Seventh Sickness (book)
The Seventh Sickness
Heritage Monographs is pleased to present the translated diary of Empath Arturo Felganson, a curious doctor from Imperial times who, despite having a long career healing many famous and renown individuals, eventually succumbed to one of the very madnesses that he had so long tried to treat in his patients. This tale is a cautionary one, warning the young Empath or researcher to not allow work to consume their lives.
One thing to note throughout the course of reading is the highly unusual and outdated terminology that doctor Felganson uses. For example, he makes references to phrases such as "hysterical blindness" and often implies that a patient's history and environment play a strong role in their mental well-being. In modern times, this is mostly believed to be overly complicated nonsense, but was common during Imperial days.
Please also bear in mind that this is only the first portion of Arturo Felganson's diary, as the Council of Moon Mages has censored the final chapters. We at Heritage Monographs are working diligently at convincing the Council to allow us to publish the rest. For now, we have been allowed only this copy, so treat it respectfully.
Now, the tale of Arturo Felganson and the Seventh Sickness, told in his own words.
It has been a long time since I put quill to parchment, but I believe it is time that I share my so-called fall from grace. The Mahkra Institute has been kind to me, and I have been kind to it, but alas the pounding of feet in the streets below tells me that I have precious little time left before I am discovered, and I will spend it writing. Perhaps this will find its way to another in due time, and my legacy will live on. I can only hope so, for so much there still is to do.
I had been invited to the Institute many times in the past years by various colleagues, but each time refused, preferring the excitement of traveling to distant locales to treat the truly remarkable. Alas, even a well preserved Elothean as myself can not stay young and energetic forever, and as age crept upon me, I finally favored one of the numerous offers. So began my residency at Mahkra Insinuate, and one that I continue to hold -- at least for a final few hours.
My arrival was marked by an amazingly continuous flood of fascinatingly troubled patients. Had I known I would learn so much in my initial weeks at the institute, I might have succumbed to the offers much earlier. Every day brought with it a new wealth of information, and I constantly spent my evenings scribing my thoughts and solutions. I was inspired by many a case, and many a patient's treatment.
One such case was a young Elven girl, prone to paranoia and a curious hysterical blindness. She would often "lose" her toys while they sat immediately in her presence, and while clearly able to see other people and things in the room, seemed to have specific issue with locating her toys. This only ever occurred when, in her playtime, she found one or more of them to have done something "bad" or undesirable. Her condition turned out to be a bizarre form of memory suppression, as the girl had been witness to a horrid event as a small child. As she acted out those events with her toys, she eventually shut out not only memory, but sight and sound. Her treatment was slow, but with our help she met a full recovery as we slowly and carefully allowed her to confront and deal with that trauma in her past.
There are many tales I could share about other such conditions that were mysterious and yet later solved. Without fail, all of these proved to be another malady or illness, or combination of several, that was to blame. It was, however, the illness that had stricken the man in the seventh room of the second floor that would prove to be both the most intriguing and unexplainable, and later to be the undoing of my thus far illustrious career.
My first impressions of Salvatine Ockham were anti-climatic and nothing at all representative of the voluminous warnings I had received up until that point. He was not an attractive man, and due to a largish nose and a slack jaw I instantly decidedly he was also of lower intellect. His build was small and slight; my own easily managed to surpass his despite racial differences. If expected to excise him from a crowd, I can attest that I would have had much difficulty picking his face from the common chaff and daily people that built up the throngs of even a lesser populated city. Mr. Ockham was ordinary in the most unremarkable of ways. My colleagues, though mostly tired of his poor plight thanks to his required supervision, had made him sound to be raving in a constant manner. I left my first meeting with a sense of confusion, and firmly believed that some rather unprofessional exaggeration had occurred.
As explained to me by the staff, for my own tenure had begun only a mere few weeks prior, it had been two seasons since his hapless wife had brought him to the hospital in the hopes of a cure or exorcism. Apparently Mr. Ockham was prone to fits of a most unusual and disturbing nature, and had been a victim of these fits for a number of years. While in the throes of such an episode, he was apt to violence; something growing all too common in modern Elanthian society. A penchant for such ferocity was sadly not so unusual. This was not that which made Mr. Ockham such an intriguing case, though I was often cautioned against letting my guard down when in his presence.
Salvatine Ockham's malady was of a far more dubious and vile nature than simple violence. I spoke to his wife, an equally small woman of pleasant appearance with farmer's hands and a sharp wit. She expressed nothing that would indicate her being a dullard or lacking in sense, though the orderlies on occasion joked that her marriage to Salvatine would be the key evidence to such an accusation should I choose to pursue it.
At great length and with remarkable patience she answered my questions as best as she could, though there was nothing about any of this information she deposed that would indicate the suffering of any known sickness. Her life, and his as well, was that of simple farmers with a comparatively small cluster of children raised to also tend crops and fields. There had been no recognizable interaction with spirits or demons; there had in fact been little in the way of risk presented from even simple goblins or kobolds. The Ockhams had been fortunate enough to live close enough to Riverhaven that they rarely even spotted marauders of any kind, and far enough away that attacks on the city itself often neglected their residence and barns.
The Ockhams were not rich, nor even well endowed with gifts. They had their food and comfortable shelter, they had modest crops and livestock and an outstanding work ethic, and a reliable trade during the fall for coin. With imagination, the Ockhams could have moved themselves up the proverbial ladder from average farmer to successful traders in farming goods. This was not to be, for they were both happily content with their position in life, and had few if any aspirations outside of the raising of their children.
Though none of this precludes any interaction with malicious forces, strictly in a comparative sense they were proving to be unusually low risk victims for mental disease. At this point, my curiosity had become aroused, though I can say with certainty that I would have let it drop here in a moment had I known of the things to come.
As per doctrine, I conducted several interviews with Mrs. Ockham after my first chat with Salvatine. During the second interview we had no need to further establish environmental data and so I pushed upon the issue of his past actions. Her descriptions were curious indeed, for it was nothing like the man I had met two days before.
She wove a sad tale of Mr. Ockham's malady, explaining it without flourishes or literary talent that led me to believe she was being as factual as possible. Mr. Ockham, she had said, on occasion "came about with a woken up look though he'd been awake the whole day." In this state, he did not recognize and often refused to acknowledge her nor his family, and quickly set off for parts unknown for days -- and sometimes weeks -- at a time.
The first time this happened, she'd said, he'd proclaimed his intent to travel the long distance from Riverhaven to Darkstone with the goal of killing rats, though the reasons for this only the gods could surmise. Terrified at his departure, she had tried to have the warden put a halt to his bizarre activity, but alas, their standing as simple farmers made it hard to gain the attention of the constable. Mr. Ockham returned a few days later, none the worse for wear and apparently equally confused as to what had happened. Additionally, he retained no memory of the events.
Weeks passed without incident until again he was stricken, and set off for an odd locale to seek battle. He spoke of great fights that must be won, enemies that his wife had only heard mentioned in myth and rumor, and stories of valiant heroes whose names must be honored. She was sure he would die at the hands of some fearsome beast, convinced that a farmer's combat ability would quickly result in the end of both the man and his delusions. Strangely, he always returned, though always in his confused state, and often with trophies that proved seemingly impossible feats of skill and daring.
When the episodes did not cease, Mrs. Ockham cleverly sold off Salvatine's winnings, saving coin for a treatment. Maarden, the local Empath in Riverhaven, recognized Mr. Ockham -- though the Ockham's insisted they'd never met before -- and instead claimed that the more reserved personality of Salvatine was the curious one to him. Maarden was sympathetic enough to refer to another Empath when nothing could be found wrong with Mr. Ockham.
Months of this continued, with Mr. Ockham's fits tending to more and more unrealistic and dangerous actions, all the while being sent from one well meaning Empath to the next with no solution found. It was when Salvatine, in one of his "waking fits," began to speak of a group of close friends and comrades that his wife had never heard of, nevermind met, that forced her to more drastic measures. It was then that he became a patient at the institution.
All of this, while quite interesting, proved only that Salvatine Ockham suffered from periodic acute delusions of grandeur. That he was lucky enough to regularly scavenge some fair treat of treasure or skin only reinforced his delusionary world with the appearance of reality. This, I thought as the stories were revealed, would likely be the case. A trauma to the head or possession of the spirit was the most probable cause, and one which I was convinced could be rectified. Time would show me incorrect in my arrogant assumptions.
I began to research the hospital's scrolls to seek out records of Mr. Ockham's fits while here, hoping that such information would be scribed by an observing doctor and thus have all the backing of Empathic training and experience. Confusion and shock swelled up within as I read some of the more heinous accounts, for these records I found were indicative of a far more treacherous and dangerous individual than what was relayed to me by Mrs. Ockham herself.
Some months back, Salvatine Ockham had had a fit in the hospital. An apprentice attempted to stop his egress from the room, but was, somehow, tossed back with such violent force that the poor man required immediate first aid and diligent Empathic aid for several hours thereafter. Mr. Ockham vanished in the confusion, only to return some time later, weeping at his unique predicament and willingly checking himself back in to the hospital. This was merely a hint of what was to come.
After this incident, another fit set Mr. Ockham upon his way. This time, the event would be far more tragic. Seemingly prepared for his departure, a troop of hospital guards accosted Mr. Ockham. With far more malice than previous fits, Salvatine Ockham displayed a capability that no one had yet realized. The air had grown instantly cold at his words, and the guards dropped to the floor, victims of what must have been a Frostbite spell. Laughing, he left the hospital; again, to return some days later begging for help once more. Further security measures were taken, and Mr. Ockham was often kept strapped by long swashes of leather to his bed.
A third incident resulted in the death of a guard, blown nearly in half by a blast of fire from Mr. Ockham. In a ghoulish act, Mr. Ockham, torn free of his restraints, bent over the corpse searching for something no one -- not even Mr. Ockham -- can explain. His departure resulted in vast damage to the mental wing of the hospital.
With this latest return, Mr. Ockham was chained to his bed, which in turn was chained to the walls and floor of his stone room. No longer able nor allowed to lift his arms and hands, Mr. Ockham is now fed by a tender in the company of all the available and strongest guards. Some of the administrative staff had even gone so far as to demand that anti-magical wards be placed in his room, and these were carried out three or so weeks before my tenure began.
In most cases, these restrictions and precautions are unnecessary. Mr. Ockham, in his "non awakened" state, was fully cooperative and even pleasant, though clearly saddened by his state. On occasion, however, they told me that the howls and obscene cries of the fitful Salvatine Ockham frighten even the most heartless and unresponsive of the hospital's patients as he wrestles within his chains.
Throughout the course of my investigation, I grew more interested in his malady. There had been nothing described in even the most detailed and respected of Empathic journals, and neither I nor any Empath I'd ever met and had the presence of which to inquire could arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to what was indeed wrong with Mr. Salvatine Ockham. The mystery drove me further, and morbidly, I began to quietly wish that I might interview him not as the benign and peaceful man I'd become familiar, but the howling madman I had heard and read so much about.
Finally, I would get my chance. Late for a scheduled interview due to inclement weather, I realized something different with Mr. Ockham's presence the moment I entered his room. He was turned slightly away on his bed, staring with maddened intensity through the barred window and into the thundering storm. Regardless of my expectations, a chill crept down my spine and legs as he greeted me with such a simple phrase: "Hello, doctor." His words were quiet and calm, but they cut through the sound of rain with poisonous precision, and the malicious tone spoke volumes of his current frame of mind.
I hesitated, but finally replied and sat down in the available chair. I'd made copious notes to prepare myself for this moment, yet with so much I wanted to have answered I felt a bit off guard. As I shuffled and reorganized, Mr. Ockham turned to me, allowing himself an amused, quiet laugh as he eyed me. I glanced toward him, not sure what to expect. For as long as I live, I'll never forget the predatory look in his eyes, as if he would have sooner tore into my flesh than talk. Yet talk he did choose to do, and for that I suppose I should be thankful.
He introduced himself to me, as if I'd first met him -- and I suppose at this moment it was our first meeting in some ways -- using his given name. I'd expected perhaps an alternate name, representative of whatever fantasy Mr. Ockham was living out in his delusional fit, but in fact, this strange new persona speaking to me was called Salvatine Ockham. Calling it a "fit" seemed an injustice for his current condition, for he was incredibly articulate and well versed. Despite his slight frame and hunched, chained position on the bed, he somehow exuded a sense of power and confidence that seemed palpable. The thought occurred to me again and again throughout the conversation that this was not the man I had previously met. This was something wholly different, merely looking out from his eyes. A possession, something I had felt this was in all likelihood, now felt compellingly inaccurate.
We spoke at great length, perhaps for several anlaen, though at first very little was learned. Salvatine Ockham was cautious as well as malicious, and often questioned me on seemingly irrelevant and unrelated concepts. After the briefest moments of thought, he would make uncannily accurate observations as to my own mental states, the insight gained by my responses to his previously innocent queries. To say the least, I found this ultimately unnerving and strove to head the conversation to serve my purposes rather than his self-gratifying games.
As the discussion maneuvered back and forth like a verbal match of chess, with very little gleaned outside of very minor inroads into Salvatine Ockham's mind, he let the floodgates open. Salvatine Ockham admitted that he was a possessor of sorts, inhabiting the poor man's body from time to time as it suited him for his own amusement. He cared nothing of the lives of his victim, nor for his wife, or for that matter, me, calling us all "immaterial and irrelevant, and nothing more than an entertaining game to me."
The conversation continued, but took a decidedly sickening turn. Salvatine Ockham's views on the gods were stupendously heretical and blasphemous in ways that would surely have been justifiable reason for execution by the nearest ecclesiarchy. His words and replies were so incredibly deliberate and concise, tearing every counter argument I had into shreds with simple example and logic. The jaw I had remarked as being so slack and barely capable of truly intellectual discussion was now spouting an unending ream that tore through my most educated thoughts with pathetic ease.
I felt strangely miserable, as if coming into a realization of myself. Salvatine Ockham, however, was not content to leave the matter there. He offered to share with me his vast knowledge, a knowledge he claimed was truly beyond anything even the gods could offer me, and so amazingly pure that even my educated mind could not understand it. Perhaps mentally dizzy from the earlier verbal assault on my sense of logic, or hungry for anything more, I accepted his offer, and he spoke.
He told me tales of another world, his world, tied to ours through the most horrifically perverse methods. A place so foreign and different that my senses were incapable of even hearing some of the twisted words he could spit out with dreadful leisure. Salvatine Ockham explained to me what his world was like in the most eloquent of terms punctuated with great phrases of ugly, noisy power. He spoke of how he came to be here in the body of a simple farmer. And upon this last note, he went into further detail than I'd ever expect, that I'd ever want, telling me of things too impossible to be true.
And he was correct, for I could not comprehend what he was telling me, much less accept it. Yet somewhere, deep in the part of my mind that he had sundered like a plow preparing a field, I had a sensation that the power his words had was that of terrible, horrid truth. Despite lacking the mind to grasp his never ending story, the kernel of painful truth was there, laid bare like bones flayed free of skin.
I encountered a fleeting moment of agreement that all I knew was a pale shell compared to his world.
Instantly I was aware of my face contorting in pain and denial, followed soon by a dryness in my throat and lungs. Further his tone carried, the words seeming to burn the air. The sensation was as though my insides had been scrapped with dull cutting implements and hollowed; and into this cavity his sickening words poured. Bile rose at the back of my mouth. To say I'd ended the session early would be an understatement, for I flung myself from the room and hastily evicted myself upon the hospital's halls. As I knelt there upon the marblework, I heard Salvatine softly chortling within his room.
Initially, I had thought that he'd cast a spell or a curse upon me with his incessant chanting; this concept melted away quickly. All mages, though they may not recognize the magic itself, are able to sense most spells. A gut feeling of familiarity, despite differences in mana usage or technique, pervades us. We are, at an instinctual level, aware of a spell affecting us however dim that realization may be, even when we could not name that spell or describe its process.
No, this was no spell or curse, but mere mundane words that had drawn this physical effect from me. To my dying day I shall insist that there was no magic in those phrases, no known power to his clipped accent or poisonous tongue. He had struck me down with concept alone. Even now, I find it hard pressed to keep focused on the memory, and am forced to dance my quill over parchment as quickly as possible such that I may throw myself back from my work and embrace sweet, safe reality. Even now, my temples throb with the pain of recollection, and I wonder if might be more humane to bore such thoughts from my mind with a sharp blade.
Salvatine Ockham left that day with the last great peal of thunder of the passing storm, and strangely chose never to return. Yet he had imparted some small seed in me with that sickening dissertation, a seed which I have harvested for so very long, and which grants me a vision my fellows can never hope to achieve. It was at this moment, the final realization of our conversation and universal, godless truth, that shaped me toward my goals. It was this that allowed me to turn Mahkra Institute into the glorious work of art it is today.
[Further chapters of Arturo Felganson's diary censored.]