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The Legend of the Sixth Healer

by liouchan


     There once was a great warrior in Altador, a master whose skill and power were renowned across the land, whose reverence for the eleven founders was unmatched, and who was even foretold to follow in their footsteps. Delia was her name. It was a name slated to go down in history, until the celebrated warrior was struck by a terrible illness.

      Her convalescence was long-drawn. The best healers in the city did everything in their power to ensure a speedy recovery. In spite of their efforts, once Delia's state was stable and her life out of danger, she remained weak and frail, a shadow of her former self. The training pitch where she once excelled only frustrated her further. The visits of her admirers and companions in arms could not alleviate her gloom or her boredom. After some time, even her closest friends did not call in on her as often.

      "You've already made so much progress," said an eventide Wocky with a kind smile as she arranged fresh flowers into a vase. "Even after spending such a long time without training. No one was expecting you to spring back as fit as you were before."

      "I'd already inferred that from the sorry faces, and from everyone trying to help me up and walk me back, thanks," Delia said quietly. The silver Kougra was struggling to breathe normally and hide how winded she still was.

      "I'm sorry," the Wocky said simply. To Delia's relief, she did not add any pity or any lectures about pushing herself too hard too soon.

      "All I know is that I'm still sick. Even with all their medicine. I have to know what's really wrong with me. Ione, I think I'll go ask Founder Siyana. With her light faerie's true sight, she might know."

      "Founder Siyana and Founder Psellia are both abroad, my dear," Ione said softly. "But if we're very lucky, another faerie might bless us with her presence. I hear they like to visit the place their sisters helped build."

      Delia settled moodily back into her seat; but the idea was planted. She had been brought more than enough reading material, and it did not take her long to research the well-documented accounts of faerie encounters near the city.

      "It won't be more than a day trip. I'll be back before you know it."

      Ione watched sternly while she saddled her Alabriss, one of a breed large enough to ride, chosen for her particularly gentle gait.

      "Please don't tell anyone I'm off. I don't want them to see me like this." Delia gingerly mounted the Alabriss, using a step stool.

      Ione presented her with food packed into a checkered pink cloth along with several doses of Delia's medicine. "Take good care of yourself," said the Wocky, bunching up the frilly edge of her apron, "or I'll be the next beast you have to face in battle."

      The sight of her tense frown filled Delia with regret. She wished she could take back all the worry she'd caused Ione, the hours the Wocky had spent before sunrise cooking the special nutritious dishes prescribed for her recovery. She could have dismounted and apologised then and there.

      "I have to do this for myself," she whispered hoarsely. "Or I'll regret it."

      "I know. I'll be waiting for you."

      It was as much of a farewell as they could bear. Delia shook off her guilt and rode out into the misty dawn. She crossed the city as discreetly as she could, while most were still asleep. She knew that she would need to pace herself carefully for this trip.

      Once she was outside the walls, she slowed her Alabriss to a walk, giving them both a break. They entered a small forest of bright young trees. It was the first in a list of likely places Delia would check for faeries.

      She hardly had time to search. They were not even halfway through the woods when Delia lowered her annotated map and was faced by the glazed-over yellow eyes of a light faerie.

      The faerie's distant gazed focused on the Kougra rider. "I foresaw that one would seek me here." Seated on a tree stump, she crossed her legs and gave a little smile. "Hello."

      After a moment's hesitation, Delia replied, "Hello. Did you also foresee the reason I would seek you?"

      "I saw a recovering warrior in need of clarity."

      "I have been ill for far too long. They said I was cured, but something is still wrong with me. I'm at a loss. Please, if you know of any truth, any wisdom that could help me, please speak."

      "You travel well, for one who is so ill."

      Delia's tail gave a twitch of annoyance. "This is one of my good days. There are days on which some things are less difficult than others. There are other days on which I can't walk more than a few steps, or days on which I seem fine to anyone watching, but feel atrocious. Once they know I have good days, some people like to believe that my bad days are only pretense, and that I have it easy all the time."

      The faerie's luminous gaze made it clear that she believed no such thing. "I see that you need to travel further to seek healing. I can offer you guidance and bless you with some of my own healing power, if you will accept it."

      "I thought only water faeries and earth faeries had healing magic."

      "Each of the elements has its own ways to break and to mend, to hurt and to heal. You've completed many of our quests before, so our power can easily touch you. The magic of light will help to clear doubt and hesitation and let your true self shine out."

      The faerie fluttered up to the Alabriss, who allowed her a brief pat behind the ears, and raised one brown arm. Delia bowed her head. The faerie's light shone around her and within her, permeating her being.

      "I do feel lighter already," she said once the glow had faded. "Like I could run around the stadium again."

      "Perhaps it was all you needed. Otherwise, you might want to seek a water faerie."

      "What, can you not foresee whether or not it will work?"

      "No! That is within your hands only," the faerie answered brightly. "If you have time, please swing by here and tell me all about it. I'm curious to hear."

      Delia was curious, too, as she rode off. It would have been wise to go back quickly to Altador, reassure Ione and let the magic do its work. However, she soon had to slow her Alabriss back to a trot, then to a walk. Even balancing atop her mount was threatening to tire her. Delia could not bear to think of the looks of pity she would receive if she rode into the city in her state.

      So she directed her mount onto another path she'd researched. A small spark, remnant of the light faerie's blessing, flickered in front of her eyes. It took the form of an arrow, confirming the direction she was going, occasionally pointing out the way at a fork.

      They were trotting alongside a windswept meadow when the arrow began to spin upon itself. Delia blinked a few times, suspecting she had been looking at the speck of light for too long. A powerful gale blew through her fur and she flattened over her Alabriss, ears pinned to her head.

      "There you are," trilled a voice through the gust. It echoed every which way. "Was just up there, keeping an eye on the weather for Psellia, you see. Thought I'd come and meet you down here, to save you a bit of time!"

      "That's nice. You knew I was coming too?" asked the Kougra.

      The wind had eased and out fluttered an air faerie. "I heard you coming a while ago, poor thing! Didn't sound too well to me. And you've got a little guiding light! Tell me, what can I do for your quest? Perhaps you could give [i]me[/i] a quest! How fun that would be!"

      "I've been ill for a long time and I seek healing. A water faerie, at the pond or the river, perhaps." Delia raised her map.

      "You'll definitely find a water faerie at that pond, she made it clear I wasn't to bother her." The air faerie's soft cloud of coily hair bounced in her excitement. "Oh, but you must let me try!"

      "You can heal, too?"

      "Your vitality is in your breath. I can hear that you used to be so fit. You used to run like the wind, and yet you have not taken a proper breath in so long." The air faerie was much gentler as she took Delia's silvery paws within her hands. "Breathe with me, and let the air fill you with life again."

      Together they breathed, and the faerie sang a song of bell-like chimes and deep booming notes that thrummed through Delia's bones. Once the spell was complete, the air faerie bade her a speedy recovery before zooming off again.

      Delia brushed down the fur atop her head. Just as promised, she felt invigorated. She leapt back atop her grazing Alabriss in a rush of nervous energy. She could have turned back and returned home as she was; but why not make the most of this energy while she had it?

      Out there in the heath and the wilderness beyond the farmlands, she could race, clamber and gallop. Her body obeyed her every command once more instead of being dragged by every ounce of her willpower. It was electrifying, almost as if she had turned back time and gone back to who she'd been before her illness.

      One thing stopped her, like a long, slack leash finally pulling taut. What if she collapsed again? She could lose this newfound energy at any moment. Out here, it would be dangerous. Delia slowed to a more reasonable pace, heart still pounding. She needed more powerful healing.

     To be continued…

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