"Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story." ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

30 March 2010

pages 51-55

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

pages 46-50

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.

Chapter 4

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.

pages 41-45

Blushing, Lyddie giggled. “Oh, Kierney! I am much too young for suitors--or at least Popa thinks so. He says I must be at least seventeen before I can entertain suitors. That is practically an old maid!” She was starting to push her bottom lip out and furrow her brow, a pouting expression Syndria knew well from the time she had spent with Magen at the castle. And if Lyddie was anything like Magen, that expression would be followed by an avalanche of complaints and self-pity. Since she really didn’t want to listen to that after a day on the road, Syndria tried to move the conversation back to something positive.

“All fathers say their daughters are too young. Why, your popa would probably keep you at home with him forever if he could!” Seeing Lyddie’s pout start to turn into a smile, she continued, “Now, even though you can’t have a ‘suitor’ I’m sure there are some young men who have their eyes on you. Am I correct?”

Lyddie nodded shyly. “Well, there is one boy. He walks me home from school sometimes and he is wonderful!” she gushed. Syndria smiled absently, only half listening to Lyddie as she chattered on about the boy she liked. Soon, the Healer was lost in her own thoughts.

What was happening at the castle? Had anyone seen Nedra come to her quarters early this morning? If so, the Ancient Syndria had come to love as family would soon be tortured to reveal her location. Anyone who could say they had seen Nedra helping Syndria would be greatly honored by King Simann, and she feared what would happen to her friend. Maybe she could ask Sir Lawrence. He had gotten word from Nedra once before, so perhaps he would know what was happening to her now.

“Don’t you think he’s just wonderful, Kierney?” Syndria’s thoughts were interrupted by Lyddie’s giddy question.

“What? Oh--yes, Lyddie. Just wonderful,” she stammered.”

“Well, goodnight, cousin. Sleep well.” Lyddie pulled back the covers from one side of the bed and climbed inside. Following her lead, Syndria pulled back the thin blanket and slid under it.

“Goodnight,” she said quietly. Lyddie blew out the candle, leaving Syndria to stare at the ceiling in the dark. Tomorrow, she thought, I will find out about Nedra. Then I will leave and endanger the Councilman’s family no longer.


Paodin spun, wishing his sword and dagger hadn’t been taken when he was captured. Instead, he clutched a broken branch in his hand as a club. Raising it above his head, Paodin was ready to defend himself when he saw who had been following him.

“What do you want, old man?” he asked. Though no longer scared that he would be attacked, Paodin still held the thick branch cautiously.

“Quiet, boy. You are the one who should be answering questions,” the old man said as he turned away. “Come with me.” That said he started walking away, not even looking to see if Paodin was following.

He thought of moving on, but Paodin couldn’t resist following the man who had managed to surprise him in the dark woods. After only a brief hesitation he started after the figure quickly fading into the shadows. Catching up to the man, Paodin started to ask his name until he recalled the old man telling him he should answer questions instead of asking them. He decided the wise thing to do would be to wait for the stranger to speak first. The two men moved quietly through the dark night, neither speaking. Paodin could hear only his own footsteps as he followed the man. Much to his surprise, Paodin found himself struggling to keep up with the hunched old man.

After a few minutes of walking deeper and deeper into the forest, the man stopped and knelt. Paodin watched in curiosity as he brushed aside leaves and twigs, revealing what appeared to be a small trap door in the forest floor. As the man lifted the square door, a soft glow form underground revealed a steep, narrow staircase.

“Shut the door behind you,” the man commanded, walking down the staircase ahead of Paodin. Since turning away from him in the woods, the stranger had not once looked back at Paodin. “Leave your stick behind,” he called back, already halfway down the stairs.

Reluctantly, Paodin tossed his makeshift weapon back into the trees and pulled the small door shut above him as he descended behind the mysterious man. Once he reached the bottom of the stairs he looked around. Surprisingly, Paodin found himself standing in a large comfortable room. There was a fire burning across from the staircase with a large kettle hanging over it. The old man stirred the steaming contents before taking the kettle out of the fire and placing it on the table. That was when Paodin noticed the table was set for two.

Now that Paodin could see the man in the light he took a moment to study him. The stranger was stooped and ragged, dressed in a grimy gray cloak and heavy leather moccasins. His knotted hair hung past his shoulders. As he spooned the thick stew into the two bowls on the table, the long sleeves of his cloak fell back to reveal hands gnarled with age. Seeing him in the light, Paodin was even more surprised that he had had to struggle to keep up as they walked through the woods.

“Sit and eat,” the man said as he sat in one of the heavy wooden chairs. As he ate he stared at his bowl, not at all interested in conversation. Paodin sat down across from the man and ate in silence. For once, he didn’t mind the silence. It had been almost a week since Paodin had eaten a good meal, and the stew was delicious. The stranger gave Paodin a second bowl of stew before finally speaking.

“What were you doing sneaking through the dead of night? That is an excellent way to get yourself into trouble,” he said, his gravely voice revealing no emotion. Paodin still hadn’t seen the man’s face, and he didn’t look up now either.

Swallowing, Paodin answered, “I don’t believe it is possible for me to be in any more trouble than I already am.” He swallowed another spoonful of stew before continuing, “In fact, you are probably in danger just by having me here. If you want, I will leave.”

The old man looked up, staring into Paodin’s eyes for the first time. “I can take care of myself. Perhaps it is you who are in danger by being here.”

Paodin stared into the stranger’s deep midnight blue eyes. Somehow they looked both younger than the man’s body and more ancient. After studying the stranger for only a moment, Paodin spoke. “Your eyes betray you. You are no more a danger to me than I am to you.” Looking away, he asked, “Why did you bring me here?”

At first the old man didn’t answer. Instead he filled his own bowl a second time and started to eat. When he finally spoke, the stranger looked directly at Paodin.

“Bound by nature’s strength and frailty,

Though two, as one in unity,

Shall true heir of Tundyel make

And by the Truth the throne room take.”

He spoke the words quietly, his raspy voice so low that afterward Paodin wasn’t certain the old man had said anything at all. The stranger pushed his wooden bowl aside, his gaze never drifting from Paodin’s face.

Suddenly uncomfortable, Paodin struggled not to look away. Never before had he allowed anyone to intimidate him and he had no desire for this old man living deep under the forest floor to be the first. Clearing his throat, Paodin asked, “What did you say?”

“What does it mean?” the old man questioned, his deep blue eyes sparkling.

“What?” Paodin was confused. How did this old man expect him to decipher such a riddle?

“What does it mean?” the old man repeated more insistently, leaning forward to lean his elbows on the table.

Shaking his head slightly, Paodin replied, “I’m sorry, stranger, but my mind does not lend itself well to such riddles. Perhaps you should find someone else to ask.”

The rumpled man was not deterred. “What is the Truth? Surely you can answer me that,” he prodded, his eyebrows rising slightly as he watched Paodin.

Deciding to humor the man, Paodin answered, “The truth? The truth is what is right.”


Not sure he could trust the man across from him, Paodin said what most in Tundyel would: “King Simann.”

“Not the Truth!” the old man smiled, clearly amused. “You know. Who?”

Paodin was quickly growing tired of this game. He had no time to answer the cryptic questions of a crazy old man, so he decided to speed up the process. The old man would agree with him or send him from the room, but either reaction would be some progress. “The True Wizards are Truth,” he stated, confidently looking at the old man.

pages 36-40

Syndria was surprised to see Sir Lawrence in his own home. She had seen him often at the castle, but there he was always dressed in the gold cloak of Ruis, the district he represented. He was always serious, and the young Healer could not remember ever hearing the Councilman laugh. For that matter, she didn’t remember seeing him smile before. Today, though, with his four small children tugging on his hands and hanging like monkeys from his arms, the Councilman was beaming from ear to ear. As his wife entered the room he shook out of the grasp of the children and made his way over. Hugging his wife close to his side he smiled broadly at Syndria.

“Kierney, my niece! It is wonderful to see you again. I’m so glad you agreed to come stay with us until the feast,” he nodded slightly, silently acknowledging Syndria’s position as a Healer before continuing. “I’m sure Lyddie will be happy to have someone closer to her own age to gossip with,” he teased his daughter.

“Oh, Popa!” Lyddie laughed, revealing a smile only slightly smaller than her father’s. Looking at Syndria she shook her head. “Popa just doesn’t think two girls can talk without gossiping. I tell him all the time that just because that is what he does with the rest of the Council at the castle all day doesn’t mean that everyone does it.” As she walked past Syndria on her way into the kitchen, the girl whispered, “Although it is fun, is it not?” Her eyes sparkled brightly and she winked, making Syndria smile as well.

“Now,” Lawrence said, following Lyddie to the table, “I’m famished! What is for supper this evening?”

Supper was loud and boisterous, with four children all trying to talk over one another to get their father’s attention. Syndria had never experienced anything like it. Before she had left her father in Lurn, it had always been just the two of them at the table. Then during her training as a healer she had only eaten with Nedra’s company. And since her sixteenth birthday, when Syndria had moved to the castle, she had almost always eaten alone in her quarters. Now she found herself truly enjoying the company of Sir Lawrence and his family. Uncle Lawrence, she mentally corrected herself. Perhaps staying her a few days would be alright after all.

After supper was finished and the table cleared off, the four little ones scrambled back into the main room and all seated themselves on the braided rug in front of a strong, sturdy chair. They seemed to be anxiously awaiting the next part of the evening and the young Healer found herself drawn to their excitement. She watched as the youngest, the only boy, tried his best to ignore the three sisters squealing around him. His attempt at a dignified expression made Syndria laugh. He had is lips pressed together and his eyebrows almost met in the center, and with that expression he looked just like the sour Wizard Alek. When Tamara spoke from right beside her, Syndria almost jumped out of her skin.

“The youngest is named Lawrence after his father, but much to his distress his sisters have taken to calling him Lawrie. The two carrot tops,” she said, pointing to the four-year-old red heads, “Alysse and Constance, are twins. The blonde is Abigail. She is only six but she already knows just how to keep her father wrapped around her little finger.” As if emphasizing her mother’s point, Abigail climbed onto her father’s lap as soon as he sat down in the large chair. She stayed long enough to get a kiss before wiggling out of his arms and back onto the dark green rug.

Lyddie came out of the kitchen to stand beside Syndria. “It’s story time for the little ones. They just love listening to Popa’s tales of the old age. Why don’t we go to the bedroom instead? We can visit and you can tell me all about Roliek.”

“Roliek?” Syndria asked, confused. What did she know of Roliek? She had only traveled through the city once, and that was when she was seven on her way from Lurn to the castle.

“Of course!” the girl grinned. “You can tell me all about your friends from the city.” When her mother walked away, Lyddie continued, “And I’m sure you have a suitor or two to talk about!”

That last remark caught Syndria off guard. Healers were not allowed suitors, and the only young men Syndria had met were those she was called to the dungeon to heal. “If you don’t mind, Lyddie,” she said quickly, “I would like to listen to Uncle Lawrence’s story tonight. My father told me stories of the old ages when I was a child, but I haven’t listened to those tales in years. It would be wonderful to relive those memories tonight for a little while, and then tomorrow I will tell you of Roliek, friends, and suitors--although, I fear you may be disappointed. I have had few suitors.” Smiling, Syndria took a seat on the floor behind the children as Sir Lawrence began his tale.

“Long ago, before the time of King Simann, there were great and mighty people living in Tundyel. These people were fair to everyone, rich or poor, and always did what was right. They protected the innocent and the weak, and they stood proudly before the most powerful. These people were wise in many ways; most importantly they had the wisdom to tell right from wrong. They refused to stand by and watch a tyrant take over their kingdom.”

Little Lawrie interrupted his father. “Who, Popa?”

Syndria was as enthralled with the story as the children and didn’t realize Tamara was seated beside her until she spoke. “The children have heard this story many times, yet they always get so excited.” Syndria nodded, not wanting to miss a word of the tale.

“Who, Lawrie?” Lawrence smiled. “Why, they are probably the best heroes a young lad could have. They were the True Wizards and the healers,” he answered, briefly catching Syndria’s gaze. “They were the protectors of our people, the defenders of truth. The True Wizards would be controlled by no one, but they always stood for what is right. They served as judges, much like I do as part of the Council. However, there is one major difference between how we judge and how they judged. The Council listens to testimony and forms an opinion, but the True Wizards knew the truth just by hearing the truth behind someone’s words. As soon as the accused spoke, the True Wizards knew if they were guilty or innocent. That was part of their gift.

“The Healers of old, like thee King’s Healers today, possessed a gift of their own. Just by laying her hands on you a Healer can take away your injury. The old Healers, long ago when the Ancient was young, they would travel the Kingdom healing others. What many don’t know is that in order for a Healer to heal you she must give up part of her own life. Without healing others she could live longer than King Simann has reigned. However, because she gives up so much of herself with each healing a Healer seldom lives longer than a hundred years. She unselfishly helps others to live longer by shortening her own life.” The children were sitting quietly, awe shining on their faces. Syndria’s glance at Tamara revealed a tear sliding down the woman’s rosy cheek.

“Why do you cry?” Syndria asked softly. “The Healers would have it no other way.” With that she looked at Lyddie who was sitting by the window crocheting by the full moon’s bright light. “Lyddie, would you mind showing me to the bedroom?” she asked brightly. Lyddie, who like all children had long ago learned how to tune out her father’s voice, jumped when Syndria called her name. Laying her yarn work aside, she stood and smiled at the Healer.

“Of course, cousin. And since it’s not too late perhaps we can talk a while of Roliek.” Motioning for the older girl to follow, Lyddie said goodnight and walked out of the main room, taking a glowing candle off the mantle as she passed the fireplace.

Syndria smiled as she stood. “I have truly enjoyed your story, Uncle Lawrence, but I must now leave you to the children.” Bowing slightly to Tamara she said, “Thank you for your kindness, Aunt,” then she turned and hurried to follow Lyddie.


Paodin ducked behind the blackberry briars, his heart suddenly pounding. He was traveling at night so he could see only what the full moon illuminated as it peeked through the trees deep in the forest. Now he could see nothing, but he had heard something moving behind him. It was probably just a raccoon or possum out searching the night for a meal, but he couldn’t be too cautious. He had ducked behind the briars in hopes of seeing his pursuer as it--or he--passed. He waited silently, focusing on keeping his breathing slow and steady so as not to give away his position.

After waiting for what seemed an eternity, but was probably only half an hour, Paodin began to tell himself not to get so worked up about sounds in the forest. Besides, no one traveled through Brintzwood Forest now that the road had been finished that connected Roliek and Valgrin. He was simply getting spooked by the typical night sounds of the animals moving through the trees. He stood, prepared to keep moving until a hand clasped his shoulder.


“Now,” Lyddie grinned, hopping onto the small bed, “you must tell me all about the suitors you have. I am just dying to hear about all the strapping men of Roliek!”

Syndria smiled, for the girl’s excitement was contagious. However, she had no idea what to tell the girl. She had never had a suitor and didn’t believe she ever would. To buy some time the Healer asked, “What about you? Why don’t you first tell me of all your suitors? I’m sure a young girl as pretty as you has ‘strapping’ young men of her own following her around.”