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.

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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

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.

S5: Chapter 5 of Love Myles

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(Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash)

So this week in my creative writing class the assignment was to write chapter 5 of someone else’s novella in the class! I chose Megan N’s Love Myles book. It was definitely a challenge, but now I almost want to write the rest of her book! It’s a great story. Go check out her novel blog here.

Dear Ruthie,

I had a dream last night. I know I used to tell you about my dreams all the time, and they never made sense. But this one did.

It was about you.

You were smiling at me. We were running across an open glade. Earth. It was surprising, like seeing an old friend. The one blazing sun, the wide blue sky, and the fields of grass.
Finally, we climbed up the ladder to the tree house, and you told me a story. You smiled at me again, but suddenly the tree house shook and the whole earth quaked like it was being juggled in the universe by the hand of God.

I couldn’t see anymore. I couldn’t see your smile. I heard you crying out to me, and I tried to reach for you, but I felt the wood of the treehouse collapsing and I heard my heart pounding so loudly until everything caught on fire, scorching my skin and blinding me.

And then it was gone. Not just the treehouse, but the sun, the sky, the grass—and you, Ruthie. I cried out for you, but you were gone.

It was so dark. Clearly, I miscalculated when I’d hit the ground again. The whole Earth disappeared, and it was only me. Only me and the stars.

But I awoke again, so I know now it was just a dream. That only confirms the reality that I’m here, and not with you. It confirms that I will never see you again. I have to admit this truth, but I can’t stop writing to you either. I have to continue on, without forgetting the past. I have to keep going, with the fleeting hope that you’re here with me through all this, reading about my travels.

Soshomia has convinced Cola’s parents to let him travel with us. I don’t know if I want him to come, since his vain endeavors to act like a human reminds me that I’m so far away from home. But Soshomia is determined he comes with us. He is only one of a few who can speak English. He may help us find the answers to why I am here, and how I got here.

We took off from Fabulinus in the late morning.

“You excited, man?” Cola grinned at me.

“Yeah.” I shrugged. His use of “man” annoyed me. My guy friends in high school always talked like that, but a green monkey-human-alien wasn’t supposed to talk like that. Especially not thousands of years in the future.

“How are we going to do this, Soshomia?” I asked.

I was anxious to get back to Sidhe. The few days I had been there with Soshomia had already made me feel like it was somehow home. Not Earth home, but a temporary home anyway.

Soshomia didn’t seem to be hearing me as she worked the controls on the ship.

“I mean, how are we going to find the answers?”

“We’re going to the planet Huro,” she said finally. “There’s a man who knows about ships…. and humans.”

So she did have a plan. I wondered if she had been sorting the words out in her head to make sure she spoke it properly.

“Your English is getting better,” I told her.

That put a smile on her face. Whenever she smiles, she makes me think of you.

“What’s up, guys?” Cola asked suddenly, even though he had been hanging with us this whole time. “What are we trying to figure out, anyway?”

I laughed a little but didn’t answer.

“Myles… mysterious!” Soshomia pointed at me as her eyes sparkled. She was a very simple person—if a person is what you’d call her—but she was somehow beautiful.

Cola looked at me and patted me on the back. “Mysterious. Hm. Well if we’re going to solve a mystery like they do in Sherlock Holmes, I’m in!”

Soshomia looked extremely confused.

I shook my head. This guy never ceased to amaze me with his knowledge about Earth.

“We don’t know how I got here, two thousand years into the future,” I explained to him.

“And we don’t know what happened to the rest of my friends on the space mission.”

His eyes widened and then he scratched his neck. “Well, yeah, I was wondering I guess about how you came here. That’s really weird!”

“Answers found here, I’m hoping,” Soshomia said, pointing down at the little brown planet we saw through the clear glass window of the ship.

Answers. I don’t know why, but I hate the idea. I’m angry that we have to find anything. Part of me just wants to drift off into space and forget. But at the same time I know Soshomia is doing what she can to help me. And I keep telling myself that if you were here, you’d do the same.

We landed on Huro with a jolt. It was a desert, with strange creatures of all shapes and sizes passing through a market place.

After Soshomia received the intelligent man’s address, we arrived at his house. He had a bald head and was much larger than the tallest humans I’ve ever known. He had red eyes and red fingernails, but his body was human-shaped.

“Hello,” he said in Likpirksar. Evidently, we were not far from Sidhe.

Soshomia chirped some words back that I couldn’t quite understand.

The alien giant let us into his enormous house and pointed to leather chairs for us to sit on. Only I was certain the chairs were made from an animal very different than a cow, leather was just the closest thing to what it looked and felt like.

As the man pressed some buttons on a machine, a screen appeared on the stone wall with numbers, all while Soshomia chattered on and on to him in Likpirksar.

Two thousand years ago. That’s what Soshomia was saying. So much time had passed.

Soon I saw the same numbers on the screen: 2000. It went black for a moment as the man pressed more buttons, and then a picture and an article appeared. The picture was of a ship. My ship.

“This was sent around the galaxies,” Cola exclaimed, translating their words for me. “And they don’t know how it disappeared, along with its passengers. The article is about the mystery of this disappearing space mission.”

Soshomia’s Likpirksar was clearer now. She was telling the giant who I was.

Suddenly, the man’s calloused face turned as red as his eyes and his massive body ran towards me. Soshomia and Cola cried out, but they were hopeless to do anything. I struggled to fight against him, but it was no use against his strong arms.

That’s why I’m here now, Ruthie. Here under the ground of a strange planet, writing to you.

I’ll write again soon.

Love,
Myles

 

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.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S2: Quotes for My Novella

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

Theme: God heals our wounds through His blood.

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

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

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

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

Theme: He strengthens us through His sacrifice.

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

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

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

Theme: Love is sacrifice.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

A Healer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Are you okay?” the miner asked quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(image from Google)