Brief Update: So I realize I never explained what happened at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference back in May… Maybe I had an excuse or two: getting graduated from high school, parties, having a birthday, going on three trips in the summer, and now figuring out this college thing. Haha! So I’ve been pretty […]
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.
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.”
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.
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.
(Photo by Neil Rosenstech on Unsplash)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
(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! 😉
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.