Ingal nodded at Karl. “Now, stretch your stride. The muscles need to be pushed to gain strength.”
Karl did as Ingal instructed, but the guards still had no trouble keeping up with them as they walked along the inter line of the camp perimeter. A few strides and he felt the pull in his leg
muscles. It was at times like this he realized just how close to death he had been when Ingal began treating him. In their days on the coast waiting for the fleet his numerous sores and
wounds had healed under Ingal’s hands and his strength was slowly returning. But he couldn’t help wondering to what end.
Ingal nodded at him. “It’ll take time for your strength to return, but you should be fairly strong before the fleet arrives in a fortnight.”
“A fortnight?” Karl stopped. “We have that long?”
“Almost.” Ingal smiled. “Almost.” He waved toward the hill directly ahead. “Let’s take the cliff path. It’ll challenge your muscles and we can see the harbor from the
There was something in the way Ingal said “almost” that made Karl think Ingal was hinting they would leave before the fleet arrived. But is that the truth? Or is he simply keeping
me tamed for slaughter after the fleet arrives? To what purpose?
The steep hillside tried his muscles and he was panting heavily when they reached the top. He stopped and bent over with his hands on his knees, trying to keep his leg muscles from cramping
as he breathed in and out.
“Come over here.” Ingal was standing near the edge. Karl straightened up and walked over to the old man, who seemed unaffected by the climb.
“Look at how peaceful the harbor is. War seems far away with the fishing boats pulled up on the sand by their crews. One would think you could sail over to Ellisland in mere hours and
yet not two fortnights ago a storm hit the harbor so hard several boats were sunk and others badly damaged. See the small skiff off to the left. Its crew just finished repairing
it. Given new sails she’d be ready to go again.”
Karl looked down at the boat pulled up on the beach off by itself near a steep path leading up the cliffside. It was a small cargo skiff favored by smugglers. With its pointed prow and
square stern, it would be fast in the water. But its rudder was missing. “She’s a fast skiff, but not seaworthy yet. She needs a rudder.”
Ingal nodded without turning away from the small ship. “You know your boats.” He turned back to the clifftop trail. “We should continue our walk. Cook will have food ready
by the time we get back to camp.”
Lady Roselyn awoke feeling better than she expected, considering how tired she was when she got into bed the night before. Then she remembered Neima collapsing after touching the last sick
child. Until that moment everything had seemed very clear in her mind. All Neima had to do was ask that the child be cured and the child would be. She had felt the energy flowing
from Neima into each child she touched. But if the power wasn’t coming from Evon and me, it had to be coming from Neima. No wonder she collapsed.
Roselyn hurriedly dressed in her dru robe and headdress before going to the room where they had taken Neima. When she opened the door she saw her cousin standing by the child’s bed.
Evon turned and smiled before leading Roselyn out of the room and closing the door.“She’s still sleeping,”
“She must be really tired,” Roselyn replied.
“No. Just sleeping.” Evon looked at the door as if seeing through it to the child inside the room. “The power didn’t come from Neima any more than it did from us. The power
simply responded to all of us, although I think Neima directed it.”
“Neima controls the power?” Roselyn did not see how that was possible without a stone.
“Not controls. She asked the power for help, and it responded.” Evon started walking down the hall. “We should move away from her room. We might wake her. Besides, I
want to see how the children are doing.”
They heard the yells and laughter before they reached the sick room. The old dru and a young servant girl were standing at the door looking in and smiling. The servant girl glanced in
their direction, then turned and curtsied. The dru also turned. “I have never seen anything like it. Every one of the children awoke cured.” He nodded his head. “Not
just feeling better, but cured.” He turned back to the room. “The fever and diarrhea were gone, the sores were gone, and they were all hungry. Look at them.” He pointed into
the room. “They’re playing.”
Evon smiled. “Neima is still asleep. But she’ll be hungry when she wakes. She’ll probably wake tired, so please have someone take her a tray.”
“I will, Milady.” The girl curtsied again and hurried away
The dru glanced at her retreating form. “And you and your cousin? Will you be joining the party in the dining hall to break your fast?”
Roselyn had watched the girl leave and now turned back. “She seems to think very highly of Neima.”
The dru’s head tilted back and forth. “Like everyone else in the mansion, she’s heard what happened in the sickroom.”
Roselyn nodded toward the room. “You mean Neima touching the sick?”
“Touching, yes. But also that a small candle-like flame danced on her hand and then over each child she touched.” His eyes misted. “And how she collapsed when the flame left her
at the end.” He looked at Roselyn. “You didn’t see?”
She hadn’t. But before she could reply Evon said, “I saw only a pale blue light surrounding her. Your god is very strong in her. Perhaps the manifestation of a flame is something
from your people’s past?”
The dru nodded. “Yes. It’s said that such a flame appeared above Doron’s head at times. Since then it’s been associated with miracles. Some see it, others—most—don’t,
although they all witnessed the miracle. Until last night I thought the flame only—,” he waved his hand, “wishful thinking.”
Evon smiled. “I think it’s a manifestation of power. In this case, one of the Light.” She seemed to be listening to something—Sorcha, Roselyn suspected. Then she added,
“Were you, perhaps, praying that Neima would help them?”
The dru’s eyebrows came together for a moment. “I was praying that God would see the healthy young girl and have pity on those who were so sick and clearly dying, and save them.”
“How did you feel while Neima moved through the room?” Evon was clearly after something now, but what, Roselyn did not know.
The dru smiled. “I felt like my prayer was being answered. I was sure the flame was curing the children.”
Evon smiled. “And when the flame went out?”
He shook his head. “I… it’s hard to describe.” He bit his lip. “Something had left me—winked out with the flame—and yet, I felt—better—different—happy, despite the loss.”
He smiled widely. “The spirit of God had left the room.” His eyes teared up and he blinked. “But He had surely been there.”
Evon smiled and touched his shoulder. “Now I think you’ve found the reason some see, but most do not.”
The old dru turned to Evon. “Belief?”
“Yes, but more importantly, participation. The Light entered you and used your belief. I think you saw the flame because you contributed power to it.” Evon glanced into the room
and turned back to the dru. “These children don’t need us. Are there any others who do?”
“The adults are in the other wing, but the children were hardest hit by the plague. We brought you to them first. If there are any new cases they will be at the front of the
building. My colleagues are there to meet them.”
Evon nodded. “Let’s see the adults first.”
Roselyn asked, “Should we wake Neima?”
Evon smiled, glanced at the old dru, then back at Roselyn. “Let’s see if it’s necessary to bother God first.” She glanced at the dru again. “Don’t the Freeman have an expression
that God helps those who help themselves?”
The old man laughed. “Actually, our expression is that God helps those who first help themselves.”
“Really?” Evon’s face went serious for a moment. “Do you happen to know where that expression came from?”
The old man smiled. “It has been attributed to Doran.”
“Then, let’s go help ourselves, shall we?” Evon started walking toward the entry area and the opposite wing of the house. Roselyn followed, wondering what the significance was between
the two expressions. It had clearly had an impact on her cousin.
Mauve whispered, “The first expression does not clearly have a sequence of events. It allows a person to depend on help without effort first, while the second explicitly demands effort
“Why is that important?”
“Think of children. Which are stronger and more independent as they grow, those who have help from the beginning on every task, or those who try, fail, and try again with help only coming
when absolutely necessary?”
“The ones who try on their own.” Suddenly, the memories of how Evaughnlynn had made her do exactly that in her training were in her mind and Mauve whispered, “It worked well with
you. You are much stronger and more able than you would have been if she had always helped you.”
“My cousin is a year younger, but she has always been wiser than I. Evon’s mother always gave Evon her head when we were small, while mine was always there, like a shadow, to rein me in
and ‘keep me safe.’ I don’t think I ever scraped a knee.”
“Evon has the advice of a very old stone to help her. I am an infant in comparison. But Sorcha does the same to me. I can only ask a question when I have exhausted all other
means of learning.”
“Then I guess we just have to grow up together.” Roselyn stopped quickly to avoid running into the old man. They had reached the sick room.
“They don’t appear to be desperately ill yet,” Evon said at the door. “Rose, all we’ll need is the serum we brought with us. Then you and I can go through the town looking for those too
fearful to come to us.”
Evon turned to the old man. “Master dru, if you will gather the others, they can observe how we administer the serum. Then they can treat any sick who arrive while my cousin and I are
An hour later Roselyn dropped into a chair beside her cousin and looked at the plate of food a servant girl rushed to put down in front of her. She was hungry and the aroma of eggs and meat
the cook had prepared for them had been sending messages to her all the way to the sick room.
She was not surprised Beowyn was there. He was perpetually hungry. She thought, I should get the recipe from the cook so I can use its scent to bring him out of unconsciousness the
next time he got injured. She took a bite just as Captain Tamir entered the room and strode over to Beowyn. He spoke a few words and Beowyn went from nodding to pale faced.
Then he rolled his eyes, sighed, and nodded.
Captain Tamir left the room and Beowyn walked over to her and Evon. “It seems my uncle and his ward are here to see you and offer their help. I told Tamir to bring them in.”
Evon nodded and continued eating. Roselyn decided to do likewise, but faster than she had been. The idea of leaving any of the food on her plate was out of the question. She
managed to get three more bites in and down before the large form of Baron Loegaire stepped into the doorway of the dining room. Lady Morrigan was with him, in a pale green gown that revealed
both her long neck and ample breasts without quite being risqué. Her coal-black hair done up with two combs, the epitome of Anglian high fashion.
Roselyn suppressed the jealousy that rose but noticed a slight smile flicker over Evon’s lips before her cousin’s eyes returned to the baron.
“Good day, Your Highness.” The baron bowed. “I was happy to hear you were coming to Bar Elam. Fortunately, neither I nor my ward has come down with the sickness, but the city has
been hard hit. Most strange the way it struck. I have been told that there were no signs of the plague one day and the next it was spread all over the city. It seemed to have
fallen like rain.”
Evon stood up. “Good day, Baron, and Lady Morrigan. It’s a pleasure to see you again. But, perhaps I should check you to make sure the plague isn’t lurking inside, ready to
spring. It’s simple enough for me to check. Just step with me to my treatment room for a moment.”
“But your breakfast?” Lady Morrigan pointed at Evon’s still half-full plate.
“Oh, I was done eating. They’re trying to over feed me.” Evon glanced at Roselyn. “Finish eating, Rose. I can do this alone.” She turned and walked into the hallway,
followed by the baron and Lady Morrigan.
Roselyn took another bit and then sighed as she reluctantly pushed her plate away. She rose to follow the trio. By the time she got to the room the door was closed. Through it she
heard her cousin say, “The list is complete? Every family checked?”
“Every family,” the baron replied. “You have there the name and age of every female noble in Anglia we thought he might possibly choose. I couldn’t have done it without Morrigan’s
help. She has a very good knowledge of every family.”
Roselyn stopped at the door, not wanting to intrude, although her cousin knew she was just outside.
“Interesting,” Evon said. “The two top contenders, in your opinion, are quite far apart in age. The younger of the two is only five.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Morrigan replied. “I believe the king will remarry either quickly or not for some time. It is said that he was very deeply in love with the queen. I saw her
once and she was quite beautiful. But more than that, she was very kind and loving.”
“I think you’re right. I saw how the people felt about her when I was at her funeral. Men do not recover from such a loss easily. He will either reach out quickly in his grief, or
not for some time, if at all.”
There was silence for a moment. “Baron, may I depend on you to set watchers on these two?”
“It would be my honor, Your Highness.”
Roselyn knocked on the door.
“Come in cousin,” Evon replied. “We were just making plans for the future.”
The sight of Lady Morrigan made Roselyn’s stomach turn and the girl’s smile brought blood rushing to her face along with the desire to use one of the spells Evon had been teaching her. “Lady
Morrigan, Baron, I’m happy to see you again. But what brings you to Bar Elam?”
“Trade, Milady. When I heard Bar Krouth was quarantined due to a plague, I thought to find some good buys here from the merchant ships that couldn’t land at Bar Krouth.”
“It’s all right, Baron.” Evon smiled at her cousin. “He’s here because I asked them to be.” She turned to the Baron. “I have no secrets from my cousin, Baron. I do,
however, withhold information until necessary sometimes.”
Roselyn looked at Evon. “And this is now the time to tell me? Why now?”
“Because I wasn’t sure before. But when the plague broke out in the Freeholds I knew. This plague is part of an invasion.”
“Yes. Fortunately, Faolan foiled the attack on the dwarves, and we’re defeating the plague meant to so weaken the Freemen that invasion would be easy. As it now stands an invasion has
little chance of success.” She smiled. “So let’s go treat the sick.”
© Copyright 2020 R. M. Keegan. All rights reserved.