Theodore rolled over in bed, feeling ready to die. His whole body was weak and sore. He wasn't able to keep food down and he was both too hot and too cold. It was a miracle he survived the walk back from the city.
He threw off the covers and tried to summon the strength to climb out of bed. All he managed to accomplish, after a feeble amount of squirming, was knocking his pillow onto the floor. Theodore wailed in frustration. He was trapped and now less comfortable.
"Are you okay?" Oboe said, coming up the cottage stairs with a big bowl of soup. "You sound awful!"
Theodore used a trembling arm to brace himself against the bedpost and sit up. "I'm fine. Just yawning. I need to get back to work."
"No, you don't! You need to rest!" She said. "Thistle told us you have to stay in bed so your body can get rid of the extra magic!"
"I'm not going to just sit around," he said, grumbling. "I have a responsibility to serve the Whirlwood."
"You can't help anybody while you're sick! That's why you gotta focus on getting better, okay?" She set the soup down on the nightstand. "You'll feel better if you eat this."
The dish was filled with a thick, stringy green fluid that made Theodore nervous. "What is it?"
"Medicine. Woodruff with moon herb and sickle shrooms! Thistle said it'll help. It'll make you poop a lot!"
Unconvinced, Theodore swirled the spoon in the bowl until he worked up the bravery to put the concoction in his mouth. It had an overwhelming mint taste that went down bitter. He tried to tell himself that meant it was just potent.
"Has it been busy?" He said, forcing himself to eat more.
"Not very," she said, putting his pillow back. "Most creatures just need help with renewals. I'm taking notes for anyone who's got a problem I can't figure out."
"Good." Theodore relaxed, feeling better knowing nothing catastrophic had happened yet. He felt grateful for her help now more than ever. "Thank you for covering for me like this. It means a lot."
A big smiled crept across her face. "You're welcome!" She was straining not to grab him and pull him into a hug. "Anything to help a friend!"
Theodore put the bowl down again, thinking. "Oboe, I'm sorry. I've been cold to you, and you didn't deserve that."
"It's okay," Oboe said. "I deserved it."
"No, you didn't," he said, feeling the need to be firm. "Don't say that. You gave me a gift, and I let myself get upset without thinking." He looked down, dwelling on his mistake. "It felt good to talk to you about why I was upset. It's not something I ever thought I'd talk about. ...It meant something to me. More than I thought it would. Thank you."
Oboe was holding her breath. "Does that mean you want the little knight now?"
"...Yes, I think tha-" Before he could finish, Oboe charged down the stairs to fetch it. She hurtled back up again, out of breath.
"I forgot!" She said, bringing Theodore an envelope. "This came for you earlier!"
The letter had the university's seal on it. Opening it, he read.
Salutations Sir Grayweather,
I hope your recovery has been steady since the incident. My condolences that things did not proceed as you had hoped. Felix Ambergrail is now more set than ever that the ban against the fairies must be kept. I cannot imagine that anything will change his mind. Attempts to sway him from this attitude have been futile.
There's a matter I need to discuss with you, however. I did not forget the point of our agreement. Following the incident, I have kept records of the duke's vitals. His recovery has been remarkable. I cannot argue with results like these. Even if the dream was cursed, the lasting effect on his health has been more than positive. This shows there was some truth in your hypothesis.
Please speak to me at your earliest convenience. This requires further study, but more pressingly, there are people who are still suffering. You told me that there are fairies likewise afflicted. I believe we can make a mutually beneficial arrangement provided you can enforce a more stringent screening process.
Learned Practitioner of the Healing Arts
"What does it say?" Oboe said, peeking over his shoulder.
"Things might not be as bad as we thought," Theodore said.
Oboe offered him the little toy knight again. This time, Theodore took it.