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.”