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

18 March 2010

pages 1-5



A.J. Kilbourn

Chapter 1

Dawn broke across the horizon, bathing the hillside in golden light. Somewhere a rooster crowed his welcome to the new day. The rest of the countryside was quiet--farmers and their families were just waking up, mothers were preparing breakfast in cozy, lamp lit kitchens, children were starting to get restless in bed as they caught wind of the first tantalizing whiffs of sausage frying. Fathers were hurrying to finish early morning chores before the breakfast got cold. All was peaceful. The city, though, was a different picture.

The streets of Lurn were already filled with people milling to and fro. Some were purchasing last minute items for the feast, hoping everything would be perfect. Others were in hopes of finding the perfect finishing touches for their finest garments, something that would make them stand out. Still others were simply taking in the anxious activities of their fellow citizens, amused by it all. One thing everyone had in common, though, was the question in the back of his mind: Will the Healer come from here? As the morning slowly grew brighter, more people poured into the streets. No one wanted to miss a once in a lifetime event, the revealing of a Healer. Besides that, King Simann himself would be coming to Lurn today, surrounded by all his finery and his Royal Court. And if there was one thing the people of Lurn could appreciate, it was finery.

Unlike the farming families who lived on the hillsides surrounding Lurn, whose lives and ways remained simple, the city dwellers prided themselves on the extras in life. They wrapped themselves in rich fabrics and exquisite jewelry and thoroughly enjoyed the rich foods and wines which played a part in every big event. Today’s visit from the King would prove to be a wonderful opportunity for the citizens of Lurn to indulge in all the things they enjoyed.

By midday everything was perfect. The Hall was dazzling--crystal decorated every surface, making it look like a winter wonderland. Adding to the effect and dominating the center platform of the hall was an elegantly carved ice sculpture made in the likeness of a beautiful woman, representing the Healer they hoped would be found among the young women of Lurn. Her long hair almost appeared to be flowing in the breeze, her plain gown rippling around her body. On this platform, under the icy gaze of this Healer, was where the new Healer was to be revealed.

The Healers were not ordinary women. They were the most beautiful among all the kingdom, always dressed in a flowing gown of the purest white. They each wore a belt of blue silk cinched tightly around her waist and fastened with a silver buckle. Each girl’s only adornment was a small silver pendant each wore on a delicate chain around her neck. The five Healers were, however, much more than just beautiful. They each carried within her the gift of life. A Healer could heal any wound, no matter how grievous, but each healing took part of that gift. Eventually a Healer’s gift would run out, and then the Healer would no longer even have the strength left to sustain her own life.

Every girl grew up with dreams of becoming the next Healer. They fanaticized of a life filled with glory and riches, of reveling in all the splendor of Castle Tundyel. A Healer possessed her gift from birth, but the only way for the power to be revealed was in the presence of Nedra, the Ancient Healer. Nedra had lived much longer than anyone could imagine, the time of the True Wizards. She had served King Simann since his coronation, more than nine hundred years. It was only under her watchful eye that the next Healer would be able to first use her gift.

All of the most beautiful young girls of Lurn were being gathered. They were all dressed in gowns of midnight blue, the same color that wrapped the Healers’ waists. They ranged in age from the youngest of barely thirteen to the oldest of eighteen. They would not join the feast when King Simann arrived with his court. Instead, they would sit in solitude in a small room at the back of the Hall until the healing was to take place.

A lone rider came tearing through the gates of Lurn, his horse panting and sweating. Soon his call was being repeated all through the town-- “The King is here!” People hurried to line the main street, the women holding their skirts to keep them out of the snow still clinging to the ground. The cobblestone streets had been cleared, but some small piles of snow still lined its sides. Soon the festivities were beginning.

King Simann was quite a striking picture atop his white stallion. He wore a deep purple robe with silver treads woven throughout, a robe long enough to almost drag the ground behind him. His wavy, sandy blond hair was perfectly groomed and a silver crown full of dazzling jewels sat atop his head. He appeared to be around forty, a handsome man with broad shoulders and strong features. His cloudy gray eyes were impossible to read, but there was something mesmerizing about them that made people almost get lost when facing him. His black boots did not have even a spot of dust on them, thanks to the carpet spread before he walked though any street in his kingdom.

King Simann never traveled alone. The five Healers always surrounded him, a striking contrast mounted on their black stallions. Around them were always the eight members of the King’s Royal Guard. Today, however, the entire Royal Court was present in hopes of the new Healer being revealed in Lurn. The King’s four Healers were closest to him, the four current members of the Council directly ahead of and behind him. They each wore a different color cloak to represent one of the five districts of the Kingdom of Tundyel--gold for Rues, green for Nelthien, black for Finley, and red for Sephon. Draped across one of two rider-less horses at the rear of the parade was a blue cloak for the councilman who would represent Meinsley. Today, that Councilman would be chosen from Lurn. Around this central group rode the five Wizards. Unlike the Healers who, dressed in pure white, conveyed hope and peace, the Wizards wore robes of black and crimson and looked as if they might at any second destroy someone just for being wrong. Outside of this party rode the eight Guardsmen.

The second rider-less horse was reserved for the new Healer. As soon as her gift revealed itself, the young girl would leave her family, leave Lurn, and go with the four Healers. Until the girl turned nineteen, she would learn to control her gift under the patient guidance of Nedra. The two Healers would live in seclusion during the girl’s training. After that period the young Healer would take her place in the King’s Court.

When the members of the Royal Court reached the Hall, the King started the festivities. Making his way to the platform, he stood admiring the icy woman before him. Finally, he spoke.

“Citizens of Lurn,” he began, pausing to let the crowd fall silent, “but more importantly, citizens of Tundyel--” At this the crowd cheered, making it necessary for the King to pause once again. “Today is an important day for all my kingdom. Today is the day your Healer,” he said, motioning to the ice sculpture, “is revealed!” Once again, the crowd cheered. Once the roar had died down, King Simann spread his arms out as if he could fill the entire Hall.

“Let the feast begin!”

Music filled the hall at once, and people twirled across the floor. Others, people who were not so drawn to dancing, made their way to the buffet tables, where every delicacy imaginable was laid out. Laughter filled the air and rang off the hills beyond the city walls. The feast lasted all day, not ending until the sun began to fall behind the hills. The crowd inside the Hall quieted, anticipation filling the air. Next, the King would pick the Councilman who would represent Meinsley. After that would come the moment everyone seemed to be holding his breath for--the Healer.

Though the farm families from the outskirts of Lurn had shown no interest in any of the day’s activities, not even the King’s arrival, most were anxious to witness the possible revealing of a new Healer. They were gathered outside the Hall, peering through windows and crowding doorways.

Finally, the King stood.

“Good people, as you well know, today is a great day for the people of Lurn. One of your men,” he said, looking around the Hall, “will have the honor of serving your King on the Royal Council. He will be your representative, your leader, and your judge. Bring forth the choices.” King Simann turned away from the crowd, toward the Hall entrance. Three men entered and stood before the King. Their qualifications were recited, their accomplishments noted. In the end, the King announced his decision.

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