Approximately two weeks ago Westel told me of a malady that is affecting certain members of the Burning Tusk Tribe. I can’t pretend to understand the details, but it seems these Tribesmates have angered some kind of worm-spirit that is taking revenge by infesting them with a parasite. This parasite burrows into the system and affects the body and mind; the symptoms vary from person to person but have been collectively observed to include itching, coughing, paranoia and hallucinations, and it is expected that these last two symptoms will eventually push the affected members of the Tribe to turn on each other, thus accomplishing the creature’s objectives in a twist of dramatic irony I would not have expected from mere vermin.
Westel is himself afflicted, and has suffered primarily from hearing phantom sounds – in particular an incessant scratching, as of rats beneath the floorboards, even when he is out in the woods or elsewhere that such a thing is impossible. Ill-equipped as I am to actually mend any ailments any person might have (and these parasites have apparently proven resistant to all conventional treatments, besides) I’ve tried to alleviate his suffering when and how I can – primarily by providing brief diversion and distraction from the sounds he cannot escape, and soothing his tension so he can attempt to sleep. Of course I’ve also been preoccupied with Kuvasei’s current situation and so perhaps I’ve not been as available to Westel as I can or should be, as one who cares for him and would want to care for him… and stubborn, stoic fool that he is, I doubt West would have ever even told me of his affliction were it not for the possibility that he had passed it on to me as well. And fool that I am, I took him at his word when he promised me that he would be all right.
Yesterday as certain skilled members of the Tribe attempted a palliative procedure on Do’xian (another of the infected)… Westel snapped. I do not know all the details; only that he began shooting at the Tribesmates who were attempting to aid Do’xian – men and women he holds as his brothers and sisters – that he screamed and shouted and did not recognize them, and he ultimately had to be forcibly disarmed and restrained. I was clear in Dalaran when this happened, and he at the tribal home at Piki’alo Hetawa in Mulgore; I felt his distress in the moment through the magical link we share but was unable to actually communicate with him, and by the time I finally arrived there (thank the gods for mages and portals) he had been chained from shin to shoulder and left in a medical hut to wait out the episode. He was lucid when I arrived, but when I endeavored to release him from his chains Westel kicked at me and scolded me to leave him be. He explained to me that should the madness recur, then no one would be safe if he were free.
His Tribesmates having been called away before I arrived, Westel was alone and already thirsty. I spent the rest of the afternoon keeping Westel company in his bonds; talking to him, giving him water, at one point taking off his boots and tickling his feet in my ongoing effort to distract him from the illusions that were still plaguing him. As the afternoon faded into evening I grew more and more irritated with his adopted family for leaving him alone to deal with this and ultimately, unfortunately rather took it out on Scynthe and Vivvienne when they arrived at Piki’alo in the early evening. They’ve also been afflicted, judging by the masks they both wore (a fact to which I might have been more sympathetic, in retrospect), and in my frustration I fear I did not communicate well; somehow the three of us ended up going in circles regarding precisely what my problem was (it wasn’t that he’d been bound, and it wasn’t that he was alone, it was that he was bound and alone), and so when the Forsaken Blanche arrived (ironically, one of the very people Westel had tried to ventilate earlier) and seemed ready and willing to take the situation back in hand I gratefully handed it over in order to go take a walk and clear my head. The last thing I truly want is to be at odds with the Tribe and yet somehow I find myself stumbling into that position more often than not, and it bothers me tremendously.
When I returned Westel was gone. I was informed that he’d been removed to undergo the same procedure that Do’xian had been subject to, and there was nothing to do at that point but wait. And worry.
Some time later I was alerted that all was well and I could see Westel at his loft in Piki’alo. I fairly dashed over, and when I arrived I found him collapsed on his makeshift bed of furs on the floor… looking utterly exhausted, but more peaceful than he had in weeks. The scratching had stopped, he told me in a tired yet grateful voice. I remembered someone saying earlier that the procedure was not a cure for the condition, but merely provided a temporary respite, and I asked Westel if he knew how long it would last. Five days, he told me. Five days, and then it would begin again… and though they could repeat the procedure, it would be less effective every time. I filed this away… and then I held him, and kissed him and spoke to him softly until he finally fell into deep, blessed sleep.
I am frightened.
I am frightened of this in ways I cannot articulate. I cannot just kill this thing. I cannot scour it out or set it afire. At least once I figure out how to reach Kuvasei’s demoness I can fight her and even if I fell before her it would be with my hands ablaze; if that beast wants my daughters, she will have to walk over my dead corpse to get to them. But this thing that Westel and his Tribe are fighting – this worm – it lives inside them. It lives and yet it does not live, it does not appear that it can just be killed, and it is stealing their lives from them piece by piece. Five days’ respite, and Westel’s sanity will begin slowly eroding again. And this time he and I will know what is happening to him, every step of the way, and where it will lead.
Or will I know, at all? I’ve not exhibited any symptoms myself, as far as I can tell… and Westel is holding out hope that somehow I might be spared. But we know the thing can be transmitted – Scynthe apparently caught it from Vivv – and we know I’ve been exposed. It may just be a matter of time before I’m bound in chains right next to Westel, and both of us mad as hatters. One can hope – and indeed, I do. Somehow, the idea that I might become ill myself is not as worrisome on its own merits as the thought that I might become so ill that I cannot help him. Or that I might have exposed Laurelia in turn….
Westel trusts his Tribe; he says they are working towards a solution, and he has the utmost confidence that they will find one. I wish I had his faith. I’ve come to trust Westel, and I know that he believes what he is telling me… but trust in general is difficult for me, and although I admire and respect many individual members of the Burning Tusk Tribe, as a group they are at times distressingly disorganized – no single Tribesmate would have consciously left their brother ill, alone and helpless, but somehow a group of them unconsciously did exactly that. Most of the time such chaos is at amusing and endearing and at worst a minor inconvenience, but this… this is serious, and real, and frightening.
Still, I have no choice but to trust them. I do not understand what is happening to my west wind; I cannot fight it. I can only stay by his side and comfort him to the best of my ability, and hope his brothers and sisters find an answer before they are torn apart and he is blown away from me for good.