The carriage rolls on, through the city, its glamour putting the old, run-down carriages it passes to shame. I, a mere 14-year old girl with a crown of ivy on my head, and an emerald brooch against my throat, sit inside, my head pressed against the cold window, watching the passersby. Flecks of rain dot the window, distorting my view of the people passing, the homeless in their rags, with dirty faces, begging on the corners for some change; but they won't find that here, as the poor that live in this area hurry past, anxious to finish their day's business and get out of the rain.

The fascination of life on these busy city streets momentarily distracts me from my sorrow, but the pain soon comes rushing back. Pain at my sister's death…and my parents' decision to send me away. I think of my home in the forest. I think of my house, a large brick house in a peaceful clearing, surrounded by trees, with only a path leading through the trees away from it, leaving it undisturbed by carriages. But most of all I think of my room, my magnificent altar, my exquisite paintings which cover the walls… and my sister who shared the room with me, ever since her birth when I was three. We shared that room up until two moths ago when it happened.

The two main tribes of the forest, the Uniki and the Hereski, who had always before lived under a façade of harmony, which covered up a bitter rivalry that had existed between the two since ancient times, had broken out in war. My sister, being the daughter of one of the elders who governed the Uniki had been sought out and taken by a group of Hereskis. She had been found days later, in a remote part of the woods, her body broken and battered, but alive. Our father had hired the best healer in the forest, but it was too late. She died in my arms that very night. Before she died, however, she told me her story and this is what she said.

"I can't remember what day it was, or how long ago, but I was sitting in our clearing," She managed a weak smile to me, and I thought of "our" clearing, and the times we had spent there together, since we were little girls. "and three men appeared, surrounding where I sat. I had gone there to think, I can't really say what about. I had no idea what their intentions were…I had always thought I was safe there, so long as I didn't leave this area…until I saw their tattoos, the setting sun, symbol of the Hereski tribe. I knew then that they had come for me. I looked around for an escape, but by then they had closed in on me. I tried to scream, but one of them held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me if I screamed." She laughed bitterly. "Maybe it would be better if he had." I squeezed her hand tightly.

From there, she tearily proceeded to describe how the men had knocked her unconscious and when she had woken she was in a small hut in the deep woods. They had beaten her then taken turns having their way with her. Then they left her in the woods to die. She had been found days later by a group of Uniki huntsmen, barely alive. The huntsmen had fed her and given her water, then brought her home. She had lain in bed for days while we waited anxiously for the healer to arrive. When he arrived, he had spent several hours examining her, then left the room to talk to us.

He bowed before my mother. "Madam," he said in his gravelly voice. "She has many broken bones, but worse her spirit is broken. The bones I can heal, but I cannot fix a broken spirit. I shall do the best I can, but without the will to live all the magic in the world can not save her. This is a battle she must win on her own." With that he bowed his head and returned to my sister's side. I followed him into the room.

Sophia was lying on her bed, her eyes closed. She was either unconscious or asleep. Her beautiful long brown hair was spread across her pillow. She looked peaceful, but I knew that looks could be deceiving.

He immediately began his work. He took a vial of reddish powder out of his cloak pocket. He walked in a circle, sprinkling the powder on the floor, and muttering "I call on the gods to bless this circle." He then rummaged through his bag and selected three stones. He placed them in a triangle around my sister's bed. He held his hand over the first stone. "Green Jasper; element of Earth. Join me in healing this girl." He moved to the next stone. "Banded Agate; Fire's power, ease the suffering of this girl's mind. Finally, he turned to the last stone. "Sunstone; may the energy of the sun enter this girl's body and heal her wounds." He lit a single gold candle and placed it on the nightstand. He snuffed out the gas lamp so Sophia was lit only by candlelight.

He sat on the floor, inside the circle, his back straight, legs crossed, and his eyes closed. I watched in fascination as the three stones began to grow, enveloping Sophia in a healing light. The light grew brighter, until it was pure white. I had to turn away before it blinded me.

The healer was muttering, and I realized he was chanting in an unfamiliar language. His chanting grew louder, and the circle of white light closed in on Sophia. He raised his hands in the air and chanted faster. He stood and placed his hands on either side of Sophia's head. The light entered her body, and the room went quiet and dark.

I heard the strike of a match as the lamp was lit. The room flooded with light, and I could see Sophia blearily opening her eyes. The healer packed up his things and left the room. I ran to my sister's side.

"Soph," I said kneeling beside her bed. I wanted to touch her but her fragility made me nervous.

"Ari," She whispered, "You need to get out of here."

"Get out of-" her words confused me, "here? This room?"

"No," She said patiently. "The forest. It's not safe here. What they did to me…it mustn't happen to you. You are…destined for more."

"But Soph," I matched her tone. "It's over now. You're safe. You're going to be fine."

"No." Her voice seemed to be growing weaker. "I'm not. I can feel his magic but it won't heal me, not unless I want it with all of my heart. And I don't. How am I going to go on? There's nothing left for me here. You have to let go, Ari. For my sake."

Tears were welling in my eyes. "You can't leave me." Suddenly I grew angry. "You just want to take the easy way out. What about the rest of us? You want us all to suffer on your accord?"

She took my hand. "Someday you will understand that I love you with all of my heart. Everything happens for a reason.

I was sobbing. I leaned my head against her chest so I could hear her heart beating. Her hand squeezed mine and her voice, barely audible whispered, "Goodbye is not forever Arianna." Then her heart stopped beating.

"Arianna! Arianna!" I feel shaking and see the face of my ladies maid, Shirana, above me. I realize that I am lying on the floor. I reach up and feel my face. It is wet. I am crying.

Shirana kneels next to me. "What happened? Are you all right?"

I sit up slowly. I feel dizzy and my head aches. "Yes. Yes, I'm fine." I attempt to stand and end up on my knees. Shirana helps me up, and I am standing unsteadily. She helps me to a seat in the carriage.

"Are you sure you're alright, miss? Should I ask the driver to pull over?"

"No." I say. "I'm fine. Really." And for the rest of the ride I sit in silence closing my mind to the thoughts that try to enter.