While the attempt has been made to be medically accurate within my fantasy world, some artistic license has been taken, and statements made by any healers are not to be regarded as authoritative. All characters and story © 2017 FemaleChauvinist. Cover drawing © 2017 FemaleChauvinist.

Do not post without permission. Do not copy/print without including the above copyright in its entirety. Do not borrow my characters without permission.

"If it comes to that, which is the right side? How do we know that the fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I know we've been told she's a witch) is in the wrong? We don't really know anything about either."

Edmund Pevensie

The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis

The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

by J.R.R. Tolkien


Chapter One: Into the Night

"Tyland!" Lonna's terrified call broke the stillness of the night.

Ahead of her, Donald materialized out of the darkness as he turned angrily. "Shh! Do you want the whole countryside to know where we are?"

"I'm sorry," Lonna half whimpered, coming up beside him and her older brother Tyland. "You were so far ahead — I couldn't see you; I got scared."

"She's tired, Donald," Tyland said in a low voice; "she can't keep up anymore. Can't we stop for a while?"

"No!" Donald insisted. "We won't be safe until we get to the cave." Lonna gave a half smothered yelp as he grabbed her roughly and tossed her over his shoulder. "Now come on!"

Lonna clung desperately to his shirt, her tears falling silently on the material as he walked rapidly. She had never much liked the rough young man, but he had shown an interest in her and Tyland from the first day he began doing odd jobs around the orphanage. Tyland, already feeling a young man's restlessness, had listened with growing eagerness to Donald's plans to leave the orphanage that had been their home since Lonna was a baby.

Donald continued on for nearly an hour, not slacking his pace despite Lonna's weight. She had nearly dozed off when he dumped her unceremoniously to the ground. "Oof!" she gasped.

"Get up," Donald ordered shortly.

Tyland half turned and held out a hand, pulling Lonna to her feet. "You all right?" he asked quietly.

Lonna nodded, clinging to his hand as they followed Donald into the cave.

Donald struck a match, illuminating the center of the cave but making the shadows at the edge seem even darker and more menacing. Lonna wondered with a shiver just how far back the cave went.

Shielding the match with his hand, Donald knelt and lit a fire that had been laid ready on the cave floor. "I have tea in my bag," he said without looking up, "but we need water. Lonna, there's a pool back a ways."

Lonna stared wide-eyed, pressing back against Tyland. "I-I can't! It's dark! I-I might fall in!"

Donald laughed, short and cruel. "You need to be braver than that, girl." He pulled a flaming stick from the fire and pressed it into her hand, then with a quick jerk of his head gestured toward a bucket sitting on a rocky shelf.

Lonna moved toward it on shrinking feet, then started in the direction Donald had indicated. She was reassured when she heard Tyland's step beside her, but Donald quickly called him. "Tyland. Let the girl go alone; she doesn't need any help."

Even Tyland would not argue with Donald, Lonna knew, and she forced herself to make her way to the pool alone.

The light from her torch flickered strangely on the dark water, making it appear heavy, even evil. Lonna half expected it to suck her into its depths as she lowered the bucket. She fancied that it rippled angrily at the disturbance, and was almost unwilling to turn her back on it to walk back to Donald's fire.

"So, nothing got you?" he taunted as she set the bucket down in front of him.

"No," Lonna whispered, and sat crosslegged beside Tyland.

Donald heated the water in a battered kettle, then poured it into three tin mugs and sprinkled tealeaves on top. "Drink," he ordered as he handed two of the mugs to Lonna and Tyland.

"I'm not thirsty," Lonna whispered. It seemed to her that if she drank the water, whatever horror had lurked in the pool would devour her from the inside.

Donald's eyes narrowed. "Drink!" he hissed. In the flickering firelight, he appeared something other than human, and Lonna took a hasty sip, burning her lips on the hot cup.

Before she had finished half the cup, Lonna's head was drooping sleepily. Tyland gently took the cup from her hand and pulled her against his side. She lay against him, listening to their voices which seemed to come from a great distance.

It was Donald who stayed awake the longest, a strange half smile twisting his mouth as he eased the sleeping pair to lie on the rock floor. "Tyland!" he hissed. "Lonna!" Tyland moaned in his sleep, but neither woke.

Donald lit a torch from the fire and walked into the back of the cave, past the pool where Lonna had gotten the water. He whistled softly, and a man emerged from the shadows. "They're asleep?" he asked quietly.

"Barely even needed the drug," Donald responded. He rubbed his shoulder. "I had to carry the girl almost all the way."

"Best not let him hear you complaining."

"I know," Donald said briefly. He led the man into the light of the fire. "I can manage the girl all right; give me a hand with the boy."

Donald took Tyland's feet while the man lifted his shoulders; leaving the torch behind they walked through the dark cave as ones who knew it well.

The cave did not end in a rock wall, but in a half-solid curtain of shimmering air and beyond that the mouth of a second cave.

"You know what to do next?" Donald questioned, laying Lonna beside her brother on the grass outside.

The man nodded. "He was clear about my orders. You'd best be on your way; you know you can't be found near here come morning."

Donald nodded silently and vanished into the night.

Next chapter coming next week!

I proofread all my stories at least once before posting, but if you see any mistakes I might have missed, please let me know!

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