“Ah, so you’re the infamous Caleb Rathais. I’m excited to see if you live up to your reputation,” said a woman with ebony skin and doe like purple eyes. Her narrow face was framed by tight black curls. She gave us a curt smile as her eyes passing over each of us, but Remi. This was Azalea. She looked very little like him aside from her nose and jawline. She must look like her mother.
“Azalea Turmic, I am hopeful your research and efforts into the illness afflicting my friends will prove successful,” He held out his right palm to her with his other hand still behind his back. She tentatively placed her left hand in his. He raised her hand to press it against his forehead, then kissed the back of her knuckles and pressed her hand to his forehead again. This was the symbol of a hopeful partnership between noble men and women. It was thought such a gesture would bless the ventures. However, Caleb just saw it as the courteous thing to do with all social classes.
She slowly withdrew her hand, studying his face. Caleb wore his ever present closed mouth smile. She looked towards Remi while he approached her with a big smile. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and with his other gestured up. “Why don’t you take them to the parlor Aza? They must be tired after just arriving in port a few hour ago. It will be more comfortable up there than down here in the shop. And don’t worry I’ll tend to things down here”
She gave her father a gentle smile. She squeezed his hand on her shoulder. She then turned her attention to us. “Please follow me,”
Weaving our way through the numerous shelves packed with vials and jars of dried herbs, potions and various other concoctions, we reached an oak door in the back left corner of the narrow shop. The uneven wooden steps squeaked beneath the load of our weight as we ascended. Azalea made a left into open room alit by the sun’s midday beams. She partially drew in the white, lacy curtains. “Have a seat wherever you like. Can I offer you any refreshments?”
“No need to trouble yourself,” Caleb sat down in a cream-colored arm chair while Fletcher and I took the opposite ends of the matching sofa. We had bought some food from some children peddlers at the port, so we didn’t need anymore.
Azalea grabbed a black leather-bound notebook and pen off the writing desk near the window before taking the seat on the sofa between me and Fletcher. The flipping of the pages followed by the pen scribbling along a clean page were the only noises.
“They are aware of the position I am in, correct?” Azalea directed a sidelong glance at Caleb who returned it with a short nod. “Good, when did you both become infected,” She sifted her gaze from Fletcher to me.
“About four and a half weeks ago,” I said. It felt much longer than that, but granted I always felt that way travelling by ship. For days to weeks you seemed trapped in a never changing landscape. It was suffocating after so long.
“Do you have any of the seven symptoms?”
“No. I don’t think the scales have really grown either,” Fletcher ran a hand through his hair as he examined the flower field depicted on the carpet under our feet. I wondered how he was coping with being infected? I personally had pushed back the thought of my impeding death in favor of focusing on finding a cure. But how long would I be able to keep avoiding the realty of it all?
“May I see?” She placed the notebook and pen down on the dark stained table in front of her, angling herself towards Fletcher. He rolled up his sleeve and she inspected the scale. She slipped on the magnified glasses that hung around her neck. She turned to me once she was finished with Fletcher.
I had already removed my long, leather glove. Her cool, smooth fingers grasped my wrist. She lifted it to eye level. Her expression remained a firm line as she probed the scale. Finishing, she removed her glasses and jotted down a few notes in notebook. Closing it, she placed everything back on the table. “Both of your illnesses could be progressing at a slow rate. I cannot say for certain though due to you not having any symptoms yet. Based on my correspondents with various tamers from Carntwin, it seems the older the Purowick, the less potent the poison is. So, let’s hope you were attacked by an older one,”
“Why do you think that is?” Caleb rested his chin in the palm of his left hand.
“As you know when people are young, they have more energy, more power, more strength. And as you get older people become weaker in theses areas. Its just how our bodies work, so I believe its likely the same for the Purowick. Their poison, I believe becomes less potent as their bodies just naturally decay,”
Caleb hummed as he gave a slight nod of his head and stared up at the ceiling. Mulling over what she had just said. He was ever inquisitive, even in pressing situations. It could get a little annoying in those times.
“Can you explain to us how this illness works?” I scrunched my skirt up in my hands. I needed to understand my condition.
“As I am sure you know the Purowick Scale is very unpredictable. Every person has a different timeline for their illness and even the symptoms don’t follow the same pattern. I have talked to 84 people who have had or have it and no one’s story is the same. The order and speed of the symptoms is different for every person, so I am afraid I cannot offer any guidance. I have made some potions, salves, and powders that help relieve some of the symptoms such as the scales, hazy vision and pink tinted eyes. But its all only temporary fixes,” Her face was downcast and she frowned.
I let out a heavy sigh as I sunk into the couch. Even to someone who had committed to studying the illness over her entire career it was still a vast mystery.
“How close are you to finding a cure?” Fletcher asked as he met my eyes behind Azalea’s head. His expression was blank, but I felt a little more grounded just looking at him. It reminded me I wasn’t in this alone.
“I have found various ingredients that have an impact on each of the symptoms and even the grey scale itself. I just haven’t found the right combination that will eradicate the illness entirely. Additionally, I am out of the majority of the ingredients and gathering them all is very time consuming, so I haven’t rounded them all up yet,”
“Well, that is something we could assist you with. We got a whole mercenary company we can send out scouring for them,” Caleb grinned, showing his teeth for once as he leaned forward in his seat. Hands clasped together, his eyes on me. I met his eyes and gave him a slight smile back. Maybe this illness was less mysterious than I thought. And though all the uncertainty around it could be overwhelming, I was not alone in this. I was the furthest away from alone I had ever been.