The infirmary housed twenty beds, each neatly made with an extra blanket lying on top. Ornately carved nightstands stood beside each bed, large gas lamps glowing gently beside occupied cots. One large bow window opened up to the outside, showing the campus basking in the moonlight as stars slowly emerged from their hiding places.
Two lamps were lit in the infirmary, the one closest to the window housing Frederick Lionhart’s unconscious form. A faint patina of perspiration rested on his face, his eyes still damp and watering despite being closed. He stirred, his mind swirling as he groaned.
“He’s beginning to come round now.”
“Thank heavens, poor boy’s had me worried all evening!” Wilkinson sat in a chair next to Frederick’s bed, dousing his smoking pipe.
Frederick tried to get up, blindly grabbing the edge of the bed and swaying dangerously. Wilkinson caught him, holding the young professor’s shoulders as he guided him onto his back.
“Easy there, chap. You’ve had quite the thrill this afternoon."
“What time is it?” Frederick wheezed, a hand over his eyes.
“Oh, I’d say well past midnight.” Replied Wilkinson, checking his pocket watch.
Frederick’s stomach growled unpleasantly, a deep gurgling sound emitting from his throat. He held his abdomen with his left hand, his head with the right.
“Oh dear. Hold on, chap.” Wilkinson quickly pulled a pail from underneath Frederick’s bed just in time to catch his escaping bile.
Frederick’s back tensed and heaved as he vomited, his head screaming with pain as his muscles ached. He collapsed back against the bed like a worn animal, numbly wiping off any excess on his lip as he caught his breath. Wilkinson took a peek in the bucket and winced.
“Now is that any way to compliment Mrs. Clydestale’s cooking?” Wilkinson asked with a smirk.
Frederick gave a weak chuckle, rubbing his throat while tensing his eyelids.
“Is my satchel here?” Frederick asked, his voice hoarse.
“Aye, it is.”
“Can you go into the inner compartment and remove my spectacles? My eyes hurt too much to open them in this light, however dim.”
Wilkinson leaned over to the foot of Frederick’s bed, unhitching the clasps on his leather satchel and flipping it back to rummage in the main compartment. He removed a polished bronze case, leaf filigrees winding around the edges. He popped open the case and pulled out the dark spectacles.
Frederick extended his hand out, Wilkinson gently placing them with the lenses facing up. He wiped his eyes once more before slipping them on, his eyelids struggling open.
“Do you think perhaps we should get the professor of Optometry in here to take a look at your eyes, chap? Hopkins took a few blood samples to be safe but hasn't said anything.”
“No, in my present condition, it would be impossible to inspect them. Why wasn’t it done while I was sedated?”
“That’s the thing, dear boy. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get your eyelids apart. It’s as if they were sealed shut. What in heaven’s name did you read?”
“This is where I come in and say I cannot recall. I had a letter in my hand, the next, my eyes felt like someone had set them on fire. The most agonizing pain imaginable was going through my head.” Frederick rubbed his forehead, sitting up in bed as he adjusted his shirt, “I can’t describe what I saw, what I felt, but it was horrible.”
Wilkinson shifted in his chair, clearing his throat gently.
“You…don’t recall…anything you said?”
Frederick looked to him, his furrowed brows conveying his confusion.
“No. Patrick, what happened?”
“You spoke the language of the Mystics, during your seizure. I can’t even describe how it sounded, but they were dark, hateful words.”
Frederick’s body tensed as Wilkinson explained what had happened, his mouth going dry.
“That why we needed to know what it was you saw in that letter you received. Anything at all? A name, an address, a symbol?”
“It was small…not made of any parchment the academy or any local notaries supply in Silestra…I can’t recall anything else.”
Frederick combed his fingers through his hair, still a little shaken as he swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“I need to walk for a bit. Will I be required to go to a medical center?”
“It’s recommended, but not required.”
Wilkinson stood as Frederick rose cautiously from his bed, adjusting his pants and wobbling. Wilkinson kept a strong grip on Frederick’s upper arm, despite their height different, Frederick groaning and sighing from the aftereffects of his ether sedation.
“I’ll call a coach for you, chap.”
“Thank you, Wilkinson."
Frederick stood up straight as Wilkinson left, massaging his temple after slinging on his vest. In his dim vision, he could make out the rest of the room, his gaze drawn to the other lit lamp. Inside the bed beside it lay his patient, resting.
Frederick came by to his bedside, taking a seat. Trying not to disturb him, he leaned over and gently pinched the boy’s wrist while watching his pocket watch.
“Mmhnn…” He shifted, opening his eyes, “Am I alive?”
“Very much so.”
“Good evening, sir.”
“Good evening. How are you feeling?”
“A bit tired, sir. And thirsty.”
Frederick took up the pitcher beside the bed, pouring a glass and helping him sit up carefully. He took a few sips, trying to clear his throat. Frederick kept a hand on the boy's back, tucking him back in when he had his fill.
“Why do you wearing those spectacles, sir?”
“My eyes are sensitive at night.” Frederick responded coolly, his hands resting on his knees, “You were very strong today. Your father must be proud to have a son like you.”
He nodded sluggishly as his eyelids drooped.
“You rest up. I sent correspondence to your family that you are on the mend.” Frederick stood up, gently squeezing the boy’s shoulder, “Stay strong.”
“I will, sir. Good night, sir.”
Frederick retrieved his shoes, throwing on his overcoat and satchel as he left the Infirmary. The walls were lined with gas lamps, portraits of founding scientists and professors guarding the staircase as Frederick exited the building and turned towards the main square of the academy.
Wilkinson stood near the stone staircase leading down into the traffic circle. A coach waited for him, the steam trolley puttering vapor.
“Take care, chap. Get something simple to eat and straight to bed.”
“I will, I will.” Frederick tapped Wilkinson on the shoulder as he clambered into the coach, Wilkinson signaling to the conductor to head off.
Frederick shut the door behind him as the engine hissed, gurgled once and jolted into motion. He leaned back against the leather stretched seat, slowly taking off his spectacles in the safety of night. He pinched his eyes gently, groaning.
“Lord, what a day.”
“I could agree, Frederico.” Came a smooth, accented voice from the shadows of the coach.
Frederick gasped, instantly backing into the corner as a pair of amber eyes emerged from the darkness.
“Good tidings, Frederico.”