Episode 3 Chapter 17

Waking was like falling into freezing water. Theodore sat up in the flowerbed, gasping for breath as if drowning. Oboe jumped to his side, helping him to his feet.

“Are you okay??” She said, concerned. “You’re crying!”

Theodore gathered himself enough to wipe his red hot face. “I’m fine!” He said, and staggered away from her. His body felt sore and empty. He needed a moment to gather himself.

“Then he can go on?” Said the faun in the flowers. “Put him back down, Oboe. There are more of us who need him to dream!”

“No, Zither! That is enough!” Feather said, striding between them. “We’ve given him three, and now his aura is dark and heavy. Any more will poison him.”

Theodore remembered the dream he had that morning and wondered if he was already poisoned. He was grateful the priestess was not pushing him to take on more.

“What about the rest of us?” Zither said, pointing towards the other half dozen fairies still ashen and Fate-starved. “Are we supposed to just die?”

“Stop your belly-aching, brat.” Thistle said. “We treated the worst off first. You’re young. You’ll be fine to sit here until we find a way to help you.”

Zither lurched to sit up. “You were doing a fine job of that locked in the dungeon. One volunteer human doesn’t change the fact that given enough time we’re going to drop dead!”

“We aren’t going to let that happen,” Oboe said. She offered Theodore his glasses back. “Right?”

Shaking off the weariness that had overcome him, Theodore put his spectacles back on and straightened his posture. “This isn’t a long-term solution. I need to bring this matter to the attention of city officials.” He consulted his notes, and grimaced. “There’s another problem, however. I understand now why fairies are sneaking past the ban, but it doesn’t explain the epidemic in the city.”

“What epidemic?” Feather said.

“A bunch of humans are sick because they haven’t got enough magic in their bodies,” Oboe said. “They think we’re stealing it from him.”

Thistle burst out laughing. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Which is saying something, ’cause I’m old and deal with humans a lot. You creatures are always blaming us for things that are your own damn fault.”

“What do you mean?” Theodore said.

“You build a big city out of iron and wonder why you aren’t getting enough magic.” Thistle crossed his arms. “You’re dampening the ambient magic in the air with all your machines, and you aren’t letting creatures like us touch you with our magic. OF COURSE you’re getting sick! You’re starving yourselves and don’t even realize it!”

Theodore recalled how Dr. Stillwell claimed the number of cases exploded after the ban was expanded. If this was the cause of the sickness, it made sense. “There’s a problem with this theory. The ban started because the duke in control of the district was attacked by a fairy. He was the first documented case of the illness.”

“We shouldn’t all have to suffer because some idiot did something stupid,” Zither said. “You need to help us. It’s your job, right?”

Oboe pulled on Theodore’s sleeve. “We should tell that doctor why people are getting sick. That way we can help everyone.”

“I don’t know that I can prove that, though,” he said.

“You have to try!” She said. “You know they aren’t responsible for this, but other humans won’t listen to creatures like us! They need you to speak for them!”

Theodore looked at the affected fairies again, knowing that city had let them fall through the cracks. He always believed that laws and government regulation were supposed to be there for the benefit of everyone, but the governor had proven to him that this wasn’t always the case. He looked at the handful of fairies who were in better shape now, and knew they needed more than one bad dream to get them by. They needed their city to recognize their needs.

“I’ll do everything I can to help,” Theodore said.

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