Challenge #03068-H145: A Case of the Colliwobbles

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My tummy hurts. -- Anon Guest

Become nurse to a crown child, they said. It'll be easy, they said. Just leave them to play for a few hours, keep them clean, and make certain they eat. When they reach a certain age, teach them to read. The rest of your time is leisure and comfort, they said. 'They' had not reckoned with the Earldom of Whitekeep and the curse on the crown family line. That curse was embodied in the current heir to the Blood Throne. Trueborn and firstborn son of the Earl and his wife. Kormwind Arachis Felbourne Whitekeep, ninth of his name, the living shame of Whitekeep. A Tiefling, like eight others before him in Whitekeep history. One of the rare and rather embarrassing Demon Lords. Soon to grow to be a terror to the satellite Baronies, and threat to any who opposed the people of the Earldom.

The good news was that he had servants to feed, bathe, and dress him. All she had to do was see to his education and keep him out of sight of the greater public. Easy, they said. They lied. The tiny Viscount had a knack for creeping away. He had been found in the stable, feeding carrots or apples to the horses. He had been found in the Council chambers, listening intently between the polished boots of Barons, their delegates, and the Earl himself. He had caused a ruckus in the Countess Consort's sewing circle by handing one of the ladies the bobbin she had dropped. He had an unnerving habit of vanishing for hours and then turning up with burrs and stains on his person, yet nobody anywhere saw where he went.

At the age of six, little had improved at all. Hard shoes that sounded on any surface were silent once fastened onto his blue feet. Garish outfits of bold colour seemed like part of the wallpaper when he was still. The only way to be certain he didn't wander off and find trouble was to have him in sight at all times. Such as it was, his little Lordship remained under her watchful eye all the way to Waterdeep. Perhaps, when she finally unloaded him in Zemnia, he would bloody well stay there.

Two days out of Whitekeep, past Orlbar and well on the road, his Lordship developed a stomach-ache. He had periodic trouble with a sensitive digestive system but this seemed... beyond normal for him. He'd given up his obsession with acquiring a mountain fish[1], now that they were out of sight of the Earldom, but that was hardly concerning. On the plus side, he would eat. On the minus side, he was complaining.

He was not running a fever and a passing Cleric reassured her that he was not suffering a real illness. The discomfort was genuine, since he was less active than normal. His interest in peeking outside his cabin, palanquin, or concealing cloak waned as their journey progressed. His progress in languages proceeded with an undercurrent of unvoiced whining in his voice.

In desperation, at a tiny hamlet between Loudwater and Secomber, she sought out a Tiefling sympathiser who also happened to be the local healer.

"What ails the child?"

Nani Felfeather nudged his Lordship. "Tell the woman."

"My tummy hurts," complained Lord Kormwind. "M' sorry for th' inconvenience."

"E-nun-see-ate," snapped Nani.

The healer ignored her, and knelt so she could look Lord Kormwind in his glowing yellow eyes. "Far from home, my Lord?"

Lord Kormwind nodded. "...'es."

"Never traveled before?"

A head-shake. "Mm-mm."

"Words," snapped Nani. "Use your words, my Lord."

The healer had a vile glare for her. "You'd best wait outside."

"Fine. If he manages to sneak off, you're tracking him down." Nani went as far as the door, and lurked outside with her lips clamped shut and her ears wide open.

"It's all right," soothed the healer. "She came to me because she's out of ideas. I'm here to help you. Tell me what you're worried about."

A very deep breath, and his words came tumbling out in a gabbled rush. "I aksed for father to guard m' baby brother from monsters but he never does anything I ask for an' Mama never said anything to stop me bein' sent away an' I never met an Elf before an' I never been t' Zemnia an' now Nani says something's wrong with me an' I don' wanna get hurt by the sun an' it's scary out there." Hiccough. Sniffle. "I heard th' guards fighting something in the night. Do monsters follow people?"

Gods. He was on about monsters again. The only monster in the vicinity was that little blue wretch.

"The monsters that get under the bed?"

"Mm-hm."

"I've never seen that sort of monster roaming about, but you know they can't get you if you stay safe in bed."

"...yeah..."

"Your baby brother's too young to get monsters under his bed, just yet. You don't need to worry about him. Your mother and father will keep him safe; just like your nurse keeps you safe. I've met a few Elves and they keep their manners well. You just try your best to remember yours and you will be fine."

Sniff. "...'kay..."

"Would you like a little cake?"

"Cake's for good boys. So 'm not allowed."

A whisper. "I won't tell her if you don't. You've been good enough for me."

A lengthy silence for his Lordship. A dubious and quavering, "If you insist?"

"I'm insisting."

"Very well. I accept your kind invitation. Thank you."

Nani could hear her sit his Lordship down with tea and a small cake, and then the healer emerged from her hut. Nani glared at her. "He's malingering. I'm not feeding him cake all the way to Zemnia."

"He's a scared little boy who's never been this far from home and has a lot to worry about," countered the healer. "Blue skin or blue blood is no matter either way. Children of all types will say their stomachs hurt if they're worried enough about anything for long enough."

"He's not a child, he's a demon."

"He also has perfect hearing," snapped the healer. "A little kindness can go a long way, especially with his sort. Remind him that his worries have solutions and all will be well."

Three more weeks until Waterdeep, where a teleportation circle would whisk him away to the other side of the world. She could give that beast minimal ease for three weeks.

After that, him and his stomach-aches were Master Bai's problem. Not hers.

[1] Like taiyaki, but more like a pressed sandwich with pastry instead of bread. It's filled with any sort of savoury or sweet substance and often a treat for good children.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / focalpoint]

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