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.