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The Killing Season Chapter 3

Started by Evie, August 22, 2010, 08:27:58 PM

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Chapter Three

   May 2, 1132
   Rhemuth Castle

   "My Prince, we have multiple reports of contagion spreading through the Kingdom.  The epidemic is believed to have started at the Port of Desse, since most of the stricken have come from that area, but there have been cases radiating outward from there, as far south as Concaradine and a few isolated cases extending as far north and east as Valoret."  Seisyll's blue-violet eyes looked unusually grim as he regarded his King.  "I think it would be best if we impose a quarantine on Rhemuth."

   Kelson frowned thoughtfully.  "What is the nature of the contagion?"

   "It is some sort of fever-flux, Sire; by the accounts I've been getting back, it seems to be related in kind to the one that swept through the coastal areas in 1062, except this one seems to be a lot more lethal.  It also appears to have two forms.  In the milder form, it merely causes a high fever and a great deal of vomitus and flux for two or three days, but the patient recovers shortly thereafter."

   The King's eyebrows rose.  "And in the more severe form?"

   Seisyll's face grew even more grim.  "In the more severe form, the patient begins to exude blood in his sweat, and the vomitus and flux turn black.  A yellow tinge may suffuse the skin and eyes.  For most of those who contract the more severe form, death is inevitable."

   Kelson's eyes met Araxie's, who had turned pale.  He turned back to his agent.  "Yes, notify the Guard that the City is to be placed under immediate quarantine.  Also send word—using methods besides face-to-face contact whenever possible—that quarantine is to be imposed on Desse, Concaradine, and the other affected towns.  I want the Port closed.  Ships can dock at Nyford or detour to the coastal ports to unload their cargoes, and then arrange to convey their goods overland."  He breathed out heavily.  "Jesú, we don't need this!"

   "No, we most assuredly don't.  But we have it nonetheless."


   May 8
   Coroth Castle

   "Your Grace, I'm afraid to say the prognosis is not good."

   Master Randolph watched with sympathy as Duchess Richenda sank onto a chair, her deep blue eyes shuttered with pain.  "But...Kelric was sick for only two days, but now he's clearly on the mend!  How is Briony's case different?"

   "Her fever-flux has progressed to the more severe form of the contagion.  At this point, her chances of survival decrease rapidly with each passing day."  Seeing the tears shimmering in the Duchess of Corwyn's eyes, he added hastily, "Not that the prospect is hopeless!  Even of those who contract this form of the flux, roughly half have pulled through, although the recovery time is longer.  Briony has the advantage of being out of her earliest years of infancy, not to mention she was in excellent health before this outbreak.  Those factors will play in her favor.  But...I don't wish to give you false hope."

   Richenda nodded, pressing her lips tightly together.  "All right, then," she whispered.  "So, what treatment is recommended?"

   The physician sighed.  "There are two schools of thought on the matter, I'm afraid, and this outbreak is still to fresh for me to know for certain which form of treatment would be most efficacious.  The traditional treatment for a fever-flux of this sort would be bleeding and purging, to rid the body of the toxins that are causing the illness until the body can return to its natural balance of humours.  It is thought that the reason the fever-flux causes the bloody sweats and black vomitus and flux is that the body is trying to purge itself of an excess of blood and black bile, and that helping it along in this task will cause the body to recover more quickly.  A less conventional treatment, but one which I have personally found to be more helpful with other diseases, is to do the exact opposite—keeping the patient as hydrated as possible to replace the fluids the patient has already lost, until the illness can run its natural course and the body can restore its own balance."

   "I see."  Richenda pondered her sleeping daughter, whose fever-flushed face had been turned to one side to decrease the chances of her choking on her own vomit in case another gastric spasm should overcome her before she regained consciousness.  "Would it even be possible to get fluids into her safely, now that she's reached this stage?"

   "Oh, most certainly, whenever she's awake.  She has her more lucid moments between the delirium-dreams.  As long as we can keep her conscious enough of the time, we can get fluids into her."

   The cornflower eyes fixed on his.  "And that is the treatment you would recommend?"

   Master Randolph sighed.  "It is the treatment I would prescribe for myself, Your Grace, but even so, that is no guarantee."

   She nodded, closing her eyes, wishing Alaric were there to help her sort through all of the ramifications of the difficult decision.  At last she opened them.

   "We'll try it your way.  In the meantime, how can I protect the other children?"

   The physician shrugged, looking helpless.  "Kelric has already had the mild form; it's unlikely he can catch it again.  Grania and the twins are at highest risk.  I would keep them completely separated from the sick children, even now that Kelric is on the mend, until he has been symptom-free for a full week.  No, let's make it two, just to ensure there's no chance of a relapse.  As for prevention, though..."  He shook his head.  "We don't really know for certain what is causing it, my Lady, so it's hard to say what would help, aside from the usual common-sense measures.  Avoid public gatherings until the outbreak has run its course."

   "I wish I knew how Brendan is doing in Marley.  I don't suppose there's a safe way to get a message to him?"

   "Not without breaking quarantine, unless you Deryni have some other way to communicate over distances that won't involve sending a messenger through fever-infested lands."

   She sighed.  "There are ways, but I shall have to wait until late tonight to try, I suppose."  The Duchess paced.  "And I've not heard any word from Alaric since I ordered the quarantine on Coroth; I hope my message got through."  She turned to face the physician.  "Do you think a quick hop through the Transfer Portal to Rhemuth would be safe, if only for a few minutes?"

   Randolph shook his head.  "I wouldn't risk it, my Lady.  You're showing no signs of the contagion yourself, but you've been close to Kelric and Briony, and....well...."

   "You're probably right.  But in that case...Grania and the babies...."  Fear shone in the mother's eyes again.  "I've been with them daily....Should I stop?"

   Master Randolph sighed.  "There are no clear answers, my Lady."


   May 15
   Rhemuth Castle

   Seisyll Arilan's brother visited him in a dream. Sophie has taken ill.  Do not return to Tre-Arilan at this time!

   Alarm spread through the King's agent, nearly awakening him, though he fought down the panic, fought to maintain the tenuous mind link connecting him to Sextus. How bad off is she? Sweet Jesú, let it only be the mild form of the fever-flux...that, or something else entirely!

   So far, not so bad.  She can't hold anything in, but there hasn't been any sign of black bile yet, nor of the blood-sweats or yellow pallor.  Sextus gazed at his brother through his shiral, the blue-violet eyes so similar to Seisyll's own filled with sorrow and compassion. She began her labor last evening, however, and the babe bled out.  There was no time to fetch a midwife, and in any case, I doubt we could have found one willing to attend to her while she has the fever.  The people are fearful....

   Dream-Seisyll nodded.  He could hardly blame them, although a brief surge of helpless rage swept through him regardless.

   Javana has taken the children to her home for their safety.  Jashana remains to tend to Sophie's more personal needs, except for the lifting when the chambermaids have to change out the sheets.  I supply that. Sextus's face regarded him haggardly through the crystal. I'm sorry we weren't able to do more.

   Seisyll pushed down a wave of grief. You did what you could.  Thank you. He paused. Stay safe, he finally added, not knowing what else to say, not knowing if it would even be possible.  Any word from Denis?

   He's in good health, so far, but Dhassa is inundated, and he dares not return to Tre-Arilan just yet.  He suggests praying for an early frost.

   Why an early frost?

   Because in fever plagues of this sort, he says, they've often tended to die away shortly after the first or second frost of the autumn season.

   Seisyll considered this new information.  It might bring some glimmer of hope, however small, to Kelson, though autumn was still long months away.

   Four months, at the very least, until the first frost.  Dear God, how many thousands or tens of thousands would fall victim to this outbreak throughout the Kingdom before it ran its course?  Already there had been fresh reports from as far west as the Connaiti coast, as far north as Cassan and the Purple March.  Duchess Richenda, he'd later found out, had closed the Port of Coroth nearly as soon as Kelson had closed down Desse and the Free Port of Concaradine—within mere hours after the first set of quarantines had been imposed.  It seemed odd to him that the outbreak would have spread from two different sources, but even now the eastern end of the Kingdom was becoming as affected as the western half.  There were even rumors it had crossed through the mountain passes and up the river into western Torenth, and that it had begun to harry the Hort of Orsal's Court and western Tralia.

   None of this mattered to Seisyll as much in that moment as his own wife's safety.

   Tears gathered in his eyes, leaked onto his pillow even as he dreamt.

   Tell Sophie I love her, and that I'll come home to her as early as I may.

   She knows already.


   Rhemuth Castle
   June 1

   Dhugal MacArdry McLain swept his kinswoman into a fierce embrace as he met her outside the door to his apartment.  "Ailidh!"  His amber eyes swept over her in concern.  "I'm glad you're doing better.  Jass said you'd only been lightly affected, but still, Cat and I were quite worried."

   "If that was a light case, I never want to see a heavy one." Ailidh assured him.  "Though the Royal Physician says that there's little danger of me catching it again, thank God!"

   "Thanks be to God for that!"  Dhugal startled his friend with a rare kiss on her cheek, then pulled back, one hand reaching for the door handle.  "Come on in; Cat will be delighted to see you! She's missed you this past fortnight.  You and Jass had barely even gotten settled back in at Court, it seemed, before you took ill."

   "Aye.  I've felt better for the past week, but I didn't want to risk seeing her too early, for fear I might not be as recovered from it as I felt."

   Dhugal opened the door, stepping aside to allow Ailidh to enter first.  The apartment was quiet, the usual murmur of voices and laughter strangely absent.


   After a moment, the familiar voice called.  "In here."  Dhugal breathed a quiet sigh of relief as he glanced at Ailidh, then walked towards the bedchamber.  

   "I'm...a little tired."  Cat turned from the open apartment window, smiling a bit wanly.  "I asked Mhairi to take Duncan Michael to the fish pond."  She saw Ailidh and brightened.  "Oh, you didn't say you'd brought Ailidh!"

   Ailidh took a few steps into the room, then stopped short with a slight frown.  "My Lady, you're looking quite flushed.  Are you unwell?"

   Cat shook her head slowly.  "It's just the summer heat.  I was trying to catch a stray breez—" Green eyes widened in alarm, focusing past Ailidh, then suddenly the Duchess bolted away from the window,  running to a nearby wash-basin to bend over it, violently ill.

   "Sweet Jesu, Dhugal!"  Ailidh turned frightened gray-green eyes towards the Duke.  "You have to leave.  You have to leave now!"  Her hands pushed frantically at him, trying to shove him back out the chamber door.  He was having none of it, his amber eyes kindling with alarm as he tried to sidestep past his interfering kinswoman to get to his stricken wife.

   "I'll take care of her; I've had it already!" Ailidh protested, grabbing double-fistfuls of his clothing as he shoved her aside.  "Kelson can't spare you!  The King can't...."

   "The King bloody well will spare me!" Dhugal retorted, lunging past her to get to Catriona's side.  "My wife needs me more."

   Catriona took a step back from him, her crystal green eyes huge in her pale face.  "No, Dhugal!"  Her voice was quiet, barely above a whisper, but all of the force of her formidable will was in it.  "Duncan Michael needs you most.  He can't afford to have both a mother and a father fall ill at once."

She gave him a trembling smile in an attempt to reassure him; raised a hand to ward him off.  "Go, my love!"  Her gaze wandered towards Ailidh.  "We'll be fine.  And it may just be a passing nausea, or my labor come a few weeks early, not the fever-flux at all."

   Dhugal, studying his wife's flushed face and the glazed look in her eyes, knew this was not the case, but he could find no way to refute her logic despite his wish to remain with her.  At last he turned away, anguished eyes capturing Ailidh's heartsick gaze.

   "I'll want regular reports, even if you have to mind-alter the entire bloody Quarantine Guard to get them to me," he told her, tears standing in his eyes.

   "You'll have them," she whispered, gently ushering him out.  "And she could be on the mend in just a few days, even as I was.  If she goes into labor, the babe's even old enough to survive.  Don't worry overmuch, Dhugal."

   He nodded, looking past her for another glimpse at his wife.  Catriona smiled, waiting until the door had closed behind him before reaching for the wash-basin again and succumbing to another violent wave of nausea.

Chapter 4: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=539.0
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


*sobs and reaches for goblet of suitably strong beverage*    The Queen of Angst is at it again, only this time, I fear the body count will be higher ...


Um...if the body count rises, Elkhound's not going to start singing "Another One Bites The Dust" again, is he?   ;) ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Well, he was singing that when it came to your series of weddings.  Not sure what song he'd have in mind for your latest situation!  :(


And the character torturing continues.  Good stuff so far, although I have a feeling there won't be as many laughs in this one. :O


Maybe a few, but no, it's not the giggle-fest that Maidens of Mayhem was.   :)
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

kirienne (RIP)

I think I'd better have a box of tissues handy whilst reading these chapters. Nicely written, but definately not as cheerful as Maidens of Mayhem. You have such a gift for writing :-)