| Cotton handed Gibbs a piece of parchment
of instructions on it the small blackboard two small to give all the
"Okay, you have put the neutralising agent into the bath, so according to this next you want me to feed Jack some gilly weed and let his lungs be bathed in it for a hour as he is the most infected. Then we rerun the bath with more neutraliser potion and all three of us get in it with gillyweed while a gas form of the potion floods this entire contaminated level. According to the books the gas will settle by the time the gillyweed runs its course and we need to breathe oxygen again. By then all the fungus spores will be neutralised but not dead." Cotton nodded confirmation. "So how do we actually kill the stuff without killing ourselves? I know as well as you do that we can't get out until it's all dead not just neutralised. We can't do anything about what is already inside our bodies that isn't a problem for anyone but ourselves but our skin is covered in it and if I read the book correctly the neutraliser is temporary the spores will become active if a fungicide isn't used on it. We can't just bathe in it as the air is full of it and our skin will get recontaminated. If we open the water lift room it will also be contaminated and we will infect the rest of the Keep so that is one exit we can't use. What about the Portcullis into the treasure caves?"
"No that will contaminate the outer caves," said Jack shaking his head even as he coughed spores. "My guess it hasn't happened before simply because the caves are constantly washed out by storms and the lower levels of the Keep didn't have anything living for it to feed on out of the water, the pirates were dead after all no body heat to attract the fungus. That won't work now that the Keep is inhabited the caves are the main entry point and it would be a disaster in the making."
"If the fungicide wasn't so bloody deadly ingested it would be so much easier to get rid of this stuff we could do the same thing as we will for the neutraliser." Complained Gibbs.
Cotton shook his head
"Yes I know that would kill us, fungicides are skin contact only, I did get that potion lesson old Gondow our Hogwarts potion master drummed into us all those years ago." Snapped Gibbs to his lover, "At the moment all we can do is think about ways we can get out of here without contaminating everything while we neutralise the spores. The first step is to get you into a neutraliser bath Jack you're in bad shape, while I help you with the bath, Cotton can soak your wand in the cauldron of concentrated fungicide I can feel the spores trying to feed on the Magic in it so we are going to have to keep decontaminating it or it will eventually stop working and then we wont be able to make the potions to get out of here."
Cotton nodded with a grimace; they couldn't afford to lose their only active wand.
"Look on the bright side Albus, at least your Parrot wasn't here to get infected. The greedy guts was still gorging himself on the food Socky was feeding it when we came down and we moved the monkey's barrel up to the farm area days ago, neither of them had a hope of being cured as gillyweed won't work on them." Said Gibbs patting him on the back as he passed over the wand.
Cotton gave a small smile at that and nodded towards Jack who was coughing again.
"I'll go get him into the bath, after that we will have an hour while Jack is in the bath to set up the potion gas so the neutraliser floods the entire level." He said leading Jack to the waiting potion bath and gillyweed they had gotten ready.
Cotton nodded as he climbed the stairs to the potion laboratory with Jack's wand.
Gibbs surveyed the white foam covering the entire level in satisfaction at least the place was neutralised so they didn't have to worry about more spores until the potion wore off. Jack still looked bad but he wasn't coughing newly made spores any more. Now they just had to figure a way to decontaminate their bodies without immediately being covered in them all over again again. It was a neat little problem to decontaminate the Keep they had to set off fungicide gas pots but as it was deadly they couldn't breathe it in. Even the bathwater would be contaminated by the fungicide and kill them if they tried staying underwater with gillyweed, beside they themselves were covered in spores and would only contaminate the place once they got out of the tub. Somehow they had to kill the spores on their body as they left while setting off the fungicide gas pots.
"Mother says there is a way but it is risky as after all this time the equipment might not have survived." Said the Pearl softly.
"What does she suggest, Milady?" asked Jack weakly.
"Each level of the Keep has a portcullis-airlock for emergencies occasionally the Keeps ended up underwater. Mother says you need to find out if the breathing masks are still working, if they are you can set off the gas while you fill the airlock with water and fungicide potion. The masks will let you breathe without gillyweed so your outer bodies can be decontaminated that way you won't track spores outside this level." Said Milady "I have just checked the outer portal on the airlock it works so all you need to check is if the masks still work."
"Where is this airlock, Milady?"
"Near the portcullis, I am opening it now," she said.
The three men made their way back to the portcullis stairwell, where they found a small doorway in the usually blank wall by the stairs. It lead to a small room as they entered a cabinet opened and they could see racks of black stone masks obviously designed to fit over the nose and mouth of a human. Jack took one down and looked at it warily.
"How does it work?"
"That is just the mask and heating frame, it won't work without the silver oxygen bubbles, that was what Mother was worried about they might not have survived the march of time even frozen. I can't just open the freezer, as the icestones will freeze you instantly to shatter point. Turn the handle resembling a small steering wheel on a ship it will tip the silver bubbles into a warming section so they can be handled without killing you."
Confused they could only follow her directions turning the small wheel all the way round.
"Now turn it back to close the freezer." Again they followed her directions until the wheel was back into its old position. Immediately a door below the wheel opened showing a large basket full of silver bubbles they could feel the warmth coming from the open door.
"Give the basket a shake to spread them and when they can be touched take out the basket and we will see if they still have oxygen in them."
It took almost five minutes before they could touch the silver bubbles; the moment the basket was removed the door closed. "I am opening the sunstones full up so any spores inside are destroyed. Well, how do the bubbles look? Are are they brittle or flat?"
"Some of them are developing cracks and about a third of them are flat." Said Jack; suddenly the cracking bubbles started popping as the warmed oxygen burst the weakened bubble. The first few had them jumping in startlement but eventually they stopped and they could see burst silver where the cracked bubbles were.
"Are there any bubbles left?" asked Milady worriedly.
Jack reached in and started picking out the flat and burst bubbles leaving only the intact ones in the basket.
"We lost about three quarters of them, only about fifty left." He said doing a rough count of the remaining bubbles that were still intact and fat with oxygen.
"That should be enough each bubble is five minutes of air underwater so fifty of them would give each of you over a hour and a half of air you only need fifteen minutes for the fungicide to kill the spores so you will have plenty of leeway."
Jack placed one of the bubbles into the mask which immediately adjusted to the bubbles size, Jack placed it in position over his nose and mouth the mouth piece held it in position easily immediately clean air was pushed into his mouth.
"This one works." Said Jack simply. Cotton and Gibbs tested one for themselves finding they also worked.
"I guess we start setting up the fungicide gas pots, Cotton if you have the potion double the amount this place would need we don't want to take any chances these spores survive. Don't forget to put the neutraliser in enough carry jars to take with us it might be a while before we can get back down here to make more. The book said we will need constant treatment so don't take any chances with that either, there is still plenty of gillyweed outside for a non contaminated supply I saw at least five rock pools full of it. " Said Jack thoughtfully.
"Add some jars of the concentrated fungicide as well, we might need it for our waste it is bound to be full of spores even if they are neutralised." Said Gibbs thoughtfully. "So will our blood and phlegm if our lungs get bad, just think of some of the stuff people with lung illness can cough up ours will be full of spores that will need killing not just neutralised before being disposed of."
Cotton nodded having seen such diseases at work; glad his lover had thought of it before it could become a problem before heading back to the potion laboratory.
Hours later they were gathered back in the airlock.
"Have we forgotten anything?"
"I don’t think so Cotton has the potion jars and the gas pots just need igniting, let's hope AnaMaria isn't waiting for us as we are naked." Said Jack.
"It isn't as if we could wear clothes we need our skin decontaminated," said Gibbs. "I filled the bathtub with fungicide potion an put all our clothes to soak as well as our shoes, I do not hold an hope of them being wearable again but at least this way they are decontaminated thoroughly." Sighed Gibbs thinking of all the work he had done to create them and they would be lucky if they could be used as rags after this.
"Some of the crew will be waiting with blankets," said the Pearl.
"Well I guess it's time to ignite the gas pots," said Jack leaning tiredly against the wall.
"I'll do it, Jack, you don't look well," said Gibbs quietly taking Jacks wand and running to the end of the keep before he could object once there he started setting them off as he kept ahead of the rising gas cloud. Just as the last six were set of in the stairwell he stepped into the airlock and it closed behind him.
"We need five to fifteen minutes in the potion to kill the spores on our skin, we also need to keep our eyes closed as much as possible constant exposure to the fungicide could damage them, said Jack. "Gibbs, I grabbed my head scarf stretch it over the basket so the bubbles do not float around and get lost in the water, make sure we can still reach in and get bubbles as we need them we just don't want to lose them in the water. I have also stuck both the basket and the potion jars to the floor with a temporary sticking charm so they should be safe and easily found even with all the water. When it fills up we need to stay near the basket that way we can keep our eyes closed as much as possible even when we change bubbles."
"Cotton, don't open the dose of fungicide until the room is three quarters full we don't want to be sitting in concentrated fungicide potion it is bad enough diluted," said Gibbs.
Cotton nodded holding the small bottle of fungicide in one hand and his breathing mask with a bubble in it in the other.
"Start filling the room, Milady," said Jack. Immediately water started poring in from a dozen places. When it reached Jack's shoulders, Cotton opened the fungicide and they let it disperse throughout the water turning it a dark blue. Jack carefully positioned the mask, they had realised they needed to leave some space between the mask and their skin so their faces could be decontaminated as well. Luckily, the mouth guard could be gripped by the mouth so it wasn't dependent on the mask resting against the face. The most uncomfortable part was the nose plugs they had made out of soft candle wax because they couldn't use the mask ones without leaving their faces contaminated. Gripping the mouth guard of the ancient Siren breathing mask in his mouth, Jack breathed as calmly as he could from the stored air then quickly sank to the bottom of the room. He found the charm stuck basket and anchored himself to it so he wouldn't float around, that also made the replacement air bubbles for the mask easier to find in the blue tinged gloom of the potion, he was soon followed by the two other men. Now all they had to do was endure this without panicking at being trapped underwater in a confined sealed space as that would get them killed. Jack hated this, he had been in more than one shipwreck during his adult life and being trapped underwater was every sailor's nightmare. He might be a Wizard and used to the weird but somehow breathing from a silver air bubble that lasted five minutes and needed constant changing wasn't as comforting as gillyweed that let you breathe underwater for an hour.
The next fifteen minutes were boring as hell. The only thing that broke the monotony for the three wizards was the need to change the bubbles when they ran out, having decided twenty minutes in the potion for safety they changed the bubbles four times before the water started retreating. It was actually thirty minutes before all the water had gone down far enough that they could stand up and remove both the breathing masks and the nose plugs and breathe the air the Pearl was pumping in.
"I pumped the old air and the fungicide tainted water into the contaminated level of the Keep so the air could be decontaminated and the water would just add more fungicide to that level, I used air from outside when I refilled the airlock as the water emptied so it is safe." the Pearl said reassuring them of the safety of the air they were now breathing.
"Gibbs, when the water subsides unstick the potion bottles and basket and put them into the basket with the masks and the rest of the bubbles it will be easier to carry it all together." ordered Jack softly, resisting the temptation to slide back down and fall asleep even if he drowned. He had found it had been a major undertaking just to get to his feet and rest against the wall of the airlock as the water started to drain out. His body felt like lead and he was not only tired but sticky from the potion and his hair was a wet mass of dripping potion that felt like honey or molasses had been pored on it obscuring his vision. Jack grimaced to get the spores out of his hair he had to not only leave it unbraided but make sure both the neutraliser and fungicide permeated every strand of his hair and beard. He he didn't even want to think about a part of his body lower down that was more uncomfortable than the sticky mass on his head. The best he could do at the moment was comb his hands through the glued together mess on top of his head that vaguely resembled blue seaweed instead of hair and untangle some of the knots and then twist and squeeze to wring some of the sticky blue potion from it.
Finally, after he had gotten as much as possible out of his hair, he pushed it back off his face and let it fall down his back. He grimaced as he felt it drip down his back. When he gazed at the other two men it was easy to see the potion's sticky residue annoyed them as well but the sight of all their skin turned blue from the fungicide brought a grin to his face. All three of them looked like they had been dipped in blue ink. Hopefully, a normal bath would get rid of the blue colouring without too much trouble. Jack was reasonably sure soap was all that would be needed. The potion book Cotton had used was a century old copy of the a priceless Ravenclaw book never shown to those outside the family and it had said nothing about the fungicide potion permanently staining skin. There had been a cross reference at the end of the potion's instructions to the page on soap making, though. Jack guessed that ordinary soap or a worst specialized soap might be necessary to rid themselves of the blue, but no more than that. The great uncle who had made this copy of the book had been meticulous. "I think this stuff comes off with soap and water it isn't permanent or the book would have said so it's usually very accurate."
Gibbs must have been thinking about the book as well, "That book was strange it was all done by the same scribe yet that book had information I have never seen outside of the oldest manucripts. Did someone collect and translate it all into one master reference?"
"It's a copy of the Ravenclaw master book, the orginal is three thousand years old and readable only because of the translation charms woven into its bindings. My great uncle Algeron made the copy. The orginal is priceless and written on Flooklight papyrus with Wyvern leather binding and gold clasps it has been kept in Gringotts since the copy was made," said Jack. "LeStrange was looking for the orginal so didn't pay any attention to the unbound copy Great Uncle Algeron had. Uncle Algy had completed the final updates adding all the modern research notes to his copy in another colour ink before he attempted updating the original, Uncle Algeron placed an Impervious spell on the parchment once he finished so it wouldn't get damaged during his experiments. LeStrange missed it as Uncle Algy never had it bound just kept it in an old box in his office. He completed it ten years before LeStrange killed him so very few people knew it existed. Uncle Algy had been trying to make Frooklight papyrus since then so he could make a more permanent copy." Jack grinned viciously; "He took out three of LeStrange's men by throwing Frooklight acid at them when they tried to capture him. He he was a tough old bird even if he was obsessed with his book. I had it bound afterwards in the Grimoire style with Dragon hide covers as it felt wrong to leave his life work sitting in an old box."
"I thought Frooklight papyrus was an Egyptian myth?" shuddered Gibbs. Frooklight was one seaweed no one in his or her right mind wanted to deal with, the sap and pulp was a Magical acid that ate through almost anything. If the orginal of that book was made of Frooklight, then the legends were true that long ago someone had managed to neutralise that acid but that secret was lost to antiquity. Frooklight was considered a Magical hazard whenever the tenacious hybrid was created. The only good thing about the plant was that it was totally sterile or it would take over the ocean. Even the Mer had only one use for it; they rooted it out when found and buried it letting it eat through rock until the acid neutralised itself over time then used the fibre left behind for their nets. They also used the caverns that resulted as homes for Mer clans.<>"It's Frooklight, the ink recipe says so, to write on the orginal book you need a special ink and a metal or glass quill the recipe is on the first page it has Prickle Frond poison as the active ingredient everything else wipes off. The second page is a powder and paste to neutralise the Prickle Frond poison in the ink so it doesn't eat through the page." snorted Jack dryly amused. "The ink is actually a biological poison that eats the Frooklight papyrus burning the words into the fibre pulp permanently so until the nutralising powder could be made the project was on hold."
"You're joking! No one in their right mind touches Prickle Frond either. That stuff is murderous and if that is what neutralises the acid it's no wonder the secret was lost."
"No, Uncle Algy proved that Prickle Frond doesn't effect the acid only the papyrus made from Frooklight fibre and pulp, the powder only nutralised the Prickle Frond ink how the acid is nutralised to make the papyrus is still a big mystery. The third page is a potion to make a temporary immunity for the Prickle Frond poison. Trouble with that is, you need Prickle Frond poison to make the immunity and it's deadly to go anywhere near Prickle Frond without the immunity in the first place. The Mer are the only creatures crazy enough to do it and they often lose people doing it. Uncle Algy's best guess was that my ancestors traded for the Prickle Frond poison by making the immunity potion in exchange; at least that was what he was doing to get the ingredients for his Frooklight research," said Jack with a laugh. "That's an idea. It will give us something the Mer will want in exchange for Waterlight weed for the Keeps lighting cylinders. The recipe for the Prickle Frond immunity is in the book. I need to sit down," he said suddenly, sliding down the wall to the floor and sitting in the last six inches of potion water, losing the battle to stay conscious.
"I wondered how long before that happened," sighed Gibbs. Jack had been pushing himself from the start of this mess.
The airlock opened with a whoosh.
It was a mad rush afterwards as they carried Jack into the Keep through one of the upper levels. Gibbs and Cotton left Anamaria and the House Elf to give Jack a bath to remove the blue fungiside in the bathroom open on the living level while he and Cotton went up to the next level to use the other one.
All they could do at the moment was
to bed and
send to Tortuga as soon as possible for a Wizard healer and the
for the true cure.