Amon couldn’t stand the insides of his apartment for one more second. Not the look. The smell. The anything. So, that day, when Koh brought him something to help him sleep, he pretended to take it and then spat it out when she wasn’t looking.
Then, after she was done administering to her heart’s content, and left him to what she thought would be a long nap, he threw off the covers and put on his boots. Sliding a secret mask from a hidden compartment in his desk, he put it on.
The Elezen was restless, fevered and still in a state of hallucination, but sitting there in that room was getting him nowhere. Each of the dreams that had visited him played in his mind, blurring and fusing into his thoughts until they were the only things he knew.
Amon didn’t have much time left. The aether was tearing him apart, and it was only a matter of time before his body could no longer withstand the abuse.
He wasn’t entirely certain what he was looking for when he made his way to the streets of Gridania. Everything reeled and twisted around him, voices sounding distant one moment and right by his ear the next. But no one seemed to mind him – his mask was commonly worn there, especially by Elezen.
So as long as they didn’t take note that he was dressed in his pajamas, he wasn’t raising many flags. Certainly, there were stories of drunk Wood Wailers who traversed the town in their night garments and mask from time to time.
Amon wandered without direction until he caught sight of something – a flash of auburn hair on a slight, petite form.
Within that moment, the world around him stopped moving. His focus fell completely on this girl, and though he only saw the back of her, he was sure. Shakily, he stumbled forward, following, trying to catch up to her.
“Clio!” He tried to call out, but the name broke on his tongue. Desperation welled in his chest as he redoubled his effort to reach her. His body was not working right, and what should have been easy for his long strides to traverse felt impossible.
She didn’t hear him. But other people began to take notice. Sounds of concern rose as strangers watched him stagger and drop to the ground.
He got up again, choking on the words he held buried within him for so many dark years. “Clio… forgive me!”
Finally, he reached her, one hand clasping her shoulder to make her aware of his presence. The girl startled with a frightened sound, rounding and staring up into his masked face with fear.
For a second of clarity, Amon could see… this wasn’t Clio.
But then, his mind convulsed and his vision blurred, showing him a terrible, twisted visage. Clio stared up at him, face white as death, the large glasses she always wore cracked beyond use. Where the executioner-blade had sliced her neck, a line of black blood clotted… very slowly spreading in a semblance of decay.
Ghastly, the dead Clio screamed.
People turned, converging on them. And in Amon’s vision, they, too, shambled towards him, faces of death. Of people from his past… torture victims, war prisoners, clone after clone after clone.
He stumbled back from the horror, too weak to run, hardly keeping his balance. They reached out for him, dead hands grabbing him as he flailed. Pulling him down.
Words sounded around him, but he could not make sense of them.
“Send for a healer! This man is terribly ill!”
“Hold him! Hold him! He’s not seeing clearly!”
“I have no idea who he is! My name isn’t Clio!”
“Someone get that mask off before he suffocates himself!”
And then the chaos collapsed into nothing.
Amon’s staggered breathing woke him. He found himself in a place of cool darkness, a damp rag placed over his burning forehead, and the peaceful sound of running water in the distance. It wasn’t clear what had happened… he only remembered going into town – why had he done that? What did he seek to find?
And now he was… where?
Wherever he was, this was the first time he’d felt relief from the bombardment of aether since leaving the Keeper of the Lake. Something… had changed.
“Are you waking?” A soft voice asked him.
The Elezen let out a long breath, pushing himself up slightly in the bed. Pulling the damp rag from his face, he squinted across the room. Then he let out a sharp gasp.
Sitting on the other side of the room was none other than the Elder Seedseer, Kan-E-Senna.
Amon swallowed down the reaction that shot through him – one of childish embarrassment and stammering doltery. All he could manage was a short nod, being very aware that his mask was gone and this picture of perfection and beauty was staring him straight in the face.
“You are suffering from the most extreme case of Aether Sickness I’ve ever seen someone survive. But, of course, you knew that, didn’t you?” Kan-E-Senna paused, tilting her head slowly. “Amon of Allag.”