The Dragonheart Explorer had been at sea for a bit over two weeks. Its crew, a mostly happy lot of volunteers who were as much excited to be working as to be travelling to the new lands at the same time. Unlike most ships of its particular place in time and mission across seas, there had so far been only minimal cases of influenza and pox, much to the enjoyment of the ship's doctor. He was a young man named Semoyr Robinson, with dashing good looks and medical expertise far superior to some physicians thrice his age. The captain was a stout but fit man who went simply as Captain Amos, to all but the doctor and first mate, who both called him Andy when addressing him in any context but the professional, which tended to happen most late nights when the three were up together, trying to keep awake. The first mate had minimal experience at authority and the title simply because of 7 long years of crew work on the captain's ship, and simply happened to be the captain's favorite. They'd been away from land for two weeks, without storm, without visitor, without sign of any land. Twas the way things were in that part of the water, and unmistakably the toughest leg of their journey so far for the grave danger of boredom itself. Once through this patch, would come the treacherous sea that the island of Malstrom sat peacefully in the middle of, and then onto the council meeting the captain had thereon. While not a man of solid land, he still took it as his duty to stand for all ships of the East Islands when it came to the drawings of regulations, pensions, fees and taxes. The journey was a long, grueling one, but one he felt he must make.
And so it was one lazy mid-morn when the first mate stumbled wearily into the doctor's chambers, complaining of a light headache.
Semoyr took one look at the frail, pale body and face before him and quickly made room on his own cot for an examination. "You're not looking well at all," he said softly, closing the door so none passing in the hall outside would hear.
With a shake of a head, the first mate answered, "Nay. I'm not feeling too well, either. I think… I've a bit of a head cold."
Semoyr nodded, putting his hand on forehead and cheek to inspect temperature. "This comes from over work, you know. You really should take better care of yourself, Angelica."
The first mate nodded. "Aye, I know that. Is there something you can give me to make this go away rather quickly? I'm expected for duty early this eve."
The doctor sighed, holding his left hand on the bottom of the right side of her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "Tis a bit fast for a miracle. You know there is nothing in the ways of a true cure for this. You just have to wait for time to do its work."
She nodded, coughing to clear her scratchy throat. She felt much sicker than she let on, for she was able to hide everything quite well… this was the only way the torrid love affair she found herself in could ever exist. "Aye, I know." She sniffed. "But can't you give me something?"
He nodded. "Of course I can. I can ease its blow, but you will still suffer a bit with the cold, I'm afraid." He had her open her mouth and he peered in with a doctor's eye. "Inflamed throat, runny nose," she sniffed cutely in answer, "headache, mild fever… what else?"
She shrugged, closing her eyes. "No idea. Countless others I couldn't begin to list. I woke up sneezing this morning. Those soft, fast ones that seem to go on and on forever without stopping."
He nodded again. "That's not all, is it?"
Her face was flushed. "And I've been coughing quite a lot, too."
With yet another nod, "Do you feel achy at all? Or tired?"
She shrugged. "I didn't get to bed until the dawn this morn, so I would feel tired regardless."
He gave her a stern look.
"I know, Semoyr, I know… I need to… to…" her eyes started to close, and she reached over to his sleeve to grab the handkerchief that he kept there, military-style. She held it over her nose and mouth as another soft bout of sneezing came upon her. "etchoo! Ehtchh! etChoo! etchoo! ehhh.. ehchoo! Ehhhtchoo! Etchoo!" she paused, sniffing, waiting, knowing more would be coming. "ehhhtchoo! Etchoo! Ehhhchoo! ehtchoo! IiihChoo! ehchoo! Ehhchoo! eh-Tchoo!" she wiped her nose and opened her tear-filled eyes.
"Blesses," he said, feeling instantly sorry for her. "You can, uh, keep the hanky."
She nodded. "Thank you. I just didn't think they'd come so fast and I wasn't about to sneeze openly and infect the room, not to mention you." She sniffed again. "The last thing we need now is for half our crew to come down ill."
He rummaged through one of his boxes for a small pouch of powder. "Tis fine, my Angel. Now," he handed her the pouch, their fingers touching and staying there. "Take a spoonful of this in water at each meal."
She nodded, smiling, sniffing. "So what happens now?"
With a sigh, "Now, you lie down and get some sleep before you ware yourself down farther than is possible."
Her smile widening, "Will you lie down with me?" She coughed, her whole body shaking at its force.
"I've got work, my Angel. And you've got to sleep, not be with me, but sleep. And that means in bed, with eyes closed."
She nodded, and tried to stand, but the dizziness consumed her, and she sat back down again in a moment. "I… I don't –sniff- believe I'll be able to make it back to my cabin."
He understood, and offered her his cot, as he cleared the papers and things from it. He tucked her into his own bed, propping her up with pillows and his coat, to elevate her head and ease her breathing. He kissed her briefly, sending her off to sleep with his loving care and gentle, comforting rub of his hand on her arm.
"All hands on deck!" the man rang out above the dongs of the warning bell.
Semoyr sighed, looking down at his patient, his love, his Angel. She stirred, her beautiful brown eyes opening. "How are you feeling, Angelica?" he asked quietly, feeling her cool forehead.
"Much better. Almost… al… ehhh.. ehtchoo! Ehhhhchoo! Etchoo! ehtchoo! ehhtcheoo! sniff Almost perfect."
"Of course," he said, not believing her for a single moment. "You lie here and rest while—"
"No! No! There's… cough... there's a meeting. I've got to go…"
"You certainly do not!" held her back as she stood and tried to leave. "I'll go and report back to you. If you keep doing this to yourself, you're never going to get well."
"ehhhhtchooo! Ehhhtchoo!" her eyes squinted shut as she bent forward, swaying with a powerfully tough majesty that befit her image and true nature. "ehhh… hihhh... ehhhhh.. EhhhhhhhChooo!" the last so strong that she pressed her hand to her forehead and fell back down on his cot.
She nodded. "Fine, cough, I'll rest. But you must tell me every last word that goes on. Do you promise?"
Semoyr smiled. "I promise." He pointed to the stand beside his bed. "Water, medicine, some crackers, and a fresh handkerchief. I want to see them drunk, taken, eaten, and used well upon my return, alright?"
She blew him a kiss as she snuffled into the first handkerchief and stretched out on the bed again.
"And where be my first mate?" Semoyr heard the captain bellow as he climbed the last set of stairs to the deck. With an air of courage he did not possess, he walked up in front of the men, whispered to the captain, and took his stance on the side of the group with the head navigator and the cook. "Alright, then, lads. We're headin' out to the rough waters soon, and I want ye all to be prepared for 'em." He began pacing back and forth in from of the men, which he only did when he was truly worried. "Ye awl are the best crew I e'er had, and I know that if any can get through it, ye can." He sighed. "But I've just received word that what lies between us and the island are not just the rough and tough storms ye've heard tell of. Now, it's a ship they call the Black Destroyer—"
A shout arouse from the back and the whole lot of men burst into whispers and murmurs.
"Lads!" The captain raised his hands to quiet them. "I know ye must have heard the stories, 'bout the great captains and pirates who fought and died as a foe or friend at the hands o' the Black Destroyer. And truth be told… no one really knows exactly what she may be, for few have lived to tell their tales. But one thing is for certain: this crew is the strongest, the fastest, the toughest, and the bravest of all I have seen before me. And I am sure that with sword in hand and ship below our feet, we will reach our destination alive."
Despite their fright, the crew cheered at the man who was a born leader and crowd-raiser.
The captain gave orders and dismissed them all as quickly as he had called them together. He then wiggled his finger at the doctor, who approached his commander.
"Ye tell Angelica that she needs to report to duty in an hour, well or not."
He nodded. "Aye, Sir. But if she has a fever, I'll not have her with free run of the ship to infect the rest of the crew." He had a valid point in that.
The captain nodded. "Aye, I understand… but if she does not show up to duty, we may not have a ship left to infect… so she will serve her time in the cabin, and you will be there with her. And that's an order, my dear doctor." He limped away not awaiting another word.
While the captain was the captain on the ship, the doctor did have supreme say in medical issues… but only when he had the guts to go against the captain with them. And that was virtually never. So Semoyr returned to his cabin to see his patient's health.
"ehhhtchoo!" she sneezed weakly to finish a long fit just as he walked in. "Good day, Semoyr," she said, closing her eyes, smiling, falling back into the pillow. Her face was pale, her brown curls spread over the pillow, her nose a little red where she'd been rubbing at it.
TO FILL YOU IN:
There's a storm and several crew members fall overboard in it. But for the most part, the ship passes through it safely.
Semoyr made his way down the stairs to the crew quarters with a bundle of towels and blankets in his hands. "Get changin' lads!" he shouted, handing out the things to the men. He wrapped another blanket around one shivering man, and a towel around the neck of a wet, long haired one. "All wet clothes off. Get as dry and you can and if you need another blanket to keep warm, I'm the guy to see." He felt like he was babying them, but there really was no way else to do it. When you're exhausted and cold, the last thing you want to do is go through the process of striping down naked, drying off, and then putting on cold clothes. Semoyr dried off the hair of one man, who was already wrapped from the waist down in a towel, and then pulled a thick blanket around him. The man sneezed twice into his hand and apologized that he'd been doing that since the storm when he'd got water up his nose. Seymoyr rubbed the shivering man's arms and told him that was the least of their worries, but bless you anyway. The man laughed and thanked him, just before sneezing strongly a few more times.
"Hey Doc!" one man shouted out to him, around the back of the cabin. He picked up some of the wet clothes, hanging them up at the end of the bunks to dry out a little.
"Aye?" he asked a man whose name might have been Stevenson, but he wasn't sure.
The man pointed to the bunk beside his, to show a young man lying there, curled in a ball, shaking violently with chill, sobbing terribly.
Semoyr went with haste and sat down on the bunk, lying his hand on the man's forehead; it was ice cold. He was going to do into shock from hypothermia if Semoyr didn't do something fast. "Lad, you need to get out of your wet clothes and get warmed up.
"He was right there!" the lad sobbed, his voice a sad, pitiful whisper. "Right there, and I couldn't save him!"
Semoyr understood. "Gennis?"
"Aye!" he wailed.
"OK, lad, it's ok, now. There's nothing to worry about now. It'll all over. You need to warm up. Here, let me help you off with your shirt—"
"NAY!" he yelled. "I'll freeze!"
Semoyr was losing patience. "You're freezing now, if you have not noticed. I'm the doctor here, and I say take off your wet clothes!"
The man sneezed wetly, strongly. "Tis.. cold in here…" he whispered. "Give me a blanket."
Semoyr had just about had it. "You're in wet clothes and this cabin is drafty. Now if you don't cooperate I'll have to force them off you. So take your clothes off!"
"NAY!" his eyes closed, and presently the shivers stopped.
Semoyr swore and grabbed the closest two men to him, pulling them over to help him pull off the lad's wet clothing. The lad's heartbeat was slowing, as was his breathing, his face and body starting to turn blue. Without a second thought, Semoyr stripped off his shirt and lay on the bed beside the lad, covering the two together with blanket upon blanket, with the help of the man who might have been named Stevenson. It took a few minutes for the heat of Semoyr's body, contained by the blankets, to sink in, but he rubbed the man's arms quickly, as well, and in about ten minutes, the lad regain consciousness, groggy, confused, and crying. Semoyr sighed, feeling the man's skin grow gradually warmer against his own. It was then that he looked up to see every man in the cabin standing motionless, staring at him.
"What?" he asked, almost scared of the answer.
"He was… going to die…" one of the younger lads said.
Semoyr nodded, slipping out from under the blankets to find that his patient was warm enough on his own now. "Aye, 'tis a good lesson for you all! A quick remedy, that was, but he wasn't too far gone. Sometimes you get lucky. Other times… " he put a smile on his face, as he dried his sobbing but warm patient's hair with a towel. "This should teach you all to mind me when I say get changed, aye? Else I'll be forced to lie with you in bed... and I snore!" The room erupted with laughter which rang in Semoyr's ears as the most beautiful sound in the world. Healthy, safe, dry men. They'd lost two brave souls that day, but those remaining were well under his care.
He put his shirt back on and finished distributing the blankets. The cook came in with boiling water and a few tea leaves, the drink helping to put the men at warm ease, sending a few off to a well-needed sleep. Those who remained awake huddled together for warmth in a circle on the floor with cards flying in every direction for a good game of poker.
Satisfied that all members of his crew were alright, including the young, guilt-ridden lad who was now sobbing into the shoulder of the man who was most probably named Stevenson, he headed up to the deck above where he'd last seen Angelica.
She was in her cabin where he'd left her, stretched out beneath the blankets. Her nose was red, her face pale, her eyes tired though happy to see him. "How—" she coughed, "are my men?"
He felt her forehead and poured a full glass of water for her. "All are well, my dear. One young man is feeling quite the guilt for Gennis' death, but he will be alright."
"Andy… that was Andy… I should talk to him—" she started to stand up, but the wave of dizziness came over her, and she lay back down again. She rubbed at her head, then looked up at Semoyr with such pleading eyes as he had never before seen. "I need to talk to my men." And though it was against his better judgement, and he didn't quite understand it himself, he melted at the words so much that he had no choice but agree.
It took a bit of work, and a few stops on the way, but finally she made it to the deck below where her crew's quarters were.
"First Mate in cabin!" shouted out one man whose head had turned to the doorway, as he rose to attention, with most other's doing the same.
Angelica's eyes swept the room. A few bandages, a few bruises, a few pale bodies sleeping contently under blankets. "At ease, cough, men." She said, trying not to sound as stuffy as she felt.
"Ye alright, Angelica?" one of the asked, and the others nodded their anxiousness to know the answer.
She smiled. "I will be. Thank you, really. 'Tis only a small cold, and the good doctor is taking fine care of me. You've all been following his orders, h-haven't ye, men?" She managed to finish the question before sneezing twice. "ehhchh! Hiht-chhhoo!" Her strong, authoritative body swaying with the force, leaning back into Semoyr's arms.
"Aye, Ma'am," the crew responded positively.
The man who had been sneezing before sneezed again, then coughed, and several pairs of eyes turned to him as he sat down on the nearest bed from dizziness. Seymoyr was at his side in a few moments, feeling his forehead, examining him. "It's just a cold," he assured the man calmly as a wave of panic rushed through him. There went his hopes at containing the virus. What was he to do with a group of ill men on the verge of battle? "Go to my quarters and lie down, aye? Can you make it there alright?"
The man hesitated, apologized, nodded, and apologized again.
"No need, lad," one of the men whispered, patting him on the back. "Feel better."
Angelica took the moment to regain her composure from her own sneezes and spoke again to her men. "I know this will be a difficult journey for you all, and I promise to be at your side… for… ehhchoo! Hihshoo! ehhhtchoo! hihchoo!" one of the men reached out to help her balance. "ehhhchhh! hihchoo! ehhhshushh!" she sneezed, her delicate head snapping forward, her shoulders hunching forward, her eyes squinting shut. Finally the sneezes passed. "I'm so sorry… I was saying that no matter what, I will be at your side. And I... I… ehhchoo! iiihchhh! hihshh! Hehhhshhhoo!"
"You should be in bed!" one of the men called out, though no one was certain who. And while meant as a joke, no one laughed. All looked upon her sympathetically.
"Aye, Angelica," one of the men said. "Ye really should."
"We can manage until you feel better,"
"Aye! We can!"
The result was the same through out the cabin, but her eyes feel upon Andy. His eyes met hers, and his mouth opened not for a cry, but for a mouthed but soundless, "Aye. Feel better now," spawned from genuine concern.
She rubbed at her nose and nodded. "Thank ye, men. Ye mean the world to me. Take Care and stay warm. I'll come by to see you all again later."
They nodded and wished her well as she left for her own cabin.
Semoyr held back and waited to hear hatches close before he spoke freely to the men. "Angelica will be alright. As will the young man… should any of you feel a case of the sneezes or any weakness at all that might be brought on by illness, please come to see me, alright?"
They all nodded.
"Fourteen, at last count," Semoyr reported to the captain and first mate the next night, as they sat together in the cabin. "They're a bit cold, but resting fine in one of the cargo holds. If this continues, there will be no one to run the ship." He rubbed his face with his hands tiredly, trying to figure out what to do.
"Get some sleep, Doctor," the captain said, rising, taking with him his air of dignity and superiority. "Only time will tell the future."
Semoyr and Angelica exchanged wary, unsure looks.
But he was right about that.
Semoyr's first sneeze came when he was in Angelica's cabin, in bed with her. Not wanting to wake, her, he thought to stifle the sound of it, and ending up pushing his nose against her shoulder and the blankets thereon. "Hummmmmmuphhhhh!"
She woke anyway.
"Semoyr? Sorry, what, is it morn?"
Semoyr already felt a second approaching, and gritted his teeth, pursed his lips, tried everything to hold it back. "N-n-n-ot y-yet-t-t-t-t…" he said, quick, short breaths he could not control took him over, and he exploded without wanting to. "HuuuuuuhhhhhhCHOOOSHhhhh!"
"Blesses!" she exclaimed, giggling this time. "Oh no, don't tell me you are coming down with a cold, as well?"
He shook his head. Whether he was or not, he would never admit it.