"I can't believe we've been in Royal City for 30 minutes and we're already lost." Elena looked once again at the map they'd picked up at the train station. "It looks like we should head this way two blocks and then turn right."
"Let me look at that." Elliot grabbed the map out of his sister's hands. He scrutinized the markings on the map, comparing them to their immediate surroundings before, exasperated, he turned the map around. "Elena, you're looking at it upside down!"
"Are you sure?" She peered over Elliot's shoulder. "How can you tell?"
"Just leave the map reading to me." He shrugged Elena off his shoulder and started walking back in the direction they'd come from. "I don't know why we even gave you the map in the first place, you were never any good at navigating."
Elena had no argument for that. She'd always been "directionally challenged", as her father had put it. But she'd been so sure that it'd be simple to get around this city. One glance at the map and it was easy to see the grid pattern of the streets that all spread out from three concentric circles in the middle of the map. In fact, the entire city looked like one big bull's eye from the sky, with the Royal Estate and the Counsel's upper ring right in the middle.
She grabbed Sabella's hand and pulled her along behind their brother. Sabella's eyes were wide as they took in all the details of the city streets. Elena was quite sure her sister hadn't blinked since they'd gotten off the train. Elena didn't blame her, the city was something to behold.
It wasn't entirely unlike the city in their book. She hadn't seen any pink fountains or musicians yet, but the streets were strung with lights that lit up the city in a soft ethereal glow. In the light of the fading day, it was quite breathtaking and like nothing Elena had ever seen in the Northern Territory.
According to a large blue sign, they were currently in the shopping district. The quiet streets were lined with dozens of store fronts with colorful signs and big intricate window displays that beckoned to passersby. Most of the shops were closed for the evening but some merchants were still selling goods from carts that dotted the sidewalks. They'd passed a few of these carts that contained items she recognized from the Northern Territory.
Mixed in with these curio carts were some buggies selling pastries and sweets that made the entire bazaar smell heavenly. Elena's stomach growled in protest as they passed one filled with a variety meat pies. "Maybe we should get some dinner, Elliot."
"There should be some hotels in a few blocks. We need to get a room first." Elliot answered. He looked back at the cart, smelled the beckoning aroma of meat and pastry, and gave in. "But I guess we can get a few pies to eat on the way."
After studying the menu board for a minute Elena ordered three pies from the merchant, each one with a different type of meaty filling.
"That'll be three silver bills." The merchant handed Elena the pies wrapped in wax paper.
Elena dug around in her pocket and pulled out some coins. "Do you accept Northern Territory money?"
The man bit his lip and looked over at Sabella and Elliot and the bags they had around them. "I will this time, but you better get that traded for Royal currency soon."
"Thank you," she handed him the equivalent of three silver bills. "We're new to the city. Where is the closest bank?"
"The financial district is on the other side of town, but all the banks are closed for the night. You'll have to take the trolley from here. First one leaves tomorrow morning at seven from that stop over there." He pointed across the street to a blue sign that read Trolley Stop: Emporium Way.
"Thank you, sir." Elena smiled at the man and rejoined her brother and sister.
"I hope this won't be a problem at the hotel." Elliot said after Elena explained their need to exchange they money. He grabbed his and Sabella's bags and they set off towards the hotels again.
Elena handed them their pies. "That nice man was good enough to take our money, I'm sure the hotel keepers will be just as understanding." She smiled at her brother, "See? Not all of the Royalists are selfish and cruel."
"I hope you're right or we'll be sleeping under the stars tonight."
By time they reached the hotel district they'd finished the pies. They stopped at the first hotel that looked both cheap and clean. The keeper was an old woman with a head full of silver hair and a face full of wrinkles. She was hesitant to accept their foreign currency until Elliot suggested she hold it as collateral until they could pay her in Royal currency the next day. She finally agreed and handed them two keys along with three towels and a large empty jug. The second key, she explained, was for the communal washroom and the jug was to transport water back to their room if they wished.
Elena had only stayed in a hotel a couple times before, but she couldn't remember either one of them having a public washroom. Royal City was proving to be more different than she'd expected.
They found their room on the top floor, which was up three flights of stairs. It was nice and clean and smelled like freshly pressed linen. It only had two beds, but they were decent size, allowing she and Sabella to share one comfortably. There was a small table with two chairs under the only window in the room and a long dresser and huge mirror took up the wall across from the beds.
"This isn't so bad, is it?" Elena smiled up at her brother. "What do you think?"
Elliot shrugged, "It's ok, I guess. At least it's clean."
Elena dropped her bag on the closest bed and crossed the room, "I bet we have a great view." She pulled the curtains aside to reveal a small window. Their view consisted mostly of the neighboring building, but just visible past the edge of the building was a a huge manor with tall spires that lit up the horizon. "Look Bells! You can see the Royal Estate!"
They must've been a mile or so from the outermost gates of the Capital Rings where all the most important citizens of Royal City lived. From there is was another mile to the estate. Even from so far away, it was an impressive sight.
Sabella climbed up in one of the chairs next to her, "Wow, what is that?"
"It's where the Royal Family lives."
Elena went back to Elliot and grabbed his map, she opened it on the table in front Sabella. "See this circle here?" She pointed to the center of the bullseye. "That's were the Royal Estate is." She looked back out the window, "You can't see it from here, but there is a big wall that circles that entire building."
"To protect the Royal Family." She looked back at her map. "And these..." She pointed to the three rings that circled the estate. "...are the borders of the Capital Rings. That's where my appointment is tomorrow."
Elena heard Elliot shut the door behind them and collapse into the mattress of the other bed. "It's also where all the conspiring takes place."
"That's not true, Ellie." Sabella argued. "My teacher said that the Royal Family is in charge of everyone. She said that they make the rules."
"And they have to make sure people follow the rules, too." Elliot answered.
"But, who put them in charge?"
Elena chuckled, "What do you mean? They're the Royal Family."
Elliot grabbed The King's Carnival from Sabella's bag and held it up. "It's like the king and queen from the book, Sabella. If they were lucky enough to be born into the family, they get to make all the rules."
Sabella thought about that and then began to open her mouth but Elena interrupted before she could ask another question. "Come on," Elena pulled the curtain closed again and guided Sabella towards their bags. "That's enough history lessons for tonight. We all have big days tomorrow."
One by one they made their way to the washroom to bathe and prepare for bed. Sabella was the first to clean up and by the time Elliot, who was last, made it back to the room she was fast asleep.
Elliot didn't waste anytime either and before Elena had even turned out the lights he was already snoring. It had been a long day and she understood why the two of them were so tired.
However, she had a difficult time keeping her mind quiet long enough to succumb to her own heavy eyelids. So much had changed in the last few days. It was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. She couldn't help but be nervous about her meeting with the Counsel in just a few hours. She wasn't even totally sure where she was supposed to go. Maybe she could ask the keeper at the front desk.
After an hour or so of worrying, she fell into a fitful sleep where she dreamed she was stuck on a train racing towards a cliff. She tried and tried to stop the train, but everything she did just made it go faster. Then, just before it plunged over the cliff and into the abyss, it came to a screeching halt.
She woke up very early the next morning, with no hope of falling back asleep. The pale light from the sheer curtains told her the sun was just starting to rise. Sabella and Elliot were still sound asleep and probably would be for at least another hour.
Carefully, she crept out from under the sheets without waking her sister. She dressed in what she determined were her most dignified-looking clothes, a dark blue blouse that her mother had always said complemented her eyes and her best pair of black jeans. The only shoes she had were her boots that were much more suited to the cooler climate of the Northern Territory. But once she removed the fur lining in them, they didn't look as out of place. She slipped on her brown jacket, pulled her hair into a loose braid, and headed for the door with the intent to find breakfast.
On her way to the front door of the hotel she passed the front desk where the keeper from last night was sorting through a stack of paper. Elena greeted her, "Good morning."
The keeper looked up, startled. "Oh. Miss Carey. I'm glad you are up so early. I have a note for you."
"A note?" Elena approached the desk warily. "From who?"
The keeper didn't answer, instead she turned her back to a separate stack of papers and began quickly rustling through them. She jumped when the edge of one crossed her finger and cut a shallow nick in the skin. When she turned back her finger was in her mouth and she was holding a small folded up piece of paper out to Elena. "It came last night shortly after you and you brother checked in."
Elena examined the note with her name written across the paper in familiar handwriting. She was sure it was from the Counsel, and the hotel keeper seemed to know, too.
Welcome to Royal City. A taxi will pick you up an hour after sunrise at this location to escort you to Counsel Hall. Do not be late.
"It's best to be early, dear."
Elena looked up at the old woman, surprised.
The old woman smiled sadly, "You and your brother and sister are not the first recruits of the Counsel to stay at my inn. You are gifted, are you not?"
Elena pondered the woman for a moment before answering. In the Northern Territory it had been paramount not to advertise herself as gifted, in case Talent-Seekers were watching. That tactic seemed a little pointless now, considering she had already been found. Finally, she nodded, "Yes ma'am. How did you know?"
"Please, call me Ida. I grew up in this hotel and when my father died 30 years ago my son and I started running it. I've seen hundreds of gifted, just like you. It's not always so easy to tell, but with you I could sense it the second you walked in the door." Ida paused, smiling knowingly. The skin around her eyes crinkled, reminding Elena of her grandmother. "Whatever your gift is, you must be very good at it."
Elena had never healed a stranger in broad daylight before, but for some reason she trusted Ida with her soft blue eyes and warm smile. "I can show you." She motioned to Ida's injured finger, "May I see your hand?"
The old woman nodded. Elena laid Ida's hand between her own and looked into her eyes. She stared deeply, past the blue orbs, looking for an entry to read the energy in Ida's body. She found it quickly and focused on redirecting that life source, using her hands to pull and guide it to Ida's hand. She could feel it heating up as the blood flow increased there and after only a couple seconds the cut disappeared. Elena looked deeper and saw the inflamed joints in Ida's fingers. She redirected the energy flow to each swollen knuckle. After a few more seconds she released Ida's hand, allowing the energy to dissipate into the rest of the body. She looked up at her new friend hesitantly.
"You are a healer." The woman looked surprised for the first time during their short conversation. "Healing abilities are very rare."
"I know, I've never met another one." Elena answered softly.
"I've met many Gifted, but only a few of them were healers. The woman inspected the skin on her finger closely and then she flexed her wrinkled hand several times. "Thank you, dear. You are very good, how'd you know that I had arthritis in that hand?"
"I can read the energy in your body." She knew she shouldn't make a habit of offering to heal strangers, but she was happy to have made a friend. "I can do more if you'd like."
Arthritis wasn't the only affliction that Elena had read in the old woman's frail body. Like most elderly people Elena had healed, her body was full of failing organs and painful joints.
"No dear," Ida shook her head, "I wouldn't know what to do without my aches and pains. But thank you for healing the arthritis in my hand, it will be much easier to do all the needed bookkeeping."
"I understand," Elena answered. "My grandmother used to tell me the same thing."
"Your grandmother is a very wise woman."
Elena sighed at the memory of her mother's mother. "She passed away several years ago."
"Oh, I am sorry to hear that." Ida gestured to Elena's note. "You should get some breakfast before they pick you up. There is a small market two blocks to the east of here."
She pointed in the direction of the market and Elena thanked her and headed in that direction. She found the market without any trouble, but it wasn't quite as easy to find a vendor that was willing to take her foreign money. Finally one young man obliged. She bought enough fruits and pastries at his stall for herself and her siblings. The young man packed them into a small basket and she headed back for the hotel. By the time she made it back to the room Elliot and Sabella were up and dressed.
They ate breakfast at the small table with the window open to let in the breeze while Elliot looked through the directory, comparing it to their map. "Looks like the closest registrar doesn't open for another couple hours. That should give us time to go by the financial district first before I get Sabella registered for school."
Elena glanced at the clock on the bedside table. "The trolleys should be running by now. And I guess I need to get moving, too."
Knowing that he'd assume they were being spied on, she hadn't told Elliot about the note or the taxi. She's also kept quiet about her healing session with the hotel keeper. She thought it best to ease her brother into their new life in the city.
She kissed Sabella on the top of her head, "Have fun today. I want to hear all about your first day in the big city when we get back tonight."
"Bye Elena," Sabella answered.
Elena grabbed her backpack, which she had loaded with a map of the city, a little money, and a small water canteen. "You keep the room key, Elliot. If I get back before you do, I'll just ask the lady at the front desk to let me in."
"Good luck at your appointment, Elena!"
Elliot patted Elena on the back as she headed out the door, "Yeah good luck, Sis. Knock 'em dead..." He grinned and winked at her in typical Elliot-fashion, "Then maybe we could go home."
She was glad to see him finally acting more like himself. "Sure thing!" She called after him as she shut the door behind her.
When she made it back to the front lobby, Ida had been replaced by a tall thin man with greying side burns and bushy eyebrows. She smiled at him, but he was too busy checking in a new group of guests to notice her.
Outside the hotel the streets were busy with people bustling about in all different directions. In the thirty or so minutes since she'd returned from the market the city had woken up. Her taxi hadn't arrived yet, so she leaned against the side of the building and spent the next several minutes people watching. Everyone was dressed similarly in loose-fitting clothing in dark earth-tone colors. She was glad to see that she didn't stand out among them as much as she had feared she would.
She was in middle of contemplating whether or not she should undo her braid to blend in better when a black taxi with dark windows pulled up in front of her. On the side of the cab was a large graphic letter "C" with three concentric circles around it.
Suddenly her heart began to flutter nervously. She took a deep reassuring breath. "Calm down Elena. You can do this."
The back door nearest her opened and a man dressed in a black suit looked at her expectantly from the shadows of the cab. He had a hard mouth and narrow eyes.
"Elena Carey, we are here to escort you to Counsel Hall." The man's voice was rough and gritty, as though it didn't get much use.
She took another calming breath before answering in a quiet shaky voice. "Thank you."
She got in, shut the door behind her, and immediately they were taking off down the street. The black interior if the taxi was spacious, but somehow she managed to feel suffocated. Much like she'd felt on the train. The three men accompanying her made no attempt at conversation. The man who had opened the door for her sat just to her left, his eyes staring fixedly ahead. She wondered if his face would crack if he smiled.
Deciding that her entourage would offer no form of entertainment, she occupied herself by staring out her window at the city passing by. They had left the shopping and hotel districts behind quickly and were now in what she assumed was the business district. The men and women who occupied the sidewalks in this district were all dressed in varying shades of gray and black suits with matching briefcases and well-groomed hair. The closer they got to the inner circles of the city the bigger the buildings got.
After a few minutes they approached a tall gate that stood in the outermost wall of the first Capital Ring. Four men dressed in black suits with gold buttons attended the gate. They looked like they belonged to the military. Elena thought back to her school days and decided they must be Imperial Guards.
The taxi stopped and one the guards approached the vehicle. The man sitting in front of her opened his window. "Elena Carey to see the Counsel."
The guard peered past the man and scrutinized Elena. She felt her face getting red and her heart rate speeding up again. She swallowed her anxiety and did her best to smile at the guard, "Hello."
The man narrowed his eyes at her with a stony expression before glancing at a clipboard he held in his hand. "You're clear to enter."
The cab lurched forward again as the gates slowly opened. They went through two more gates identical to the first before reaching their destination. The whole ride lasted only 20 minutes but it had felt like much longer.
The taxi stopped and Elena was eager to get out of it. She quickly opened her door to find herself standing in front of a one story stone building with white marble archways and columns. Decorative gargoyles sat at the top of each column, each one with a different menacing face.
The architecture was intricate and somewhat beautiful, but the building was much smaller than Elena had been anticipating. From what she'd learned about the Counsel in school, she was sure they would have a much bigger space to conduct all the business they do serving the Royal Family.
The three men got out of the taxi and started towards the entry. Elena followed them. The entrance was behind the two middle columns and under an archway that read Counsel Hall and under that The Honor to Serve. On either side of the heavy metal doors stood two stone statues of soldiers, one drawing a bow and arrow and the other with a sword high above its head, each ready to strike. On the floor in front of the doors was the same emblem from the door of the taxi, a letter "C" with three concentric circles around it. Around the outermost circle were the words Service, Guidance, and Protection. Elena remembered from her schooling that these were the three cornerstones of the Counsel and represented the Counsel's obligations to the Royal Family.
The three men positioned themselves around the emblem so that they were each on a different word. Then they each pulled a key out of their shirt from a chain around their neck and inserted them into hidden locks on the emblem. They turned their keys at the same time and the metal doors in front of them swung open slowly.
Elena had never seen anything like it.
They walked into a large foyer with shiny black floors and approached a great circular desk that stood in the middle of the empty room. Behind it sat a woman with pale skin and long fiery red hair. When they got close enough Elena could read that the nameplate on the front of the desk said her name was Quinn.
"Elena Carey to see the Counsel."
Quinn looked through a set of papers behind her desk, "Elena Carey, healer from the Northern Territory, candidate for admission as a Royal Healer."
She looked over the desk at Elena expectantly. Elena took this to mean that she was supposed to say something. "Um, yes ma'am. I got here as soon as I could. It was a long train ride."
"Best not to speak unless necessary." Quinn peered at Elena as she flipped through her papers again. Elena thought she Quinn wink slightly and she found herself smiling.
Quinn consulted her papers one last time before addressing Elena's three escorts. "They want her in the healer's room on the 3rd level."
Elena wasn't sure how she should go about finding the 3rd level of a building that was only one story, but her question was soon answered when she was escorted to a bank of elevators. They boarded the first one that arrived. One of the men punched the number 3, the doors closed and they started heading down. There were buttons counting down to level 6, along with other buttons that were labeled in some kind of code. She was amazed at the number of levels that were hidden beneath this suddenly small building. Counsel Hall must be the biggest underground building in the world.
After a short ride, the elevator doors opened to a long wide hallway. More shiny black tiles made up the floor on this level and the bright red doors that lined either side of the hallway stood out against pale grey walls. None of the doors were marked and Elena was unsure how her escorts knew where to take her. Nevertheless, they headed straight for a door to the right about halfway down the hall. It opened when they approached and the men stepped aside, allowing Elena to enter first.
The room behind the door was much larger than she'd expected it to be. In stark contrast to the dark corridor, it was very bright and everything was white. The sterility and coldness of it sent a chill up Elena's spine. The walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets with glass fronts that displayed a variety of foreign instruments and tools. In the middle of the ceiling were three large circular lights on roller tracks that were all focused on a raised platform. On the opposite side of the room, directly in front of the raised platform was a tall crescent-shaped desk, behind which sat 13 figures dressed in white robes. The Counsel.
Elena's already elevated heart rate rose to new levels. She could feel tiny beads of sweat forming on her palms and the back of her neck as she willed her hands not to shake. No need to be nervous, she told herself sternly. You just have to heal. You've done it a million times before.
"Elena Carey, approach the platform."
The Counsel member sitting in the middle pointed to the platform where he wanted Elena to stand, right in front of the Counsel. She turned back to her three escorts, curious if they would be following her into the cold sterile room, but the space where they had been standing only seconds ago was vacant. She took a deep breath, turned back to the platform and walked.
As she got closer, she could make out the faces of the people sitting behind the counter. She counted eight men and five women. The man who had spoken she knew to be President Cane, leader of the Counsel. She'd seen his face in textbooks when she was in school. His angled jaw, sleek white hair, and impossibly blue eyes were easy to recognize.
As she stopped in the middle of the platform, he turned his icy blue gaze on her, "Elena Carey, welcome to Counsel Hall. I trust you and your brother and sister had no trouble getting to the city."
His eyes remained fixed on Elena as a female sitting to the left of President Cane addressed her. "You are here as a candidate for admission to the Royal Healers. Do you deny that you are gifted?"
"N-No ma'am." Elena's voice sounded shaky and subdued. She cleared her throat, took a deep breath and tried again. "No ma'am. I do not."
"The Talent-Seekers have identified you as a healer." The woman continued, her sharp green eyes peering at Elena over rimmed glasses. "They say you are... quite talented."
Elena remained silent, remembering Quinn's warning to not speak unless absolutely necessary.
A tall muscular man sitting next to President Cane cleared his throat. "It took you some time to arrive to us, Miss Carey. You traveled here from the Northern Territory. "
Elena wasn't sure if this was a question or not. Her nervous eyes darted around the 13 expectant faces all focused down on her. She suddenly felt very small. "Um, yes, sir. I-I got my letter four days ago. I left as soon as I could, but it's a two day train ride and I, uh, didn't get into Royal City until last night."
"We know. You checked into the hotel district last night at 9 minutes before 8 o'clock." The man's hard gray stare shifted from Elena to a clipboard in front of him. His pen scratched loudly as he made notes.
Elena shouldn't have been surprised that the Counsel knew when and where she had checked in during her first night in Royal City. It was still unnerving to hear.
"Counselman Calvin is right." Another Counsel member addressed her from her left, "How have you managed to stay out of our sight for so long?"
Elena turned to the man who had addressed her. His large round face and beady black eyes were fixed on her intently. She'd never thought that she might be punished for staying hidden from the Talent-Seekers for so long. "Sir, I was unaware that the Royal Family needed my services. I only..."
"We all serve the Royal Family, Miss Carey." The man spoke suddenly with a deep angry voice, startling Elena. "It is our duty. Do you think that you are an exception?"
"No sir." Elena hurriedly replied. She was sure her heart could not physically beat any faster than it already was, yet it quickened in the deafening silence that followed.
Finally President Cane spoke, his gaze never leaving Elena. "Elena Carey is not here to stand trial, Baird. The Counsel is already aware of Aaron Carey's efforts to conceal her ability from us and that indiscretion is being... dealt with."
Elena's racing heart rose to her throat at the mention of her father and she tried not to squirm under Cane's fierce scrutiny.
Baird crossed his arms and glared. Calvin and Evelyn, along with the nine other Counsel members turned their attention to their notepads again, scratching out more notes. Not President Cane, his eyes remained fixed on her. Elena gulped.
"You are here today for a reason." Cane's voice softened, but his face remained cold and unmoving. "Why don't you show us what you can do."
He lifted his right hand towards a door to Elena's right. She turned to watch as the door opened and a man appeared pushing a wheelchair. The man sitting in the chair had a large bandage wrapped around his leg just above his right knee. He cringed as the chair bumped over the threshold of the door.
Silently, he was wheeled up the ramp and to Elena in the middle of the platform. The man pushing the chair made no signs of emotion. His cargo, however, looked terrified. She tried to reassure him with her eyes as she kneeled down in front of him. "It's ok. I'm here to help you."
The man's expression didn't relax. Elena made slow deliberate movements, letting him know what she was doing. "I'm going to unwrap your leg. I won't hurt you."
He nodded slightly and she proceeded to remove his bandage, revealing a long deep gash just above his knee. He winced as she placed her hands over the ugly laceration. She smiled at him softly, "Just try to relax, this will only take a second."
She stared into and then past his eyes, looking for the spot to read his body's energy. She found it and pulled the energy towards her hands to the injured flesh. It quickly knit back together the severed tissue and after a few seconds she released it back to the rest of his body.
The man finally relaxed into his chair as Elena refocused on the bright white room. The gash was barely visible as a thin white scar across his leg. She moved to get up, but the man quickly grabbed her hand between his own. "Thank you, angel," he whispered hoarsely.
Before she could reply he was being pushed back out the door.
"Not bad, Miss Carey." President Cane commended her as he motioned towards the door again.
Quickly, another patient was being wheeled towards the platform, this time on a gurney.
The morning proceeded in this way for over an hour, each new injury worse than the last. Some were internal illness or injury, some where external, and some were a combination of both. Cane would give her no more than a minute between healings. In the beginning Elena moved out of urgency and need, with the desire to help her patients as her driving force. After about the 20th healing her work began to wear on her own energy, and she began to move out of necessity. After each healing, the man would usually grab at her hands, feeling the source that had brought them life again, and whisper their thanks. More than once she was deemed an angel or a spirit.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, President Cane didn't gesture towards the door again. The last man she had worked on had been very ill. He was unconscious when he was rolled in on his metal gurney. She had read his energy the best she could without seeing his eyes. Even without that definite pathway she could easily see that the man was beyond healing. She had done what she could for his pain and then shook her head softly, "There's no more I can do for him."
The man had been wheeled back out the door and Elena had looked to Cane, expecting him to be signaling her next patient. She found herself intensely relieved when he didn't. Her eyes were so heavy, she found it hard to focus on her surroundings. She'd never pushed herself this far when healing, and it was amazing how drained and useless she suddenly felt. It was all she could do to continue standing as the Counsel debated amongst themselves for several minutes in hushed voices. She was too tired to attempt eavesdropping.
Finally, President Cane returned his cold gaze on her.
"Well done, Miss Carey." He reached for a pen in his robe and signed a piece of paper that she couldn't see well enough to read. He handed the signed paper to the woman sitting next to him with the green eyes. "Evelyn, read our new Healer her oath."
A loud thud startled Elena into brief clarity as Evelyn stamped the paper with the Counsel's seal. She looked up at Elena with a calculated menacing stare. "Elena Carey, you will hereby be sworn in as a Royal Healer. Your obligations as a Royal Healer are at the discretion of the Counsel. Your duty is to the Royal Family and those that serve the Royal Family. Use of your abilities to contradict this duty is strictly forbidden and is punishable... by death."
Elena barely heard the last part of the oath as she struggled to remain upright. Her energy was waning fast and she wondered how'd she ever get out of this room under her own power.
"Do you accept and understand these terms?"
The white and sterile room began to dim as Elena looked at the Counsel with fading tunnel vision. As darkness enveloped her she replied with her last ounce of energy, "Yes. I do."