Journey to the West

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 


Chapter III

"Go ahead.  Say it.  It was a stupid thing to do!"  Sharon was more angry
with herself than anyone else, but she took Rood's silence as a
condemnation of her actions.  After Alex left, the meeting broke up rather
quickly.  Nothing had been decided, but Robin said he would consider all
points of view before going to the council.  Sharon quickly left the white
tower, heading across the open courtyard toward the halls of healing.  She
was almost to the chamber that served as her office when she realized she
was being followed.  She turned to face the tall captain of the guard and
unleashed her pent up emotions.

Rood did not answer her, but only stood, looking at her in mute silence.
Sharon wanted him to agree with her, or console her, or scold her, anything
but this unbearable silence.  She could feel the hot tears of frustration
begin to course down her cheeks.  The tall fairy reached out and gently
took her in his arms.  Sharon relaxed against his strong chest and wept
freely while he stroked her hair and made comforting sounds.

Just as suddenly as before, her mood changed again and she pushed him away,
drying her tears with the back of her hand.  "I'm not some weak, helpless
thing!" she shouted in anger.  "You think you can come in here and act all
macho and I'll just break down and cry!"

Rood stepped back, obviously surprised by her quick change of temperament.
"I understand you not," he said softly.  "I knew you to be upset and I came
to offer my concern."

The look of total bewilderment in his intense, blue eyes suddenly made
Sharon realize just how foolishly she was behaving.  "I guess I'm just
frustrated about Alex and I took it out on you," she said.  "I'm sorry."

"Has Alex this disease?" Rood asked, coming directly to the point.

Sharon turned and went into her office, the captain following her.  Once
inside, she closed the door.  "I'm not in the habit of gossiping about
friends," she said evasively.

Rood looked confused.  "I know not the word 'gossiping.'  If you would
rather not speak of Alex..."

"Again, I'm sorry," Sharon said.  "I keep thinking in human terms.  In our
world it's not ethical for a doctor to discuss a patient with someone
else."

"I understand," Rood said, although he really didn't.  "Alex is your
patient.  But feel you it is a breach of confidence to tell if he be ill?
This confuses me.  Why should he not wish us to know?"

"It's a long story," she began.  "And a lot of it deals with human
prejudice.  In our world some people treat others badly just because they
are ill.  But the truth is, I just don't know about Alex.  He has been
acting strangely recently.  But he won't talk to me.  If he is ill, he's
hiding it."

"Think you, he fears we shall act as the people in you world?  Surely he
knows this is not our way."

"I don't know," she replied.  "Maybe he's in perfect health and we're all
just being silly.  Maybe he just resents our intrusion into his personal
life.  Maybe..."

She was interrupted by an insistent knock on the door.  Before Sharon could
respond, it opened and a young apprentice entered.  "Forgive me, my lady,"
she said, "but you are urgently summoned to the white tower.  One of the
humans has become ill."  Sharon and Rood were on their way out of the room
before the lad could even finish his message.

* * *

"What happened?" Scott asked as they sat in a lounge area in the halls of
healing.  Scott and Robin were trying to comfort a very frightened Akuta.

"He had been coughing yesterday," the guard answered.  "He told me it was
only the change in temperature.  Then, this morning after the meeting, he
could not breathe."

"He will be well," Robin said gently.  "We have the best healers in the
kingdom to help him."

Akuta had a look of terror in his eyes.  "He is human," the guard said.
"They shall not be able to heal him."

"Of course they shall," Robin reassured him.  "Why thought you so?"

"Alex told me.  He said if he became ill, he could not be healed."

Scott and Robin exchanged meaningful glances.  "We have Sharon here," Scott
said.  "She is a human doctor.  She can help him."

Just then the doctor entered the room.  She looked very worried.  All three
men looked up expectantly as she faced them, trying to think of what to
say.  "Well, I won't lie to you.  It's bad," she began.  The three sat in
stony silence.  Only Akuta seemed to react as he squeezed his eyes tightly
closed.  "Alex seems to have pneumonia.  I'd guess it's probably
pneumocystis.  By the way of conventional medicine there isn't much I can
do for him.  He should be hospitalized and we just don't have the equipment
in this world that he needs.  Our only hope is that the Tuathan healers can
cure him.  I've seen them work miracles, but Alex isn't Tuathan.  I just
don't know."

"If they can't help him, can we move him to a hospital back home?" Scott
asked.

"He shouldn't be moved at all," the doctor advised.  "It's a question of
what's more dangerous, trying to move him, or trying to keep him here."

"Was this not very sudden, lady?" Robin asked.  "He was healthy at our
meeting this morning."

Sharon let out a deep sigh.  "I don't know.  I don't understand it.  Maybe
he's been hiding his symptoms for some time.  It did seem to progress
awfully rapidly."  Scott looked up at her sharply.  Something struck him as
oddly wrong.

"May I go to him?" Akuta asked.

"Of course," Sharon told him.  "But don't disturb him.  Just let him rest."
Robin and Akuta left the room.

"So what gives?" Scott said as soon as they were gone.  "Pneumonia?  We're
talking AIDS here, aren't we?"

The doctor brushed at her hair with her hands.  "Yes, it looks like it."

"Isn't this kind of quick?  One minute he's fine, the next minute he might
die.  What happened to the speech you gave us earlier?  How this world
slows everything down and a person with AIDS can live a normal life?"

"Scott, I'll admit a lot of this is guess work.  None of what I told you
was based on scientific observation.  None of us have lived here long
enough to know what effect this world may have on us."  Sharon was tired
and she didn't need to have her friend attacking her.

"I'm sorry," Scott apologized.  He realized that he was taking his anger at
the situation out on her.  "It just isn't fair.  This is such a perfect
world.  And for once Alex seemed to have everything going for him, a new
life, a man who loves him."

"Life isn't always fair, Scott," Sharon said.  "Even in Tuatha."

They silently looked at each other for a minute.  Finally Scott managed to
work up the courage to ask the question.  "How long does he have, and what
can we do?"

"There's no way of knowing.  He hasn't been on any medication, but if he
pulls through this bout of pneumonia we can get him on something.  The
medical profession is making great progress every day, and AIDS can be
maintained.  It isn't an automatic death sentence anymore."

Scott bit his lip in frustration.  "How are you planning to get the AIDS
drugs to the palace of Esbereth in Tuatha?"

"We'll have to go home for a little while.  And who know, Scott, the way
time seems to travel at different rates between our worlds, by the time we
get back there, someone may have found a cure.  But the first thing I need
to do is get back home and call Dr. Sorenson.  If he's still in charge of
the Blanc Institute, he can help me.  I'll need some equipment here that I
don't have."

"Then let us go," a voice said in the doorway.  Scott and Sharon turned to
see Rood standing there dressed in traveling clothes.

"How long have you been eavesdropping?" the doctor asked, angry at the
intrusion.

"I have dropped no eaves and I have stood here long enough to know your
plans.  Let us go quickly while we have the time," he said.

"I'm going alone," she argued as she stood to face him.

"My lord, will you not explain to her the situation?" Rood asked Scott.  As
she turned back to her human friend, Scott saw Rood wink at him.

"Well," Scott temporized, trying to come up with an idea.

"About her position at court, and my responsibilities," Rood suggested with
a lop-sided grin.

"Yes, as lead healer, you're considered one of the court officials.  And
Rood, as captain of the king's guard, is required by duty to protect any
court official when in a dangerous location."

"That's bullshit and you know it," the woman said as she looked from one to
the other of the two conspirators.

"No, it's true.  You see, that's why he always went with me when I had to
go back home.  It's the law here," Scott argued.

"I'm not going to a dangerous location," Sharon explained.  "I'm only going
home to talk with some friends."

"My lady, you are a citizen of our land now.  You requested this by your
own word," Rood reminded her.  "Tuatha considers the land of humans to be a
very dangerous place.  Therefore, you shall go escorted, or you shall not
go."  He puffed his chest out and took a wide stance, blocking the door.

Sharon looked at the two men again, and then shrugged her shoulders.
"Alright, if I have no other choice.  But we aren't going with you dressed
like that."  Rood looked down at himself in surprise, as if a long tunic
and wool breeches were the most natural human clothing.  "You find
something else that makes you look less like a fairy.  And comb your hair
forward; I don't want anyone seeing those pointed ears."  Rood turned to
leave.  "And get some of that magic oil so you can speak English," she
called after him.  "And as for you, Scott Quartermain..."

"I think I hear my mother calling," Scott said, and dashed from the room.

* * *

"So how's Alex?" Jennifer asked as she met Sharon in the main hall of the
white tower.

"As well as can be expected," the doctor replied.  "He's resting, but he's
still having some trouble breathing.  The Tuathan healers have eased most
of the congestion in his lungs but he's certainly not out of danger.
Akuta's staying with him."  They walked along together for a time.  "It
seems Alex tested HIV positive about nine months ago, but he didn't tell
anyone.  At least he's been practicing safer sex."

"You know, I used to think he was a jerk," Jennifer confessed.  "But I
really got to know him better over the last two months.  I'd hate to see
anything happen to him...or Akuta.  Do you think he'll be okay?"

Sharon turned down the corridor toward the chambers of the court magician.
"I hope so," she said noncommittally.  As the two women reached the
wizard's chambers, the doctor paused at the door.  "I'll do what I can for
him," she told her companion.  "I'll see you when I get back."

"But we're going with you," Jennifer replied as she reached around and
opened the door.

"Now wait a minute," the doctor began, but she was interrupted by Rood
waiting inside.

"Come, lady.  The time passes all too quickly.  Let us go speak with your
friends," he said in perfect English.  He grabbed her by the arm and
escorted her into the wizard's library.  Sharon barely had time to notice
that he was wearing blue jeans and a sport shirt.  Inside the library,
Caseldra stood patiently beside the large, wooden cabinet.  Sharon
recognized this as the magic doorway that Elnar had fashioned.  The little
wizard was nowhere in sight.

"If you will step inside, my lady," Caseldra said as she pulled one of the
cabinet doors open to reveal the interior of a plain wooden box.

"Rood, we are going alone, just you and me," the doctor said as she climbed
into the cabinet.  The guard followed her in and Caseldra pushed the door
closed behind them.  No sooner were they engulfed in the darkness than Rood
reached out to the back of the cabinet and opened a door that had not been
there a moment before.  The two stepped out of a small closet in an unused
bedroom on the third floor of the old Victorian style house owned by
Jennifer.  Rood turned to close the door behind them.  "I said just you and
me," Sharon argued.

"This dwelling belongs to Jennifer," the fairy said.  "We use it at her
pleasure.  Besides, she has business to attend to in this land, and
Caseldra will act as her bodyguard while they are here."  As he finished
speaking, the closet door opened and the two women stepped out into the
room.

"Well, now that we're all here, where's the phone?" Sharon asked.  They
followed Jennifer out of the empty room and down the stairs to the ground
floor, where the doctor found the phone and placed the call to her former
boss, Emile Sorenson.  As soon as Sharon had finished her call, Jennifer
picked up the phone.  She called her attorney who had been taking care of
her property, her bills and other affairs while she was away.  After
arranging a meeting to check on things, she and the others left the house
to pile into her car parked in the drive just outside.

They then headed south to drop Sharon and Rood off at the Blanc Institute.
As they drove down the road leading to the fenced in government research
institute, Rood began to fidget nervously.  He remembered the last time he
had visited this place.  Robin had almost lost his life there because a
government scientist thought he was an alien from outer space and wanted to
dissect him.  Some time after that Akuta had been captured and again held
against his will by government officials, and now Rood was willingly
walking into the same trap.

Jennifer brought the car to a stop just outside the gate.  "I'll handle
this," Sharon said, and then she climbed out and approached the small,
glass booth.  "Hi, Charlie.  How's it going?"

"Dr. Gates," the man in the security uniform nodded to her.  "Dr. Sorenson
said he'd be right out.  I heard you were in Sweden.  How was it?"

"Lovely, can't wait to go back," she smiled and returned to the car,
looking in the driver's window.  "Rood, you stick with me, but don't be
surprised by the fact that Emile and I both ignore you.  The guard here
will assume you are with us.  Emile will tell him two guests, but we'll
ignore you so it won't look strange on the video monitor."  They had
discovered from previous visits that for some unknown reason, the fairies
would not show up on film or video, only a strange overexposed patch of
light could be detected.  The security man watching the video monitors in a
central office would think he was having trouble with one of the cameras as
long as Sharon and Dr. Sorenson didn't obviously speak to the source of
distortion.

In a few minutes, Sharon saw the pudgy, balding little scientist driving up
in a motorized golf cart.  She stepped around to the passenger door of
Jennifer's car and opened it letting Rood out while she pretended to be
looking for something.  Emile Sorenson spoke to the guard at the gate, and
then smiled at Sharon as she and her companion walked up.  Dr. Sorenson
took them to his cart, and they climbed in.  He then headed back toward his
office in the main building while Sharon and Caseldra drove off to their
other appointments.

Once inside his office, Sorenson seemed to relax.  "Sharon, it's good to
see you, but what are you doing here, and why did you bring him?  He's one
of the aliens, isn't he?"

"Dr. Sorenson, this is Rood.  He insisted on coming despite my advice
against it.  You see, he thinks he's my bodyguard."

"I apologize, my lord," Rood said.  "I mean no dishonor, but you must admit
this place has proved dangerous in the past."

The older scientist eyed the fairy skeptically.  "Dangerous for you, yes,
but not for her.  If anyone finds out what you are, well I don't know if I
can protect you."  He nervously clasped and unclasped his hands.

"He'll be a good boy," Sharon said, then glanced at the tall blond standing
next to her.  "Won't you?"  Rood gave her his most innocent 'Who, me?'
look, and then ruined it with his crooked, devil-may-care smile.  "Emile, I
need medical equipment.  Anything you can spare that we can smuggle out of
here."

"Is someone hurt?" the scientist asked as he blinked at them in confusion.

"Their world holds wonders the likes of which we've never imagined," she
replied.  "But when it comes to technology, we seem to have the upper
hand."

* * *

Scott returned to the king's chambers to find a supper of fruits and
vegetables laid out on a table in the outer room.  The window openings in
the room were now closed off from the outside by what looked like panes of
frosted glass set in wooden frames.  The frames were then mounted in the
openings and sealed in place with some form of clay or putty.  Scott
crossed the room to enter the inner chamber and found that it too had been
transformed.  The opening onto the balcony terrace that looked down over
the palace was now closed off by what looked like French doors.  The wooden
door frame that held the wood and glass panels was also cemented in place
just like the windows in the outer chamber.  In the wall next to the
doorway to the bathroom, a fireplace now blazed with flaming logs.  Scott
was amazed.  He had never seen the opening to a hearth there before.
Apparently, it had been closed off with some form of covering stone that
had been removed by the winter crews that had also installed the windows
and terrace doors.

Scott tossed his cape on the reclining platform and headed into the bath.
He stopped short just inside the door, seeing Dannemel sitting on the edge
of the bathing pool his feet in the water, his legs spread wide and his
semi erect phallus in full view.  The youth quickly grinned.  "Excuse me,
my lord.  I thought to cleanse myself before you returned."

"That's quite alright," Scott said and quickly backed out of the room.  He
had no sooner crossed to the reclining platform to hang up his cape when
the servant boy appeared at his side, still nude and dripping water on the
stone floor.  The boy took the cape and went to the large, wooden wardrobe
to hang it up.  Scott blushed as he watched the naked boy.  "You can take
time to get dressed," the human said.

"I can dress later," the boy replied, turning back to Scott.  "I must serve
you now."  He came forward and knelt down uncomfortably close.  "Let me
remove your...boots, lord.  Or anything else that may be confining."

"That's okay," Scott said and tried to take a step back.  Unfortunately, he
was already standing against the reclining platform.  His movements caused
him to fall backward onto the pallet.  Dannemel made a grab for him at the
same moment, managing to catch the waist band of his breeches and pull them
down in the process.  Scott blushed furiously as he looked up at the nude
boy standing over him, and his own pants pulled down his thighs.

"Would you care to explain this now, or would you prefer I return later
when you have finished?" a voice asked.  The servant turned and stepped
aside, giving Scott a perfect view of the door.  Robin stood in the
opening, his cape thrown back across his shoulders and his hands on his
hips.

 

 

 

 

 

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