The morning found the party scattered and bewildered. Aleera made her way back to the camp without bothering to brush the leaves and nettles from her clothes. Kariss waited by the Tiny Hut, just waiting for it to drop. Inside the others had also had restless nights.
When the Hut finally disappeared everyone was avoiding looking at each other. Kariss started off the conversation by exploding at Kaladrax.
“How dare you leave me out there! I could have been ambushed or killed! Aleera only did what she thought was best, I convinced her to come clean and you overreacted. We can save your mother now, there is nothing to be mad at anymore!”
Kaladrax didn’t answer her. He only stared at her, right through her. His face was stone in the morning sun.
With a huff, Karriss pivoted and made her way towards the village at the edge of the desert. She found the hut of the man she had helped yesterday and made her way through the door. He was there, at his mother’s side. His face lit up when he saw her silhouette in the doorway. He had never gotten a glimpse of her face simply blurs of iridescent light green scaling, and a glance of reptilian eyes glowing from under the hood.
She came over to the bed and knelt at the side of the older woman. She repeated the process of the last day. Taking water from a flask and rubbing her hands with it on the older woman. The same silvery glow started on her hands. The man and her watched as the ash began to retreat from his mothers face, off her arms and legs, disappearing even under her clothes as Karriss later determined upon further examination.
Still, the mother was tired and slept as the healing took its effect. The man’s eyes were even wider this time, with tears running down his cheeks. He thanked Karriss and asked for her name, to pay with whatever they had, and his eyes were full of worship. She asked for nothing and told him to avoid touching others in case they had the infection because she didn’t know if it could come back. He readily agreed and turned to his mother, fussing over her.
Using this opportunity, Karriss slipped out of the hut and made her way back to the party. Once everyone was there they made their way back to King’s Crest. Aleera used Polymorph to turn into a giant eagle and flew everyone back. A journey that would have taken all day now was just four hours. Aleera was happy to lose the ability to speak and flew as fast as she could. They stopped a few times to renew the spell but it was without issues and they arrived healthy and safe.
No one had spoken the entire ride and no one spoke as they made their way to the Fafnir mansion in the Royal District. They arrived and asked to speak to Glaurunda and were told that she was having tea with Fafnir in the greenhouse. Kaladrax led the way with a hurried pace. His hands were shaking as he made his way through the house.
He burst into the greenhouse and ran towards his mother.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Glaurunda saw that he knew the secret now and answered him with the low, measured voice of a parent explaining something to their child that they believe is hard for them to understand.
“I didn’t tell you, darling, because you would not have been in the right mind to complete your mission. I didn’t want you to worry and get hurt because you were too preoccupied with me.”
Kaladrax actually looked a bit mollified by this explanation and announced that they had found a cure. Karriss made her way forward and asked to see the cursed location. Glaurunda rolled up her left sleeve and unwrapped her lower arm. The ash had started to spread past the wrap and was creeping up towards her upper arm. Kariss began her process and everyone watched as the ash receded from Glau’s scales leaving them as white and pristine as ever.
Kariss again advised her not to touch another infected in case she could be re-infected. Kaladrax was hugging his mother, crying with relief that his best friend in the world was not dying any longer, when a loud sigh sounded out from Fafnir.
“Marx, you can drop the illusion now. There is no more need for it. She is safe.”
Marx nodded with pain in his expression. Sorrow was etched in his face as he lifted his hand and waved towards Fafnir. The illusion of a strong, tall standing dragonborn was now gone. In its stead was the grey visage of Fafnir. Hunched over and significantly smaller than before, the curse of ash was visible on almost every part of his body. He took on last look at his beloved Glaurunda and said,
“I have always and will always love you, my beautiful wife.”
To Kaladrax he said,
“I did what I did because I love you and want you to survive what is coming. You have the strength to do what I could not. Only you can stop Him. You are and have always been my greatest pride.”
With that his face cracked with a smile and his body collapsed into a pile of ash. The only thing that had been holding him together as the thought of curing his wife. He had been able to let go now that she was saved.
The entire room was dead silent. Glaurunda was crying quietly. Having known what her husband’s condition had been hadn’t lessened the pain of losing him. Kaladrax stood at his mother’s side in stunned silence. Karriss looked shocked at the turn of events and was also at a loss for speech. Having nothing to offer the now grieving family, Milo and Hepolita left the greenhouse as quietly as they could.
Aleera just whispered that she was so sorry and ran from the room, out into the rain and flew off into the dark clouds. Her tears mingled with the rain. Everything, the whole secret keeping, the confession, the blow up. It had all been for nothing. Someone had still died. Kaladrax had still lost someone.