“Your King has chosen. Your new Councilman, Meinsley’s representative, will be Sir Roderick of Lurn!” He turned and sat upon the ivory throne used in Lurn only for these ceremonies, identical to one found in each city.
Sir Roderick was given the customary cheers and praise, but it was all half-heartedly. Everyone was anxious for the next part of the ceremony to begin.
The revealing of a Healer’s gift is not an easy task. Only a serious injury, one that leaves the victim on the brink of death, will invoke the gift. Most of the young girls being brought before Nedra had never seen the kind of suffering they would face during the ceremony. Occasionally the girls fainted or fled sobbing. The ceremony was also dangerous for the new Healer. A young girl who did not yet know how to control her gift ran the risk of using too much of her power and draining her own life-force to heal the man dying before her.
The moment everyone had been waiting for with baited breath had finally arrived. The crowd turned as one when Erik and Roedan, two of the King’s Guard, entered the Hall, following Nedra. They held between them the man chosen to receive the healing. He was a farmer, a man many of the city dwellers had seen occasionally coming to market, but few, if any, could name. He carried himself proudly, knowing that he was being judged by the many eyes watching his progress across the Hall to the platform. He stood unflinching as a third Guard pulled his sword from its scabbard. These people already looked down on him, though being chosen for the healing would earn him some respect. He would give them no more reason to see themselves as better than he. The farmer straightened his shoulders and looked the Guardsman in the eye.
The Guard wasted no time. In a flash his sword was slicing through the man’s stomach. As the farmer fell, a gasp spread through the crowd. Nedra turned to face the Guard standing at the door.
“Bring the girls.”
One by one, the young girls entered the Hall. Many cried as they knelt beside the dying man, their tears mingling with his blood as his life spilled to the ground. None lingered long, for none knew what to do for the man. Halfway through the line of girls, a small commotion began near the door.
Nedra stepped onto the platform, trying to see the cause of the interruption. The man on the floor before her had little time left, though his will was stronger than most. If the other girls were delayed she would have to heal the man and then have the blood of another spilt in order to continue, and that was something she did not want to do. Not because she didn’t want to heal the man, but rather because a life of healing had left her with distaste for violence of any kind, and she had no desire to cause another man pain. Though she had seen this ceremony many times, it never grew easier for her to cause even brief suffering.
The crowd began shuffling closer to platform and Nedra moved toward the dying man. On occasion a wife, mother, or sister would not be able to stand by and watch the man dying in front of them. The Ancient Healer feared the same was happening here.
Suddenly a small cry was heard. A tiny girl, dirty and rumpled, had pushed through the crowd. She had been playing with friends outside the Hall, oblivious to the ceremony being played out inside. She had run back to the doorway to tell her father something and discovered that he was gone. The had then begun pushing her way through the crowd in search of him, eventually making her way to the front, close to the platform. That was when she had seen the dying man and had let out the small cry.
She rushed forward, dodging the hands of all the people who tried to shield her from the almost lifeless body. Nedra started to kneel beside the child’s father, started to give him back the life he was losing, but something stopped her.
There was something different in how the child approached her dying father. Though she could be no more than six or seven, she was not hysteric. She had tears in her eyes, but none fell. Instead she knelt beside her father, kissed his pale cheek, and placed her tiny hands against his wound.
Nedra stopped, shock showing on her face. Taking that as a sign, one of the Guardsmen, Gavin of Kauris, moved forward to pull the child away. He stood frozen in his tracks when Nedra spoke her next three words:
“It is she,” the Ancient said quietly, yet somehow her statement was heard throughout the Hall. A murmur of disbelief moved in a wave across all present. This tiny child? She was not old enough for the gift to be revealed in her. Surely she could not be as beautiful as the Healers. She was dirty, her charity dress rumpled. Above all else, she was the daughter of a farmer. Healers were always from good families, not of lowly farmers. This could not be.
As they watched the child, however, none present could deny the young girl’s power. First the man’s lifeblood stopped flowing from the wound. The color that had drained from his face now rushed to refill it, seemingly flowing from the child. Soon, heat radiated from his wound as the skin began to knit back together. Life moved from the girl’s dirty hands into her father. His eyes began to open, the dull glaze of death chased away by the light of life. Finally the young girl stopped. Her father sat up, relief apparent on his face for having to no longer struggle with death. His expression quickly gave way to one of confusion and anger as his gaze fell upon his daughter. Why was she here? Why had she been allowed to see him dying? The child was only seven years of age. A sight such as this would surely give her nightmares… Then, understanding dawned on him. She had done this, his daughter, his baby girl. She was the next Healer. He pulled her into his arms, too shocked to do anything else.
After what seemed like an eternity to the astonished crowd filling the Hall, Nedra spoke again.
“Leave us,” she commanded, looking only at the child.
Once people started to leave, they could not seem to pour out into the streets fast enough. Though many in their self-righteousness had expected the next healer to hail from Lurn, none had expected this, this mere child of a farmer. The streets were filled with silent indignation as men and women quickly made their ways home.
Inside the Hall, Nedra approached father and daughter. The Hall was completely empty, King Simann himself having even left when he heard the tone of the Ancient Healer’s voice. Father and daughter were no longer sitting on the platform where he lay dying, but the man still clung to his child. He had moved away from the slick crimson puddle, more for the sake of his child than himself.
Can it be? Nedra thought to herself. Is it possible that this child is the one? She paused a few feet from the pair to gather her thoughts. This little one would have to be trained for many years. She was not ready to see the pain and devastation required of a Healer. However, she had just faced the looming promise of her own father’s death. But she was so young, so fragile. How would one with so little life of her own be able to give life to a grown man? That thought struck Nedra, and she hurried to see if the child was alright.
Even before she touched the girl’s hand, Nedra knew the child had caused herself no harm. The girl’s life still shone brightly in eyes that met Nedra’s own confidently. She struggled slightly in her father’s arms, and he reluctantly lowered her to stand beside him. He could no make himself let go completely, though, and rested his hand on his daughter’s shoulder.
In a voice surprisingly mature for one so young, the girl addressed Nedra. “Are you the Ancient?” Nedra nodded, her face serious. She could not hide the amusement in her eyes, though. Nedra knew she was called the Ancient throughout the Kingdom of Tundyel, but none had ever addressed her as such. “I am Syndria,” the child continued, “and this is my father Jamis.” She stopped then, obviously waiting for Nedra to speak.
“You may call me Nedra. Syndria, do you understand what you just did?” This time it was the child’s turn to nod. “And do you know what it means?”
“Yes. I am the Healer.” With the obvious stated, so matter of factly one got the impression the girl had known her whole life that this day would come, Syndria walked to the window to look outside. The streets were empty now; none of her friends were still playing, so Syndria turned back toward Nedra and her father.
“I have told Syndria of the Healers all her life,” Jamis told Nedra, his pride in his daughter evident. “Before she sleeps, her favorite tales are those of the True Wizards and the Healers of old.”
“Where is her mother? I would speak with you both of Syndria’s future,” Nedra asked Jamis. Before he could answer, his daughter spoke up.
“My mother died soon after I was born,” she stated, walking back to the two adults. Standing in front of Nedra, she held out her arm. “She gave me this,” she said, touching a dirty bracelet circling her arm. “It protects me.”
Nedra’s breath caught. “May I see it?”