The party had found itself at the Ruins’ entrance, a large gate that towered over everyone. Awe struck their hearts as the archaeologists continued their work. “Staggering!” breathed Arsha. “A kingdom we’ve never heard about appears and it may be where the Order of Ancestry began!”
“You can see why the Order’s helping out in any way it can,” mused Marianes as she pointed out a pair of Order Members, a merman and a mermaid. Arsha resisted the urge to arch an eyebrow at seeing a mermaid without even sea stars on her chest. She figured it would have been impolite.
“There is so much to learn here,” sighed Arsha. “We know so little about the Order’s origins. I envy you guys.”
“Your Highnesses!” called Laverda. “Over here!” Marianes and Arsha swam towards Laverda’s position in what was possibly a Throne Room. He was holding a thick book. “I believe THIS may help us unravel the mysteries of this place!” he guessed.
“How long has it been here?” asked Marianes.
“For 50,000 years,” revealed Laverda, “according to the archaeologists.”
“That should have rotted away and disintegrated,” muttered Arsha.
“That’s what we figured,” replied Laverda, “until the mages discovered an ancient version of a preservation spell on the book.”
“A preservation spell?” quizzed Arsha. “That kind of magic is recent! Only 100 years old!”
“The mages were all over that like ants and started studying it,” chuckled Laverda, “figuring that, if they could study an ancient spell, our modern twist on it can be improved.”
“What else has been found so far?” asked Marianes.
“Be patient,” replied a mermaid passing by, the head archaeologist, Moreeta. “We have to take things slow when digging something up. Any faster and we risk breaking it.”
“…You guys have the most mind-numbing job in all the Realms,” muttered Marianes.
“As do we diplo…” Laverda then cried out in pain as his hoof struck something. He started clutching it as a medic swam over and helped him lay down away from the object. Moreeta dusted some of the sand away to reveal a man’s arm in ice!
“Someone’s buried here!” she called. Arsha examined the ice and recoiled in horror.
“It’s fiend-ice!” she shouted. “Get him out!” The digging crew got the ice block out of the sand and found that the arm’s owner was a bare chested merman! The medical crew took him back to base to get him out of the ice, a result of dark magic, trapping the victim for a long time. Arsha called up her ship. “This is Arsha, calling Sick bay!” she called. “Marshii, respond!”
“What’s the matter?” asked Marshii’s voice. “You sound like you found a body.”
“We did!” replied Arsha. “A merman in fiend-ice! We need you here now!”
“On my way!” replied Marshii, sounding more urgent. Everyone headed to the base’s infirmary and did what they could to melt the fiend-ice. Marshii arrived, holding her medical kit and leaving her robot legs behind on the Endeavor to swim quickly to the scene. “Medical torch!” she directed. A small rod with a red jewel at the end was handed to her. She breathed on it and the jewel spewed a small flame, hot enough to cut steel. She chanted a spell to adjust the flame so it wouldn’t damage the merman inside as she cut him out. She started at the head so he could breathe. As she began cutting, one of the medical staff heard a crack. Then another, and another, until he saw that the ice was breaking at the merman’s fins at the end of his tail. A fissure then traveled up the ice and the merman started moving. With one last powerful thrash of his tail, the ice split off of him and he decked Marshii! The rest of the medical staff tried to restrain him, but it was no good. He was too strong and managed to escape the infirmary. Erga and Troga saw him swim out at top speed. A nurse told them what happened.
“Security team, to me!” called Troga. Erga followed him as they swam after the mystery merman. A security team joined them and he was spotted at Central Stage, the main venue where Marianes and her troop do their belly-dance routines. Sadly, such a routine was going on as the merman barreled through the dancers on stage. He was tangled in the mess and the security team arrived to sort it out. He was freed and started punching again. He had a rough time going against Erga. He may not have been the skinniest merman around, but his strength and speed were not to be underestimated. He kept the merman busy until the merman grabbed a dancer’s veil and threw it onto Erga’s head, charging it with magic so it couldn’t get caught in the current and fly as if it went through air. Erga was distracted enough for him to get away and leave the base. He finally got the veil off and Marshii was tending to whatever injuries he suffered.
“Okay, off to the infirmary with you!” she directed. “In fact, all of you!” she was addressing the security team as she said that. A bald mermaid of the Order opened her mouth to protest, but Erga stopped her.
“Sister Ransii,” he assured “it would not be good for anyone’s health if we argued with a doctor’s orders.” The mermaid then closed her mouth and was led to the infirmary.
Major Palmanar was discussing the altercation in her office with Arsha. “This merman’s caused a lot of chaos in my base,” she grumbled. “I want answers from him and I want them as fast as possible.”
“The Endeavor’s sensors will find this merman, I promise,” assured Arsha. “I just wish I knew why he acted that way in the infirmary.”
“Perhaps we’ll find out when we find him,” guessed Palmanar. As soon as she said it, a thud was heard outside the office. They got up to check on what happened and saw Laverda collapsed on the floor. Arsha checked his pulse and became worried.
“Arsha to Marshii!” she called over the communicator. “Medical emergency in the Command Center! Laverda’s just collapsed and his heart rate is through the roof!”
“I’ll port you right to the Endeavor’s Sick bay!” replied Marshii. A green light surrounded the two and they vanished in a runic circle before it faded from the base entirely.
Arsha and Laverda appeared in Sick bay as two nurses, one Centaur male and one Elf female, helped Laverda up onto a bed. Marshii waved a wand over him and got a reading. “Good heavens!” she gasped. “No wonder his heart rate’s so fast! His larger horse heart has shut down! His smaller human heart’s doing the work of both!”
“Doctor, there’s a puncture wound in the skin around his hoof!” revealed the Elf nurse.
“The same hoof he found the fiend-ice with!” growled Marshii. “Borto, get Elmar and Orthena’s help on this! I want that ice analyzed to see if there IS something in it that would attack a Centaur’s hearts like this!”
“At once!” confirmed the Centaur nurse as he made the necessary calls.
“Halnee,” directed Marshii to the Elf nurse, “I need a blood sample to see what kind of disease this is!”
“Yes, Doctor!” replied Halnee. She took off to get the necessary equipment.
“What can I do?” asked Arsha.
“You can wait for results OUTSIDE of Sick bay,” answered Marshii. Her tone indicated she will have no truck with backchat. Arsha stepped outside, letting Marshii do her work.
The blood sample revealed that Laverda WAS infected with a virus, a slow acting one that would shut down his entire circulatory system starting with the larger organs. One of his horse lungs had shut down before Marshii cast a medical stasis spell to prevent any other organs from shutting down. It could only last for six hours and the virus had six hours left to do its work once the spell faded. Elmar came in and delivered his analysis. “The virus DID have its origins in the fiend-ice,” he reported. “And I have also concluded that, during the merman’s encasement, it has mutated every year.”
“Impossible!” snapped Marshii. “I’ve looked up the mutation history of that virus and I can tell you now that it was supposed to have been eradicated! For it to mutate, people would have to have been fighting it for ages! The mutations would be a result of adapting to the newer drugs to that specific strain!”
“And yet,” observed Elmar, “it mutated WITHOUT such means. In other circumstances, it would make an ideal organism for study.”
“How can you not be worried about him?!” protested Marshii. “Laverda’s dying and you’re acting like you looked a Gorgon in the eyes!”
“You mistake me, Doctor,” replied Elmar. “I AM worried for him. I am simply channeling my worry into my duties.”
“Oh yeah?” hissed Marshii. “And have you made any more insightful observations?!”
“As a matter of fact, I believe I may have something,” answered Elmar. “I noticed a peculiarity in its genetic structure. As of now, I am unable to determine what that peculiarity is. I believe you have the tools needed to name it.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” sighed Marshii. She got a bit of the virus safely into a test tube and put it through a rigorous analysis that would take an hour before any conclusions were reached.