I have a world with nations with culture/magic tied to each element. The Fire Nation was in the middle of invading the Earth nation when a disease starts to spread rapidly through their nation weakening it's people and indirectly putting a halt to their invasion. The disease doesn't seem to affect the other nations nearly as badly, despite originating in Earth, leading to the commonly claim that it is a punishment from god sent to stop the invasion and only able to affect Fire and 'unworthy' citizens.
My intent is for the disease to be a normal non-magical disease, and to be eventually cured by a protagonist, call him Bob. The disease affects Fire so much worse because the other nations have protections against the disease that Fire lacks. Water has healing magic to cure the disease and Air is too well isolated to have every been exposed to it. More importantly I would like Earth citizens to have some aspect of their lifestyle or culture that coincidentally protects them from the disease.
I'm looking for a believable disease that can be thwarted by something Earth citizens usually do, and which Fire can adopt quickly to stop the spread of the disease and ideally help those already sick to recover from it.
Bob is trained in medicine, herbs, and mundane healing, plus having a bit more scientific view to medicine in a world where people tend to believe more in magic and mysticism. He also has learned Water's magical healing. Few know both healing styles and previous hostilities mean there are no other Water healers willing to help Fire. Water magic also helps him 'sense' illness, which he can use to identify what mundane treatments to use when medicine will work better then magic. He has spent some weeks/months traveling & healing individuals using his Water magic already and has a good familiarity with the disease when he ends up in a Earth city currently occupied by Fire where the disease is currently spreading to Fire, but few Earth, citizens. He also notices that the few Fire citizens who have started to adopt Earth customs also seem less affected by the disease
Curious why this is tries to figure out what is protecting Earth in hopes of discovering a non-magical cure. I want him to be able to figure out something that would work within a relatively short time (say few months at max, sooner the better).
To help justify why he can do it so quickly when other's haven't I thought he would be aided by the combination of scientific medicine with Water magic allowing him to more thoroughly 'sense' differences between Earth/Fire/Sick/Healthy citizens to identify what is different, along with most citizens accepting the divine explanation and thus not looking for a mundane cure. The disease is also only been a problem for a little while, say 5-8 months by the time he cures it, so there hasn't been that much time to discover a cure. Still, justifying why he is able to find a solution so fast without someone else stumbling upon it would be great!
While I doubt I'll get everything Ideally I'd like a disease and cure that fit as many criteria as possible:
- Scientifically believable to exist
- the disease doesn't kill very fast, but renders one so weak they struggle to do daily tasks and is not quickly recovered from
- The cure can help those already infected recover, not just prevent new infections.
- cure can be discovered fast by Bob but not be so obvious someone else should have guessed it.
- Fire can adopt the cure quickly such that they can be back up to something close to fighting strength in a reasonable quick time, again a few months,
- The common peasants of Fire can benefit from this cure even if Fire's government puts little effort into helping them, ie not a large logistical overhead to enacting it.
- Doesn't draw the attention of Fire's leaders to Bob, who he's hiding from, Fire citizens often are willing not to report the guy helping them.
My original idea was that there is a staple food item of Earth that happens to provide some nutrient or even bacteria that helps fight off the disease (think a yogurt grown from a bacteria with some antibacterial property particularly effective against the disease?). My biggest issue with the idea is the logistics of it, It's likely the food would have to be stolen from Earth to get enough to treat Fire's citizens, and with limited supplies of food this means starving Earth and Fire likely only bothering to get the cure to the rich and military and not to the peasants that Bob is actually most interested in curing. I don't think Bob would reveal the secret if he knew it wouldn't help the common man and would lead to more war and starvation for Earth citizens. If the food stuffs was something that wasn't hard to get hold of in sufficient quantity to cure folks without Fire's stealing the food that would work, but why would Fire have enough in it's own borders to treat everyone but not have poor citizens already eating it?