This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
The Waking (Theodore Roethke)
It's good to be a sailor, free on the sea
the wind in your hair, mother ocean beneath.
It's good to be a sailor, back home from the sea
Your family around you, the pear trees in leaf!
A Sailor's Life: Being a spirited homage to those brave men who commune with the sea in both fact and feeling. (Timofey Gafkovich)
A salty breeze from the kitchen window ruffles his pewter locks as Will Robinson sings the snippet of song, and the truth of the words sings through him in a way it never has before. He'd never planned to have a home of his own to return to. Then again he'd never expected to be in a relationship with a shapeshifting creature from his childhood fairytales either. As he mutters his own verses (all the wenches adore us and the drinks are on me!) it occurs to him that life itself is like the ocean, following a constant pattern, but at the same time, managing to be unpredictable.
Planned for or no, this life has its advantages, and just three days back from the sea on a lovely spring morning it's easy for Will to forget about the occasional chaffing that comes with adult responsibilities even as he works at chores. Part of the responsibility of having a home is maintaining it, of course. Back in his swinging bachelor days it didn't matter how long dishes sat in the sink (or on other available surfaces), or how many clothes covered the floor. Not that his partner, Lurp, is particular. After all, she had played nursemaid to vile Sette Frummagem and the wee rogue's troupe of tail fleas. Still, it's something Will expects of himself. Lurp keeps the house the weeks and months he's away at sea, and she's a fair enough hand at it, but after he's had a couple days rest he likes to make his way methodically through the house making small repairs or improvements as they occur to him.
Currently he's wrestling with a broken hotbox. Given her species' weakness to fire, Lurp won't go near the damn thing, so he doesn't know how long it's been broken or why it won't light. Mebbe...the lighting mechanism, he mutters and fiddles futilely for a moment with a pair of pliers. Will would be the first to admit that he's not the sharpest hook in the tackle box, but what he lacks in natural cleverness he makes up for in focus and dedication. He won't be bested by a box!
Ttsstch! Ttsstch! Ttsstch!
His attention is so absorbed by the thaumaturgical tangle it takes a moment for the sound of sneezes to reach him.
That tickle still botherin' ye? he calls absently, mind still more on box than her answer. Then his fingers get snagged by a spring, and he swears like--well, like a sailor--as his partner comes in from the next room. He doesn't look up from the frustrating magic-machinery hybrid, but reaches into his pocket and proffers a handkerchief in her general direction.
It takes him a moment to pin down why the action feels so strange, and when he does his he tears his eyes away from the box and looks her up and down. Arvul, shapeshifters such as Lurp, don't sneeze. Or throw up. Or breathe if they don't want to. In the years they've been together, he's grown accustomed to stifling certain behaviors that don't apply to Lurp. Like offering handkerchiefs. Part of being in a relationship he supposes, but that makes this feel very odd.
Are... are ye alright then? Not still solid are ye? Despite the malleability of her flesh, Lurp suffers from regular bouts of solid time when her body reverts to it's original form. In her natural state, Lurp's body is without it's usual defenses and more vulnerable to the same dangers mundane humans face. That had been yesterday. Will's eyes sweep over her from head to toe. The hair framing her long face is its natural mousy brown at the moment, her ears pointy and furred, but at the same time, the scars that decorate the left side of her face and body in her natural form are gone. No, she's definitely stretchy as Will calls it, but then how can she be sneezing?...
Will imagines Lurp's face mirrors his own, hedging on hesitant worry. She shakes her head.
I don't know... maybe something got stuck?
Wouldn't ye just push it out though? Being made of goo as they are, Arvul bodies can force out any materials foreign to them. Purging Lurp calls it. Will thinks the atoms that make her must be cliquish little buggers.
I don't know! she snaps. I've been trying.
Will can see fear trembling behind the anger in her eyes, so he breathes deeply of the spring air, smiles his most contagious grin, and re-proffers the hanky. Maybe ye should try the human method for ousting the wee bugger then.
Lurp finally takes the handkerchief but looks at it so dubiously Will has to fight the urge to laugh. She puts it up to her nose and gives a hesitant little huff of air.
No no, not so delicate like this. He pulls out another hanky, (a sailor could never have too many) and holds it up to his own nose. Cover it like this, and give a good honkin' blow. Will demonstrates, with flourish. Y'see? I'm a musician and ye never knew it. Lurp's mouth twitches. She hesitates, then raises the handkerchief as Will had, takes a deep breath and blows as hard as she can. The resulting blast nearly shakes the windows from their sills. Will can't help it now, Lurp's stunned expression leaves him doubled over with laughter.
Three days later Will isn't laughing anymore. Not only is Lurp still sick despite being stretchy and thus immune to illness, she's getting worse. The tickle has progressed to what appears to be a full out flu. The hotbox fixed, Will is doing the only thing he can think to do: making home remedies he'd learned from his mother.
From his vantage point in the kitchen he can watch Lurp where he's got her set up on the couch. At the moment, she's fiddling awkwardly with the handkerchiefs. She's gotten better with them, but Will's had to buy more. He can't keep up with the laundry at the rate Lurp is going through them. It's alright love, he calls, noting her drooping ears. We can hike Seal Beach another time. They'd planned to visit the tide pools. Will had promised to teach her about some of the creatures that lived in them, and after they were going to picnic on the beach. With Lurp being so sick though, Will's suggested they put it off. We'll still do it, he promises her. We've got almost a month before I sail out next. That's plenty of time to put you to rights and still play in the sand. He smiles at her and Lurp nods but doesn't look much cheered, so he changes the subject. What do your kind do for this sorta thing then? he asks turning his attention to ladling up an infusion his mother had made for him on days he was ill.
Dob know. If she were human, her stuffed nose pronunciations might be adorable. Neber seen aby- abydi- GUH! dis befo
You never saw this among your own kind? Will's head whips back to look at her. Before, he would have sworn Arvul couldn't get sick. Oh they had their weaknesses sure, some of which Lurp had shared with him (he suspected there were others she had not), but sickness like this, human lookin' sickness he'd thought was impossible. But then Lurp HAD gotten sick, so he assumed he'd simply misunderstood. But if Lurp has never seen anything like this among her own people... That can't be good.
Lurp shakes her head; sensing again she's on the edge of panic, Will lets it drop. Whatever it is acts like human illness. If it acts like what ails humans, then, Will figures, it oughta be cured by what cures them. He chucks her under the chin. Don't fret, Stretchy, me mother taught me a wondrous lot of things to fix what ails ye. He hands her the mug of dark steaming sludge. Just be grateful ye can't taste.
That night, though their room is quiet and dark as a favorite blanket pulled up over his head, Will can't sleep. Lurp slumbers next to him, oblivious to his tumbling thoughts. At least, he assumes she's asleep. He reaches out in the darkness and wraps an arm over her. It's weird lying with someone who doesn't breathe. Like spooning a flour sack, Will thinks. Or sleeping with his arms wrapped round his duffel among less trustworthy crewmates. Will knows he can't blame the restless flight of his thoughts on her stillness, though; they've shared a bed too long for it to shake him.
The scents of snow and flowers drift to him, and he leans closer to rest his nose against the nape of her neck. She smells like a mountainside in early spring. Sette, Lurp's erstwhile ward and natural magic sniffer had once informed him authoritatively that only people sensitive to magicks can smell Lurp. He's never had much of a head for spells, but he can still sense them when cast, so maybe the little thief was right. There isn't exactly anyone else he can ask. He wishes there were, then he could ask if it's only in his imagination that her smell is growing fainter.
Even if it is, does that mean anything? It's hard to know with Lurp. It's not as if she has a lot of vitals he can measure her progress by. Not as if he's ever had to measure it before. No pulse. No breath. At least when she sleeps. Awake she breathes, but that's just habit he thinks and not indicative of much. Even her temperature varies so wildly with her shifting that it isn't a reliable ruler of any sort.
His arm wraps tighter over her and he is struck by the contrast in their skin. He's darkly sun-gilded from his recent months at sea. Bronze and Silver Robinson Lurp calls him. Just a nice way of saying brown and grey really he thinks. Lurp on the other hand is pale. Skin color means little to a shapeshifter he supposes, but he also knows she hews close to her natural form because he favors it. When he first knew her, her skin was marked by a sallow undertone, even in various forms. Lately, it's developed a lovely, almost golden glow, which Will likes to take credit for. She's healthy, she's happy. At least she WAS. Does taking credit for that mean the blame for this is on his doorstep too?
He pulls her inert form tighter against himself, his hand splayed across her chest. It mars her pale skin like an old scar, but he leaves it there all the same, staking his claim. Lurp murmurs in her sleep. He listens, but can't make out the words. He strokes her skin absently until his fingers fumble over a length of chain. He sighs with recognition and his fingers trace down it's length to the rood that hangs from it. It had been his once, a gift from his father. It had meant the world to him, but he'd given it to her long ago, even before they were a couple. She had just spent days nursing him back to health and another day helping him find passage out of the city. Later, he couldn't remember what had sparked him to give it to her, and he had wondered after it. Lurp was not a believer after all. All the same, he's never regretted the gesture. He likes to think of it here, hanging safe just below her collarbone. He likes to think that it gives direction to his prayers, lets God keep an eye on her, despite her non-belief. He fingers it now thoughtfully, and murmurs a prayer for safety, for this-whatever it is- to pass her by.
Pressed this close to her, he can feel her kir. Only in the dead quiet of nights like this one, with her held close and all distractions distant, can he sense it. They'd been together more than a year before he'd finally recognized the sensation as the pulse Lurp sometimes referred to. It isn't a vibration exactly, nor a warmth, nor a sound, though he could compare it to all of them. He doesn't really feel or hear it per se so much as he SENSES it. He wonders if this is what people mean when they refer to a sixth sense. Sometimes it reminds him of the ocean, waves lapping through Lurp from lips to toe tips. In and out, back and forth. His thoughts drift on the current of it's steady rhythm. They scatter again as it flutters suddenly. Will goes very still, waiting for the sensation to come again. Hoping it doesn't. Lurp's kir resumes its steady rhythm, but the waves feel different now. He can't quite put a finger on what it is, but it reminds him of the way the sea feels beneath a boat in garbage choked waters. He lays silent, following the sluggish rhythm, and growing more concerned. Eventually he drifts off to sleep, his dreams sailing along on that same sluggish sea.
Despite Will's continued reassurances and outward cheer, all the poultices, stews, plasters and infusions he plies her with over the next few days do little to slow the progress of the disease. Her voice seems to clear, and he rejoices, only to watch helplessly as her skin is overrun by small, painful bumps. They remind Will of visits he's made to northern lands, where strange holes in the ground spit hot steam into the air. But Lurp's poppers, as Will names them, are spitting ick, not water. In fact Will's certain that some of what is oozing from Lurp's skin now is stuff that's supposed to stay inside her. Lurp had once explained to him that adult Arvul maintained a constant mass no matter their form, but she's begun to look stretched thin. Will worries that her own bits have started to go suicidal to take the nasty out with them.
As the disease progresses past any resemblance to human illness, Will breaks down and violates the most basic tenet of his relationship with Lurp: he seeks outside help. Lurp's existence depends upon secrecy. Arvul are considered mythical by most and assumed extinct by those scholars educated enough to be aware of their reality. In the old tales Will had heard as a child, they were the villains: evil shapeshifters and boogeymen parents used to scare children into obedience. Will knows that to most humans someone like Lurp would be seen as a threat, a curiosity, or a commodity, but never a person. When she was young Lurp had been captured by humans, and the scars that twist her skin in her true form bear silent witness to the dangers of being discovered for what she is.
So secrecy is essential. But so is time now too it seems. Mages are especially dangerous as Arvul are weak against many magics, particularly fire. Will knows that, to Lurp, those who can bend the elements to their will are NEVER to be trusted. But who else might know what impossible ailment could sicken a magical creature? Will feels trapped. It is small consolation that Lurp is weak enough now that when she finds out what he's been up to for her sake, she won't be able to kill him. Probably. So it is that Will crafts his messages carefully, words them hypothetically, and sends them from the local public house with a runner rather than delivering them in person or from his own address.
The responses to his hypothetical queries are alarming. He reads them in the same public house, fisting his hair in one hand and alternating between holding and crumpling responses in the other. At best it is obvious the respondents don't know a thing about Arvul beyond the common tales and superstitions. One or two assure him they could capture an Arvul for him if he would care to hire their services at very reasonable rates and send them a modest deposit. One sends him an envelope magicked to give him a slap upside the head when he opens it for-according the enclosed letter-wasting precious time with inane nonsense. At worst... well a few of the letters are graphically clear about how much the writer would like to learn more about Arvul. Preferably with a scalpel and specimen tray. Will turns pale as he reads these, and then rather than crumple them, rips them into the smallest pieces his shaking fingers can make.
When he returns home, ostensibly from running 'errands,' Will finds Lurp curled in a ball on the bed, crying. Aside from the internal puddle-in-place-of-organs seeing a woman cry always gives Will, the tears are alarming because they are coming from LURP. Yes she is his lover and of course he hates seeing her in pain, but it is more than that. Lurp doesn't cry. She rages, she sulks, sometimes she runs hot and cold on him at the same time, but Lurp rarely cries. Will casts his mind about for the last time he'd seen her cry and all he can come up with are times she nearly died. He's by her side in an instant. Lurp? Love? What's wrong? He knows what's wrong, she's sick! But he doesn't know what the specific wrong is, and until he knows he can't fix it. And he needs to fix it so that Lurp can stop crying and he can stop feeling like someone is running his intestines through a sausage grinder. H-hurts. It hurts... she gasps between tears.
What hurts? Can ye not shift your pain bits... Part of what made Lurp so tough, he knew, was her ability to shift the parts of herself that performed specific functions. Like pain reception. Hard for anything to hurt you when you keep your pain receptors pulled in deep below the surface.
Lurp can barely do more than wiggle her head through the sobs now though. Every where... everything.... hurts. It hurts...
This is not something he can fix. He squeezes her hand gently, afraid of hurting her more. I.. I'll go fix you some ossil tea, he says. Doubtful that it will do much good, he all but flees from the room.
Perhaps the idea that occurs to him next is a sign desperation has set in. Look, mebbe I've been goin' about this wrong. he says, sitting down on the edge of the bed Lurp hasn't left for three days. He brushes the hair from her face as he speaks enthusiastically. I know your lot are sneaky critters, and hard to find, but I have a leg up on the usual Arvul hunting nutters. Will recognizes that it's unfair, now that he knows Arvul exist, to characterize hobbyists convinced of the existence of Arvul sans evidence as crazy but... well, they've always struck him as loons and meeting Lurp hadn't changed that. I can start with the places your tribe used to move between. Even if they've established new camps, there might be clues to-
What?! despite her condition, Lurp sits up violently, her ears tilted as high as they can go and her eyes wide. No!
I know ye say ye never saw this before, but ye can't be the only of your kind to have ever experienced this, Shifty. If anybody'll know what to do, tis likely your folk.
Lurp growls and her ears flatten. They aren't my 'folk'!
Lurp had been cast out by her own tribe. When they saw what humans had done to her, they had labeled her kirj'aal, without soul. Hell, her own betrothed had told her he would kill her if she ever returned. Will knows she bears them no love and no allegiance.
Will raises his hands in a calming gesture. Peace now, Shifty, I just meant Arvul are more likely to know whats good for what ails an Arvul. Will doesn't actually like this plan. He knows he can't continue standing idly around as Lurp's condition worsens, but at the same time, Lurp isn't fit for travel and if he leaves her and anything happens to her...
Don't worry, ye don't have to come with me. Will's thoughts are interrupted and he misreads the worry on Lurp's face. He smiles hard to sell her on this. I know ye can't risk goin' back, and I imagine it wouldn't be happy memories for ye. I can catch a boat first thing on the morrow, and be back before I have to sail with the Queen Anne in three weeks time, and- he's getting warmed up now and Lurp has to grip his arms to snap him out of it.
No Will! You don't understand! Will sputters mid-sentence and trails off. Even if you DO find Arvul, they'll kill you-
I can hold me own-
And then they'll eat you!
Eat me... Will scoffs, but feels a fluttering in the pit of his stomach all the same. He's seen how Lurp can eat, wrapping herself around something, and slowly digesting it like a snake. He shudders.
Why would they eat me? I never done aught to them.
Will, you're human. That would be reason enough.
Will frowns, but Lurp continues. They won't be able to help,
You don't know tha-
AND you'll get hurt for nothing. Her eyes bore into his, and he can't look away. I see humans get sick and get better all the time, she reasons, This will pass.
But it doesn't pass. The poppers heal and the sneezing abates, but she continues to grow thinner until she is downright GAUNT. She hardly speaks, and never shifts anymore.
Will suspects he's beginning to look ill himself. He sports a layer of stubble, and dark bags under his eyes. Will Robinson, fate's favorite whipping boy he thinks bitterly, making his way up the stairs to bring Lurp another infusion. He's long since stopped expecting any of them to work, but he can't keep his traitorous heart from hoping each and every time.
Will... Lurp croaks as he comes into the room. Her voice is no longer nasal. Rather, it's hoarse, sounding as if it comes from far away. If she were human, he would think the sickness had moved from her sinuses into her chest, but as Lurp lacks proper versions of either, he doesn't know what to make of it.
If I die...
Will's never met anyone more afraid of death than Lurp. He's never met anyone who has fought harder against it in any and every form. Not that he's fond of the idea himself, but it's something that comes with life, that one accepts as inevitable. Lurp though resists it with all her might. That she can now speak of it with such resignation in her voice sets his teeth on edge.
You're not gonna die.
But if I do...
I'm NOT gonna let that happen. It takes a conscious effort to relax his jaw, and force a smile. Ye've got a while to put up with me yet, Shifty. Here, drink this. he holds out a wooden cup.
Lurp sighs and rolls her eyes when he won't let her finish, but she stops trying to speak to him of her death. He's relieved. She wrinkles her nose at the tonic, but sits up and takes it from his hand, first sipping, and then choking the rest down in one quick quaff. She shudders and lays back down. Will moves around to the other side of the bed and crawls in next to her.
Despite her shivers, Lurp is sweating. Or, at least that's what it looks like. A thin sheen has covered her since the poppers faded. He reaches up to stroke her hair, but even it is sweating. His mouth screws up in revulsion, but he pulls his fingers through it all the same, tracing her scalp stroke after stroke and then dividing it into three strands for braiding. It is quiet for a moment, both of them lost in their own thoughts.
Will braids her hair absently as he used to do Nevra's, and his sisters' too when they were sick. He's never done it for Lurp as she always shifts her hair into whatever shape she wants, (not to mention color, length and texture), but lately she hasn't felt up to it, and Will thinks she'll feel better with the greasy locks out of her face.
Another of your mother's? Lurp asks finally about the infusion.
Aye. Will answers.
She must have been quite a woman...
Aye, that she was he sighs. She'd died when he was ten. His father hadn't let him leave the knights barracks to visit her for months... and then she was gone. What about yours? Ye never have told me about her. Will changes the subject. Lurp doesn't speak much about herself as a general rule. He feels like the bits he has of her past he's had to pry out of her.
I don't remember much about her. She died when I was three.
Damnit. He'd been trying to avoid taking the conversation in that direction, and here it's circled back around and pounced him from behind. I'm sorry...
Lurp rolls over on her back. That's one of my first memories
Her death? Will asks softly, wishing he could find a way around it.
She rolls her head on the pillow, back and forth. No, her... Her eyes wander. Will has seen her do this before, when searching for a human word to match an Arvul concept. Her...wake? she says, then nods to herself .
I remember, the stars were just coming out when we carried her to the Cave of Sleep. There was a procession... she squints I remember faces, but not names. Will props himself up on his good elbow to listen. There was a large stone... they laid her on it... She closes her eyes and Will watches, waiting. It's hard to remember... I was so young... don't think I fully understood what was happening. I remember Father got the funeral blade because he had loved her best and I remember his face, lit up in the glow after he traced her lifelines. It was beautiful... despite the sadness...
The glow? Will feels apprehensive without knowing why.
Lurp turns her face toward him. Remember that night you found me in the tarnet woods? After the wolves had left me?
Not likely to forget that. Will grimaces as images flicker behind his eyes. Lurp naked, alone, her spine broken like the wishbone of a feast day turkey, and golden blood rising from her wounds in a luminescent mist...
Hold on! Are ye sayin' he cut her? Will sits up, but Lurp just nods.
Buh.. he stammers Why!
To release her Lurp answers with a sigh. Trace the life lines to light the path, she recites crack the cage to free the kir... Will's eyes are wide with horror, but if Lurp notices, she's ignoring it. He feels her slimy hand close around his.
When her kir emerged from the slit I... thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. This perfect ball of light, this tiny sun. And for a moment I... I swear I felt it watching me. Her watching me. The silence between them is palpable.
Then it rose up into the air, circled our heads, and flew free.
Will releases a breath he hadn't known he was holding, feeling like a gormless 10 year old sneaking peeks of penny dreadfuls he's not allowed to read.
Where did it go?
Where do any of us go when we die?
But then... I still don't understand... why'd he cut her?
If the kir is left in the body, trapped, unable to leave, it eventually goes out.
Out? Will knew that the Arvul saw the kir as heart, mind, and soul in one. How could a soul just go out?
Lurp closes her eyes. Like a candle flame. Will digests this for a moment in silence, until Lurp speaks again Arvul have differing beliefs about what comes after death, but we all fear smothering, that's why, she squeezes his hand more tightly Will, if I don't make it...
None of this again! You're GOING ta make it, Shifty.
She opens her eyes, searching for his. But if I don't-
I'm not about to let you die.
Of course, but if I DO...
No! Will moves to pull away, but Lurp's grip anchors him.
Please, Will... She sounds near tears Please....
Will huffs and then turns to look into her eyes. M'not letting anything happen to ye, Shifty, but if... I dunno, if the end of the world comes tomorrow, and I'm struck deaf 'n blind 'n stupid, and so ye die, I promise I won't let ye smother, a'right? Now leave off, and quit thinking about keelin' over on me. Lurp closes her eyes and nods, finally releasing his hand.
This is the last straw. Lurp had saved him from the Eye, Lurp had nursed him back to health after he was broken at the hands of sadists and specters. He had believed then that she was beautifully tough, that nothing could ever touch her. Seeing her like this.... Will doesn't care what she'd said before, if Lurp is making plans for her own demise, Lurp who's fought tooth and claw to survive, passionate, strong Lurp, then no phantom fears of what could happen while he's away, no man-eating Arvul are going to stand in his way. He must leave, and he must find help. He just can't tell her what he plans.
Instead, his decision made, he manages a genuine smile. Didn't ye say it? Humans get sick and get better all the time. Ye'll be fine
It takes him two days to prepare-to gather all the money he can beg or borrow from friends, book passage on a ship, find someone he can trust to watch over Lurp- and those same two days to come up with a cover story about what he will be doing while he is away.
Don't worry, he tells her on the evening of the second day as he unveils his new plan. He doesn't give her a chance to disagree or dissuade I bought tickets on a mage ship, so I'll be back in three weeks tops. The Queen Anne's sailing by then after all, and I'm just goin' ta Ulpha. I found a book once, after I first met ye, about your kind. It didn't have a lot of info, but where there's one, there's gotta be more, eh? There's a university in Ulpha devoted to magical studies. Its library is famous and I figure if any place were going to have information on Arvul, that would be it. And if the library DIDN'T have what he was looking for, it was conveniently close to the Ulphan mountains, a supposed base of Arvul sightings, and only a hop skip and a jump from Lurp's own former stomping grounds. Not that he tells her any of this.
Minnow's going to mind ye while I'm gone, and take care of ye. Lurp's scrunches up her nose as if she's just smelled something foul. Minnow was a nereid, a siren of the seas and all that implied, and she and Will had been friends-and bedmates-long before he'd met Lurp. Will knows Lurp can't stand her, so he softens the blow by beeping her nose.
Now now, Shifty, he laughs Jealousy don't suit ye. Lurp grumbles, and he brings a hand down to stroke her cheek No worries, love, he says more seriously She's a good friend, and she'll make sure you're all right, while I'm gone. Who better to care for a magical creature than another magical creature? Will isn't happy about leaving Lurp, but he knows he couldn't leave her in better hands.
And now, he rises from his chair, I'd better get packed and see to some last minute things. I'm leaving pretty early in the morning. He leans down to touch his forehead to hers, slimesweat be damned, but when he rises and turns to leave, he finds Lurp's hand locked in a death grip around his. He turns back to her and he can see the fear she will not voice plain as day in her eyes. She wants him to stay he thinks. She's afraid of dying alone. Will feels like he's swallowed shards of molten glass. Even so, he's doing the right thing. He's not going to let her die, he's going to find a cure, and come back with it. He manages a smile, and gently eases his hand from hers. It's all going to be fine, Shifty, you'll see. Lurp goes limp when his hand is gone from hers, and turns her face away.
By the next morning, Lurp seems to have resigned herself to his departure, but that doesn't mean she's happy about it. Breakfast is a tense and grumpy affair and Will is relieved to hear a knock at the door. That'll be her, better get that, he says scooting out and down the stairs before Lurp can hurl more than dirty looks his way.
He opens the door on Minnow's wide smile. Me thanks forever, Minnow lass, ye just saved me from a corn muffin to the head!
Minnow laughs and hugs him. Good to see you too, sailor. The patient feeling feisty this morning? Could be a good sign.
Will smiles as she steps inside and closes the door behind her. In seriousness, I really 'preciate this Minnow. I couldn't leave her alone like this, but m'not gonna find answers sittin' on my hands here either.
Of course Will! What are friends for? She beams at him and hugs his arm as he leads her up the stairs and down the hall. She releases him before they reached the bedroom. Lurp's jealousy is no secret to Minnow either.
Will's glad he blocks Lurp's view of the nereid at first, because it takes Minnow a moment to school her expression at the sight of the shapeshifter's condition. Thought I was exaggerating? he asks under his breath. Really, he'd hoped so. Minnow's reaction kills any hope he had that his mind was just making Lurp's condition out to be worse than it really is because he loves her. He manages to make his voice cheery though as he calls out to the Arvul on the bed. Here's Minnow shifty, ye just let 'er know if ye need anything. Together they approach the bedside. Will clears off the breakfast trays, and Lurp pulls her blanket back up over her head. He turns to Minnow.
Keep her eating Minnow nods. Broth for you! he says to Lurp and chuckles as she groans under the covers. I'll be back with answers, Shifty, and you'll be better in no time, just leave it to ol' Will He leans down and noses under the blanket to steal a kiss. Mind Minnow now and be a good lass Lurp growls, and Will doesn't need words to interpret her meaning. Minnow looks to him with raised eyebrows. That's stretchy for 'lemme alone and quit treating me like a great baby' Will explains. Another growl from under the covers confirms his translation and Will laughs, making a grab for her ankle through the cover and shaking it gently. Lurp jerks it back
Love ye too, Shifty! Then with one more smile for Minnow, and a worried glance to the bundle on the bed Will turns to go.
Fortune's journey. Minnow calls softly. Will waves without looking back.