What in Faranth’s name had that woman had?
Itching around the crotch (he would not scratch there, he refused to scratch, at least until no-one was looking) was disgusting but at least had an easy explanation. Itching everywhere else -- his armpits, the middle of his back, his sharding feet and with the itch seeming to spread across his entire body until he just desperately wanted to find something to rub against until the layer of irritated skin was just gone..
What was it, fleas? Some kind of sharding parasite from those firelizards that followed her around? Every rider had access to bathing pools as much as they wanted, surely you could trust them to be clean.
Furious and embarrassed, unable to resist the occasional frantic scratch despite himself, he made his way over to the Infirmary.
"Candidatemaster," Cuylar greeted him when he saw him. He had little trouble keeping any expression from his face. He had plenty of practice. His first assumption was that he had somehow found out about what Cuylar had said or that he was angry that someone had dared to bandage the hand. He certainly looked… some flavor of upset. But he would not dig his own hole.
"What seems to be the trouble?"
“I need a -- shardit - private consultation.” Despite his determination not to scratch his hand moved as though of its own volition towards his groin. Furiously M’ayen fought the inclination, face reddening.
The way he looked at Cuylar suggested he’d never seen him before in his life and certainly didn’t consider his identity important.der his identity important.
Cuylar was usually clever enough to pick up on signs of recognition, but if there were any here, he did not see them. He supposed M'ayen had no reason to remember a washed out Candidate from half a world and who knows how many Turns ago. He nodded and continued to keep his feelings from touching his face.
"Right this way, sir," he said and led M'ayen to an open exam room.
M’ayen could at least scratch there, and did so as soon as the door was closed. His fingers dug in with deep relief and then moved with just as much urgency to his armpit.
“If you - ugh - tell anyone,” he threatened, but the threat was both vague and halfhearted, too caught in his own discomfort to put true venom into it. “I’ve - feckit! - caught something.”
"Anything you say and anything we find will be kept in the strictest confidence," said Cuylar. Though he would probably mention something to Cremsden. There was too much potential for schadenfreude not to. "What are your symptoms?"
“Sharding itching!” Once he’d started scratching it was difficult to stop. “Started this morning and - ack - it’s getting worse.” The itch in the middle of his back was particularly frustrating. There was nothing, short of dislocating his own arms, he could do about it.
"Have you been exposed to any allergens or irritants like strange plants or biting insects?" Cuylar asked as he began to scribble notes.
“No, but I had a woman back in my weyr last night.” M’ayen was flushed, embarrassed and furious at being embarrassed. His hand strayed back towards his crotch. Humilating though scratching there like some gawkish teenager was, not scratching was worse. “I didn’t think -- feck, I’ll kill her.”
"Ah. I understand. Well, let's have a look at it, and I'll get you something to help with the itching. If I may, I don't think the murder will help, sir." He offered a little sympathetic smile. "But you may suggest that she might want to come in, too."
“Oh, we’ll be having words later.” M’ayen’s voice was grim as he started to unbutton his shirt.
The rash seemed to have spread over most of his body though it was at its brightest and most lurid red in certain areas - there was a patch over the middle of M’ayen’s back, and more around his arm-pits. His feet were red to the ankle and there was a particularly bright and inflamed looking patch over his groin, spreading right over to his rear. Still scratching, looking uncomfortable and flustered, he gave Cuylar a look that promised his bed-partner weren’t the only one at risk of murder if word of this got out.
"Ah… Sir, I'll go ahead and start off with it doesn't look like much of the inflammation is in places where I would ordinarily expect contact during intercourse. Was this an exceptionally… unusual session?" he asked. "Complete discretion," he added, raising a hand.
It didn’t stop M’ayen giving him a murderous look. “No, it was not. The sharding woman must have.. Infested my fur with sharding fleas or something.” He scratched under one arm angrily. “She has firelizards. Do firelizards carry fleas?”
"Firelizards can have mites," said Cuylar, "but those mites don't generally infest humans. This looks more like an allergic reaction to me. I wouldn't expect it came from your erstwhile partner unless she's also exhibiting the same symptoms. And even then, she might have come into contact with the same allergen when she was with you. You haven't been outside the weyr? Eaten anything unusual?"
“Nothing that didn’t come from the Weyr kitchens.” One foot scratched at the other ankle as M’ayen continued scratching at his arm-pit. “Went to bed fine, woke up itchy, and then by a couple of hours later it was unbearable.” And if he couldn’t stop scratching he was going to give himself a whole host of new problems from making himself sore.
"I presume you've already washed with soap and water," said Cuylar. He suspected there was a perfectly logical explanation here for the exact pattern, and that was that someone had applied something to his clothing. And perhaps his bedding. That would certainly be more apparent if the woman he had been with was also itching up a storm.
But Cuylar was not going to connect those dots for M'ayen himself. He was not about to rat anybody out if it were, say, a group of mischievous Candidates fed up with the way M'ayen was treating them.
"I'll go get something for the itching. A salve and a bit of butter nettle powder you can take with water. If you haven't washed, you'll want to do that right away. There may have been a tainted batch of soap in the laundry as well. If we see more folks with the same symptoms, that could also explain it."
“Ugh, that could be it,” M’ayen acknowledged. “It seemed to go off while I was in the bathing pool and then got worse again once I dressed.” He scratched again angrily. “I’ll try digging out some older clothes.”
Cuylar should probably tell him not to try that… but there was no reason he should expect that Candidates did it. Not yet, anyway. He did not have to tell anyone he knew what M'ayen had done to Garatt's hand. In all fairness, Garatt had never said who it was himself.
Soon, Cuylar returned with the jar of salve that should help to neutralize any acidic or alkaline substances on M'ayen's skin along with a bit of numbing agent, and a paper packet with the butter nettle powder. That might not really do anything unless whatever it was causing it was an allergen. But placebos never hurt anything.
M’ayen was still standing naked, looking uncomfortable. “Does the Infirmary have any spare clothes I could borrow by chance?” Because putting itchy clothes back on did not seem inviting.
"I'll get you something," said Cuylar. He really should have thought of it, but then, he was not precisely inclined to be any more accommodating to M'ayen than professionalism required. "The salve should help. Slather on a bit now, and then again in four to six hours. Come back if you run out and need more. I'll be right back."
He ducked out and then returned not too long after with a loose fitting robe and trousers sort of situation.
The slight numbness was an instant relief and M’ayen was looking slightly less murderous when he got back. Maybe even a little grateful. “Thank you. That helped,” he admitted, reaching for the clothes.
"If the rash gets worse or doesn't get better after a few days," he said, "then come back. Just in case, I'd send everything to be washed again."
“I will.” New clothes were quickly pulled on, thankfully much less irritating than the old. “And-- obviously, this does not go further.”
"Of course. As always," Cuylar assured him. He never would have guessed that M'ayen would not recognize him… But then, had Kregg even recognized him? He should not be surprised.
"Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?"
M’ayen looked at him blankly, seeming surprised by the question. “No. Thank you, Journeyman. Other than the rash I’m quite healthy.” And perhaps there, in the misread or possibly the not-seen, knots was the clue.
Cuylar had to fight to keep the smile from his face this time. Journeyman, was it? Cuylar's knots were not hiding. And despite the extra green for Elphith, they were not difficult to read.
"If you happen to see the woman you were with again, would you ask her to come in, too, if she experiences any symptoms?" he asked.
M’ayen scowled a little “It definitely wasn’t something she carried in?” he asked suspiciously.
"It definitely wasn't," Cuylar assured him. He was not about to let her take the blame for it, regardless of any other plans he might have.
He accepted that, grudgingly. “I’ll let her know.”