Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Eight - Untoxication
I swam out of the dark, then slid back in.
My breathing was always hard and laboured, and I felt everything pressing down around me. Heavy. Everything was heavy.
Sometimes I’d swim to the surface, only to find the world nightmarish and twisted, things clawing at me, and wetness pressing down all over.
The nightmares would fade though. Someone would always come in, with light and noise to cast away the dark and droning silence. I’d feel a touch, fingers and talons, feathers and whispers, and for a while the light would turn the cloying dark into something kinder.
These were my friends. I couldn’t put a face to them, and their names were nothing to me, but I knew, even as I laboured to breathe and fought against the rising tide, that they were the people I loved most of all, and that they were there because they loved me too.
And then, eventually, the darkness faded back, and when I sank once more it wasn’t into the oily black of nightmares, but the quiet bliss of dreamless sleep.
I awoke some time later, feeling like the day after leg-day, but everywhere at once. I blinked and brought an arm up to get the eye gunk out of my eyes. It was almost as if someone was forcing my arm back down.
Persistence in the face of common sense was always my forte though, so I managed to get my hand close to my face, then let it fall down so that I could brush the crud away.
“Urgh,” I said.
I hadn’t felt this tired in a long time, and yet I couldn’t fall asleep. I wasn’t sleepy-tired, I was just exhausted. And sweaty. And I had to pee.
With nature’s call prodding me on, I turned to my side, then used both arms to push myself up. My legs slipped off the side of my bunk and I just kinda sat there, heart racing as if I’d sprinted a hundred meters instead of just sitting up.
I closed my eyes, let the dizziness pass, then tried to get up.
Then I failed to get up.
On my second attempt, I grabbed the little end table next to my bed, conveniently bolted to the floor, then hauled myself to my feet.
I stumbled over to my cabin’s ensuite, and did my business with some difficulty. Then it was back to my room.
My plan was to get dressed and head out to see my friends. From the little window above my bed I knew we were over the sea and in the sky, the sky bright and cheery, but that was all. It was my job as captain to be informed and to help where I could.
Instead, I flopped onto my bed and fell right back asleep.
Someone woke me up a few hours later. “Broc?”
I turned my head to the side to see Awen standing above me, blonde hair glowing in the light of the setting sun just outside the window. “Hmmph,” I said.
“You’re, um, meant to sleep with all of your body on the bed,” she said. I felt something grabbing my feet. “You’re kinda half-off.”
“That’s how I landed,” I said.
“Had to use the washroom.”
“Oh,” she said. “Ah... well, okay? Can I move you? I’ll tuck you in again.”
I nodded into the bed, too weak to really protest as Awen shifted me around and pulled the blankets over to cover me. “Thanks,” I said.
“No problem,” Awen replied. “You have a lot more energy.”
I yawned, putting some doubt on that. “How long has it been?”
“We left Needleford two days ago. You slept all day yesterday. We were worried, but Bastion knows a bit of stuff about medicine, and he gave you some antidotes. You were delirious, but it broke this morning.”
“Oh,” I said.
Awen moved away, and for a moment I was worried she was leaving, but she returned with a cup and a rag. “Can you drink? I can wet the rag if not.”
I nodded. “Can you help me sit up?”
It took some doing, and a couple of pillows that Awen fetched from somewhere, but I managed to sit up enough that I was able to drink with just a bit of help.
“Joe is actually a pretty good cook,” Awen said. “I’ll ask him to make some soup for later.”
“Soup would be good,” I said.
The door to my room opened and Amaryllis stomped in. She looked worried until she saw me sitting up, then her expression pinched and she looked like a bird who just saw a squirrel in her feeder. “So, you’re finally awake,” she said. “Do you have any idea how much trouble your nap has caused?”
“Thanks for worrying,” I said.
“I didn’t worry, you imbecile!” she screeched. “Do you know that it’s illegal in harpy airspace to just dump a body overboard? We would have had to keep you rotting in the hold for who knows how long. I bet you’d stink as a corpse.”
I smiled. “That’s a very confusing way to say that you’re happy to see me alive,” I said.
“Hardly,” she said. “Awen, is she actually better?”
“I think so?” Awen said. “She’s drinking, and she can move a little. Um, it might take some time before she recovers, maybe. I’m a mechanic, not a doctor.”
“I feel much better,” I said. I tried to gesture for emphasis, but all I did was knock my cup of water over and spill some all over myself. “Ah, oops?” I said.
“You moron,” Amaryllis deadpanned. “Just rest some more, maybe when you wake up, some of your missing brain cells will reappear.”
I smiled and helped Awen take the cup from me. “Okay,” I said. “Awen, can you wake me up when... supper’s ready?”
“Awa, sure thing,” she said. “I don’t know if you’ll be ready to come and join us, though.”
“She can eat here,” Amaryllis said.
I shrugged, then held back a yawn. I wanted to know how things were going, and knowing Amaryllis, she’d be too worried to tell me if I looked tired. “Where are we now? Is Rogers after us?”
“We’re two, maybe three day from Insmouth,” Amaryllis said. “No sign of that golden bastard either.”
“Insmouth? Isn’t that... uh, to the south of where we’re going?” I asked.
“We don’t have much of a choice. There’s a nasty crosswind this time of year that would fling us off course. If we had come down over Deepmarsh, like we were meant to, then we could have avoided it by flying over the Trenten Flats, or at least along the shores, but as it is we’ll have to go the long way around.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Idiot,” she replied. I think that was an ‘I forgive you’ from her. “You have two days to feel better and get on your feet. It wouldn’t do to land without our captain in tip-top shape.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said. “How’s the rest of the crew?”
Amaryllis huffed. It was a mildly annoyed huff, annoyance at someone that wasn’t here to feel all the wrath of her huffing in person. “Those brats you brought aboard are a bunch of mewling babies. You’d think they were the nobles, what with the way they whine and moan about every little thing.”
“Really?” I asked.
Awen shifted. “Well, they’re not so bad? Sally has been helping with the sails and such, and Oda is helping with the engine and maintenance. Joe... does complain a lot, but he works hard still.”
“That’s great,” I said. I blinked, then blinked again. It was hard to keep my eyes open, and the next yawn was too strong to stifle. “How’s... ahhh, Bastion?”
“He’s fine,” Amaryllis said. “You need to sleep.”
“Just fine?” I asked.
“He trains a lot, and sometimes he’ll help, but he keeps to himself,” Awen explained.
“We need to make him open up some more. He could be a nice friend.”
Amaryllis crossed her wings. “He did save your sorry hide. No one noticed you were sick until he did.”
“I’ll thank him later.” Did sylphs like hugs? “And Clive? And the others?”
“That old bird will outlive the lot of us, the way we do things, and the other two are smart. They mind their own business and do their work as best they can. My sister picked good workers.”
“Good, good,” I said. “And you two?”
Awen pressed a hand to my head. It was warm. “We’re fine now,” Awen said. “We’ll let you sleep, alright?”
“Mm? But I have more questions.”
“Moron,” Amaryllis said. “You can ask them to an empty room then. Get some sleep.”
I waved my friends goodbye, but only after Awen helped me lay back down properly and fluffed out my pillows. She’d make a great mom someday. Not that I’d tell her that, I didn’t want to have her be feverish too.
When I was alone, I found myself stuck between sleeping and not. Half-dreams slipping past like a haze, then disappearing with a blink and a shift. It took a lot of effort for me to actually fall asleep.
I woke up some time later when the door opened and Awen came in, this time accompanied by Bastion who was holding up a little lantern with a glowing rune within. “You’re awake,” the sylph said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I’ve been in and out.”
“We brought supper,” Awen said.
I glanced around. The sky had darkened while I was dozing. Probably why they needed the lantern that Bastion set on a hook.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Just soup,” Awen said.
She helped me sit up again, though I didn’t need it as much. I was feeling far better already.
“Thanks,” I said as I took the bowl she offered me and sniffed it. The soup was just shy of being hot. I held it against my sternum with one hand and chowed down with a spoon. I didn’t know I was so hungry until the first few swallows were down.
“You’re looking better,” Bastion said.
“Mmhmm,” I said. “Thank you, by the way.”
“It’s nothing,” Bastion said. “Fighting piracy is one of my duties, as is caring for the companions I fight next to. It was the least I could do.”
I nodded. He was getting so many hugs later. “Thanks anyway.” I took another spoonful, then licked my lips. “You do training, right?”
“I do,” he said.
“Can you train me some? I nearly died on Roger’s ship, and I have the impression he wasn’t even trying that hard.”
“I suppose I could spar with you a little. Though I can’t exactly teach you any techniques from my order.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ll owe you doubly then.”
“Awa, can I train too?” Awen said. “I don’t want to be kidnapped again.”
“I’m not sure how much training will help you in that regard, but I can give you someone to test your skill against,” Bastion said.
Awen nodded, then bowed a little, as much as she could in my rather cramped room. “Thank you.”
“We can see about that tomorrow,” I said.
“I think it might take you a little more than a day to recover fully.”
I pouted, but that didn’t seem to do much to sway Bastion’s opinion on the matter.
Awen smiled and absently started playing with my ears. “You’ll be fine,” she said. “Take your time. We’re in no hurry, alright?”
“Of course we are,” I said. “We need to get so strong and tough that even things like nasty pirates won’t be a problem for us,” I said.
“I look forward to seeing you reach hitherto unknown levels,” Bastion said. “But perhaps a little bit of patience would do you better than merely rushing along without a care.”
I gave him an Amaryllis huff, but I couldn’t really disagree. “Fine then. We’ll just see.” I let my spoon drop into my empty bowl. “Can I have more?”
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- Someplace Cold, Canada
- A bird that likes comfy and happy things, and also knives. Once ate a god’s eye and awakened the ability to see all that is good in the world. Known to steal shiny ideas and baubles. Currently forbidden from writing his own bios.
Bio: A bird that likes comfy and happy things, and also knives. Once ate a god’s eye and awakened the ability to see all that is good in the world. Known to steal shiny ideas and baubles. Currently forbidden from writing his own bios.