This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
As Amon woke, the first thing he was aware of was the sting of hot tears on his face. Distantly, he may have also sobbed a name – called out for someone, though he didn’t know whom he plead to. Who would respond to his pathetic cry at the end of his life?
Though he felt like death, his breath managed to rattle in his chest and wheeze out through his mouth. His watery eyes flipped open, struggling to make sense of the shapes that light made.
This time he knew he’d come close. He could feel every inch of his body burning in the tingle of a distant flame, the aether just hardly held back by… something. He didn’t know what.
When he turned his head, he saw her there.
Sitting next to his bed. A diligent healer tending her patient.
Even after all I’ve done to you – he wanted to say. But his lips couldn’t form thoughts into words.
Even through the fog of his mind, Amon was aware that he should be dead. And that this woman – his childhood rival… his victim from another life… the person for whom he caused overwhelming anguish… and the last person he deserved kindness from — she had the strength and purity of character to offer healing and compassion to his wretched existence.
“Why?” Amon whispered brokenly, hardly a sound to his voice. To his absolute shame, he felt tears on his face again.
This time, he didn’t know if his tears were pity for himself… overwhelming guilt… or some sort of new emotion he couldn’t put into words — something he felt when he looked at Scylla.
Scylla found herself shouting out in excitement at the sound of his muffled voice, surprised at the relief she felt at the waking of her old rival. She parted his hair away from his brow, wiping the sweat from his clammy forehead as his fever broke a little.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were this bad off?” Scylla shook her head. “You said nothing at all!”
He had woken up of his own power. He would, with special care, survive another night. Tears streamed down his face, a face twisted into a mix of weakness and shame… so unlike what she knew him as. She wiped his face with a soft rag with a sigh, pulling at his ear gently, almost afraid that it would come off with how delicate he seemed.
“You’re going to be okay for now… max-ears.”
She reached around his back, helping him to prop up against his pillows, just enough to get cool water on his parched lips. The mage let him sit for a while and catch his breath, while she placed her hands on his chest, and began to work what little healing energies she had left.
She complained at Amon while she examined the damage from his aether sickness. Blotchy bruises covered his arm all the way up to his shoulder. “Why did you let it get this far?”
“We almost lost you today, Amon.” Scylla spoke with a gentle tone, putting another cool compress on his head. She looked him straight in the eyes.
“You are out of time. No matter what bugs remain in the machine, we have to proceed tomorrow morning.”
Amon remained silent as Scylla fussed over him and chided his arrogance at keeping things secret yet again. His mind wasn’t clear enough to work up a defense or really even answer her questions. He simply nodded along as she sat him up, hoarsely giving an “aye” here and an “aye” there.
She was healing him again. Even though he could tell she’d almost worn herself out saving his skin already. He reached over and put a shaking hand over her hand, his ears catching the final words that she spoke.
She confirmed what he feared – that without assistance, he would have already been dead.
Tomorrow. There was no more time. Tomorrow was it.
“I know,” he answered quietly, unable to hide the fear that wavered in his voice.