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Jeffrey Quyle

The Healing Spring

List of Characters

Ferris, Hydrotaz squad commander

Nicholai, seneschal of Hydrotaz

Kestrel, Elven guard in the Eastern Forest

Backsin, Elven guard at Elmheng

Cheryl, daughter of Mastrin

Mastrin, commander of Elmheng guard post

Malsten, shopkeeper, suitor to Cheryl

Dewberry, princess of the sprites

Vinetia, Center Trunk guard archer

Lucretia, Center Trunk guard archer

Casimo, commander of Firheng Guard post

Belinda, Casiom’s assistant at Firheng

Gion, Firheng commander’s guard

Arlen, Firheng weapons and combat instructor

Artur, Firheng language and culture instructor

Alicia, Center Trunk surgeon

Merilla, human widow in the Water Mountain wilderness

Castona, human trader in Estone

Hammon, Estone leathermonger and shopkeeper

Doge Deloco, leader of Estone nation

Moresond, herald at Doge’s palace in Estone

Daley, Estone shopkeeper, Merilla’s father

Durille, Merilla’s mother

Termine, elven slave in Green Water

Hinger, Elven slave in Green Water

Amyrilon, Uniontown ambassador to Esotne

The Human Deities:

Kai — goddess of the air

Growelf — god of fire

Krusima — god of earth

Shaish — goddess of water

The Elven Deities:

Kere — goddess of fortune

Norvell — god of light

Tamson — god of force

Were — goddess of sound

Morph — god of speed

Powson — god of weight

Tere — goddess of size

Chapter 1 — The Blaze Begins

Ferris waited idly in a small, green pasture, watching his squad lounge in the shade of the trees along the large creek on the eastern border of the field. The sky was cloudless; he looked up at the sun, and judged that it was close enough to straight overhead to meet the specifications of his orders. They weren’t typical orders, but they were his to carry out, and so he needed to tell his men it was time for action, that their unusual assignment, one that had taken them away from the routine life on their regular army base, would finally produce some results. It had only been a few days prior that his squad had been detached without explanation from the main army in the capital and sent on the week-long journey to reach the Forest Wardens, who had explained the role that Ferris and his men were now assigned to carry out.

It didn’t seem like an extraordinary assignment to Ferris, not one that really called for a squad to be sent all the way across the small, proud nation of Hydrotaz to perform, but he was trained to follow orders, and as far as these orders went, there seemed to be no challenge at all. The major in charge of the Forest Wardens had assured him that it was an easy assignment before he had sent Ferris’s squad up to the specified location, the pasture next to the forest. So Ferris and his men had left the Wardens the previous afternoon, and marched north to their position, then camped out of sight of the forest, and waited until mid-morning to move towards the tree line.

His men respected him, and obeyed him, and Ferris appreciated that. He was the youngest son of a family in the minor nobility, with no prospects of significant inheritance, and so his family had purchased a commission for him and wished him well in the army. He had done well, studied briefly at the academy, then taken a field post, and earned an early promotion, though still in charge of just a single squad. Without any war, or prospect of war, his opportunities for advancement would be slow in an army that was already overstaffed with older officers who saw no need to retire. His squad had served near the capital, finding excitement only when they supplemented the border patrol or the coast guard by hunting down smugglers, until they had been reassigned to this mission with the Forest Wardens, who were the specialized, detached portions of the army who served along the western border. So far during the assignment, the main thing Ferris had discovered was that he felt uncomfortable around the Eastern Forest. He’d gone a few yards in, a time or two, to get a feel for the woodlands. It felt overwhelming and oppressive, and judgmental in a way that made him feel he was lacking in something the forest wanted; he’d been glad to get out of the trees and move back into open lands.

As far as Ferris knew the overall plan, the Wardens should have launched a surprise attack into the southern portion of the forest shortly after the break of dawn, drawing the attention of all the elves who patrolled the Eastern Forest border with Hydrotaz’s lands. By drawing the elves away to the battle, the Wardens should have made the northern sector of the edge of the forest safe and free for Ferris and his men to begin their assignment — starting a fire to burn the forest, trying to drive it back and claim land from the trees and the elves so that the people of Hydrotaz could cultivate more acreage.

If not the poorest, Hydrotaz was one of the poorest cities of the Ten Kingdoms culture around the Inland Seas. Hydrotaz was the farthest from the ocean, had one of the smallest territories, and was bounded in by the Dark Swamp, the East Sea, and the Water Mountains, as well as the kingdom of Graylee. Taking land from the Eastern Forest presented the best option the Prince of Hydrotaz had for acquiring more territory.

Hydrotaz and Graylee were different in their wealth, side by side though they were, but they were alike in their lack of regard for the elven race that lived in the forest. Elves were forbidden in both realms, except as slaves, and any elf found at large in either kingdom was subject to death, imprisonment, or enslavement. Few elves traveled in any of the human lands, and they did occasionally trade or travel through most of them, especially Estone to the north of the Eastern forest, but no elves ever entered Hydrotaz, except in chains; given the elves’ prowess at battle, few of them were ever taken captive in battle, and given their sylvan lifestyle, they never

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