Nothing New Under the Sun

Chapter 2 - Dawning

© 2007 by Ghaidin

This page was last modified: 2007/04/02


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It's really not all that hard. People are trusting and welcoming around folk like me, and a few words dropped here and there regarding my wide traveling and the many odd fevers and such illnesses I have seen in the frozen lands I come from make it to the mother soon enough in this small community. The very next evening she approaches me at my usual spot by the square's bar.

"Sir, excuse me. May I sit and have a word with you?" She twitches her hands nervously on her apron. The dark circles around her eyes make me wonder when may have been the last time she had a full night's sleep. But it's not her I'm interested on, I remind myself. Out loud, however, I only say: "But please, by all means. It's nice to have somebody to talk to while having dinner. Would you care for some cheese? Wine, perhaps?"

I signal to the barkeeper and ask her to attend the woman, while I excuse myself. She will surely make her at ease; tell her all these nice things about the foreigner with the funny accent. I need the mother to be as relaxed and open as possible.

Sure enough, when I come back from the restroom, her hands rest placidly on the table and she asks me straight up about what has brought her here.

"Sir, I have been told you have traveled much, and know things we have never heard of. I wonder if I could ask you something that has had me and everybody else in the region perplexed for years. You see, to know your opinion."

"Well, I guess you could say I've seen a bit of the world. And it's true that what's common knowledge in one place is often unknown somewhere else. Do you wish to know of the world? Or is there maybe something I can help you with?"

"You see, it's about my only son. This strange disease has afflicted him ever since he was a little child; around mid winter every year, a terrible fever takes hold of him. He says he doesn't feel cold, or particularly hot, but his flesh feels icy to the touch, and there is this odd feverish look in his eyes. It lasts for around a month, and then it goes away –just to return the following year. Nobody knows what it is or how to cure it, and I worry there might be something wrong, something terribly wrong. Every year, Camus is a little bit less like himself"

I definitely hadn't expected something like this. A chronic disease, yes, but a mysterious one? I can't let her see my surprise, though, so I place my hand over hers reassuringly and say "And isn't it so that children change so fast they never seem quite the same? I often think they're a different person every week!"

She shakes her head and her blonde hair flies about her round shoulders. "No, sir. I think the change is somehow part of the disease. It's not...normal." She raises her eyes and they meet mine, deep green eyes made look deeper by her sunken cheeks. "Will you go to him and tell me if you have ever heard of something like it?"

I blink a few times, to push away her eyes from my mind and concentrate on the task at hand: the child. "But of course I will. I'll be most glad if I can be of any help"

I ask the barkeeper to charge the dinner on my account and follow the woman to her house. She must feel quite distressed to bring a stranger into her house at a moment's notice.

* * *

The house itself is quite unremarkable, pretty much the same you would find in any small village in the western Mediterranean regions. The only odd thing is the amount of blankets and heaters scattered around in the rooms we pass. The weather here is not harsh enough to justify so many, not even in the deepest time of winter.

I stop my pondering when we reach a closed door, at which the woman knocks. "Camus, dear, I've brought somebody to see you, may we come in?"

A soft voice replies from within asking us to enter. The child is sitting by the window, as he was yesterday, there is still a mark on the glass where his face has been pressed to just a second ago. I regard him quietly while his mother tells him off for staying away of the fire and carries him back near it.

He seems to be quite slim, although he has so many sweaters and blankets on that it's hard to say. Blue hair falls over his shoulders and deep gray-blue eyes stay fixed on his mother, as if scared to stray away.

I wait for them to be seated and the mother to look back at me, not wanting to intrude in their personal space. She finally wraps her arms around her son and tells him about me, how I'm here to help him feel better. If she just knew.

I sit by them and put my hand to the child's forehead. He is indeed feverish and cold at the same time. His bluish eyes stare at me in a most uncomfortable way, not many people can do so for long without growing embarrassed or intimidated. Yet as I extend my cosmos and feel his aura he narrows his eyes and wrinkles his nose, as if he were aware of my probing.

"Hi, little one. You have your mother quite worried, you know that?"

He regards me coolly, but his mother whispers something in his ear and he says, "yes, I know. Thank you very much for coming to help. You're very kind" A lie if I have ever seen one. I wonder what has taken this child, but tempted though I am to excuse myself with his mother and walk away from him forever, I promised the Kyoko to give him some time. So I tell mother and child that I will go back to the inn and look in my books, maybe I have something that might be of help.

I promise to come back tomorrow and the mother gets up to show me to the door. Before leaving the room, I glance at the child again. He's looking intently in my direction and for the first time in many years I feel uncomfortable.

* * *

Back at the inn, I sit among the neighbors. Soon our conversation turns to the strange child. His father left him and the mother soon after his birth, the woman works hard to support them both. A common enough story, I suppose.

The local pharmacist hands me a notebook, it's one of those cheap multi-year calendars, with some blank pages at the end. He has been trying to make sense of the kid's symptoms, recording the dates of strange illness for the last few years. I flip through the pages quickly, but then something catches my eye and I turn back to the beginning, noting carefully the beginning and the end in every year.

The old man is avid to know if I can make any sense of it, so when I ask him whether the dates are precise he eagerly confirms them to be exact. "Does it resemble anything you have seen before, sir?" I shake my head, lost in thought. I'll have to double check to be sure, but I'd say the marked days correspond to the reigning of Aquarius every year. That would be... odd, and disturbing. Does it mean Aquarius is making the child sick? But why?

I excuse myself, saying that there are certain books I'd like to consult and they all bid me good night with wide hopeful smiles.

Laying on my bed I try to remember all the stories I was told when I was a kid myself, all the legends and books I've read or heard since I first became aware of the importance of the Aquarii stars in my life. Nothing there seems to hint the Water-bearer, one of the oldest recognized constellations in the zodiac, might cause symptoms such as these.

* * *

I slept little that night or the few that followed, but I kept on visiting the child. Today is the last day for Aquarius rule of the sky, tomorrow Pisces will reign and, if the notes of the pharmacist are exact, the symptoms will disappear.

I am by now well acquainted with the mother, and I spend most of the day in their little house, together with a teenage cousin who pretty much lives with them to provide a male presence in the house. I smile when the lad gravely offers me to abandon the inn and come stay with them. I accept and seriously shake his hand; his presence here is a proof of the love of the village folk towards his own, and a reminder of the fact that if I decide to take the child away it might prove to be a difficult task.

The four of us dine together that night and retire to our rooms soon after. The child seems extremely tired, and the mother is anxious for him to go to bed.

It must be the middle of the night when I wake up, I'm sure there is someone moving around. As I turn around to get up, I see a pair of gray-blue eyes staring right at me. I free myself of the blankets around my legs and sit on the bed, keeping my eyes on this strange child who can make it to my bedside without me realizing it until he's almost there.

"Who are you?"

He's never talked to me directly without his mother or cousin asking him to first, and he surely hasn't been so defiant before. I try one of my warm smiles before speaking "well, you know my name, you know I'm a visitor here. What is it exactly that you wish to know?"

"I want to know why there is this light around you, and why you look so much like the man of my dreams"

"The man of your dreams? You had never told me about those dreams before. Want to sit down and tell me about it now?" I throw the blankets back and pat the spot next to me on the bed.

"Will you hurt me?" I wonder where the child may have got that idea from, but before I can answer he shrugs as if resigning himself to whatever dangers may lay within this man in blue pajamas and sits by me on the bed.

"I've had these dreams ever since I was a little child" The way he separates himself from childhood makes me smile as he continues "in them, there is always a man in a gold... armor, like in one of those books in the library. He holds a huge vase and sits a bit above an immense ocean...or river that is poured from his vase. Water and cold come out of it."

The child stares at his own tiny feet, which dangle a bit off the floor. "Am I the man in golden armor, Camus?"

He looks up at me now, staring in the darkness as if to make out my face better. "Sometimes; most of the time, really. Other times there are some other men holding the vase, but it's you most of the time"

I struggle to find words that will soothe the child "and you have been having these dreams since you met me? It's..."

The child kicks the air in front of him and interrupts me, "I've had these dreams my whole life. Whenever I'm sick they come: the ocean, the cold, the vase... and you. Are you making me sick?"

"Gods, no. I'm trying to help you, little one."

We both fall silent for a few seconds; I don't know what to make of his story. It's highly unlikely that such a young child may know the symbology of Aquarius so well. As for him, he seems undecided on whether I'm telling him the truth.

"We'll see about that. You may not keep me from the life I'm entitled to." The voice is completely unlike the child's, so harsh, so cold, and the words send a shiver down my spine. The boy stands up and, his face inches away from mine as he speaks again. "You are not worthy, you're a liar and a traitor. You should not have it, none of you should have all these years, you're weak. You're not worthy."

He's just a little kid, without any training, and yet he slips out of my reach too fast for me to react. A second after, a deep chill is the only sign that there was ever anything else in the room but myself and the bed.

There is little doubt where the cold came from, for I can still feel the cosmos, an energy that is not mine. I would have sworn I saw the Aquarius constellation shine on the boy before he left, but even if I were wrong this child belongs to Sanctuary. Too much power, and all that strange talk about dreams of men in golden armors, he has to go to Athens. Maybe there they will be able to make sense of his last words, they sounded like a threat and yet the child is only about five.

I'm glad I've stayed long enough for him to open up. Now I just need to figure out a way to take him with me without breaking havoc in this small town.

My own master was of the opinion that people's feelings were of the utmost importance, and I share his belief to the letter. We are here to protect them in name of the goddess, and what good would it be if we walked around breaking their hearts? I have a duty towards the Kyoko and the goddess, but no Aquarius saint would just walk over others' feelings, or his own, if he could avoid it.

A thought crosses my mind shouting that a true warrior should not let feelings get in the way. Learn from the ice you pride yourself in mastering, you fool. It's hardly a flicker, completely unlike anything I've learnt or believe in, and I disregard it quickly as I lay on the bed, my mind set on the task before me.

The End of Chapter 2 -- Continued in Chapter 3


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