Inglorion returns to his tent to draft an update to his first report, but finds himself checking Lucius again and again, suspecting that he’s feverish. He’s angered and frustrated by the suffering he sees around him; he’s questioning his own judgment, and the entire rescue effort. In the end he jots down something that sounds miserably imprecise to his ears.
Valentine privately thinks that Inglorion indulges in morbid fears about Lucius’s health. The boy is fragile, but he’s never seemed sickly. He’s surprised, then, when Sextus examines Lucius and tells Inglorion, “You’re right to be concerned. It might just be a severe migraine, but he’s running a fever. It could be gaol fever. The symptoms are also consistent with influenza. He may have picked it up days ago, or —” he pauses. “If some of the prisoners were ill with influenza, they may have…”
“Died already. Yes, of course. What do you recommend?”
“He can’t travel on horseback, naturally. Is there someone who could come here to nurse him? Someone who knows his constitution?” Inglorion hesitates, so Sextus says, “Sir, your son is very ill. We can watch him for another 12 hours to be sure of the diagnosis, but if you have someone in mind, I would send a messenger now.”
“His mother. I don’t know what she has been exposed to or had, but she’s very practical, and familiar with his constitution.”
Sextus says delicately, “I can understand your reluctance to ask your wife to join you here, sir. It is a gamble. I can give you a list — if she’s had influenza recently, been exposed to certain illnesses, the risk is lessened.”
Inglorion doesn’t bother to correct his misapprehension. He merely nods and says, “Please do. I’ll write a cover letter, and send it tonight.”
The situation is difficult here. We have rescued a large number of slaves. They were transported in conditions of barbaric cruelty, and many are injured or ill with gaol fever. Lucius has been ill for two days now. The medic has ruled out gaol fever, but believes it may be influenza. His condition is far from desperate, but he needs more care than we can give him. I hate to ask you to come here — conditions are primitive, and there is some risk of infection. I leave it to your discretion whether to come. You know your constitution and his best. You will find enclosed a list of ailments that may provide some immunity. My judgment may be impaired by lack of sleep and the press of responsibility and care, but the medic is concerned, I know that my own health was poor through my teens. I fear that Lucius may have some of the same weakness; perhaps, since you are not Drow, you are stronger than he.
If you do come, please bring anything you require for your comfort and to care for him; also, any items you can supply from the attached list would be helpful. Travel on horseback, and ride cross-country. The bearer of this letter has been paid to act as a courier and guide.
If you cannot come I will understand, and will soldier on without you. It is bad here. I have spent the last four days burying the dead, digging privies, and struggling to provide food, water, and shelter for the surviving captives. However, I know that you are good and wise and resilient, and it would be a great comfort to Lucius to see your face and hear your voice.
Virginia, I feel that I am not eloquent on this subject, but please know that I love you with all my heart and soul and mind and body.
As he seals the letter, Inglorion realizes that he has never asked a woman other than Sieia for help. It’s not unreasonable to think that Virginia will want to nurse her own son. Though he does not say it, he longs for her wisdom, and for the comfort of her presence.
He pays one of the three remaining Gypsies to carry the letter, and says, “Please, Brother, guide my wife back if she can come. If you can find a priest who can come to us here, bring him as well. I want to see your people properly buried.” The man bows coldly and silently, and Inglorion is forced to rely on his sense of honor. He feels sick, humbled and exhausted as he makes his final round of those portions of the camp that are not under quarantine, distributing water and food, talking to people, observing them.
As he prepares to retire to his tent, Sextus stops him, says, “Sir, if it is influenza, it’s highly contagious.”
“I’m never ill,” says Inglorion coldly. “And, indeed, neither is Valentine or Aramil. Are there precautions I can take that would permit me to care for him tonight?”
“Wash your hands and face and boots with soap and water each time you leave, and have your man wash your clothes and dry them tonight. Your wife will bring you a change of clothing, of course — women think of such things.”
Aramil and Valentine both retreat to the slaves’ quarters. Aramil says, “As much as we delight in your company, you both need peace and quiet. Valentine and I are old soldiers, and we can sleep perfectly well in a barracks, or anywhere else.”
Inglorion’s trance is light and disturbed. Lucius is restless and nauseated. Though his stomach is empty, he often retches miserably. His joints and head ache — of course it’s not just a migraine. “I’ve asked your mother to come to you,” Inglorion says. “She will care for you better than I can.”
Lucius seems relieved. “If you ask, she will come,” he says simply.
“I hate to ask her to come here.”
“You did right. She’s stronger than either one of us, stronger than you can imagine.” He’s feverish, and the pain is so bad that he can’t lie still.
After an hour, Sextus comes to check on him, and gives him a few drops of a tincture of opium. He looks narrowly at Inglorion. “Do you want something to help you to rest? You look terrible.”
“No, thank you. Trance is difficult for me in the best of times. I’ll rest when there’s time, when the crisis has passed.”
Sextus nods. “You know best. If you change your mind, let me know. You don’t look well, and many people are relying on your health.”
Inglorion grimaces. “That’s a bleak thought.”
For the first episode of Inglorion’s adventures, click here.
For a linked table of contents, listing all of Inglorion and Valentine’s adventures, click here.