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.