Mirrored from Sythyry.
Chiver was truly in a bad way. His beatiful black fur had been carelessly hacked off much of his body, leaving him looking largely scrawny and shrivelled. Except for his belly — a touch round most of the time, for as a restauranteur’s partner he ate quite well — which was hideously distended. He looked up at Niia, whined a bit, and vomited prodigiously at her feet.
“Oh, no, this is terrible! What happened, Chiver?”
“They … raped me with wooden pipes … and … filled me with gushflush,” gasped Chiver. A bout of diarrhea seized him.
Niia crouched by his side, and tried with all her cley and all her Rassimel connection to the Healoc god to cure him. It did no good, or not much. Chiver mewled, “It hurts, Niia, it hurts…” Which it surely did. Gushflush in its nicest and most medical form is a vicious mixture of emetics, diuretics, and laxitives. A spoonful is a mediocre but cley-free way to purge poisons out of a victim in a hurry — though, more often, used as a legitimate alternative to a public whipping in some cities. Chiver had been given a more potent version, laced with chilis and horseradish so that all of his bodily emissions would be painful, and a Sustenoc spell so that they would continue for some long time.
“Praline! Go get a healer!” said Niia, and she held her stinking lover despite the filth. “Chiver, what can I do to help you?”
“A pail, get me a pail, there’s another wave coming up soon, ” he moaned, and vomited again. Niia handed him a kitchen towel to wipe his mouth, and a chalice of water to lap.
“I’ll do that, Chiver,” said Niia softly. She carried her beloved to the pantry of her cafe, seated him on a dutch oven and gave him another to vomit into, and did her best to see to his needs, and to lessen his great suffering. He mewled gratefully to her.
Inside the cafe, some patrons noticed that the last chef had run off, and left the restaurant in despair of getting their food. Some other patrons smelled the aggressive stench of Chiver’s effluvia, and left the restaurant in disgust. Some others caught a glimpse of Chiver’s condition, and knew what it meant, and left the restaurant for political reasons or simple caution. When the healer came, not a single patron was left.
The healer glanced at Chiver, and spread her antennae. “I can do nothing about this.”
“What, nothing? Maybe you’re not skilled or clever enough to cure it, but you can surely come up with some anaesthetic spells. Or at least something to put him to sleep ’til it wears off!” snapped Niia.
The healer shrugged her four shoulders. “I heal disesases and injuries. This is a punishment for some serious offense. Ameliorating its symptoms would make it less of a punishment, and, thus, require its repetition or more. I will do nothing about this.”
Niia bristled. “A punishment? What court has condemned him to this? What mediator has agreed to it? What crime is he being punished for?”
The healer sniffed. “Being an uppity and resistant glate, if I interpret the signs properly. Being a sclud.”
“What, you think he deserves this? You think anyone deserves this sort of torture?”
The healer flicked her tailtip. “I think that any optime would find it utterly appropriate for persons of late generation who refuse the instruction of their predecessors and betters.”
“Tzantschalffer! What is this nonsense of scluds and optimes? You know us! We are friends — companions in the Choulano Sky-Racing Club! Why, not three weeks ago, we tied for fourth in the aerial race!” protested Niia.
Tzantschalffer shrugged. “At the time, I did not know your generation of origin. In any case, a bit of piloting boats in the same sky is hardly a close or dear friendship. You and your cheap little rented sky-dinghy have no real call on me.” A bit too late, Niia remembered how proud Tzantschalffer was of her skayak of gleaming crimson lacquer, matching her carapace, and how displeased she was that Niia and Chiver had, by skill and luck, made a far inferior rented craft be its equal.
“You are a spot of decay on your noble guild!” snapped Niia. “You condemn where you should assist! Get out! But first — your payment!” She took the dutch oven Chiver had been using as a chamberpot, and flung it into the healer’s face.
“And that will make your situation become wailingly worse!” snapped the healer, and stormed to the kitchen to wash her face in the basin there, and to splash the befouled water all about.
* * *
Seven truly unpleasant hours later, Chiver had managed to get all of the gushflush out of his belly. Niia cleaned him up as best she could, and wrapped him in a tablecloth and an apron. The dinner-hour of the cafe was ruined. The kitchen was in poor shape, as all the staff had run off without doing any cleaning, with cauldrons still boiling on the fires — cauldrons which were now solid with charred goulash. The pantry was even worse, as Chiver had been there for most of the time. Nothing in the pantry was fit for use as food, or should not be.
“Your poor cafe,” whispered Chiver. His throat, and elsewhere, was scored and scoured raw by hours of puking chili-laden gushflush, and he could barely talk.
“Don’t worry about my cafe,” said Niia. “I’ll get it cleaned, I’ll get it going again as good as new in a few days. Let’s get to home, and get you to bed, and face our troubles fiercely on tomorrow.”
* * *
But when they got back to their apartment, they discovered that someone had broken the door in, scattered straw all about, and set it ablaze, so that nearly all they owned was ash. The walls had been carefully fireproofed, though, and the adjacent apartments were unharmed. There was no comfort for them there, either.