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Calia lifted a wide leather belt from the drawer and traced her hand over the intricately carved patterns. Four months had passed since the death of her bondmate, and she was still only slowly packing his things into baskets to be stored in the cellar. She stared at his ceremonial belt and tried to picture him standing tall beside her, rather than seeing his body lying a hundred feet below the mountain pass where the search party, including her, had found him. They had been too late. She was a powerful Healer, but not even she could heal the dead.
A soft knock and the voice of her Protector interrupted her memories. “Calia, you are needed.”
She laid the belt aside with a sigh and opened the front door. “What is it, Tenal?”
“A messenger has arrived from the Plains. He asked to speak with you. A plague has attacked the city.”
Her green eyes widened and brightened as she instinctively touched the power within her. She took off her apron, and smoothed her long, black hair as she stepped out of the house. “Take me to him.”
Tenal stayed close by her side as they walked the road toward the center of the village. “What kind of plague?” she asked.
“I don’t know. As soon as he asked for you, I came to get you. The Elder was going to take him to the meeting hall.”
They reached the central lodge, and Calia felt the tingling of Tenal’s shield encircle her. His suspicion and mistrust of strangers were as much an innate part of him as were his raven hair and ice blue eyes. As she was born to heal the bodies and minds of the Llyrian race, he was born to augment her abilities and to protect her from harm.
The Elder was standing inside the doorway of the meeting hall, and the visitor was seated at a table, drinking greedily from a glass of water. He rose to his feet and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand when Tenal and Calia approached him.
“Healer, thank you for agreeing to see me,” the man said.
“Please sit down and finish your drink. You may call me Calia.”
The stranger sat down and eyed Calia closely, then glanced nervously at Tenal, no doubt intimidated by the Protector’s size at several inches taller and broader than any other male of their race. Looking back to her, the man introduced himself. “I’m Bren of the Plains Circle.”
Calia sat down across from Bren, but Tenal continued to stand beside her, ever ready for any threat to her safety. Calia said, “Tenal tells me you have traveled to our Forest Circle because of a plague in the city. Your people still do not have a Healer?”
“No,” Bren answered. “One has not been born to the Plains in almost a century. I’ve come here at the request of the governor to ask for your help. We’ve lost almost a hundred people already, and more grow sick every day. We have physicians, but nothing they’ve done has made any difference. Men, women, and children are all dying.”
His voice caught on the last word, and he bowed his head. “Please, we’re overwhelmed. We don’t know what to do but ask for your help.”
Calia laid a comforting hand over his and detected through her touch that Bren was free of the sickness. “I will go to the city, but Tenal and I need time to pack supplies and ready for travel. You can stay here tonight, and we’ll leave tomorrow morning.”