Ascent: The Night BeforeDate Posted: July 25, 2020
This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
No matter how much he had tried to protest, things were not perfectly well with Amon.
The machine was almost complete, and Scylla had been working a full two hours in the morning when the bard finally dragged himself out of bed. His skin looked blotchy and bruised, as if he had gotten in a drunken fight with a stone golem the previous evening. He had been coming in later, and later, and complaining of fatigue and headaches and retiring earlier and earlier into the night.
He would deny it to everyone, shrugging off everyone’s concern, even as he struggled to try to follow his own writings from weeks before. The fevers were leading to more and more use of the fever-root, to the point that she was refilling the jar every other day.
When she suggested he should rest, he vehemently denied anything was wrong, even going so far to accuse her of sabotaging things behind his back to slow things down in a half-stupor.
But Scylla knew better.
The bloodshot eyes and sunken cheeks betrayed the progression of the aetherblight which consumed him from the inside out. For the most part, she tried to ignore it and focus on the work ahead of her, despite his increasing frantic behavior.
Today, he had started in with his snippy comments on her workmanship. When she turned to give him a piece of her mind, he was in mid-collapse, his lanky frame slipping over the corner chair where he had tried to brace himself against the tremors.
She was lucky that the others were nearby. Ben, Zuri and Koh had all helped carry his unconscious form to his bedroom. Scylla raised her hand, spreading calming aether energies across his form, hoping that it would rejuvenate his broken body. It was taking more and more effort to keep the wild energies from consuming him.
It was difficult to get his form to respond, but he always woke up. But today, the energies simply spread away, nearly completely rejected by his battered flesh. Worst of all, she didn’t have the benefit of an Allagan med-chambers. She wasn’t even sure if even the finest Tower advancements would give him a chance at this point.
Scylla pulled her hair back from her face as she strained to transfer energies to his form.
“It’s not working…” She muttered to herself as she looked over his form. “He’s not taking up the aether… at least not enough to help him.”
He just needed a little longer. It would be such a shame to lose her patient so close to the proposed treatment.
Or would it be?
This was Amon of the Tower, after all. The same man who saw no trouble sawing her body into pieces and happily attaching it haphazardly to a pack of voidsent wolves. Maybe she would be doing the world a favor to let him die. Maybe she would be doing her soul a favor to bring closure to his life.
The white mage squeezed her hand over the edge of the linen sheet. He looked up at her, eyes open but void of consciousness as tremors shook his form. It would be easy enough to simply give up and pull the linen over his head.
No one would know any better.
Scylla gritted her teeth, as she reached her in her pocket, watching Amon as he slipped away.
No one would know that she had broken her oath to do all in her power to save him.
The mage closed her eyes, but she could hear Amon gasp for breath.
No one would know… but herself.
Her eyes opened again as he choked, spitting up all over the bed. She reached behind his head, helping to open up his airway.
“Why him… of all people?” Scylla lamented as she pulled out an herbal tincture from her pocket, carefully measuring droplets of the thin blue liquid.
If the aetherhealing wasn’t going to work on it’s own, she was going to turn to other means, teetering on the blurred lines between medicine and poisoning. Perhaps the primitive forest medicine would work where aether had failed.
“Why you?” She pulled open his mouth, dropping the liquid under his tongue. “Why did I have to be stuck with you as the last Allagan left in Eorzea? What sin earned me this fate?”
His cheeks seemed to tint just slightly pink from the gray, pale shade as he moaned.
“Amon?” Scylla asked, knowing well that he could not respond.
It was only a small change, but that was all she needed to determine that it was working. It was that slight tipping towards life that drove her to work her healing energies all through the day. And it was only by sunset that the tremors subsided and his breathing began to calm.
She had done all that she could. If he died, it wasn’t because she didn’t try. She didn’t know why, but she had put all her effort forth to save him.
Scylla slumped on the chair, waiting… and hoping… that he would wake up.
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.