• Fevered dreams… II

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    May 31, 2013 /  Journal ab Lithmore, Uncategorized

    The dream came again.

    This time it made sense, but still sweat stuck the sheets to my naked skin despite winter’s cruel grasp on the city. Perhaps it wasn’t wise or polite to sleep naked in the Queen’s Palace and my mind revolted against my lack of etiquette and sense. Or perhaps the truth behind the lies I had been told didn’t want to sleep anymore. Had I cried out? Apparently when I had the dreams in the Madison I had. My pounding heart was heard to hear over, but blissful silence echoed through the suites, Samanthya was still asleep in her bed undisturbed by my nocturnal fright. Nevertheless, since Givanni had tried to take me back to the ballad and the execution of one of my fellow Physicians, Kain le Destral, sleep had not come easy.  Thank the Mother for makeup up, koreroot and ample amounts of invigorating teas.

    ~~~

    “One two three, one two three.” His voice was deeper than the Lord Keeper’s as soft breath brushed against my check. It smelled vaguely of spiced rum as he chanted the beat to our dance. His arm was wrapped tightly around me waist as he pulled me close, I could feel the muscle of his body against my back and  through the coarse linen of his robes. In front of me, the gleaming metal of the  swinging axe kept coming, slicing the air mere inches from my face as the Tenebrae manouvered me skillfully out of the way of the demon. Despite my terror, or maybe because of it, I felt an ache for the man who danced with my life.

    “I’ll cut through her just to get to you, you bastard,” the man chasing us growled as he swung wildly again. my fear rose as a table splintered from the power of the blow. What chance would I have should that blade crash into my flesh? I would be dead, laid flat out on the cold table of my own morgue, shoved into one of the cramped shelves until they buried my into a lonely, visitorless grave in the cathedral yard.

    “Save me.” my voice came hoarse as hysteria began to take me. I forced myself to turn in the Tenebrae’s arms so he could see the desperation in words was truth. “Save me!”

    “I’ve never been one for good ideas,” his soothing voice whispered to me. Then there was pain as he let me drop to the floor in a pool of my own blood.

    “Save me,” I cried again hoarsely, turning to the demon now for salvation as I clutched at the wound in my side.

    The Justiciar ignored my pleas as he stepped over my dying body, his hands clutched white-knuckled to the haft of the axe.

    ~~~

     Had he been one rib up, he would have punctured through the bottom of my lung and I would have died. If he had been one rib down, my intestines would have spilled them and poisoned my body. He could have easily done either and ended my life but instead the physical wounds were minor in consequence. Had he known? Was it on purpose? Had he saved my life by taking me out of the equation? Had Regilus expected me to live or to die, or even remember what happened? What I had been told in my bed was all lies and now I knew the truth my stomach felt sick that the man had been more than willing to kill me and now rode on the shoulders of the city for saving me.

    Naer Nivios. Danat le Vesenia. Tenebrae. Thank you.

  • Musings on Lord ab Harkness’s recent promotion to Count.

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    May 17, 2013 /  Journal ab Lithmore

    Fate …

    You bitch.

  • The Apron

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    May 11, 2013 /  Uncategorized

    It’s happened.

    I can’t beleive it’s happened.

    Tubori hands ran over the fabric of the apron once more, fingertips tracing over the embroidery she once had thought a humorous joke between friends was now a reality. The fingers on her hand were thin things, spidery things peppered with old scars. On her lower left index knuckle, a brand from when she was careless with a pair of tongs under Miss Maebel’s tuteluge at the forge. The teacher had chuckled warmly as the girl hopped about the room cursing in every language she knew, and then again as she smoothed salve over the burned flesh. It wasn’t the last burn she in her life as a jeweller, she had warned, and she was right. Though luckily, the girl had grown into a herbalist in her own right and improved on the salves used and what burns she received only marred her flesh with a vaguely imperceptible change of skin tone but to her, they were the badges of a trade that had served her well in the few short years she had been in Lithmore.

    What was more difficult to hide were the small white slivers that laced the sides of her fingers, other badges of another trade that severed her well. Small slips of the knives she worked with when she was first learning how to cut back flesh for cleaner stitching. She had been so nervous as it seemed to be against everything she had learned as a student, cutting away the living tissue that still bled, but as Lord le Orban had pointed out, a seamstress can’t make a dress trying to sew together frayed cloth. With his guidance and coaxing, she remove what was lost, and salvaged what she could of the man.

    Now it was her voice that was coaxing the students, reassuring and teaching them. Sending them into danger.

    She paused at the sudden thought before a wave of guilt rolled over her. It had been something she had spent many restless nights thinking about. Her eyes open, staring at the ceiling of her office as the problem put forth be the Queen herself roiled in her head. Southside. Her medicia students were all young, most of them came from rich families and the others where either Reeves or Knights., unwelcome in the lower parts of the city where the ragged people lived. A people who trusted the Brotherhood to keep them and dealt little with the arrogant men and women who paraded around the center of Lithmore as if they meant something. The winter this year had been especially hard this year and the young woman’s heart went out to them. Noone in Lithmore would want for good health, that was her duty to uphold and there was one option in her mind. So, in shaking penmanship she had wrote the letters, trembling in her uniform she had met the Tenebrae and received the guise. A white mask and a simple black robe. There was only one person she knew she could turn to to keep the secrecy of the recluse, untrusting peoples and it was them she gifted the robes to. Now, the White Man was being whispered in the lower places as a blessing from the Lord of the Springs himself, and pride swelled in her chest. Maybe next year a clinic on the edge of the border of south and north could be established, as the Lord Keeper had mentioned but that would have to wait for the thaw to begin.

    Her fingertips ran over the words once again and now there was sadness. How many nights had she sat in the tavern with Ailyn, sipping her tea as they jested together about her taking on the position of Magnate to the beautiful Charali, but only when the wild woman became her Epion, of course. It had been her who had made the apron for a lowly nurse in the Madison, a hope for better things to come. But those better things had also weighed the physician down, slowly sapping away her time and duties as the Master craftsman of the Merchants of Lithmore. And now … she had written and spoken to to her friend and now, she was a merchant no longer. Again there was a flash of guilt at the betrayal of such a close friend and of a guild who had been by her side in good and bad, in successes and in drunk, naked terrorising of the city as well. The girl wondered if her friend felt betrayed. It had felt they were like sister at one stage but as much as she had tried to deny it, a seed of jealously had been sown in her heart when Ailyn had found herself a husband and now would bear his children.

    With a small sigh, Gwenith le Stepps folded the apron neatly in three before placing it in the chest with her other clothing. The words “Royal Physician” in gold thread gleamed gaudily on the front of the apron before the Tubori woman sealed it away for the couriers to take away to her new apartments.

  • Penitence

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    March 25, 2013 /  Heretic dairies

    Forgive me Mother, for I have sinned.”

    The words echoed in my head as I asked forgiveness over and over again, bouncing around and muddling until they became unintelligible chanting of hollow words. I opened my eyes again and stared blearily into the room. The last of spring’s warm sun was creeping  across the floor and I knew it was only afternoon still and glanced about my surroundings.  A simple desk stood against the opposite wall and on it I could still see the steam wafting off the stew and the condensation on the ale that had been left there. I imagined I could smell the rabbit cooking on the spit before it was added to the broth… my stomach called for it and I quickly shifted my focus back to asking forgiveness. I would be here for a very long time and there would be plenty of time to feel hungry later. I closed my eyes again.

    Forgive me Mother, for I have sinned.”

    My stomach roiled and my eyes flew open. Desperately, I tried to bore my sight through the darkness to see the temptation left for me. In the moonlight I could barely make out the bowl and flagon, no steam or smell wafted from it now, it having been long ago cooled. It would do, any food would do. I tried to stand but the restraints bit into my skin again and I was reminded of why I was there and I relaxed again. While I felt hungry, my repentance was not yet complete. I closed my eyes again.

    “Forgive me Mother, for I have sinned.”

    I ache all over. My knees, my elbows, my back.. it feels as if somebody has strapped me to a chair and left me to my own thoughts as a strange form a torture. But then again, wasn’t it what I have just done? Lamb’s wool on the leather cuff would have been better for comfort for the next time, but that would be the opposite of why I was tied to the chair, wouldn’t it? It wouldn’t be long now. I closed my eyes again.

    “Forgive me Mother, for I have sinned.”

    What have you done, child?

     

  • Fevered dreams…

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    March 21, 2013 /  Uncategorized

    “For a swordsman, you have terrible footwork.”

    His laugh was a low rumble, deep in his chest. A chuckle full of warmth and love as he closed his silver-grey eyes and placed a tender kiss on my beautiful long hair.

    “For a jeweler you are quite light on your feet, or are you a doctor now? A doctor that jewels or a jeweler that docs?”  he mused as his lips lifted into a teasing smirk.

    I feign exhaustion as I give him a tired sigh. “I’ll be whatever you want me to be.” How long have we been like this? Hours? Days? His arm about my waist. My small, meek hand in his strong, calloused one. I can feel every single crease, every wrinkle in his palm as it rests on mine. His fingers unable to help themselves from toying with the cream ribbons that lace the back of my bodice. How did we get like this? Moving as one over the tabletops, stepping delicately as we waltz between the empty wineglasses. So many questions, but I feel weak, or am I just drunk?  Placing my cheek against the velvet of his tunic I lean into him for support as he wraps his arms around me, protecting me. Protecting me?

    “I want you to be safe, Gwen. Promise me you’ll be careful.” His voice is soothing in my chest-pressed ear, lulling my eyes to close as the room began to spin.

    “Gavin, the forge…”

    “Please, Gwen. Don’t call me that, I want us to be friends.”

    “Lord Keeper…” I feel him nod as her runs a hand lovingly over my long hair again.

    “Gwen. Are you ready?” I know what comes next, has to be done. I take one last inhalation of his scent before I nod my head. “That’s a good girl.” The familiar voice whispers as he lowers himself to one knee before me and presses his stubbled cheek to the bare skin of my belly before planting a tender kiss upon my ribcage. Slowly, his fingers cut through my skin and between my ribs with the easy of a dagger. The same strong, calloused hands that held me moments before wrapping around one of my ribs and tearing it from its brothers with the ease of a child.

    “Ah..”

    Pain. Pain and light, or is it light from the amount of pain? There’s people here, I know it. I can hear them, I think they are people? I don’t know. Why is everything so blurry? Ah. I’m choking! Someone is choking me! Sticking their fingers down my throat .. It’s bitter, so bitter.What is this? I .. what is happening.. to me?

    “Gavin?” I can feel the figure grin beneath it’s scarlet trimmed hood as it lifts a hang to the peak of the hood and drops it to his shoulder. His grey-silver eyes sparkle with mischief as he extend a hand down to me from atop the dining table, inviting me up with him. One of my hands runs nervously over the tips of my cropped locks while the other splays over the blood staining the side of my bodice.

    “Would you like a glimpse of paradise in exchange of a moment of suffering?”

    Dumbly, I nod my head as I take his hand and step onto the white tablecloth covering the table. Slowly we begin to waltz atop the table tops in the empty restaurant of the Bluebird’s Ballad. It seems an aeon we dance in the comfort of silence before I murmur to him. “For a swordsman, you have terrible footwork.”

    “For a jeweler you are quite light on your feet…”

    “I want you to be safe, Gwen…”

    “Please, Gwen. Don’t call me that…”

    Pain…

    “Would you like a glimpse of paradise in exchange of a moment of suffering?”

     

  • The Illness… Conclusion

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    November 29, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    Rarely were there burnings.

    While it was true that many ships came and went from the harbour below and many, many more feet made their way up the steep roads to the keep above, never were they that of the zealots come to push the way of Dav. The harbourmaster had himself come to Merdigal’s Stand and built this town because of his own persecutions. While it was common for mischievous and troublesome souls to ‘disappear’ to appear months later in foreign cities. There had only been two public burnings recorded in the short lifespan of the keep.

    Since noon the Master Stepps had paced uneasily the length and breadth of the square.  It was a choice that weighed heavy on his consciousness and he was taking the duty seriously. Guards, farmers, sailors, men, women even the children came forth and added what they could to the efforts. The pyre of kindling had grown higher and higher; by afternoon it was as nearly the size of a small hut and the crowds had begun to mill restlessly about.

    His family arrived as the sun began to dim. His wife leads the small entourage, a cloak tight  around her shoulders as her vibrant emerald-blue eyes flitting warily around the square before locking onto his. Her petite frame seems almost as anxious as the day she had first come to live in the keep. So many rumors had wrapped her arrival, many concerning whispering of ‘witch’ in various ears. The were swiftly silenced with the first public burning in Merdigal’s Stand and the announcement that any who would bring harm to his new wife and their sons would son find themselves harmed themselves.

    Their sons trailed in after her; the younger two just ten and twelve pushing and jostling each other playfully, the both of them with the scaly and spiny cliff crawlers clinging frantically to their tunics. The eldest stayed closer to his wife, even at fifteen he dwarfed his mother and had inherited her finer features while still having broad shoulders on which sat his daughter. Even from a distance he could still see how much her illness had wasted her away. Even from this distance he could see the setting sun reflecting off her feverish skin and how her breath still gave her trouble. She was only seven, and already her body was failing her, all because in her age of innocence she had accidentally crossed paths with a witch.

    It was time, a messenger was sent and shortly afterwards two burly sailors escorted the witch into he square, a soiled cloth tied around her face to gag the woman. One of the sailors clambered over the wood pile and the woman was passed to him before being shackled to the stake.Missus Cadarus the apothecary, she was a cranky old lady and perhaps it wouldn’t be presumptious to say none would shed a tear at her death. It was the way of the keep, those who bring harm to others soon left their ranks and the girl was loved by most, bartering for sweet tarts from the baker for songs, taking her toys down into the village so the other children could play with them as well, she had a kind heart.

    “I am not a cruel man,” Master Stepps strode before his audience, his voice booming in the dying light as one of the seamen lit a torch. “But when someone brings harm to my people, to my own House, they must be removed. ” Belying his sturdy girth, he spun on the heel of his boot, jabbing a finger at the trussed woman, the rise in his voice revealing the emotions of the father through the brave facade of a leader. “You -tainted- my own daughter with your curse, witch, and now you must burn. Light the fire!”  The torch touched briefly to the kindling which took up the flame readily and begun to to jump and dance towards the woman’s feet. The woman, gagged, made no noise as she glared back at him, then slowly lifted her eyes to stare past him.

    Then, the shrill scream of a child pierced the air.

     

  • The Illness… Third Entry

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    November 2, 2012 /  History

    Dear Journal,

    We’re burning Mrs. Cadarus today. Pappa says she’s a witch and put a curse on me. The village has been gathering wood for two days now and I can see even see the pile building in the square if I stand tip-toe on my toy chest and lean out the window. Pappa’s going to take us down and watch. I can’t wait! I’m so excited! When she’s gone the meanie will give me my breath back and I’ll be able to run and dance and sing and yell. They let me out of my room now though, and I get to eat normal people food with everyone.

    I keep getting hungry still though, and I eat and eat and eat. Oh well, maybe its just what the witchy put on me. and it’ll all be gone soon.

    Gwen.

  • The Illness… Second entry

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    October 26, 2012 /  History

    Dear Journal,

    I wish you were a cake, or a honey dumpling, or some sweet meats. I am so hungry it feels like there is a mousie nibbling in my tummy all the time. Mumma and Pappa says I’m only allowed to eat clean food like bread, and they only give me yucky ginger tea to drink for the freeze. And I have to stay in my room all the time, with the fireplace lit. It’s so hot and gross in here,  Pappa said the warmness will help me get better, but all it makes me do is sweat so much it makes me lightheaded. I think they are trying to punish me because well…

    … Days and days ago they made me and my brothers all sit into Pappa’s study together. They started talking in their low and serious voices asking if we had dome anything bad lately, or insulted anyone in the village. Those meanies told them about Mrs. Cadarus and how she caught me throwing stones at her cat. They were really, really angry and yelled at me so had I had another coughing fit. Now I’m stuck in this boring room and no one is allowed to see me. Stupid brothers. If they hadn’t said anything I would have gotten away with it.

    I’m so bored Mister Journal, hungry too.

    Gwen.

  • The Illness

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    October 15, 2012 /  History, Uncategorized

    Dear Journal,

    Sometimes feels like fatty fatty Fathia from the village is sitting on me. I try and suck in air but it just doesn’t work. Mumma thinks I am getting the winter freeze in my chest and makes me drink these yucky teas that taste like dirt and perkles. They make me want to perkle… but she says I have to drink them or I might not be able to sing proper for a long time.

    Sing lessons now have turned into more Vandagan lessons which is boring. Why do I need to learn Vandagan when I have Mumma and Pappa to tell me what people are saying? Silly Mumma, Silly Pappa. Oh well, at least they don’t make me bark like trying to sing does.

     

    Gwen.

  • Leaving home….

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    September 28, 2012 /  History

    None of them cried as they stood on the harbour, not even my mother. I think through all that was happening that was the biggest surprise but in a way I could see the sense in their restraint. My father had even excused himself to his work early in the morning, I wasn’t sure if it was from the sorrow he would feel or the shame.

    The morning was a hot one which was made worse for the ridiculous clothes I was wearing. Casual Lithmorran, from my lessons had taught me, but personally I was sure they were tugging my leg. How would the woman get anything done so wrapped up in fabrics? Surely the streets would be filled in gentlewomen tripping over their own skirts and cloaks, or passing out from the sheer heat of their own bodies? Nevertheless I had been forbidden to carry my tunics and leggings across the ocean to what would be my new home.

    My two brothers said their goodbyes first, taking turns to wrap their arms around my waist and squeeze as they whispered  gems of advice in my ear. “Be good little Stepp, behave yourself.” “Don’t drink to much.” “No dancing in public, remember.” “Oh, remember to wear shoes and pants.” “No fighting.” “I’ll miss you.” “I’ll miss you to.” I whispered back as I kissed them on their stubbly cheeks. My eyes began to sting and I pulled myself away from their comfort of their embrace and turned to my mother.

    Instead of hugging her, I took my skirt in my fingers and curtsied to the woman. “Dear, I’m sorry, I never meant…” she started, her voice wavering but I knew what she was going to say. I slowly raised my hand and she quieted. “I know mother. I will follow my lessons well.” She was silent for a heartbeat and my chest tightened. Maybe that was the wrong thing to say? I thought it would cheer her spirits in …. She began to chuckle, which turned it the boisterous laughter my brothers and I knew so well and returned my curtsy. It was then the heavy hand fell on my shoulder and I turned my head to see the oldest of my brothers at my shoulder. It was time to board.

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