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Episode 36: Not an Infection | Nora

Updated: Jul 12

I had already consumed a few pieces of fruit and two slices of cheese, plus a mug of water Fiska had poured for me, when a knock sounded on the doorframe.

Fiska and I turned as the door nudged open.

Vannie peered in through the crack of the doorway. “I have Kian with me. Is it alright if he comes in?”

I set my tray on the bed and stared at her, my thoughts of our recent experience in the cavern colliding with the present reality, in which we seemed to be pretending the other hadn’t happened.

I raised my eyebrows. “This is his room.”

She smirked. “Well, yes, but he wants to make sure you’re all comfortable with him coming in.”

I swallowed, feeling embarrassed all over again as I remembered how I’d acted toward him at our last encounter—and how I’d felt toward him, which he’d also been able to read. But maybe this was my chance to make it right.

I nodded. “Of course. Yes. Tell him to come in.”

Vannie gestured to someone outside the door, and when she entered, Kian was only a few steps behind her.

“Your Majesty.” He bowed to me, then rose, his gaze avoiding me and drifting to Mother. “She’s sleeping?”

I nodded. “Yes. But only for the last few moments. If you need to wake her—”

His eyes finally met mine. “No, the rest is good for her. Do you mind if I observe her breathing and heartbeat for a moment? I’ll do my best not to wake her.”

“Of course.”

Kian slid past me toward Mother, and Fiska rose from beside the bed to give him room.

Vannie turned to me. “Your mother is in good hands, Nora.”

I glanced back at Kian. “I know. I’m sorry for how I acted before. You’ve both done nothing but help her.” I said it loudly enough to be certain Kian heard me, but he didn’t react at all. He was engrossed in watching Mother.

“Is she alright?” I asked him.

This time, he did look at me. “I believe she will be—for now. Her breathing seems improved, and her heartbeat is stable. But, Your Majesty—”

“Please, call me Nora.”

Fiska cut me an annoyed glance, but discarding my royal title and asking him to address me as a friend was the least I could do toward making amends with Kian, after how I’d treated him.

He gave me a small smile, though it quickly fell away. “Very well. Nora, your Mother is quite ill.”

I stared at him. “I’m aware. But I’d hoped—”

He shook his head. “What I’ve done here isn’t a cure, Nora. It’s only a bandage. Perhaps, if I knew more about the source of her illness, I could help further?”

I stared off, trying to recall any details about Mother’s illness that might help him. “It was mild at first—just some breathlessness, or an occasional coughing bout when something winded her.”

“When did that begin?” Kian’s face was pure focus, now—like a man on a quest.

“A few months ago, maybe? But it got much worse when they put us in the dungeon.”

His eyes widened. “How long were you there?”

“Fifteen days.” I’d counted.

“Was there dampness? Cold?”

I nodded, my chest growing tight. “Yes… and a bit, yes.”

“Did they feed her well?”

A sharp laugh escaped me. “Goodness, no. They practically starved us.”

Kian glanced back at Mother, thinking. “A simple lung infection should not be lingering so stubbornly, not after what I gave her.” He turned back to me. “Did she try using her magic while ill? Was it affected?”

Anxiety clenched at my chest again. “I—I’m not sure. She couldn’t use her magic in the dungeon. Neither of us could. She’s only had it back since shortly before arriving here, and she’s been too weak to try using it. Why? Does that matter?”

Kian cut a concerned glance at Fiska. “It might.”

I swung my gaze to Fiska, and did not like the expression I saw there. “Fiska?” I stepped toward her. “What aren’t you telling me?”

When her gaze finally met mine, her eyes had filled with tears that sent my heart thudding.

“I’m so sorry, Nora. She asked me not to tell you.”

“Not to tell me what?”

Fiska sighed, but the resolve in her eyes gave way.

I knew in an instant she was about to tell me what I’d wanted to know—but I suddenly wasn’t so sure I wanted to know it.

“It’s not an infection, Nora,” Fiska said softly. “Your mother’s been cursed.”

“A curse?” Vannie and I both shouted at the same time, and when I glanced over at her, her eyes were wide.

“I’ll go,” Vannie said quickly. “Kian, come with me. Clearly, there’s something they need to disc—”

“No.” Mother’s quaky voice brought absolute silence. She’d woken.

When I looked at her, her jaw was set.

“We came here—for a reason, Nora.” She sucked a long breath. “The prince already knows it.” Another breath. “It’s time the princess—and her healer—know, too.”

I gaped at her. “And the king?” Did he already know? Is that why he was so adamant we weren’t welcome? So adamant I not go near his son?

“He doesn’t know.” Fiska cut in, her gaze jumping to Kian, then to Vannie. “And neither does the queen. And they mustn’t. Not now.”

Vannie straightened, her whole posture suddenly a stubborn, regal princess. “You’re asking me to keep a secret from my own parents? From the very king and queen who have welcomed you into our home?”

She was one to talk, given what I knew she was already keeping from them. But I didn’t dare say that here… plus, being asked to keep another monarch’s secret from her parents was a different situation than keeping one of her own.

If they found out, would they consider this treason?

Panic began mounting in my chest again, but Fiska shared a glance with Mother, then nodded.

“Yes,” Fiska said firmly. “We beg your discretion, Princess—at least for now.”

Vannie narrowed her eyes. “Why?”

To my absolute shock, it was Kian who answered. “Because they know about Faolan. They think it’s all connected. I can feel it.”

“Oh,” Vannie said, and her face went pale.

Faolan?” The word shot out of me. “What about Faolan?” I spun toward Mother and Fiska. “What are you hiding from me, and why?”

Kian’s gaze slid to me. “Nora really doesn’t know,” he told Vannie. “I’m sure of that. She’s confused and utterly shocked.”

My stare bounced between him, Fiska, Vannie, and Mother. Was I the only one who had no idea what anyone was talking about?

Kian’s eyes softened, then he turned to Mother. “I believe you had better tell her whatever is going on, Your Highness. I can feel the pressure building within her—she’ll soon erupt.”

This Selkblood reading my emotions right out in front of everyone was one straw too much—I did erupt, my scream echoing through the room and probably all the way down the halls. “Someone tell me, right now, what in the Voids is going on!”

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