Aley was walking back from the city of Mizair, one of the three cities in the known world. He was tired, having used his energy saving lives, after the short, but fierce battle there. The former ruler Grettison and his wife, Medina had been trying to regain power, but when Grettison had ruled, he’d let his people starve. Many had been injured in the recent fighting on both sides and Aley had spent days, healing and helping in the hospital. Now he was enjoying the fresh air and pale sunshine on his long walk home. He was beginning to feel re-energised, being out in the open. The wasteland, he was walking through, was filled with areas of forest and shrubs and greenery. There were main tracks and smaller ones. None were made up roads, as there were few vehicles that ventured out of any of the three cities, due to an extreme shortage of fuel.
Being a healer, or indeed having any gift, made life dangerous in this unstable world. Healers, truth finders and visualizers, were all at risk of exploitation by greedy and evil people. Until the last few years, Aley had managed to keep his gift a total secret, and worked as a farmer and scientist, designing new, more productive crops. He was successful at his job and loved the work.
The wasteland wasn’t always a safe place to walk alone, however Aley was a tall, strong man, who could look after himself. He was eager to be back home with his partner, Mooley and was thinking about their planned trip, to explore the unknown, and possibly uninhabited, part of the world damaged by nuclear wars.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t hear the two men who crept up behind him. Suddenly, out of the cover of some nearby trees, the two men threw a sack over his head and held him fast. He struggled, but not being able to see, soon found himself tied up and bundled into the back of a cart.
‘What’s going on? Is this Medina’s work?’ he thought. She’d wanted to use his healing powers in the past, to make her more powerful. ‘No, I can’t believe that she’d kidnap me for a second time, especially when she’s just lost her husband, Grettison, in the battle for Mizair. No this is someone else.’
He tried to ease the ropes from his wrists but it was no good. ‘I’ve been careless,’ he thought. ‘By helping heal those injured in the war, I’ve let someone know of my gift.’
Was he now going to become one of those being exploited? The visualizers had only just been released from captivity in the city of Mebsuta, where they’d been used to make that city look more affluent than it actually was. Now someone was going take his freedom, probably to make money out of him.
He must try to contact Vrail, his truth finder friend. At least Vrail could read his mind if he focussed hard. His friend would be able to track where the abductors were taking him. Then Aley’s brother, Baley could organise a rescue.
Aley couldn’t protect himself from being thrown about in the cart on the bumpy tracks. The sack stank of some kind of earthy mould and he could hear the men muttering to each other, although their words were unclear. He listened as carefully as he could to the noises around him in the hope that there’d be clues as to his whereabouts.
After what seemed like hours, but was probably only half an hour, the cart stopped.
‘Get out,’ shouted one of his kidnappers.
‘How can I, when I can’t see where I’m going?’ Aley replied.
A hand grabbed his shoulder and hauled him from the cart. He was guided down a path and then shoved in a dark room. The man removed the sack and told him to sit on the floor. None of it looked clean but Aley thought it best not to argue.
‘You’re going to stay here tonight and start work tomorrow.’
‘What sort of work? What can you want with a farmer?’
‘Don’t be funny, lad. We know you’re a healer.’
There seemed little point in denying it.
‘And do you know how healers work? What they need? If you take money off people expecting me to heal them, they’re going to get really annoyed if I can’t.’
‘Don’t you mess us around. You’ll heal who we tell you to.’
‘It doesn’t work like that,’ persisted Aley. ‘I’m exhausted from working in Mizair. The healing comes from within a healer. If you don’t give me food and somewhere comfortable to sleep, I literally won’t have the power to heal anyone. I also need a good first aid kit and access to clean water. Some people don’t need a healer, just basic first aid. It’s best not to use a healer’s energy where other methods will do and finally even if I’m a hundred per cent rested, there are still some illnesses I can’t cure, however much you bully me.’
‘You’ll do as you’re told or you’ll die. It’s that simple,’ the man said as he slammed the door shut leaving Aley in the dark.
Aley still had his hands tied, so couldn’t do much. He decided to try and contact Vrail. Slowly his eyes got used to the darkness. There was a shuttered window that let in a small amount of light. He made his way over there but the window was barred. Aley closed his eyes and concentrated hard, telling Vrail he needed help and at first received no response. Then he heard someone speaking into his mind.
‘I hear you Aley. It’s me Grace. I’ll help you but it may take a little while.’
Aley was so pleased to hear from Vrail’s only living relative. Grace was wise, having lived for hundreds of years, and he was relieved to have made contact.
‘As soon as I’ve located your whereabouts, I’ll contact your brother. Are you in immediate danger?’
‘I don’t think so, Grace. I think I’m going to be put to work healing people for money. I’m in a dark room with a barred window. I think I’m still somewhere in the wasteland, probably between Delamont and Firstop, but I can’t see them bringing people here for me to work on. I expect I’ll be moved.’
‘Stay calm and strong, Aley. We will find you.’
Aley sat still in the darkened room. He longed to be with Mooley. He thought again of their plans to explore the uninhabited part of the Earth together; the parts damaged by nuclear war from two centuries before. Recently there’d been some evidence that the Earth had been repairing itself, which would mean that humans wouldn’t need to be squashed into three cities and the surrounding villages. Aley also wished to find plants, that could be cultivated, to bring more variety to the edible foods available to his village, and the three cities.