S10: Round Table Round Robin

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So, my creative writing class named ourselves The Writers of the Round Table. This week we did a Round Robin, where we each contributed to a story. I hope you enjoy!

“If I had known then what I know now, maybe things would have been different.” (GAINES)

She put her ballpoint pen to rest on the tray table in front of her.  Leaning her head against the window pane, her grey eyes stared dully over the rushing world outside. The train whistled hauntingly as it tore through the fog of the Appalachian countryside. (TAY & RAY)

I really wish they served fried chicken on these things, she thought, eyeing the overpriced bread rolls in the dining cabinet to the rear. (LYFORD) Not that even fried chicken could improve her mood (COPELAND).

“Hey,” her cousin Adam said as he took the seat across from her, fingers unbuttoning his suit jacket. He noticed her pensive, sorrowful face and sighed, looking out the window (MCHOPE).

“Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong, Latasha?  You’ve been sitting there silently for an hour and a half,” he said, bringing her out of her thoughts. (KENDALL)

Latasha gazed down at the crisp, blank pages in her journal.  Why won’t the words form on their own? (YOSHIOKA)

Adam’s voice broke in on her thoughts again. “Hey, I’m still here.” (COPELAND)

“May I offer you a cup of tea?” a young waiter coming up the aisle asked politely. The train suddenly rumbled, spilling his tea all over the table cloth and Adam’s white shirt. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…I am really, truly, very sorry!” he gasped rushing to clean up the hot liquid. (Zuiderveen)
Adam jumped as the hot liquid soaked his skin, but he regained his composure almost instantly. (KENDALL) He let out his frustration in a quick breath then smiled at the waiter through clenched teeth.
“It’s fine,” he said in a genuine tone. “I’m sure it happens all the time on such a…bumpy train.” (NORTH)

The waiter sighed, and explained, “The newer trains are equipped with air suspension, but unfortunately, this one didn’t get it.  I guess that’s why people like, uh,” he glanced over, “authors ride the economy lines.” (LYFORD)

Latasha blushed hotly and shoved her notebook away into her satchel, out of sight. Humans. They were always jumping to conclusions. (COPELAND)

It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford to travel on the economy lines, it was that this train was the only one that could take her to where she needed to be. Where both her cousin and her needed to be. She could deal with a few bumps. (SCOTT)

Latasha stared out at the strange landscape rolling by.  Green trees, green grass, green flowers. Didn’t they have any other colors of vegetation? (Mr.SuSpence)

She shifted her gaze back to the cabin where, hopefully, a more interesting scene lay. (NORTH)

Most of the train was completely empty; people tended to prefer the newer and faster trains, but she spotted several other races that she recognized nearby. Across the aisle from her was the purple-skinned features of a Skorlax sitting next to another human. A few seats in front of them was a pair dark-skinned, white-haired Drow companions. (GARRISS)

“Ma’am? Can I get you anything?”

Latasha looked back at the waiter, wondering if this self-styled “economy line” carried anything fit for Martian consumption, let alone hers. (COPELAND)

“I’d like some hydrohydroxic acid,” she finally stated, opting for the safest bet. (LYFORD)

The waiter blinked. “Ma’am?” She asked confused. (SCOTT)

Adam covered a laugh with a cough next to her as she smiled and explained, “Sorry. I’d like some water, please.” (GARRISS)

Visibly relieved, the waiter hurried away. Adam raised an eyebrow, looking at his cousin. “That’s it? You feeling alright?” (COPELAND)

Latasha sighed, coming to terms with the fact that she’d have to tell her cousin at least part of the truth. “Adam,” she whispered, looking around to make sure there was no one nearby, “Adam, I want you to listen to me very closely. Nothing is as it seems on this train, so I want you to listen to what I’m about to tell you, and whatever you do, don’t ask questions.” (KENDALL)

“Okay?” he replied somewhat hesitantly. He almost had a smile on his face. He’s not even taking this seriously. (NORTH) Reaching into his pocket, Adam withdrew a glossy folded flyer. “Very cool, Latasha, but how about we check out some of these monuments and decide which ones we want to see when we get to — ” (COPELAND)

“No.”  Latasha cut him off.  “Look, I don’t think you want a bullet through your head so early on this journey–and assuming that, I think we’re on the same page here.  Let’s get started.” She pulled the notepad across the tray table and pointed it towards Adam, flipping away from the front page. Apparently, this wasn’t a journal at all.  (LYFORD)

Adam looked down uncomfortably at the detailed pages of the notebook. It contained drawings of some kind, things he didn’t recognize, and notes in a language he couldn’t read. (GARRISS)

“I’ve come across some things that maybe I shouldn’t have,” she began, scanning the pages. “Most of it is here, but I’m still missing a couple pieces that will give everything some clarity.” That was assuming she could find those pieces before someone else did. (NORTH)
“Oh, you came across something you shouldn’t have? Surprise, surprise,” Adam commented with a smirk. “But seriously, Latasha, what do you think you’re talking about?” (COPELAND)

Maybe the straightforward way was the best way.  “Ok, deep breath. And…” She took off her shoes, which she made sure to always wear wherever she went.  “…look at my toenails.” (Mr. SuSpence)

Adam hesitantly peered down and was greeted by what, at a glance, appeared to be regular feet but upon further inspection, were obviously not. The toenails were an odd shade of purple, not the shade of a bruise or other injury, instead a more unnatural, bright hue. He looked back up at Latasha, confusion evident on his face. (NORTH)

“I… I don’t know why they look like this…” Latasha’s voice trembled.  “I tried to rip it off, but it’s stuck!”

“Well, you didn’t try hard enough!” Adam accused as he reached for her feet. (YOSHI)

Latasha jerked her feet backwards, away from him. “I already tried to rip the toenail completely off, Adam. It hurts, and it doesn’t work.” She slipped her shoes back on before he could reach them. (GARRISS)

Adam stared at his cousin with concern.  He was done with the jokes. This was a serious matter. (YOSHI)

Taking a deep breath, Latasha pulled her notebook back in front of them again. “But look, I think I found a connection between the purple stuff that’s on my toes, and that brown goo that’s been taking over the forests.” (GARRISS)

“You mean there’s another color on Earth besides green?” Adam mocked, longing for the red dust back home on Mars.  “And what would brown goo have anything to do with the stuff on your feet?”  (YOSHI)

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out — I think I may be onto something. And even though you only really came to tour, I guess you’re stuck with me.” Latasha flashed her cousin a smug grin. (COPELAND)

“Looks like,” he said as his eyes wandered back to the journal that still lay open on the tray table. “But how do your purple toenails and the brown goo relate to all those drawings and stuff?” (NORTH)

Shaking her head, Latasha avoided Adam’s gaze. In the ensuing silence, the train’s piercing whistle shattered the air again, echoing in the small car. “None of it makes any sense,” she finally whispered, staring out the windowpane into the mist. (COPELAND)

“I went to what the humans call a spa,” Latasha confessed, earning a horrified gasp from Adam.  “That’s when the purple stuff first appeared on my nails. And then I was forced to bathe in the same brown goop we saw in the forest the other day — I think it i was called a mud bath.”  (YOSHI)

Adam stared at her, slowly shaking his head, his eyes wide. “Latasha, what in the Milky Way were you thinking?” (COPELAND)

“Nobody saw me, don’t worry.” Latasha shook her head and shrugged. “I’m tired of having to hide when Earth’s so different from home and I’ve only got a few more months to explore it all.” (ABLESON)

“But you could have been seriously hurt! What if the purple on your toenails spreads to your fingernails or your hair? There must be some way to get rid of it,” cried Adam completely exasperated. (ZUIDERVEEN)

“I know there should, but nothing seems to work. I tried baking soda, a sticky gel from the train bathroom, and scrubbing it until my feet were sore. Nothing seems to make it budge,” she sighed. (GUSTAFSSON)

“Okay, hold up,” Adam said, looking gravely into her eyes. “You have three months, Latasha. You can’t just do anything to yourself in the hope that it might work; you don’t have enough time for that.” (COPELAND)

“I know, I know,” she sighed, “but of course, there is one thing I haven’t tried yet.”

Adam’s eyes grew wide in horror.  “You don’t mean… you can’t possibly mean…” (KENDALL)

She nodded wordlessly, pulling a small, evil-looking vial from her personal storage module.  Nail Polish Remover, it read.  Adam gasped.  “Don’t breathe tha–”
She cut him off with a nod and a sickly smile.  She knew. (LYFORD)

The waiter chose that moment to walk by and set a magnetic-tumbler of water down on the tray in front of Latasha. Adam straightened his shoulders, assuming an impassive expression, and Latasha tried for a casual smile; neither attempt succeeded.

“Ah… is there anything else I can help you with, ma’am?” asked the waiter, staring at the cousins’ faces with mild concern. (COPELAND)

Latasha tried to conceal the vial in her hands as she shook her head.

“I believe all is well,” she replied, glancing at her cousin as if checking for his opinion. She just hoped that avoiding eye contact would leave the waiter unsuspecting of their situation. (NORTH)

As soon as the waiter left Adam turned towards Latasha and slammed his palm on the table. “You can’t be serious. That will burn your skin and melt your brain Latasha!” (SCOTT)

He had barely finished his sentence when the train lurched, causing the bottle to fly out of Latasha’s hand and roll down the aisle.

“Quick!” Latasha hissed. “If that stuff gets into the wrong hands, we’re all going to die.” (KENDALL)

Adam leaped to his feet and raced as quickly as he could down the aisle without raising suspicion. Thankfully, the bottle got stuck in a small notch on the side of another passenger’s seat. Adam was just breathing a sigh of relief when a hand reached down from the side of the seat and picked the bottle up. (GARRISS)

“Looking for something?” The man smirked, turning the bottle over in his gloved hands. (ABLESON)

Gritting his teeth, Adam straightened and forced a friendly smile. “Ah, yes, I –” (COPELAND)

“The human next to us dropped that!” Latasha interrupted quickly from behind him. “We were just grabbing it for him.” (GARRISS)

Adam winced as recognition flashed across the stranger’s features at the word “human.” With a smooth motion, the man dropped the bottle into the deep pocket of his traveling coat. (HIRCHERT)

Latasha tried to laugh and eyed her cousin worriedly. Adam’s strained smile faded from his face as he slipped back into his seat. Their only hope was gone… (ZUIDERVEEN)

“Um,” said Latasha, searching her brain for something to say. “So – you collect nail polish?” (ABLESON)

“No,” the man replied coolly, and turned away to face the window.

Latasha widened her eyes and raised her eyebrows at Adam behind the man’s back, trying to convey the general message of do something. Baffled, Adam only blinked in response. (COPELAND)

Remembering a phrase from a history textbook about Earth, Latasha attempted to casually say, “So, how ‘bout those freshly baked communists, huh?” (MCHOPE)

Choking, the man spun around in his seat, his eyes bulging from their sockets. All his chilly reserve had melted like butter. “Who are — ” (COPELAND)

“Unfortunately, I’m an abnormally large creature”, Latasha answered, winking.  That joke had always worked back home. (KENDALL)

“Dude, take a deep breath,” Adam told the man, who looked in danger of exploding. “Not with the diversity movement, I take it?” (COPELAND)

“Well, um…” Latasha searched for the expression she’d heard a million times. “Regurgitation to self… Not everyone’s as we expected.” (NORTH)

“Regurgi–” the man started. “What are you people, some sort of aliens?”  “HA HA HA”, Latasha laughed, glancing helplessly at Adam, “That’s soooo funny, isn’t it Adam?” (KENDALL)

But perhaps now was a good time to simply walk away. “I’d better get back to my, you know, notebook,” she fumbled, trying for a bright smile. “Got to keep jogging, you know?” (COPELAND)

The man arched an eyebrow and gave her a peculiar, suspicious, skeptical look. (MrSuSpence)

Adam mirrored it, turning to his cousin and saying,  “Never heard that one, Latasha.”

“These humans,” sighed Latasha under her breath. “They can’t seem to decide whether they’re journaling or blogging on the Internet these days.” (COPELAND)

“Excuse me,” a woman in the aisle over said, leaning in. She eyed the man with a wary eye, but she spoke to the cousins. “Did this man take your nail polish remover?” (MCHOPE)

At that moment, a butterfly the size of an elephant flew past the train window.  Latasha screamed, ducking down in the train aisle. Adam looked around, not knowing what in the Milky Way was even going on anymore. (KENDALL)

“Please, no butterflies,” Latasha whimpered into the train’s floor. “No butterflies.” (MCHOPE)

Adam crouched in the aisle next to his cousin, resting a hand on her shoulder. “If we stay calm, maybe it’ll just fly on by,” he suggested hopefully. (NORTH)

Latasha hesitantly glanced back at the window, a whole swarm of butterflies now buzzing past them.  “OH NO THEY’RE MULTIPLYING!” she screamed, grabbing her cousin by the collar and pointing at the ferocious beasts.  “They’re twitching their legs — ew look at that — THAT’S NOT NORMAL!” (YOSHI)

By now, Latasha wasn’t the only one yelling; everyone in the train car had noticed the strange sight. Some joined in Latasha’s screaming, while others simply stared out the windows in petrified fascination. As the sole passenger apparently unaffected by the butterflies, Adam decided he would have to be the voice of reason, so he (COPELAND) shut the window blinds.  (YOSHI)

Latasha, and everyone else in the car, now had something between them and the butterflies besides glass.  They could see the light flickering between the blinds as the flying monsters zipped up and down the car as it rattled on down the track.  (MrSuSpence)

Adam glanced around the quieting train car full of people who were still getting over their initial shock, and he spotted the woman who had made an inquiry before the whole crisis began. Remembering that, on Earth, it was rather rude to leave questions unanswered, he felt the need to reply, be it delayed.

“Yes, miss,” he said, leaning towards her, “this man did take the nail polish remover.” (NORTH)

The woman stared at him. “There were butterflies the size of elephants out there!” She whispered hoarsely, “I don’t care about the nail polish remover anymore!” (GARRISS)

Adam waved a hand in the direction of the window blinds. Humans were a little slow sometimes. “I don’t see any ‘butterflies the size of elephants,’ so maybe we can talk about the — ” (COPELAND)

Suddenly, the man that stole the vial from the cousins stood up and swiftly opened a window.  Ignoring the shrieks from the human woman, he pulled out the nail polish remover, twisted the cap open, and flung the contents at the evil insects.  The oversized butterflies hissed as the fiery liquid burned through their exoskeletons. (YOSHI)

The train car’s passengers watched in horror and relief as the remover exposed the malicious insects’ weakness – acetone? The specifics didn’t matter very much; many of the butterflies melted and many more began flying away from the threat. Crisis…averted? (NORTH)

“Latasha?  Lataaasha???  Hey!”

Adam snapped his fingers in front of his daydreaming cousin.  The young authoress blinked in surprise as the train cabin reverted back to it’s normal, boring, tea-stained state.  (YOSHI)

“Hm?”

“I asked how your Sandbox for Creative Writing was going,” Adam said, raising a curious eyebrow.

“Oh, I think I have the perfect plot twist,” Latasha said, suddenly laughing, “but I think that things would have been a whole lot different if I had learned early on not to procrastinate.” (KENDALL)

Adam chuckled, just as Latasha opened the worn pages of her notebook. “What’s that?” he exclaimed.

Latasha hid her face with the notebook, so he wouldn’t see her plans to take over the world. (CAYLOR)

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NP10: Chapter 10 of The Healer of Istagun – A King

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This is the tenth and FINAL chapter in my ten-chapter fantasy novella. I hope you enjoy!  Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

My singed feet tingled as Andrea bound them tightly with white clean bandages. Tarquin lay on a pallet right across from me, with Tiana tending to him. My father and Hollis sat unharmed on cushions nearby, waiting patiently for me to heal. Before I was brought here, Hollis had come to me in tears, and we had reunited joyfully. Soon after, I had introduced her to our father.

“How are you feeling?” Andrea asked me, looking steadily into my eyes.

“Cold. Never imagined this was Winter was like.” I clutched the warm blankets that came up to my chin, balling my fists so my fingers wouldn’t go numb.

“It’s better to be cold than on fire.” She smiled ruefully, but then leaned in to whisper in my ear. “You know your sister is crazy.”

I raised a brow, but before I could speak, she continued. “She has just sat there without a word for hours. Are you sure she’s alive?”

It was true. When she’d ran to me, she had barely spoken to me, only embraced me and cried. Even now, she was chillingly silent.

Andrea bit her lip. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it scares me.”

It scared me too. How had Hollis managed to speak so eloquently moments ago to the queen, and now she could not speak more than one word?

My sister came over and sat quietly on a stool beside me. She laid a hand on my arm. “Gesu.”

At her touch, I felt a sudden peace wash over me. Gesu had given her the power to speak to the queen, and now that power was gone from her. She no longer needed it. Somehow the plague and death she had endured had made her almost mute, yet what did I have to complain about? She was alive, and that was all that mattered.

“I still don’t believe it.” Andrea gritted her teeth. “It was only a powerful spell that brought you all back to life, that’s all. Don’t believe in the ridiculous Gesu.” She hugged Hollis gently. “Please just admit it—it was nothing more than a spell.”

Determination filled Hollis’ eyes as she hugged Andrea back and whispered, “No.”

Andrea glanced at me, baffled, but I refused to reflect her confusion. “You must understand, Andrea. Gesu has power beyond Hazina.”

“Speaking of the queen, where is she?” Tarquin sat up, as if hit with sudden inspiration.

“Restoring the world to how it should be,” Andrea said simply.

“No.” Tarquin’s eyes shot across the room at everyone. “We can’t let her. The only way the island can be restored is by her death.”

“But Tarquin,” I said, “she is good now. Her heart has changed.”

“I must,” Tarquin said in a low voice, staring at me intently. “She is the cause of all our pain. I must put an end to her.”

My father stood up. “Young man, don’t even think of it.”

“I must!” he exclaimed.

Gritting his teeth and averting his eyes from us, Tarquin grabbed some crutches Tiana had ready and hobbled out the door with his bandaged feet and a sword in his hand.

“We need to stop him!” I burst out.

But the room was silent. Hazina had saved many of them from death, and she now vowed to set the humans. Could her acts of kindness restore people’s trust in her?

Andrea frowned at me. “This time I agree with that miner boy. Hazina deserves death, Dahlia. You know that.”

“No, Andrea,” I said hoarsely. “You don’t understand. Didn’t you see it in her eyes? The pain, the regret? We have to give her a second chance.”

“Is that what Gesu teaches? Being kind to the most awful people?”

“Yes, Andrea.” My voice was steady. “That’s exactly what he teaches. Forgiveness. Healing. Love. We can’t let Tarquin ruin our chance to show Hazina that Gesu can give her new life, regardless of what she has done in the past.”

As a pinprick of a tear dripped down Hollis’ cheek, she squeezed my hand and smiled sadly.

My father narrowed his eyes. “I’ll stop that boy.”

With that, he dashed out of the room.

I had yet to tell my father that I was in love with that man. I couldn’t deny it any longer. Tarquin was always in my thoughts; he was always strong, always… caring. I trusted him, for the most part. But what was I supposed to think of him now?

 

Someone knocked at the door. Tiana opened it, cautiously. To my astonishment, Kari dragged in Prima who lay on a sled.

I gaped. She lay there, pale, with broken wings, her eyelids closed and the Winter frost encasing her.

The boy ran up to me and hugged me. “I brought Prima back!” he said proudly. “It took me ages to drag her here. I had to borrow the sled from a white-haired person. I didn’t know people had white hair! Maybe the snow makes it like that. Anyway, I brought her here, and she’ll get warmed up and be okay soon, right?”

His innocence broke my heart. I wished I had thought to find Prima before Andrea, Tiana, and my father took Tarquin and me here. I stared pleadingly at Tiana as she examined Prima.

The old woman spoke in a low voice. “She is still alive, but she needs serious attention.”

She laid Prima out on the bed Tarquin had recently left, wrapping her delicate body in cloth.

“She will be okay?” I whispered.

Tiana nodded. “Though she looks very frail, she is a fairy; the magic makes her stronger and able to endure more than humans.”

“You should be a doctor,” I said with a half smile.

Tiana chuckled. “I’ve always wanted to, but never was able to, being a human and all. Perhaps now I’ll have that chance, without any mandatory duties to attend to.”

She had a chance… because of Hazina’s changed heart. Determination to stop Tarquin returned to me. I grabbed the crutches that awaited me on the side of the bed and began hobbling out of the room. “I can’t let Tarquin do this—”

“Wait.” It was Hollis’ soft voice. Her blue eyes sparkled as she held out a necklace with a small cherry pit on it. I had made it for her long ago in Spring. On the pit I had carved the letters “D & H.” Smiling, I put it around my neck.

“Forever,” Hollis said.

Andrea was glaring at me from across the room. She did not believe in Gesu’s power. She hated Hazina. I hoped her fierce opinions wouldn’t destroy our friendship.

I placed my hand over the cherry pit, over my heart, gazing into my dear sister’s eyes. “Yes, Hollis. Forever.”

Then I picked myself up with the crutches and hobbled out of the room.

 

When I reached the shore, I stopped in my tracks. There, a good distance away, Tarquin stood, raising his sword above the queen, ready to strike her.

Desperation gripped me as I rushed forward, crying, “Stop!”

But it was too late.

As Tarquin stabbed her in the chest, she shrieked, a hollow deathly wail into the frosty air.

The world became black in instant. Gesu had forgiven the evil fairy, but Tarquin had not forgiven her.

To my amazement, light flashed, and suddenly the snow melted beneath my feet.

Warmth surrounded me, as I stepped forward, my feet crunching the leaves. Sunlight exuded over the mountain that rose from the center of Istagun. The mud walls collapsed before our eyes. Winter was no longer Winter… it was Summer. Everywhere, it was Summer. Snow melted off the pine trees and the green of the world glowed brilliantly for all to see.

People shed their heavy coats and danced around in the grassy field.

Hazina lay on the earth, and many fairies began to prepare to take her to Midfuna Island.

But other fairies and humans cheered, “Long live King Tarquin! Long live the King!”

They placed a crown upon his head, as thousands gathered around him and applauded for the one who had saved them from Queen Hazina. No one remembered her change of heart, that she had saved many of our lives and resolved to put an end to her evil ways.

Tarquin said in a loud voice, “This is a new kingdom, ruled under the guidance of the great healer, Gesu! The pattern of this world has returned; this summer will turn to autumn, which will turn to winter, and then to spring. It is a beautiful pattern of life and death, pain and healing, youth and old age. We all will enjoy this life together—with mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, living with one another at last, enjoying the fruits of their labor.”

And everyone cheered all the louder.

I only watched in silence, in bewilderment. He never saw me among the many humans, fairies, and joyful Treelanders whom Hazina had freed from the mind-bending spell.

Sadness crept into me, overwhelming me. The queen could have been good, if she’d been given a chance. Tarquin didn’t understand, he didn’t—

How could I trust him?

“And my dear Treelanders,” he declared, “I will return you soon to your home across the seas.”

The people applauded.

As Tarquin sat on a makeshift throne the Treelanders had quickly created from wood and leaves, my father leaned in and spoke with him. Tarquin shot words back at him, angrily.

As they argued back and forth, I hobbled around to the back of the throne, to listen to them without them noticing.

“You’re a fool, boy. Can’t you see when a person’s decided to change? My daughters were so hopeful in Hazina’s new beginning.”

“You don’t know who your daughters are,” Tarquin replied. “You only met them today! Dahlia is strong, and she understands that it is my destiny to be King. It is the will of Gesu.”

My father lowered his voice. “You know my daughter, eh?”

“Yes,” Tarquin said earnestly, his eyes lighting up as he spoke. “And she is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. I plan to marry her one day, if you ever concede to it.”

My father raised a brow. “I will never let her marry a man like you! For all we know, Hazina would have allowed you to take the throne, knowing the people would put much more trust in a human than the fairy who had so long oppressed them. You had no right to kill her!”

I was shaken, unable to move from that spot, burdened with thoughts running back and forth through my mind. Who was Tarquin, anyway? Did I truly know him?

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned, gasping. Hollis smiled. “Remember when you came to Winter and found Tarquin holding me in his arms?”

I rolled my eyes. “Hollis, I can’t think of that right now. He… he killed Hazina.” I pointed to the dead fairy as she was laid on a mat and taken in a slow procession to a boat.

“He tried to keep me alive for as long as he could.” Hollis’ voice was so faint, like the soft drop of snow on one’s cheek.

I didn’t look at her. “Our father hates him, so I will too.”

Hollis’ blue eyes filled with tears. “You know what he told me, Dahlia? You know what he said to me as I lay in his arms, hopeless and frozen?”

I shrugged and looked away, not wanting to think of the man who had brutally murdered a fairy who had changed her heart.

“He said to me, ‘You know, Hollis? Gesu may have told me Dahlia needed me, but I think it’s also true that I need her.’ Don’t you see, Dahlia? Tarquin isn’t perfect. He isn’t, but…”

But he held my little sister in his arms to keep her warm, he built a boat to sail across the sea, he helped me find Hollis, he convinced me that Gesu was real, he showed a love that surpassed anything I’d ever known before.

Was he worthy for me to marry him, now that children could stay with their parents, and all was as it should be?

I didn’t know. Maybe one day I would know. What mattered now, was that he was the king, determined to rule under Gesu’s guidance and with his power, to bring justice and kindness to a broken nation. And I was determined to help him.

“Dahlia?” Tarquin stepped down from his throne and hobbled over to me on his crutches, his gentleness warming my heart as it so often had. “Are you all right?” He held my hands, gazing sincerely into my eyes.

I nodded vaguely, overcome with emotions swirling inside me.

“Will you sail with me across the sea?”

I sighed. “All right—anything to get the Treelanders back to where they belong.”

“That boat of mine has come to some use, I guess.” He laughed, a deep barrel of a laugh that resonated in my soul.

A smile tugged at my lips. “Long live the king.”

He chuckled, wrapping an arm around me. “And maybe some day I can say to you, ‘Long live the queen’?”

I rolled my eyes, but I was relieved that he understood I was not ready for his proposal.

We would set the Treelanders free at long last. And no matter what happened, Gesu would always be with us. For whatever the season, night always came, with the stars shining brightly, declaring Gesu’s love amidst the blackest points in my life.

Chapter 9 of The Healer of Istagun – Risen

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This is the ninth chapter in my ten-chapter fantasy novella. So close to finishing! I hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment below your thoughts or any feedback that could make this climax better. 🙂 Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The first thing Tarquin did when we reached shore was rush me passed the fight and into Tiana’s house. Gently, he laid me in a bed. I was too weak to sit up as he spooned Gesu’s blood into my mouth.

At first it was painful to swallow, like my throat was on fire. But then, as it trickled down, a miraculous taste as sweet as a cherry filled my mouth.

“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” he asked me, wincing.

I grinned, as energy spread through me. “No, it’s… it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted!”

He raised a brow quizzically.

Amazement rushed into me as I jumped out of bed and wrapped my arms around him.

“The plague is gone—completely gone!”

He clasped my arms and withdrew slightly, looking into my face in wonder. “Praise Gesu!”

“What are we waiting for?” I exclaimed. “Let’s save the others!”

***

Thankfully, the battle had not yet touched the village where the sick ones lay in the homes of the kind elderly people. In his loud deep voice, Tarquin ordered the healthy old folks to bring the sick ones out of the ice homes into one place, so they could more quickly be healed. Many were doubtful at first, but I testified to the miraculous power of Gesu’s blood.

“Dahlia.” Prima flew up to me and embraced me quietly. “You look well today, girl.”

I grinned as I explained to her the miracle. “Where is Kari?”

Her face flooded with pain. “He’s so sick—I don’t know what to do.”

Tarquin was feeding the blood to many people already, so I didn’t say a word to him as Prima led me to Kari.

His eyes were closed shut, and tumors covered his once-soft skin.

“He hasn’t moved for hours,” Prima said, shivering. “And there…” She pointed to three young boys beside him.

I nodded but remained emotionless. Mechanically, I bent down to him and fed him from the small bottle Tarquin had given me. When he opened his eyes, he smiled and jumped up into my arms, laughing. “DAHLIA!”

I hugged him tightly and set him down. “All right, all right!” I laughed. “How are you feeling today, kid?”

Before he could answer, he turned to Prima and gave her a hug that sent her tiny frame toppling to the ground.

“Be careful—remember she’s a fairy!”

But I couldn’t blame him. Inside me, I couldn’t have felt more joyful with this new life coursing through my veins. Yet there were so many more people in need of healing.
Andrea. The thought stole my happiness in an instant. She had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t let her die along with Hollis.

As I began scouting out the sick ones to find Andrea, Tarquin hurried up to me. “Dahlia, I need to help the Summer humans and Gesu-followers fight Hazina’s fairies. As soon as you heal the men, instruct them to go to shore to help us.”

“Of course.” I searched his handsome face, not knowing what might happen to him once he confronted the powerful fairies. “Don’t die, Tarquin.”

I hadn’t meant it as a joke, but he smiled. “I won’t, Dahlia. I’m going to be King.”

With that, he ran off.

 

“Dahlia…” When the strained voice reached my ears, I swiveled around.
Andrea lay in the snow, with a beautiful old woman spooning broth into her mouth.

The woman lifted her head when she saw me, locking her blue eyes onto me. “Dahlia,” she said again. “Your friend needs you.”

I rushed to Andrea, ignoring the old woman. “My friend, it’s been so long. I’m so sorry. I wish I’d—you’d never believe what happened–are you all right?”

She looked up at me, but, for once in her life, she didn’t speak a word. She was no longer the bright, outgoing young woman I knew a few days ago. I remembered how she’d teased me about the strange miner staring at me from across the field. Had he loved me then? I shook the thought off and brushed her hair out of her face.

I quickly brought out the bottle and fed her a small drop, so as to save plenty for the others.

Slowly, she sat up. “Wow… what was in that bottle?”

I pulled her to her feet, chuckling. “I’ll tell you another time.”

We embraced each other, giggling like young girls again in the Spring orchards. “I’ve missed you so much,” Andrea said.

I regretted to think I had been so focused on Hollis that I hadn’t thought much of her.

“I’m so sorry, Andrea. There’s so much to tell you.”

“About that miner boy?” Andrea raised her brows, and for once I was glad to see her being herself again. “I saw him walking around here a few minutes ago…”

“His name’s Tarquin.” I shrugged at her growing smile. “He’s… he’s my friend now.”

I ached at the thought of him. Feelings I hadn’t realized existed rushed inside me. He was so good to me. I wouldn’t ever be able to repay him for all he had done for me. I could never repay Gesu either—he had paid his own life for me.

But… not in time to save Hollis.

“Tarquin’s fighting the fairies by the sea,” I said quietly. “As soon as this stuff heals everyone, we can all help him.”

“What’s wrong, Dahlia?” Andrea leaned forward, her hand on my shoulder, looking deeply into my eyes like the friend I had always known and loved.

I turned away and sat down on a fallen log. She sat beside me, her kindness seeping through her dark eyes. I’d forgotten how much she loved me. Guilt wrecked me. I had done nothing to deserve her affection, always scorning her for her silliness and carefree nature.

“I feel… paralyzed.” My voice was feeble. “Andrea, it’s true. Hollis is dead. It’s more than I can bear.”

She wrapped her arms around me and sang softly, a song she’d so often sung to Hollis and me in the nights when we were young children, staring up at the stars. She was like an older sister to us—or a mother? Were mothers like this? I didn’t know.

“It’s just you and me… us together. The flowers bloom, it’s lovely weather today…”

Hollis used to sing it all the time. I remembered my dream about her… and about the longing for something more. The stars. I looked up at the brilliant little lights dancing across the black sky.

Thank you, I whispered silently up at them.

“—Andrea! We need to heal these people with Gesu’s blood.” I stood up and pulled at her hand.

“Blood? Yuck!” She yanked her hand out of mine and looked at me strangely.

I explained to her quickly the miraculous healing Gesu provided. “He healed you,” I finished proudly.

She gasped and shook her head. “I don’t know, Dahlia.”

I smiled. “I’ll show you.”

 

As Andrea witnessed strength returning to the sick, she laughed. “That’s truly amazing, Dahlia! But you need to stop saying it’s this Gesu person who caused all this. There’s something in that bottle! A spell, or something.”

I tried to explain to her that the great Queen Hazina had caused the plague, and therefore no spell could overcome it.

“I can’t believe that.” She shook her head. “What has that miner boy been telling you?”

I ignored her as I tilted the bottle into a middle-aged man’s mouth. It was the same man in Autumn, I now realized, who had bemoaned about his wife and children being taken from him. The man opened his eyes and sat up, looking up at me bewilderedly. “Dahlia?”

I gasped. How did he…?

He embraced me, tears streaming down his cheeks. “My daughter… He told me you were my daughter.”

I hugged him in return, astounded. “Gesu?”

“Yes,” he murmured. “In my dreams. But this is real! You are really here, my sweet child!”

***

A few hours passed of simultaneously chatting with my father and curing the sick ones with Andrea until we had finished.

I told him of dear Hollis, my life in Summer and Spring, and my recent adventures. He told me of how he had fallen in love with a woman named Mariella, gave birth to each of his daughters, and how recently Mariella passed away from the plague.

Finally, I spoke to the rejoicing humans who had been cured of disease: “If you are able and willing, please go to the battle to help fight against Hazina’s fairies.”

As people found spells and weapons, Andrea looked at me fearfully. “How are we going to do this? You cannot trust a dead man, Dahlia.”

Distress gripped me at the thought of the humans and Gesu-followers dying in battle—of Tarquin dying. No. Not him.

“Gesu is not dead,” I said firmly, though I did not know how I was so sure of this. “He is alive inside of us. With his power, we must fight, or else we will die.”

“You’re right, my daughter.” My father stood quietly beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “We don’t have much choice.”

 

As we reached the shore, my anxiety heightened. The Hazina-followers had circled around the Summer humans and Gesu-following fairies. They’d bound them up to poles. In the center, Tarquin was writhing against the ropes as a fire culminated beneath his feet.

The mud wall monsters from Spring and Autumn were marching toward us, and in between them Queen Hazina flew in all her splendor, colorful spells exuding from her and armed fairies by her side. Behind her, the Treelanders, undoubtedly under some sort of mind-bending spell, marched with swords made of the sharpest wood and shields made from the toughest leaves.

My heart pounded in my chest, and my father looked at me, concerned and alarmed. I did not look at him.

Tarquin was staring at me, from across the field of snow. The shore splashed on the rocks yards away from him. I stared back, horror coursing through me, even through these veins that rushed with new life.

His dark tortured eyes called out to me, undeniably, silently screaming, “I love you, Dahlia!”

I ran toward him, though my father yelled from behind me. I ran past the Hazina followers, past the loyal followers of Gesu tied to poles, I ran to the center, to the flames that blazed beneath my king.

“What are we going to do now?” I shouted up to him, tears streaming down my cheeks. If only my tears could put out this fire. But that was the hopeless romantic in me. Tarquin could never be mine—he could never be mine even if children didn’t exist.

He was going to die.

I looked into his eyes, aching all over, wishing I could express how thankful I was for all that he had done for me.

“Dahlia,” he choked. “You need to leave.”

“I need to save you—how can I save you?” Desperation filled my voice.

Suddenly, a Hazina-follower grabbed me and tied me to a pole beside Tarquin. Soon a fire was lit beneath my feet.

Tarquin cried out in agony as the flames began to smolder him.

Away from the scene, stood the humans from the village, including Andrea and my father, who didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want to run out here and end up like me.

All at once, Prima and the good fairies burst forward, and a great battle ensued between those who followed Hazina and those who followed Gesu. With the Treelanders and the mud walls on Hazina’s side, the good fairies were greatly outnumbered.

I watched as Prima cast soothing spells on the mud walls, and began talking to them, as if convincing them to join Gesu’s side. Soon Queen Hazina found out and got rid of Prima’s spell. A Treelander pitted Prima with the wooden sword while Prima fought back with her spontaneous spells. The wooden sword accidently turned into a bat, looked confused for a second, and then flew away, leaving the Treelander defenseless. But just as Prima rose her clear blue wand to strike another spell, a Hazina fairy electrocuted Prima, and she fell to the earth, helpless and paralyzed.

Prima. I wanted to shout her name, but the smoke was suffocating. I winced as I felt a flame on my own foot.

I glanced at Tarquin, terrified as I saw his feet being burnt bit by bit, and the fire mounting higher and higher to his ankles and legs. He screamed.

That scream shattered any innocence I had left in me. I sobbed wretchedly, broken, and so alone. Gesu, where are you now? Your blood saved my life. Why do you let me die? Why do you let Tarquin die, when you promised he would be King?

Just then, a cry rose through the air. A sweet, innocent crying out in terror. It shook my nerves, so I turned toward the noise, toward the shore.

I caught my breath. Hollis stood in a flowing white dress, her blond hair whipping in the wind, her face soft and beautiful. She was smiling.

Behind her, thousands of humans stood, glowing, radiant as the Summer sun.

The battle came to a sudden halt. Everyone stopped and stared, mesmerized and baffled by the beauty of these humans.

Gesu stepped forward, calling out in a deep voice, “Queen Hazina, these are the people you tortured with the plague. These are the ones who died from the poisonous waters. These are my friends that I have brought back from the graves of Midfuna Island.”
And before anyone could gasp or murmur let alone get a good look at him, he vanished into the Winter air.

Queen Hazina fluttered toward the risen dead, her guard fairies by her side. “What is this!?” she roared into the silence of the crowd.

I clenched my teeth as the fire licked my feet and ankles, withholding a shout. Murmurs of pain filled the air around me from the others who hung on poles.

To my astonishment, Hollis, meek and quiet, stepped forward, a smile still on her face. “My queen, you have no idea what Gesu had to go through to get us back. Your sin destroyed us, and only Gesu was strong enough to give us life again. Now before you kill us all off again, I ask you to listen to me.”

Hazina groaned. “To a little girl!? Are you kidding me?”

“It is the least among us that Gesu uses,” Hollis said simply. “Now, I bet you never considered the details of your plan to destroy the human species. Your sole object was to better Istagun’s economy, right?”

Hazina’s rainbow wings fluttered violently. “All right, whatever. Continue!”
I hung on that pole, my feet on fire, tears escaping me. What was Hollis thinking, to anger the queen like this?

“Well, what you didn’t realize, was that people were risking their lives to save the people they loved. Take Dahlia, for instance. My sister risked everything, even traveling to all of the seasons to find me.” Hollis quickly continued before Hazina could respond. “Dahlia risked her life for me. Have you ever known that kind of love, my queen?”

Tears continued to drip down my cheeks as Hollis spoke, but now more out of amazement rather than the pain in my limbs as the fire crept up and the smoke stung my eyes. My sister had matured over the years she’d spent in Spring without me. But even more, these words seemed to come from the power of Gesu who lived inside her.

“Gesu let your fairies kill him, so the sick ones could drink of it and be healed. Have you ever known that kind of love?”

Hazina folded her arms across her chest, impatient. “Get on with your rhetorical questions!”

Hollis shrugged. “You can answer them if you’d like.”

Hazina laughed. “Okay, I’ve never known that kind of ‘love,’ whatever that means. My father abused me; my mother didn’t want me to exist. Continue, please!”

Sorrow filled Hollis’ face. Within me, I too felt compassion for the queen. I had never imagined I would feel bad for such a person.

Hollis spoke more gently now. “No wonder you’ve been enslaving the humans, making us do certain tasks at certain times in certain ways, controlling very aspect of our lives. You’ve never learned freedom. Your own soul is enslaved to fear, unable to express love to anyone else. The only thing you know is fear.”

Hazina’s beautiful rainbow wings suddenly drooped very low as she sunk to the ground. Each guard fairy put a hand on her shoulder.

“My queen, you’ve separated the people so the children grow up without mothers and fathers, and the parents have to say goodbye to their babies as soon as their born.” Hollis sighed. “How can you let us live like this? Don’t you know anything about love, about loss, about healing?”

The queen waved her wand slightly, and then dropped it. Instantly, the fires beneath our feet went out, the ropes were undone, and we fell to the ground.

As cheering arose, I ran to Tarquin, whose feet were burned by the flames.

I clasped hold of his hands in mine, though they were covered in soot and ashes. The fire had scorched him more than me. “Tarquin, are you going to be okay?”

“What just happened?” he murmured, too much of a man, of course, to admit he was in pain.

I bit my lip, smiling slightly. “Queen Hazina… she saved our lives.”

 

Some People Make My Heart Break

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Some people make my heart break

when I see that they have no faith.

Or maybe they want to,

but they don’t,

or maybe they just think they do,

but they don’t

…or maybe they don’t even care.

 

Some people make my heart break;

they think God can’t forgive their mistakes.

They make me cry inside at night

to think they’d rather die

than choose a life without shame.

 

Some people make my heart break,

giving smiles that are just fake,

drowning in emotions

instead of drowning in God’s ocean of grace.

 

Some people make my heart break–

it’s my own self sometimes,

unable to think

that God is bigger than anything,

unable to believe

because I’ve lost all humility;

my thoughts wander,

and I feel displaced.

 

Jesus, give me faith.

To You, I’m more than a face;

You wipe out my past mistakes,

and You know what weighs on my mind.

 

Please–use me.

Save me.

You’re worth everything.

My heart is breaking,

but I know that You can heal me,

and anyone else who calls out Your name.

 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
~ Matthew 11:28, ESV

 

Have you ever felt too lost, like you couldn’t have faith? Or that you were hopeless to help someone find freedom in Christ? Was there something God taught you that lifted your burdens from you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! And if you need prayer, I’m here for you. ❤

S9: Ends and Beginnings

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For this assignment, I brought ten books out and typed out the beginnings lines and endings lines. It was really interesting to see the differences and similarities in how the authors wrote them. Enjoy!

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

“We all know something’s wrong.”

“May you be able to say at the end of your life, along with Paul, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.’ – 1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV”

I’m reading this book for a girl’s book study at my house. Chan hooks the reader in at the very beginning, getting us to wonder, “What is he talking about? What do I apparently know is wrong?” The ending sentence fully captures the idea of the book, that we need to fight the good fight and keep our faith strong in Christ, which, as he stated at the beginning, isn’t what many Christians are doing right now. When you’re in love with someone, it changes everything, and this book is all about being in love with God.

Duskin by Grace Livingston Hill

“Carol Berkley was still at work in the inner office when the men arrived.”

“’The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.’”

Hill writes Christian romance, but this one was focused a lot on the action and mystery, which was cool too. The first sentence describes the main character in her office when “the men” or the main villains of the story, arrive. This sets the stage for all the work she does throughout the book in trying to stop the bad guys. Because of her determination to do the right thing, she meets a great guy named Duskin who begins to trust her a lot… and yes, they get married at the end!

Winnie-the-Pooh by Ernest H. Shepard

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”

“He nodded and went out… and in a moment I heard Winnie-the-Pooh—bump, bump, bump—going up the stairs behind him.”

This just wants me to go “Awww!” because this book is simply adorable. The style is so delightful to read from beginning to end. I love how Shepard goes full circle in describing Christopher Robin taking Pooh downstairs at the beginning of the book to play with his animals, and then going back upstairs at the end of all the crazy tales.

When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall

“Hannah Lapp covered the basket of freshly covered eggs with her hand, glanced behind her, and bolted down the dirt road.”

“Regardless of the ways things turned out between them, God had a plan.”

This is the first Amish book I ever read, and besides the second two in the series, they are the only Amish books I plan to read, at least for now (I’m not particularity a fan of them, but they’re all right!). Hannah Lapp is an innocent girl at the beginning of the book, which the first sentence captures really well. The last sentence gives a shout-out to the next book to get you to want to read more. It also shows the development of her character from an innocent girl to a young woman who has learned throughout the book to look to God instead of people for her value and purpose.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

“A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.”

“‘On a Field, Sable, The Letter A, Gules.’”

The beginning sentence really captures the sad mood of the first chapter, as the Puritans are prepared to bring judgment on the main character, Hester, who has committed adultery. Throughout this book, Hawthorne focuses a lot on description, and often uses colors to help the reader picture things in his or her mind, but also to capture the mood of what’s going on. So, the last sentence, which basically says that the red letter A is in a black background, simply gives a description at first glance. But it also may be describing that the sin of adultery went with Hester even after her death (trust me, guys, I had no idea what the last sentence meant till I looked it up!). So yeah, this is a gloomy book, where both the first and last sentences convey a sad mood.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

…And the leaves of the tree were the healing of the nations. Yes, thought Montag, that’s the one I’ll save for noon. For noon… When we reach the city.”

The above sentences reveal the main character, Montag’s transformation throughout the book. He loves to burn books at the beginning of this story, but by the end, instead of desiring to destroy knowledge, he wants to bring it back to the broken world in order to heal it. This is a beautiful conclusion of a profound story about the value and importance of books.

Riley Unlikely by Riley Banks-Snyder with Lisa Velthouse

“If anything has been clear to me over the past seven years, it’s the link between love and craziness.”

“We can’t wait to live with and serve the people of Kibwezi, surrounded by the sounds of children.”

This is a lovable, inspiring memoir about a fourteen-year-old girl who starts a ministry for children in Africa. The first sentence actually comes from the prologue, but I thought I’d use it instead of the one from chapter 1, because it portrays Riley’s heartwarming style. The ending captures that same love she has in her heart, and it really brings out one of the themes of the book: joyfully serving God where He calls you.

Set-Apart Femininity by Leslie Ludy

“It happened when I was 14.”

“Let us live, looking up, looking on, standing true by the grace of Him who called us.” – Amy Carmichael 1867-1961

This is a big slam-you-in-the-face conviction book for young and old women alike. The first sentence leads into a personal story Leslie shares. I love her style of relating personal life stories to reveal how genuine faith works. The last sentence is a wake-up call to action, which is really the theme of the whole book. This non-fiction book really motivates women to live set-apart lives for Christ as lilies among thorns.

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers

“The first time I saw the sin eater was the night Granny Forbes was carried to her grave.”

“For ye are my own little bits of heaven.”

The title of this book may sound weird, but the first sentence goes right into helping you know what on earth a “sin eater” is, which really is what the book is all about. According to legend, the sin eater eats food at funerals, which supposedly eats the dead person’s sins away, letting it consume himself instead, so only he will go to hell and not the dead person. But in this story, a young girl, Cadi, learns of the ultimate sin eater, Jesus, and is changed forever. The last sentence is a sweet scene at the very end, when Cadi is now a grandmother saying goodnight to her grandchildren. It’s interesting that the first and last sentences have something to do with grandmothers. The books starts with the death of Cadi’s grandmother and confusion about the sin eater, and ends with herself being a grandmother with assurance of the ultimate sin eater, Jesus, as she loves and adores her grandchildren. This is an amazing book, and I wish I had time to tell you more about it!

A Voice in The Wind by Francine Rivers

“The city was silently bloating in the hot sun, rotting like the thousands of bodies that lay where they had fallen in street battles.”

“Hunching over, he covered his head and wept.”

This is my favorite book aside from the Bible. Like literally, you need to go buy it right now! Anyway *tries to calm down* the first sentence showcases Rivers’ amazing descriptive style and has a gloomy mood because of the enormous amount of deaths. The last sentence also conveys sorrow because the man believes his true love has died. The intensity and emotion displayed in both of these sentences consists throughout much of the novel. This book is a page-turner, has strong Christian messages, and will endear you to the characters. Warning: you have to be fairly tough skinned to read it, because of how intense it gets at times.

Hope you enjoyed my list! Do you all have any favorite beginnings and/or endings of books?  I would love to hear them!

Speaking of which, I will close with the ending of The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, which is probably my favorite book endings ever (it’s the last Narnia book): “All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

NP8: Chapter 8 of The Healer of Istagun – Gesu’s Blood

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This is chapter 8 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella. I hope you enjoy! =) Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

“Dahlia.”

The voice, stern yet gentle, murmured in my ear.

I opened my bleary eyes and found myself wrapped in warm comforters. I looked up to see Tarquin, who was on his knees beside my pallet, his hand on my arm. Concern shone through his intense dark eyes. When he saw I was awake, he removed his hand. Strangely, I missed the warmth of his fingers.

I quivered inside, my body feeling like a block of ice despite the pile of blankets on top of me and the fire that flickered steadily nearby. “W-where are we?”

A woman appeared, with wrinkled skin and beautiful white hair cut short at her shoulders. She smiled at me. “I am Tiana, and this is my home. Welcome.”

She had seen everything. The truth poured into me, and I was amazed. These old folks had lived full lives, in all four lands.

I gazed at my surroundings. Everything was white, just like it had been minutes before I’d fallen asleep in the glade with Hollis in my arms. We were enclosed by sheer whiteness, as pure and flawless as the Summer clouds.

“Thank you, Tiana. But I… I don’t see a home.”

Amused, the old woman tapped the whiteness, and I realized it was a solid. I looked up and around me, as I realized the walls and ceiling were made of ice. An ice home. I had never imagined such a thing.

“Dahlia, I have to go,” Tarquin said hoarsely. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay before I left.”

He turned away, but I grabbed his hand to stop him. “Where are you going?”

“Dahlia, you can’t come with me, you’re too sick…” He looked away, but didn’t let go of my hand. “We need…” He shook his head, as if I wouldn’t be able to bear the news.

“What do we need, Tarquin?” I asked, exasperated at his silence.

“We need Gesu’s blood,” he said slowly. “His body is on Medfuna island. I have to go there.”

I sat up in bed, ignoring the sharp pain in my back. “I have to come with you.”

He sank to his knees and massaged my fingers, looking gently in my eyes. “Dahlia, the plague has affected you.”

“But not yourself?” I observed his spotless skin in amazement. How had he avoided the sickness?

“Long ago Gesu gave me the power to resist certain poison spells,” Tarquin said. “Then, I didn’t know how it would help me, but now it’s all clear.” He grinned, his eyes searching my face in earnest. “I’m going to be King, Dahlia. As soon as Queen Hazina’s out of the way, I’m going to rule Istagun.”

I stared at him steadily, taking in his confident words. I fingered his ragged beard, deciding to not take him seriously, at least for now. “A King, eh?” I smiled. “That doesn’t mean you can order me around, you know.”

“Dahlia, how could you feel well enough to do anything?”

As his eyes flickered with unease, I let my hand fall from his chin.

“I don’t…” The pain still gripped me, and nausea filled my stomach. “I’m just determined, that’s all. Will you carry me across the sea?”

As soon as he laughed, I realized how flirtatious I must have sounded. Oops. I folded my hands together in my lap.

“Turns out I won’t have to get my fancy miner pants wet in that ocean,” he said, a glint of mirth in his eyes. “Prima and the healthy Summer people sailed here in my boat. Don’t know how they got the thing out of my basement, but, hey—it’s here!”

Relief flooded through me. “And Kari is here, too?”

“Yeah, somewhere. Probably finding his brothers. Prima’s taking good care of him—even soothed a deer and fed venison to him along with the whole village while she was at it.”

“Good,” I said thoughtfully. “So we will sail to Midfuna island on that boat of yours?”

Tarquin nodded. “So it’s ‘we’ now, eh?”

I just laughed, but I hoped desperately he’d get the thought of us-together-forever out of his head this minute. It was ridiculous. If only he’d understand that I could never have children!

Yet, somehow, his calm nature and good humor had filled me with a peace I’d not felt in a long time.

***

After I drank a hot bowl of Tiana’s soup, Tarquin carried me out into the village, his strong arms easily bearing my weight. Soon he rounded up the Gesu-following fairies. I bade farewell to Prima who had to stay and take care of Kari. Midfuna Island was where every human and fairy alike was buried, and it was no place for children.

But Hollis is there.

The realization spread through me as horrifically as the plague inside me. Tarquin had informed me that all the dead sick ones in the glade were gone by the time he found me and took me to Tiana’s house. Hollis would be buried along with Gesu, with no funeral to celebrate her little life.

The boat did indeed float. Tarquin and the fairies pushed through the water with wooden sticks that were flat at the end, which somehow heaved the vessel forward into the enormous sea. I watched in amazement at the steady pattern of motion and listened attentively to the rhythm of the waves.

Dolphins shot out of the water now and then, showing of their beautiful figures that gleamed in the sunlight. Yet it was cold out here, and I wrapped Tiana’s blankets around me, thankful for the warmth they provided.

We steadily approached the island that sat faintly in the distance.

I watched Tarquin paddle with the wooden stick. Hollis was dead. I could hardly believe it. I was too shocked to cry again, at least for now.

“How are you doing?” Tarquin asked as he strained against the waves.

His earnest words revealed his genuine concern for me, but I wanted to hide away my scarred soul, too overcome by pain to know how to express it.

Hollis was the sweetest sister, always smiling, and wise beyond her years. She couldn’t be gone. How had I let her just die like that? I could have done something—if only I’d listened to Prima when we hadn’t found my sister in Spring and believed her when she insisted Hollis was in Winter. If we’d gone straight to Winter instead of back to Summer, I could have saved her.

“Dahlia,” Tarquin said firmly. “It’s okay to cry.”

I hugged my knees to my chest. “I’m fine.”

“Just fine?” He searched my eyes, then paddled again, his face worn and full of sorrow. He must be exhausted. He cared about me. Did he understand my pain?

“Fairies are awful,” I moaned.

At that, he hushed me, for we were surrounded by kind, Gesu-following fairies.

“Yeah,” I laughed shortly. “Prima would be offended.”

Tarquin chuckled. “Well, yeah, I get what you mean. Queen Hazina is awful. She had us fooled for a long time, except for me. The docile spells didn’t work on me, so I had to live knowing full well how mistreated we all were. No one believed me. I guess when Gesu gives you the power to rule Istagun, you have to face some hardship along the way.”

My eyes widened. “Tarquin… are you really going to be King?”

“Gesu said I’d be, and his word hasn’t failed thus far.”

I ached at the mention of Gesu. He was gone: his love, his healing, his redeeming the bad for the good, as he had done to the fairies who now followed him. “How is his blood going to meet all our needs?”

Tarquin gripped the paddle tightly, staring out at the horizon. “The fairies say we’ll have to drink it.”

“What!?” The thought was sickening, to say the least.

He shrugged. “Without intaking his mercy, how will we breathe in new life and health?”
I narrowed my eyes, yet I believed him nonetheless. Gesu had power beyond the queen. Last night his love had spoken to my heart in unbelievable ways. It didn’t make sense until you experienced it. His power was real, more real than anything I’d known before.

As we approached the shore, we saw the Hazina-following fairies ready to sail back to Istagun in their own ship after their day’s work of burying the dead. The boat bumped into the sand and we scrambled out, making sure to curve in the opposite direction of the grave-digging pixies.

Yet a sharp yell erupted. Tarquin, holding me in his arms, ran with the fairies deep into the forest, away from the chaos. But the Hazina-followers were chasing us. Our fairy friends were soon out of sight, for their wings were faster than Tarquin’s legs.

“Can you run any faster?” I clung to him, fear racing through my heart.

He quickened his pace, without speaking a word. I felt his heart pounding as I leaned my head against his broad chest. It only comforted me that his arms held me secure.
We reached the open glade where stones marked the deaths of thousands. Fresh sadness washed over me. Hollis was here, under the ground, with not a breath left in her lungs.

I shuddered as Tarquin rushed to the Gesu-following fairies who had found a stone. It was only a pebble, but it marked Gesu’s grave, according to a pixie who had a spell that found what was lost.

The Hazina-following fairies were nowhere in sight. We could only hope they too didn’t have a finding spell in one of their pockets.

The fairies dug through the fertile earth quickly. Soon they revealed Gesu’s corpse, the smell reeking through the air. A smile played on the man’s lips, yet his eyes looked full of a deep sorrow.

“Here he is!” one exclaimed in wonder.

“Hurry, everyone!” another declared.

I looked away, hurt knotting a rope inside my stomach. “Why, Tarquin? If he’s so powerful, why didn’t he just save himself?”

Tarquin lowered me to the ground to let me rest. “He loved us more than his own life.” His voice choked with emotion. “And his blood was our only cure.”

One of the fairies had brought a glass bottle, which they proceeded to fill with Gesu’s blood. I closed my eyes and lay on the dirt ground, straining against the nauseous feeling in my stomach.

“Who goes there!?” a voice roared in the distance, but it quickly approached, along with the sound of rapid fluttering wings.

“It is only us!” cried a fairy. “We are making sure Gesu is dead.”

I cringed at the stupid lie.

“What do you mean—making sure?” The Hazina follower smirked. “Of course we’re sure! We stabbed him three times to be doubly sure!”

“But Gesu claimed to have untold power—greater than even Hazina!” Tarquin declared, and I was both amazed and terrified at his bold words. “What if he is undefeatable?”

The angry fairy yelled to the surrounding throng of Hazina followers. “Charge!”

Soon a battle erupted. Pain flooded through me as I lay there while Tarquin covering me with his body to protect me from the spells. At first I smelled his soiled shirt against my nose, but then the pungent odor of blood grew stronger, permeating the forest air. I tried not to vomit. Shouts rang out as spells were cast one after another.

I imagined the Gesu-follower fairies falling one after another in the face of Hazina’s more powerful fairies. It was no secret that Hazina collected the strongest spells in existence. Could Gesu save us now?

“Dahlia, I have to leave you for a moment—don’t be afraid.”

As soon as Tarquin rose to his feet, his voice bellowed through the air: “Stop, in the name of Gesu!”

All heads turn toward him in astonishment.

“No more of this, I tell you! I will be the new King, and you all must obey me now or you’ll regret it when I sit upon that throne.”

“Ha! The new king? You think you’re more powerful than—”

Silence fell, and I knew Tarquin caused it. Gesu must have truly given him more powers than just being immune to poison.

Soon Tarquin and the Gesu-following fairies returned to the boat. We set off, rushing back to Winter with our precious bottle of Gesu’s blood.

The Hazina-following fairies on Midfuna Island were all dead, and not a single one was buried with the humans.

Tarquin paddled against the current, his arms straining harder than ever. Yet he was calm, his eyes gazing out at the vast ocean as if his thoughts wandered across the sea.

“You did nothing,” I said simply. “It was all Gesu.”

He smiled thoughtfully. “Isn’t he amazing?”

As we approached Winter, shouts filled the air. Fairies were overwhelming humans one by one with their various spells.

Tarquin ordered everyone to paddle faster, desperation in his voice. I wrapped the blanket around me, as the temperature of Winter grew its hold on me. How would we ever defeat Hazina?

I was tormented at the thought of Prima and Kari dying. I almost screamed at Tarquin to hurry up, but then I realized that he was doing all he could. He was trying with all the strength he had and more… Gesu’s strength.

I found a passion deep within me for love and for truth. We didn’t need to be afraid. So instead of complaining to Tarquin, I yelled above the splash of the paddles in the sea, “Let’s fight for Gesu!”

And I knew I would never be the same again.

S8: The Healer of Istagun Seen and Heard

For the sandbox assignment this week, I was supposed to answer these questions: What song would be the film score for your story? What book would be your main character’s favorite? What TV show(s) would they watch? Perhaps do a celebrity casting. Which famous Hollywood actors would portray your characters best in a movie?

Song: “You’ll be in my heart” by Phil Collins

This song so accurately portrays Dahlia’s love for Hollis throughout the story. So sweet!

Book: “The Healing Touch of Jesus” by Dr. Richard Lee

I’ve never read this book, but it sounds like the perfect thing Dahlia would need… Yeah, I’m not sure she’d pick it up in a bookstore, especially since there are not bookstores in Istagun, and Jesus does not exist in my story world. But if you just changed “Jesus” to “Gesu” it would work perfectly. Gesu represents Jesus, and Dahlia is curious about Gesu’s healing throughout the story and strives to get it for her sister Hollis.

TV series: “ER” created by Michael Crichton

I’ve never watched this, but considering Dahlia’s determination to heal her sister, she might watch it in hopes there might be some medical advice that would help find a cure to the plague.

And for the famous actress… I chose Daisy Ridley.

Dahlia

Daisy Ridley

NP7: Chapter 7 of The Healer of Istagun – The Stars

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This is chapter 7 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun.  Enjoy! Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6

I realized that I was in the dark. My head ached like a mallet had crushed my skull. I squirmed around, reaching, groping for something, anything—

I heard the cries of children. Lost and alone, always alone. Always. This was why I never wanted to have children. They had nothing. No one cared. Spring was beautiful and verdant, but their hearts were desolate. I picked a cherry from a tree, vague memories of light surrounding me. Its juicy taste filled me with joy for a moment, but the pain flooded into me again more quickly and severely than ever.

Hollis. She was smiling at me. Laughing, holding my hands, spinning around and around—sunlight exuded from her.

“It’s just you and me!” she sang, loud and clear, as if that was all that mattered.

I loved her, but I wanted more. I needed more. Kari and his brothers exploded out of nowhere, racing with Hollis and lifting her spirits ten times as much as I ever could. I couldn’t take care of her. She didn’t know it, but she was dying. She was covered in tumors, weak, hopeless. This was only a temporary spell, and one day even this wouldn’t work on her.

My mother and father—they were gone from me. I didn’t remember them, but somehow… I missed them.

Suddenly, Tarquin appeared, surprising me. He lifted me off the ground and laughed, a deep boisterous laugh that resonated in my soul. It grew a little flame within me until I ached all over. I wanted something, but I couldn’t let myself have it. No, no, no! Stop—I can’t—this is too dangerous. Yet his deep brown eyes moved my heart tenderly.

“Let me down!” I cried, fighting against the emotions that threatened to overwhelm me.

But his gentle look somehow caused the ground to give way beneath us. We tumbled downward, and I screamed as I lost hold of the young man. “Tarquin!”

And then I was in a bed, wrapped in warm comforters.

My parents appeared, smiling down at me. I laughed, but I sounded like a babe.

“We love you, Dahlia,” they said. “Gesu loves you.”

***

I woke up with a severe headache. When I smelled meat, I turned on my side to see Prima cooking something over a fire. The forest surrounded us. Thought it was nighttime, I could tell the trees were verdant and green.

“Looks like we’re back in Summer,” I murmured, rubbing my eyes.

“Yeah, I guess that queen didn’t want us around her place.” Prima chuckled but then sighed. “She took us away before I could even think to use my wand.”

“It’s all right.”

I wrapped the blanket we’d brought on our journey tightly around me in the cool Summer morning. “So, Gesu’s in Winter.” The memories of last night’s dream flooded me. Could he be what I longed for in my dream that was beyond simply finding Hollis? “Who is he, Prima? Will anyone ever tell me?”

Prima turned the juicy rabbit around on a stick over the fire. Her soothing powers made excellent hunting skills.

“Gesu isn’t like the others,” she said softly. “People just try to live, but Gesu lives—people just try to be good, but Gesu actually wants to be good and gives people the power they need to be more than alive.” She gazed off in the distance. “He isn’t like the others—he wants the whole world to be happy. He loves us, Dahlia—no one else is like that.” She took a little breath and sighed. “That’s why I love him, too.”

Love. Her voice was sweet and gentle, and I longed to understand her. I loved Hollis, but something inside me was empty, so empty. It was as if even if I found Hollis, even if she were alive and well, even if Gesu healed everyone from this awful plague… this restlessness would still cling to my soul.

My skin felt suddenly itchy. As I examined the numerous tumors on my hands and arms, I lowered my voice. “Have you been getting these weird bumps too?”

“What bumps?” Prima asked.

I lifted my hands up to show her.

She yelped. “The-the p-plague!”

I nodded briskly, trying to shrug it off for her sake. “We’ll find Gesu soon enough.”

Kari rolled over and started whimpering. I rushed to him. He was covered in tumors as well.

“Kari!” I embraced him, as he cried in my shoulder.

“What did you do?” he wailed. “It hurts so bad!”

“It was the water, Kari. It’s poisonous to humans.” I rubbed his back, murmuring comforting words, as guilt overwhelmed me.

The few people who had not been struck by the plague had each happened to not like the taste of Istagun’s river water. I should have realized there was a reason behind it all. I should have known. How would we ever reach Winter now? We couldn’t go through the center of Istagun. Perhaps we could travel around through Spring or through Autumn with Prima’s powers to soothe the mud walls, but that would take days. We needed to get there fast.

Tarquin was gone now. The strange dream about him still weighed heavy on my mind, but he was only a friend—a friend who now was locked away in the dungeons along with the Treelanders. I remembered how he’d told me his desire to go meet them across the sea. He’d shown me that beautiful boat, as if I were a trusted friend.

The boat. Perhaps that thing was faster than traveling by land.

I glanced up at Prima. “We have to sail around the island to Winter with Tarquin’s boat. It’s the only way.”

Prima stared at me in disbelief. “You’re not supposed to know what a boat is.”

So, Prima hid things from me along with the queen?

“Please. Prima.” Desperation filled my voice. “Maybe there’s some humans left in the village who will help us.”

She took a deep breath. “Let’s eat some breakfast and then get going.”

 

In the village, Prima used her being-a-fairy ability to gather the humans of Summer around us. The supervisor fairies only complied to let the humans go off work because Prima insisted it was the queen’s orders.

Only about twenty or so humans were left alive and well in the village. Trembling within, I stood on a platform and called out to my people. “Hello, everyone! You all have no doubt witnessed the enormous healing powers of the human Gesu. No human has ever been that powerful before. But then he supposedly transitioned to Autumn, leaving us vulnerable in the face of a deadly plague.”

Murmurs of sorrow rose through the air.

I sighed. “During this time I have been to both Spring and Autumn.”

At this, the fairies became uneasy, but Prima held them back with hushed words.

“The plague is everywhere, even in these other lands of Istagun. And after venturing to Queen Hazina’s palace, I now know the terrible cause behind all this.”

I glanced at the loyal Hazina-following fairies. Gesu loved me, my parents had said, in my dream. It didn’t make sense, but I had to trust this healer.

“The queen has poisoned our water so we will die,” I called out, bitterness rising through me at the thought of the tumors growing on my hands. “She desires to replace us with the stronger species, called the Treelanders who will take our place in producing food for Istagun’s economy…”

I paused, as two heavily armed fairies flew up to me in anger. They grabbed me, but I shouted, “We don’t have to give in to this! Gesu the great healer is in Winter, and the man Tarquin has a ship we can use to sail—”

The guard fairies covered my mouth, muffling the rest of my words. Prima brought out her wand, but they drew me away before she could use it to appease their anger.

And soon I was in darkness once again.

 

As I opened my eyes, frosty air blew into my face. I tried to sit up, but my fingers and toes surprised me with their stiffness. Soft white drops fell from the sky, chilling me. My head ached more than ever, and I coughed hard into the air, letting my brokenness echo into the desolate land. I had never been colder in my life.

Winter. It dawned on me that that was where the guard fairies must have taken me.

Slowly, I tried to push myself up with my numb hands. With great effort, I succeeded. The ground was white, covered in the soft drops that came from the sky. It looked strangely appetizing, so I stuck out my tongue and let a drop fall. The freezing substances tasted like water, but much colder.

A rush of understanding came over me. Snow. I had heard about this, long ago. In Winter, water turned into a solid.

Pushing myself to my feet, I stood up. I hugged my chest, trembling all over from the bitter cold. I looked around at the white ground, the white trees, and the white sky. Everything was white. As wind and snow whipped about, my teeth chattered. I could see now why people died here. But was there at least some who were still alive? The healthy old folks, perhaps?

I gazed again at my surroundings. It was so quiet, and I could not see light coming from anywhere to signal human inhabitants. Gesu was supposed to be here. If he was such a great healer, perhaps he had healed others and even himself if he had needed to.

I trudged forward into the white forest, but a few heavy steps into the thick snow told me I needed some other plan. I wore sandals, and my feet were frozen. A nauseous feeling rose in my throat.

The plague. I realized with sudden horror the tumors covering my entire body, my face, my hands, my legs. I wanted to scream.

Suddenly, I heard a low moaning, so deep and silent it was as if it came from beneath the earth, shaking the ground under my feet. My heart skipped a beat. I took a heavy, painstaking step toward the noise, but then fell to my knees into the snow. Crawling through the dense slush, I followed the moaning deep into the forest until it grew much louder.

As I came into an open glade, shock course through me. Humans of all ages lied everywhere, dead or dying, it was hard to tell. They moaned, weak and helpless. No one had lit a fire.

“D-Dahlia.” I heard a faint whisper, and turned toward it.

Tarquin was sitting there, pale as a ghost. He, too, was covered in tumors. And to my complete astonishment, in his arms lay Hollis, her face utterly tranquil.

“Hollis!” I gasped, shaken to the core of me. She was here at last. But was she all right?

I crawled toward him, weakness engulfing my limbs. Soon I would be like the people around me, motionless and miserable.

Tarquin looked up at me, his intense dark eyes searching mine. “Her heart stopped beating a few minutes ago.”

I nodded, taking in the girl’s fragile complexion, pale and broken from years of sickness. Her blonde hair rippled to the snowy ground.

“My beautiful sister,” I whispered, my voice choked with emotion. I hadn’t realized I’d said it aloud till Tarquin met my gaze again, studying me quietly.

I looked up at him, suddenly. “How did you know she was my sister among all these people?”

He said nothing for a long moment. “I… I watched you ever since I was young. I knew Gesu even when I was a Spring boy. He’d been a Spring boy with me for a few years before he had to go. He told me something about you…” He stared at me, and blood rushed through my freezing limbs. “He told me you would need me someday. I didn’t know what for, but now…”

Suddenly, voices cried out in the air, not from the sick people, but from somewhere far off. “Long live the King, who will never be King! One drop of his blood will meet all our needs!”

The voices were sweet and shrill, like fairies. I had no idea what to think. They repeated the chant over and over, and it grew louder and louder. What King were they talking about?

A smile played on Tarquin’s lips. “Dahlia, you don’t need to be afraid.”

But fear overwhelmed me as I looked at my dear sister in his arms, and I felt the plague consuming me with the pain that was gripping my body. “I have reason to be afraid,” I said in a low voice, “and, besides, I don’t even know you. So, please, get out of my life! Hollis is my sister. Whatever the ridiculous Gesu says, I will never need you, Tarquin.”

Silence fell between us, while the moanings of the sick ones and the loud chant filled the crisp air.

“Do you hear what they are saying?” Tarquin asked gently, though his voice was strained.

I hugged myself into a ball and sobbed. “I don’t care anymore. Hollis gave me hope, but now she is—well, look at her! She’s dead. There’s nothing more we can do.”

“But the King they are talking about—it is Gesu. ‘One drop of his blood will meet all our needs.’ That must mean that Gesu has to die, or is already dead.”

“So there, you admitted it yourself. Gesu can do nothing to help me anymore.” I looked up at him, bleakly. “Please, leave me alone. I just… I just want to die.”

Tarquin set Hollis gently on the ground and stood up. “Dahlia, don’t say that to yourself. Gesu’s death will meet all our needs. Don’t you understand? He is dying today so we do not have to die.”

At that, he ran off, to find the Gesu-following fairies, I supposed. I turned to Hollis, who lay with her pink lips parted, her blue eyes still wide with empty hope. Perhaps Tarquin had told her he knew me, and that I had been searching for her. Perhaps she’d tried to stay alive for me, but simply had no strength left. I held her head in my frozen hands, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Then I looked up at the stars that had appeared as the night came. The snow clouds had cleared enough for me to see them. I remembered how Gesu had talked to Prima through the stars, the night we’d given up hope on passing through the mud walls. I remembered how he’d spoken of his love and how we should never give up. And then how Prima had realized her powers could soothe the mud wall monster.

“Tell me now that you love me!” I cried out brokenly to the stars into the bitter cold night. I shivered as I wrapped my arms around Hollis. The stars said nothing to me—just hung in the sky like a million solemn lights. In fact, as I gazed at them in wonder, they seemed to fade slowly away, as if in time with Gesu’s heartbeat.

I grimaced. Gesu had not given me any power as he had given Prima. He could do nothing for me, so I had reason to give up.

Yet Tarquin’s words echoed inside me as I fell asleep in the snow that was beginning to feel warm against my skin. He is dying today so we do not have to die. Prima’s words, too, whispered within me: He isn’t like the others—he wants the whole world to be happy. He loves us, Dahlia—no one else is like that.

And then, strangely, I realized a simple fact that I somehow couldn’t refute: I needed Gesu so badly. Though my eyes were closed, in my dreams the stars twinkled in a beautiful rhythm, speaking a wordless melody into the depths of my heart.

And for a moment, I felt I at last understood what love truly was.