Dark Fever continued to be a killer in Harbour City for generations. No-one knew how to stop it until one of the Chike family, one of the larger clans present in the city finally figured it out.
As they had got too close to the truth about the Anonassi, in the eyes of the Rostovs, the individual was “dealt with”, to ensure that the secret was kept.
Here’s a story about what happened next…
It was barely past three in the morning and Lucius didn’t give a damn how much noise he was making, or that he was banging so hard on his nephew’s door so hard that his knuckles bled. Let people wake up angry; let them glower at him from the lofty perches of their bedroom windows. Let them throw barbed words and blunt, heavy objects for all he cared. So long as his efforts woke Royaume up as well.
It had seemed to him like he’d been knocking for several minutes, but Royaume was at the door within moments. His years worth of military experience had made him such a light sleeper that he’d had to remove several trees from the property for the quickness with which he would wake whenever their branches brushed against the gate.
“Oh thank goodness, I thought you might not be home,” Lucius said as soon as Royaume opened the door, oblivious to the confused eye quirk he received in response. “Something horrible has happened, and I need to discuss it with you. Now.”
When Royaume opened the door, Lucius rushed inside like he was being chased by something that would see him dead. He was trembling badly but held himself well in spite of it, nodding politely to the few maids who’d gathered to see what the commotion was about then fixing Royaume with a steely gaze.
“Are you in danger?” The question didn’t surprise Lucius – Royaume was prone towards blunt and simple questions – but it did frustrate him, somewhat, for how plodding such conversations always felt. Even amid crisis.
“I don’t know!” he spat out, hesitating briefly to consider whether or not an apology was in order. He concluded that it was, but it could wait. “I don’t know if the Rostovs after me or if it was just my research they wanted to strike from this world. That’s what I need your help with.”
“Let me get you something to drink.” Royaume rang the service bell and when the maid arrived, he sent her off for coffees mixed with bourbon, a favourite of his when he knew he’d be awake for a while on little sleep. “What were you saying? That you think the Rostovs are targeting your research?”
“I know they are.”
“What about your competitors? If I recall correctly, you were on the verge of a breakthrough.”
Lucius had to force himself to calm down and to remind himself that what seemed like pointless questions to him were only Royaume extending his feelers so that he could best offer assistance. “I know it’s no secret that we didn’t get along as well as we could have, but the work we were doing… we all understood that it was for the right reason. I can’t think of a single one of them who would have seen fit to burn my laboratory to the ground.”
By the shock flushed across Royaume’s face, Lucius realised he’d neglected to reveal what had set him off to begin with. He hadn’t been at the lab when the fire was set, but his home was near enough to it that he could hear the explosions set off by the various chemicals he kept. The fire itself had seemed to be the lesser issue. It had been reduced to the past, now. Only the future that mattered.
Royaume agreed by not broaching the topic. “Why would the Rostovs want to destroy your research towards a cure, of all things?”
The maid returned with the coffees, and Lucius took a ginger sip of his as though it was too hot, though it wasn’t. The maid had seen to that. “Because,” he said, drawing out the word in a similarly ginger manner, “They didn’t like the cure I developed.”
Another pause. Longer, less composed. Then: “You developed a working cure?”
“My serum didn’t just heal existing symptoms. It was also capable of immunising against Dark Fever.”
“That sounds wonderful.” Royaume looked into his mug, considering, then took a drink and swished it around in his mouth before swallowing. “I still can’t grasp why you think the Rostovs would want to destroy such a capable cure.”
Lucius couldn’t answer him. His cure had been a miraculous discovery that had set his research forwards several years, by his own estimations, and though it was still too late to save his dear son, it could have saved hundreds of people from the pain and the despair and the hopelessness of the disease. Instead, the Rostovs, or whoever was responsible for destroying it along with his laboratory, had condemned them to death.
It made no sense. It was infuriating. They had no right, no justifiable reason. He considered them heartless, cruel, traitorous.
“Uncle Lucius?” Royaume’s voice was soft, gentle. Not patronising but close enough to make Lucius angry with himself for not having the wherewithal to protect his research, and for failing to put everything into words not only in the moment, but in the countless opportunities he’d had in the past.
“The cure has the effect of turning whoever takes it into a Chosen.”
Whatever Royaume’s thoughts were, Lucius couldn’t read them. “Can you recreate it?”
“No. I have done so much attempting a cure that the components and the measurements, the temperatures… it’s all muddled together with failed serums. It would take a miracle for
“What do you mean?”
“Against your knowing – against everyone’s knowing,” Lucius took another sip of his drink, larger this time, meant to delay. “I already administered the serum to the entire Chike family. We will never again lose one of our own to the Dark Fever.”