A young healer tries to find a way to get a second chance to see his father.
Our houses matched our status. Most of us lived in sparsely equipped cabins. We take pride in what we have, though. Our cabin, for instance, looks like a display house. My father arranged the furniture with mathematical precision, while my mother made the cabin sparkle. A calming aura surrounded the house, dispelling the hopelessness of our daily lives. But right as we would approach a semblance of bliss, the sight of missing furniture would yank us back to reality. You'd think that robbers ransacked our cabin. That would be partially true. Most of us had to sell furniture to pay the crushing taxes Lord Raylor imposed on us, not to mention the furniture we traded to pay for my birth.
Even at four years old, I understood that fate condemned me to poverty, but the adults insisted that out lives could be different. Each household spent six days a week foraging for supplies, sewing clothing, farming the land, etc. They synchronized their schedules so that a couple of households would be off-duty every day. Us children would go to one of those houses to learn whatever that family could teach us. They packed us in, elbow to elbow - just the slightest twitch from one of us and the rest would feel it. We would sit on the floor. During the summer, the stagnant, muggy air would amplify every little stench each of us emitted. In Winter they would lay blankets on the floor, but that was little protection from the unloving embrace of the cold, wooden floor as we sat upon it.
Even through the constant struggle, my father remained an idealist. He always told me that only our deeds survive us, so I better make mine good. I think he just wanted me to do my chores. My mother more readily acknowledge fate's disdain for her. She especially resented Lord Raylon's refusal to provide healers for childbirth, forcing her to surrender the engraved chair that her great grandmother originally carved. She would never eat meals in any other chair. Now, she stands while she eats. She also loved to remind me that, while it was too late for her and my father, I could still make something of myself and rescue the three of us from poverty. Only later would I take that duty seriously.
For now, I had to survive school. Onun Bosdra was the oldest of us children by a couple of weeks, so he decided he was in charge of us. The adults loved him because he kept us in line. We hated him because of how he did it. He would torture us daily to teach us our place. None of us dared move unless Onun allowed it. Last week, I asked a question during class that Onun didn't approve beforehand. When we got outside, he came from behind, threw his giant slabs of muscle around my neck, and squeezed the life out of me. He leaned back, sending my frantically kicking legs into the air. Then he jumped, spun me around, and sent my face crashing to the ground. Without saying a word, he left me there, but I got the message. When I got home, my mother searched for a knife I could conceal for when Onun and I next met. My father repeated his mantra: only our deeds survive us.
Istar hosted the next day's class, but we weren't planning on attending. The other kids had enough of Onun after witnessing my trauma. When Onun walked out of his house, we encircled him. The sight of us smacked that smug smile right off his face. The flames of revenge filled our eyes. We smelled blood. He demanded that we disperse. We stepped closer. He chided us for disobeying him. We stepped closer. He threatened to tell on us. We stepped closer. He spun around, desperately trying to find a weak link. He found none, so we stepped closer. One of us, Cogar Angat, broke the chain and stepped forward. Onun tried to muster up one last threat, but all we heard was a loud pop before Onun spun around and fell to the ground. Cogar towered over him with an outstretched arm and a clenched fist. We defeated the bully.
But that wasn't enough for Cogar. He looked down upon his former menace, and stomped him. Cogar dug his heel into Onun's thigh, twisting and grinding back and forth, digging it through his clothing and into his skin. Onun grimaced in pain, but he refused to scream, lest the adults discover that he lost control of the kids. His face told the story. He squeezed his eyes shut like someone trying to wish away the pain. He drove his teeth into his lips so hard I'm surprised he didn't bite it clean off. We all celebrated our triumph. Soon, though, Onun began to relax his face, but Cogar wasn't done. I glimpsed and Onun's eyes to see the color draining away. I yelled for Cogar to stop. He looked at me with a maniacal smile and continued stomping Onun's leg off. He wasn't going to stop until he killed Onun.
So I stopped him. I tilted my head down, rotated myself a bit, and charged at Cogar. My shoulder crashed into his arm, sending him flying into the circle of kids, knocking three of them over. As I scanned the area, the cheers turned to silence. Formerly happy faces shifted into glares of feigned innocence. They stood there obediently, waiting for my next command. Before I could say anything, I felt I warmth on the back of my neck. I turned around, expecting an adult to be grabbing me, but found nobody.
As I looked down at Onun, the heat intensified. It spread through my body and into my hands. I looked at my hands and saw a faint ball of light hovering over my palms. I saw Onun's expressionless eyes and the light grew stronger. I leaned down, placed my hands over Onun's mangled thigh, and felt the warmth rush through my body and out of my fingertips. Once I wiped off the blood and dirt from his thigh, you would never know Onun was attacked apart from the ripped pants. And with that, the light dispersed.
I noticed Istar running toward us. We shifted to form an opening in our human gate. Istar crouched to check on his son, Onun, grateful to see him again. He then looked to me and asked what happened. He knew I healed Onun, but he didn't know why Onun needed healing. I told Istar that Onun tripped and landed on a sharp rock that gashed his thigh open. Nobody dared correct me. Istar insisted that he was indebted to me for saving his son. I told him that I merely repaid my debt to his wife. We then nodded at each other and went to Istar's house for class.
My father was right. The effects of Sarlet's sacrifice lived on in me. Including Onun, Sarlet saved three lives. Time will eradicate her name from history, but it cannot suppress her deeds.
Not if I can help it.