There was a hush in the room as every eye turned to Winna who stood defiant in front of them. She looked into every ancient face and held her ground steady as Tia, the tiniest woman in the circle, stared at her with moist eyes, "Winna dear, do you know what this means? You may have to end Kaden's life. Is that something you want on your shoulders for the rest of your life?" Winna nodded to her as Jin stood tall and stiff as an icicle in a winter storm. His long, white beard pointed at the end as he approached the young woman, "Will you have the strength to stop him? Your affinity lies in healing, Winna. How do you propose to quell the darkness in his heart?"
"By calling to the light." Fala answered from the corner of the room. The storm raging outside reflected off the old woman's eyes as she stepped into the circle, "Winna is the best choice for this mission. I've watched them both from the time they were children. Kaden has always loved Winna and she has realized how much she loves him as well. If anyone can solve this with the same peace that Rinsha lives for, it will be because of the love within Winna's heart."
Winna watched as the frail woman stood stronger than she had been in years. How much she admired her teacher and mentor, but Jin's words were painfully true, she had no idea how to stop Kaden. In the last fight she had with her corrupted mate, he almost destroyed her. Biting her lip, Winna inquired, "How shall I do this, Elder Fala? Teach me, tell me how I can stop this, because I do not believe I can do it on my own."
The gray eyes scanned her face, "You can't. What Jin says is true, your affinity lies in healing, your skill on your own is not something that can defeat Lumin's evil. But you will not be going into this battle alone. Your power is not enough, so you will take mine." Winna's eyes widened, "What do you mean?"
Elder Fala placed her wrinkled hands on her pupil's strong shoulders, "Winna, twenty years ago I had to stand by and watch a good man die for this village. Kidick did not deserve the death he chose and I will be damned if I let Kaden become corrupted by Lumin's evil. Because Lumin is a spirit, we are unable to destroy him, but I believe with your goodness and my affinity and love, we can quell his darkness so that he will never return to hurt the people of this village again."
Jin protested, "Fala, do you realize what you're doing?! If you transfer your affinity to Winna, it will kill you, there is no way you will be able to survive that!" Winna looked to her teacher's brittle fingers and thin legs, she was so impossibly frail that the slightest breeze would seem to destroy her. Jin was right, there would be no way she could undergo something like a transfer, "Please Elder Fala, there must be another way. I can fight Kaden on my own, I can heal him if I use my affinity."
Fala shook her head, "No Winna, I won't lose you the same way I lost my sister, Brye. Lumin's darkness is something that many Whisperers have tried to fight on their own and all of them have been lost for it. Good, strong, men and women were taken over. This is the greatest hurt you will have to heal and don't think I haven't noticed how much the smallest healings have been draining you. Your affinity is wearing down on you, Winna. In some aspects you and I are the same."
Winna searched for another answer, some other way to save everyone without any more loss and found none. She closed her eyes to fight back tears as Elder Fala raised a hand to her pupil's chin, "Winna, dear, you look at me now. I am an old woman, my time is done and your life has just begun. I am so proud of the woman you have become. Your compassion, your strength, your unending love of this village is the thing that will keep me alive in your heart. I knew you would be blessed with the gifts to take Rinsha and make it everything it can be. You will be the next leader of this village, I will pass on my knowledge to you, my dear."
Tears flowed down her cheeks as she shook her head, "Please don't go. Please don't leave me, Elder Fala. I still need you. I still need my teacher." Fala embraced her gently, "I have taught you everything you need to know. Be brave my darling and use the love within your heart to save us all. Protect the people of this village and love them as I loved you. Now time is running out, we need to become one." Winna shook her head as a hand came upon Fala's shouler. Jin stood proudly beside her, "You will take all of our strength."
Winna looked to him as all four elders circled the young healer. They joined hands and began an incantation of deepest magic. Winna whipped her head around, looking to each elder as they began to glow slightly from the spell they whispered. At first it was a language that Winna had never heard, but when she closed her eyes and focused, the words became clear and her heart ached as they came to her memory,
'"Through the valleys of shadow,
To the streams purest in sight.
From the dawning of the mountains
To the dragon's midnight flight.
Two will be chosen,
one of darkness, one of light.
Two shall be summoned,
With the end drawing near.
Two shall expose the secret
of the shadow's greatest fear."
Winna felt a warmth rush through her as all the knowledge, the pain, the joy, the experience of the elders combined flooded into her soul all at once. Her eyes shot open as an energy that was more than power filled her veins. She had seen the begining and the ending of every one of their lives, the battles they had fought, the power their bodies posessed and above all, the love every one of them had for the village of Rinsha and it's people.
Uncontrollable tears poured from her eyes as the intake of power suddenly stood and all four leaders fell to the ground. Winna herself fell to her knees as she crawled to Fala's wrinkled frame. The woman was cold to the touch as Winna mourned the loss of her teacher and the rest of the elders which had raised her and her friends from infancy. As she cried, she heard a voice call sweetly, "Winna....Winna dear. Now is not the time to cry."
The intrusion of her mind shocked her as Winna raised her eyes to see four figures standing tall before her. They were all tranclucent and yet had substance to them, a glow eminating from their bodies. Winna wiped her eyes, confused as one of them smiled a smile she would remember for the rest of her life, "Elder Fala?" The woman who looked to be about twenty-five nodded patiently. All of the elders stood before her as a young man explained, "We have departed this realm and our souls returned to the forms we were in when we became the leaders of this village. We shall help you in this battle, young healer and then we shall depart for the after life. Our souls will dwell within you and grant you our power for the time they are needed."
Somehow managing to stand, Winna faced all four leaders with a determination that went to her bones. She would not allow their sacrifices to be in vain, "I accept your affinities. Help me destroy the evil that plauges our people." Stepping out into the storm, Winna followed the directions to the sacrificial stone where Kaden waited, facing a battle of his own.
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