Olive had killed several creatures during her last journey into the forest, so she began the month with a trip to the church. Her father made her go in three times before he felt that she'd sufficiently cleaned her soul of sin. She must never forget that she was a child of the heavens, he always said, and they couldn't let her spirit be stained even if she had to fight sometimes. They didn't want to upset Saturn when she'd sent her to her father because she thought that Olive's soul would remain bright in his care.
Olive wasn't sure that she really thought it did any good when Barcelo the alchemist was always saying that the church just controlled the people with its mystic nonsense, but since it made her father happy she did it anyway.
Next they went to the armorer to sell a sword that she'd found. Her father bought her a cake as a special treat with part of the money it brought them, but when it made her stomach stretch and swell he told her that Cube would need to feed her less at mealtime for the next month or two. He wanted her to dance at the next harvest festival, and she couldn't do that if she couldn't fit into her dress.
Olive didn't want to dance, she wanted to be in the cooking competition. Marthia would be waiting for her there. But when she told her father that he said that it just couldn't happen; she'd been in the cooking contest last year, and didn't she want him to see how her dancing had improved? She did, honestly she did, but she could dance for him at home if she wanted to and that was the one time in the year when she could compete with Marthia. The conversation left her feeling stressed and anxious, but she told herself that there were still a few months left where she could change his mind.
She worked as a mason for the beginning of the month. She knew that she had to do a very good job, because in the middle of the month she'd be taking classes and they would only have enough money for her to pay for every day's lessons if she didn't mess up more than one day. She liked being mason, she liked knowing that she was helping to make homes where people would live happy lives with their families and that she was creating something that would still be there for years and years and years to come. She didn't get to create useful things very often, only food usually and that was gone almost as soon as she'd made it, and it made her happy to make something that she knew would make the city better instead of destroying things all the time. Though she knew that made the city better too, especially when she was keeping down the population of kidnappers at the lake.
But masonry was hard, very very hard, and she didn't have that much practice at it. She didn't mess up, doing her job slowly and carefully to make sure of it, but she felt a fever coming on during the last few days. It had been awhile since the last time she'd worked herself sick, she had thought that she was past it, but maybe eating less was weakening her constitution.
She pretended that she was okay anyway. Her month had already been planned out and it was too late for them to change it, so she didn't want to worry anyone.
Luckily her classes that month were in science, so at least she was indoors and not doing anything too active. She thought maybe that would give her time to heal, but her lessons were so advanced that the workout they gave her brain were almost as straining as the one a fighting class would give her body. By the end of the two weeks her eyes were swimming every time she tried to focus on a page, her homework took her an extra hour and a half every night because it was so hard to focus, and she had to sneak out early every morning and wait until evening started to dim before she came home after school so her father and Cube wouldn't be able to see the flush in her cheeks in bright daylight. Luckily there were no tests that week, so her grades weren't able to slip too badly.
She ended the month in the desert, and for the first time she wished that she asked if maybe her schedule could be rearranged. Even if she couldn't have any free time, helping Cube with the housework would have been nice. He was always so happy to have her, and would look the other way if she needed to rest for awhile.
The desert was just so hot, when she'd already spent half the month feeling like she was burning. When her vision swam she couldn't tell if it was because she was sick or because of the heat haze. She didn't even try to fight, talking her way out of every fight instead. It took her three and a half days to reach the caves where she usually spent her first night, and she only made it that quickly because a goblin lent her his shoulder for the last mile or two.
The caves were blessedly cool and dark, and she felt like she could breathe easily for the first time in days though she still stumbled with every other step. She walked more and more slowly as she wandered through them, trying to draw out how long she got to stay there.
She hadn't meant to visit the dragon ruins on that trip, but her feet carried her forward with very little guidance from her mind and suddenly when she reached out she felt scales under her fingers instead of stone and an echoing voice was saying, "Olive?"
It was hard to take in the whole great bulk of a dragon when she was in peak condition, and even harder when she was seeing three of them, but there were only two dragons who should know her name and one of them wouldn't be so close to the entrance to the ruins so she realized who it had to be. The fiance that she usually almost forgot she had, it was so strange to think that her father had betrothed her to someone. Especially when he wasn't even human.
"Oh," she said, "hi," and leaned against his leg without thinking about it. His scales were wonderfully cool, and smooth beneath her cheek, and she just wanted to rest for awhile.
"Um, Olive?" he said tentatively, a far cry from his booming egotistical guardsman voice. "Are you okay."
"No, I don't think so," she said honestly. He wasn't her father and he wasn't Cube and he wouldn't ever go into town to tell one of them and make them feel bad, so that would be okay; in the state she was in that was the best reasoning she was able to do. "Hey," she said, patting his leg, "will you be human-shaped? It's too hard to look at you right now."
Then she was still leaning against him, but her head was against his shoulder and it made for a much more comfortable headrest. Though she'd said she wanted to look at him, her eyes drifted shut instead. They just felt too heavy to stay open.
"Olive? Are humans supposed to get this hot?" She felt his fingers flutter against his forehead, hardly making contact.
"It's okay, this just happens to me sometimes. The first year I was here I spent almost as much time sick as I was healthy. Farming was so hard, but Father said that it would make me strong and it did. Can we sit down." Even though she'd asked for it, she felt like she was collapsing when he slowly lowered both of them to the floor. But once she was there she could let herself go limp; she hadn't even realized until then just then when she was able to let her muscles relax how leaden her body had felt.
And then everything went hazy and dark.
She woke up in her own bed, with a cold clothe on her forehead and Cube hovering over her, his eyes wide with worry. "Oh, thank goodness you've woken up, Mistress! Why didn't you tell us you were sick? Your father wouldn't have sent you out into the wilderness if he'd know. You'll be staying right here with me until you're better next month, I promise that."
"Cube? How did I get here?" she asked, trying to remember but coming up with nothing.
"Your young dragon carried you home. The poor boy was frantic, Mistress, he was in such a rush to get you here that he flew straight to our yard with you instead of disguising himself." Cube smiled as he tested her temperature with the back of his hand and resoaked her head cloth. "You can imagine how much it terrified out neighbors to see a dragon fly over!"
"Oh. Silly boy," she said, relaxing back against her pillows. She already felt better than she had in days. "I told him that I'd be okay."
But she could admit that it did feel nice, knowing that the boy she'd one day marry had worried that much about her.