Flames of Bedlam

Ch2.1 .. Sickness

When I asked Levi what his plan was, it all sounded pretty straightforward. He and I would journey to this village, the home of what was left of the free-clan. In the meantime, Sura and the others would oversee creating a more permanent camp near the Glade.

He said that it was important that they spent time near the energies and got used to it. That’s just nice talk for “I’m afraid someone could turn at any moment, and they need to be near the Glade to have a chance to survive it.”

Levi claimed that none of the others were quite as far along, or as influenced, as he was when it came to the Longing. I told him that it was easy to misunderstand the feelings of others when you weren’t actually the one feeling what they did. He didn’t have much to say to that.

His purpose was focused, however, on me. He’d made it some crusade to try to “fix” what was broken within me… only not knowing how deeply the issue bled. He was determined that he could bring me before his village Elders and explain away all my crimes.

At least, they seemed to believe these were crimes. I didn’t agree.

The Elders didn’t have to live under the thrall of the Invaders. They had no idea what it was like never existing beyond the walls of those military encampments. Never knowing friendship or family or freedoms… the things they took for granted.

I kept my thoughts to myself. Though Levi tried to come off as a worldly and open-minded sort, there are just some things you can’t understand unless you’ve lived through them. His life was full of campfires and snuggle-fests. Mine was full of death flames and dying screams.

No matter how sure you are of your plans, however, there usually comes some sort of kink. I don’t think either of us expected me to become as ill as I did.

It was two, maybe three days out on the road when I first collapsed. I’d been feeling weak and queasy for a while, something I originally attributed to the lack of real energy-food. Levi didn’t understand yet how I required crystals to sustain myself, and I hadn’t gone through the trouble to explain it to him.

The cuffs I wore blocked all interaction of energy and magic. They prevented me from tapping into the power that allowed me to transform — which was for his own good. But it also prevented me from consuming energy to sustain myself.

The regular, physical food Levi provided was enough to keep me alive. But my strength began to waver as my hunger for energy grew. I suppose I should have been up front about my situation, but I’m not sure he’d risk taking the cuffs off even if he knew.

There was something bigger going on I wasn’t aware of at the time.

The collapse came out of nowhere. One moment, I was weaving along the forest path behind him, the next was blissful nothingness. Well, I can’t really say blissful… this was the beginning of a torment that not even the Invaders could have dreamed up.

When I awoke, I heard myself cry out.

Pain. My whole body was wreathed in burning pain, an agony my words can not describe. My limbs buckled and locked against my will. Streams of sweat sheened my body.

Levi had moved me from the trail. My vision swam and threatened darkness, but I could just barely make out the contours of stone and water. Some sort of rocky pool next to a waterfall.

I was stripped down to merely trousers. Levi’s hands held me, partly submerged in the water. It seemed to burn him to touch me. A trick of light showed the flow of soft blue energies extending from his fingers. Rivulets of coolness brought temporary relief, but only momentarily before the burning returned.

I was thankful when the darkness took me again. But even when I slept, my dreams were fury and torment. As if something was very, very angry about what I was doing and sought to punish me.

Finally, even the dreams fell to silence.

The next time I woke, it was just as unpleasant. It felt as if something was trying to claw its way out of me. My insides churned, and I was gripped with an uncontrollable need to empty myself.

I could move now, though weakly. It was just enough to pull myself into the bushes before…

Well, yeah. We’ll not go into too may details. If you’ve seen one person sick up, you’ve seen it all.

Except, you’ll never, ever see as an epic retch like this. Be thankful of that. I mean, I was throwing up stuff I didn’t even remember eating. And oh… oh… it was miserable.

I think I heard Levi say something from somewhere nearby. But even he didn’t want to deal with this mess. Not that I blame him.

It felt like it lasted forever, too. When I finally felt released of the impulse, I wiped my mouth on the back of my hand. It came away with blood… or… something red that looked like blood. I didn’t dare look in the brush.

I might have imagined it in my haze, but I swear I small smoke rising from those bushes.

This time, when I fell back to sleep, it was a bit less awful. Just a bit.

I don’t know how many days I was ill. How many days we spent near the pool. How many times Levi moved me into the water to ease the flames that burned me from the inside.

He’d figured out that putting the cooling, blue energies in the water and fully submerging me was the way to go. Pretty clever, that. So many times I’d come to my senses to find myself in the water’s soft embrace.

Often, I’d also come around to the sound of gently plucked music. I realized that Levi brought his stringed instrument along — which, of course he would. This was almost as soothing as the cooling waters were.

I spent countless hours dozing on the edge of awareness, the pool lapping around me and the gentle notes calming the internal flames. I was so caught up in struggling against the illness and agony that I didn’t realize things within me were changing…

There was some rage and pain that could not be washed away by healing waters and music. However, I found my thoughts to grow more calm, my driving desires to slowly fade, and the Flames of Bedlam were now so far removed from my spirit.

I won’t say that I was a different Dragon by the end of this time. But when I finally woke strong enough to make sense of the world again, I saw things in a different light. I also realize that I owed Levi my life.

(Though if it wasn’t for his stupid cuffs in the first place….)