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Health Harvester

The sun lit the valley like a deep emerald setting in a ring.  The forest and lake gleamed from the sparkling rays.  By all appearances everything seemed serene, no one would assume that anything ominous could happen in such a beautiful locale.  Nestled between the deep green lush forest and clear, clean lake sat a village.  A jewel of its own, it was a growing vibrant cradle of humanity.  The citizens thrive, their lives industrious and fulfilling.

That is until the monthly visit of the Harvester.  Even when a warm pleasant sun shined on the valley, this man exuded a presence of cold dark doom.  Short to normal standards, as well as plump; his bowl cut blond hair and sky-blue eyes belayed a false impression to anyone who didn’t inhabit this village.  They rarely received visitors, so a soul could not recognize him, even babies would wail at the mere mention of his presence.

He approached from the mountains.  They held a crescent-shaped hold on the valley.  Their peeks lorded over the inhabitants of the valley.  It was because of the mountains that the people of the village prospered, yet their population never grew beyond a certain point.  The strange little man called Harvester called the village Negrigon.  The threshold of their population would begin to become destructive to not only the valley but the people themselves.  The town elders were appointed by Harvester, so even though no one truly understood the concept they accepted it, it was a tightly held belief.

He approached with a smile plastered to his lips, acting as if the sun’s glow on his face was a warm enjoyable experience.  In reality, he loathed the valley, he yearned for the high peaks of the mountains, but his travels were a necessity.  After all, he was a prominent part of the community.  Without him it would fall to anarchy and ruin.

He was on an urgent errand this day, more so than any previous time.  As he entered the village, he hardly noticed the furtive glanced just before the road was evacuated, as if a calamity was about to occur.  He was used to this behavior.  Those people feared him, perhaps more about what he did than he himself.  But the line was so fine that it hardly mattered.  He strolled straight to the village center, to the elder’s hall.  He knew they would have gathered as soon as they learned he was arriving.  He also knew they knew his path; he had been observed since exiting the caves at the base of the mountains.

A leach of a man, someone with nearly no moral compass waited for him.  his wife, a fat over barring shrew, who coveted power and authority at any cost, including her own brood waited next to him.  they were a pair that made his skin crawl.  It made him question the mentality of the citizens that they accepted these two yet cringed at the sight of him.  the Harvester couldn’t remember why he had selected these two.

Kelna was pleased to see the Harvester arrive.  It had been too long since his last visit.  She had business to complete, that would only happen with the Harvester.  She feigned a large smile, opening he arms in welcome.

“My dear Koltis, welcome.”  He hated his nickname.  “It has been too long, please come in.”

She said as she stepped aside ushering him into her residence.  As usual Mark was silent, she preferred that, he was spineless and she only needed him because he was male, some things were still closed to females.  Mark led them into a large room, a few sofas sat in the middle with paintings lining the walls.  The room was designed to be ward and inviting, though no guests ever entered it with the exception of Koltis.

After they all sat Kelna said.  “What do we owe to your visit?”

As if she already wasn’t aware.  Koltis had the impression of some predatory animal lurking in a deep dark cave somewhere when she smiled.  In the future he needed to be more prudent with his choices.  “I require just one today.”

He couldn’t believe she actually looked disappointed.  “only one, are you certain?”

“Yes, quite, have you gotten a list of these tested?”

“Of course, always as you specify.”  Without a word Mark stood, leaving the room.

An uncomfortable silence settled over them.  To distract himself from glancing at Kelna he let his mind wander.  He reflected on his he arrived to this point in his life.  Only here he called was called the Harvester.  In another place he was considered a healer.  Only one existed at a time.  The Magi and of course the Quimi, the apprentice.  Koltis had yet to appoint one.  he felt he had plenty of time, he still felt young and vibrant; even though the job caused mental weariness.  Only really when he was int the valley.  Hence why he hated the valley.

Koltis’s own memories of being a Quirmi were strange.  Learning the skills of a Magi were often difficult, yet he remembered his old teacher as ancient, even when he first was chosen.  He never remembered him as young, vibrant.  He had just turned five, as per custom, he was a first-born child of a waterfall clan family.  These distinct groups of people lived near each other, yet none knew or at least mingled with each other.  Only Koltis, as the Magi, moved among each clan.  Each had their purposes, or at least that is what was told to each generation of Magi generation.  The waterfall clan lived mid-way up the mountains, their pueblo-style homes built into the stone behind the cascading wall of water.  They were considered touched by the spirits.  Being born and living there was considered an honor.  They started the tradition of the Magi.  The special stone carried with the mystic healers came from the very rock being beaten by the water.

It was the Peaklings, a race of people slender than normal, their skin shimmered in the thin air and blazing light.  They considered themselves among gods.  They lived above others.  Their problem was severe health issues due to the altitude.  They required a healer nearly all the time.  This became the Magi’s sole purpose.

The valley, the flatlanders, they were the Magi’s curse.  For some unknown reason they were hearty, robust people; able to survive through most calamities.  So it was among their numbers that Koltis had to find Calmers.  Calmers were the essence of a person.  Their health, vitality, their energy, yet still not their soul.  the Calmer was collected to heal the Peaklings.  Hence his title as the Harvester.

One place he sees as home, though he barely sees it, one where he is a savior, the other he was considered a monster.  It was no wonder that it was a lonely job.  On average he collected five or six Calmers a month.  He aimed for the elderly, or people that had lived a decent life.  Unfortunately, Kelna used her position in authority to remove rivals.  It bothered him that he couldn’t do anything about it.  he was required to keep a minimal presence.  A revolt of the Flatlanders meant death to the Peaklings.

“I misplaced it, my apologies for the wait.”  Kelna stated matter-of-factly.

Koltis took the offered piece of parchment.  He wasn’t surprised to see hastily scratched names across its surface.  Only three names were available, all males.  Another of his rules, females were needed to continue their future, males were more easily disposable.  What a term, disposable.  His teacher had warned him to remain detached.  To believe that the Flatlanders weren’t human, that they were a lower species.

No matter what the circumstances he couldn’t do it.  they all lived and died as a single people.  Only their geographically adapted physiologies and mentalities separated them.  Koltis was sure one could walk amongst others without problems.  But it wasn’t his position to judge, deep down they were all the same, whether they believed it or not.

“This will have to do.”

“They are in order of health.”

“Of course, they are, I wouldn’t doubt it.”  Though he did.  He was sure some other reasoning incited their orders.  “Please tell me about them.”

This elicited an instant frown that slipped past her carefully erected veil of pleasantries.  But just as quickly as it appeared it vanished, a ghost upon her face.  “W- why?  The list was completed as per your instructions.”

She gave away so much, he knew then the list was doctored.  The list was created by an intricate lottery, that way it seemed random when in fact, certain attributes were needed.  “I’m sure the list is complete, yet I still would like to know about them.”

“You have never asked this before.”

“I’m aware, but I am looking for something quite specific among the candidates.”

Her shark-like smirk surfaced, she sensed an opportunity.  With a silky hue to her voice she said.  “And what is this specific something you’re looking for?”

“I’ll know it when I hear it.”

She wasn’t about to let it drop, no matter how elusive Koltis acted.  “I think it best I know so I can summon the proper person.  You know how agitated the people get if you wander the village.”

Unfortunately, she had a valid point.  But he needed to end the terror she covered the valley with.  A thought then crossed his mind.  He could complete two objectives with a single task.  Reaching into his satchel he removed the dark red stone.  These stones always felt heavier then they actually were, he knew this was due to how important they were.  The stone was an imallicite, a stone taken from the waterfall’s basin.  They had a unique property.  They could draw any ailment that plagued a body leaving the person comatose.  They would only wake once the stone turned from the dark red back to its original sky blue.  According to Koltis’s teacher so many various ways were attempted.  Only one worked, consistently every time.

The stone needed to release the alimenting essence into another living being, they had to be healthy.  If not, it wouldn’t work.  It only worked on one person.  After it was used the stone would fracture.  Yet there was one more unique feature.  The stone lit like a beacon; its other feature was the lichen that helped form it.  if heated it would light up brightly.  Fortunately, only Koltis knew its secrets.  “I am pleased to say your list isn’t needed.”

Kelna looked stunned.  “What do you mean?”  her eyes wide, Koltis was acting strangely, she had been careful to make the current list inclusive to a few rivals.  She had been busy accumulating land on the outer reaches of the village.  Her retirement plan.  It had caused some turmoil in town.  Many villagers noticed the connection between Harvester and her growing claim to land that had been recently released.  Of course, she laid all the blame at Koltis’s feet, no one would confront him, so she felt safe in her atrocities.  Now, though she felt mounting dread.  Had he found out?

Koltis used years of training deft hand manipulations to direct the stone’s glow.  It fell squarely on Mark.  “He will do.”

“What?  You cant be serious.”  Kelna stated following the beam.  Mark’s face had ghostly white.

“Oh, but I am Kelna, Mark fits the criteria I require.”

Koltis approached Mark who backed away, his hands up hoping to ward off the inevitable.  Unfortunately for him he felt a sold wall against his back.  Before Kelna could react Koltis stood before Mark, the glowing red stone held before him.  he pressed the stone against the man’s chest.  The reaction was instantaneous.

A dark red field wrapped Mark, the stone now held by its own powers, Koltis stepped back.  The light started to penetrate Mark pouring into his skin like water through a sieve.  As his body absorbed more of the reddish illumination, the stone became clearer.  Mark’s body became gaunt, jaundiced.  Illness invading and spreading at a rapid rate.

“You can’t – “ Kelna screeched.  Even though she knew there was no reversing the process.  As she watched he husband deteriorate she felt no pain from the loss of his companionship.  In the village a woman needed a husband to own or control land.  It was an antiquated law, often ignored, yet still useful.  He was losing her alibi.  She was going to change everything, using Mark as a pawn.  But now she risked losing everything.  Kelna needed to react quickly.

Koltis watched in his detached manner.  He felt no remorse over his decision.  Mark was an empty-minded fool.  At no point would anyone in the village miss his presence.  He still needed to act professionally.  As Mark sank to the floor, his muscles shrinking, Koltis helped him to lay down.  The stone finished its transfer.  After removing it from Mark’s chest he covered him with a heavy patchwork blanket.

Looking around he wasn’t surprised to find Kelna missing.  He gently packed the stone in his travel bag then left the mano house.  He stopped suddenly on the front porch.  Many of the village folk stood there, blocking him.  Kelna stood at their front.  “I tell you he attacked my husband.  He wanted more, my virtue; when Mark refused, he took him.  he wasn’t on the list.”  She yelled in declaration.

Koltis knew this development was serious, yet he almost snorted a laugh, but managed to hold it in.  the mere mention of her virtue was a humorous affair.  She had no virtues to hold dear.  Instead, he focused on her mistake, she just buried not only Mark but herself.

“I hold no list, only the stone chooses, you all know this.”

She stepped deeper into her folly.  “You know this is a lie, I have the list here.”  She raised the parchment high.

All the eyes followed the crinkling paper, their gaze locked completely and utterly on the offered evidence.  ‘If that is my evidence, then why do you carry it?”

Her eyes went wide, she now realized her mistake.  “I- I took it from you.”

“Truly remarkable, who is on that list?”

“Children, you pillage our greatest resource.”

Koltis crossed his arms, he let the pause settle over the collection of people.  They exhibited an array of emotions.  Then he ended the nonsense Kelna created.  “If that is true that your-  virtue-“  Again he had trouble holding the laugh.  “And I plunder this village for children then explain how you carry a list in your hand of potential people, yet I chose Mark.  Would I not just complete my list instead of grace your doorstep with my presence?”

Murmurs spread like a wave across the assembled people of the village.  “Why must I always visit this building?  Is it not true that the selected elders choose whom I visit?  Have the people I have seen been selected under some guise of random selection?  Is there a pattern to those afflicted with my presence?”

She stood there, her eyes bulging.  Koltis could almost see gears turning in her head.  She remained silent.  All eyes settled on her.  The murmurs were now recognizable.  A definite level of dissent was rising.  Threatening to smother Kelna.  Her jaw started to quiver, no sound escaped, yet it appeared that she wanted to say something to rebuke his statements.

Koltis continued.  “I renounce Kelna and Mark as your appointed leaders from this day forward.  I leave it to you, the citizens of this village, to choose five members of counsel.  This council will be your governing body as well as your emissary to me.”  Then after a glance at Kelna.  “Man and woman are equal in this council.  But let it be ruled with honesty and equality.”

Koltis didn’t remain to see Kelna’s fate.  He began his journey back up the mountains.  He knew that no matter what he said or did he would always be seen as a health harvester.  Someone who reaped from the valley.  As he carefully climbed the hidden road leading to the Peaklings he appraised his life once again.  Perhaps it was time to take an apprentice.  Maybe he was old, he needed to pass the torch.

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