By Calvin Crowner
Dawn tipped the iron pitcher over her cup, discovering it empty. One of the attendants looked over at her shrugging.
“I’m sorry M’Lady. We sent someone off hours ago for more water, and she has yet to return.”
Dawn sighed wondering if there was anything she could rely on these days. “Death and Taxes, “ she mused to herself, “Wait a moment, I control taxes now too.” She found some comfort in her own private joke.
The heat and stale air of the castle moved with the grace of an old wrestler, out of condition and wheezing, shambling through the halls. The walls, designed to offer shade and coolness provided neither, making Dawn more claustrophobic each day. She heard footsteps approach as she muddled and brooded over the state of her … Queendom? This is only temporary she told herself hourly. There will be someone proper to come along soon and deal with all this diplomacy nonsense.
Her sleeplessness didn’t help. The dreams persisted, and there was no answer insight to the terrors that kept her unsettled and anxious.
Something, she thought to herself. Anything, she almost pleaded in her heart, to break the boredom.
As if an answer, the footsteps halted in the doorway. “Your Grace, we think we have a solution to your problem.” The steward harbored a rather significant and impressive tome under his arm. He was sweating. Dawn was not sure if it was from the weight of the book or the news he had to share.
Dawn worked her lips into a crooked smile, “"You've invented a golem that can do paperwork and arbitrate petty disputes?"
Her advisor grimaced, not finding humor in her response. “No, Your Grace. There may be a solution to your sleeplessness.”
Dawn’s shoulder fell again. “Oh I can find warmth and drowsiness awaiting in any tavern, sir. I don’t need pints of ale to soothe me to bed.”
The advisor smiled, “Oh no. This solution involves a bit of adventure …”
Dawn’s eyes lit with promise and hope. She grit her teeth, and her lips pressed into a rare smile. “Continue … and don’t leave out any details …”
He greeted her smile with one of his own, “What we search for is found in the rarest of virtues. Compassion.”
He hefted the book open, a pale crooked finger opening to an unworn page. The spine cracked as he rested the book on his forearm, he began:
“Compassion sage: a rare root found in the region of Ilshenar. Known for its pungent aroma and delicate leaf. Once incorrectly labeled as “Lover’s Leaf,” in the hands of a capable alchemist has the capacity to induce a sense of well being. Also used as a cure for night terrors.”
Dawn quickly wrapped her hair into her signature braid, her fingers twisting with familiarity and fierce urgency. “Well then. Let’s be on our way.”
She rose from her chair, allowing him to guide her through the corridors, which somehow had lost their sense of confinement.