She was only here for observation. She was only here for observation.

That was the official tagline and the mental lifeline that she clung to in this place. ‘You’ll be undercover as a patient at the Spire. Keep an eye out. Watch and observe. You’ll get closer than most to all the staff, access to the grounds and patients.”

Only it wasn’t that simple.

“When the curse wears off, you will be changed by it; you’ll never go back to who and what you were.”

She would leave each meeting with her assigned Doctor, and rush back to her room, barricade the door with a chair and just sit and pray for the Courage to remain, do her duty. But soon that became predictable, and they would follow to continue observing her. She soon varied her hiding places, always moving, never again predictable.

“The normal everyday control of impulses and emotions will have to be managed by others.”

It was slowing down whatever progress the staff hoped to make with her. But they were always looking for her, so she stopped trying to sleep after the first patient since her arrival disappeared. Since she first snuck into the records room to check the patient lists and noticed the faint markings of altered records. Since the first night she saw the strange lights by the regio.

“You are describing symptoms of hallucinations and mirages. Can you truly trust what you believe you are seeing?”

The next step was to skip meal times, avoid the debates that the Spire staff engaged in unless she was hidden well. But she soon avoided spying on even those meetings when on the fourth day of her stay they were discussing her, and ‘treatment options’ that left her paralysed with fear in the cupboard she hid in.

“The curse is leaving her highly susceptible to manipulation within the stipulations of the curse’s effects. It is an imperfect route to managing her, made more difficult by her lineage and the developing briar madness.”

On the fifth morning of her stay, she noticed the shift in language now being used by the staff that unnerved her most. No longer a case of managing curse symptoms, but managing madness symptoms. This was not an until-the-curse-ends but a forever thing. She ran until she collapsed from exhaustion after noticing the change, and it was nearly dark before she made it back to Frederick that night, questioning everything.

“We should move the patient’s treatment timescale forward, as symptoms are progressing rapidly.”

The sixth, the first day that conference attendees began arriving. She had forgotten the conference in her anxieties; she began doubting that it was truly happening, despite Frederick assuring her when she came running to him in fear that it was going to happen. But she kept forgetting.

“Your mental faculties are and will forever be compromised by the effects of the magic. Don’t you feel it already?”

Her nerves were a wreck by the time it began, unable to find the words to clearly explain what was happening to others that were there. Bursting into tears, lashing out, and the ever present desire to run that conflicted with what she knew she was here for. Observation… right? She was here with the Militia… and because she was going mad. Right?

“Vitória, I didn’t know you were coming– why are you here if not for the conference? Are you alright?” She crumples at the question Lisabetta asks her. She can’t discern the truth from the lie. She can’t remember why she’s here anymore.

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