Excerpt from Master Mirode’s ‘Elemental Philosophy.’
“Water is a most fascinating substance. Vital to nearly all forms of life in some way or another, water as a physical material is so central to our being that it permeates nearly every facet of our lives. Most fleshbearing beings, such as kesh or yolm, are composed primarily of the stuff—though certain schools of thought carefully distinguish between water and bodily fluids such as blood, it is worth mentioning that water stands as the basis of all these flowing things. We intake water in our food and drink, let it go once more, we wash ourselves and our belongings in it, we even use it in all manner of rituals. Water is a substance that becomes what we need it to be—it ‘goes with the flow,’ if you pardon my turn of phrase.
The next few hours were unpleasant for Yenna, if only because it involved a number of people fussing over her. After Jiin ran out of the tent, leaving Yenna to try and figure out why her eyes wouldn’t stop watering, Mayi returned along with Muut. It had actually been some time since Yenna had last had a chance to speak with the captain’s apparent right-hand man—he was always busy doing something else, and had a rather unapproachable frown even at the best of times. This time, his face was set into what one might call ‘worried annoyance.’
For her part, Mayi didn’t even stop to say hello. Rather roughly grabbing Yenna’s head, she looked the kesh over quite urgently.
“U-Um, hello, both of you?” The suddenness of it all rather surprised Yenna, who had been busy dabbing at her reddened cheeks with a rag.
“Jiin insisted it was quite urgent we come,” Muut explained as Mayi looked intent on pulling Yenna’s head off, “So, we dropped everything and came to ye.”
“Any headaches? Blurriness of the eyes? How long have you been crying?” Mayi’s face suddenly moved to within inches of Yenna’s, and the mage might have been embarrassed at the closeness—were it not for the worrying feeling of Mayi’s horn tapping her on the top of the head. It also didn’t help that she had wrenched open one of Yenna’s eyelids as though the secrets of the universe were contained within.
“I-I-I…It’s only been, um– ouch! Careful with that horn! It’s been a few minutes. Demvya and I were metaphysically projecting within the memory component of the– erm, we looked inside the elemental core, but the spirit booted me out when things got dangerous. Th-there’s likely a more magical explanation for all this– argh, my neck still hurts! Careful!”
Once Mayi was finished with her inspections, she sat back and released Yenna’s head from her iron grip. The mage made to rub her neck, remembered the burns on her fingers and thought better of it.
“You don’t seem to have any physical injuries, though your eyes are somewhat bloodshot.” Mayi grabbed out a few small bottles from a medical kit, handed them to Muut, and grabbed a few more. “There’s the tears, of course. You’re not leaking from anywhere else, so it must be something to do with your tear ducts.”
“Do ye still need me?” Muut was awkwardly perched partway inside the tent, his hands now stuffed with bottles. “It seems ye have it all under control–”
“A second set of hands would be nice.” Mayi cut him off without even looking back, and Yenna realised that the doctor of the expedition could be quite ruthless when she was busy. “Yenna, stop wiping them away with that, it’s just going to give you a rash. Muut, give me that green bottle, would you?”
Both Yenna and Muut, somewhat bemused, did as they were told. Mayi uncorked the bottle and waved it under Yenna’s eyes, a strong chemical scent filling the air. The doctor waited a few moments and, noting no change, replaced the cork and swapped it for another bottle. Mayi tried a bevy of different tinctures, potions and other mysterious bottles and vials, with Yenna forced to sit perfectly still or face the wrath of the doctor’s stern hand—if she tried to look away, Mayi was always ready to tilt her head back into position.
It felt a little uncomfortable to just let the tears flow freely down her face, and the various smells mixing together from the bottles had begun to burn at her nostrils, but Yenna knew it paid to listen to experts. With a thoughtful hum, Mayi slipped on a pair of thick gloves and used a set of fine tweezers to extract a tiny, sponge-like object from a dusty jar.
“What is that?” Yenna was having trouble seeing through the tears, but it did look somewhat familiar.
“It’s a piece of droughtcap.” Mayi held it up at the end of her tweezers, and Yenna felt an odd change within her face. “It calls flowing liquid into itself—useful for quickly sweeping up an excess of blood—or tears, in this case.”
“W-Wait,” Yenna had to stop herself from trying to shove the doctor away, “I’ve heard of these. They’re an elemental reallocater—they take nutrients from liquids and convert the pure water into air, or mist, or steam. But they don’t stop at just a sip! I-If you put that near my eyes, it’ll drain me dry!”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. This is just a tiny piece!” Mayi giggled and put the thing to Yenna’s cheek—the tears began to flow faster, towards the piece of mushroom. “Seriously, experts make the worst patients. Once all this excess fluid is out, we might be lucky enough to pluck out whatever’s blocking you up like this– aha! Right on cue!”
The doctor pulled her tweezers away with a somewhat triumphant grin. Yenna hadn’t felt anything different, but her tears had stopped flowing so freely. Placing the droughtcap onto a small metal tray, Mayi used the very tip of her tweezers to pry off some miniscule fragments of what looked like deep blue glass—Yenna immediately recognised them as pieces of the water elemental’s core, the fragments of which still littered the floor in front of them.
“Now can I leave? I am really quite busy.” Muut began to put down the bottles, and Mayi gave him a nod. “Mage Yenna, I hope ye have a swift recovery.”
The way he said it felt little like a wish for good health—Yenna got the impression it was more of a ‘hurry up.’ Mayi looked almost apologetic as the man scurried out the tent flap.
“You have to forgive him, Yenna. The captain is legendary for her bravery and exploits, but she is somewhat less capable when it comes to the tedious and uninteresting parts of adventuring—Muut is the glue keeping the heavens from falling¹. Now, let’s see what we found here.”
Mayi turned her attention to the small tray, which was slowly flooding with water. With a thoughtful ‘hmm,’ the doctor grabbed an empty vial and dropped the shards inside—the glass quickly filled to the brim with perfectly clear water, though there was no overflow. Mayi gave it an experimental swirl, and both of them watched as the deep blue fragments seemed to dissolve into nothing. Yenna could still see them, but only with her magical sense—the pieces had become exactly as clear as the water itself.
“That’s so strange! I can still kind of see them.” Mayi gave a little smile, though she looked somewhat confused. “Though…this is magic, isn’t it? Saying I ‘see’ them isn’t quite right.”
Yenna nodded. Mayi had only very recently gained the ability to sense magic, and there was an unusually consistent desire to talk about this new sense like it was a second sight.
“Yes, you’re seeing the magic contained within them through your new sense. I suppose these must be pieces of the water elemental’s core,” Yenna began, “Though that doesn’t help explain why they were in my…tear ducts, was it?”
Mayi gave a rather undignified snort of laughter. “Now I get to correct you! I thought they were in your tear ducts, because normally an overflow of tears means something is blocking them—your tear ducts are where the liquid that protects your eyes drains to. There’s a small gland above your eyes that produces and dispenses tears, and it looks like these things just make water.”
Putting a finger to the spot just above one of her eyes, Yenna gave a nod. “I suppose so. I’m not particularly up to date on my anatomy…”
With one last curious look-over, Mayi handed the vial to Yenna. “These likely aren’t going to be very useful to me. How about you hold on to them?”
The mage took the vial. To her magic sense, the tiny fragments were bright spots where magic swirled around, like eddies in a stream. The way they altered the current of magic to just turn into water certainly warranted further study, so Yenna agreed to keep them.
“Thank you for all your help, Mayi. I…hope I can go at least a few more weeks without having some injury worthy of your attention.” Yenna gave a bashful smile. “I’m not normally this accident prone.”
“If you keep this up, we’ll run out of medical supplies before we reach Milur. But,” Mayi giggled, “I’ll never be bored, so that’s a plus.”
The two joked for a short while as Mayi checked over the bandages over Yenna’s burns—the salve-coated bandages evidently didn’t require changing if conditions were right, so Mayi was saved the embarrassment of having to strip Yenna nude once more.
Some time later in the evening, Captain Eone paid a visit—once again scaring the book right out of Yenna’s hands. On the positive side, she brought a warm soup that smelled delightful to the kesh’s empty belly.
“How are you feeling?” Eone had brought her own bowl, as well as a loaf of bread, a bread knife, butter and a jar of some condiment Yenna didn’t recognise. The fact that she had done so by simply stacking this all up in her massive hands was frankly frightening to the mage.
“I’m alright. W-Well,” Yenna grimaced, “No. I’m not. It still hurts quite a bit to move, and Mayi said I shouldn’t try and get up or walk around.”
Eone frowned and drank deeply from her bowl of soup. There was a moment’s silence, and Yenna uncomfortably wondered if this was somehow a problem. Before she could declare that she would simply ignore her serious injuries if it meant avoiding offence, the captain spoke up.
“Alright. Alright, we’re…gonna stay in town for a bit. We can’t risk your health just because…” Eone covered her trailing off with another deep gulp from her soup bowl. “Besides, the town still needs hands on deck rebuilding. So, take it easy—once you’re well, we’ll head off. Jivi flakes?”
Yenna looked down at the jar Eone was holding up and blinked. She nodded without thinking, and the captain sprinkled the surface of her soup with several bright green flakes. They dissolved into the liquid, turning the entire soup an alarming shade of green. A little afraid to dig right in, Yenna used magic to slice off a small chunk of bread, tentatively dipped it into the bowl and gave it a taste.
“G-Gyah! Ach-ahem!” Yenna gagged—the soup was violently spicy at first blush, but after a moment an unusual sweetness seemed to cover her tongue. “Th-that’s…quite good?”
“Heh! I never go anywhere without a jar of jivi flakes! I wonder why I couldn’t find any in Aulpre?” Eone tapped a hefty amount onto what remained of her soup. “I guess the climate isn’t right for growing jivi here.”
Yenna gave another experimental bite of her soup-soaked bread. The stabbing sting of the spice wasn’t as bad if you were ready for it, and the sweetness overpowered the feeling shortly after. Yenna was hungry enough to fight her way through the bowl, though the richness completely destroyed whatever the soup had tasted of in the first place. While the mage drank soup, Eone chattered about what was going on outside—the rebuilding efforts, the people thankful for their help, how Tirk was doing–
“Captain! Captain, where are ye?” Muut’s voice called from outside. Eone went silent, though silence didn’t particularly suit the boisterous woman. “Are we departing tomorrow, or not? Captain, I know ye’re here!”
Someone yelled at Muut to keep it down, and Yenna heard footsteps approaching the tent. Eone leaned in and began to whisper—Yenna ducked out of the way of her horn.
“Can you turn me invisible or somethin’? C’mon, just five minutes away from all the busywork…!” Eone gave a cheeky grin, though it faded when Yenna shook her head.
“S-Sorry, um. He’s already here.” Yenna pointed at the rather unimpressed man, and Eone sighed.
“Captain. If we’re stayin’, we need to sort out accommodation—we can’t be stuck in tents just wherever.” Muut was all business—he barely gave Yenna a nod of greeting.
“Alright, alright! We’re staying until Yenna’s recovered. We’ll get Mysilia to send word ahead when she gets back that we’ll be a bit delayed.” Eone collected up the bowls and such from dinner as she rose, and Yenna felt Muut’s gaze on her—as though the man could just will her to be more healthy out of sheer necessity.
“I-I hope I haven’t caused too much trouble,” Yenna blurted out. “I, um, don’t know much about restorative magic, s-so I’ll try and study up to expedite–”
“Yenna, it’s fine!” Eone gave a warm smile. “Rest and recover. Things can…can wait.”
The mage got the impression that whatever those things were, they weren’t much for waiting—a pit of anxiety formed in her stomach, but her rational brain insisted that there wasn’t much she could do about it. With a farewell and good night, both of the yolm left Yenna alone. She quietly cursed herself for not asking—just what was so urgent? What awaited them in Milur?
¹ - A reference to a somewhat silly old myth that the sky was in fact another world. It was said that when the world was formed, the sky often crashed into the world, its sites of impact forming the oceans and valleys as a kind of strange opposite of the peaks and plateaus of that world in the sky. Rather sick of the system of having several giants at the edge of the world holding the whole thing up (which spans into several other tales of evil kings and wizards attempting to have the giants drop their part of the sky on their foes), an ancient and unnamed force created a phenomenal glue of sacred gold and starbeams, applied it to the backside of the other world and simply adhered it to…whatever is behind that world. Most tellings of the story either fail to explain what exactly the other world is glued to, or speak to some kind of celestial firmament. The strangest part of the myth is how far it has travelled through this world—along with the phrase that someone is the glue keeping the heavens from falling, as a metaphor for the importance of their role.