Addergoole
Interlude: Conrad and Kailani


“Hold on, Kaia. Just a little further.” The fish were swimming around her in circles now, like sharks after blood. Was that a myth or a fact? She couldn’t remember.

“I…” She shut her mouth quickly on what felt like incipient sickness. The floor was a very long way away, the white skirt of her dress trailing behind her, over the threshold, like…

“Oh.” Looking around was too vertiginous, so she pressed her face against Conrad’s chest and closed her eyes. There was something important she’d been talking about. Love. Dating. ”You asked me something.”

“It can wait until we’re sure you’re okay.” The floor changed again, so quickly, wood to carpet to tile... hadn’t it? They were moving, so that was reasonable, wasn’t it? And then there was another voice, a strange voice.

“It’s a little early in the night for alcohol poisoning, isn’t it?” She thought she knew the voice, but it sounded all wrong, as if she was hearing it through deep water. ”What have you been doing to the poor girl, Conrad?”

“Nothing,” he stammered, clearly flustered. ”She just fell...”

There was a pause, that somehow seemed as if it was saying something, and then the strange voice said, “ah?” It seemed as if they would do better if they understood, so Kai twisted in Conrad’s arms, trying to see what was going on.

He held her more tightly, all fourteen fingers wrapping around her as if afraid he might lose her. ”I thought Doctor Caitrin should have a look at her?”

“The world seems to be turning incorrectly,” Kai told the nurse, who was frowning at them. ”I got woozy, and Conrad kept me from falling down.” It was an inelegant explanation, but it was all she could manage before the nausea threatened again. She closed her eyes, and retreated to the shelter of the darkness.

Someone, presumably the nurse, took her wrist and felt for a pulse, the cold fingers feeling soothing against her overheated skin. ”Bring her into examining room two, and the doctor will be with her in a moment.”

And then she was moving again, and Conrad was speaking softly to her. “It’s alright, Kaia, you’re going to be alright.” The table he set her on was cold and hard, and the abrupt lack of motion was as bad as the motion itself, but his arms were still around her.

“Don’t...” It was vital that she not make imperative sentences. She couldn’t quite remember why at the moment (it seemed like large portions of her memory had shut off. She should be worried about that, shouldn’t she?), but she knew it was important. ”Please stay here with me.”

He nodded, brushing her hair gently out of her face. ”I won’t leave you, Kaia.”

“Thank you.” She leaned back against him, wondering where her cynical little voice of paranoia had gotten to. Shouldn’t it be whispering that promises like that never lasted?

I’m scared.

“I’m scared.”

“Nothing to be scared of. I’m here for you. The doctor will be here any second.”

“I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

“It’ll be okay. Just relax.”

That seemed impossible, but she leaned against him, letting her body go limp. The world seemed to be muted, fuzzy, like she was wrapped in layers of insulation. It would be peaceful, if it weren’t also terrifying.

“I think I’m turning stupid,” she whispered.

“Don’t be silly.” The crisp voice was not Conrad’s, and she hadn’t heard anyone enter. Her eyes flew open, and, just as quickly, she squeezed them shut.

“Bright!” she complained.

Fingers touched her temple, a cool, businesslike touch, not Conrad’s. Were there words, or was she imagining it? The faint susurrus seemed to be a part of the background, and clearly wasn’t English, so she let it go as Conrad’s voice rose over it, cutting through the cottony feeling in her ears. ”You’re going to be okay Kaia, Dr. Caitrin’s here now. Just keep your eyes closed.”

“Okay,” she murmured. He’d make everything all right. The hands on her temple went away, but Conrad’s hands were still there.

“Kailani?” The doctor’s voice was as clear as her touch. ”Can you understand me?”

“Yes.” It was nice to have something she could be certain about. ”Yes.”

“All right. Somebody has drained a lot of your energy from you. That’s why you feel so strange; it’s as if you haven’t eaten or slept in several days, maybe a week. You’re going to be all right, as long as you take it easy for a few days and don’t do anything at all strenuous. That means no magic,” she added sharply.

“Drained... who? How?” She couldn’t see Conrad’s face, but his distress was clear in his tone. Hadn’t he said everything was okay?

“That sounds bad?” she offered, hoping he’d tell her more. He wouldn’t lie to her… would he? He’d said he couldn’t, right?

“Yes, that’s bad... Doctor? Can you tell us anything more?”

“It’s not the first case I’ve seen this week, but it looks like whoever it is, they’re getting more bold. They were reaching for the core of your power, Kailani. You’re lucky you got away from there as fast as you did.”

“Not luck.” Shaking her head hurt, but she did it anyway. ”Conrad.” Power? “Power? But…” She couldn’t put her finger on why that sounded wrong. “Not my change, then?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

“Would it be someone we were near, then, or could they do it from across the room?”

“It depends on how good they are.” She touched Kailani’s forehead again, and the inside of both wrists. ”They’d have to be in the room with you, but that’s not saying much at those dances. For a student to do it, they’d have to be close, maybe touching her.”

“Touching...” Conrad muttered pensively, as he considered Caitrin’s words.

“The only people I touched…” She struggled to remember, wondering why her brain was so slow. ”…were you and Nikolai. Nick wouldn’t… would he?”

“I don’t think so, but we can ask him. And... who else was there? Dawfyyd, Gennie, Xaviera.”

“Xyradia, Dysmas, Anatoliy,” she offered blurrily. ”And Nenica and Nydia.” She giggled softly. ”X’s and N’s.”

“I don’t think Gennie or Dawfyyd can do that. Ditto for Tolly, Nenica, and Xyradia. That leaves Dysmas and Xaviera, if it was one of them.”

“Isn’t...” she swallowed, fighting to think, “isn’t Dysmas a vampire?”

“He is. I thought he needed to bite you to do something like that, but I really don’t know how it works.”

“Doctor?” Kai opened her eyes slowly, cautious, but the light was more bearable.

Dr. Caitrin pursed her lips and shook her head slowly. “Possibly. I’ll talk to Professor VanderLinden again. You, young lady, should go to bed.” She glared at Conrad. “To sleep.”

“Of course,” he burst out quickly, sounding embarrassed. “She’s okay to go home, though?”

“Bed rest, lots of fluids, lots of calories.” Caitrin nodded crisply. “You take care of her.”

“I will, I promise.”

“mm-hrmm.” She patted Kailani’s shoulder gently. “Get some sleep, dear.”

“Mmm-hrmm.” The world was losing what little clarity remained. She closed her eyes to shut out the fuzziness.

Then she was moving again, secure in Conrad’s arms. It was a wonderful feeling.

He laid her down gently in what was probably his bed, and stretched out alongside her. “Sleep,” he murmured, and she did.

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