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Healer's Inheritance- Chapter 6- What the Future Holds

Started by Laurna, November 04, 2014, 03:16:32 AM

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Previous Chapter:http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1321.0.html

985, December 25
Cynfyn Castle

The young noblewoman stood fidgety and scared within the guests' solar, waiting for her mother to return from Christmas breakfast. Her appearance was disheveled. In the need for answers, she had donned a robe and loosely pinned a veil over her mussed hair so as to escape her own rooms before her handmaids returned. They needn't see the tension that kept her from sleep. As Jessa stood before the high windows of the solar, she began to regret her rash action. The glass panes had become frosted from the night storm allowing a dismal grey light to shadow the floor. Shadows that seemed to harbor the coldness that she felt penetrate through to her bones.

Tralian retainers came and went, but none dared approach. A group of Tralian men passed through the room, intent on their own business. They looked at the Knight Captain's wife with curiosity, but they too left her alone. The guest rooms this morning weren't the quiet place of contemplation that they had been in the winter afternoons. It was Christmas Day. Between the feasting and celebrating, the Tralians prepared for their soon approaching departure for home. The holiday morning had begun with a banquet, and in the coming evening a great feast with music, entertainment, and dancing was to commence, bringing all the castle residents in under the festive decorations in the Great Hall.  The late morning was the only time left for the Tralian contingent to make ready for their following day's travel.

Just as Jessa regretted her decision to come here and was considering that sleep might indeed be a better answer to the agitation growing inside, she felt her mother enter the room. She hadn't even turned from the window before her mother's voice called out.

"Cara Mia, what are you doing here?  Sir Washburn said he left you to sleep only an hour ago. You should be there still." The Lady Elzia stepped to her daughter's side and gave her a hug with an affectionate kiss on the cheek.  "I heard of the gift you gave last eve; you are a good woman. I know the energy it takes; you really should get your rest, it is deserved."

"Baroness... mama... I... I cannot sleep." Jessa hesitated, searching her mother's eyes as she spoke. "I have been told something— I must know if it is true." A cold apprehension tensed the young woman's face. She bit her lip, ducked her head, and stepped away from her mother. Her voice caught in her throat, afraid to ask the question for fear of what the answer might be.

Concerned, the Baroness stepped closer even as her daughter ducked away. "What is it, Jessa-mia, what has you so roused?"

"Not here," Jessa replied uncomfortably. She eyed the entrance where another group of men walked inside to gather up their belongings. "Can we find a more private place?"

Lady Elzia sensed the edge in her daughter's voice. With a hesitant hand, she gestured toward an adjoining door, then walked past that door, through a room where the baron and his men had stayed, and then to the next door beyond. This second door opened to reveal Lady Elzia's sleeping room. The room that they entered was large; large enough for royalty. The bed was cornered with four carved posts holding a canopy of thick brocade in crimson and gold. The matching bed cover was stuffed with down which puffed up around the gowns that were laid out for packing. The handmaid in the room was busy folding each gown neatly into the trunk standing open near the foot of the bed. At a nod from Lady Elzia the handmaid withdrew, leaving the mother and daughter alone. Elzia flared the embers in the hearth back to flames with a wave of her hand. Her mama missed the shiver that passed down her daughter's spine, and she didn't catch the tremble in Jessa's voice as she nervously commented, "I should learn to do that sometime." Her fear of fire had kept her at a distance from such magic.

"I will happily teach the spell to you as would anyone else in this house, but I don't think that is what has gotten you out of bed when you should be asleep. Jessamyn, please, you have circles under your eyes! And who dressed you this morning? Come here, child, let me see what I can do." Her mother gestured for her to settle before the mirror at the vanity. When Jessa had sat, Elzia removed her daughter's veil and began brushing the tangles from her silken hair. "You have servants to see you properly dressed. They will keep your hair brushed, at the very least. Why will you not let them do their job?" her mother scolded, not understanding Jessa's desire to be self-sufficient. "You're a noblewoman, as you were from birth. Don't be ashamed to let others help you. You help other people aplenty. There is no wrong in accepting their service." As she brushed her daughter's hair, she smiled in remembrance of a time long ago. "Do you recall your nanny, Gisele? She claimed she could plait your hair and you would have it in knots an hour later. I believe you did it purposely, hmm, so that it would be I who had to give your hair a final brushing. Just like now."

Jessa turned away from the image in the mirror. She did not want to see the woman staring back. With caring hands brushing her hair, Jessa closed her eyes and she was transported to an earlier time. A time when all that existed in the world was a close family. In her dream, the face that looked back at her in the mirror belonged to that six year old, the one that had not yet survived the fire, nor been kidnapped, nor had witnessed her papa's death. With eyes closed she was safe and innocent, loved by her mother who brushed her hair.  Reliving the fleeting emotions of a time remembered, Jessa was consoled by the happiness of the past. How fragile happiness was!  So hard to achieve yet so easy to lose. Just as then, in these last few weeks she had felt safe and happy; her every dream had come to life. But just as before, the threat of losing it all was near. Did she dare to ask the truth? The answer was certain, it just needed confirmation. Confirmation that her desires were unachievable and her dream was about to collapse in upon itself.

With her mother watching her intently, Jessa gathered what courage she had like a mantle upon her shoulders. "Mama," she began, her eyes on the hem of her mother's gown.  "Do you remember that Twelfth Night, the one where Orleta got the baby doll and I asked for one too?" She did not respond to the quizzical look that crossed her mother's face.  "It was a long time ago, in a different life; I don't even remember how old I was. I had forgotten all about it... until.... I remember how sad Papa had become when I asked where my doll had gone. I thought he had lost her. Then he went outside for a long while. When he returned, he held a kitten in his hands." Jessa looked into the mirror, searching the face of the woman who stood behind her. "Do you remember that ginger kitten?"

"You named her Rhysa, did you not?"

"Yes." Jessa smiled faintly. But then she bit her lower lip, holding back the sob threatening to overwhelm her. "When Papa gave me Rhysa, he told me that to care for the living was my gift. I thought that made my purring pet better than Orleta's wooden doll. I had bragged about my Rhysa, as a little sister might, thinking she had one up on her older sibling. Only my sister had to make certain that I knew that her gift was better. She yelled at me that I wasn't allowed to have a doll because I could never be a mother and therefore shouldn't pretend by playing with dolls." Jessa stopped. Her mother took in a sharp breath. Elzia's hand, in the middle of sweeping down the length of her daughter's hair, had ceased its motion. "I thought Orleta was just being cruel. But she wasn't, was she? She was telling the truth."

"Orleta said that to you?" her mother said so quietly that Jessa could barely hear her. "She shouldn't have."

The child of six was gone from the mirror; the eighteen year old looked at her own bloodshot eyes and at the sad expression on her mother's face seen in the mirror.  "I had not remembered my sister's words until last night, after a complete stranger told me the same thing. A thing that my family knew, but that I did not."

"Last night?"  Elzia came around to lean over her daughter, worry in her eyes. "Tell me, who was this stranger, and what exactly did they say?"

"Franne, the mother of the child that I Healed, she thought Sister Vivian was the Healer and she said to me in private that it was sad that Healers, at least women Healers, were barren and could not give birth to children, nor would they understand the love a mother has for her child." Jessa blurted out the words, terrified of them. "Is it true?" she asked, holding back tears, searching her mother's face for any hope that it was not.

Elzia tried to speak; the words wouldn't come out. She sniffed, then looked at the brush in her hand. She gulped hard before confessing the truth. "Your papa and I, we never hid it from you.  We wanted you to know early and grow up accepting the gifts and limitations that women of your talent must bear." Elzia sat down on the edge of the bed. "Six was just too young to understand. We thought we had time to let the notion sink in, so that when your friends were marrying, you would look to your gifts and find meaning in them..."

"Then it is true..." The silence prevailed with breath held, until the Baroness bit her lip and nodded it was so.

Jessa's face contorted; she forced back the tears. Withheld grief and anger swelled in her breast. "You knew! You consented to my marriage when you knew?" She stood up, every muscle tense, facing her mother straight on. "How could you consent? You should have told me, told him, told the earl, told the bishop! Someone should have stopped the wedding and kept me from destroying the future of a great man."

"But you love him! He loves you! I saw it that first day."

"Yes, I love Wash! I love him so much that I would have gratefully stayed his servant for the rest of my days and let him marry a real woman who could give him real sons."

"You are a real woman," her mama admonished.

"No, mother, I'm not. I'm barren! You just said so.  I'm worthless as a wife! I'd make a much better courtesan!"

"No, child!" The baroness reached for her daughter's wrist, attempting to create rapport; she brushed up against shields held firmly against her. Lady Elzia stood her place. "You are my daughter, Jacuth's daughter, Tieg's granddaughter, and a granddaughter of the house of Horthy. You are a Healer and you are now a wife. Till death do you part, you are Sir Washburn's wife, nothing less will wrest you apart."

"And the sons that I dreamt of? That he's dreamt of? What of that part which comes with the promise of marriage? I am a lie! Have I any choice, other than to die to free him to beget a legitimate son?"

"Good Lord, child, don't ever say that!" Elzia's tone was sharp. "Jessamyn! He loves you! No one can give him what you can. Real love is rare and you must treasure what you have. You may even, by the grace of God, someday prove to be a mother!"

Jessa gasped. "How? By finding my husband a woman to stand in my stead? Knowing what I know, I cannot demand his loyalty, but I won't steal a babe out of another woman's arms!  I know all too well the pains of birth that arouse the love a mother feels for her child. I have seen it over and over.  I could never sunder that bond." Jessa gasped with grief, her heart torn. She stepped from her mother's reach and hugged the near bedpost. It was Christmas Day and her future was shattered.

"Jessa, please, listen to me. All is not hopeless! There is a chance, however small, that you may have children of your own. I said nothing in the beginning because I was not certain you were my daughter. And then we had but one afternoon together before a dashing Knight Captain whisked you away to the altar. Hear me truly. It is not certain that you are barren. Many female Healers are, but not all." Her mother put her hand on her daughter's cheek, once more looking to bridge the solid shields held against her. Jessa did not lower those shields, but she did turn back to face her mother. "It is not a subject that we have discussed," her mother continued more confidently. "As your mother, may I ask something very private? When did you begin your flows? Are they regular with the moon, or do they occur only once in a great while?"

Jessa searched her mother's face, confused by the intimate question. She answered plainly, "Since I was twelve, I bleed each month. My last was just last week. Though I did miss the one before that."

Elzia sighed in relief at Jessa's words. "That is quite understandable, cara mia, you were nearly killed; your body was under duress." Lady Elzia pulled her daughter to sit on the bed next to her. "From what I understand, most women Healers are irregular; most starting very late in age and then getting their flows many moons apart, some not at all. This condition is a sign of an unfruitful womb. If you are regular, then hold to a hope where others may have none."

How much of a hope, the baroness would not commit to. Perhaps it was just a glimmer, but Jessa was willing to grasp any hope she could find. Her mother's hands moved over her shoulders with her thumbs kneading the base of her neck. "Center down and relax," her mother whispered, her energy brushing Jessa's mind. "Let me show you a woman whom I pray you will take after." With deep breaths matching her mother's, Jessa let her shields fall away. A sense of reassurance and trust infused through her mind. With the calming, Jessa let the images of a woman with three children fill her thoughts.

"In your father's family, there was a Healer who was a very important woman and who gave her husband several children. She was your grandfather's sister. As I recall, her name was Jerusha. Her children in turn bore children of their own. Though they are in hiding, as was your father, you may someday meet your cousins and recognize them as family.  I know of at least one who is a lady in Rhemuth within the Queen's household, and I hope, someday soon you will meet her."

The distress in the young woman's face lessened. "This grand aunt, she was actually a Healer?"

Lady Elzia nodded. "Healing is strong in your father's blood. Both of his grandfathers were strong Healers. Like your second brother, you favor your father in these talents. But just as with your gold hair, I hope you favor my family's propensity for large families." Lady Elzia pulled her daughter closer to the edge of the bed. Still tense and unsure Jessa could not sit. She wanted so much to believe that there was hope.

"Too much knowledge has been lost to oblivion when the world turned upside down and our people were slaughtered for their talents. Healing, even before then, was a rare gift held by so few. Now it is rarer still. Is it not better to take the chance that maybe, just maybe, you can pass that talent on to the next generation? If you don't try, than how much more does our race lose? Cara mia, please wait and see what the future holds. Don't cheat yourself out of love just because you believe your husband prizes a son more than his love for you. If you didn't possess Healing, where would your Knight Captain be? Not here to love you.  He knows that; believe me, he does."

Giving in completely, Jessa collapsed against her mother's shoulder. She was so tired, so uncertain. Did she dare hold to a hope that might be false, or give up on her dream of motherhood before it obsessed her? Tears wet her cheeks even as she tried to deny the grief she felt. "How long do I wait before I know for certain?"

"I don't know, at least a year or, better, two. Don't give up on yourself too soon."

"Two years to prove my failure in marriage?"

"Or your success as a wife, with or without a child. Just love him as I know you do. Be happy with what life gifts you with." Lady Elzia pushed the unpacked clothing aside and pulled the coverlet of her bed down. "My beloved, you're exhausted. You need rest. Sleep here in my room, you'll feel better when you wake." Willingly, Jessa let her mother untie her robe, revealing the night shift she still wore beneath. Elzia put her to bed as she would have if she'd been a child. As she tucked the coverlet up, the mature hands covered her daughter's forehead, deepening their rapport, filling her daughter with warmth and hope. The young woman was so tired, she willingly let the baroness take full control of their rapport. Let it all go. Let me show you the way. Cara mia, trust that what I do, I do to protect you. Like a breeze brushing every leaf on a tree, Jessa's felt her mother brush every part of her mind. It felt good to give her complete trust to another. Only with Wash had she ever been so fully under someone else's care.

Physically and psychically blind, she could have offered up no defense in this state. It should have frightened her, yet in some odd way there was comfort in the sensation. She felt an old childhood control that hid her parents' ancestry being released and discarded. Her mother sent her regrets for having placed it there so long ago. If she hadn't, would she have found her daughter back in those tender years? Elzia would never know.

The untrained Deryni came to realize just how strong her mother was. Lady Elzia was fully trained, with royal abilities in her blood. With a gentle yet firm touch, Jessa's memories were accessed and her knowledge reviewed. So much was lacking in her training. Elzia regretted not having more time. Some missing Knowledge her mother freely imparted, such as how to control the embers in the hearth, but other Knowledge she placed behind firm shields that would only open when the time for its need came. The Deryni mentor built a softer shield around the concerns of this day. I believe in free will, so I will leave you with the choice of whether to tell him or not. But until you make that choice, what we said here needs to be our secret. Therefore, I am building this wall for you to keep your secret close. He will not see it unless you purposely break this wall for him. An unmeasured time had passed when her mother whispered, It is done. Sleep now my dear child.

Held in her mother's arms, Jessa's worries diminished and her mind calmed into deep sleep.

Next Chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1330.0.html
May your horses have wings and fly!


Poor Jessa! I'm glad her mother was there to ease at least some of her fears.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Wonderful chapter!  I'm glad you didn't wait until the very end to give Jessa hope that she could be a mother some day.

Not that the waiting to find out will be easy....
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Beautiful story again - with such a gentle compassion revealed both in Jessa and in her mother. So glad to get a glimpse of Evaine's family.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


Good morning ladies,
Thank you for dropping by. It is a nice sunny day. I would like to invite you all to help me brush up the horses and go out for a short ride. That would be fun.  However, we might need a little Deryni persuasion for my palfreys to get them to behave themselves. They like to play when the weather is sunny yet cool. To bad my backyard is not quite like the Molling River farm lands in Gwynedd.  Then after, I'll give you some time to lay out your finniest fripperies, for the holidays are swiftly coming, and we will all want to look our best for the knights of Lendour at their Feast.
May your horses have wings and fly!


What a wonderful invitation - just let me locate the nearest portal and I'm on my way :)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)