Monday, June 30, 2008

Chapter 24

by Amanda Cast


Pandora ended up alone the next day. The food and rest gave her back some strength, but she hardly felt normal. Her movements still felt clumsy and weak. Her legs were too shaky for her to do more than take a few steps before she had to lay down again. At lunch she could feed herself, but it was slow and tired her out. Only Serene and the hatchlings were permitted to visit her now that she was awake. They were afraid that others might tire her out too much.

Pandora was glad that she did not easily get bored.

No one talked to her. No one asked her questions, and for a while it encouraged her to stay silent and enjoy the peace. Her mind had not let her be when she was sleeping. Now her mind was quiet, almost as though it was at peace. She couldn’t bring herself to think about the things it said. The debate on whether or not to tell Serene lasted only a short time in her head before tiring of the subject.

Mostly, Pandora ate, slept, and took a few steps for exercising when she felt strong enough to do it.

Her peace was short lived the next day. She woke to the sound of her door opening and closing. She expected to see Serene, but it was Chloe who was standing there. She was dressed in the robes of the infirmed and in the dim morning light that came from the window she looked haggard and worn. She was sick.

She giggled insanely and then coughed. She coughed so hard that she fell to her knees. It sobered her up a little, but she still had a crazy look in her eyes. “I never felt better after they let me loose,” she told Pandora in a hushed, strained voice. “I felt like I had power. My enchantments lasted twice as long, but I still got sick. Humans still get sick.”

Pandora stared at her, waiting.

“I bet you’re thinking I should thank you,” she said with a twisted grin. “You think I should tell you how grateful I am that you saved me. How much I’ve changed.” She edged closer, but Pandora called out, knowing what was to come and that she had on strength to fight her off.

Chloe flew at her, reaching for her face with her hands. Most specifically she was going for Pandora’s nose. Pandora batted her hands away feebly. Chloe felt strong, much stronger than Serene had. Chloe got passed her defenses through sheer power. Pandora knew all the moves, but not the physical ability to make them work. Everything was sluggish. Before Pandora knew it Chloe’s fingers were hooked up her nose and then torn away.

“You’re a damn crazy bitch!” a familiar, masculine voice said and then there was the sound of a fist contacting of flesh. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Chloe screamed out angrily and Pandora slowly rolled over to see what was happening. Greg was straddling Chloe and trying to keep her hands locked. It was reassuring to know that Chloe did not have Pandora’s strength and cunning.

Others came and restrained Chloe with spells. “What are you doing?” one of the healers asked. “You should be in bed.”

“Nothing!” Chloe said. “I just came here to thank Pandora for saving my life and then he attacked me. I didn’t do anything.”

“That’s a lie!” Greg shouted angrily. “She was infecting Pandora. Pandora is too weak to handle the illness. She could die.”

None of the healers looked particularly stricken by this knowledge. One of them frowned at Chloe and then gripped her and pulled her out of the room.

“Well, if she is a lost cause then we might as well let her die in peace,” he said and reached for Greg’s arm.

Greg pulled away and took a step back. “What the fuck is wrong with you people? She’s a little girl, for Christ’s sake. You’re just going to let her fucking die? What the hell? She doesn’t deserve that. If she dies I’ll make sure every last one of you mother fuckers dies too.”

“That is not a nice thing to say,” one of the healers said reproachfully.

“I don’t give a flying fuck if it’s not nice,” he said and picked up a decorative vase and threw it at him. “That crazy fucking bitch is trying to kill her and her cousin and all you can fucking say is she’s a lost cause and can die in peace? The hell? You assholes are freaks, fucking heartless freaks.”

“There is no need to use that language in front of a child,” the healer said tersely.

“The fuck I care,” he said. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he shouted. “You can go fuck yourselves. I’m not fucking listening to this bullshit. I’m going to take care of her myself. The others who don’t catch the flu know what to do. I don’t have time anymore if I’m going to make sure she survives.”

The healers frowned and glared at him. “Fine, if that is your wish.” The healers turned and walked out.

Greg turned and looked at Pandora apologetically. “I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner. What is wrong with these people?”

Pandora gave a weak shrug. Her mouth was heavy and incapable of movement. She couldn’t talk. She didn’t have the strength.

“I’m going to see if I can get a hold of Serene. You’re going to have a constant guard here if it’s the last thing I do. No one is going to in here and harm you.” He walked over and reached out as if to touch her. He thought better of it and pulled his hand back. He turned and started to leave. “Hey, Pandora,” he said softly, “Could I call you Amazon?”

Pandora stared at him for a moment as her mind worked out why he would want to call her that. When it struck her that it was part of their ill fated dinner conversation she gave a weak, short laugh and then nodded.

“Thanks,” he said and left her, closing the door behind him.


“Hell,” Greg said as he touched her forehead. “It’s already pretty hot. I don’t have a thermometer. I’ve no idea how bad it really is.” He frowned. “I’m too young to have to worry about this. People have to go to school for this.”

“Didn’t you go to school?” Serene asked, worried.

“Of course I did, you twit,” he said fercely.

“Don’t call Momma a twit,” Rubio said warningly. Heat radiated off of his body.

“Whatever,” he mumbled. “Hey, can any of you conjure up some water?” he asked and looked at the tub he had managed to talk someone into bringing up. Well, threaten was more the word.

Serene frowned. “Calling elements was never quite my strong suit.”

He frowned. “Well, I can’t do it. What about you three?”

The hatchlings shook their heads.

“You do ice, right, Star?” Greg asked.

Star nodded. “I do.”

“Well, ice is just frozen water. You think you could freeze the water in the air over the tub? Then Rubio here could eat it back up to proper temp?”

“Well, I don’t know how much they can control their powers, Greg. It’s a good idea…”

Greg frowned at her and then closed his eyes, trying to compose himself. “Look, your cousin’s life is on the line here. Could you just ask them already?”

“Fine,” Serene said. “They can try it, but if it fails this is on you. Not them. They’re only a week old, after all.”

“I have faith in them,” Greg said.

Pandora smiled weakly. She was feeling tired and nauseous. Every few moments she would sip some broth. It made her stomach roil and knot up, but so far she had managed to keep it all down. Slow and easy does it.

Star preened. “Well, if you think I can do it, Greg,” she crooned, “I’ll try.”

“Good,” he said with a grin and stood back. Rubio concentrated and the air around Pandora became warmer than it had been.

Star nodded to Rubio with approval and then stared hard at the area right above the tub. Slowly, but surely, ice crystals began to form and fall. It seemed to take forever, but eventually the tub was over flowing and the air felt unbearably dry.

<First><Chapter 23><Chapter 25><Latest>

No comments: