Chapter 30 Hat

        Recoil. Now she was awake, eyes wide, sweating, gasping for breath. It was moonlight dark, her mind was a confusion of images, her mother, a table, herself, a breaking rod. Breaking who?
        "I think you're sickening for something." Roween was sitting up, leaning against a weatherworn column, braced against it almost.
        Conley laughed, sharply. It hurt. "Just the dream again, Ro, sorry I disturbed you."
        "Haven't had much rest anyway, bad cramps; something I was expecting, though, normal. What about your cough?" She peered across the half-illuminated cloister. "You got a temperature?"
        "A slight flush, that's all, often happens after a nightmare."
        Roween half-rolled to her knees, made her way to the mage. Gems of perspiration glistened in the semi-gloom, and no cosmetic spells could entirely mask her red-rimmed eyes. Roween touched her own forehead with the back of her hand, then felt Conley's. The difference was startling. "You're burning up, Con! What have you got that'll help?"
        "Don't worry, I'll be - " she strangled the end of the sentence, cleared her throat, tried to suppress a coughing fit, failed.
        " - a wreck if you don't get treatment. Riding around for weeks in the rain and the wind, wouldn't surprise me if you had pneumonia. Shall I fetch your notebook?"
        "Blue cover, twine-bound," she emphasised the `twine' involuntarily, a nasal hum as she fought back more wracks. "It's an in- house MedSpell librar - " phlegm.
        "A blue book, yes." Roween was on her feet, over at the saddlebags within moments. She found it alongside Conley's other booklets, wondered how many of them listed spells, what other transcriptions she was carrying. There was a sudden, thudding crack from behind her; she froze, listened. What was that? Silence, now, except for Con's wheezing. Probably masonry falling, forget it, no time to worry about that at the moment. She returned to her stricken friend. "It's not very thick," she stated, apprehensive, holding out the notebook. Conley didn't take it.
        "Ro, I can't gesture, I'm so cold." She was shivering, aglow with fever, almost whining between the chest-freeing explosions that were now rising every few seconds. Roween hurried back to the horses, fetched her greatcoat, draped it about Conley's shoulders.
        "Try and keep warm, these things come in waves, it'll ease off soon, you'll stop shaking for long enough to cast a cure." If there is one.
        Lying back, Conley drew herself into a huddle. "My head's aching, too," she murmured, softly so as not to provoke a further attack. "This has come so quickly, can you find, in the book?"
        "Everything will be alright, just try and rest. Trust me."

* * *

        Half an hour later, Conley had coughed herself to sleep, and Roween moved to the centre of the courtyard where there was more light. Her horse whinnied.
        The notebook was printed in very small letters, she strained her eyes to read it. It had been written by a physician, was organised by groupings of similar complaints with brief descriptions, occasionally a small drawing, to describe the condition each spell addressed. There then followed a gesture sequence written in a shorthand of some form, probably referring to elements of a medic library that Conley presumably had memorised. After the main sequence, variations and splices for treating particular subtypes of the affliction were listed.
        There was very little about pulmonary illnesses. For the most part, the text covered basically physical ailments such as broken or twisted limbs, torn muscles, cuts and internal wounds, some surgery, matters relating to childbirth. There were smaller sections on poisoning, dentistry, certain cancers, and symptomatic mental disorders like insomnia and concussion. Nothing at all on communicable diseases - the preface mentioned a second volume that dealt with those. Roween checked, Conley didn't have it.
        The best thing she could find that might help was hidden in the section on toxins. One of the options available when handling food poisoning gave gestures for bringing down a high temperature which could apparently arise from ingesting certain types of fungus. Roween felt she could probably weave it in with a general antiseptic spell, there was one listed at the end of a section on treating infections arising from open wounds and surgery. However, she didn't know what the segment abbreviations meant, so was unable to do anything about it until Conley could advise her. She decided it would be better to let her companion sleep, returned to her side.
        It was then that she noticed the click-well, splintered under the heel of one of Conley's boots.

* * *

        Roween opened her eyes just as the sun was almost high enough to strike the small fountain tinkling in the courtyard. I hadn't meant to doze off! She turned to Conley, anxious. The young woman looked crashed, wheezing and coughing as though awake, yet still asleep. Her blankets, Roween's greatcoat, were damp with perspiration, and her fine hair was stringy, sticking to her face. Roween felt a sudden coldness, spreading out from somewhere inside.
        Conley was very, very ill.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: isif30.htm