Good deeds and hard work are rewarded…
Music: The Letter
Toria and Dylan returned to the hold just as the sun was slipping behind the clouds hanging low over the western hills. There were still several hours of daylight left. Two children, two raggedy shepherd dogs, and three puppies walked in through the main doors.
One of the hold-bred children playing with a ball at the entrance to the Living Cavern noticed the blood on Toria and Dylan’s clothing. He ran farther inside, shouting for Ranella. The headwoman arrived quickly.
For a minute, everything was joyful. Shaggie ducked his head and twisted out of the make-shift leash, running to Ranella with his tail wagging in huge circles. She cooed at the shaggy dog as he made happy whuffle sounds and rubbed against her skirts.
The Headwoman looked up to thank the dutiful children who brought her canine home.
“Gracious goodness!” she exclaimed, “What happened?“
While they tried to explain the day’s adventures, word spread throughout the hold. More children arrived to gawk and stare. The female shepherd barked in alarm and then hid under a trestle table. Several adults gathered around. One took Dylan away to see Master Valora, leaving Toria to explain by herself. Soon after, someone fetched Lady Delenthia.
The Lady Holder looked young for her age. She was slim with striking caramel-colored eyes. Her long auburn hair had decorative braids down both sides. She was kind and well respected for her skill at keeping the hold stable and profitable.
“What is all this chaos?” she asked loudly as she entered the Living Cavern. “Ranella, see these children back to their parents, if you would?” She leveled a stern look at any child who hesitated to follow the Headwoman out.
One of the herders lured the mama dog out and picked her up, “I’ll see to this one.” He bowed slightly and disappeared outside.
“Now then,” Lady Delenthia said more gently, sitting down on a bench and gesturing for Toria to do the same. “Take a deep breath and tell me what happened. I see you found some lovely puppies?” She glanced into Toria’s bag.
It was easier to explain without an audience.
Lady Delenthia stood and gestured for Toria to follow, “Let’s take the puppies to Pamina, I’m sure she can save them.”
Pamina was the senior veterinarian at Katz Field. “Veterinarian” was a big word for Toria; they were called “beast healers” at the cothold where she grew up. Fortunately, most of the sheep herders just called her the “vet”.
Pamina had long brown hair in a thick braid down her back. She had kind brown eyes and a round face. She preferred to wear pants, as skirts got in the way of her work, and they were always speckled with animal fur.
Pamina’s own son and daughter were studying to become “vets” as well. When Toria and Lady Delenthia arrived, she was teaching them about rabbits.
“My Lady,” Pamina smiled. “It’s good to see you. What can I help you with?”
The Lady nudged Toria forward with her sack of puppies, “We have new patients for you.”
Pamina put a fresh towel on her examination table and had Toria set the puppies down. She looked over each one carefully and even took their temperatures. Her face gradually grew more and more grim.
“I’m sorry Toria, these puppies are very sick,” Pamina explained, “You’ll need to leave them with me for awhile. They must be quarantined so that other dogs don’t pick up the virus and spread it. They’re going to need constant care, around the clock, for at least a sevenday.”
Lady Delenthia patted Toria comfortingly on the shoulder, “I’m sure she can visit them later?”
Pamina shot the Lady a sad look but then relented, “Alright, after a sevenday.”
Lady Delenthia smiled and nodded. “Alright, little miss, let’s take you to get cleaned up and let Pamina do her work. Okay?”
A good wash in the bathing pool felt wonderful, though Toria had to be careful not to scrub her cuts with sweetsand. Once she had washed and brushed her hair, changed into clean clothes, and treated her wounds, it was time to see Master Valora. She wanted to know how Dylan was doing and show the Healer how well she had mended herself.
By the time she reached the Healer, Toria was hungry, tired, and more than a little sore. Dylan had already gone to bed after Valora had given him a little fellis mixed in with fruit juice. He needed stitches but would recover quickly.
Valora checked Toria over and complimented her on her first aid skills. She gave her a little jar with a mixture of wheat germ and fish oils.
“Once the wounds are sealed, rub a little of this on it, twice a day,” Valora instructed. “Rub gently with a circular motion, and leave it on. It may smell a little, but it will help prevent scarring.”
Spring soon became Summer and the days grew longer. The sheep grew fat and the fields buzzed with veetols.
Dylan healed and was back to work, listening for drum messages and delivering the transcriptions about the hold. A leatherworker helped him preserve the wherry claws and wrap the ends in leather with a loop. He offered one to Toria as a keepsake of their adventure.
The female shepherd couldn’t quite be tamed but she never strayed far from the hold. The children took to calling her “Tawny”. She earned her keep by chasing any vermin that snuck into the living caverns and eating any food children dropped, accidentally or otherwise, at the dining tables.
All three of the puppies survived, two males and a female. Pamina suspected they would never have the constitution to be good herd dogs, so she sold them to traders to pay part of the cost of their medicine and care.
Toria continued to study under Master Valora, along with several other children, becoming her apprentices. She was finally able to shift some of her other duties to a Senior Journeyman who transferred to the hold.
One day, as Toria ascended the stairs to the upper offices, she overheard raised voices. Someone, a bitter man by the sound of it, was in Master Valora’s office. Toria sighed with sympathy for Valora, knowing this was nothing new. People sometimes became irrationally angry when an illness or injury was beyond a healer’s ability to fix. Her Master had told her to be patient with them — it was only the grief talking and they didn’t really mean what they said.
Toria took another three steps before she heard her name. Now she had to listen in.
“It’s an outrage! Dayfin works twice as hard. He studies every night,” the male voice said, “and he’s the eldest, it’s his right!”
Dayfin was a trader’s son, recently fostered to the hold. He was a little older than Toria but not as old as Dylan. He had a soft round face, short black hair, thin eyebrows, a straight nose, and jade green eyes. He was a little pudgy despite being very active. He couldn’t resist the smell of fresh bubbly pies.
The man was right, Dayfin was industrious.
Toria couldn’t hear much of Master Valora’s reply. She was keeping her temper well.
“The hindmost falls between and I’ve worked too hard to see my boy passed over!” came the man’s angry retort.
“Dayfin will continue to study under me, I assure you,” the Healer said slowly, her words measured carefully. “Toria will be leaving the day after tomorrow. If you want to challenge it, take it up with Lord Chadrick, but for now get out of my office.”
“Send my son or you won’t hear the end of it,” the man growled, spinning on his heel and storming away.
Toria heard the man clomping down the stairwell. It was Slone, Dayfin’s father. He had the same straight black hair, cut short and spiked up in trader style. He had heavy brows over dark, intense eyes, and a thick mustache with a short beard. He was a domineering man and harsh with his son. Toria felt a little sympathy for the boy.
She managed to duck out of the stairwell on the next floor down before Slone caught up to her. She turned her face away in the darkness and held her breath. Fortunately, Slone passed her by. She let out her breath in a whoosh and hurried up to see Master Valora.
The Healer was sealing a letter written on fancy parchment and wrapped in heavy paper. She pressed the stamper into the soft purple wax, embossing it with the symbol of two snakes wrapped around each other. She looked up when Toria arrived and could tell she was upset.
“Shells, you heard that?” She sighed heavily as Toria nodded. “That was well dusted. There’s nothing for it, so let’s put it behind us.”
She smiled and offered Toria another letter. This one was also on fine paper, addressed in beautiful calligraphic writing. “I have some good news for you, young lady. Open it.”
‘The letter was addressed to Healer Master Velora at Katz Field, from Masterhealer Sarantis at Healer Hall, Fort Hold.
Dear Master Valora,
Congratulations on the acceptance of your apprentice to Healer Hall. This acceptance recognizes the academic and personal achievements your apprentice has made while under your tutelage. The Masters are honored to invite Toria of Katz Field to join our elite group and become a student at our most prestigious Hall.
From her first days, she will be entering a different level of demand and obligation as a healer in training. Every step of the process is a building block toward the next and has important elements of training. A depth of knowledge is expected by patients in their healer. We encourage you to impress upon Toria the level of attention and dedication that is required to excel. A student’s training is not only distinguished by its length but also by its depth.
During Toria’s time of study, Healer Hall will support her every step of the way. She will be provided with all necessary housing, clothing, food, and supplies. Few if any personal possessions should be brought to the Hall.
Healer Hall regularly hosts various events and allows for regular leave time, so that students can rest, visit family, and pursue other interests.
Please inform your student that we will send transportation for her on the twenty-third of the month.
We are proud of our institution, our Hall, and especially of our current and future Masters. We’re glad to receive recommendations and hope you will reach out to us again soon.