NP3: Chapter 3 of The Healer of Istagun – The Mud Walls

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(Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash)

This is the third chapter of my 10 chapter fantasy novella. If you haven’t yet, read chapter one and two first! I hope you enjoy! =) (I couldn’t find a picture of mud walls without brick shapes, so above is a picture of another part of this chapter.)

The next morning, Prima and I traveled in silence along the winding paths that led to the mud walls. Forest trees surrounded us, the branches brushing roughly against my skin as Prima flew swiftly in and out of them.

“Hurry up, girl!” she sang from somewhere ahead of me.

Reluctantly, I bounded forward to catch up with her.

“What’s with you?” I spat out, breathless. “Have you no sympathy like the other green fairies?”

“Ha! Like the others?” Prima laughed long and loud, as we moved together now at a steady pace. “And what do you call those rashes on your wrists and—I bet—on your back? And what about that permanent scar on your face? Sympathy, huh?”

I rubbed the swollen lumps of skin on my fingers from yesterday’s beating. I had been daydreaming about Hollis the whole day, and the green pixie had had no mercy for my inattentiveness to the plow.

“It’s ridiculous, I suppose, but they…” I sighed, shaking my head as the pine needles stabbed my feet through my torn sandals. “Well, those fairies are strangely nice about it. So nice about it that they never let you give in to the natural response of fighting back. Even when it hurts, they won’t let you. Their powers do that to us humans, you know—make us… docile.”

The powers worked especially on Andrea. Poor Andrea.

Prima shivered. “That’s ridiculous—”

“—I told you!” The anger burst through me, mixed with an uncontrollable curiosity. “And the others, Prima. Why aren’t you like the others?”

This pixie wasn’t an overseer of the human slaves, or a scholar, or a servant of Queen Hazina. Who was she?

“Don’t you know, silly girl? I’m a servant of Gesu. The queen stays clear of him and lets him do whatever he wants.”

Prima said it casually, but I stared at her in disbelief. She sped ahead of me through the trees, not looking back at me. The verdant branches concealed our view of the mud wall, but somehow Prima seemed to know exactly where we were going.

“What makes you a servant of a mere human?” I cried incredulously, sprinting after the fairy, my heart pounding as I threw myself forward into the trees.

Prima smiled at me, her green eyes gleaming like emeralds in the shadows. “Gesu has powers greater than the queen, girl—that’s why she lets him do as he wishes, so he won’t overthrow her. Many fairies follow him.” Her wings slowed down as she deepened her little voice. “He’s waiting for the right time to overthrow her. Humans once ruled over fairies long ago, you know.”

When I gasped at this revelation, she darted ahead into an open glade where the afternoon light poured gloriously through the trees.

There, towering above all the forest trees, stood the mud wall that so defined Istagun. Beyond the wall was the land of Spring, where Hollis waited for me.

I had never seen the wall so close up before. Sure enough, strands of hair matted it like it was a giant nonliving beast.

“So?” I looked at Prima expectantly.

She grinned. “Isn’t it beautiful, little girl?”

“Stop calling me that. I’m Dahlia. Now get me on the other side before I—”

I didn’t know what I was saying. I could do nothing to this pretty, innocent fairy, and I had no reason to. Yet there was something about her that utterly disturbed me to the point I wanted to grab hold of those fragile wings and tear them apart.

“Dahlia,” Prima whispered, fluttering up to me and smiling slightly. “Gesu said that he gave me the power to get past this wall.”

“Well, sure! You can fly—but what about me?” I tried to steady my voice, but it came out sharp and quick. Maybe since I wasn’t around any ordinary green fairies, their powers of making humans docile were wearing off on me. Or maybe I finally had a chance to see the one person I truly loved, and I was afraid it would all count for nothing.

“Yes, we must do this together,” Prima said firmly. Then she swung her blue wand at the mud walls, uttering a flurry of words I didn’t understand.

We waited.

And waited.

The mud wall stood motionless, unaffected, like a turtle unharmed by a pebble thrown at his shell.

As we stared at the wall in hopelessness, we saw movement. And suddenly, like an egg cracking open, the giant wall split in half, moving apart.

All at once, a long line of silver fairies flew out, disappearing through the trees before we could get a good look at them. Messenger and transporter fairies. I’d seen them many times. They brought news from the villages to Queen Hazina, along with the various food each land produced. This wall didn’t open because of Prima’s powers; it opened for these fairies.

Prima and I stared at the large gap in the mud wall before we rushed forward to enter Spring. But just as I was about to take a step into the fresh grass of my old home, the mud walls shut close before our eyes, the hairy fortress bending and reshaping itself into a monster with giant hands.

I tumbled backwards, into the dry ground of Summer.

Prima screamed as the beast clasped onto her and brought her up to his face.
In desperation, I pounced on the wall monster and tried to climb up to her, but fell quickly again into the dirt that tore into the scars on my back.

Soon the monster plucked me off the ground with his other hand, his strong grip terrifying me more than anything I’d experienced in my life.

His eyes were simply hollowed-out mud, their emptiness penetrating me. “Gesu-followers,” he muttered, before tossing us carelessly out into the Summer forest.

I clung to the top of a pine tree, as Prima flew to me, tears streaming down her pale face.

“I’m sorry—so sorry, Dahlia. I should have thought that through. Of course the queen would only allow messenger and transporter fairies to pass. Not to mention you have my scent now—Gesu’s scent. He thinks you follow Gesu, too. The queen lets Gesu do whatever he wants, but never Gesu’s followers.”

I laughed at the idea that the monster thought I followed Gesu. Gesu was my only hope, but I wasn’t going to follow him. Who was he that I should follow him anywhere?

Gritting my teeth together, I silently climbed down the pine tree, stepping on the slim branches until I slid and tumbled to the ground.

“What is there for us now?” I said numbly, as Prima fluttered down beside me.

“I don’t know—and again, Dahlia—I’m sorry. I do have sympathy, you know.”

I bit back a grin, and we said nothing for a long while. The sky darkened, until stars began twinkling softly.

My mind rested, peace filling my empty stomach like nothing I’d felt before. Gesu’s peace?

No, it was Prima’s powers. I grimaced. She was a soother fairy, after all.

“The stars are talking, like always,” Prima whispered, laying her little blonde head on my shoulder.

My heart melted at her touch. She reminded me so much of Hollis.

“How are they talking?” My mouth quivered into a smile at her naivety.

“They blink—and then I know Gesu is there. He says he loves us and to not give up.”

I laughed at her silly notions. “And before we left the village, he told you to use the powers he gave you, and you did try. What else can we do?”

Prima bit her lip, staring off into the verdant beauty of nature. “Well, I didn’t really try.”

“What?” I narrowed my brows. “What do you mean?”

“I tried to make the walls come down, that’s all. I didn’t try using my soother powers. Lifeless mud walls can’t calm down or anything.” She shrugged. “Little did we know that—”

“—Prima, you’re right!” I grinned, trying to make up for the sour mood I’d had all day. “We—I mean you—can calm that wall down!”

Jumping to my feet, I hastened back to the mud wall, Prima not far behind me, laughing merrily.

The mud wall monster was awake, letting more fairies pass through.

When he noticed us, the monster glared at us, shaking his head gruffly. “Not you two again!” His voice thundered, making the earth and our hearts vibrate fiercely.

Prima nodded to me, then brought out her blue glass wand and waved it in the air, humming softly.

As she cast the spell, the great mud wall monster began to close its hollow eyes, falling into a deep sleep while its walls still stood parted, leaving a gap—an entrance to Spring.

“He’s snoring!” I declared incredulously.

Prima put her slim finger to her lips, hushing me. We tiptoed between the walls into the soft grass of Spring, where the smell of flowers and fruit hung in the air as undeniable as the sound of children.

But the young voices rose not in joyous laughter as they had often when I’d lived there. Instead, they tore the sweet-smelling air with the sound of weeping and tears.

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Who Needs You Today?

This is so true! “Church isn’t fake smiles and ‘I’m fine’ and ‘I’m so sorry to hear that I’ll pray for you’ but then don’t because you didn’t really mean it and, hey, they aren’t going to know anyway. Church is so, so much more than that. Church is love. Selfless, humble love.”

Fractured Faith Blog

Earlier in the week I wrote about how Peter, the most unlikely of leaders, became head of the early Christian church in Jerusalem following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The church grew at an incredible rate during this period as many thousands were converted after hearing the testimonies of Peter and the other disciples and witnessing the many signs and wonders they performed which are sprinkled throughout the early chapters of the Book of Acts.

It must have been a period of great excitement. People were being healed, speaking in foreign languages and the Holy Spirit was running amok. Believers genuinely expected the return of Jesus any day and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Local religious leaders were on edge and the occupying Romans were itching to brutally subdue the first suggestion of revolt. It was a dangerous, intoxicating time and life was lived on the…

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S3: Come Visit Istagun!

For this Creative Writing assignment, I was supposed to create a vacation flyer or brochure for the setting of my 10 chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun. I hope you enjoy! =)

 

Istagun

Come visit the island of Istagun!
Take a dip at Kaskata Falls or surround yourself with riches
in Queen Hazina’s palace—both located in the center of
the island!
Fun fact: Formally an
ordinary island with
changing seasons, now thanks
to Queen Hazina’s powers, Istagun is an island of 4 separate lands and seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter

 

 

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If you adore small children, breathtaking flowers, and luscious fruits, Spring
is the place for you!

 

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Summer is your hot spot for finding that special someone—
visit weddings and baby showers galore, where the sun always shines!

 

 

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Come on down to Autumn to reap the harvest
and sit back and relax with old friends
and pumpkin pie!

 

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Visit Winter to throw snowballs all year long—and feel welcomed by little old ladies brewing tea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Author Blog

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(Photo by Ester Marie Doysabas on Unsplash)

So in case you haven’t heard, this week I created an author blog to give you all updates on my book, The Thrall’s Sword. I created it mainly so literary agents would see that I’m serious about publishing, so I can, by God’s grace, get my novel out there for people to be impacted by.

I’d really appreciate your support!

gracecaylor.com

May God’s grace abound in your life,

Grace Caylor

The Thrall’s Sword

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Now introducing my novel, The Thrall’s Sword! This is my Christian historical YA novel, at present unpublished–but by God’s grace, it won’t be for long. Keep a look out for updates! Follow my author blog to get updates: gracecaylor.com

On the night Sigrid escapes death on a fiery longship, she loses her mother. Will sweet revenge or a foreign god free her from despair?

The seventeen-year-old Norse slave Sigrid escapes her sacrificial fate in the afterlife, just as the Lord Joar of Bergen murders her mother. When two fishermen rescue her from the seas, the grief-stricken Sigrid joins them on their mission to warn the Irish of the oncoming Viking raiders, secretly plotting to destroy the Lord who has done her wrong. However, as the Irishman Erik teaches Sigrid about God, a power starts to work inside her, transforming her hate into forgiveness—but she doesn’t realize it until the moment of her deepest misery.

Blonde girl photo credit

NP2: Chapter 2 of The Healer of Istagun – Prima

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(Image from Google)

This is the second chapter of my ten-chapter fantasy novella. I will be posting a chapter every week. Click here to read Chapter 1. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2

Prima

I knocked at the door of the thatched roof house. Tap, tap. Ratta-tap. I waited for a moment, then knocked again.

A spindly fairy with fluttering wings opened it, her mouth immediately twisting into a tight grimace. “Gesu wants to see no one—you should get some sleep, little girl.”

I found it funny that she’d call me little, when I was a foot taller than she. Though I supposed eighteen was young compared to the hundreds of years the fairies lived.

“I’m Dahlia and I have an important request,” I said quickly, noticing the blue glass wand she held tightly in her white fist. “Can he heal a girl with the Livs?”

The fairy tapped her wand on the door frame. Tick, tick, tick. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I grabbed her wand, trying to yank it out of her hand. “Hollis is going to die. She needs Gesu’s help.”

Tears came, whether real or pretended I could not tell. I was sorry about my sister and in a hurry all at once. Sinking to my knees, I begged the fairy to help me.

Suddenly I heard the high chatter of several fairies at the door.

“Oh my! What do we do?”

“Poor child, don’t you turn her into sawdust, Prima.”

“Cheer up, girl, Gesu is still awake; I’ll go see if he could help just one more.”

It worked. Of course it did. That was the fairies’ weakness. They gave into sympathy far too easily.

“Get along, ladies—I’ll do the work. You know you can’t be seen.” And with that the fairies’ chatter disappeared before I could ever see one of their faces.

Now Prima, the spindly fairy who had opened the door, pulled me up to my feet. Her pink lips managed a quick, prim smile. “You aren’t goin’ to cry again, are ya?”

Her light green wings beat steadily, as calm as a Spring fairy’s would. I’d never seen a Summer fairy so calm. Or maybe it was I who felt calm in her presence. I imagined the rippling of tall grass and a faint coo-coo of a dove from the woods. Suddenly conscious of myself, I glanced at the wand in her hand. Prima. She must be the soother fairy—after firing up people’s emotions first, of course.

The fairy touched my cheek with her long, slender finger. “No more tears, Dahlia,” she said.

I nodded, slowly. Maybe I should get to sleep.

Wait, what was I thinking!?

Prima lead me into the living room to Gesu, who was seated on an armchair, staring into the fireplace. When he saw me, he ushered me in to sit down on the couch.

The man was broad-shouldered, strong, yet he slouched in the leathery chair as though he was a small fairy with droopy wings. “Why have you come?” he asked, his intense, soulful eyes staring into me.

My cheeks burned. I realized all at once how foolish I’d been to come here and interrupt this man’s rest from the day’s chaos.

“My sister is dead,” I told him, “or will be if you don’t help. She’s in Spring. Is there any way we can get to her and you can heal her? She has the Livs.”

Gesu scratched his dark bristly beard. “No one can cross into another season unless it is their Time.”

I narrowed my brows but managed to level my frustration in my voice as I said, “Yes, of course, sir. But there must be some way, with your powers—”

“—his powers are for healing, Dahlia,” Prima interrupted, her pretty face contorting into an ugly scowl. “He can do nothing more, so you might as well—”

Gesu raised his hand to stop her. “You are right to say that my powers are for healing, Prima. My mission is to heal. And I will use my power to do anything that will bring about such healing.” He smiled at me. “Anything at all.”

Prima looked at him in dead silence, paled, flapping her wings slowly in the shadowy corner.

I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, but aware of the respect due to this man, I spoke quietly: “Thank you very much, sir.”

I was speechless after that.

Gesu and Prima did not speak either, as if waiting for me to say something, but for some reason I did not know of anything I wished to say.

“Who are you, Gesu?” I said, because it needed to be said, because if it wasn’t said, I wouldn’t know what to do. Was he trustworthy?

The man lifted his eyes to mine. “It is not the time to reveal such things. I am Gesu, the healer, and that is all you need to know.”

“Of course,” I said quickly, remembering why I was here again. “Please, help me. Hollis is in Spring. Do what you must do to get her out, and to heal her before it’s too late.”

After studying me closely again, Gesu rose from his big leathery chair. “Prima, I need to talk to you alone.”

When the door to another room shut, I gazed at the pictures on the walls.

A painting hung on the wall for each stage of Gesu’s life: first as a newborn, held in the arms of a mother; then as a boy, smiling with a bouquet of flowers; then as a teenager, hard at work in the mines; and then as the forty-year-old he was today, smiling with Minerva by his side. The last one must have been painted today to celebrate her healing, I thought, although bewildered. Even more perplexing was the fact that at each stage, he was surrounded by fairies—not one brand of fairies, but a colorful mixture of yellow Spring fairies, green Summer fairies, orange Autumn fairies, and blue Winter fairies. I had never realized what color the Autumn and Winter fairies were, but now it was obvious, as if I had known it all my life.

Were those the fairies I had heard chatting earlier, the ones Prima had shooed away?

Soon Gesu and Prima returned; Gesu, solemn, Prima, smiling.

“I’m expected to be transferred to Autumn soon,” Gesu said. “Getting a little old, I suppose.”

I tried to laugh, but it came out short and stiff. Why was I afraid of him?

“Prima will take you to Spring.”

But how? I wanted to ask. What was he going to do about the mud walls?

“You will find the way—both of you, together. And I will always be with you.”

The pixie’s wings fluttered ever so slightly as she gazed up in admiration at the huge man.

I shivered, even though the regular warmth of Spring encased me with sweat. I didn’t know what Gesu meant, or who he was. I didn’t know if I could trust him, or this dainty fairy who baffled me almost as much as himself. What if this was a trap? What if Gesu was trying to get rid of me, to let me face the wrath of Queen Hazina, the ruler of Istagun, the builder of the towering mud walls?

All I knew was that Hollis needed me. And she was worth whatever risk I had to take.

S2: Quotes for My Novella

My work-in-progress novella, The Healer of Istagun, has a few themes. Here are some quotes to explain them!

Theme: God heals our wounds through His blood.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” ~ Isaiah 53:4-5

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 30:17

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help.” – James H. Aughey

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” – Malachi 4:2

Theme: He strengthens us through His sacrifice.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 ESV

If it doesn’t cost you anything, what is there to gain? – Grace Caylor

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13

Theme: Love is sacrifice.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

“Brotherhood means laying down your life for somebody, really willing to sacrifice yourself for somebody else.” — Tim Hetherington

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

Busy Thoughts vs. Faithful Thoughts

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(Photo by Igor Cancarevic on Unsplash)

Busy Thoughts

I think too much;
I think the same things over again,
And again I think
And then
All I can think of
Is the thought
That I’ve thought it before.

Or?
Or maybe not.
Maybe I’m insane
And the way I am
Is not like anyone else.

Or?
Or maybe I’m just like you—
Busy.
Maybe I’m busy
With things I ought to do,
I need to do,
And the things people want me to do–
Even if it’s not for me.

What about the things I choose to do?
The things I don’t want to lose
Because then I’ll lose myself?

The world is spinning with thoughts
And all my life is filled with things to do
And too much overthinking.
Maybe I’m busy because
I think too much.

 

Faithful Thoughts

I think of life;
I think of Jesus over and over again,
And again I think;
And then
All I can think of
Is the thought
That my life is under His control.

Or?
Or maybe not.
Maybe my life
And His amount of control
Depends on my faith.

Or?
Or maybe my faith depends
On Him.

Maybe I need to be faithful
With things He wants me to do,
I need to do,
And disregard the things people want me to do
If it’s not for Him.

What about the things I choose to do?
The things I don’t want to lose
He gave me as a gift—to be who I am.

The world is spinning with thoughts
And all my life needs to be filled with Him.
Instead of overthinking
I need to be faithful
In thinking of Him.

 
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” – Hebrews 3:1

Cooking For Hollis

gaelle-marcel-101871.jpg(Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash)

In which my main character, Dahlia, of my fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun, finds herself on the TV show Chopped, on Food Network.

Dahlia paced into the room, heart beating quickly as the judges greeted her. She made her way to her kitchen set up, where she’d be fixing up a dessert to win the judges’ approval. She didn’t really know this man and this lady, but she had to do this, for her sister’s sake. She imagined Hollis at home, eyes glued to the TV, waiting for her beloved older sister to become the next greatest chef on Food Network.

Dahlia grumbled inside as a bubbly middle-aged lady named Freida with frizzy blonde hair came in, much more stylishly dressed than herself. What outlandish things people wore in the land of Autumn! (In Dahlia’s world, middle-aged people live in the land called Autumn.) The judges were middle-aged too, so surely they were helplessly taken captive by this lady’s charms. Dahlia hadn’t known what to wear or how to act—this wasn’t fair!

A young man named Jonas in a bright orange t-shirt followed, smiling to show his perfectly white teeth contrasted with his dark-chocolatey skin. He reminded her of Tarquin, but Dahlia had to shake the feeling off. She had to beat this man. She had to beat them all.

After that an older man named Carl with a gray beard and bright blue eyes entered, his shoulders stooped, but his genuine hand shake and kind words earning the judges’ quick admiration. His gentle, quiet manner reminded her immediately of Gesu.

At last, it was time.

The judge opened the picnic basket to reveal the three ingredients they must use in this dessert… Refried beans, pickle juice, and butternut squash.

What!?

Dahlia was sure her stupid expression was being portrayed to thousands of people all over the world this very moment. She laughed to herself. Including Hollis.

Quickly, she grabbed the sugar—always a good start for dessert.

She rolled in some flour, baking powder, and salt, then added the squash. A good thickener, maybe?

“Dahlia is making the base of her dessert, whatever it is. How are you doing, Dahlia?”

Never looking up at the man, Dahlia cut in some butter and added some milk, vanilla, and eggs to the flour mixture, whisking it frantically. “Um, yeah…”

The man laughed. “Dahlia is too busy to talk, and look over here, Frieda is making a luscious chocolate pie with the refried beans.”

The man’s voice droned on as Dahlia poured the flour mixture into a pan. But what would she do with the beans and pickle juice?

“30 more minutes!” called out someone.

This was insane. Hollis was probably laughing her head off right now.

Groaning, Dahlia quickly shoved the pan in the oven. She grabbed another bowl and threw in the refried beans and pickle juice, soon stirring it quickly. Sweat dripped down her face as she dumped in sugar and chocolate into the bowl.

Should she open the oven and put this bean mixture on the cake now? No, later. It could be the frosting or something.

“10 more minutes!”

Dahlia took out the cake and let it sit for a few minutes, as she eyed the others making ice-cream or pie—or something yummier than her ridiculous cake.

“1 more minute!”

What!?

Time had flown. Dahlia spread the bean mixture onto the cake that was hopefully cool, sliced two pieces for the judges and took a breath—just as the timer rang.

One by one the judges tasted the contestants’ desserts: Frieda’s chocolate pie, Jonas’ scones, and Carl’s ice cream with a thick chocolate-bean spread.

“This has no flavor!” the lady judge cried as she licked the brown spread.

Carl smiled quietly, but Frieda broke into laughter. “That’s what you get for giving us refried beans!” she declared.

Finally, the judges sliced their forks into Dahlia’s cake. They chewed slowly, leaving Dahlia’s heart pounding. Hollis would be so sad. Hollis would—

“Mmm…” The man murmured thoughtfully.

“This is… wonderful!” the lady exclaimed.

They couldn’t seem to say anything else for five minutes straight. Dahlia grinned. So, she had left them speechless.

Hollis would be so proud.

NP1: Chapter 1 of The Healer of Istagun – A Healer

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Here is chapter 1 of my 10-chapter fantasy novella. The prologue can be found here. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

A Healer

As the sun beat mercilessly down upon me, I broke the dry ground with a long plow, while Andrea scattered seeds into the tilled earth I left behind.

“’Tis a beautiful day for planting,” she sang merrily, her long black hair rippling with the faint breeze.

I rolled my eyes. “’Tis always a beautiful day for planting. How old are you now—nineteen? You’ve been here a whole year longer than I have. Hasn’t five years in this wretched Summer been enough for you?”

Andrea held the seeds several feet above the plowed soil and let them go with a grand gesture of her hand. “Well, nothing’s going to change, so I don’t see why we can’t be cheerful about it.”

“Cheerfulness was for Spring,” I said. “Can’t you see that we’re being treated as the bright fairies were?”

“Yes,” she agreed, “but they were cheerful about it, so we should be, too.”

I didn’t want to argue with her. After all, optimism never hurt anyone, I supposed. But I hadn’t managed to smile in a long time, forever aching to return to Spring, to flee this heat, to see my sister again.

Hollis could be dead by now. The thought was heavy on my mind today, for it was her birthday. I always kept track of the days with marks on the wall in the thatched house I shared with the other young ladies. My sister would be twelve years old today, still two more years away from seeing her again.

“Stop standin’ round, munchkins!” a fairy scoffed with her green wings beating furiously behind her. So different from the shiny fairies of Spring, these Summer pixies were. They were each a different shade of green, and they never had anything pleasant to say.

As I forced the plow through the dirt again and pushed fiercely, the giant wall caught my eye. The wall sat at a distance from civilization, towering above the forest trees that surrounded it, a height far too lofty for even an experienced climber to risk conquering. Made of mud brick, the undefeatable barrier between me and my sister stood eternally daunting me. Not only was its height only reachable by the flying pixies who had brought me here, but it also had strands of hair covering it completely that must have derived from some animal species that the ruthless Summer fairies had defeated long ago. Perhaps the added smoothness was to make the wall even more impossible to climb.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Andrea smiling at me. “Look, Dahlia, there’s a fine man staring at you from across the field.”

I almost looked where she wanted me to, but then I averted my eyes, focusing on the plow in the ground, the only thing that ever made sense to me. “He could be looking at the wall or the field. Or maybe it’s you he’s after.”

“No,” she said, her voice dropping, “he’s most definitely staring at you.”

I scoffed. “And he’s too shy to introduce himself. So what? I’m not going to do anything about it.”

Andrea stepped in front of me so I couldn’t plow the ground, placing her slender brown hand on my shoulder. “If I were as beautiful as you, I would do something about it.”

Her figured blocked me from returning to my work, so I stared back at her, unsmiling. “Like what? I’m not going to get married. I can’t at the risk of having children. I would never want my children to lead a parentless life and then grow up to be slaves.”

Andrea’s mouth hung open, as if I’d just said the most awful thing. “Never getting married, are you? I’m sure you could avoid having children somehow, Dahlia. But what a life that would be without ever finding a strong man to protect you from the Summer fairies, or to comfort you on the hardest days in the fields.” She bit her lip, then exclaimed: “And what a waste of your beauty!”

Her words cut deeper than she knew. Some days Andrea’s tongue brought joy and laughter, but other days, like these, they sunk into me, echoing over and over in my mind. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I only saw a face: two boring brown eyes, one simple nose, and a pair of ordinary pink lips. If I were as beautiful as Andrea claimed I was, wouldn’t I feel it to my very bones?

Besides, I wasn’t wasting anything. I was saving the lives of whatever children I might have had. Saving them from a life of hard labor, hunger, and loss.

Suddenly Andrea rushed back in a flurry to scatter the seeds. Realizing her fears, I began plowing hastily before a watcher fairy noticed our absent-mindedness.

“Hello there, humans and fairies alike!” called out a man, who was much nearer to us now, speaking to Andrea, me, and the other young ladies working nearby.

Andrea glanced at me, so I knew it was the same young man who had been staring at me. I shook my head and scowled at her.

From his dirty attire, the man looked to have come from the mines, a place halfway in Summer and halfway in Autumn. The only place two seasons ever met.

“The fairies ordered me to bring this news to you,” he announced to the twenty or so young ladies and the four green pixies. “There is a great man in town who healed Minerva. He uses no special potion nor any spells… No one knows how he does it, but Minerva’s jumping about as if she never was sick in her life!”

A chorus of gasps followed. Sweet Minerva had been ill with a fever for so long, and she hadn’t been able to work. What frightened us most was that the fairies threatened to dispose of her in Winter if she did not get well soon. There her sick body would surely die from Winter’s harsh snow storms. None of the elderly folk would take care for her, after all. If you did not belong, you did not deserve kindness. That was the second rule of Istagun, the first rule being about staying within the walls.

As soon as the Summer fairies gave their consent, the young ladies, including Andrea, dropped their plows or seeds and made a dash for town. Soon the fairies followed, and I had no choice but to run after them.

When we arrived in the town, a large mob of young Summer humans and cruel green fairies surrounded a man who stood on a platform so he could be seen. As Andrea and I drew closer, we realized that many had filed into a line and were waiting to be healed. At present, a girl named Edna who had only a cold stepped up before the man.

She coughed into her arm before sinking to her knees, bowing before him as if he were some sort of god. “Gesu, please, I’ve had this cold for so long. Will you heal me?”

Why would he waste his time on her when there were so many others waiting, in worse pain than she?

Nevertheless, the man, Gesu, touched her lightly on the shoulder. “Live now, freely.”

Edna smiled in deep gratitude, and then ran off, exclaiming how wonderful this healer was.

The next hour passed, Gesu healing one young person after another. I imagined what his powers could do for the old ones in Winter, or even the middle-aged in Autumn. But that had not been my first thought, my first yearning.

This man could heal Hollis. I was sure of it.

I posed the idea to Andrea, who looked on me with sympathy. “Of course he could, Dahlia. But you know she won’t…”

For once she had no words, and I was glad. She didn’t need to say what we both felt. We had researched the illness Hollis had in the books. We had talked to the healer fairies. Hollis would be lucky if she were alive right now. I pretended that the Spring fairies had hosted a celebration of her birthday today, with bright lights and sweet cakes all around. But Hollis had been sick for five years, if she were even alive right now. According to the books, I shouldn’t expect her to live more than three.

I had grieved for her already, these past few years without her, in the middle of never-ending Summer. But I still imagined, hoped fleetingly. My love had kept her alive, while believing in her existence sustained my own life.

“I have to talk to him,” I mumbled hastily to myself, reaching out, pulling through the crowds toward the platform.

A scrawny fellow was making his way toward Gesu on crutches, and I pushed past the townsfolk till I was second to him in line.

A woman tugged at my arm and hissed, “You cut me!”

And soon the crowd angrily pushed me back, away from my only hope. I was pressed against selfish people, craving healing for themselves alone. Or had I been the selfish one?

Then darkness engulfed me, the pressure of the crowds sent me stumbling to the ground.

 

I felt a hand pull me up from the cobblestone road. I gripped it, thinking it was Andrea’s, till I realized it was rougher and larger than her slender palm.

“Are you okay?” the miner asked quietly.

I blinked, getting my bearings. I must have fainted for a long time, because the crowds were gone and the streets were empty. The sun was setting in the west, ready to recharge before another day of blazing its wrath.

The miner was as tall and dirty as he had been in the fields, but his tentative smile was enough to urge my weary spirits to invest kindness toward him.

“Are you okay?” he repeated, careful, insistent. His voice was rugged, yet gentle somehow, stirring emotions inside me.

“Yes, I’m quite well now,” I told him quickly. “Thank you.”

The miner looked to be in his early twenties; he was thin and toned, and, I could not help noticing how his thick black hair against his dark skin gave him a striking appearance.
Remembering my vow to myself, I stiffened. “Do you know where my friend Andrea is?”
The miner looked off down the road and squinted. “She went to Minerva’s, with a group of ladies, to celebrate the healing.”

I nodded. She probably hadn’t seen me faint, and I didn’t blame her. Gesu was a hero to so many, and it had only been a single day; he could heal Hollis, too. My sister who was still alive.

Realizing I must look awful after fainting and the hard day’s work, I pulled back locks of my dark curls and straightened myself out. “I must be going. Thank you.”

He smiled a little. “I’m Tarquin. It was nice to meet you.”

“I’m Dahlia,” I said solemnly, “and I never want to get married.”

That gave him a bit of a shock. His eyes widened and he hurried off down the road toward the south, where the miners lived, his feet beating the ground as quickly as the fairies beat their wings.

I smiled in the oncoming darkness. There was no need to worry about another suitor anymore. Not for awhile, anyway.

“Now, Hollis,” I whispered. “Now I am going to save your life.”

(image from Google)