20 November 2010
The room he stood in was small but ornate. It had once served as the meeting place for the King and the Wizards, and marble statues stood against each wall. What once had been beautiful likenesses of the creatures which roamed Tundyel had taken on menacing appearances the moment the True Wizards died. Regal cougars now looked like ravaged, starving hunters intent on the kill; mother bears that had been protecting their cubs were now ready to devour them. The room was filled with an evil you could feel even before stepping over the marble threshold.
Since the Healer had first escaped the castle, Euroin had been focusing on finding her. He had been searching across the kingdom but had not been able to detect the girl’s presence anywhere. The only explanation was that she had been hidden by magic, so Euroin had begun searching through every trace of spells in Tundyel, sifting through the layers to find what had been hidden underneath. Despite all his best efforts, Euroin had found nothing more than the simple spells cast by his fellow Wizards to cover memories of King Simann’s atrocities or the complex webs made to hide the ruins of some village or farm the Royal Guard had destroyed. Nowhere could he find a spell covering the young Healer. Before now, anytime Euroin wasn’t able to find someone he concentrated on was because that person was dead. This time, though, Euroin knew this was not the case. He had not been able to find either the Healer or the prisoner since they had left the castle. As much as Euroin despised the idea, the Wizard had been forced to admit that some more powerful form of magic was hiding both traitors. To Euroin, this meant there was only one thing left to do. That was what had brought him to the North Tower.
His eyes closed, Euroin watched as strange remnants of magic swirled around him. Many of the spells were utterly foreign to the Wizard, spinning in colors and patterns he had never seen and couldn’t name. Throwing his arms out wide, Euroin called the spells to him and felt the dangerous magic coursing through his body. It took all his strength to keep the magic from overpowering him and destroying him where he stood. The dark magic battered the Wizard, tossing him about the room and crashing him into the many statues. The strange new power sent shock waves through his body as Euroin struggled to regain control. His mind was completely empty of all else--the only thing he could see was the swirling magic. As he was being thrown around the tower, Euroin blocked the pain out and tried to concentrate on finding the right spell. He couldn’t find the Healer, but the Wizard was determined to stop the girl. Suddenly he fell to the floor, the malevolent magic leaving him in a heap on the cold stone.
For a moment Euroin didn’t remember what had happened. He looked around in a daze for the marble statues, most of which had been knocked to the ground while the Wizard was being thrown around. Confusion spread across his face when he saw that some of the animals were gone. The confusion changed to satisfaction as understanding dawned on him. The young Healer would soon face an unimaginable challenge, one she had no chance of surmounting on her own.
10 November 2010
“Yeah!” she scoffed, “As if I have much more than hours anyway. I’m certain the King has his Wizards following my every move, biding their time. After all, King Simann wouldn’t want to waste any energy having his guards follow me if they can just wait until I stop somewhere.” Straightening her shoulders and lifting her chin, Syndria brushed aside all her negative thoughts. “So, I just keep moving until I find someone, anyone, to help in my cause. Men are taken to the castle weekly for questioning and torture--surely I am not so blind to the intentions of others that I cannot find the men who oppose Simann’s cruelty. If any of the Ancient’s gift for reading people rubbed off on me through the years, now is when I need it.”
Dusting off her beautiful gown, hoisting the pack to her shoulder, and taking a deep breath, the young Healer picked up her pace. Looking around in the moonlight she took in the trees, the bushes, the flowers just starting to peak out. Somewhere above her an owl hooted, and a brook babbled in the distance. At the base of a tall oak Syndria spotted sticks and twigs leaned up against the trunk, undoubtedly the workings of some child erecting what his mind’s eye saw as a mighty fortress. This land was what she must fight for, its people her master. If they could not see Simann for the tyrant he truly was, it was the young Healer’s duty to open their eyes to the truth. She would fight to free her people, even if the battle seemed futile. If needed, Syndria was willing to sacrifice her own life to see the good people of Tundyel freed form Simann’s oppression.
31 October 2010
As Paodin pulled off his boots and laid his pack aside, he thought about the boy’s reaction when he had mentioned the King. Though Audon had raised his son with the knowledge that Simann was not the true King, Paodin had rarely seen the hatred this young boy’s heart held for Simann even in the resistance fighters of Gelci. What had happened to cause the boy to be filled with such rage for a man most adored? Shrugging, Paodin knew he would not find the answer to his question in the dark barn, so he settled back into his makeshift bed and pulled the lighter blanket over himself. Just as he closed his eyes, Paodin heard something moving around outside. Jumping quickly to a crouched position he grabbed his boots and pulled them back on as he peered out the small stall window. In the moonlight he could clearly see a shadowy man making his way toward the chicken coop from the tree line behind the widow’s house. Remembering Adair’s earlier statement about having lost too many birds already, Paodin pulled his sword and silently made his way to the barn door, ready to face the man who was apparently the cause of that loss.
Sneaking across the yard behind the man, Paodin approached cautiously. He had encountered a limited number of thieves in his life, and not one of them had been ill prepared for a confrontation. Though this coward stole from a blind widow and her son under the cover of darkness, Paodin thought it better to err on the side of caution than to run full speed into the point of the robber’s blade. A few steps behind the man, Paodin extended his sword and placed the tip against the base of the thief’s neck.
“Stand, coward,” he whispered intensely, “and face me.” As the man turned, Paodin spotted the tools in his hands.
“Lower, your sword, good fellow,” the man said quietly, “and tell me how you have come to be staying with Evan’s widow.”
Paodin ignored the man’s request and kept the sword positioned at the stranger’s throat. “The mistress of the house is fully aware of my presence. It is you who should explain yourself. Move toward the barn, away from the house. I do not wish to alarm its occupants.”
“Nor do I, lad.” The man nodded slightly as he slowly stepped forward, Paodin’s sword never losing contact with his skin. The two men moved quickly toward the barn, Paodin keeping a steady pressure on the thief’s neck. Though he had no desire to kill the man standing before him, he would not hesitate if the man’s actions proved such drastic measures to be necessarily. Once inside the barn Paodin backed his prisoner into one of the many empty stalls before lowering his sword slightly. He studied the man in the pale moonlight as he questioned him.
“Speak now, man,” Paodin said, his voice calm. “What are your intentions here toward Lady Brigitte?” Even as he spoke, Paodin was forced to admit to himself that the man looked nothing like a thief. He was well dressed and well groomed, though not clean shaven or in fine clothes.
“Despite my appearance at the chicken coop,” the man began, his voice as calm as his accuser’s, “you have my word that I intended to do nothing more than mend the fence. The boy- Adair- mentioned in town this morning that he would be working on it today. Judging by the workmanship,” he continued, “it would seem he had some help.” Raising his eyebrows the man gazed steadily at his captor.
Paodin pondered the man’s words silently before he spoke again. “Your words seem honorable, but what reason do I have to believe you?” Unconsciously Paodin had lowered his sword even more and now rested the point of the toe of his boot as he listened to the man’s reply.
A smirk tugged lightly at the corners of the man’s mouth. “Surely you are not blind! Look around--can you honestly tell yourself that this place has been cared for by a child and his blind mother? While the lady of this house is indeed very capable, I fear she was not one for farm work even before her injury, though not from a lack of trying.”
“Perhaps I am a fool,” Paodin sighed after a long silence, “but I believe you.” Looking around the dim barn he spied a milk bucket in a corner. Whatever cow the widow had milked, it had dried up long ago. Paodin wiped cobwebs coated with dirt off the bucket and then tossed it to the man still standing in the empty stall. “Have a seat and we will talk.” Stepping over to his makeshift pallet in the next stall, Paodin picked up a small box which appeared to have once housed a farmer’s tools and then turned to the man.
“You seem to know Lady Brigitte well,” Paodin began. “Why do you come to help under cover of darkness?”
“It seems I have known her my entire life,” the man smiled, sitting. “Her husband Evan was my best friend and sole confidant. Before we speak of the lady, though, I would like to know who I am speaking with, if you will do me that courtesy.”
“Of course, sir. My name is Paodin, son of Audon of Gelci. Right now I am on a journey of sorts, which has led me far from home and exposed some formidable enemies.”
“Ah!” the man exclaimed. “I have done business with your father on occasion, whenever he has found the time to travel down here to Lurn. I suppose you are the young boy who was with him on those trips. He is a good man and I have little reason to doubt he has raised his son to be honorable as well.” Leaning back casually against the barn wall, he continued. “My name is Jamis. Because of your father, I believe I am safe in speaking freely with you. Now, you asked why I come under cover of night?” When Paodin nodded, Jamis answered with a question of his own: “Did the boy know you were correcting him?”
Paodin frowned. “How could I tell him so? Adair is proud and believes himself capable of providing for his mother---”
“Exactly,” Jamis interrupted. “I owe it to Evan to look after his family since he was killed, but I cannot do that at the expense of his son. The boy has been thrust into manhood much too early, it is true, but despite his youth he is very much a man. Without his pride, his dignity, a man is nothing.”
Nodding his understanding, Paodin asked the older man, “You said your friend was killed. Was that attack the same one that left his widow scarred and started the fire of hatred for King Simann burning in his son’s heart?”
Studying Paodin, Jamis replied, “So, the boy has told you of his contempt for our King.”
“Not in so many words, no. I believe his statement was that he would like to run him through with a pitchfork.”
Jamis laughed, a rich, though bitter, laugh that seemed to fill the barn. “Adair has never been one to mince words, much like his father. I fear that one day that trait will earn him the same fate as Evan. My friend was… not happy with the King, and he was one of a few who were very vocal about their opinions. They came in the night, the guards, and attacked Evan and Brigitte as they slept. Evan never had a chance to even defend himself. He and his bride were both left for dead, but not before the King himself had a chance to steal everything of worth from them both. Evan was forced to watch, bleeding and helpless, as Simann raped his wife and then slashed her face, leaving the scars you see today. Brigitte then heard her husband die at the hands of Tundyel’s beloved King.” Jamis’ words were full of hatred and pain as he continued. “I don’t know why the boy was left alone. Maybe Simann saw how much more cruel it would be to leave the child with his dead parents. Or it could be that he just didn’t care what happened to the boy. Perhaps Adair was attacked but in a way that left no visual scars. We will probably never know. Yet somehow the nine year old boy was able to nurse his mother back to health. He has been taking care of her for close to three years now, with only a few nightly repairs from me.”
28 October 2010
He was jarred from his sleep, startled by the sudden realization that someone had entered the tunnel not long before. No, he thought, sitting up, two ha entered. Only one remained. Hurriedly he threw on his cloak as he ran outside. The night was not yet black, but it made no difference. Though the lesser Wizards could not read the wisdom of the sky until the sun’s glow had completely fled the darkness, he could. He closed his eyes and threw his head back, letting the vibrant colors flow around him. Soon the rich hues all change to sparkling gold and silver, the markings of the true magic. He followed as they spun their way through time and space, these shimmering specters. Some began to resemble the True Wizards of old while others seemed content just to dance and twirl through the tunnel, bouncing off the walls and filling the small space with an unnatural light. Suddenly, there in front of him stood the young Healer. She steeled herself, straightening her shoulders against what she must surely think would be a recurrence of the test she faced before.
This time, however, the crippling pain was not present and the deafening roar had been replaced by a hauntingly beautiful melody. The young girl made no move to approach, nor did she falter and shift backward. Instead she stood proudly, accepting of whatever fate awaited her. He watched as the gold and silver beings swirled around the Healer, amazed at her ability to stand unflinchingly in the midst of them. Her only movement was an unconscious fluttering of her right hand to touch the small silver bracelet given to her at birth.
He smiled as he opened his eyes, once again seeing only the night sky. The young Healer would prove to be a tremendous asset to the true king of Tundyel.
Syndria stood still, half expecting to disappear as had her escort in their earlier encounter with the shining lights. When nothing happened she began to relax, the tension draining from her neck and shoulders as she silently watched the beings twirl around her. Unlike before, this time she could see three faces within the light, all peculiar mixes of gold and silver. Though she felt certain she already knew the answer, the young Healer asked softly, “Who are you?” Though no sound came from the beings, Syndria heard their answers ringing deep in her heart and mind.
“We are truth.”
“We are righteousness.”
“We are just.”
“The True Wizards,” she realized slowly. “You are the ones who determine worthiness, the ones who say who may pass through the tunnel.”
“Wrong!” she heard.
“The heart determines one’s worth.”
“We merely reveal the heart.”
The luminous beings pulled back and Syndria began to fear they would leave her soon. Hoping to keep them near, though she did not know why, the young Healer began walking toward them as she spoke.
“Masters,” she began, her voice smooth and calm, “may I ask for your guidance? I am on a strange path to which I see no end, but to you it must be clear.”
“Each must follow his own path,” the Wizards answered, now speaking as one voice. “It is not our place to change the young Healer’s steps.” As the True Wizards began to fade before her, Syndria hurried her steps.
“I do not ask for your magic to end my journey,” she said, “merely for your presence to illuminate the trail.”
“The eyes of your heart are unclouded. Follow them, for they need no illumination.” With that, the Wizards were gone and Syndria was left standing in the dark. It took a moment for the girl to realize she was standing in the midst of a forest, no longer in the tunnel. Spinning around Syndria searched for the opening, the gate that had let her out of that enchanted place. She saw nothing but trees ad the faint glow to the northeast which told her the feast in Caron was lasting well into the might. Not sure where to go, not knowing which direction would provide some measure of safety, Syndria took a deep breath and turned west, deciding her best decision would be the one which put as much distance between herself and the castle as she possibly could in one night. Perhaps tomorrow she could make it to Saun.
24 October 2010
“Are you alright?” a small voice asked. When he looked up he was looking directly into the eyes of a young boy.
Smiling in hopes of putting the young boy at ease, Paodin answered, “I’m only tired. I’ve just been on a long journey to get here.”
The boy cocked his head as he studied the strange man sitting slumped against the wall. “You need rest,” he observed, “but you won’t get that in the city.” Stretching out his hand, the boy took Paodin by the arm. “Come with me. Mum will give you something to eat and then you can sleep. Come on!”
With the boy tugging impatiently at his sleeve, the exhausted traveler could think of no good reason not to go with him, so Paodin struggled to his feet and followed the boy, his leg muscles burning with every step. He didn’t know what to tell the boy about his journey, afraid of saying too much. His fears proved unimportant, though, because the boy kept talking during the walk from the city.
“Mum and me live out here away from Lurn. My father died a couple years ago, so I take care of us. I come to town for the things we need. Mum doesn’t like me travelin’ alone; she says there’s too many people in Lurn who would take advantage of a kid. I have to tell her to remember I’m not a kid anymore, I’m practically twelve! She always says she should go with me, but I wake up early and go without her. The trip’s too long for her to make it on foot and poor old Red is almost twice as old as me. It would probably kill the old mule if I put a saddle on him. Besides, those people don’t like Mum.” As the boy continued, Paodin glanced down at his face and saw a familiar protective spark in the boy’s eyes.
“When she does go with me they look at her like she’s not worth the dirt she’s walkin’ on. I’m just happy she can’t see that.” His pace slowing some, he added, “But I know she hears all those dumb kids, even though she don’t say so. Sometimes I just want to hit ‘em for the mean things they say, but Mum says not to ‘cause they just don’t know better. She says that they learn it from their parents, that ‘you can’t expect people to be good and kind if their leaders are bad,’ and that those kids just got stuck with bad leaders.” His pace increasing as his anger intensified, he was almost jogging along the road when he suddenly stopped and spun to face Paodin. “Do you know better, mister?” he demanded, shoulders back and tense. Though he didn’t elaborate, Paodin was sure he understood the boy’s meaning.
“I didn’t have a Mum like yours, but my father has always been a good leader. Perhaps you can tell me about your Mum and then we won’t have to worry about-”
“If you really are good,” the boy interrupted, “I don’t have to worry.” He began walking again, telling Paodin all about Red the mule and his escapades. Soon the two were approaching a small cottage tucked into a grove of oak trees. The front door squeaked when the boy opened it, but the home was otherwise in great shape. Paodin was surprised. This boy who was “practically twelve” really was taking care of his mother.
“Hello, Mum!” he called. “I’m home!”
“Adair, I do wish you would stop going to town alone,” came a sweet voice from the kitchen. “Now why don’t you bring your guest into the kitchen and we can all have some breakfast. I’ve made hotcakes.”
Paodin looked at the boy, Adair, his eyes wide and questioning. “There are lots of things about Mum that’ll surprise you,” Adair said, then turned and led Paodin through the cozy front room and into the kitchen, where his mother stood at the fore with her back to the doorway.
“Have a seat and start on those hotcakes,” she said. “I’m just finishing the tea.”
“I would hate to cause you any trouble, madam. You weren’t expecting company, and I’m sure you planned breakfast for two,” Paodin said, reluctant to sit.
The lady laughed. “Oh, nonsense! You must not have known my Addie very long.”
“It’s Adair, Mum!” The boy rolled his eyes as he sat down, but Paodin could still see a smile tugging at the corners of the boy’s mouth.
Her back still to them, Adair’s mother continued, “As I was saying, if you had known my son Adair for long, you would know that he brings some soul home almost each time he ventures in to Lurn. Sit, eat, please.” Though she still hadn’t turned around, Paodin could tell his hostess was smiling with pride in her son. “There, I believe it is ready. Would you like a cup, sir?” she asked as she turned, pot in hand.
Paodin swallowed as he looked up. Though he had hesitated to sit and eat at first, as soon as the woman reinforced her son’s invitation he quickly began chowing down. “Yes,” he started to say as the woman turned around, but his voice caught for a brief moment before he could continue when he saw her face. “I would appreciate some tea, madam.”
“It is Brigitte, please,” she said as she gently patted the table in search of the mug. Finding it, she filled the stoneware mug and then returned the tea pot to its hook over the fire before taking her seat at the table.
As he finished his breakfast, Paodin studied the woman across from him. Her long red hair was pulled back in a tight braid, but the wisps which had escaped betrayed ringlet curls. Her creamy complexion was smooth and without freckles, unlike most redheads. Looking at her tiny frame, Paodin could easily see from where the boy’s small stature came. Brigitte had long slender fingers, but her hands appeared far from fragile. Her movements were sure and steady, the smile on her face unwavering, visible even as she ate. Her beauty could have easily compared with that of any of the Healers. However, Paodin could not ignore her only imperfection. It started at Brigitte’s left temple, crossed both eyes, her nose and right cheek, and twisted down her neck to disappear under the neckline of her pale green dress. The scarred flesh was an angry red, telling Paodin this terrible injury had occurred recently. By the cloudy appearance of both eyes, Paodin could see that Brigitte had been blinded by whatever tragedy had befallen her. Judging by the size of the scars, that injury had most likely been caused by the end of a sword.
As he finished his hotcakes, Brigitte spoke. “Adair, were you able to get out cornmeal today?” The boy started to answer, but his words were jumbled by the food in his mouth. “Son, please do not speak with your mouth full.”
Swallowing, Adair rolled his eyes at Paodin as he answered, “Sort of, Mum. I traded some birds for fifty pounds, but ‘cause I left the cart here this mornin’ I’ve gotta go back for our cornmeal. I’ll go this afternoon, after lunch.”
“Good,” Brigitte smiled, a crooked smile because her right cheek was frozen in place from the scar. “I’ll go with you. I want to go and find some fabric--you are beginning to outgrow much of your clothing.” She stood, clearing her plate off the table and putting it in the dish pail. “Finish your breakfast, Addie, and then we will get to work. Perhaps your guest will be able to help you mend the coop.”
“Of course, madam,” Paodin began, following Adair’s lead and putting his own plate in the pail of water. “I would be happy to help, in appreciation for your hospitality.” Turning to Adair he said, “Why don’t you go gather our supplies and meet me outside? I would like to speak to your mother for a minute if you don’t mind.”
The boy hesitated, staring at Paodin as if he could determine the man’s intentions just by studying his face. Sensing her son’s reluctance to leave her alone with the man, Brigitte spoke up. “Go ahead, Addie. Our guest will be right out.”
“It’s Adair,” he muttered under his breath, giving Paodin a look of warning as he walked out of the room.
“Please, have a seat,” Brigitte said, motioning to the chair across from her as she sat. Once Paodin sat down she continued. “My son is rather… protective. He has been forced to grow up far too much in the past years since his father died, and I’m afraid that he now thinks of himself more as my protector than my son. Now,” she paused, taking a sip of tea, “what brought you here?”
Leaning forward, Paodin laced his fingers together around his mug as he thought about how much to tell Brigitte. Before he could answer, the woman continued.
“You do not have to tell me everything.” At Paodin’s surprised silence she laughed. “I’m sure you wonder how I can be so certain of your hesitation when I cannot see you. To be honest, I can’t say. It just seems as if my perceptions have changed. Now, like I said, you do not have to tell me everything. You are, however, a guest in my home right now, and I believe I deserve some kind of answer. If you do not wish to share your business with me, I must ask you to leave.”
“I do not wish to lie to you,” Paodin began, “but my business is dangerous. I will tell you what I can, and then you can decide if I should leave.” When Brigitte nodded, Paodin said, “My name is Paodin. I am on the run right now from King Simann’s men-”
“Please,” she interrupted, “say no more. You are welcome in our home. Right now, however, Addie is outside waiting for your help in mending the chicken coop.”
Paodin stood. “Thank you, madam. I appreciate your confidence in me, and I promise I will not betray your trust. Now,” he said, his voice brightening, “I assume your coop is behind the house?”
The lady stood, motioning for Paodin to follow her through the small house. “Yes. I would imagine you saw the barn when you first approached with my son. You will find Addie around against the east wall.” Paodin nodded and started out the door then stopped, realizing Brigitte couldn’t have seen his nod of understanding. Turning back toward the door, he started to verbally acknowledge Brigitte but stopped his words short because she had already shut the door between them.
It has been a while since I posted any of my story ("a while" here means that it has been incredibly long, but it would be a tad bit depressing to actually look and see how long it has been...which of course I'll do as soon as this is posted), which I mean to rectify as soon as I look back and figure out where I left you all hanging. Right now, though, I'm writing on page 298 (the actual page, which I didn't have to look up even though it has been probably 2 weeks since I wrote a single word), and I'm scared to death to go back to writing. See, I think I need to cut out the last two pages I wrote, and that thought just about kills me! It's not that I like the stuff that needs to come out--and believe me, it REALLY needs to come out--in fact, quite the contrary. I can't stand what I wrote and know that taking it out will make the story better. The thing is, some little voice inside me keeps whispering that that's just the beginning, that I've lost the...muse, if you will.
I'm sure that I just need to open up my story and bite the bullet. Being the quote fanatic that I am, I have copied down line after line of writers saying that the wastebasket is the writer's best friend, and that the answer to writer's block is to simply sit down and write (is it a Freudian slip that I just wrote "writhe" instead of "write"?). Something, though, is just easier about picking up a crochet hook and ball of yarn...
26 July 2010
So, why is it that I can't seem to make the words appear on the page? Partly, like the title of this post says, I'm procrastinating terribly. I think, though, my biggest problem may be that I know what happens when I finish. I have to put the whole story out there where somebody can see that chunk of my soul--and then judge it. That is a scary feeling, and I think it is my main reason for the procrastination.
So, now I've got to give myself a swift kick in the seat and make myself get to work...
05 July 2010
So, JESUS MANIFESTO, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, is based on the authors’ concern that Christians have made the Gospel something that is no longer centered on Jesus Christ. To quote the back cover, “It is a prophetic call to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ in a world--and a church--that has lost sight of Him.” They say that many have fallen into a religion instead of a relationship with Christ. It is their belief that there is nothing more about Christianity than Christ, and that the most important question for any believer is one He asked His disciples all those years ago, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
In many ways, I agree with their opinion that Christ should be the center of our faith. I would also say that I go along with the idea that that is often not the case in churches today, with it being easy and even common to find people preaching a religion based more on the question, “What can God do for me?” However, I found this book lacking. It seemed to me`to be a simplistic view, one that merely covers the basics. Yes, our faith should be about Jesus, but there is more. Not more than Jesus, but more to living the kind of life to which each of us as a believer has been called. I think this book is good for someone who is young in his faith, but in a way it seems very much like spiritual milk instead of solid food, as mentioned in Hebrews 5:12-14.
On a different note, my personal preference is to have what I call the “address” of a verse listed in the text when a verse is quoted instead of having an endnote for the citation. This book has everything listed in the back, something I must admit is just a pet peeve of mine, not something bad.
*Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. The opinions expressed, however, are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
07 May 2010
06 May 2010
This next little bit comes at the end of Syndria's stay in Caron. This is also one of the first introductions to some of the...magical, I guess is the best word, stuff in the story. So, here goes!
“So far, no one has had reason to doubt Sir Lawrence’s loyalty or my identity, so we are in no hurry.” Syndria spoke quietly, suddenly much calmer than she had been in the city streets just moments before. “If I am correct, this gate you and the Councilman speak of is the one used by the last True Wizard in his escape 600 years ago. Searching will accomplish nothing. This gate opens on its own, but only to those deemed pure of heart.” the Healer stood before the wall only a moment more and then turned away. As she walked toward the bench in the center of the garden, Syndria spoke quietly. “Come. Rest a moment and wait.” Frederick reluctantly followed. Usually a man of action, the young man couldn’t understand waiting for a hidden gate to open on its own. However, he could not bring himself to go against the wishes of a Healer and sat down beside Syndria. Still tense, he was startled when the Healer suddenly got off the bench and knelt beside the pond.
“Are you positive that the gate is located in the wall, or is it just found somewhere in the garden?” she asked, her voice suddenly excited.
Frederick thought for a minute before replying. “I suppose I made the assumption that the gate is located in the wall, since that is the only logical place for a gate to be found. Perhaps it is possible for the gate to be somewhere else, though I do not see how.”
“It is not only possible, it is most likely,” Syndria said. “A gate in the wall would be visible from the other side, and the walls outside the city are kept clear of foliage. This is the gate,” she finished, staring down into the water.
Frederick said nothing. Though he feared the girl before him must be crazy, the last five years Frederick had spent every day in Guardsman training, in part learning the proper etiquette of the Royal Court. During that time, Frederick had learned that the Guards were never to argue with the Healers, and he assumed that rule still held true when said Healer had apparently lost her mind. So he knelt next to Syndria, hoping she would not waste too much time staring into the water. Something deep in the pond caught his attention just then, a tiny glimmer in the darkest waters. He leaned closer, straining to see the mesmerizing light. As he drew nearer the strange light seemed to grow and change, taking on a yellow glow and dancing in the water. As he watched, the light spread to encompass the entire pool. The water, the plants in the water, the fish--everything disappeared, swallowed up by the light. Beside him, the Healer stood and stepped into the light. Frederick’s hand shot out, ready to catch her when she fell into what had been a deep pond just moments ago. However, when she stepped the light vanished as suddenly as it had first appeared, revealing a steep spiral staircase disappearing into darkness.
Syndria never hesitated. She hurried down the stairs into the dark, calling back, “If you wish to accompany me, you had better follow quickly.” Glancing around, Frederick sped down the staircase behind the Healer.
Much to her surprise, the staircase that had appeared in the pond wasn’t slick or even too dark. Though there were no torches or lamps lighting the path, Syndria had no problem seeing what lay before her. When she looked back, however, she could see nothing but blackness. She knew Frederick had followed--she could hear his footsteps falling behind her--yet she hadn’t seen him since she started down. Once the Healer reached what seemed to be three stories underground, the stairs began to lose their steepness. Soon the path was flat, and much wider than the staircase had been on the way down. As Syndria looked around the tunnel around her began to lighten. Soon she could see not just the path before her but also the rock walls on each side of her. The young Healer stopped, her breath taken away by the beauty she was seeing. The stone glittered as if it held some growing light inside, shining through and giving life to the intricate carvings which covered every inch of the tunnel walls. Lines swirled and spiraled from floor to ceiling, all weaving together to form designs Syndria had never seen, even though she had spent her life in the castle. Nothing King Simann’s artisans could create even began to rival these walls. The swirls and spirals seemed to be moving, winding their ways up the wall or down the hallway, flowing streams of gold and silver. Any trepidation the Healer had felt when she first stepped into this enchanted underground world melted away. Somehow Syndria could just feel that this was a safe place.
“This is amazing,” Frederick said in awe, coming up beside Syndria. “It is hard to imagine that I have lived my whole life with this under my feet and never knew.” He started toward the wall with his hand stretched out, drawn to the shining streams. As her escort moved closer to the wall Syndria began to feel uneasy. Just when she opened her mouth to tell Frederick she thought it would be a bad idea to touch the wall, he did.
Nothing happened. “It feels like glass.” Frederick gently glided his hand over the ribbons of gold and silver. Syndria silently chided herself for giving her doubts and fears room to grow as Frederick let his hand drop and took a step back toward the Healer. As soon as he set foot back on the path, a strange sound began buzzing through the tunnel. The shining metallic ribbons suddenly grew brighter, filling the underground passageway with blinding light. The buzzing shot up to a deafening roar, crushing the two intruders under its weight. Syndria felt her knees buckling, saw Frederick crumble to the path beside her, but she refused to fall. Though the pain was tremendous and flooded her body from head to toe, the Healer had spent most of her life taking excruciating pain upon herself. She dropped her hands from covering her ears and forced her eyes to open despite the light. Before her, forming out of the gold and silver streams, was a figure.
It didn’t look exactly like the form of a man, but Syndria couldn’t describe it any other way. There was no face, but somehow the young Healer could still see expressions she recognized. The first emotion she saw was surprise, seemingly a reaction to her stand against the pain. That was quickly followed by recognition. Syndria couldn’t understand how, but she was sure that the presence not only knew her, it knew everything about her in an instant. The young Healer felt her every fault being revealed in the searing light. The knowledge that someone, or something, could essentially see right through her made Syndria feel weak, a feeling she wasn’t used to experiencing as a Healer. That was when a thought occurred to her. This gate was thought to only open to those pure of heart, but perhaps that was not the case. Maybe it opened to anyone who knew it was there and determined worthiness and intentions once the traveler ventured down into the tunnel.
Syndria fought the urge to fall to her knees under the weight of her faults. Instead, she struggled to think about her strengths and the purpose of her journey, hoping the being she faced would deem her worthy of the path she followed. Then as suddenly as the presence appeared it vanished.
The Healer felt a great weight lifting off her shoulders as she blinked rapidly, trying to make her eyes adjust once again to the dim light inside the passageway. Looking around, all seemed to be as it had been. The gold and silver streams wound their way up the walls and down the length of the tunnel, stretching as far as Syndria could see in the soft light. She looked back expecting to see Frederick where he had fallen when the mysterious presence had first appeared. No one was there. She started back, went a few steps, and then realized she had to keep moving forward. She didn’t know what had happened to Frederick, but if she was right about the passageway he had been proven untrue to her path. She took a deep breath, picked up the pack her escort had been carrying, and walked on. To where, she didn’t know. Once she reached the surface again, Syndria knew it would be almost impossible to know who to trust. If necessary she would avenge Nedra’s death herself, though she hoped it would not come to that. Surely she would find others who could see Simann for what he really was.
“What do you mean, ‘He lost her’?” Ilcren raged, flying to his feet. The man before him flinched but stood their ground. They were used to the Wizard’s temper and knew he needed them too much to cause them any harm--at least for now.
“They went into some kind of gate behind Councilman Lawrence’s house where Frederick says they met some kind of horrible beast. It knocked him to the ground with one clawed paw and the next thing our guard knew, he was once again standing in the Councilor’s garden,” Erik answered. The Guardsman responsible for the district of Rues, Erik had been put in charge of finding someone unknown to the Healer who would be able to get close to her, someone loyal to Ilcren yet trusted by the Councilman. Frederick had been a perfect choice. His younger brother was already close to the Councilor’s daughter Lydia, so it proved simple to have young Fitzgerald suggest his brother escort his own date’s “cousin.”
“I had her in my grasp,” Ilcren hissed, his eyes sparkling, “and you fools let her slip away! You must find her. I will not let the enemy have her and have the ability to be healed to attack more than once.” The Guardsmen stood still, not knowing if the temperamental wizard was finished with them yet or not. If he was, waiting a moment more would be nowhere near as ad as leaving too early if he had more to say. “What are you waiting for? Go find her--and bring the Councilman to me!” With a slight hand motion, Erik led his guards out of the room.
19 April 2010
Watching the old man study the ring, Paodin answered, “It was given to me by my mother before she died. I was only a baby so my father held it for me until it fit.”
“What did she say?”
Paodin reached out to take the ring back. “I was only just born when she died. How am I to know what she said?” Leaning back he slid the ring back on his finger. Despite the casualness with which he had given his ring to the man, Paodin was relieved to have it back in place. Since the day his father had first given it to him, Paodin had only taken the ring off when his growing hands had warranted it being switched to a smaller finger.
“You do not lie--though you do not remember her saying the words, you know what she said.” The man’s eyes glittered as they had the night before. “Now, what did she say?”
Paodin spun the ring on his finger as he answered. “According to my father, she simply told me to protect it. Father told me it was very important to her family.”
In another change of subject, something Paodin had come to expect at any moment, the old man asked, “What is the strongest thing in nature?”
Without thinking for long, he answered, “The mountains.”
“Perhaps,” the man stated simply. “What is weakest?”
With the second part of the question, Paodin suddenly remembered the first line of the Prophecy: “Bound by nature’s strength and frailty,” he said, pushing away the plate of half-eaten food. “That is what you are asking me, is it not?” The stranger sat silently, letting Paodin talk through the line on his own. Pushing back from the table the young man stood and began to pace. “Nature’s frailty could be anything. The strength could be a mountain as I earlier mentioned. Now, if the Prophecy says ‘bound by’, that probably means surrounded by or trapped by. Trapped, though, has a negative connotation. I should not think the Prophecy which speaks of returning the rightful heir of Tundyel to the throne would be negative. Bound could also mean protected.”
The old man interrupted Paodin’s flow of words by repeating an earlier question. “What did your mother say when she gave you the ring?”
“Her words were simply to protect it,” Paodin said, his frustration at being interrupted obvious in his voice.
The old man nodded slowly, never losing eye contact with the young man.
Paodin’s eyes widened. “Protected by nature’s strength and frailty. Man is both the strongest and weakest thing in nature. The heir will be protected by man.”
“That is one meaning,” the stranger said as he stood, “but there is another.”
Until he had realized that man was both strong and frail, Paodin had been trying to think of two different aspects of nature. Now he focused on one thing that could fit both descriptions. The old man kept asking about his ring, so Paodin now studied it himself. The pattern of interlocking leaves wrapped around his finger, the silver gleaming despite his dirty appearance. Suddenly, everything fit into place.
“The Prophecy,” he said, isn’t speaking solely of man. I am to protect the heir. When my mother said to protect it she was not speaking of the ring. She told me to protect the kingdom.”
“Though two, as one in unity.” The stranger repeated the second line of the Prophecy.
Paodin’s eyes grew even wider. “Though there will be two when I find the true heir, we will both have the same purpose-- ‘Shall true heir of Tundyel make’. Soon the true King will be on the throne.” Paodin gazed into the fire. Now it seemed so simple. Why had he thought the Prophecy was so difficult to understand when he first heard it?
“You are forgetting something.”
The old man’s voice broke Paodin’s train of thought, bringing with it the last line of the Prophecy. The True Wizards would be who put the true heir on the throne. “I have to find a True Wizard,” he said, his spirits falling.
Euroin stood before his fireplace staring deeply into the flames. The fire danced under his gaze, the flames turning blue with the extreme heat. The Wizard’s eyes began to glow with a strange light as the room around him seemed to fade. Soon the flames danced and twirled around Euroin as he stood in an otherwise empty space. He focused on the four other Wizards of the Order, clearing his mind of all else. Soon he was joined in the blackness by four voices.
“What have you found?” he asked. “Have the traitors been captured?”
Alek spoke out of the darkness. “Finley is quiet this morning. So far non seem to know of the prisoner’s escape.”
“Traitors?” Uylti interrupted. “For whom besides the prisoner are we searching? Has something else happened at the castle since we’ve been gone, Euroin?”
“The young Healer Syndria,” Euroin stated. “She has fled the castle. You doubted her involvement, Osidius, yet her sudden departure proves her guilt.”
“But how can she be involved?” Ilcren’s voice echoed. “A Healer’s gift could never be strong enough to hide the Old Magic. What could the child possibly have done?”
The flames swirling around Euroin shot out into the dark space. “You all know that a Healer cannot use her gift on someone and not know he has powers.” His voice was harsh, booming out to the others.
Ilcren’s quiet voice answered again. “It has always been so for our magic, that is true. However, we are dealing with a magic we know nothing about, a magic much stronger than our own-”
“Enough! There will be no more discussion,” Euroin yelled. “The Healer will be found along with the prisoner. Now, how is the District of Nelthien? Has there been any evidence of the traitors fleeing to the north?”
“I have neither seen nor heard of the prisoner,” Uylti answered, then quickly followed with, “and I will be watching for the Healer Syndria.”
Ilcren spoke up, “Sephon is also quiet thus far.”
“The people of Meinsley know of the prisoner’s escape, though none seem to have heard of the young Healer leaving as well,” Osidius spoke out of the darkness.
Frustration evident in his voice, Uylti huffed, “Our search would be much easier if we could use our powers to aid in our hunt for the traitors.”
Always the peace keeper of the Order, Ilcren answered, “We have no way of knowing if one with the Old Magic would be able to sense our magic.” His calm voice quieted the others as he continued, “We are better off to rely on our wisdom and only use magic for meetings such as this.”
“Have we not spent too long in this meeting?” Osidius asked. “Perhaps we should only meet if and when someone has new information.” When everyone agreed, the voices stopped and the darkness departed, leaving Euroin once again standing before his fire watching the deadly flames swirl before him.
Syndria sat by the pond for a while before finally making her way inside to talk to Tamara. She straightened her shoulders as she stepped through the door, determined not to appear weak. Her entire life, even before becoming a Healer, Syndria had been known for her strength. She had never been one to get upset when the city kids of Lurn had made fun of her charity dresses and grimy appearance. In fact, she had been much more likely to punch said kid in the nose for the insults. She refused to be weak now.
Tamara stuck her head out of the kitchen when she heard the young Healer enter the cottage. “I’m making bread. Would you like to learn?” she asked as she brushed away a lose strand of hair, leaving a smear of flour across her face. Nodding, Syndria followed her into the kitchen. As Tamara taught the girl about baking bread she talked all about her children. Syndria heard about the many antics of the young Lawrie and his terrorization of his sisters along with the time the girls had put him in Abigail’s fanciest ball gown. The children ran in and out of the kitchen, often asking their mother for something sweet. Tamara would shoo them out with the promise of a special treat after lunch, afterward laughing at their pouts. For a while, as the young Healer helped to knead dough and prepare lunch, Tamara managed to keep Syndria’s mind off of Nedra’s death. Finally, though, once they sat the four children down outside for lunch, Tamara took her into the main room and brought up the subject of which Syndria was hesitant to speak.
“Lawrence tells me you are wanting to leave us before the feast,” she said quietly.
Syndria nodded slightly. “I’m afraid it would not be in the best interest of your family if I were to stay.”
“I beg to differ.” The woman’s statement took the Healer by surprise. “There are many in Caron who know of Kierney’s plan to stay with us through the feast. They are expecting to see her seated with us at the Councilor’s table during the celebration, and if you leave before that many will become suspicious--not only of you, but of Sir Lawrence.”
After sitting quietly for a few moments, the Healer asked, “Why did he say nothing of this to me?”
Tamara smiled, “You must remember, my husband has seen you as a Healer since your gift was first revealed. As you well know, there are certain lines which are not to be crossed, and a Councilor putting his own desires before those of a Healer is one of those lines. I, however, see you mostly as a child.” Seeing Syndria’s surprise, she continued quickly, “Forgive me if I offend you, Mistress, but in my eyes you are in need of protection as much as my own Lydia. Without the Ancient Healer you are now alone in a world that will undoubtedly prove dangerous for you, and I want to help you as long as possible.”
08 April 2010
30 March 2010
An opportunity presented itself sooner than expected. Right after breakfast Tamara took the four youngest to their bedroom to dress for the day. As the daughter of a Councilman, Lyddie was allowed schooling with the boys of Caron, so she was getting ready for the day as well. Her father was sitting in the main, room, relaxing for a few minutes before the duties of the day called him into the Hall of Caron.
“Sir Lawrence,” Syndria said softly, “may I have a moment?”
He stood, motioning toward the door. “Why don’t we walk out in the garden?” He led the Healer outside around the small cottage, then opened a tall gate and led Syndria into an amazing spring wonderland.
There was no doubt that the courtyards of the castle had been beautiful, but Syndria had never seen anything comparable to what she was in the midst of now. A stone path wound its way through brilliantly colored flowers. The entire back wall of the cottage was covered with climbing roses, and ivy spiraled up the garden walls.
At the center of the garden was a large pond everything else seemed to revolve around. Sir Lawrence guided the Healer around the pond to a bench much like the one she had say on with Nedra the day before fleeing the castle. Sitting, he motioned for Syndria to do the same.
“I would like to thank you, Sir,” the Healer began. “Your family has done so much for me, even offering to let me stay with you until the feast. However, I feel I must leave.”
The Councilman turned to Syndria. “Mistress, I cannot allow that to happen. Your life is in danger and will only be more so if you leave now. I am sorry, but your leaving is something I cannot permit.”
Syndria stood. “Councilman,” she said, her voice stern, “You are well aware that as a healer I do not require, nor am I asking for, your permission. What I am asking for is your help one last time. I need to leave Caron and I would like to do so without putting your family in any further danger. If you can just get word to the Healer Nedra telling her I am doing well, I will ask nothing more of you.”
When Sir Lawrence didn’t answer Syndria took it to mean he had decided not to help her. Gathering her courage, the Healer turned her back on the Councilman. “Very well. I shall be on my way. Please tell Madam Tamara I am very grateful for all she has done.”
As she walked away, Sir Lawrence called after her. “Please, Mistress, sit.” His voice was low and when Syndria looked back at him the Councilman’s expression was serious. Slowly she returned to the bench. None of the Councilmen had ever given the young Healer an order, and though he had added “please” Syndria knew the statement was a command. She had not intended to sit, but Sir Lawrence would not speak until she was seated next to him.
Without looking at the young Healer, Lawrence began to speak. “After you fled the castle, King Simann was outraged. He refused to believe you had gotten past the guards without any of them seeing you and questioned all of them. I would imagine Mistress Nedra sent you away during the changing of the Guard, which would explain why you were not seen. However, the king would hear nothing of the sort. When all the Guards denied all knowledge of your escape he ordered all the Guards on duty through the night and morning killed. They were to be beheaded so there would be no chance of a Healer giving them life as they died.”
Syndria gasped. Tears once more threatened to fall as the young Healer thought of all the torture and pain so many had been forced to endure because of her.
“The eight Guardsmen who were to be killed were all young,” the Councilman continued, “not much older than yourself.” When he paused and looked at Syndria for the first time since telling her to sit, she saw a very different expression in his eyes. “Mistress Nedra could not allow that to happen.” He stopped, his eyes wet. “I’m sorry,” he finally said after a long pause, “but she is gone.”
“No!” she cried, shaking her head. Syndria jumped to her feet. “It only just happened. If I can get to her I still may be able to bring her back. The Ancient is strong and she would have fought hard for life. I just have to get back to the castle--” Sir Lawrence grabbed the young Healer’s shoulders, shaking her back to the moment.
Spinning her around, the Councilman ordered, “Listen to me, child! Nedra was a good woman, and I will not see her death be for nothing, and the moment you return to the castle you will be killed as well. Do you want that to happen?”
“Unhand me, Councilman,” Syndria scolded. “I cannot just sit by and let Nedra die. I must help if I can. Now let me go!” The more the young Healer struggled, the tighter Lawrence held her shoulders.
“Listen to me,” he said. “Listen to me! There is nothing you can do for her--she is dead! Now you need to be strong and learn to be the Healer Mistress Nedra was. You can finish what she started and restore Tundyel to its rightful king. You must fight for truth, and if you don not think you can fight for yourself or your people, you must do it for Nedra.”
Syndria stopped struggling. As soon as the strength that came with her desperate desire to get back to Nedra waned, she could barely stand. The young Healer collapsed onto the bench, her face in her hands, leaving Sir Lawrence standing awkwardly nearby. The Healers were strong women. They faced death everyday, yet he had never seen one of them cry. Now the Councilman stood by watching one Healer sob uncontrollably into her hands, her shoulders shaking with grief. As he watched, the Healer’s untouchable appearance dissolved and all the father of five could see was a young girl completely alone with the tragic news he had just given her.
Lawrence sat down next to Syndria and hesitantly put his arms around her shoulders. Though at first she stiffened, soon the girl was clinging to the man who knew her grief. The gentle father held the girl until her sobs had subsided and then pulled away.
“I must go, child. I am expected in the Hall. Please do not leave until we can speak. If you are willing to fight for your people, and for Nedra, I know those who could help you.” He stood and turned away. Before the Councilman walked through the gate he turned back and called, “You can talk to Tamara. She is good at this sort of thing.”
Syndria stood and walked around to the other side of the pond. She knelt and skimmed her fingers across the surface of the water, watching the ripples grow larger as they spread. Sir Lawrence was right, she found herself thinking. The Ancient would not have wanted her to wallow in self-pity. The young Healer tossed a pebble into the pond, watching the seemingly endless number of circles that spread from it.
“Perhaps Mistress Nedra was that stone,” Tamara said, startling Syndria. She knelt beside the Healer, hoisting her skirt so it wouldn’t get dirty. “She has started things in motion. Now it is up to those she has touched to make sure things spread.”
Syndria glanced over briefly when Tamara put her hand on the girl’s shoulder before looking back to the rings moving across the pond. “If the Ancient started the ripples, what can I do? The ripples spread on their own.”
Before standing, Tamara squeezed Syndria’s shoulder. “If the first ripple never moves, the others never get a chance. Come in whenever you are ready,” she said, walking away and leaving the Healer at the pond’s edge
Paodin was disoriented when he woke. It took a few minutes for him to remember that he was staying underground with the old man who had found him in the woods. He walked back out to the main room where he found the rumpled stranger sitting at the table.
“Come sit,” he said. “Have lunch.”
Nodding his thanks, Paodin took the offered seat. Already filled, a plate sat on the table. It held a hunk of hard bread, two large pieces of salted pork, and a chunk of cheese. Paodin began devouring the food as if he hadn’t eaten two bowls of stew the night before.
“You had time to think,” the man said, watching Paodin eat. “What does it mean?” he asked, picking up the conversation right where they had left off.
“To be honest,” Paodin said between mouthfuls, “I don’t even remember the Prophecy. Perhaps you will repeat it for me.”
“What is the ring you wear?”
Sighing in exasperation, Paodin shook his head and took off the ring. How could it be so impossible to get a single straight answer from one man? He rolled the silver ring across the table. He had learned the night before that there would be no point in trying to make the strange man talk about anything he did not initiate.
22 March 2010
The stranger quickly jumped to his feet, sending his heavy chair crashing over backward. “Yes!” he exclaimed, spinning to face the fire with his back to Paodin. “Now, what does it mean?” he questioned once again, his voice suddenly calm. “Think before you speak.”
Paodin closed his mouth. He had started to again tell the old man it was useless to question him before the stranger’s last command, but now decided it would accomplish nothing. So he closed his eyes for a moment, hearing one line of the riddle about the truth ringing in his mind. “And by the Truth the throne room take.” His eyes shot open. It was obvious--”The True Wizards will help to take back the throne of Rilso,” he stated, his eyes wide. “That is not a riddle, is it?” When the old man showed no reaction, Paodin continued, “That is the Prophecy.”
“I will help you,” the old man stated simply, staring into the fire. “What does the rest mean?” he questioned quietly.
When searching his mind didn’t turn up the rest of the Prophecy, Paodin left the table to stand beside the Stranger in front of the fire. He stood silently, gazing deeply into the flames in an attempt to find what the old man was watching so intently. As if reading his mind the man spoke.
“If you study something long enough, you can find the truth behind anything.”
“Well,” Paodin countered, “the first may have been the Prophecy, but that was a riddle. What are you trying to tell me?” Paodin was starting to get frustrated. Maybe this man really was just crazy. If so, Paodin thought, I should just leave right now.
“Dawn comes soon. Perhaps you should wait until night falls again to continue your journey. That will give you time to understand.” The old man opened a small door next to the fireplace. “Rest here.”
Paodin sighed. If it truly was approaching dawn he could not travel now. He turned away from the fire to look at the man who had seemingly wasted so much of his time, but the old stranger was gone. He must have gone back up into the forest, though Paodin hadn’t heard him leave. He ducked his head and stepped through the small door.
Instead of the dark hole he had expected, this room was warm and comfortable. A cot against one wall of the tiny bedroom was piled high with quilts full of rich, beautiful colors. There were no other furnishings in the room, but it was warmed by the fire it shared with the other room. Paodin lay down on the cot which was another first like the soup had been earlier that night. He planned to rest and try to remember the Prophecy, but soon his eyes closed and Paodin drifted into his first deep sleep in a week.
Syndria woke long before daybreak. She slept very little during the night, tossing and turning. At one point she had gotten up to pace the small room, hoping not to wake Lyddie. She had waited in bed as long as possible but finally felt too restless to stay in the bedroom. She made her way quietly into the main room, trying not to wake the family. To her surprise, Tamara was sitting by the window sipping from a heavy mug, gazing out into the early morning.
As Syndria walked in, Tamara looked up and smiled. “Good morning, child. Would you like some sassafras tea?”
Child. Syndria felt herself relax slightly at the word. Since she was first revealed as a Healer no one but Nedra had called her that. People seemed almost to fear her, a painful reaction Syndria had never been able to shake off. She nodded, and Tamara motioned for her to sit as she went into the kitchen for another mug.
“It’s pretty strong,” she warned, handing Syndria the warm mug. “Here is some honey if you need to sweeten it.” Sitting down beside the young Healer, Tamara gave Syndria time to relax before she began to speak.
“I am truly sorry you have been driven from all you know. So much has been stripped from you-- your appearance, your home, your friends. I wish there was more we could do for you, Mistress,” she said, bowing her head slightly.
Syndria felt a pang of sadness at the woman’s deference. “Please, I liked ‘child’ so much better,” she said, reaching to take Tamara’s hand. “There is nothing else you need to do for me. You have already opened your home to me, putting your own family in danger if the Guardsmen discover my presence. I am afraid that if I stay much longer that will happen.”
“Oh!” Tamara exclaimed, “That reminds me-- you need a dress to wear while you are here. Though your hair is now short, you will be easily recognized if you move about the kingdom in your white gown.” She stood, pulling Syndria along beside her. “Come with me and we will find you something to wear.” Tamara led Syndria through the kitchen to a small room full of fabrics, threads, and garments in various stages of production. She began searching through the dresses stacked on a small table tucked under the room’s only window.
“You are older than my Lydia, but I don’t believe there is much difference in size.” Pulling a dark red dress from the pile, Tamara turned to the Healer. “Try this one. I can adjust it some once you have it on. Call when you are ready,” she added, walking back into the kitchen. She left the door open slightly, giving Syndria some light in the tiny room.
Syndria fingered the dress. For the last twelve years she had worn nothing but white. The red was beautiful and the girl’s eyes lit up at the thought of wearing such a rich color. She quickly changed out of the simple Healer’s gown and pulled the new dress over her head. As soon as she was dressed she called Tamara back into the room.
When the seamstress stepped in she began laughing. “Well, my dear, I do believe I may have some work to do!”
The red dress hit Syndria in all the wrong places. It pulled tightly across her hips and gaped at her chest. The fabric folded at her waist, pulling the hem of the dress three inches above her ankle.
Tamara struggled to contain her laughter. Still chuckling, she pulled shears, a needle, and thread out of a drawer. “Now,” she smiled, tapping a stool, “step up here and let’s see what I can do.”
An hour later, the dress fit Syndria perfectly and the young Healer was learning to cook by helping Tamara prepare breakfast. Sir Lawrence walked in as Syndria set the table.
“Good morning. The two of you must have gotten up early this morning,” he said, looking around at all the food. “You’ve been busy! Are we celebrating something?”
Tamara smiled as her husband kissed her on the forehead. “I was just teaching… Kierney how to cook. We were having so much fun we just couldn’t stop,” she finished, turning as the twins stumbled drowsily into the kitchen. “Good morning, girls. Are you hungry?” The girls nodded as they climbed into their chairs at the table.
Sir Lawrence knelt between his daughters. “Well, since we can’t eat until everyone is here, who wants to go wake up your brother and sisters?” When neither girl answered, the Councilman scooped them out of their chairs, one in each arm. “I guess all three of us will just have to go.” He flew them through the doorway, both girls squealing with delight.
Soon they returned, little Lawrie riding of his father’s back. Abigail hurried in ahead of the group, her blonde hair wild. The twins still giggled and an obviously sleepy Lyddie followed behind. Looking at Lyddie, Syndria knew she must have woken the girl with her restlessness the night before.
“I am sorry if I woke you last night,” Syndria said as she served the young girl a bowl of oatmeal.
Tamara laughed. “Oh, Kierney, Lydia is always this cheerful early in the morning.” Kissing her oldest daughter on the top of her head, Tamara continued, “She wouldn’t know if the house fell down around her at night!”
The breakfast continued with lots of laughter, making Syndria remember all the quiet mornings she had spent in the castle. For a moment Syndria considered staying on until the feast. It would be amazing to experience a family for the rest of the week. The thought didn’t last long before Syndria mentally chided herself. How could she even consider keeping this family in danger longer just to satisfy her own desire to have a family? As soon as possible Syndria would talk to Sir Lawrence and see if he knew what was happening at the castle. Then she would leave Caron.