S11: Creative Writing Rewards!

CW Award

(Photo by Ariel Besagar on Unsplash)

Rewards for my amazing creative writing buddies, Natalie and Megan N! You both are very talented writers, and I’ve loved sharing our stories with one another! 😀

Best Dramatic Moments… Natalie!!!

I can’t stress how talented you are at keeping people in suspense and capturing details in such a beautiful, heart-wrenching way!

Just a sample: “Damek reached for the hilt instinctively. Yet his cry had not left his lips before Lilja collapsed, covered in her own blood. He fell to the ground beside her, not seeing anything but the red. It covered her neck and chest. He rolled her onto her back and felt feverishly at her face. His vision blurred with tears. There was no life in her eyes. They looked up. At him. Though him. Beyond him. She was there – and she was not. He choked.”

Best Title… Megan!!!

Love Myles is such a sweet, simple title that really portrays the letter-style of your book! I think this title works well with your unique concept and plot—since people may not expect the twist that Myles is actually writing to someone who is already dead.

Best Villain… Natalie!!!

Julma was so terrifying and creepy… well done!

A sample: “Julma looked upward, spinning to catch Damek’s eye. She smiled – a grotesque gesture, really, when paired with the blood on her hands.”

Best Closing Line… Megan!!!

Your closing line was a beautiful blend of hope and sadness! The past tense of “had” really captures that sorrowful mood: “I love you, Ruthie, and I hope you had a good life. Love, Myles”

Most Likely to Publish… Natalie!!!

Because your style is… phenomenal. You should seriously try to publish a book someday!

Best Illustrator… Megan!!!

Of course you were the only illustrator in our small group, but still—you did a super great job! You helped me a lot with picturing the characters and scenes. The picture of Soshomia and Myles is so well done, and it’s very intriguing. And I love the one when Cola points finger guns at Myles! ;P

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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.”

 

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.

S7: Dahlia’s Speech

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For this Creative Writing assignment, I was supposed to write about my main character in my novella, The Healer of Istagun, making a speech. Here, Dahlia makes a speech to humans about rising above Queen Hazina’s gripping control (also I read world history for almost 3 hours today, so maybe some of that is affecting some of this speech too ;P). I hope you enjoy! 😊

Humans crowded around me, eager to hear what I had to say. A speech, they cried! And didn’t I have plenty to say? Yet in the face of these people I wanted to contract into a ball and hide away forever in a dark cave. My mind blanked, and I couldn’t think of a single word. Where was the passion I had when I poured out long monologues into the night to the empty audiences of silence?

Tarquin leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Just talk about the queen.”

The queen. Oh, that horrid, mystical creature! Tarquin knew how to get me going.

I cleared my throat. “Well, Queen Hazina is… awful.”

To my relief, the crowd cheered. So, I soon forgot about them and began to think of only the queen’s awful deeds. “She certainly is trying to destroy us. The Treelanders are a stronger species of humans, and they will make Istagun produce a better economy. It’s simple and practical in her mind.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and then opened them again, drawing a deep breath. “She wants us all to die from the plague, but we can’t let her have her way. We have a reason to live beyond working the orchards of Spring, the fields of Summer and Autumn, or dying in the snowstorms of Winter. We’re worth something to each other and that is enough reason to stay alive. Even if the Treelanders become her laboring force in her economical world, we’ll always be forces of love in our own little worlds.”

Tarquin smiled at me as the crowd roared with enthusiasm.

Bolstered by everyone’s fervent support, I continued. “Gesu has given us the power to love beyond our natural abilities as humans. His healing not only restores our physical bodies, but restores our inner souls. With his powers, I’ve found the values of kindness, joy, and peace resonating within me. Not only that, but faith in Gesu himself ties us in with an eternal story that brings us to a place we can finally say: this is right; this is how I’ve always wanted it to be. Our souls our fulfilled through Gesu, now and even after we die. I do not know how I know this, but Gesu teaches our spirits beyond normal communication.” I glanced up at the wondrous spectacle of stars. “And here we are, together, forever. Queen Hazina has no power over us, whether we die or stay alive. Long live Gesu!”

NP6: Chapter 6 of The Healer of Istagun – The Palace

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(Photo by Neil Rosenstech on Unsplash)

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

Chapter 6 

The Palace

Axes met the hard ground, as deep voices rose in song in the air. The smell of dirt and soot met my nostrils, matching the odor of Tarquin’s filthy shirt and baggy workpants he insisted I wear.

“Do I have to wear this?” I moaned, embarrassed to wear Tarquin’s clothes, instead of my usual green cotton dress.

Tarquin secured the miner’s helmet on my head, his grimy miner-fingers giving off a filthy stench. Then he patted the protective headwear lightly. “It looks good on you.”

“Oh, please!” I rolled my eyes.

But his calculating gaze silenced me, reminding me of only a few days ago when he’d tried to help me after I’d fainted. I needed to guard myself against this strange man. Besides, he was right. Disguising myself as a miner was the only way I’d could be in this mine where Summer and Autumn joined together—where the great healer must be waiting for us.

“So, Prima, use your powers to find him,” I challenged her.

Prima laughed. “You think I can do anything? My wand is very spontaneous. It does whatever it wants. Only when I use my actual gift of soothing does it obey me.”

“So we’ll just have to wait till it gets dark to read the stars?” I said sarcastically.

Tarquin watched us but said nothing as we squabbled back and forth. He set down the “sack of gold” that kept moving restlessly about. Kari was too small to pass as a miner, so he had to pass as our bundle of precious metal for today.

Finally, he spoke. “Don’t you think Gesu would have drawn a crowd by now? Why don’t we ask if anyone has witnessed a great healer perform miracles around here?”

Prima and I laughed in relief at his obvious idea. Of course. You’re right, Tarquin, I thought, half amazed and half embarrassed. You’re always right. You’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, not at all dulled by the fairies’ spells to make humans docile. But that’s not what I said.

I shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

 

“Hey, sir, have you seen Gesu?” Tarquin asked a middle-aged miner.
The man was bent over rocks, hacking his axe recklessly in search of the treasure Queen Hazina greatly desired. “Who?” he mumbled, not looking our way.

“Gesu,” Tarquin repeated, firmly. “He is a great healer. Surely you must have seen this human perform miracles—you know, healing the sick.”

“Nah, if I had seen a great healer, my wife wouldn’t have passed on from the plague yesterday. And if there was any great human, they wouldn’t have allowed the fairies to take my children…” Crash. The axe shattered a large rock in half, stunning me.

So, the plague had spread to Autumn as well. What was happening to Istagun? My people, enslaved all their lives, now had to die from a horrid disease, but for what purpose? Why did fate so despise the human race?

“Get your girl out of here, kid,” the man grunted. “This is no place for women.”

Tarquin swallowed, glancing at me for a second. I blushed. So, the middle-aged man saw past my disguise.

Prima fluttered up to the miner, smiling easily. “Well, sir, I am a Summer fairy, commissioned by Queen Hazina to find this man Gesu, and you must tell me the exact truth. Have you indeed never heard of him?”

“How can I think of an imaginary healer when my family is gone from me!” The man spat at the ground. “My wife and I only saw glimpses of our children’s newborn faces. And now even she’s gone. The blasted queen is up to something!” He wiped his hand over his face, shaking his head.

I longed to embrace this poor man who had lost everything. I imagined my parents had felt the same way as this miner when Hollis and I had been taken to Spring as soon as we were born. Bitterness rose like a burning fire within me. Queen Hazina knew nothing of what she was doing to her subjects. She knew nothing of pain.

Traveling deeper into the mine pit, we questioned several other men about Gesu before giving up. They had never heard of such a man. I wondered if one of the miners was my father, but I had no idea how I’d be able to recognize a man I’d only seen vaguely in my dreams, or how he’d recognize me.

By evening, we climbed to the other side of the steep mine pit, worn out from the days adventures. We had every once in a while sneaked Kari briefly out of the sack, so he could breathe more deeply.

Now we faced the main portion of Autumn. I gasped. For a moment I thought the forest was on fire. Then I saw that the trees were not green as in Summer, nor pink as the cherry trees were in Spring. Instead the leaves were glorious yellows, oranges, reds, and browns, like nothing I’d ever imagined. It was beautiful.

“Maybe getting older isn’t so bad,” I joked, though amazement filled my heart.
Tarquin looked at me steadily, and then grinned. “Right, Dahlia. Maybe it isn’t.”

“I’m thirsty!” Prima exclaimed. “You guys haven’t drunk a sip of water all day, and I’m over here dying!”

A breeze cut through my miner’s suit. It was chilly here, the air as cold as the river back home. “I never liked the taste of water, but I suppose the river’s not too far off.” Tarquin studied me. “I never liked the taste either.”

Oh, sure. What a coincidence! I laughed silently to myself. He was just trying to gain my approval.

 

We found the river, let Kari out, and cupped water into our hands to drink. Prima drank deeply, but Tarquin and I only had a few sips. Kari, too, drank very little.

“You need to drink more than that, Kari,” I urged him.

“It tastes awful!” he wailed. “You said so yourself!”

Tarquin glanced at me and shrugged. We drank heaping scoopfuls after another, eventually racing each other to see who could drink more. Much to my relief, this encouraged Kari to drink as well.

Finally, we sat back and relaxed against rocks, satisfied. I hadn’t realized how refreshing it was to drink water, regardless of its awful taste. I remembered when I’d sent Rhia to the river. I realized with sudden sadness that she’d probably come back to the hut by now, only to find it completely empty.

“What’s are next plan?” Prima asked, glancing between Tarquin and me.

“We’ve got to go to the center.” His voice was deep and quiet. “To Queen Hazina’s palace.”

“Are you crazy?” I burst out. “She hates us all. What would she do for us?”

“She’d take away a great healer, that’s what she’d do. I bet a hundred sacks of gold she captured him or even…” Tarquin’s eyes sobered.

“No one can kill Gesu,” Prima said firmly, though her teeth chattered in the chill breeze. “He is unstoppable.”

Tarquin frowned. “But so is the queen.”

***

With her insistence to the guard fairies that she was abiding by the queen’s orders, Prima helped us enter the center of Istagun. Of course, we had to be escorted immediately by one of the guard fairies to the queen’s palace. Since Prima could come up brilliant excuses for anything, we were able to let Kari out of his sack to breathe and take in the wonders.

As we followed the curt, no-nonsense guard fairy, we looked around us at the village of fairies—fairies of all colors, shapes and sizes, flying about, chirping, singing, dancing, or hurrying to obey Queen Hazina. The village was in a valley, under the gaze of a towering mountain.

The silver guard fairy grunted as we approached the base of it. “That there is a mountain carved out in the interior, marking the luxurious dwelling of the queen.”

We stared at it in amazement. A large oak wood door elaborately decorated stood before us at the base of the mighty mountain.

“Sure has a lot of space,” Prima said with a short laugh.

The silver fairy shrugged. “She needs it for all she has inside.”

As we followed the silver fairy through the dark stone halls, we gasped. Sharp cries filled the musky air, while torches lit the far ends of the wide halls, revealing prisoners trapped behind bars. Most if not all of them were brown skinned with green leaves for clothes—or were some growing out of their heads? They wailed loudly, so I covered my ears. Was Gesu among them, here in the dark? We could not see.

Then I looked down at Kari and saw he was crying. I bent over and picked him up. I carried him on the side of my hip as he buried his sobbing face in my shoulder.

Prima clutched hold of my hand, her wings fluttering softly, but I knew she was crying, too. I tried to rise above my sadness, to be the comforter rather than the one who needed comforting. I had cried too much today. And I couldn’t let a tear fall in front of Tarquin.

“Dahlia,” he whispered, terror in his voice. “These are the Treelanders.”

I nodded, hopelessness almost overwhelming me. “I didn’t know she did this. I didn’t know…”

“What is the queen’s purpose in imprisoning these people?” Tarquin asked the silver fairy. I knew he was trying to speak only out of polite curiosity, but anger edged his voice.

The fairy laughed harshly as he stepped up stone stairs. “Well, I suppose someone’s going to find out soon anyway. Let me ask you, kid: Why do you think the queen’s killing off everyone with the poisonous water?”

His casual words echoed down the stone staircase. I shivered, and as I held Kari on my hip, I looked down at my hand. Alarm roiled through me. There was a single red tumor in my palm, enflamed as red as a Summer sunset. I stared at my trembling hand. I had probably drunk almost a gallon of water at the river.

Tarquin finally spoke, hesitantly. “I had not realized the water was the problem.”

His formal voice amused me somehow. He could be a little more straightforward. “Sir,” I said to the fairy, “the queen is awfully dense to kill off the people who are working so hard for her.”

I set Kari down, so I didn’t have to carry him up the steps.

“The Treelanders are a stronger species. They will work much harder for her.”

At that, we finally reached the top of the steps, where another large door welcomed us. We stepped into an enormous room, decorated almost entirely in gold. Before us sat the gold throne where the queen sat with her wide rainbow wings and pleasant, unnerving smile. Beside her stood tall, erect silver guard fairies. Behind her a waterfall gushed downward, into a hole that undoubtedly led to the valley. Its sparkling freshness made me thirsty, but I quickly reminded myself of the poison. I would never want to drink water again. Would I even get a chance to before the plague consumed me?

Guilt choked me as I remembered how I’d insisted Rhia should go to the river to fetch water, and how I’d urged Kari to drink more today. By all that has life and breath, what have I done!?

We approached the throne, our confidence shattering at the sight of it.

Prima bowed low. “Oh, queen, I am your humble servant. I have brought these honorable subjects to your abode because they are some of the only few humans left. Please do them a favor and answer their questions.”

“I will hear your questions before I deem them worthy to answer.”

Tarquin stepped forward and bowed deeply. “Your majesty, I ask you one simple question: Where is the man Gesu, who has healed many humans and fairies in your land?”

Queen Hazina’s uncanny smile twisted into a grimace. “Dear sir! What right do you have to ask such a question? Gesu’s in Winter, but now that you asked, you’re going to the dungeon!”

She ordered the silver guard fairies to take him away.

I cried out for him, but it was no use. The one person I hadn’t wanted on this journey was now gone, and I had to admit I already missed him.

S6: Tarquin’s Perspective

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This is a scene from chapter 5 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun, told from Tarquin’s perspective. Enjoy! To see the original chapter 5, click here.

“Tarquin, am I going to be okay? Do you think I’ll get over this?” My sister Mara’s hollowed dark eyes pleaded me.

I could hardly bear the sight of her weak figure and pale face splotched with tumors. Would she be sent to Winter with the dying ones before she got well enough?

Before I could answer her, I heard a knock at the door. Wondering who it could be, I rushed to open it.

Dahlia, with her wild brown hair and beautiful dark eyes, stood there, with a young Spring boy at her side. My heart stopped.

“Hi, Dahlia,” I said in greeting.

She blushed, no doubt surprised I remembered her name. I was half embarrassed I had.

“Oh, never mind,” she said quickly. “I thought this was where the younger boys or girls—”

“—it is. My sister is here.” I raked my hand through my hair, worried that Mara thought I’d left her forever. Her brain was in a muddled state due to the plague. “I was caring for her and the rest of them since they have no one else to help them.”

Dahlia’s face paled whiter than the sick ones. “We came here to…” She cleared her throat, but before she could finish, the Spring boy held out a basket of fresh buns.

“Want some, sir?” His voice was small; I hadn’t seen a Spring boy in so long. He was adorable.

Dahlia smiled a little. “We were giving them out to the sick.”

Her concern for the sick ones warmed my heart. I wondered if she knew Gesu. Not just knew about him, but knew him, like I did. Gesu’s kind-heartedness, after all, inspired me to tend to these girls.

I watched Dahlia for a moment as she stared around the room, as if searching for something, or perhaps someone. Then she and the Spring boy began handing out the fresh buns.

I rushed to my sister’s side. “I’m here now.”

Mara struggled to open her heavy eyelids. “Tarquin, I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I dabbed a wet cloth on her forehead. “You’ll be all right, sis.”

Suddenly I noticed a green fairy entering the room. “Attention, everyone!” she shouted. “Queen Hazina has made a new decree for the lands of Spring, Summer, and Autumn: ‘All the sick must proceed to Winter.’ The ‘sick’ are defined by the queen as ‘those unable to work for her majesty.’ Therefore, if you do not stand up within five seconds, you will be taken immediately to Winter.” Four other green fairies stood by, with chains ready.

I stood up straight, but the sick ones couldn’t even begin to sit up. I stared at Dahlia from across the room, not taking my eyes off her as her dark eyes drew me in. I hadn’t stopped thinking about her since Gesu’s miracle session a few days ago. She hadn’t wanted to marry anyone, but I could fix that.

When the door closed sharply, I realized then that the fairies had indeed taken away the sick ones, leaving Dahlia, Kari, and me behind.

I dropped my gaze from Dahlia, thinking of Mara, dear Mara. I should have tried to save her, to help her stand somehow.

“Can I eat a bun?” Kari asked the young woman.

After a pause, Dahlia told him he could have them all.

The boat. She needed to see the boat. If we were some of the only few left well and alive in Summer, she needed to know about it, in case the time came for us to leave Istagun.

“Dahlia.” Her name came out weaker than I intended. “I want you to see something.”

“I’ll be right back, Kari.”

Her willingness to follow me surprised me. Was I so attractive that I could change her mind about me within a few days?

I led her down to the dark, filthy basement. Perhaps I was a fool to bring a pretty girl down to this place. I probably was just going to scare her off. Still, it was important she knew.

“The boys wouldn’t let me use theirs, so I come here sometimes and…”

I lit a lantern, revealing the boat I’d spent hours laboring over.

“It’s called a boat,” I said quietly.

“A boat?” She stared at me, almost blissfully, and my heart ached.

“I built it, so I could one day travel across the seas, to the mountains. There are rumors about these people called Treelanders, who live in the forests. I want to meet them, to escape this Summer, and to be free.” I gazed off into the dark basement, remembering the stories I’d heard from the Gesu-following fairies. They dreamed of traveling to the Treelanders to live among them and share the goodness of Gesu with them.

“It floats?”

I stifled a laugh. “Well, I hope so. A fairy used to tell me stories, so that’s all I have to go off of.”

Dahlia grimaced. “Why are you showing me this?”

Her question caught me off guard, but I shrugged. “You and I… we’re some of the only few left here, and—”

“—and we have responsibilities!” She folded her arms across her chest. “You can’t just leave everyone here to die, while you go on a silly adventure to a land far away!”

I lowered the lantern from my face, grimacing at her biting remark. So, she thought I was an idiot. I could change that.

“I showed this to you so you’d know, when the time came,” I said steadily, though inside I shook at her entrancing gaze. “But you’re right. Now is not the time for adventures… Now is the time to find Gesu.”

“Gesu?” she asked softly.

“Yes, Dahlia. He’s the only one who can save us.” I searched her face, willing her to believe me. Of course she believed. She had seen the miracles. But there was so much more to just believing in what Gesu could do. You had to believe in who He was.

“Tarquin,” she whispered, “can he bring the dead back to life?”

I frowned, unable to grasp why she’d expect so much from the man. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“I need to find my sister, Hollis. She’s been sick for years. I don’t know where she is, or even if she’s still…” Her voice cracked unexpectedly, and she turned to leave.

I wanted to reach out and clasp hold of her small hand, but I restrained myself.

“Wait, Dahlia,” I said, thinking of my own sister, and how I’d be just as anxious to find Mara as Dahlia seemed about finding Hollis. “Is that why you came to this hut? To find your sister?”

“Yeah.” She took a step up the stairs.

“Oh.”

I stared at the back of her head where her dark curls cascaded down to her waist. I couldn’t let her leave. And we both knew that Gesu was the only cure to this plague.

“Let’s go to Autumn to get Gesu,” I suggested. “He can heal everyone choked by the plague—and your sister, once we find her. She’s probably in Winter. We’ll figure something out and…”

I watched as she stormed upstairs, her sobs resonating down to me in the dark basement. My heart went out to her. Both of our sisters were gone.

Only Gesu could help us now.

NP4: Chapter 5 of The Healer of Istagun – A Boat

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

By the time we reached the village, the sky was dark. Everyone was asleep, so there was no way for me to find Hollis now. I said goodbye to Prima as she fluttered back to Gesu’s house to spend the night in her own bed.

I’d ended up picking up Kari half of the way, and he had fallen asleep, his body heavy in my arms.

“What’s going on?” Kari yawned. “Are we there yet, Dahlia?”

The young boy was growing restless.

“Yes. Here we are. Don’t worry.” I knocked on the little hut I lived in with eight other young women.

Rhia opened the door, exhaustion lacing her gentle complexion. “Hey, Dahlia, I was so…” Sudden alarm shone on her face. “Who’s the kid?”

I set down the young boy, who clung tightly to my arm as he leaned sleepily against me. “Kari.” I stared into Rhia’s stormy eyes. “Please, Rhia, let us in. Don’t ask questions.”

She let us in, but as she did so she muttered, “You were hanging out in Spring all this time when you could have been helping out here?”

I narrowed my brows, puzzled at her sour mood. It had only been two days. And there were so many humans that the fairies wouldn’t notice one of us gone, as far as I could tell.

Before I could point this out to Rhia, a reeking odor wafted into my face, disgusting me. Holding onto Kari, I stepped back and looked around the room. Five of my roommates were lying in beds, sleeping, as would be expected at this time of night. But—I looked at Andrea’s bed.

She was gone.

“Where’s Andrea?” I demanded. “And what’s that awful smell?”

Rhia put her hands on her hips. “While you were off gallivanting in Spring flowers, Gesu became middle-aged and was taken away to Autumn. Then, like a dam was broken, the plague flooded onto this village. It’s insane, really. Andrea got knocked out so badly she couldn’t even pretend to work anymore, so they took her to Winter. Don’t know why it hasn’t affected me yet, but here I am, the only one in this hut fit enough to care for my friends. Not to mention the extra work on the fields the fairies are forcing on me. Look what you’ve done to me!”

Rhia collapsed onto her bed, groaning loudly.

So Andrea was in Winter. What was I supposed to do now? Choose between finding my friend and finding my sister?

Kari yawned again.

“I’m sorry, Rhia. Can we talk about this tomorrow? This kid needs sleep.”
Rhia rolled her eyes. “If you insist.”

***

In the morning, I helped Rhia care for my roommates as I explained to her all I had found out in Spring. Kari stayed in the basement away from the sickness, playing with the dog Lucy.

Rhia was shocked. “So, it’s everywhere, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know about Autumn and Winter, but it’s certainly here and in Spring.”

“What a twisted coincidence!” she exclaimed miserably.

A coincidence indeed. It made no sense that two lands completely separated from each other could catch the same sickness. Did the fairies have something to do with this?
Rhia’s face was so pale, and I did feel badly for leaving her with so much responsibility.

“Have you been drinking water?”

“Not much. Never liked the taste of it.”

“Neither have I,” I laughed. I handed her a bucket. “Here, go fetch some water. Take as long as you like—a dip in the river if you want. I’ll take care of things here. You need some rest.”

She nodded. “Thanks, Dahlia.”

After she left the hut, I heard a knock at the door. Opening it slightly, I saw Prima’s fluttering green wings. “He’s gone!”

“I know,” I said gravely, letting her inside to the one-room hut filled with beds. “Yes, it’s awful, Prima. I need to make sure these girls are cared for. But I need to find Hollis too, if she’s somewhere in Summer. Can you care for them while I look for her?”
Solemnly, Prima agreed to watch over them.

That day, I searched house after house for Hollis and Kari’s brothers, including the fairies’ houses. We avoided the older boys’ and older girls’ houses though, since Kari’s brothers and Hollis were younger.

I pretended to be visiting the sick, and Kari and I offered fresh buns to them that I had baked that morning. Some were too sick to eat. The tumors on their skin burdened my heart for them… and reminded me of Hollis. My sister who was still alive. My sister who was here, somewhere, in Summer, hiding just out of my sight.

She had to be here.

I stopped at the last hut for young women. I knocked, slowly, chills running up my arms even in the heat.

The name and face of the man who opened it connected in my mind instantly, though I had only met him once. Tarquin.

“Hi, Dahlia.”

Heat flushed into my cheeks. “Oh, never mind. I thought this was where the younger boys or girls—”

“—it is. My sister is here.” He raked his hand through his short brown hair. “I was caring for her and the rest of them since they have no one else to help them.”

Was my sister here, too?

“We came here to…” I cleared my throat, but before I could finish, Kari held out my basket of fresh buns.

“Want some, sir?”

I smiled a little. “We were giving them out to the sick.”

“All right, come on in.”

I searched the room for my sister, but she was nowhere in sight. Kari and I then proceeded to hand fresh buns to the young women. I whispered sympathy to them, but my throat was thick with grief, so my comforting words came out stiff and feeble.
I noticed Tarquin dabbing a wet cloth on a young woman’s forehead. “You’ll be all right, sis,” he murmured.

Silent tears coursed down my cheeks as the truth pounded inside me like a jeering taunt. Hollis would not be all right. She was dead! Why had I been so foolish to hope for her existence? My hope was destroying me, shackling me in lies I had no reason to believe.

“Attention, everyone!” a green fairy roared. Apparently she had slipped into the room when I hadn’t noticed. “Queen Hazina has made a new decree for the lands of Spring, Summer, and Autumn: ‘All the sick must proceed to Winter.’ The ‘sick’ are defined by the queen as ‘those unable to work for her majesty.’ Therefore, if you do not stand up within five seconds, you will be taken immediately to Winter.” Four other green fairies stood by, with chains ready.

I relaxed when I saw Kari hide behind a bed. They couldn’t know a Spring boy was here.
Tarquin and I stood up straight, but the sick young women made feeble attempts to sit up. I stared at Tarquin from across the room, and he stared back, as the fairies took the sick girls away. The door slammed shut.

It was only us now.

“Can I eat a bun?” Kari asked quietly, eyes wide with hunger. I cursed myself for not thinking of getting the little boy breakfast. I usually didn’t eat anything in the mornings.

After telling Kari he could eat the rest of the fresh buns, Tarquin spoke to me. “Dahlia.” His voice was hoarse. “I want you to see something.”

“I’ll be right back, Kari.”

Hesitantly, I followed Tarquin down to the basement.

“The boys wouldn’t let me use theirs, so I come here sometimes and…”

Tarquin lit a lantern, revealing an enormous wooden box, curved into a semi-circle at the bottom.

“It’s called a boat,” he said quietly.

“A boat?” My mind blanked as I stared into his penetrating dark eyes.
“I built it, so I could one day travel across the seas, to the mountains. There are rumors about these people called Treelanders, who live in the forests. I want to meet them, to escape this Summer, and to be free.” He gazed off into the dark basement, but I sensed his mind wandered farther than the boxes and tools shelved there.

Across the seas. I’d only thought about such things as a young child, questioning everything. The unknown didn’t bother me so much anymore. I’d long ago squelched my curiosity, knowing it would never be satisfied.

But here I was, standing before a giant thing called a boat, with a man who built it in the wee hours of the night. A boat built on the foundations of dreams to journey far away from the cruelty of Istagun.

“It floats?”

He laughed a little. “Well, I hope so. My father used to tell me stories, so that’s all I had to go off of.”

Suddenly, I frowned. Tarquin was a stranger to me, but he acted as if he’d known me all my life. “Why are you showing me this?”

There wasn’t much of a point in journeying far away when Istagun needed healing. We had to do something about this plague.

Tarquin shrugged. “You and I… we’re some of the only few left here, and—”

“—and we have responsibilities!” I folded my arms across my chest. “You can’t just leave everyone here to die, while you go on a silly adventure to a land far away!”

Tarquin lowered his lantern, so shadows covered his expression. That terrified me. Was this strange man hurt by my words?

“I showed this to you so you’d know, when the time came.” His voice was steady. “But you’re right. Now is not the time for adventures… Now is the time to find Gesu.”

“Gesu?”

“Yes, Dahlia. He’s the only one who can save us.” He searched my face, as if willing me to believe him. Of course I believed. I had seen him do miracles. Yet his earnestness mirrored Prima’s. Perhaps there was more to believing in what he could do. Perhaps you had to believe in who he was.

I wiped away a stray tear on my cheek, thankful it was too dark for Tarquin to notice. Hollis had to be alive, but if she wasn’t…

“Tarquin,” I whispered, so softly I almost couldn’t hear myself, “can he bring the dead back to life?”

A frown flickered across his face. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“I need to find my sister, Hollis. She’s been sick for years. I don’t know where she is, or even if she’s still…” My voice cracked unexpectedly, and I turned to leave, as tears threatened to spring from my eyes. I couldn’t tell this young man anything.

“Wait, Dahlia,” Tarquin said abruptly. “Is that why you came to this hut? To find your sister?”

“Yeah.” I took a step up the stairs.

“Oh.”

I could feel his eyes on my back.

“Let’s go to Autumn to get Gesu,” he said. “He can heal everyone choked by the plague—and your sister, once we find her. She’s probably in Winter. We’ll figure something out and…”

I couldn’t hear the rest of his words as I fled up the stairs, sobbing into my hands. Hollis was dead. If I had any hope left, it was that Gesu could bring her back to life.

NP4: Chapter 4 of The Healer of Istagun – The Plague

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(Photo by Kat J on Unsplash)

This is the chapter 4 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun. Click here to read chapter 1. I hope you cry!–I mean, enjoy! 😉

Chapter 4

The Plague

When Prima and I reached the tiny huts, horror shot through my veins.

A small redheaded girl was lying dead on the ground, her body covered in tumors. As we drew closer, I saw that many bodies of children scattered across the ground, with living children mourning over their brothers and sisters.

I felt like a peach seed had caught in my throat that I could not swallow. I didn’t know if I wanted to gaze at the sight out of silent reverence or turn and run away from the overwhelming spectacle.

Prima began sobbing violently. “Dahlia—it can’t be! I never knew this was possible.”

I enveloped her in my arms, as tears slipped down my own cheeks. “Come on, Prima,” I murmured, trying to build a strong wall around my heart so it wouldn’t break.

When Prima only cried harder, her wings unable to flutter, I gathered her up in my arms and carried her slowly through the children. Soon we reached the familiar thatched hut that had branded a place in my heart. I had never knocked on this door before, but because it had been so long, I felt I no longer had a right to just walk in.

At the sound of my knocking, a yellow fairy opened the door. Her usual sunny smile was replaced by blue eyes filled with pain. “Who are you?” she asked quietly.

“I’m here to see Hollis.” I averted my eyes from her. Perhaps my slim eighteen-year-old frame looked young enough to be thirteen.

“Dearie, I’m so sorry, but we do not allow anyone above the age of thirteen. Go back to Summer, ma’am.”

Or perhaps not.

Prima came to the rescue, brushing back tears and speaking hoarsely. “I brought her by the queen’s orders.”

The yellow fairy grimaced for a moment at the green fairy in my arms, but then swung the door wide. “Anything for the queen.”

As we stepped inside, the Spring pixie sighed. “Who did you say you were here to see?”

After I set Prima down in a cushioned-back chair, I stared blankly around the half-empty room. A few young boys and girls lay in beds, and the Spring fairies rocked crying infants in their arms. But many of the beds lay empty, including Hollis’ in the far corner.

I pointed to her pallet, my finger shaking. “W-where’s Hollis?”

The yellow fairy’s wings wilted. “I’m very sorry. I don’t know what happened to that one, ma’am. Some of them died from the plague but others were taken away to Summer whether they were old enough or not—just so they wouldn’t catch the plague. I go around to many huts. Too many to keep track of.”

I grabbed a hold of Prima’s chair, suddenly feeling like I might fall over. “Those tumors—they look just like the ones she had.”

Prima clutched my arm. “Dahlia, it’s going to be okay.”

My heart broke into fine pieces. How could she say that, after she had seen so clearly the devastation outside? Hollis was dead. I should have known.

“Maybe she got better, and they took her to Summer.” Prima shrugged.

“Get along now, or the other fairies might get suspicious.” The yellow fairy lowered her voice. “Not everyone is loyal to the queen, you know. The queen never ordered the children to be taken to Summer before their Time, but many fairies are doing it secretly to save lives. But I don’t tell on them either. Lucky for you I don’t choose sides.”

When I just stood there in a trance, Prima pulled me gently out of the hut.

I yanked my hand out from her grasp. “Are we really supposed to believe her? What if Hollis’ dying in Winter with the other sick ones, or what if she’s already dead?”

“Then it’s too late,” Prima said firmly, strength returning to her tear-stained eyes. “But if she’s still alive in Summer, there may be a chance.”

Her words shook me. She was just stating the facts, that was all. Hollis was probably dead, but if I wanted to keep hoping, I had to go to Summer.

“But—I don’t understand. Why would fairies disobey Queen Hazina’s orders like that?”

“We just passed the mud walls, Dahlia. We aren’t very loyal to the queen either. There are more Gesu-followers in Istagun than you think.”

A young boy ran up to me and hugged me, giving me a start. “Dahlia! It’s been so long. You’ve got to help us.” His tousled brown hair drooped over his weary young eyes. “My brothers are all dead. I don’t want to die, too.”

“Kari,” I choked, remembering his three other brothers and their bright dimply smiles. “I’m so sorry. Maybe we will find them in Summer.”

If there was any hope for anyone, it was in Summer. Had Hollis been in Summer for weeks, months, or years, and I simply hadn’t seen her? I ached at the thought. Had this trip to Spring been pointless?

Prima looked at me, understanding filling her eyes. “Ah, yes. Let’s go, everyone. It’s freezing here!”

I wanted to laugh at her joke, for it was only slightly cooler here than in Summer. No doubt Winter was much worse, if water actually turned into a solid there. But I only grimaced for the sake of the horrors surrounding us, as I clutched Kari’s little hand.

A young girl carried a bucket of water on her head, stepping in between the children’s bodies. She brought it from the river, I knew. The river that quenched the thirst of all four seasons. There were not many children to taste the cool refreshing water anymore.

We trudged slowly back to the mud wall. The stench of death filled my nostrils, making me light-headed and nauseous. Deep within me, I bled for the children. Whatever had caused this, I could not stand by and do nothing.

As I searched for Hollis, I had to search for the cure of this awful plague as well.

 

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.

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!