(31) Crackpot Eldritch Theories

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I grip my knife as my stomach plunges. Oreo sits wrapped in a blanket against the back wall of the room. He's alive, and awake, but he looks ghastly. Gaunt and pale, with a look in his eyes like he's been through a war and back since we saw each other this morning. Throughout this whole conversation, he hasn't said a word. That in and of itself is the most telling part as far as I'm concerned.

"You're alive," I say, stating the obvious.

"Thanks to her."

I don't understand. Ditzy does, though, and whirls to face Ember. "So you can control it, too?"

Ember shrugs helplessly.

"Ember kept it from getting him," says Ditzy, to me.

"Not from getting," says Oreo with a grimace. "Just from taking over."

The Redding smell in the room. I try to discern where it's coming from. Most of the floor is dry, but there's a Redding-tinted stain in the corner of the carpet that glistens when the light catches it. It looks like someone puked there.

"And it didn't come back?" says Ditzy.

"It wants to." Ember looks weary. "But I think I gave him resistance to it."

There's a story here that we only have half of, and I need to know what happened. Ditzy beats me to it. "What did you tell it?" she says. "And how?"

"Something I uncovered in my 'crackpot Eldritch theories,'" says Oreo with the ghost of a smile. "That she pretended not to pay attention to at the time."

"Didn't you say it wasn't even Eldritch?" says Ember.

"Oh, so you were listening."

Ember looks prepared to throttle him. I didn't know these two were so close.

"Also, you didn't tell me you had such a good memory for language," murmurs Oreo. He rests his head against the wall. "Pretty sure I only said that one once. I'd have made more use of that brain of yours if I'd known."

"Pretty sure you just answered your own question. Now for the love of God, go to sleep before I have to carry you to the cot unconscious."

"I can't walk."

Ember sighs and returns to his side. I decide against offering to help. These two seem to be having a moment.

"Should I go back and tell the others?" whispers Ditzy, leaning close.

That will leave me alone here, outmatched in the event of a fight. My eyes drift to Ember. She helps Oreo figure out a way to keep the blanket on before pulling his arm around her shoulders and helping him to his feet. He really can't walk on his own. Whatever she did to save him from the Redding must have taken a lot out of him, because he looks ready to collapse by the time they reach a cot tucked in the back of the room. Ember lets him down just as gently.

I trust her.

"Yeah, go tell them to come," I say.

Ember looks up as Ditzy leaves the room, but says nothing. Just goes back to making sure Oreo is warm enough, comfortable enough, and not in need of anything before he settles down. He flakes out immediately. Ember returns to the desk like her steps weigh a hundred pounds apiece. She drops to the chair and rests her head in her hands.

I think I can piece together what happened now. Ember caught Oreo after the Redding got him but before it killed him, and drove it out again. Somehow. How she managed that without Morse code seems to have something to do with having a good memory for language, and that seems to have something to do with Oreo's theories. The crackpot Eldritch theories. Which might be neither crackpot nor Eldritch, but that's farther than I'm willing to speculate without more concrete information.

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