The Unicorn's Gift - Part 10

Love, it ties and binds us,
To all friends old and new.
Those we leave behind us,
And those forever true.

So what are joys and sorrows,
If we walk the path alone?
What are all tomorrows,
With no place to call a home?

To share what lies before us
Choose one with whom to lie.
But, when one is one to few
To thyn own self be true.

Sarah Lynn Morgan

The Unicorn's Gift
     The_Unicorn_s_Calm.pngPart Ten



     Keely had walked Syna more than half way to the cabin before Syna finally had the presence of mind to reach out and stop her.

When Keely turned, Syna could see that the girl was just barely able to look at her without crying. Syna couldn’t imagine how she could ever explain what had happened, because she couldn’t even explain it to herself yet. Instinctively she did the only thing she could. She pulled Keely down to hug her tightly about the neck. It was a long time before Keely seemed calm enough for Syna to let her go.

“I’m sorry.” Keely whispered immediately through ragged breaths that broke her words apart just as her heart had been by Syna’s scream.

Along with all the things that Syna did not understand, there was one thing she was sure that she did know right at that very moment. Looking at Keely now, she knew that she loved her. She knew she always had

“Keely, I’m the one who frightened you. I don’t know what happened. I...”

Keely didn’t really interrupted her, because she never really stopped talking. She was still trying to apologize, and hoping against hope that she had not lost Syna. It made her deaf to anything Syna was saying, and she just continued speaking as if Syna had not tried to apologize too.

“I love you so much. I just wanted you...” The tears began to flow freely now. “I know it’s wrong. I’m supposed to choose a boy from the village, but can’t. I’m a monster. I shouldn’t have touched you, but I just love you so…’

Syna was hugging her again, holding her to stop Keely’s tearful apology.

“Is that what you think?” Syna asked, finally, and may have felt her nod, but it was too hard to tell from the quiet sobs that shook Keely.

Even as children, whenever Keely had cried, Syna had felt like crying too. Now it was the same feeling, but different as well, because now it didn’t seem at all strange or confusing to feel that way because she knew that was love too

Syna held her back gently, until she was able to get Keely to look at her.

“Please listen to me, Keely. I know you do. I know why you did what you did, and I promise you that what you did didn’t upset me. I love you too. I always have. You are not a monster. You can’t ever believe that. You especially can’t believe that just because you aren’t the way everyone expects you to be.”

Syna paused for a moment as she realized something that seemed very important.

“This is something that I know a little about. I think that some of the people even had me thinking that about myself for a while - but Keely, it’s not true. You are the kindest, most wonderful person I know. Other people may be thinking I’m a monster right now…,” Keely started to protest, but the girl had no energy left in her, and Syna shushed her easily before continuing, “and they may even think that of you because of me, because of what I am, but I don’t care. You have to promise me that you will never say that about yourself again. It’s not true. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Syna took a breath, struggling to marshal her thoughts. It was easy to tell Keely that she was wrong to think ill of herself. Keely was wonderful It was much harder for Syna to believe that about herself, knowing all of her own faults, and all the pains and troubles she had caused.

“You didn’t hurt me, Keely. I can’t tell you all that’s happened. It’s all so strange. I just felt very frightened for a moment or two, but it was not because of what you did. I love you, Keely. You would never hurt me. Now, please don’t cry. It breaks my heart when you cry, and I can’t keep myself from crying when you do.”

It was true, as there were fresh tears on both girls faces Syna began to wipe Keely’s eyes with her cloth. At the same time that Keely began doing that to her as well. It was silly, but made them both laugh at each other, even through the pain.

“We can’t go home like this,” Syna said. “Please, take me down to the stream so we can wash our faces.”

Keely nodded. It wasn’t far, and they were quickly able to find a small grassy spot within easy reach of the clear water.

Syna knelt to wet her cloth, grateful just to rest there for a moment or two. She felt exhausted, as if she had been clearing the fields, rather than enjoying walking through them with Keely. She also felt strangely hesitant to lean over the water to wash her face, as if there were something in the stream, barely remembered, but frightening to her.

When she finally did lean over, the surface of the water was no smoother than her insides felt, but still she was instantly mesmerized by her reflection all over again. She remembered, as in a dream, but one that she had lived through before; or perhaps…, it was a memory that she had dreamed.

The medicines that had dulled her mind, and softened the edges of her memories, were making it impossible to tell dreams from reality. She was having less and less trouble remembering all that happened, but even things that she knew she remembered clearly, made little sense as yet, as if they had come from a dream. Some of her memories just didn’t seem to fit.

Out of the corner of her eye, Syna could see Keely was watching her closely. Syna to finally sweep the surface of the water and dip her cloth.

The cloth was a cold blessing she first pressed into her eyes gently before wiping them. She then pressed the cloth once more to her eyes gratefully with one hand, while blindly holding her other back toward Keely. When she felt a warmer hand taking hers, and she pulled Keely to kneel just beside her at the margin.

Regretfully, she lowered the cloth away from her eyes to wash it out several times, before she turned to press it over Keely’s eyes as well.

She leaned in, and whispered sincerely to Keely’s ear. “I am so sorry I made you cry. I won’t ever do that again.”

Keely nodded slightly, but more and more Syna could feel the weight of her head slumping forward into her cold cloth and her supporting hands. Thus, Syna thought it was a good time to talk, explaining as much to herself, as to Keely.

“You don’t have to be afraid. I’m really all right. I feel much better than I ever have. It’s just that so much has happened, so quickly.”

Syna shook her head even though the girl could not see it, before she carefully began to wipe Keely’s face as she continued.

“If it were not for all of you, I’m sure I’d have gone so crazy that the elders would have me locked in my father’s barn.”

Keely still hardly moved. Syna rinsed the cloth and wringing out the cloth once more before she pressed it to the back of Keely’s neck. Syna began to use her other hand to caress Keely’s face to get the pretty girl to look at her. When she did, it was as if Keely’s eyes were too heavy to hold her gaze for very long.

Syna spoke to her softly. “Why did you say you were a monster, Keely?” Even though saying that made Syna’s throat feel like it wanted to close, she had to ask.

When Keely answered, her tone was as distant as her eyes.

“Every day, everyone in the village tells me how pretty I am, and how soon I’ll find a wonderful man to marry. Every time they say it I feel a little sick inside. I don’t want to marry one of the boys. I never knew why, until last Autumn.”

Keely sighed, and a little more animate, looked up at Syna.

“I just thought I’d always stay in the inn, working with my family for as long as I had them, and that would be my life.”

Syna nodded slightly to Keely, letting her know she was content to listen for as long as Keely needed her.

Keely took a deep breath, and sighed it out again before she continued. Her eyes dropped to the stream now, but at least she was talking.

“One time, about a year ago, there was a girl who came through with a family. You were not there or you would have remembered her. She had black hair, and black eyes. She was so pretty, I couldn’t believe it. When she looked at me, I was sure she knew. I could feel her eyes following me as I worked around the inn. I realized that I wanted her to watch me. I wanted to watch her too, but I…, I was also afraid.”

Keely reached up to take the cloth from Syna, and dipping it just as Syna had, as she in turn slightly and began to wipe the back of Syna’s neck.

“I had hoped that the girl’s family would stay the night, and I even asked my mother to offer them a room, because they seemed so tired, and so that I could perhaps find the courage to talk to her-but they left. The whole time she was there, though, she just stared at me. I could tell her mother was getting angry with her about it. Her mother knew too.

That was the very moment when I knew I was different. The girl with black eyes was different too. She could see it in me, just as I could see it in her. Since then, I knew I was different from the other village girls, and different from what my mother and father wanted me to be. I knew I was a monster.”

Syna started to defend her immediately, but Keely chose that very moment to wipe her face and lips.

“It’s Okay. I know what I am. Even though some of the older boys are very nice to me, always running errands or fetching things I need, and even though I truly do like them, I know that I could never give myself to them…, in the way that my mother did with my father. I just thought I’d work at the Inn, and somehow that would be enough to keep me from getting myself locked in a shed too. But, then I saw you that day you came to help in the common room wearing your mother’s clothes.”

Keely’s hands fell to rest in her lap, finally.

“I saw you, and I just knew that you were the one I was waiting for. It was like the pretty dark-haired girl, but it was so much more as well. You were so lovely, and you’ve always been my friend. You were not at all like the other boys, even before, gentle, never cruel. I knew that if I could have you, that I’d never feel so unhappy again. For the first time, I didn’t even care what the village folk might think of me. I just knew, in here…” Keely placed her hand on her breast, “that if I could show you how much I loved you, and how much I wanted to make you happy, that I could make you want to love me too.”

Keely’s eyes never rose from the stream. “I’m sorry.”

For several moments Syna couldn’t speak because her own emotions closed her throat. Thereafter, it was because she didn’t know what to say or how to answer all that Keely had said. Finally, however, she realized it was because she knew she could never say anything so clever that Keely might understand that she was not alone. There was, of course, one small thing she might try.

“Keely, Please look at me.” Syna said softly, but Keely did not move to look at her. “Please, Keely, I have a secret I need to tell you. I’ve never told anyone else, and it’s something that I need you to know.”

That brought the girl’s eyes to her finally.

Syna paused only a moment, taken in by Keely’s beautiful eyes. She continued to gaze into them until the very last moment, as she leaned slowly forward and kissed her lips
At first Keely froze motionless, but eventually as Syna wrapped her arms about Keely’s neck, and continued to kiss her gently, Syna felt Keely’s hand slip around her back as she kissed her in return.

When Syna pulled away several minutes later, to catch her breath and to slow her racing heart, she could feel her face flush at having been so bold. Her voice was soft and breathy, but it was clear.

“Do I have your attention, now?” she asked, but Keely made no sound or motion. She only looked at Syna with wide eyes.

“You are not a monster. I love you, just the way you are, and just as much as you love me. I like kissing you, and I like it when you kiss me even more. You can kiss me whenever you like.”

There were tears glittering in Keely’s eyes again, but his time they were a much different kind.

“I’m sorry I screamed and frightened you. I won’t do that again… unless you tickle me.” Syna smiled, and finally, finally saw an answering smile from Keely.

“You love me too?” Keely asked, sounding much younger than Syna could ever remember.

“I always have, Keely. Your mother knows it, and she asked me if I’d told you. How could I? You were going to find such a good match, so much better than me. Now, it seems so silly to me, even to imagine you ever being with anyone else, but I do love you, Keely. Just as I always have. I don’t know why, but now, I’m not afraid to say it.”

Keely’s kisses were still far more careful and hesitant than they had been in the throws of passion, but every one of them was just as special, and just as filled with love. It was not very long at all, before both girls began to smile again, resting themselves for a little while there beside the clear waters of the stream. Together





“I have to look for some bark, and a special mushroom for Lessa’s, feet.” Syna finally said, as she leaned to scoop up a handful of water to drink. “I’m sure that I can find the bark higher up on the slopes, but I’m not sure if I can find the right mushroom.”

“If you tell me how, I’ll help you look.” Keely told her willingly.

“I was hoping that you could go back to my father’s cabin, and…”

“No.” Keely, not waiting, responded flatly.

“Keely, they will be worried if you don’t go. It won’t take more than a few minutes; you really don’t have to be afraid…”

“No. I won’t leave you alone, and I won’t ever let you go into the forest alone again.”

Syna had never seen Keely’s eyes look quite like this before. The only time she had seen anything close to the expression had been the time when the boys had cornered Syna behind the smithy. The look had frightened Syna slightly at the time, but she’d been too busy to worry about it. Now she had all the time she needed, and it was far more frightening than she’d remembered. She could see a fear amply mixed with a look of cold determination.

Syna sighed inside. What else could she do?

“I won’t be alone, Keely.”

“What?” Keely asked, her expression instantly changing to one of both confusion and shock.

“I won’t be alone.” Syna sighed again, only this time out loud. Her father, The Elder, and Keely’s parents already knew that she had told them that ‘someone’ had helped her. She couldn’t see any further harm in telling Keely this as well, so that she did not need to worry.

“I have a friend who will be with me, Keely. I did not want to tell you, because I didn’t know how, and because there are things that I will never be able to explain. I can only promise you that it is a wonderful thing, and that I am in no danger when I walk in the forest. In fact, I’m probably safer there than anywhere near the village.”

“Who, Jada?” Keely could not help the need to ask, but she had fought it bravely for almost a second before the question just popped out.

The question shocked Syna a little as she paused to consider what it meant, but she quickly shook her head nonetheless.

“Who?” Keely asked again, in a voice that was more confused than worried.

“That’s one of the things I can never tell you, but I promise you Keely that I am perfectly safe. If you love me, you’ll let me go and do what I must to help people like the Ferryman’s wife. Later on, I will teach you how to help me look for the medicines that I need, but for now I need to think, and to try and remember the proper recipies.”

“Alone?” Keely asked, half in worry, half in sorrow.

Syna smiled. “No. I may not be able to explain, but I’d never lie to you.”

“My mother told me what you said.” Keely said simply.

At first, Syna was relieved. “There, so you can see that there is no reason to…”

Keely was becoming upset again. “But I love you. What would happen if they take you away again? What if you disappear and you never come back? I had only just found you, when even before I realized it, you were gone. Everyone thought we’d never get you back.”

“Keely, that will never happen. What happened to me was something that can only happen once.” Syna said, hoping it was not a lie. “I will never, ever do that again. If you love me, you must believe me.”

“I do believe you, but what about your friend, What if he decides to take you away. Will you be able to stay then? I can’t loose you again, Syna. Not after I just found you. I couldn’t survive losing you a...”

Syna kissed her again.

“You won’t, ever.” She looked at Keely then until the girl nodded reluctantly back at her.

“Here.” Syna said, placing the herbs and roots she’d already collected onto the cloth in Keely’s lap, and began bundling them. “When you get to the cabin, tell my father that I made you leave me so that you could put these roots into a bowl of cool fresh water from the well. Tell them that I gave you no choice, and that I’ll be just at the base of the stony cliff at the edge of this field looking for two more things.”

Keely took the cloth of herbs and roots that Syna had been working on, and wrapped it up quickly as she nodded.

“Keely?” Syna touched her nose to Keely’s briefly, as soon as she looked up at her, making Keely smile at the silly action. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Syna.” Keely confirmed, seeming at last like her old self.

“Okay. If your mother tries to give you a lesson about leaving me alone, just remind her that I live in a cottage on the edge of the forest. No matter what anyone does, I’m sure I’ll have to be near a tree or two, no matter what everyone wants.” Syna giggled.

Keely stood and pulled Syna to her feet, grinning, and nodded before she quickly pressed her lips to Syna’s forehead. Keely pressed her own unused cloth into Syna’s hand before she turned to walk away. Several times she looked back, as if to be sure Syna had not vanished, but her pace was steady and determined. So, finally, Syna turned and began to make her way across the field to the thicker wood that lined the bottoms of the cliffs around this part of the valley.




     Syna knew that she did not have to look very far for the Fairies, so she did just as she had promised Keely, and immediately began scanning the trees ahead for what she needed even as she climbed crossed the field.

Still not quickly enough, it seemed, as before she reached the trees, several of the lesser faeries flitted near her, and began helping her by looking under and around things, without being able to tell what she was looking for. Nevertheless, Syna did quickly find both the bark and the mushroom she needed, before she came upon another grassy area near the face of the cliff. Many of the faeries were already waiting there for her, including Golden eyes.

Syna nodded, and sat down opposite Golden eyes, collecting her thoughts for a time, which in turn allowed the arrival of Blue-eyes, accompanied by several more of the lesser faeries.

To her surprise, one of the little ones flew right in front of her face and said “Ayanne,” before it quickly pressed its little nose boldly against hers. Once having done so, several more of the little ones gave her the same gesture of affection before Golden-eyes made a small sound and gestured for them to sit. All quickly settled themselves in the trees and grasses about Syna, except for the bold little one, who rested himself directly on her knee.

A hundred questions raced through Syna’s mind, while she watched the eldest fairy patiently waiting for her to speak. At first she wanted to ask what they had done; but it was a silly question, the answer to which she now knew all too well. She wanted to ask why they had done it, but that question died even as she looked down to watch her own small delicate hand smooth the front of her skirt. Thus quickly, and in just that way, most of the questions that she had so desperately needed to ask, and to which she so desperately needed answers, simply faded away as she sat there under the gaze of her little friends. She already knew most of the answers-even before she was joined by Green eyes, Brown eyes, and even more lesser Faeries.

Several of the little ones brought her flowers, laying them at her feet. She smiled at each of them in thanks, making their obsidian eyes seem to glow even more brightly than the light which they reflected with such perfection.

“Thank you.” She whispered as she picked up the flowers to smell them, before looking around to find they had been joined by fairies she had never seen.

She turned back to the Golden-eyed fairy, and asked the only question that still made sense.

“Where is Aida?”

Golden eyes actually smiled at her warmly as would a mother to a child she was proud of. Clearly she had appreciated much of what had gone on within the child, and Syna could tell she was proud of her for trying to answer the many questions herself, calmly and logically.

“Aida was upset, Syna. She flew to speak with The Ancient. When she first found you, child, as you slept, she flew to Asho and begged him to help you. Even though she already knew that he would help you, she still begged him to heal your beautiful heart.” The largest fairy placed her hand on her breast, just as Keely had. “Even then, the bond between you was forming very quickly, because you are so very special.”

“I frightened her too, just like Keely?” Syna asked sadly.

“Yes and no, Child.”

For a moment, Syna could see a little rhyme running through Golden eyes’ expression, but mercifully, she still spoke to Syna as any human would. It was one of the things she admired about the eldest fairy.

“Aida feels what you feel. If you feel fear, than Aida feels that same fear, even if she does not understand the cause. That is what it means when a fairy and a human are joined. She feels from you, even when she can not understand, all the same things that she might feel from one of us” she gestured toward the gathered fairies.

Syna tried to collect herself. “Did she go, because of Keely?”

Golden-eyes smiled, and shook her head. “That is not why she flew to Asho, Syna. She loves you, and of course, she wishes she could show you the same affections the girl does, because we are quite alike in that way; but, the bond between a fairy and a Fairy-friend is precious and rare in it’s own way. She feels a closeness with you, which I am sure you feel as well.”

Syna frowned. She realized that she did feel her bond with Aida. Aida was important to her, and she loved her as much as Keely, even though it was different. “I do,” she said, as much to herself as to the golden eyed fairy.

“It is slower for the human, but even though it is closer than the bond you will feel with your mate, it is still different from anything you are used to. Aida likes the young woman, Syna. She has told me that she believes her to be a suitable female mate for you.”

Syna felt a blush, and instantly wanted to change the subject, but could not. There was even less point in doing so, because the fairies, unencumbered by the medicines she had been given, were clearly well ahead of her, even in her feelings.

“So, Aida was not jealous of Keely?” Syna asked softly.

Golden eyes gave her that smile again. “No, Syna. Or, if so, perhaps only a very little for the thing that she cannot share with you. She went to the ancient to beg him to help ease your fear, feeling that you were not ready yet. She needed to speak to him, even though Green eyes,” she gestured, “and I,” she also startled Syna a little by using the name Syna had created, “both told her you were ready. She will be back to see this for herself in just a little while.”

Syna thought about that for a moment or two before she spoke. “Please tell Asho not to worry. I don’t know why I got so frightened, but it was not because I was upset at what he did.”

Real questions were forming now.

Golden eyes laughed. “At what he did?” The eldest fairy laughed again. “He is not worried about you, Syna. He loves you very much, and he is very proud of you. He can remember three others, Princesses like yourself, but he believes that none were as special as you. While you slept, he came just to stand and look at you many times.”

New questions began to race, and to turn themselves over rapidly until one blocked out all the others.

“Princess?” Syna asked, in a voice so soft that it was doubtful that a human would have heard it.

“Princess.” Golden-eyes positively beamed at her as she actually giggled at the girl.

Syna began to shift about uncomfortably. “But that’s not true. I’m just a simple girl…”

This time all the fairies laughed as she blushed to realize what she had just said. “Please…,” Syna said, her confusion making her feel very uneasy, as she sought to deal with the enormity of what had happened to her, along with the information that she had perhaps foolishly sought too soon, only now without the cushion of whatever they had done to help her.

Golden eyes actually giggled a little as she said “It is all right if you call me ‘Golden eyes’, Syna. You spoke this way many times as you slept. We do not think it is offensive. We think it is…” She seemed to search for the word for a moment, “cute.”

Green-eyes looked at his elder for a moment, before he flew down to Syna, who instinctively reached up her hand, and in which he placed three small bundles of herbs. Syna looked at them, and smelled one. She took two but the third she did not need, so she simply set it on a nearby stone. The Green-eyed fairy looked disappointed, but simply nodded to her before he flew to take his place back on the branch.

Finally, Syna just felt herself giving up trying to understand everything at once. She knew there were many things that she did understand, but also, that there were so many more that she might never realize.

“I don’t understand. I’m not a princess, any more than I’m smart enough to understand all of this. You are so much wiser than I am. Please tell me why you chose me.”

Golden eyes, and indeed all the fairies, looked seriously at her then. Several more of them looked to the eldest fairy, who motioned for Syna to come closer, and waited till she had.

“Syna. I am older than the oldest trees, and have seen many an age of forests and sea. I have seen the sun rise and set on every side of every ocean; and, I have had to deal with men of many races, and from many places. I have seen and done many wondrous things, but still, I am no wiser than you…”

She raised her small hand, to silence Syna’s protest, which made Syna relax and just listen respectfully.

“The ancient did not change you as much as you think. You are very special Syna. You are part of a lineage that is older than the line of any earthly king. Your family dates back to Eve, whose special daughter you truly are. That is why you are a princess, even though none from humankind now realize this. They know you are special, and as you grow, they may feel this even more, but none will understand what it means to be a Fairy Princess.”

Syna wanted to choke at the phrase, but apart from a profound blush, she neither spoke nor moved.

All the fairies looked at her with approval, and nods, before their elder continued.

“The Ancient has been here a very long time.”

Syna began to ask that question, but did not get the chance.

“How long? I do not know, because the numbers he uses are meaningless to me. Where I remember the shores of every sea, and all the mountains in between, he remembers many that no longer exist. He is very old, and quite old enough to remember your mother, Eve.”

She watched Syna for a moment, deciding what Syna needed to hear first.

“Asho can sense much of the living world around him. He knows things that we do not, including what lies inside the mind of any creature that touches him. It is painful for him in any but the purest of hearts, as in the most precious daughters of men, like you. He can also sense their ‘essence’.” Golden-eyes was clearly struggling to explain concepts that she herself did not fully understand, and had rather only accepted.

Aida chose this moment to come flying into the little clearing, and on seeing Syna, she flew over to her, and pressed herself into the girl’s neck.

Everyone stopped to watch, as Syna carefully cradled her hand about the fairy to hold her close. “Oh, Aida, I love you too.” the girl whispered softly to her little friend.

Muffled by her hands Syna heard: “Of course you do, I’m adorable.”

Everyone laughed, including Syna and Aida, who flew up to touch her nose to Syna’s several times. She also flew briefly to Golden-eyes, who placed her hand on Aida’s breast, before the copper-eyed fairy flew back and seated herself in Syna’s lap, leaning against her tummy.

Golden-eyes smiled at them both. “Ah. Do you remember the learning song about The Ancient, Syna?”

Syna did, she thought, but no sooner did Golden-eyes look down at her Aida, than the little fairy on her lap began to sing:

“Of the stories I have heard,
in all he does not say,
But all the fairies know the gods
created him to play,
And all the earth, was given to him,
to wander night and day.

From the time the gods then drew away,
just why now none can say

Asho would not leave his home,
and they left him here to stay.
But Asho was so all alone,
no longer could he play
He walks here now in sadness,
and lonely unto this day.

From the time the gods then drew away,
just why now none can say.

Of his loneliness he created,
our very fairy kind.
And then the greater fairies,
and him we all do mind.
We love him now, for all his gifts,
and for our very lives.

The fairies do all tend him still,
with his gift, our very lives.

It is said one day that human’s too
will come to know his mind.
Their path has been determined,
and their future he does mind,
For the gods have set them on their path.
Their purpose we don’t know.

One day they will rise to them,
their hearts as pure as snow.”

Syna watched Aida for a moment, who simply closed her eyes and snuggled against Syna, obviously exhausted by her swift passage through the length of the valley. She no longer intended to listen, so Syna looked once more at Golden eyes for her to continue.

“Asho can sense the ‘essence’ of the humans about him, like the flow of the tides at the edge of the sea. He knows when it is nearing the time once more to influence them, so that they will fulfill the promise that the ancient’s foretold. Asho himself cannot foresee all that the ancients could, but he has wandered the earth longer than any other living thing. He has learned much, and he can sense when the essence that lies within the daughters of Eve nears the proper time.

When he does, we move toward that area where he senses they are almost ready, and we wait. At the right moment, and when the one has arrived, the smallest touch can echo forward, through all the generations of men.

We can not stay too long in any one place, though, because he carries the ancient’s blood, and their essence; so he can not help but change many other things in the world about us.

Most often, we are disappointed, and we wander away, to hide once more so that we do not disturbed the work that he has done. Sometimes, however, we find one who is ready, who has the proper essence. When Asho does, he can improve her essence, only a little at a time, and help mankind toward a greater promise. A grater promise than we ourselves possess.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

Golden eyes tilted her head a little to the side for a moment, just as Aida was want to do when thinking. Clearly the questions were almost as challenging as they were for Syna, as she reverted to more fairy-like behavior.

“You have heard stories I’m sure. Not all stories of our kind are kind. Not all fairies like humans because we are simple creatures, Syna. We spend our very long lives in quiet places, each day much the same as the one before. We are simple, so that this will not destroy us. We lack the one thing the ancients gave you before us.”

“What is that?” Syna asked.

“You can change.” The golden eyed fairy paused a long time at that, as the other fairies looked back and forth between them.

“We can change.” Syna said to herself. She had meant to ask it as another question, but it had come out as a statement, as memories that were not her own began to slip into place.

Still, Syna felt numb as she digested all that the little fairy implied.

“My essence?” She asked the golden-eyed fairy, who surprised her by turning to the healer.

Green eyes spoke much more quickly. “We do not understand this, Princess, but I have spent more time with the ancient as he taught me to be a healer. What you call your blood, that which comes from your mother and your father, is shared by all living things. Each animal, herb, and tree has its own special essence that makes it what it is.

In some herbs, it produces medicines that we can use, while in others it produces poisons we must avoid. In humans it is the same. Some things are desirable, while others he would wish to avoid. He has also explained that there are two essences in every animal. One from the father and mother together, and one from the mother alone. It is mostly the essence that comes from the mother that he seeks to improve, but when the time is just right, he can effect the other as well.

This takes many years for the purity of that essence to come together in one special girl, but even when it does, and he can change it, it takes many more lifetimes of men for the change to spread through the families of man.”

Syna closed her eyes. She had no idea how many of the little learning songs, some short, some very long, that they had sung to her. Most had to do with healing, she realized, but there were many others too, just sitting there in her memory waiting for her to have reason to think of them. What Green eyes said seemed to fit somehow, but it still made her head spin.

“So it’s the one girl, who Asho can help, who you seek out?” The girl asked.

“Yes.” Golden eyes spoke, even as Green-eyes nodded in confirmation. She continued for Syna. “But this time we made a mistake. This is why you must never think us too wise, child. Even The Ancient himself, who is wondrous beyond all our understanding, is not perfect. He is mortal, and could come to harm. He is very wise, but not all knowing. So you see, we made a terrible mistake.”

“Mistake?” Syna felt that it was all coming too fast. She had not really intended to ask the question, because the explanations were making her head hurt a little. She was sorry that she had turned down the third little bundle of herbs from Green-eyes, and looking over at it on the rock, she reached out to pop it into her mouth and chew it slowly while she thought.

“Mistake.” Golden-eyes said. “Asho knew that the essence of Eve was very strong in the women in this valley. We came from across the sea, wandering ever closer till we finally arrived and found your fathers and mothers here.” she gestured to the valley about them. “He could tell that there was a very good chance that there would be born a Fairy-princess, such as none of us have ever seen.

I myself have only seen one other, you understand.

Thus, we searched. We whispered to many of the women of this valley as they slept, and touched them to bring back their essence to Asho. Several we found were very special, but Asho’s instinct told us that there was one yet to come. A human child such as he had been waiting for since the first sunrise. Therefore, we stayed, and we searched, and we waited.

Now, we had already found three women, who all held great promise, but there was one who in her own right, was princess herself.

We waited through the years while she matured, and watched over her without her knowing, waiting for the time when she would bear a child. But, this princess did not have a female child, as we expected, she bore a son. We missed you. We did not know who you were until you wandered into our little glade. We made a terrible mistake.”

One thing was very clear to Syna. “My Mother?” She asked in a raised voice.

All the while, the golden-eyed fairy had looked calm and collected. Now she did not. “When we could not find you, we...” The Eldest looked at the ground and not at Syna for several moments. “We came for her. She too was very special. When one is that special, any contact with the ancient’s essence will cause changes in the Human, and this is why it is forbidden to do so for all but the purest few. This woman was much older than Asho wished, though, and was not the perfect one we sought. There were changes that were not intended, and Asho has labored long to mend them.”

Syna began to cry. “My mother? You took my Mother? Where is she?”

“Child. We would never willing take anyone for so long a time. To do so is harmful and dangerous. We have fortunately found you though. Your essence will now help Asho heal the other’s faults.”

“Where is she?” Syna asked in a voice that was much calmer than she felt.

On this point, the eldest remained silent. Syna could only stare back at her, before lowering her face to press her eyes in her hands.

“Syna. No thing of great worth comes without price. You must always remember that. We have begun to teach you healing, because it will help you, and it is needed by man, but even this we realize is something that can cause you danger. There are whispers of a darkness that grows among men, and your light of knowledge will be needed now more than ever it was. Even so, we would not willing do any of the things that have caused you pain, but your worries and our mistakes will be mended ever we part.”

“Where is she?” Syna repeated, only this time into her hands.

Golden eyes did not answer.

“You won’t tell me, will you?” Syna asked, not knowing why she didn’t feel more angry or hurt.

The Golden-eyed fairy still did not answer, but Syna saw a small shake of her head.

Syna stood up, causing Aida, and several lesser faeries to rise into the air. She wanted to walk away, and never talk to any of them again. She wanted to run to the head of the valley to search, but through all this, she could see the pain in all their eyes. Even the little ones.

For long minutes, she walked about the small clearing, wanting to find some way to hate the little things; but, realized that their mistake had cost them nearly as much anguish as it had cost her. In the end, she couldn’t find it in herself; because they had already promised that her mother would be returned, in so many words.

Syna walked back to Golden eyes, who sat more calmly now, looking back at Syna.

“You will answer questions about me, but not about… anyone else, to protect Asho?” She asked the little thing.

Golden eyes nodded.

“Is my mother sick?” Syna asked very quietly, causing the little ones to look at each other again. “Does she need me?”

Green eyes shook his head. “The changes do not affect the handmaiden that way. She is well, but the changes are a danger to others of your kind, and to any children. She knows this. She can not contact any other human, especially not a female, until it is safe.” He badly wanted to add, ‘unless the female is particularly powerful, particularly special’, but he did not. Better, for many reasons to be content for Syna to wait in ignorance of this.

“The handmaiden is my mother?”

None answered in any way, but still, none looked away.

Syna stood for the longest time, but they waited for her to speak first. She knew they would all still be there in the Spring if she did not. It was painful, but she would have to trust them. She sat down.

“So, if I understand it all correctly, you expect me to find a man, and have children?” Her voice was far less kind than it had been, but then, neither was it cruel. Still, she did try to soften her tone. “You don’t ask very much. You don’t by any chance have a little song that explains how someone like me would do that?”

Golden eyes looked fully confused for the first time, as her eyes wandered over the child. She had looked patiently wise, than then for a little while even regretful and sad. Now she just looked confused.

Syna explained, “Even you said that Keely would be a suitable female mate for me?”

Golden eyes looked confused still, until her eyes brightened.

“Oh.” The little fairy said, and began to look at Syna more carefully, even as the herbs that Green-eyes had offered, and she had finally taken began to ease some of her tensions.

“I see. I thought you did not think yourself pretty enough to attract a male…” She finished, before gesturing to one of the little ones, who flew near to Golden-eyes, before zooming straight up the cliff.

Several moments later, another brown-eyed fairy came back with the little one, and looking at Golden eyes, Shyly ‘presented’ herself to Syna as she hovered for a moment before the girl’s nose. In a moment, though, she was flying back to seat herself pressing against Golden-eyes side. In doing so, she greeted Golden-eyes by pressing her nose to hers. Golden-eyes wrapped a protective arm about the smaller fairy, which Syna could now clearly tell by her scent was most definitely a female.

Syna was still blinking when Golden eyes lifted her other arm, and gestured for the pretty blue eyed fairy to take a similar position at her other side, in the same way, ‘kiss’ and all.

Syna felt the realization of what Golden eyes was telling her, but she did not fully understand why it was being told, or what it meant for her.

Golden eyes obviously understood this as well. “I have lived through many an age of men, Syna. I am not much wiser for it, but such things a fairy understands better. The girl Keely is like Aida. Both are content to be consort only to another female. You, however, are like me. I would never be happy without either or both. You are young, but you will be ready soon, and when a suitable male appears…” She smiled the completion of the promise.

Golden-eyes looked down at the little brown-eyed fairy, who blushed as Aida had done some weeks ago, and tried to snuggle closer to her mate. “I have bonded with a female who is more like you and I. Though she does not disdain the closeness of males, and although she loves us both, she only really desires to mate with me.”

Green-eyes flew over and pressed his cheek first to the Golden eyed fairy, and then to the blue eyed fairy, before flying away.

Syna watched him go before she looked down at the backs of her hands, which she held out palms down in a gesture to still the world about her for a moment, and said “Oh.” The pretty pea-green color came from a mixture of a golden yellow and a beautiful blue; she looked at blue eyes who steadily returned her gaze. ‘You think I’m a girl?’ indeed, and he seemed to still be laughing at her about that.

Her headache, had turned into a spin, thankfully tempered by the last bundle of herbs she had taken. Green eyes had been right. She had needed it after all. She wouldn’t doubt him so easily in the future.

Syna spoke. “I think I understand now.”

“Syna?” Golden-eyes said, in a note that made her look up at the fairy. “It is one of the things that we seek, the ability to truly love all of one’s kind. It is always the result of the proper essence. It is as natural and any other thing you know. We heard what you told the girl, and you were correct. Do not feel confused by this. It just is.”

Syna thought for a moment before she spoke again. “I don’t really feel confused…,” which caused the fairy to smile at her again as if she was proud, “but I have no idea how to break the good news to Keely.”

Her Aida, the copper-eyed fairy, actually laughed before Golden-eye’s did. “I have already told my eldest sister that I have whispered to the girl, and the Keely girl is a suitable female mate. Did she not tell you?”

Syna nodded, and leaned toward Aida quickly, to feel a small flutter at her nose. She rose, and began to brush her skirt free of grass, only to have to stop for fear of accidentally striking one of the dozen lesser faeries who took over the task.

“Thank you.” Syna said, to all the fairies, but most especially to Golden-eyes. “I think this will take me some time to get used to. I do have one more question though. Did you say that Asho didn’t mean to change me?”

Golden eyes smiled. “I said that he didn’t do as much as you thought. Some of your changes happened because you are so special. It was a surprise to us, and not. Much of what has changed, the ancient did to ease, and to please you. He loves you very much.” She grinned at Syna. They all did.

Syna grinned right back, as she first brushed her hand through her hair, and helped the faeries brush the front of her vest. “Tell him I said thank you.”

“So you do not want him to change you back?” Golden eyes asked carefully, even though she was still grinning.

“No.” Syna said with a blush. “I just want to thank him for his gifts. Tell him that I feel happy for what he’s given me. Tell him that I now know what being ‘happy’ means. I didn’t before, but now I do.” She smiled, and reached up to straighten her bow before pulling her vest neatly down about her waist.

“Gifts?” The Golden-eyed fairy scoffed, causing Syna to look up at her. “It is not a gift to reward one who has richly earned love and praise child. It is not a gift to reward courage and sacrifice. Nor is it a gift to help a small one who has suffered through no fault of her own. That is not what we mean, when we speak of ‘his gift.’” Golden eyes smiled at the girl, beaming. “However, I will tell him what he already knows, that you are well. I will also tell him that you are very beautiful, Syna. More so, every day.”

Syna blushed, but said nothing more. She nodded politely to the eldest fairy, and turning to go, she held up a small mushroom to the little ones, and asked. “Can one of you bring me two more of these? You have to be very careful.”

The little ones brought several more than two, as she walked through the field into the afternoon sun, accompanied by Aida, and for a time, an unknown number of lesser faeries.

“Fairy Princess,” she said to herself, and started to giggle. Fairies were indeed wonderful friends, but they could be such silly little things.




          As she neared her cabin, she could see that Keely standing by the well, obviously waiting for her. The relief on Keely’s face was obvious as she ran to meet her at the edge of the field.

Looking back to make sure they were unobserved, Keely quickly pressed her cheek to Syna’s before taking the small bundle in one hand, and Syna’s hand in her other.

“I told you, you did not have to worry, Keely.” Never the less, Syna understood the worry in the young woman’s face. She was coming to realize that the weeks she had spent in the forest were long and difficult ones for all her family and friends.

“I wasn’t worried.” Keely said, avoiding her eyes. “I just missed you.”




     Bryan and Keene were already standing when the girls came in the cabin. Keely had already told her that Dara, unable to sit and wait any longer, had headed back alone to help Calum get ready for the crowd that would surely be gathering near sunset.

“Ah! There you are.” Keene said kindly. “Thank you so much for the delicious lunch, Syna. I’d been told by Dara that you were a most excellent cook, but I must say that even all of her praise lost more than a little in the telling.”

Syna blushed as she muttered, “Thank you, Uncle. I’m sure…”

“No Syna, thank you. It really was excellent. I know I don’t get up this far into the valley much these days, but with meals like that on the hearth, I think I may just have to find a good steady horse!” The man beamed at her an appreciative if silent nod. “Now, I wanted to ask you when you are going down to see Braelan. I’d like to be there as well.”

“Is he not well then?” Syna asked him, a little concerned.

“Not at all,” Keene rushed to ease the apprehension, “In fact, I think he is better than he’s been in years. So does Braelan apparently, thanks to your skill as a healer, Syna,” Keene said purposefully.

“I’m no healer, Uncle,” She protested mildly, which only brought a little laugh to the middle of the elder’s chest.

“Braelan does not agree, and neither do I, but no matter.” He waited smiling. Neither of them were the ones who had to learn to believe it, and like so many things about the girl, her humility in this area was a great comfort to him.

Syna’s blush faded a little, as she ran over things in her mind.

“Well I had planned to go down about mid afternoon. I’ve already made up another medicine for him, which should be ready now. Some others I can prepare when I get there. I’d assumed that I’d be walking down to the inn with Dara and Keely…”

“Excellent!” Keene virtually applauded. “Then I was wondering if you girls would not mind lending an old man a shoulder down into the valley. I ‘m not as young as I once was, you know…”




          His age not withstanding, they were almost into the village before the elder began to slow his pace with obvious fatigue. He really was far too old to be walking so far, both girls thought sadly. All told, however, it had been a very pleasant walk, with the elder himself taking on the burden of carrying Syna’s small basket most of the time. Even so, it was nearing evening when they arrived.

They could see Dara moving up ahead, who quickly sent one of the grooms to lend a strong shoulder for the man. The shake of her head was an unmistakable disapproval, just before she nodded, and turned to run some errand to prepare for an evening that was surely to be busy when word got round that Syna was back at the inn. Looking back along the road, Keene could just discern a man who looked to be Bryan following them, and was glad that neither could see as he waved the groom back to his chores.

Two other boys were leaning against a tree nearby, as they slowly passed. The eldest of them had never been especially kind to Syna, but even so, she took a moment to free a hand, and gestured for him to come nearer for her to speak to him.

“I need you to run to the crossing, and see if Lessa is there. If she is, please tell her that I’m at the inn, and that I’ve brought something that will help her feet. If she can’t come, I’ll come to her as soon as I’m finished here. Would you do that for me?”

The boy just looked at her for a moment. Her beauty was what held him, but he like everyone else, had heard all about the goings on at the inn the previous evening; and, like so many of the other boys, he had been instructed as to his behavior. To his credit, he only glanced at The Elder, before he nodded more politely to both young women, and headed off with his friend to the river crossing.

As they walked, several nearby villagers called out friendly greeting to Keene, and to the girls, but every pair of eyes followed them. This only became more obvious as they entered the front room of the inn.

The fire was already blazing warmly, and over a dozen of the villagers were already seated at tables. It was Braelan, however, who drew Syna’s eyes most immediately. He was seated near the fire, listening quietly to two men as they talked. Syna quickly approached him smiling warmly, not noticing that Keene had moved to a nearby table to watch quietly, after slipping her basket into her hands.

Keely, as expected, was instantly pressed into service by her much-relieved father, who never the less took a moment to come from behind the counter to greet them all most warmly.

“Hello, Braelan.” Syna said to the old healer, whose eyes had been fixed on her from the moment she had approached, just as had everyone else’s. “How are you feeling this evening?” She asked warmly.

Everyone in the room was taken aback by the change that occurred in Syna as she approached the man. The shy young girl, just like the boy they all remembered, had been replaced by a self-assured woman enquiring about the well-being of an elderly man who was fully in her care. The villagers were at least trying to be less obvious about it, now that she was administering to the old heeler.

Syna’s eyes roved over the man, from his posture, to the color of his skin, to the remnants of the dinner in his bowl, taking in all that everyone else had already seen. The danger was well past.

For his part, Braelan was speechless. He could only look at the beautiful young woman before him in wonder. It was some time, with her smiling patiently down at him the whole time, before he could speak.

“Aria? You are Bryan’s …” he hesitated “boy?”

“Yes, Braelan. It’s me, Syna. I see that you are eating the roots I got for you. Do you feel better?”

“So much better, I can scarcely thank you enough.” The old man said, reaching for the girl. “That was you last night, Syna? I thought you were there, but I…” the old man reached for her hands.

“It was I, Uncle.” Syna smiled, and seated herself near the old man, relaxing her examination at his obvious recovery. “I brought you some medicines for your stomach. I’m very glad to see you are feeling better.”

“Better?” The old man fairly gasped. “My stomach has not felt this good in years. What did you give me?” He asked in open amazement.

“Well,” Syna said as simply as possible, “just some things to help your pain, and to stop the bleeding. You have a hole in your stomach. The tuber will help to ease the pain, and stop the bleeding, but it is very important that you not try to take any of your own medicines. You have to promise me that.” Syna said most urgently, even before she tried to invent a compelling reason.

“Yes, yes.” he said with a little peevishness creeping in. “Everyone is telling me that, as if I hadn’t been the one taking care of all of these people for thirty years.”

Syna gladly allowed the small balm on his dignity.

“I thought you might have explained it to the ladies,” one of whom was rolling her eyes heavenward behind him, “but I wanted to be sure everyone understood, Uncle. The roots I gave you do not mix well, and I knew you were not well enough to explain their proper uses to your nurses last night.” She smiled warmly at him, and rested her hand on his chest to feel his heartbeat.

After a moment, Braelan said softly, “Very wise. Thank you, Syna.”

“You’re welcome, Uncle.” She said smiling at him. She too was seeing him in a new light as well, through the eyes of a caring adult, and not just as a child who feared his concoctions. “I’ve brought you some new medicine,” she glanced upward, “and I’ve written down the instructions, so you ladies can be very careful not to give him more than it says.” She handed the bottle to the woman behind the healer, who she knew could read well enough, and who took it with a nod. “This medicine will help you breath a little better, and will help with the pains in your chest.” Syna said flatly.

“How did you know about that, Child?” Braelan asked her quietly.

“You told me last night, uncle.” She said equally softly, causing the old man to look once more to his fuzzy memory of the last few days, only to realize that he would have to accept that it must be true. “I also wanted to tell you, Uncle, that you’ll have to tell everyone that they will just need to get along without you for a while. It is very important that you not try to walk about too much. You need your rest more than anything, I’m afraid. Only time will heal you now.” Syna said this, making it very plain that the old man would be resting for more than just a few days, even if those were not exactly her words.

Braelan began to protest mildly, which brought Keene to Syna’s side.

“Now Braelan, we talked about this earlier. We need you to take care of yourself. We can’t have you doing yourself harm, when we so badly need your wisdom and advice; and, I’ll not be responsible for losing a healer with thirty years experience to a night chill. You’d be better suited to advising the council elders, and the families of the sick, than spending your strength running about the valley at all hours.” The gentleness of his admonition all but stilled the man’s complaint, causing Syna to look up at him, and smile gratefully.

“But Keene, I’ve been looking after everyone long enough to know what I can and can not do. The ferryman’s wife, alone… I should go and see…”

His protests were halted by Syna’s hand gently touching the side of his face. “Uncle, look at me.” She said, drawing the man’s eyes fully into hers. “What the elder said is true. It’s our turn to care for you. You will still be a great help to anyone who needs you, just not by running around the valley in the cold and damp. The season grows cold, and the pains in your chest are a warning. Everyone knows how much you want to help your friends and neighbors, but you have to think of yourself now. This is your time to rest.”

As Syna spoke softly to the man he at first stiffened, and then began to relax more and more. Somehow, her soothing voice made it easier to accept his body’s own desire to sit bye finally, and to rest. Soon he nodded, even as he looked in awe on the girl leaning toward him. Then he nodded at Syna and Keene both more firmly, and more acceptingly.

“Should he have stayed in bed?” The village woman asked concerned that they might have given in to the old man too much and too soon.

“No.” Syna said, smiling kindly at the woman. “I think it will do him some good to move around a little as he feels like it.” She said, rubbing her hand over her lower abdomen, just as she had done to his nurses the night before, to make her point to the woman alone, although Keene saw it too. “As long as he does not try to tire himself out too much over the next seven-day, then he should be fine. As the bleeding is stopped, he should feel a lot more of his strength returning. I think it would be very nice if by tomorrow one of you can take him for a short walk down to the river and back. There are some Autumn flowers there I’ve never seen, and I was hoping that someone with our Uncle’s knowledge could teach me about them.”

The woman just nodded, and clutched the bottle to her chest, as she moved away toward the kitchen.

Syna’s eyes were drawn to Keely, who shooed her toward a table, and refused to let her help until she had taken some refreshment herself. Calum, surprising everyone, brought her a small glass of wine, which he announced in an odd, and rather louder than usual voice, as he placed in on the table. Syna gingerly took a sip, and despite the burning in her chest, realized that she liked it quite well, even as it spread warmth through her.

Dara and her father had entered from the kitchen just then, Dara bringing a small tray of food for them all. Syna could see that Dara had her note on Braelan’s care in her hand, which was a relief. Dara had taught Syna her letters, so she was now sure the note would be followed with a suitable care for each and every letter she has written there. As she took another step, she realized that her father was holding Lessa by the elbow, and that the woman was walking in a way that made Syna’s own feet hurt.

“Here.” was all Syna said, as she took Lessa by the waist, and led her back into the kitchen.

Dara said from behind her, “I thought perhaps one of the small rooms at the top of the stairs?”

Lessa fairly moaned. “Oh, please Dara, not stairs. Just give me a chair. The harness-maker’s son said that you might have something that will help?” The desperation in her voice was heartbreaking, as Syna and her father helped the woman into a chair by the back door.

“I think so.” Syna said. “I’m sure I have brought something that will make you feel better at least. May I look?”

Lessa just nodded to the girl, and looked in amazement as Syna knelt to remove an oversized pair of shoes that she had taken from her husband, and then the rags in which she had swaddled her feet. Keely gasped when the inflamed red skin of Lessa’s feet came into view, which got her quickly shooed to the common room.

Now only Keen and Dara remained close enough to watch.

Syna looked at the woman’s feet, and found that the cloths that had been wrapped around them first held a green pasty residue. “What is this?” she asked the woman. “Is this what Braelan gave you?”

Lessa simply nodded, looking worried.

“Dara, can you ask Keely for a basin of water, and ask her if I might have a little of the soap that I gave to her. We need to wash Lessa’s feet.”

There was nothing wrong with Lessa’s tongue. “I’ll wash them myself, If you’ll just bring me the basin and soap. I’m no duchess to be having you wash my feet,” she said, in what was possibly the longest speech Syna had ever heard from the woman. Looking at her feet, it was easy to understand why she would be a little irritable.

“I’ll be right back.” Syna said, carrying the swaddling cloth out the door into the common room.

Lessa was drying off her feet by the time that Syna came back from asking what Braelan had put into the salve Lessa had used. Her frown was enough to set Lessa off again.

“Don’t tell me, he put poison ivy in it by mistake?” She sounded like she was going to cry.

Syna only knelt down to look again at Lessa’s feet before she answered. “No.” She sat back on her heels to look up at the woman. “I don’t think he put anything bad in the salve. Nothing he used should have caused this. Mind you, you would have been better off simply to keep your feet unwrapped and dry, but still… The medicine he used would possibly help some people with feet that were sore from work or walking. He just didn’t use enough.”

Syna looked at her feet for a moment or two more. It was obvious that she had an itch growing, which she had expected of the abuse of her poor feet alone, but much of the problem was from where the salve had contacted her skin. Syna had learned that people sometimes had a bad reaction to things that would not harm anyone else. There were several little songs about that, but none that gave more useful information than vague warnings that it was possible. It seemed that this was the case with Lessa.

Making up her mind, Syna pulled out a small pot of salve that she had made of her own, the night before, only this one was a smooth white past, rather than a gelatinous muck of plant waste. She took a moment to smooth a small amount over all the areas where Lessa’s skin had turned red. At first Lessa had jumped, more in fear than discomfort at Syna’s careful touch, which prompted Dara to walk over from the door to common room, and press a mug of wine into the woman’s hand. Lessa accepted it gratefully.

Syna was wiping her hands before Lessa had finished more than a third of the wine. Dara gave Syna another basin with clean water and soap that she could wash with.

“That smells much better than the one that Braelan used, at least.” She said, looking at her feet now with an odd expression. Just then, Keely called Syna to help her carry food to group of farmers who had begun their harvest already, and had ordered a large meal. Dara was tempted to tell her daughter that Syna was not to be helping her serve in the common room any longer, but it was Syna and Keely after all, and Syna gladly helped her by carrying a second heavy tray out of the room.

On returning to the kitchen several minutes later, Lessa looked up at her with tears in her eyes. “What did you do?” She asked in awe.

“Nothing really, Lessa. That is just a salve to numb, and to ease the itch. I think you may be in opposition to the nut butter that Braelan used in his salve.”

“My feet tingle, and the itch is fading.” The woman said in wonder, looking at everyone.

“Good, Lessa. That means I’m probably right, and most of the itching should go away quickly now.”

Lessa was becoming more her normal quiet self, now, but never the less, she did ask Syna, “So it was the salve Braelan gave me? When I stopped using it, the itching on my feet got no better?”

Syna nodded to the woman. “No, Lessa. It wasn’t really Braelan’s medicine. It caused the redness only because there is something in there that I think you can’t abide. On me or anyone else it probably would not have done any more than frighten the children away with it’s smell. I don’t think that his salve would have helped at all, but he had no way of knowing you could not use it.”

The woman clearly did not understand, but was only too happy to agree as she kept looking from Syna to her own feet.

Syna asked her. “Is that much better already?”

“Yes.” Lessa answered, amazed.

“Good, then we can try this now.” Slipping a cloth from the small pocket in her maiden’s armor, Syna unwrapped it to show several small tan mushrooms, much the worse for their journey. Syna quickly compounded this by using a strip of the cloth to mush them up ever further, before carefully using it to rub them into the areas of her feet that were afflicted by the itch.

“Aren’t those poisonous?” the cook asked, clearly worried.

“Yes.” Syna said calmly, continuing to work. “The white ones especially, but on the skin it will only harm the itch that has been plaguing her. It does not go through the skin. It also goes away in a day, but it should have worked by then. If it does not work completely, then we can put some more on in about three or four days.”

Syna did not see Dara’s face, but she did not need to. Lessa’s expression of relief, all due to the first salve that she had put on the woman, was all that she needed to see.

“Now Lessa, listen very carefully.” Syna said bringing the woman’s eyes to her from her own feet. “The mushrooms are poisonous, but only if you eat them. I don’t want you to wash your feet till tomorrow, and if you touch them, you must wash your hands with this soap.”

Syna was pleased with the swiftness of the nod.

“I also don’t want you to swaddle your feet any more. Let the air get at them, and prop them up by the fire if you need keep them warm, but I want you to keep them dry. Most importantly, thought, don’t touch your feet and then touch any food, or your face, without washing your hands. And don’t scratch any more! Here.”

Syna handed the small pot of white salve to the woman who gratefully received it.

“There is more than enough salve in here. When your feet start to itch again, and they will, just rub a little of this on where it itches. A little is better than a lot, because you need to keep your feet and legs dry. I’ll be in the inn again tomorrow night, but if you need me, you can send for me, and I’ll come right away. ”

Lessa just nodded, looking at Syna strangely.

“Do you feel better?” Syna asked her.

Lessa just nodded again, so Syna helped her slip her husband’s shoe, sans the swaddling cloths, back onto her feet.

Syna finished by rising up and taking the rags out back, to instruct the kitchen boy on how to bury them for her.

Keene, having watched everything carefully, was once again amazed at Syna’s understanding and skill. He was sure the word of her helping Lessa should be all around the village by the morning, even though so few had seen it, and was very pleased indeed.




          All eyes were still on Syna as she returned to the common room to be shooed to a table by Dara and Calum both, who thought it less proper for her to serve there. Dara gave her a glass of water with a little fruit mashed into it, and Syna very gratefully rested from all her walking that day.

Conversation had returned to almost normal tones, when Syna heard a soft curse behind her.

“Damn!” Keene said behind her, and she turned to see the man leaning over his chair, his hand on his back.

Several people, including Keely, Dara, and Syna moved to his side. “Are you all right, Grandfather?” Keely asked, as she reached him a little ahead of the others.

“My foolish back.” The man moaned rather loudly. “I guess I should have taken Calum up on his offer to take me up to the cabin after all. Damn.” He swore again, which was only the second time many of these people had ever heard him do that.

“Syna? Would you mind helping me?”

Syna was already moving to lift his shirt from the back of his breeches. “Can we take him to the other room, Dara? I may have to remove his shirt.”

Keen answered too quickly for anyone else to attempt to move him. “No, Please. Just let me stand here, and you can do whatever you think best.”

Syna nodded worriedly, and said. “Would you two please hold his arms like this?” she said to the others, as she helped them ease the man’s arms up a little from his sides. “There, that’s it.” She said as she slipped her hands under his loosened shirt.

Keene winced only slightly, as Syna’s fingers not only explored the knots in his spine as he expected, but to his surprise, she also probed the muscles along his sides, which were warm and sore from the long walk today.

“You hurt yourself when you were younger.” Syna said amazed at the damage she had never suspected from a man who seldom missed the opportunity to pick up any small child he met.

“Yes,” was all he said.

“You broke your back when you were very young.” she said, still amazed.

“Yes.” he said quietly. “I fell out of a tree as a boy.”

“I’m sorry, Grandfather. I can’t do much for your spine, beyond giving you something for your pain when it hurts too much. I can help with the soreness here…” she said probing his sides once more. “If you’ll sit down, I’ll just go and get what I need from the kitchen.”

Everyone watched quite intently, as Syna brought a warm patch of cloth for his back, which she sprinkled with some oil and herbs, just before pressing it to the man’s back. She also gave him a little pellet of herbs, which he quickly accepted and swallowed down just as she directed. That he did so without hesitation or comment was noted by all present, before Dara helped him ease back into a seat in front of a slice of warm bread, and cheese for his late afternoon snack.

It was only a short time later, when he once again drew attention as he rose, the medicines clearly taking good effect even more quickly than Syna had expected.

None mistook his genuine amazement, and the medicine’s obvious relief of his long time pains, where he had never really expected anything ever would. Feeling much better, but tired, he excused himself to all, that he intended to go home and sleep. As Calum called for a stable boy to help Keene home, Calum himself ushered him into the kitchen so Syna could remove the poultice in a little more privacy than it had been applied.

Calum simply began to chuckle to himself, as the old man suddenly stood up straight, and turned on his two would be nurses. “Truly amazing, Syna! That’s the first time my back has not hurt in years. Amazing.” He smiled down at her, before kissing her cheek. “What was in that herb?”

“It was from the blister that grows on the bark of the birch tree. It…” She stopped, because he was smiling at her so strangely. “Are you well, Grandfather?”

“Syna, I want you to remember to call me ‘uncle’ now. You are not a little girl any longer. You are a woman now, and it’s very important to me. Can you do that?”

Syna nodded silently, not knowing if she should point out that she never had been a little girl.

“And Calum!” Keene said cheerfully. “Excellent wine.”

He smiled at the innkeeper, leaving him quite sure to whose cup he was referring.

“Well, good night, all. I promised to look in on the widow before I turn in,” And with that, he quickly turned and strode upright out the back door of the inn.

“By all the saints.” Dara said shaking her head. Calum just laughed out loud beside her…




My very special thanks to both Geoff and Karen J, who both took this golden opportunity to help
me improve both my writing, and this story. Their generous advice has been invaluable to both.




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