The forgotten son
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Keaira is to become the Wise Woman of her clan. As her final trial she is sent into the mysterious forest of Celyddon. There she finds an injured warrior with no memory of who he is. Smitten by this giant of a man, she is ready to challenge everything she once held dear to save him.
Chapter 1, A bloody meeting.
I have a tale for you, if you would like to hear it? As you see me, you are probably wondering what an old woman like me has to say. No, though I know many tales of old, I am not a bard and I do not have a harp to enrapture you with. I am a wise woman of the Craft. Ah, now I see that I have your attention. It is not every day that one gets to hear what a servant of the Lady has to say. Yes, sadly, our numbers are dwindling and the rest of us must now wear a cloak of spun pretence if we are to survive. Not all look at us with the love the monks of the new God are preaching. Once, we were respected and welcomed in every home, our skills were sought after. Though we did not change, we are now feared. I do not understand this. But that is another story, one that I will not share with you this night, lest you chase me from the warmth of your hearth.
Will you hear my tale? It is not a tale of war though the Morrigan ruled the Island of the Mighty in those days of darkness. Peace was but a dream many grasped like a talisman close to their heart. It is not a tale of grand adventure, though in it lives a warrior, the mightiest known to men. Do you know whom I speak of? You do not? Deaf and forgetful you are my child. As I said, there is a hero in it, but you shall never hear the echoes of this tale through the silvery strings of a harp. His victories are known throughout the island and bards still sings his battles in the candlelit hall of kings, but this tale is mine to tell alone. It begins in blood, his blood...
The sun was shinning brightly as I woke uncharacteristically later then usual, not a cloud was seen in the immaculate blue sky. When you are in the craft of healing on the Island of the Mighty, you do not question yourself whether you will harvest herbs or not when Lleu, the bright and brilliant God, decides to shine on the land.
As I saw the sun, I didn't thought twice about it. I threw the blanket off of my body and scrambled out of the straw pallet. Rain had been a constant companion lately and I felt eager to roam my dear forest. Grabbing my woven basket and my tools I headed outside a smile on my face.
It was too early to do any harvesting I realized. A delicate shroud of dew was still covering the herbs and the ones that seemed dry, hid water near their stems. I did not wish to waste the gift of the Lady by harvesting herbs that would rot, so I chose to wait and wander.
I walked among the familiar paths, both enjoying the warmth of this summer day and taking note of flowers and leaves I wanted to collect once the time was right.
How I loved this forest! Many feared entering this vast and dark realm and the ones that did cross its threshold, never left the main paths. Lest they wander in it's labyrinth of tree and vegetation forever lost. Celyddon was my home. Here the veil that separates the earth realm and the Otherworld was thin, making my communion with my Gods easy and truthful.
Those of us in link with the Otherworld came here, once a lifetime, to face the deities. Making it a spiritual quest to come here, alone, with nature and animals as one's companion. A ritual meant to see if the Gift was truly alive in the soul.
It was why I was sent here, it was my ritual of passing. Here I would charge my body with the positive energy I would need to be the Wise woman of my clan. Here Rhona's faith in me would be rewarded.
I had been learning the lore of healing since I was but a child, the constant shadow to Rhona, our Wise woman. She had taught me everything she knew, sharing invaluable knowledge that was older then an oak grove. But unlike the oak, Rhona did not possess their long life, and she had known for a moment that her time would soon come. Then, the knowledge that this Samhain would be her last had been shown to her, as she was fire gazing.
Upon receiving the time of her passing, Rhona had bid me to leave our village to finish my training among the fortress of Celyddon. The crone had looked at me with such confidence in her wise and wrinkled face, telling me the Goddess would send me a trial of Her choosing to test my strength.
I could not fail and I would not. I was not afraid. I had been well taught, both in the ancient knowledge of the Craft and in the healing lore. I would return in my village a Wise woman. I would make Rhona proud. I had to; my people were counting on me.
In front of me appeared the familiar fork in the path. The right one led to a small and secluded pool, one of my favorite places to meditate simply for its sheer beauty. Absentmindedly, my feet found its familiar ground and soon the soft voice of the small river that emptied itself in the pool, reached my ears. I closed my eyes as I walked, relishing the mesmerizing sounds. The forest was alive with noises; the wind in the leaves like a singing murmur in my ears, the trees dancing to its song, animals scurrying in the thick blanket of dead leaves on the ground. The forest was singing to me its ancient song of life and like a child in front of a bard I was enthralled.
The instant I entered the small clearing, the spell of well being I had unknowingly woven around me dissipated. There was something wrong. I took a few more silent steps on the thick moss and opened my senses to the subtle change in the air. Death was near. To my left, I heard the raw cry of a raven. I stopped and surveyed the familiar surrounding; the trees, the tall swaying grass, the moss covered rocks, the river, the pond, all was the same and yet, something lay somewhere. I knew it was not a threat. If it had been, the forest would have warned me with its silence.
Death was part of life; normally I would have brushed it off with a silent prayer on my lips. All life died, all part of the circle. Yet something had awakened in me and I could not ignore the faint whisper in my soul.
I bent down to gaze at the moss-covered ground, my well-trained eyes searching for anything it may want to show me.
As I finally glimpsed imprints, a soft gush of wind blew my dark hair in my face like otherworldly hands trying to cover my eyes. Taking control of my wild mane and holding it in a firm grip, I tried to find the tracks I had seen. I let out a small sound of victory as I found them again, part of a horse's hooves, a horse had recently crossed the path. The broken branches and the disturbed vegetation was the testament of it's entering the forest once again on the other side.
I raised and pondered; why would this cavalier leave the security of the path? Only someone who knew Celyddon's secret would dare wander out, but never on horseback. The thick forest held too many hidden tricks for a horseman. With the feel of death that lingered in the clearing, I knew this was no wise of Celyddon that had walked this way.
I strolled further into the clearing making my eyes see everything anew. Again the raven's cry drew my attention, it lay somewhere on my left in a darkened area of thick vegetation. Somehow, I felt reluctant to leave the pool and its clearing to follow the raven's call, feeling like all that I needed to know lay here in front of me. My brows frowning, I perused my surrounding once again, trying in vain to find in myself a clue as to what I was searching for.
As if desperately needing my attention, the raven cried a third time. Yielding to his summon I lifted my gray skirt slightly and stepped out of the path.
Since the beginning of my hermitage, I had come to know this area of the forest like my own heart. Walking pathless among the thick nature was not something I feared. I welcomed it! But it was a trial of patience. The forest was thick and each step had an obstacle to be surmounted; when it was not stepping over rocks, it was bending low to walk under thick branches or pushing bushes out of the way or sidestepping hidden pools, on and on.
After a few minutes of strenuous walking, I stopped, wiping off the light sweat that was forming on my brow. I knew I was not far from the raven but it had yet to make its appearance. I searched the surrounding woods and suddenly I saw, slightly on my right, dark drops of dried blood on leaves. I knelt, drawing my skirt around my legs absentmindedly as I studied the ground.
Moving the vegetation out of the way, I saw more blood on the green and brown forest floor. So concentrated was I that when the raven cried for the fourth time, I found myself losing balance and falling backward on my behind. It's upon sitting down under the level of the undergrowth that I finally saw it. A chestnut horse lying on its side, immobile. I could only see its broad back with the saddle still tied to it. I rose somewhat gingerly and approached the fallen beast.
Suddenly, the feel of the air around me changed and I felt it heavy with urgency and need of action. I strode in earnest to reach the horse and arrived in a flurry of dark wings and the annoyed cries of the feasting ravens. The sight was staggering. I had been trained to see bloody injuries since a young age, but the sight of this poor creature's open belly and the gory mess around it, made a flow of acidic bile rise in my mouth. I averted my gaze as I prayed to Epona, hoping that the horse had been dead when the feasting of its entrails had begun. Poor creature.
Leaving the forest to finish its grim task I turned abruptly, wanting to feel the fresh water of the pool on my face. Shaken, I walked unsteadily toward the clearing as if my legs were made of unyielding wood. The sense of urgency that I had felt but a moment ago forgotten.
I fell on my knees before the swirling pool and drank water from my cupped hands, my hair falling forward in a dark cascade. Content, I sat back on my heels and breathed shakily, my eyes closed, to regain my shattered calm.
I felt it again and my eyes flew open in surprise. It was the same heaviness, the same awareness in me, only much stronger. My hand flew to my heart as it began hammering in my chest, bending me over above the water. I felt as if the breeze was stealing the very air from my lungs and I gasped in pain as I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to find my breath. What was this pain I was feeling?
As abruptly as it had fallen on me, the spell dissipated and without warning the air rushed into my lungs.
Slightly afraid, I straightened and opened my eyes breathing gratefully. Immediately, my gaze fell on the prone figure of a man lying on the other side of the pool completely hidden by the tall grass. I was so intent to reach the fallen man that I never marveled at the fact that I had managed to see pass the thick vegetation and seen what others would have never found.
A question flew in my mind as I stumbled in my skirt to stand, was he dead, injured? The sight of the horse appeared in my mind as if in answer and I waved a hand in denial. I ran around the pool, dodging the trees and bushes. I dropped hard on my knees and the thought that he was Briton flew rapidly in my soul. He lay slightly on his side, and had been for a time for his armor was caked with mud, vegetation and blood. There was so much blood everywhere on him that I thought him dead. The sickly pale color of his skin did not help my quick judgment. Gingerly, I slightly raised his dented leather and scales chest armor and snaked my hand underneath it, feeling his chest under my hand. I closed my eyes and let my senses tell me if he lived or not.
I let out a breath of relief; his heart was beating, slowly, but strongly and not erratically. I neared my ear close to his mouth as I tried to listen for his breathing. With my hand still on his chest I felt it evenly fall and rise, deep and slow. With the way his chest armor was dented I had feared to hear a wet and difficult respiration. Satisfied, I straightened myself and searched his body for injuries.
There was a cut just above his hairline; it had bled profusely, leaking on his face and over his skull. After feeling its contour for any bone break, I did not thought it too serious for only the skin had been touched. There was a bump behind his head and that worried me. I despised head injury. More often then not they were tricky and made me feel very much helpless for there was nothing there for me to treat. I would have to wait and see and pray for the Goddess's leniency. He lay in Her hands.
He had a nasty sword wound to his side, below the rib cage and above the hip. Luckily, though it was a long laceration, it had not pierced his inside. The weapon had cleanly sliced open the skin and muscle. I could picture in my mind what had more or less happened; he had been warring from his horse and upon raising his sword's arm to deliver a blow to an enemy on foot, he had been caught by another on the other side who had used the opportunity to find the fault in the armor. I lived in a troubled time and wounds such as his were not uncommon.
I had to bring him to my hut. I believed he would live, but he needed immediate attention. His wounds had to be cleaned before infection could settle in and the one on his side had to be sewed shut. I had everything I needed in my home but how could I carry such a man? One look at him and I felt completely undone by this mountain of a man. He was large and tall; he looked as if he was at least a head taller than many of the men I knew.
I could not leave him here and return with what I needed. I feared that with the carcass of the horse and the blood on him, he would soon attract unwanted attention. I marveled that he hadn't before. I had to find a way. Looking around for ideas, I thought about maybe building a stretcher. I began thinking about how I could build it and soon dismissed the idea. There were simply too many problems; it would take too long and the only roots malleable enough to secure the branches together didn't grow in the vicinity.
I realized there was but one way. I would have to roll him on my back and pray that my legs would raise us from the ground and that I would have enough strength to make the small trek to my hut. I took a moment to send a silent prayer to the Lady, asking her aid in this seemingly impossible task and went on with my doubtful plan.
Firstly, I had to tightly cover the wounds. They had stopped bleeding but I knew they would reopen with the harsh treatment I would soon give his body. I prayed he would endure further blood loss. Once that done and my cloak in shreds, I began to carefully roll his body fully on his side.
As I was pulling his tattered brown cloak out of the way, I noticed that his hand was still gripping his sword, and a mighty looking sword it was! I opened his fingers and reverently grabbed the jewels adorned gold hilt. The blade shimmered as if it was attracting the light of the sun. By the Goddess, it must have cost a kingdom! I turned my gaze back to the warrior seeing him anew. Who was he? Was it his or had he found it on a battlefield? Ah, but there was no time for this senseless questioning! I could not bring the sword with me, I would soon be burdened enough. Somehow, I felt reluctant to leave it here where there was a small possibility it could be found. Surely he would want this sword back. I quickly made my decision. Standing up, I hurriedly turned around and not even bothering to raise my skirt I stepped in the pool. When the cold water reached the middle of my thighs, I gave a mighty thrust and plunged the silvery blade into the water and into the earthy bottom. I pushed until it was buried to the hilt and I bent down into the water to cover the hilt with the thick and sticky mud. I exited the pool dripping wet and left the sword in the capable hands of the water sprite.
Truly the Gods are a scheming lot. I would have never guessed this morning as I woke that I would find myself panting along the well-known paths of Celyddon wearing a man like a cloak. His body was draped over my back and his long legs trailed on the ground behind me like the hem of an impossibly heavy mantle.
It is with great effort that I had raised both our bodies from the ground. Surely the Nameless one had a hand in this impossible feat. I knew how impossible it was for me to have lifted the both of us. That I was carrying him on my back and still walking was a magical feat worthy of the old tales.
With each careful step I took, I could feel my legs trembling with the effort. The muscles of my arms and shoulders ached with the strain of holding his arms tightly against my chest so he would not fall off. My back had long ago gone numb as if it had abandoned the idea of discouraging me from my goal. Every part of me wailed in pain and begged me to stop, to lay my burden on the ground just for a few seconds of a much-needed respite. I marched on ignoring my pain, fearing that if I stopped only for the time of a heartbeat, I would not be able to start again.
At last, after an eternity of exertion, my downcast eyes recognized the familiar elevation in the path that led to my small hidden home. I felt like weeping in relief but found myself too aching and exhausted to accomplish the feat.
If I had previously thought that walking the more or less even path that led from the pool to my hut to be one of the hardest task I had ever achieved. I was sadly mistaken. The rise in the path was not too abrupt, and for this I was grateful, but it was a steady rise and the higher it went, the heavier the man on my back became. My concentration was entirely focused on my trembling legs as I laboriously accomplished the miracle of putting a foot in front of the other. The muscles of my thighs burned with the strain of climbing the small hill, and the fierce pain in my back had awakened once again as if to test my resolve.
I cried out in surprise as one of my knee unexpectedly buckled and I felt myself falling forward. I grunted and groaned as I used all my force to regain my balance. My knees were bent under his weight and my back was dangerously arched above the ground as I finally stopped moving. When I believed I would not fall, I tried to raise my foot off of the ground. It stayed stubbornly where it was. Growling at myself I tried again with the same result. I raised my head slightly and saw the stone wall of my hut. I was so close! I squeezed my eyes shut as I cursed at my feet, urging them to move. I felt tears of despair sting my eyes as nothing happened.
The feeling of being vanquished overwhelmed me and I realized how exhausted I was. I could not go on. I had reached the bottom of my well of strength and yet I could not find it in myself to let him go.
«Great Goddess» I cried in misery, my voice thick with exhaustion «Please help your loyal servant! »
As if in answer to my pain filled plea, a strong gush of wind suddenly pushed me forward like helping hands on my back. I felt the refreshing wind enveloped me in a soothing caress. The dust of the path rose in a blinding whirlwind and I felt deliciously light and pain free as the fogs of confusion filled my head. The light of the sun became an encompassing searing whiteness and I knew no more.
Even today, I am not certain what happened exactly. I believe the Great Goddess heard me and chose to aid me, for I believe She had a plan in mind. When I realized I had reached the limit of my humanly body, She took over for the rest of the way leaving a bit of Herself behind.
As the mist of confusion lifted from my mind, I found myself standing shakily over the injured warrior. I looked around in disbelief as I tried to make sense of the fact that I was in my home. The last thing I remembered was the sense of utter despair as I thought that I was to die of sheer exhaustion. How was it possible? I did not remember the remaining steps, or entering my small hut to lay the man on my bed. And yet, he was! By the Lady, I had done it!
Now that he was in my home, I felt like pushing him on one side to lie beside him so that I could rest. I may have accomplished the impossible, but my body still felt the consequences of carrying such a heavy weight. I was an aching and trembling mess.
Nevertheless, I shrugged myself into action. The sooner he was taken care of, the sooner I would be able to rest. And more importantly, he needed my help.
I grabbed my heavy caldron and went outside, following the worn path that led to a rushing brook behind my hut. As it was filling, I splashed the frigid water on my face to sharpen and awake my dazed wits. Afterward, I thought about the panoply of herbs and flowers that grew around my house, and the ones that were dry in my own supplies. I mentally decided which ones I would need and I wondered if I had enough clean linen in the cedar chest.
I huffed back inside, splashing water on the clean swept floor as I carried the cauldron. With a groan of effort I set on its hook beside the hearth and poked the dying embers to a glow to rebuild the fire. Once the fire merrily burned, I pulled a small table beside the bed and brought all that I would need to heal him. That done, I set about the task of stripping the warrior from the leather and metal he wore for protection.
Parts of his armor lay in disarray on the ground, resting where I had thrown them as I peeled it off of him. It had done its job as I took a second to look him over; save for the large open wound on his side he was more or less untouched. There were minor cuts and bruises here and there but I knew that a good layer of comfrey ointment would heal them easily.
As I began the painful task of cleaning the laceration of his side with an infusion of elf dock, I felt half relieved that he was still unconscious. I would not feel the pressure of trying not to hurt him.
Though I had taken great care not to disturb the clot as I cleaned, the wound started to bleed once again. At least, I thought as I cleaned deep inside, the blood ran red, there was no pus and its flow would help in removing any debris stuck inside.
Once finished, I cleaned my hands of the crimson liquid and grabbed the needle and thread to close the gaping wound. It was a gruesome task but one that had to be done if he were to live, and I kept that thought in mind as I punctured the skin again and again to sew it shut.
I grimaced in pain as I straightened, my back protesting the harsh treatment I was giving it. I stretched to ease the pain and picked up the mortar in which I crushed fresh yarrow flowers to a pulp. The foam like white flowers would sooth the pain, stop any bleeding and help in keeping the wound healthy. I applied the pulp liberally to the grim stitches all the while deciding that I would cover the closed wound with clean linen once he was cleaner.
Grabbing another piece of linen I began cleaning the cut in his hair. I marveled at how a cut so small could bleed this much. Where the blood had leaked, it had matted his hair in thick locks. It did make the cleaning of the wound easier, holding the hair out of the way, but I would have a harder time cleaning his hair afterward.
The hardest part was done, now I had only to clean the rest of his small cuts and abrasions. I rose from my cramped sitting position with a grimace and headed outside to throw the soiled water away. I felt like an old gnarled woman as I walked, dear Goddess all my muscles ached!
On the threshold I froze in disbelief. Without realizing, I had worked the day away! The sun was setting, coloring the sky in the coppery and pink color of dusk. In the rapidly vanishing blue sky, I saw the still transparent moon and I decided to take a moment to greet the Great Goddess.
The urgency and the need to act vanished from my thoughts as I stood in my small stone circle not far from my hut. My body moved with the fluidity of the dance I had performed ever since I had been chosen as a servant of the Lady. The beloved ritual eased the hurt of my limbs and erased the worry from my brow.
Coming to a stop in the center of the circle, I let my voice take its part and the words of the hidden tongue flew in the sky, dancing on the wind to reach the Lady. Once my litany spoken, I stood unmoving with my arms raised as if embracing the night. My head was thrown back as I watched her rise in the firmament. I soon felt the Goddess's loving presence and when the moon had taken her rightful place in the night sky, I was enveloped in a mantle of peace.
Upon returning inside, I felt as if the weight of this day's trial had been lifted from my shoulders. I walked peacefully as I lighted candles, plunging my snug hut into the comforting glow of dancing flames.
It's with serenity that I sat back beside the warrior. Plunging a clean piece of linen in the bowl of lukewarm water I began to cleanse his body.
Once the grime and blood off of his face, I realized with surprise that he was a handsome man. My hands stilled for a moment as I took the liberty to observe his features. His short hair was the color of the earth wet with rain and his beard held the same tint. His jaw was strongly sculpted, giving him a slightly stubborn and authoritative look even while he slept. His eyes, though closed, and nose were perfectly shaped and I marveled at the strong line of his mouth. Virility was the best word to describe the man and even in the poor weaken state he was in.
I had been so intent on healing him that I had only looked at him with the eyes of a healer.
I could feel my cheeks redden as my eyes trailed from his face to his wide shoulders, admiring for a moment its strong lines. I followed, as if in a trance, the muscles of his arms to the tip of the fingers of his large hands. I licked my lips unconsciously as I lost myself in the contemplation of his slightly hairy chest. I felt transfixed as I watched it rise and fall. I followed with my eyes each hard line of his pectorals and felt myself burning when my admiring gaze reached his well formed abdomen. Of their own accord, my eyes went downward and when I glimpsed his manhood, I raised abruptly, almost knocking my chair down.
I felt dizzy and light headed as I averted myself from him, going to stand beside the burning hearth. Goddess knows, I did not need more heat at the moment, but I needed to put as much space as possible between him and me. Dear Goddess, this man was... surely he was a God walking among men. Never in my 19 summers had I seen a man such as him. I had never been intimate with a man as of yet, but in the course of my learning I had seen many naked. Some had been warriors like him, with bodies strongly made. But none had looked as powerful as he did. Nor as sculpted. It was as if every part of him had been adoringly chiseled by an artist. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly, never had any man kindled such a sudden fire within me.
After a moment, I felt myself cool down and shame rose in me. He was hurt and I was acting like a female in rut! It is not like I had never seen a man naked before. I had failed to see how handsome he was, and I was taken by surprise, momentarily overwhelmed, it would not happen again!
My composure regained, I went to the chest at the base of my bed and picked up an old piece of dyed linen. It had been here before my coming and I kept it for reasons unknown to myself. Taking my place beside him once again, I threw the linen over his manhood and resolutely finished cleaning his body. All the while keeping my head and eyes stubbornly fixed on my hands and linen.
The moon lay high in the velvety sky as I finished. I felt very much exhausted as I sat back in my wooden chair looking at my work. He was pristinely clean and all his salved wounds covered with clean stretches of linen. Like someone touched by the fair folk, I stood slowly, all my limbs and muscles drooping. I covered his long body with a blanket, blew the candles, save one, and laid my body on the hard ground in front of the hearth. I was asleep before touching the floor.
I woke with a start, my senses wide awake and alert. The fire in the hearth had burned down into faintly glowing embers and through the darkness of my hut I couldn't see anything. What had awakened me? And what was I doing sleeping on the ground? I rose, grimacing in pain and then I remembered. The warrior! I went to the shelves and grabbed a candle that I lit with the embers of the hearth. Goddess, I was tired. I felt empty of life and I mightily wanted to get back to sleep.
As I neared him I saw that he was breathing heavily and that the blanket I had covered him with lay on the ground. Putting the candle on the table, I noticed that his body was clammy with sweat. Wanting to feel his forehead, I barely had time to graze his brow when he suddenly rose from the bed and grabbed my wrist in a painful grip. His fevered clear eyes settled unsteadily on me and he mumbled something menacing though incoherent. He must have used all his strength for he fell back on the bed as if completely spent an instant later. He lay somewhat calmer, but his breath was still cumbersome. His eyes remained waveringly open, staring mistrustfully at me.
I prayed his fever was not a sign that is wounds were infected for I did not wish to open them again. But in a way, if it wasn't too high, a fever was good. It cleansed the body. I began talking soothingly, softly, as if talking to a frightened child. After a fashion he calmed enough that I felt like he would allow me to fully touch his brow. With a soft hand on his forehead I carefully neared his face and breathed, searching in his breath the smell of fever. I wrinkled my nose at the bad smell; he was indeed feverish but nothing dangerous. I breathed in relief and took the opportunity to check his wounds and change the linens.
When I was finished I made him an infusion of catnip all the while yawning tiredly. The infusion would help him sleep and help his body to heal. Letting the herbal mixture sit beside him, I went outside to fill a bowl of cold water. I sat back beside him and began refreshing his body with the water. He soon fell asleep under my soothing ministration. Once finished I held his head as I gave him the infusion, which he instinctively swallowed while he slept. Setting the cup, I yawned mightily and glanced through the window; the night was at its darkest, dawn wound soon come. I stretched to grab the blanket and I covered his body with it. Afterward, I laid my head in my arms and slept.
I smiled faintly through my still sleepy mind. The birds of dawn had started their wakening song and I let the sweet sounds wake me slowly. Opening my eyes, the events of the day before filled my mind. I sighed and raised my head lazily to see if he was still asleep. With some luck I may have time to go wash myself in the brook. I smelled of blood and sweat, not a charming combination. I groaned as I straightened, my limbs stiff with yesterday's work.
I found my gaze locked into the gray eyes of the man. Dear Goddess, he was even more handsome than I thought! His skin had now gained a healthier color and the fever had obviously broken during the night.
We stared at each other for an eternity or I stared stupidly at him for an eternity. I felt dumbstruck, not knowing what to do or say. I preferred him asleep, in this way I did not have to interact with him. I had been in the forest for many moons and I had not spoken to anyone since leaving my clan. I felt very much incapacitated at the moment. He seemed to know I would not talk first for he broke the now uncomfortable silence.
«What am I doing here? » He asked the question softly as if afraid that I would take flight like a wild animal. I wondered at what he saw as he looked at me. I could only guess at my poor state; dirty, smelly, disheveled with dark circles under my dark eyes. What a sight I must have been! He still looked at me warily, like a man unsure if he was in a friendly or enemy territory. When he talked again I realized I had not answered him.
« Are you from the Hill folk? You do not understand me? » He thought me from the Hill Folk? I felt like snorting in anger, this is how he repaid my kindness? I respected the people from the hills but it did not mean I wished to look like one!
« I understand you, warrior, and you are in my home» the words had left my mouth more harshly than I intended and he frowned at me, as if assessing me as a threat. I coughed and started again softer. « I found you injured in the forest, I took care of you, and you are safe here. »
I saw his shoulders tense at my words and he bent his head looking down at himself, slowly raising the blanket. He saw with a small start his bandaged midsection; it was as if he had not known he had been injured. He put a light hand where the blood had slightly tinted the linen and winced almost imperceptibly. He then raised his hand and touched the wound in his hair. Looking like all his wounds had started to hurt the moment I had told him he had been injured. He looked at me, a lost expression on his strong features.
«What happened? How did I get hurt? » Now I was the one to frown, I did not like where his questions were heading.
«I do not know what has befallen you, warrior, I found you injured here, in Celyddon. »
He looked up at the ceiling, and I heard him murmur the name of the forest like a silent question. Suddenly, his head snapped toward me and he struggled to rise from the bed, I sprang from my chair and used all my weight to push him back on the pallet.
«Do not try to rise! You are injured, you will hurt yourself! » Half raised; he grasped both my arms and looked at me fearfully.
«I cannot recall anything! » His voice was a panic whisper. I felt humbled before him, to see such a man afraid of anything made me afraid myself, though I did not know what I feared. My voice was soft as I spoke.
«You have a lump behind your head. I have seen people lose their memory after hitting their heads. Do not be afraid, it will return to you once the time is right. » As I was speaking he had let go of one of my arm to finger the back of his head.
«You are a healer? You do not look like a druid? » His voice was dubious. He was injured so I ignored the last question.
«I am a servant of the Lady and yes I am a healer» He let himself fell back on the bed with a long sigh. With the worried expression painted all over his face he looked suddenly very much young. I wondered how many summers he had seen. Then he turned to me, the strong man returning as he schooled his features.
«What is your name? »
«Keaira» I answered softly. He looked me over and smiled wanly.
«You are well named. »
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