Alarica stands in front of the portal, with everyone behind her waiting, Queen Melisandra, Princess Claryvorra, and a select group including guards and servants. She stands there, thinking. History may repeat itself, but only if we do not heed the lessons that history teaches us. I remember grandmother telling me that two of her favorite servants were lost because they fell through the portal as it was transitioning between doorways. The punishment of banishment is carried through by pushing the guilty through the portal at any given moment, just as I had done with Odette.
Alarica takes a count of everyone in attendance. All are there except Ernestine. The guard reports that Councilor Ernestine has been awakened and would arrive at any time. She can not wait any longer. The doorways are random, so there is no telling when the proper doorway will appear.
“I would like everyone’s attention. I want to remind everyone that it is paramount that we wait for the proper doorway to appear. If we do not, and pass through the portal while the portal is in transition, we will be forever lost, without any means of return. Am I making myself perfectly clear?” Scanning the crowd, she sees everyone nodding their head in agreement. Now, all they have to do was wait. It should come up anytime now, England, Ireland, Russia, Antarctica; soon, it will be here soon.
Ernestine finally arrives, still half-asleep, which means that the chance of something going wrong increases. She is not paying any attention where she is going, so tripped over a floor tile, which causes her to push a guard, creating a domino effect.
“Ernestine, be careful. No!! Ernestine!!” Everyone was pushed through the portal.
There is a guard posted outside the gate. The little girl walks up to the guard and asks, “Excuse me, ma'am, but could I go in, please? You see, I have to write a report on a foreign country, and I can’t do that because I don’t have any information on it. Could I go?”
The guard replies with a straight face, “I am sorry. You may not enter without an invitation, and you must be accompanied by a member of the household.” The guard immediately turns to face the street, ending the conversation.
The eight year old notices a car pull in to the driveway. The gate opens to let the car in and she sneaks in alongside the car before her mother can grab her. The guards find her, however, and she is immediately escorted off the premises. With a scowl on her face, arms crossed and foot tapping, she stands there thinking of another way to gain entry, not paying attention to her mother’s insistence on leaving. There has to be a way to get in there somehow. All I want is some information. I’m just a kid, what could I do? Realizing that maybe another try on another day would be best, she finally calms down enough to hear her mother and starts to walk away. Then, she hears a voice.
“Welcome to the house of Avalon. How may I be of service to you?”
The little girl stops and turns around, only look up and up and even further up, and once her gaze is upon the face of the person addressing her, she sees where the voice is coming from. Looking up into the eyes of the stranger, she replies, “Hi, my name is Melisent, but my friends call me Mel. I’m supposed to do a report on a country. I asked my mama if she would take a walk with me to help me figure out what country. I saw your sign and I told my mama that’s it, that’s the one. I was going to go and ask if they had any information that I could have. But since you’re here, do you?” Giggling, she amended her question, “Oh, I forgot, please, may I have some information? I tried asking the lady at the gate, and she said I couldn’t come in without an invitation. Does this mean I have an invitation now?”
Alarica is amazed that such a small child would have so much to say, and feels the child to be gifted with the knowledge of words, and well mannered. She has no choice but to reply. “Greetings to you, I am Alarica. Yes, you have an invitation now, and I may have some references that would assist you. If you will follow me, I will see what there is that I may give to you.”
Melisent, with a big smile on her face, simply says, “‘Kay.” They all walk up the driveway and through the iron gate. As they approach the doors, Melisent is amazed that the doors are so tall. “They must be ten feet tall. Wow, mama, look at how tall the doors are!”
Alarica’s eyes leave Melisent’s gaze, to find a reflection of her dreams. In the sunlight, the golden tresses have a reddish glow that top a very petite woman who stands well below Alarica’s bust line. Small in height and stature, with the face of an angel, there she stands: her consors, her next companion. The dreams have come alive--I have been wrong. I have been wrong all along and chose the wrong person to be my consors. Clearing her thoughts, Alarica turns around to open the door to let her guests enter the house.
Alarica places her hand gently upon Melisent’s shoulder. “Does your mother not wish to come inside?” she asks with a concerned tone, wondering why a mother would let her child be with a stranger. Alarica would never hurt a child, but she was still a stranger.
Not knowing what to say, Melisent shrugs her shoulders and walks back outside to get her mother. She pulls and tugs her mother’s hand to encourage her to follow. Finally, mother, toddler, and child walk into the house to join their host, waiting for them at the door. Once inside, the mother stands by the door, hands folded, clutching her toddler’s hand, her head down and feet together, looking a bit like a punished child. The face is expressionless, the eyes an empty green, now that Alarica has a better look.
She knows this will be her next consors. It will not be an easy task to accomplish, but she knows that with time and patience, this will be her greatest treasure found in America. The greatest treasures, after all, at first appear dull and lifeless, but with effort, become the most precious gems anyone can possess. Two fingers gently, and slowly, lift the mother’s chin, hoping the eyes will follow. The eyes turn downcast as the chin is lifted though. In a gentle tone, she says, “Greetings, I am Alarica. Who would you be?” Alarica is pleased, as the woman starts blinking, eyes coming into focus upon her.
This woman asked her a question, and knows she has to answer. When someone asks a question, an answer is expected. However, thoughts of her mother, telling her repeatedly that no one wants to listen to a babbling idiot who is not able to speak without sounding like a baby, come into her head. She was asked a question, though, and fear determines her next decision. She motions for Melisent to come back beside her, and after a whispered conversation, Melisent states, “My mama told me to tell you that her name is Breanne.”
The child answering for her mother confuses Alarica. She has been studying American culture and habits, but is unaware that this is another American custom. More research is needed to find the answer. She also thinks Breanne to be timid, which to her, did not make sense. The child is bright and lively, but her mother is timid, which has Alarica puzzled as to how this could be. Hearing screams for her eminence from her councilor, Alarica closes her eyes, wishing for a hole to appear to swallow Ernestine. “Please accept my apologies and hospitality while I find the reason for the screaming.” Bowing at the waist, she adds, “Please pardon me.” She then walks backwards three steps before turning around to see to Ernestine’s execution. On her way out, Alarica instructs Elmira to be sure that her guests are comfortable.
Seeing somebody else approaching, Mel starts introductions. “Hi, I’m Melisent, what’s your name? This is my mama, Breanne, and my baby sister, Emily. She’s three years old. I forgot to introduce Em to the woman that left. She seems really nice.”
Elmira escorts them into the study, which is a large room with a floor-to-ceiling window that spans the entire length of the wall, and would allow Alarica to see outside, but no one would be able to see inside. It is also bulletproof, helping to provide extra security. Alongside of the window is a large built-in bookcase, filled floor-to-ceiling and wall to wall with various books, both old and new. On the opposite side is the lavatory, alongside the wardrobe closet. The desk is a large wooden desk, with two leather chairs in front, placed in front of the picture window. Providing comfort for the visitors, a circle of cushions, on which to sit, surround a low table off center on the carpet. If so desired, comfortable chairs can replace the cushions. A love seat surrounded by two small tables offers another place of comfort by the doorway.
Elmira, smiling, breaks their trance as the small family circles in place, admiring the room. “Hi and welcome. I am Elmira. Let me pour you something to drink while waiting for her return.” Pouring three glasses for the guests, she notices the mother standing by the entryway to the study, while both daughters have found comfort on the cushions on the floor. However, the mother continues standing by the entryway with her head down and back so straight, nothing would be able to pass between the wall and the woman’s back. Elmira is puzzled with this display, not having seen anything like this before.
Alarica, having finished speaking with Ernestine, returns to her guests, noticing the puzzled look on her sister’s face and wonders what the cause is. Both sisters’ gaze meet, and know what each is thinking. Elmira motions to Breanne, indicating the answer to her sister’s questioning gaze. Alarica nods and thanks her for her assistance.
“I go peepee now!” declares the toddler. Melisent looks around the room trying to find a bathroom. Spotting one, she says, “Excuse me, Miss Alarica, but Em just turned three years old and she needs to go really bad. Could she use the bathroom, please?”
“Of course she may use the lavatory,” Alarica replies, thinking the mother will still be standing against the wall. She is proven wrong, as she sees the mother assisting the children into the bathroom. Quietly, a conversation is held among the three then mother and toddler stay behind in the bathroom while Melisent approaches the sovereign. “Excuse me, Miss Alarica, but it is nearly lunch time, and my sister gets cranky when she gets hungry. Could you point me in the direction of your library or give me the books now so we can go?” Looking up into Alarica’s eyes, she amends, “Sorry, forgot again. Please, may I have them?”
“Of course you may have them now. The books that I will be giving you are very precious to us. As a show of faith, I will need something of yours that is precious to you. I will keep your treasure safe here with me. I will return your treasure back to you when you return the books to us.”
“Well. . . I don’t really have anything . . . wait, yeah I do.” Melisent reaches behind her neck to take off her treasured item. Feeling another pair of hands, she looks behind her to see her mother unclasping the necklace. Accomplishing the task, Breanne gives Melisent her necklace. Holding out her hand, she states, “Miss Alarica, this is my locket. It’s the only treasure I have. Would you keep it for me, and I promise that I will give you back your books. The report is due in three weeks, and I should be done with the books in about two weeks, but I’ll give you back your books when I hand in my report . . . if that’s okay?”
Alarica stretches out her open hand to receive the necklace, and studies the necklace carefully, then places it in a secret pocket located inside her cloak, with the intention of placing it in a secure location later.
“I know it doesn’t look like much, but it’s my locket. It has our picture inside of it. It’s the only treasure that I have,” Melisent utters, shrugging her shoulders.
“This will be fine, Melisent. I will place it in a safe place later. Let us go now to the archives to find the necessary books, shall we?” They both head in the direction of a large room located directly across from the study. The room is filled to the brim with books. No matter which direction Melisent turns, there are books everywhere. There is a small case with scrolls stuffed inside cubbyholes, and a large table surrounded by chairs in the middle of the room. A light fixture from above provides the necessary light.
Alarica has an idea of what sort of references are needed, since she had studied many of the texts and scrolls herself. Placing the books inside a satchel, she lifts the satchel to judge the weight. “I believe these will give you the necessary information. Will this be too heavy for you?” Alarica asks. Just then, another hand reaches out to grab the satchel, as Breanne had quietly approached them after finishing with Emily in the bathroom.
Breanne and the girls have a whispered conversation. Melisent stands there, smiling and nodding to what her mother is asking then the three of them are ready to leave. There are things that need to be done.
Alarica is slowly becoming enchanted to this little mother with such a bright child, and though she is confused, she believes Breanne to have a mother’s heart and a beautiful spirit. Unknowingly, the young mother has cast a spell over the sovereign. Perhaps there is a chance to spend more time with Breanne, over the afternoon meal, maybe? The queen is always away shopping at the mall, the mall being something new and exciting for her when she discovered it upon arrival, which means, Alarica is here, alone, to spend time with someone who will be her next consors.
Never speak when other people are present. No one wants to listen to someone who cannot speak properly without spittle coming out of the mouth. These words are repeating themselves over and over again. Breanne knows it is rude not to respond, and to ask Melisent to speak for her, but what choice does she have, as she is not able to change the way she speaks. They tried therapist after therapist, but nothing worked. So Breanne was taught not to talk to anyone, and stay out of the way until everybody was gone. No one would miss somebody that stupid anyway. If she did talk, it meant suffering the consequences that she did not want.
Alarica needed an answer to her question. Why does she use her daughter to speak for her? She wanted to encourage Breanne to speak for herself, but was unsure how to proceed. “Breanne, would you care to stay and share an afternoon meal with me? We would be able to sit and chat with one another.”
Breanne panicked. Why does she insist on talking to me? I’m nothing. I’m stupid, and I’m fat. I don’t understand. Breanne starts to rush out of the house, not having planned for this to happen. Melisent was supposed to get the necessary information and leave.
Alarica is further confused. A moment ago, everything seemed to be as they should have been, but now, she is not too sure. “Breanne, is something wrong? The baby is all right, yes? Breanne, I assure you that when the books are returned to me, the necklace will be given back to Melisent. I will keep the necklace safe until all is returned.” Alarica tilts her head slightly, in confusion over the events that have unfolded. She focuses her will, and hears Breanne’s thoughts. “I do not understand. You are something because you are a mother, and I insist on speaking with you because I would like to get know you better.”
Melisent knows her mother, and knows what the look on her face means. That look means that her mother is scared, thinking that maybe retreat is the answer. “Thank you, Miss Alarica, for your help. We have to go now. We’ll keep them safe. I promise, cross my heart. Goodbye now, we have to go.” Melisent starts walking backwards, following her mother to the front door and watching Alarica following them.
Alarica is still confused, even more so now. Things changed rapidly before her eyes, not knowing if it was something she had said or done. What confuses her even more is the look of fear on all of their faces; not just Breanne’s. Seeing that they will bump a table that is behind them, she tries to stop them, but fails. Instead, they turn around and run out the door. Alarica runs after them, but stops, thinking that tomorrow would be a better day.
She does not see them the next day, or the day after that. Alarica thinks the deity to be cruel to deny her this woman.
Three weeks have passed, and during that time, Breanne, who loves to paint, finishes the paintings that are to be hung in the local art gallery. Painting is her world, her creation, something that she can control, and becoming a god in her paint world. It is during this time that nothing else exists. The canvas, the paints, and the tools used to create her pictures are all that she needs. Her mother told her she was getting fat, so therefore, she does not eat. She ignores her growling stomach, and as long as she was sitting and resting, she does not have any dizzy spells. She has an alarm clock that is set to ring at the necessary times to care for the girls. This is her world, her existence. Nothing else matters. After all, nobody wants to be friends with someone who sounds like a child talking . . . right?
Alarica is confused and angry. Confused over what happened, and angry that she could not find the answer. Everyone kept their distance in the manor. Princess Claryvorra would sleep with her mother, hoping that maybe during sleep, her love would spread to her mother and then the mother she knew and loved would be again. Alarica needed to think. She needed to do something, and decided that a walk would be the key. She pulled on her boots, the appropriate dress, and her cloak to ready herself for an adventure. Claryvorra wanted to go along with her mother, wanting to spend more time with her. The princess got herself ready before asking her mother to take her. Alarica agreed, and both walked out the door, hand in hand.
They came upon the town square, where Alarica suddenly stopped when she saw Breanne sitting at the center fountain. Claryvorra knows her mother had met someone, and is confused about the events, and is further confused about what just happened. “Mother, why did you stop suddenly? Is there something or someone that you are curious about?”
Hearing her daughter’s voice brings her mind back into focus. “It is her, Claryvorra, sitting at the water fountain. It is she. I thought I would not see her again, but there she is. Come on. I have some inquiries that must be answered.” Alarica holds her daughter’s hand and proceeds to the water fountain.
Breanne looks up and sees Alarica approaching. She gets up from where she is sitting and starts walking towards the bookstore that her children are visiting, listening to the storyteller. Breanne hears her name called, but thinks she will be able to reach the bookstore before Alarica catches up to her. She is proven wrong when she feels a hand placed on her shoulder, and that same contralto voice speaks--that kind and gentle voice of the woman she thought she would not see again. Breanne stops and does not move, does not speak. She does not want to embarrass the kind woman by having a conversation with her out here in public. Her mother would not like that. She keeps her head down, hoping that Alarica will let go so she can escape inside.
Alarica will not be denied this time. There are too many inquiries that need to be answered, and the only one that has the answers is Breanne. She has found Breanne and is feeling a lot like a panther chasing after its prey, with the panther having caught her prey, and now doing what needs to be done. To encourage the prey to respond to her without fear is the question, though. Alarica stands there, waiting for Breanne to acknowledge her presence, but nothing happens. Alarica lets go, hoping that the power of words instead of the power of might, will bring about the desired response.
Breanne takes the opportunity and escapes inside, finding her kids and telling them to hurry, they have to leave now. Breanne starts feeling dizzy, the world spinning, breathing hard, and hanging on to whatever she can to keep herself upright, her vision growing dark. She tries to take a few more steps, before collapsing on the floor. She awakens in a strange place where nothing looked familiar. It is not a hospital, the room warm and comfortable, with the smells of flora mingling in the air, confirming this. She is on a bed next to a tall, wooden cabinet. There is a small workstation in the middle of the cabinet, and two large windows behind her, with their draperies closed. There is a love seat under the windows, and a wardrobe closet by the entryway. Breanne leaves the bed and steps outside to look, but nobody is around. She uses this as an opportunity to leave whatever this place is. She has just left the room to find her children, when she feels a hand on her shoulder.
“It is good to see you up and about. Please follow me back to the laboratory, would you? Please?” Alarica is indeed happy that her newfound friend is awake, but there is something wrong, something that has caused the confusion. She examined both girls and both are healthy. Melisent was anxious to wake up her mother so they could leave. To anybody else, Melisent was over reacting, but to Alarica’s experienced eyes, Melisent was preventing her from finding out the truth, whatever the truth is. It had taken quite a bit of effort for Alarica to calm Melisent, who is now resting in the bedchamber.
Breanne is standing there, looking at Alarica, saying nothing. She has many questions, none of which will be answered; after all, no one will talk to someone who is not able to speak properly. She does not understand why this woman insists on taking care of her, why she is being nice to her, and most of all, why she wants to talk to her. No, she does not understand. She only knows she has to find her girls and leave. That is all that matters.
Alarica waits for Breanne to answer. Maybe she does not understand. “Did you understand what I said, Breanne?” Tugging slightly on the fingers as gentle encouragement, Breanne just stands there. “Breanne, you are at my manor with your daughters. Melisent is resting peacefully with Emily. Melisent’s unusual behavior has me worried, however, and I was hoping to discuss the situation with you. I need us to go back to the laboratory, though, to examine you properly. The draperies will be drawn to ensure our privacy. Does that answer your fears?” Alarica lifts her eyebrow, waiting for an answer.
Breanne thinks she has no choice, but she has to answer. She needs to do what this woman said in order to leave, not wanting to risk the consequences. She looks around for paper and something to write with. She would not be able to speak, but she can express herself with pictures. The pictures display a message. Where are my girls? Are they sick? Breanne’s arms immediately come up, to defend herself against the beating she knows will follow. It always happens. Her mother never liked it when Breanne answered in this manner.
Alarica is still confused. No matter how much encouragement she uses, she can not get Breanne to give a verbal answer. Is Melisent protecting her mother? Alarica reaches up to gently place her hands on Breanne’s arm, to lower them. “Breanne, you do not need to protect yourself. Everything is all right. I promise. Lower your arms now, so we may proceed to my laboratory.”
Breanne opens her arms just enough to see what sort of reaction she will receive. She is used to being teased and beaten, but accepted like this was new. Is she being accepted? Is that a smile she sees? Using the smile as encouragement, she slowly lowers her arms, though she immediately puts her hand over her mouth.
Alarica urges Breanne ahead of her, to proceed towards her laboratory. Alarica closes the draperies behind her. “Breanne, I need to see you. You have nothing to fear. I will not hurt you out of anger or taunt you. There is a reason why you collapsed inside the bookstore, and I need to find out why. I am a skilled healer. Everything I am doing, I will describe to you as I am doing it. Do you understand?” she gently asks. Breanne nods her understanding.
“I will now proceed to take off your clothing. Lower your hand, please.” Alarica gently taps Breanne’s hand and smiles, waiting for Breanne to respond. Breanne slowly lowers her hand. “I need you to raise both arms with the fingertips reaching for the ceiling.” Breanne looks up to see if there is anything hanging from the ceiling that can be used for torture. Seeing nothing, she raises her arms slowly, while Alarica removes the sweatshirt that she has been wearing. “I will now remove the trousers that you are wearing.” Breanne immediately closes her legs as tight as she can, not knowing what will happen. Alarica sees this and says, “Relax your legs, Breanne, and let the trousers fall. Your lingerie will stay on.”
Alarica starts rubbing Breanne’s hips in an attempt to comfort her, and to encourage her as well. Breanne takes in a deep breath, tenses her body, and lets the trousers fall. She immediately clutches herself as tight as she can to help protect against the beating she is sure to come. Closing her eyes as tight as she can, she stands there, listening to Alarica pick up the clothing that is left on the floor. She feels hands rubbing her shoulders. “Breanne, I need to see your body. In order to see your body, I need for you to relax. It works best if you relax yourself. If I gave you something to help you relax, the tests may not give me true results. Relax, Breanne, it is just you and I.” Alarica continues to rub Breanne’s shoulders, feeling the fear take hold of Breanne as she starts to shake. Alarica starts to sing in an attempt to relax Breanne.
Breanne knows the beating will start. Her mother would tell her the same thing. The paddle, where was the paddle? Why is she singing? Opening one eye, she sees Alarica standing there, singing and rubbing her shoulders. Mother never did that. Breanne slowly lets go and opens both eyes, watching a smile come over the woman who has shown her something she never thought she would ever receive: respect.
Alarica examines Breanne and finds the possible reason for Breanne collapsing. Breanne is far too skinny. “Breanne,” she starts as she reaches into a closet for a robe. “Breanne, I have examined both of your daughters. Both are healthy and well cared for. However, I wish the same for you. You are malnourished, as evidenced by the shape of your body and the fact that you collapsed inside the bookstore. I can visibly count each and every one of your ribs, Breanne. That is not something that I would not find on a healthy body,” Alarica says while placing a robe over Breanne’s body. “I am not sure which paddle you are speaking of, and I was singing you a lullaby. My mother would sing me a lullaby when I was not feeling well.”
The robe is soft and warm, and she can not help but enjoy the feel. Alarica smiles, seeing her friend relax at last. “Melisent was quite concerned over your well being. She tired herself out struggling with me. She saw reason, I think, when I told her it would be better if her mother were to stay here with me so I may take care of her because I am a trained healer, rather than go to a hospital. Here, everyone will be comfortable and well cared for. She is now resting, after crying herself to sleep, feeling a failure, I think.”
Breanne turns around to find a paper and a pencil, just something to write with to draw a picture then finishing a rough sketch of the question. How do you know what I’m thinking? Nobody is supposed to know what I’m thinking.
Alarica slowly places her hand upon Breanne’s shoulder. Breanne misinterprets the action and thinks Alarica is finally going to give her the beating she has been expecting. “I will not hurt you, Breanne. I do not know who has done this to you, to cause such fear within you. I will not hurt you. I know what you are thinking because I am able to see to hear your thoughts. You will not speak to me, so I must find another means of communicating with you.”
“Breanne, I believe you to have a musical voice. Please speak to me. Here in this house of Avalon, it is considered rude and a sign of mistrust, using someone else to speak for you. Remember, I am able to see and hear your thoughts. Until you decide to speak to me, that is how we will communicate. I will voice my thoughts and I will read yours. I am the only one in this house that is able to do this. No one else, not even my mother, has this ability. Do you understand what I am saying?” Alarica says.
Breanne nods her understanding then brings her hand up to cover her mouth in a nervous gesture. Alarica slowly and carefully lowers it, to grasp its partner in front. No one wants to read my thoughts ‘cause I’m stupid. I just want to go home. I’m sorry for causing so much trouble.
“There is no reason to apologize. I was merely puzzled about Melisent’s behavior. The other issues will be addressed later.” Alarica stands there, thinking of a way to inquire further. However, she thinks that maybe it will be too much for Breanne right now, starting to regard Breanne as a fragile treasure that must be protected and cared for.
Her thoughts are interrupted by Ernestine, screaming for her eminence. “I am sorry, minime uni, but Ernestine is insisting that she speak with me about the state of my negotiations with the American President.” Alarica blows out a breath as she lowers her head to gather what strength she can to prevent her from hurting, or better yet, killing Councilor Ernestine. Alarica feels a kiss placed on her chest, and looks at Breanne as a smile is forming
Maybe she is just lonely, Breanne thinks, looking into Alarica’s eyes, seeing a smile form on the face that not a moment ago was looking very angry.
“If she is lonely, that would be her own doing. Please pardon me while I speak to Ernestine. Make yourself comfortable. I will see to it that a platter is provided for you, soft foods to start with.” Alarica walks towards the doorway to open the drapes.
As Alarica starts opening the drapes, she hears Breanne’s thoughts. I’m fat, though. She suddenly stops, to turn around and face Breanne. “We will discuss that later. Not another word about you being fat. I will return. This will only be a moment.” She once again turns around and opens the drapes.
Breanne stands there, watching Alarica leave the room, not knowing what to think or what to feel. She was told she was too skinny, and she was not hurt. This is not normal. It has to be too good to be true.
Breanne closes the draperies again, to give her privacy to change.
Meanwhile, Melisandra has returned home from her excursion and notices the closed drapes. She thinks of surprising Alarica, having a little bit of fun, by showing her the new lingerie she has purchased.
Breanne is pulling on her pants when the draperies are suddenly opened, and seeing a stranger come into the room, she panics and starts screaming. Alarica hears the screams and knows that it is Breanne. She rushes back to her laboratory and sees Melisandra at the doorway, just standing there while Breanne is screaming.
Alarica shoves Melisandra aside without saying a word. Melisandra comes out of her stupor, only to see Alarica, her sovereign, her love, caring for this stranger. Melisandra is puzzled. Who is this woman? In addition, why does Alarica take care of her? Was this woman seducing my wife away from me? She wants answers…and she wants them now!
“Who is this and why are you taking care of her? I demand an answer!” Melisandra yells from the doorway.
Alarica ignores her to see to Breanne’s well being. Breanne relaxes a little and pulls on her pants as they have a private conversation then leaves the room to go find her daughters. Alarica watches her leave then turns her attention to Melisandra.
“You demand an answer, do you? You have been spending too much time visiting the market place. This is your station. I thought you were aware of your duties, but I was wrong. Tonight you will relearn everything that a queen, the mate of the sovereign, is to do. You will relearn everything,” Alarica replies with a cold smile. She is angry that Melisandra destroyed something she worked so hard to build.
Melisandra is still angry, though, and retorts, “I will speak to you that way because I am the queen. Did you forget who I am? Do you need a reminder? I came back early because I wanted to share love as only two mates can. Who is she?” she demands not realizing Alarica is getting angrier as her for speaking to her in such a manner.
Alarica snatches the bag Melisandra holds in her hand and sets it on fire with a simple touch. Lowering her voice, says, “Was that it? Is there anything else? No? Good. Then listen very carefully. I will speak slowly and carefully so even you may understand. We will have a discussion after the last meal, to be followed by a sparring session after the morning meal tomorrow. I will not wait for you to awaken. If you are not awake, I will wake you up, and if I have to do that . . .” Alarica abruptly turns to leave the room to look for Breanne, leaving behind a stunned and angry queen.
Melisandra knows that tone well. It is not when the sovereign yells that someone needs to fear, it is when the sovereign speaks softly so only the person for which it is intended will hear. That is what just happened, and now, Melisandra is scared, very scared, for more than one reason. Perhaps, maybe, there is a possibility that the sovereign can be distracted. The sovereign is a woman, after all.
Breanne finds the girls in what looks to her like a room for a princess. Large cushions on the floor with thick blankets on top ready for someone to slumber. Lined up along the wall is a tapestry, a beautiful tapestry with visions of magical creatures. The walls are a warm brown, giving the feeling of comfort and warmth. There are French doors with sheer linen curtains leading to a balcony, an entryway that leads to a double sink washroom, with a wardrobe on the opposite side, large enough to hold clothes for everyone in the manor. Inside the wardrobe are many drawers and cupboards, without any handles or knobs. Maybe this is somewhere to sleep. I have to get the girls.
Alarica finds Breanne in the bedchamber waking up the children. She wants them to stay, to be sure everything and everyone is all right, so she quickly and quietly walks toward Breanne to stop her from waking the children, knowing that as soon as the children are awake, they will leave. She gently places her hand on Breanne’s arm to get her attention.
Breanne feels a hand placed on her arm and immediately moves into a position to protect her children, not bothering to look to see who it is, just assuming it is her mother. Alarica gently pats Breanne’s back, once again trying to get the young mother’s attention. Breanne instead clutches the children closer to her in an attempt to protect them.
Melisent awakens, with Emily crying, not understanding what is going on. She turns her head to see why her mother is trying to protect them. She slips out from her mother’s grasp and stands in front of her. Breanne quickly grabs Emily and steps out in front of Melisent in a protective stance. Alarica is stunned, and knows that her efforts of the day are forgotten. She stops immediately, and kneels on the floor in front of Breanne, lowering herself to a less fearful position. Breanne takes this opportunity to run away with her children, knowing that the beating will eventually come; it was only a matter of time. As they run away, Alarica remains there, kneeling on the floor.
Breanne and the children made it back to the house in time to get ready for tonight. This is the night that her pictures are to be showcased at the local gallery. Breanne had made previous arrangements with her neighbor to care for her girls, knowing she was going to be late. So she prepares the girls for a night’s stay at her neighbor’s house, and then they are all ready to go, with Breanne dropping the girls off before leaving for the gallery.
It was a splendid evening as the patrons viewed her pictures. Comments such as: What wonderful use of color, and I feel as if I am a part of the picture, were heard all around. “I will not pay a penny below $15,000…” she hears someone say. Breanne gets home very late, having had a successful night, all of her paintings sold. All of her babies found a home, and for that, she was very happy, not because of the money, but because her babies will be admired by someone who cares.
Alarica wakens up as the sun rises the next morning, her wife still snoring. She picks up a pail of water, to pour over her wife to awaken her; she had been warned. Melisandra wakes up suddenly, spitting out water and sputtering about who would dare wake the queen in such a manner, only to look up to see the sovereign holding the pail in question. The queen reluctantly gets up, swallowing her pride, and retrieves a towel to dry herself off. She is dressed immediately then a weapon of the sovereign’s choice is placed in her hand. It is not a sword, and for that, she is grateful, meaning she will not have any cuts. It is a long staff, a weapon she feels confident using, but nowhere near as competent as the sovereign. She knows she will be sore for days, however, weeks even. Seduction did not work the night before as she had hoped it would. She knows the sovereign would have adored her in the lingerie she bought, it is pointless now. The sovereign will hear about this. She will talk to her mother and tell her all about what happened.
Alarica’s patience is thin at best, and Melisandra always stretches it beyond its braking point. She knows the queen will talk to her mother, telling her a story worthy of folklore. She is prepared for this. It is a short match that ends with the queen on her back, unable to regain her stance. Alarica puts her weapon away, undresses herself, and lowers her body into the warm and inviting bathing waters, thinking only of Breanne.
Alarica rises out of the water to get ready for the day, and noticing her body clear of any mark. Smiling with pride, she continues towards her study along the way seeing her queen enter the manor looking rather haggard after only a short match.
There is a knock at the door to the manor, and Alarica leaves her study to find out who would be knocking on a weekend: no one, as far as she knew, especially on a Sunday. It is Breanne with her daughters. Alarica steps aside with a bright smile. “Breanne, it is good to see you. I hope you are well today. Please, come inside and tell me how I may be of service to you.”
Melisent approaches Alarica. “Good morning, Miss Alarica. I came back here to return the books. I am returning them just as you had given them to me. Thank you very much for letting me borrow them, they were very helpful and fun to read, not at all like the boring history books we have to read.” Melisent holds out the satchel that contains the books.
Alarica takes the satchel, placing the strap around her shoulder. “Come with me, back to the archives. We must return them back to their rightful place.”
They walk across the hall into the archives, and Alarica places the books on the table “Thank you for returning them. They may rest here until someone else is in need of them again. You are probably one of very few people who think of these books as fun to read.” She motioned for everybody to leave the room and escorts them to her study so she can return Melisent’s locket.
Melisandra has left the bathing room looking not much better, just clear of the debris. Melisandra’s maidens dress her to appeal to the sovereign then the queen goes in search of the sovereign in the study. When she enters the room, she notes the smile on the sovereign’s face and thinks that maybe she does have a chance. It is only a matter of time.
Turning towards Breanne, Melisandra says, “Leave us, you have no business here. Get out, barbarian.” She then turns towards the sovereign with a smile on her face, only to find that the sovereign’s face no longer shows any sign of love, but anger.
Breanne starts urging the girls to leave the room, but a hand is placed on her shoulder, stopping her.
“Breanne, Melisent, and Emily, please pardon Queen Melisandra. She has forgotten court etiquette. She has proven to me that she is unable to behave appropriately,” Alarica explains as she looks into the eyes of her queen. Alarica shrugs her shoulders slightly when Melisandra leaves the room quite angry.
A large smile forms on Alarica’s face as she sits down beside Breanne on the floor. Breanne attempts to leave the cushions to stand in a more appropriate spot, only to find her hand grabbed suddenly, and stops to see who it is. Alarica is still seated, smiling up to Breanne and holding her hand. It worked once before, it might just work again.
This is it, the time to beat her for being among smart people, and for allowing the children to be among the adults. Panic is starting to take hold as it manifests itself with shaking and the empty eyes that Alarica wishes would disappear, and be replaced with warm and happy eyes that would sparkle as bright as the northern star. The shaking can not be seen, only felt, which Alarica does, and grows concerned.
“Breanne, please be comfortable. I will return momentarily,” Alarica says, hoping to soothe and quiet the shaking. She rushes to her laboratory to make tea, and bring back the robe Breanne liked so much. Returning as quickly as she can, she finds Breanne beside the entryway, standing as she had done when they first met each other. “Breanne, this is tea. I put honey in the tea for a little sweetness. I also have the robe that you liked. Both of these items will help to keep you warm.”
Alarica has never lied to me before, so why would she start now? Breanne tells herself. It can be a lie. Instead of honey, it is a drug, and the robe is meant to tie me up. It has to be a lie. Breanne pleads as she sees the robe coming around her.
Alarica hears the pleas and they shattered her heart. A simple gesture of love and care is sounding like torture. Alarica continues to place the robe over Breanne very slowly and very carefully, being sure to be very gentle, and starts singing the lullaby that she sang for Breanne the day before. Slowly, Breanne starts to relax just enough to allow Alarica to wrap the robe around her. Alarica does not tighten the robe, however, leaving it to hang loosely around Breanne. Alarica then picks up the cup of tea from the table. Properly trained healers will always test the temperature of the tea before giving it to a patient. This is done by holding the cup fully inside of their hands. The tea will be comfortable to drink, she thinks. To further test the tea, she dips the tip of her pinkie slightly inside the liquid, to be sure of the proper temperature. Alarica takes this opportunity to be sure the tea would not drip from her finger. “The tea is just right, I think. Properly trained healers are able to make their own tea. The tea is tasted to be sure of the right ingredients, and the temperature is tested to be sure that it is not too hot to drink. It looks poorly upon the healer to have their patient’s tongue burned,” she informs the young woman.
Breanne sees Alarica put some in her mouth. Alarica would not drink something that she poisoned or drugged, after all.
“What? I do not understand. Drug the tea? Breanne, I am a healer. The tea is not drugged. Please, Breanne, drink the tea. It is honey that I used.” Alarica continues to hold the cup at Breanne’s eye level, waiting for her to take it. One of Breanne’s hands comes up to its usual place, her mouth, while the other hand shakily takes the cup.
Alarica slowly reaches for the offending hand, to hold it within her own, smiling as she does so. Breanne is still waiting for the beating she is certain is coming when she is reminded about her hand. The beating never comes. She slowly lowers her gaze to the cup of tea that is now sitting on the table. Not sure about the reaction, she slowly moves her hand to pick up the cup, watching for any reaction. She sees a smile appear on the face that has only ever shown love and concern. She drinks the tea, watching Alarica over the rim of the cup. After finishing, she replaces the teacup back on the table beside her.
“How was the tea? Not too bitter, I hope.” Seeing Breanne shake her head back and forth was a good sign. “That is good. It means the leaves are still young and full of flavor. Please, Breanne, come and sit on the cushions. It would really be more comfortable than standing here by the doorway.” Alarica tugs lightly on Breanne’s fingers, encouraging her to follow. Breanne moves from the doorway, to walk stiffly to the cushions. Alarica wonders why, and starts inspecting Breanne to see if there is anything wrong. Bells go off in Alarica’s head when her hand finds the wet spot on Breanne’s seat. “Breanne, how would you like to take a bath? While you are bathing, I will find a dress for you to wear while your clothes are being laundered.” Seeing embarrassment on Breanne’s face, she wraps her arms around Breanne, calls the girls, and walks behind Breanne to avert anybody’s gaze as they move towards the bathing chambers.
Alarica enters the pool after the girls, holding her arms out, encouraging Breanne to come in. The hand finds its way again as Breanne steps around to go into the tub. “Breanne,” Alarica says, tapping Breanne’s offending hand, which the young woman immediately lowers. She stands there looking around the room. Alarica starts to make Breanne comfortable before leaving to find a dress, and after seeing that Breanne is comfortable, leaves the bathing room after reminding Breanne that a dress has to be found. Hearing joy and laughter, Alarica is certain that everything is going to be all right. Taking a last peek before leaving, she enters the bedchamber and heads towards the wardrobe.
There they were: Odette’s clothes. By tradition, all that Odette wore or touched was burned. However, Alarica made sure to separate what Odette wore and what she had not. The clothes and everything else in Odette’s possession that had been touched by her were burned or destroyed. Odette did not touch these possessions. Odette and Breanne look very similar, but their nature is so vastly different. Finding the right dress, she puts the rest away, to be used later. Alarica leaves for the archives, to see if her queen is, indeed, doing what she is supposed to be doing. Instead, she finds her asleep on the table. Alarica pours herself a glass of water, and moving the scrolls away, she pours the glass over Melisandra. Melisandra wakes up, suddenly screaming, to see her sovereign standing there with her eyebrow raised. Taking the hint that is presented to her, she continues studying the scrolls.
Alarica re-enters the bathing chambers, to see everyone splashing and laughing. “My intention is not to interrupt. However, one of many lessons I learned was all good things must to come to an end.”
“That was probably the easiest lesson you learned.”
Alarica hears the voice, knowing to whom it belongs. She is delighted to hear her mother’s voice, and be in her presence once again.
“Breanne, Melisent, and Emily, this is my mother, Leonessa,” Alarica says, full of joy. She looks towards the tub to see the girls excited and happy, but Breanne has returned to that frightened state. “Mother, would you assist the girls, please, while I attend to Breanne? Claryvorra will be delighted to be with someone similar to herself, and Emily will fit into her old baby clothes.” Alarica thanks her mother, hangs the dress on a hook by the door, then walks over to the tub to assist Breanne in exiting the tub. Alarica holds out the towel to wrap it tightly around Breanne as she moves towards her. Breanne looks at Alarica and just waits.
Reading Breanne’s thoughts, Alarica replies, “It will be all right. She is my mother, who no doubt heard my mother-in-law complaining about how cruel her daughter’s spouse is. Melisandra is my wife only by marriage. We do not follow the same customs as Americans in many ways, especially marriage. Melisandra has been . . . reluctant . . . in her duties, and has been complaining to her mother about the cruelties she is suffering. You have to understand that Melisandra tells her mother the truth as only Melisandra sees it. This may or may not be agreeable to everyone.” As Alarica is talking to Breanne about this, she is dressing her at the same time. Length is similar to Odette, but could use some alterations here and there, and believes that when Breanne is at proper weight, she will fill the dress very nicely.
“I should tell you something. I need you to listen to me. I am Sovereign Cyan Alarica, with Queen Melisandra and her Princess Claryvorra. We have come to America from Avalon to seek an alliance with the American President. My grandmother tried to form an alliance many years ago, but failed. I am here to succeed where she failed. The dress that you are wearing belonged to my consors, a consors that is no more; she is but a distant memory. Mother Leonessa was the queen and mate to mother Camilla, who was the former Sovereign Cyan of Avalon. Mother Camilla has been dead for five years. She died of an illness for which there is no cure. Because I am the eldest, I am to hold the throne. All of which that I told you is true. Melisent has read only a small portion of our history. I only ask that you understand,” Alarica finishes, with a pleading undertone directed at Breanne.
Breanne is stunned, and does not know what to think or believe. Even if Alarica is lying about all of that, she had proved she could be trusted. Are you really a king? Uh oh, I forgot to say sire. Maybe I should just leave and not be here.
Alarica is relieved, and replies with slight laughter in her voice, “The term is sovereign and it is either my sovereign or your eminence.” Things turn serious, however, when she asks, “Why do you say you should leave?”
“Now, why would you think that, child? If you have been invited by my daughter, it means that she trusts you,” Leonessa says, standing in the doorway after finishing with the girls.
Breanne panics, and her hand immediately goes up to her mouth as she backs up, backing up in search, and finding, a clear path to run somewhere, anywhere that would be safe. Alarica runs after Breanne, though it did not take long for her to catch up.
Leonessa is standing in the doorway, which was the only way out. Breanne finds a screen, thinking that if she crouches low enough, she will not be seen. Alarica finds her there, and kneels down beside Breanne, rubbing her back.
Breanne is frightened that the beating she has been expecting has finally come to life. Instead, Alarica starts singing, and turns around to see her mother crouching down beside her, a confused look on her face. The singing is working. Breanne starts to straighten up to see that it is Alarica. Breanne clutches onto Alarica and starts crying, letting out all of the pain that had built up over the years. After a few soothing words, Breanne starts to calm down.
“Alarica, what happened? Was it something I said? I do not understand,” Leonessa finishes, before Melisent and Emily run into the bathing room.
“Don’t hurt her! Don’t hurt her! You’re a doctor. Doctors don’t hurt people. Let her go!” Melisent screams from the doorway at Alarica when she hears her mother screaming. She runs towards them, launching herself to tackle Alarica, only to be caught by Leonessa. Melisent, screaming, crying, and kicking, is a handful all on her own. Emily, who is watching everything that is going on, is crying as well.
The commotion brings Claryvorra’s attention to the bathing chambers. Her mother is there with Breanne, grandmother with Melisent, so that left her with the baby. The princess walks into the bathing chamber, taking a hold of Emily, and doing what everybody else is doing: giving a little bit of love.
“Daughter, I think an explanation is in order. First the mother, then Melisent, and Emily cries as she is watching her family fall apart,” Leonessa tells Alarica as she rocks Melisent back and forth in comfort.
“Mother, I wish I had an explanation. I do not know enough to be able to give the answer that you require,” Alarica responds softly after noticing that Breanne has fallen asleep in her arms.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause such a ruckus,” Melisent states, pushing herself away from Leonessa. “I’m sorry I yelled. I heard mama screaming like she always does. She always screams when grandmother talks to her. She never leaves any visible bruises. You only see them if you know where to look. Mama’s not supposed to talk because she sounds like a little baby. It’s not mama’s fault she can’t. Mama tries really hard, but she just can’t. She probably thought you had the paddle to hit her with, because she tells me to talk to you and she draws you pictures. She thought that you were going to hurt her. My mama is always crying,” Melisent finishes, rocking herself back and forth.
Leonessa reaches out her hand, waiting for Melisent to take it. When nothing happens, Leonessa sits in front of Melisent and pulls the eight year old close to her, and they rock together.
Alarica feels two things at that moment: Deep pain because of the beating her friend receives for doing something Breanne has no control over. And anger, which took hold of a protective streak she reserves for only two people: her mother and her daughter. Now it was five, as Breanne, Melisent, and Emily were added to that list. Alarica picks up Breanne and places her on her own sleeping cushions.
Leonessa now has a sleeping child in her arms, so she places Melisent next to her mother then leaves the sleeping chambers after closing the drapes.
Alarica stays behind to think. I know why Breanne does not see herself as the beautiful woman I know she is. How could anyone hurt my little one? Her mind is confused, her heart broken, and her soul shattered because someone has taught her to believe she is not worthy of kindness, love, and respect.
Alarica returns to the bathing chamber, seeing that Emily is all right playing with Claryvorra. She searches for her mother, only to find her sitting by the sleeping cushions that Breanne and Melisent are now resting on. Alarica sits in front of her mother, to tell her what has been happening so far. They both sit there, watching the girls rest, and believing this is the only time Breanne can truly be free.
Breanne starts to wake up, momentarily confused. Suddenly remembering where she is and what has happened, she turns around to see that the two women are there.
Leonessa looks at Breanne with a smile, “Hello, child. I am mother. Did you rest well?” Leonessa raises her hand in an attempt to brush back Breanne’s hair from her face, but the young woman misunderstands, and covers herself with her arms. She then hears that voice.
“Breanne, it is all right. Mother will not hurt you. She left to find a washcloth to clean your face. Lower your arms, Breanne…there is nothing to fear.”
There, that voice always says it will be all right. Lowering her arms slowly into her lap, she realizes that there is something she has to do. She looks around, trying to find it. Where is it, it has to be somewhere. Breanne starts wiggling on the sleeping cushions to buy her some time. Alarica notices the motions and hurriedly shows her where to go. Finally, feeling better and proud she made it before there was another accident, she goes to the sink to wash her hands.
“There you are. Here is a cloth for you to clean your face.” Leonessa holds out the cloth for Breanne to take. Breanne stands there, looking at the cloth, wondering what the true purpose for the cloth is. Looking at Alarica and Leonessa, Breanne realizes that they have similar eyes, trusting eyes. Breanne takes the cloth and wipes her face, feeling how it good it felt. Breanne rinses the cloth in the sink, wrings the excess water, and lays it in the sink to dry.
Slowly, Breanne raises her hand toward Alarica, to feel, to see her face. Alarica smiles with pride, watching as Breanne raises her hand, and meets her half way, grasping the hand gently to place it on her face. For the first time since they met, Alarica sees a smile, a genuine smile. Holding Breanne’s hand to her face, she softly says, “You see, everything is fine.”
Turning slightly toward Leonessa, she wants to, but . . . Alarica gives her slight nod, so Breanne raises her hand, and Leonessa grasps it gently, holding it.
“Breanne, how would you like to stay and visit with an old lady for a little while?” Leonessa asks softly.
“Do not believe her. She says she is old because she wears the colors. However, she still has the skills of a fine warrior,” Alarica states with laughter.
“I say the truth,” Leonessa replies, looking at Alarica.
Suddenly remembering what Alarica told her before everything happened, Breanne collapses on the floor in an attempt to bow. Alarica bends down to comfort Breanne. “Breanne, I appreciate your attempt to bow before us, but that is only required in the public arena. I will let you know before what is expected.”
Breanne raises her head to see Alarica sitting there, smiling at her. Feeling embarrassed, Breanne’s face is turning red. Red faced and embarrassed, she lowers her head in an attempt to hide. Alarica approaches Breanne and embraces her, rubbing her back.
Breanne looks at Alarica and smiles. I better wake Melisent. Tomorrow is a school day, I’m sorry. She waits nervously for something to happen. As a nervous gesture, the offending hand goes up again.
Alarica looks at Breanne with an expectant look, Breanne looking back at her. Remembering, Breanne lowers her hand, to clasp its partner in front of her, earning a smile from Alarica. “Now, we can wake up Melisent and have an early meal before seeing you home. I think it would please mother if she could get to know you a little better.”
But tomorrow is school, we have to leave now, it will be dark soon, Breanne replies, her head halfway between up and down, still not completely sure what will happen. She watches Alarica and Leonessa looking at each other, as if reading each other’s minds.
“Breanne will not speak to me. We communicate by me voicing my thoughts and me reading hers,” Alarica informs her mother, answering the quizzical look on her face.
“Breanne, stay here and have a meal with us. My daughter will provide transportation to see you safely home,” Leonessa addresses Breanne, hoping to straighten Breanne’s stance. Breanne remains hunched over, with her head halfway down.
“Breanne, always stand tall and strong,” Alarica says, attempting to straighten Breanne’s stance. Breanne turns to Alarica with a questioning look. “Breanne, always keep in mind that it is not your height but your conviction in yourself that you are proving.” Breanne, understanding what Alarica is telling her, straightens herself out of the hunched-over position. Head and back straight with hands clasped in front of her, Breanne is now the perfect picture of poise.
“Very good, Breanne,” Alarica praises, noticing that with every praise, Breanne grows more sure of herself. And that meant Breanne would have confidence to talk to her and be less fearful here, in this house, the house of Avalon.
“Melisent is waking up. I hope she had a restful sleep. I will go see to her. Please pardon me,” Leonessa excuses herself, watching Melisent getting up from the cushions. She sits beside Melisent, quietly talking to her. Melisent is visibly relaxed, and a little embarrassed, as evidenced by the red face.
Alarica, my sovereign, could you please show me where my clothes are now so we can go home? Breanne asks, still poised, still scared.
Alarica wants Breanne to be comfortable, if only with her here in the manor. If comfort for Breanne means only relaying her concerns and feeling through thought, then Alarica is happy.
“Breanne, I would like you to stay for a meal. I will make sure that your clothes are done by tomorrow morning. I. . .” Alarica starts, but Ernestine appears at the door, not following social etiquette by ignoring the closed drapes.
Ernestine watches an immediate transformation that she does not understand. “Meus imperium, you must review these papers before tomorrow. It will be too late to review after the last meal, and must be done now. I will show these vagrants out and see to it that they will never be able to enter again.”
“Ernestine, you will do no such thing, and I will review the papers. Leave them in my study. Before that, bow and apologize,” Alarica states in the tone that Ernestine has come to recognize as meaning business.
Ernestine, however, has always felt it is her duty to think for the sovereign. “Vestra magnificentia, meus darling imperium, what would you be doing with these vagrants? Let me take care of them for you, dear meus darling imperium,” Ernestine finishes, hoping that with a little sugar mixed in, it will allow her to be seen as the councilor she has always been known as.
Alarica is furious by this time. Ernestine was questioning her judgment among other members of her family. She will pay for this. “By the order of the throne, you are to bow in humiliation.” Alarica feels something on her lower back, and looking beside her, realizes that Breanne has moved beside her and is rubbing her back with a little smile on her face.
“But vestra magnificentia . . .” Ernestine begins, watching the sovereign move towards her.
Alarica grabs the papers away from Ernestine and watches her expectantly. “Now!” is the last thing the sovereign says, before Ernestine falls on the floor, her body outstretched, on her stomach. “You will stay there until further orders. This would also be an appropriate time to remember your English lessons.” Alarica steps outside the room, and holds her hand out with a smile growing on her face as Breanne approaches.
Leonessa smiles with pride for her daughter. Holding Melisent’s hand, both walk out of the room, following Alarica and Breanne.
They walk to the dining area, a bright room with large floor-to-ceiling windows, sitting cushions around a low table, live plants and flowers around the room, and long draperies to close the entry way. Alarica speaks to a servant, to make sure her request was followed. Claryvorra enters the room with Emily, who is smiling and laughing, something that she only does when she was truly happy. Can it be that Breanne has found a home? That she has found someone that can love her?
Breanne has been studying the flowers, looking at the shape of the petals and smelling their fragrance. Alarica comes and stands beside her, enjoying watching Breanne appreciate the flowers. Breanne notices Alarica, and smiles a true smile at her. Alarica begins to tell Breanne about the flowers, their origin, their use, everything she knows, and Breanne absorbs everything Alarica tells her.
Leonessa, like any mother, takes this opportunity to tell a story or two about her daughter, and Alarica wishes for a hole to appear now, below everyone, to make everyone disappear. Breanne quietly stands beside her, rubbing Alarica’s back. At least someone loves me.
Elmira walks into the room, finding everyone smiling and laughing, especially Alarica, since an opportunity has presented itself just in time. This time, it is Elmira’s turn to be embarrassed. The food arrives and everyone enjoys themselves, as the laughter and good cheer continue.
Breanne whispers to Alarica to find somewhere to talk. Both enter the study, and Alarica closes the draperies. Alarica…thank you for the food. Can I have my clothes now, please? Breanne thinks, with just a little more courage this time. Alarica notices the change and smiles, knowing that maybe, with a little more time, she can erase all the bad memories.
“Breanne, the clothes you had been wearing are now being laundered. Come back tomorrow and I will give them to you. If I am not here, Elmira will be here to assist you with anything that you need. Melisandra is studying the Scrolls of Protocol. The Scrolls of Protocol were written as a guide to help train and provide knowledge for those of the aristocracy. Melisandra has grown complacent in her duties as Her Majesty of the Throne of Sovereign Cyan Alarica. That is why she was not present at the table. Otherwise, everyone is to be present at mealtime. There are no excuses, unless I state otherwise. Those situations do not come up very often. I will see to it that you have transportation home,” Alarica tells Breanne while caressing her face.
Breanne is absorbing the words, and the touch, feeling good for the first time since she can remember. She would be purring if she could. Placing her hand on top of Alarica’s, Breanne thinks. Alarica, how long will Ernestine have to be like that?
Alarica bows her head, knowing Breanne has a point. After a while, the purpose is lost, and is not as effective as it should be. Looking up at Breanne, she replies, “I will release Ernestine later, but not without consequence. She did something wrong, and she must pay the outcome of such an action. I will go into detail later, but right now I must go see that you have a safe journey home.” Breanne releases Alarica’s hand, the one she has been holding. In its place, she holds out her arms in a gesture that anyone would understand. Alarica nods slightly then envelops Breanne, to give her the love that she sorely needed. Releasing each other, Alarica leaves to find transportation, and Breanne leaves to find her girls.
With cloak in arms and keys in her hand, Alarica gathers Breanne and her girls to leave for home. If a sovereign wants something done properly, she does it herself. That is why Alarica drove. On the way, Alarica explains that she might not be home, but Breanne and the girls are always welcome, and can come by any time.
Alarica does not appreciate the American Government because she has to deal with the imbeciles who call themselves leaders. It is not the debating; it is the so-called typical male behavior that is the problem, along with their feeble minds. She can not carry any weapons on her person, not that she needs any, all she needed was a well-placed pinch here and there . . . and, Oops, I’m sorry, but he’s dead. We were only talking and he just died. Maybe he had a bad heart. The sad thing about that is…everyone would believe it. Idiots…
The next day, Breanne returns to the manor for her clothes. Alarica is not there however, so she leaves to return home. Melisent comes home, feeling miserable because her teacher said that she made everything up. She tried to explain to the teacher that all that he had to do was call the number on the card that she provided. The teacher refused, stating, “If I don’t know about it, it doesn’t exist.
Melisent calls the number Claryvorra gave to her, forgetting to pick up another business card.
“Hello,” Claryvorra answers.
“Hello, who is this?” Melisent asks, not recognizing the voice, as it does not sound immediately familiar.
“This is Claryvorra, Melisent. How are you?” Claryvorra answers, trying to reassure Melisent.
“Claryvorra? Hi, I’m sorry, but I forgot to pick up another card before I left the other day. If you give me the number to talk to Miss Elmira, I can call her instead,” Melisent responds.
“Melisent, the number I gave is my cell phone. I would be happy to provide you the number to speak with Elmira. However, if there is any way I may help you, I would be happy to.”
Melisent realizes then that they have something in common. Both liked to talk, and that they did. They talked until it was time for supper, Melisent feeling better after talking, feeling that it had not just been her mother who had found a friend.
The following day is another day with nothing of interest to do or speak of, until her mother showed up. Breanne’s mother wants to talk to her about her excursions, having heard about them. Breanne does the best she can. She remembers how she was treated and how she felt when she was with Alarica. She now knows that she does not have to suffer, but suffer she does.
Melisent leaves her room when her grandmother leaves, to see to her mother. It does not look good. Melisent can not wake up her mother, and blood is coming from her mouth, nose, and ears, blood is everywhere. Her grandmother did not yell. However, she used the voice that meant she was beyond angry. Angry with what, though, Melisent does not know. All she does know is that she has to remain calm to help her mother. Thinking of a solution, she picks up the phone and dials a familiar number.
“Claryvorra, I don’t know what else to do. My grandmother came over tonight to talk to mama. When she left, I went to put Emily back to sleep and then I came to check on mama, and there’s blood everywhere, and she’s not waking up,” Melisent says, with urgency in her voice.
Melisent does not realize that during the conversation, she was put on speakerphone so Leonessa can hear what is going on. Her grandmother urges her to find out where they lived and that something will be done. Claryvorra does as she is told, then gives the information to her grandmother. Not long after hanging up, Melisent hears a knock on the door. Safely answering the door, she is happy to see that it is Leonessa with three other women who, for security reasons, had followed. Melisent leaves to pack a few things for herself, Emily, and her mother. Breanne is carried to the car by a guard, while Leonessa sees to it that the children are taken care of.
Alarica has a lunch mvting with a state senator, Senator Rio Trafford Chamberlaine. The meeting is to discuss the possibility and plans of gaining popularity within the senate, working her way up to the top. That was the plan. However, just as any other plans, they, too, fall through. Alarica is not aware of the senator’s preferences, or the true meaning of the meeting. In between debates of philosophy and integrity, Alarica finds herself thinking of the multiple uses for the silverware on the table. “Senator Chamberlaine, I am here to discuss with you the possibility of being seen by the President of the United States, to discuss the plans on how to proceed to do so. I have been meeting with the members of the government ever since my arrival. I was relieved to have someone finally listen to me. As desperate as I am for someone to recognize me, I am not that desperate, and I would very much appreciate it if you kept your hands off my private person. Please enjoy your day.”
Alarica arrives home frustrated over the events. Imbeciles, every one of them… She thinks that maybe it is not a good idea to seek an alliance with America. Yet, she could not give up. She must succeed where her grandmother failed. Visions of relaxation came to her mind and she realized that what she needed were a bath and a goblet of Vinum. Thinking those thoughts and following through with them, however, was something entirely different. Suddenly, the doors burst open, with Breanne and the children being carried in.
Leonessa explains what has transpired, and Alarica takes Breanne from the guard, carrying Breanne to her laboratory to see to her injuries. Leonessa, in the meantime, takes the children to the sleeping chamber, where Claryvorra has arranged the sleeping cushions so the three of them can sleep together. Claryvorra assists her grandmother by making sure everything is all right and everyone is comfortable.
Leonessa and Alarica work side by side to assess and treat Breanne’s injuries. After finishing their healing duties, Leonessa leaves the laboratory to sleep, leaving Alarica to care for Breanne. Alarica does not leave Breanne alone for very long, at any time.
Breanne sleeps for three days before waking up confused and in pain. Everything hurt. She is not sure if there is a place on her body that does not have any pain. What brings solace to this misery is that voice, the voice of comfort that she has come to love. Attempting to open her eyes to see the face, she realizes she cannot. Reaching up to her eyes, she feels a bandage wrapped around them, which she tries to remove, only for her hand to be held in place by another.
“Breanne, you will be all right. You were brought here three days ago after being beaten by your mother. She has caused much damage to your body. The bandage around your eyes is to protect them from further injury. You are not well enough to eat solid food, so instead, it will be soft food. The children are well and have not been injured, though they are worried about you. Mother has been spending time with Emily. Do not worry, you and the children will be taken care of, I assure you,” Alarica informs her patient, while rubbing Breanne’s hand in comfort.
Will I see again? Breanne is able to ask before the headache returns.
“Yes, Breanne, you will be able to see again. The bandages need to stay for two more days before I can remove them,” Alarica answers, her voice straining in an attempt to keep calm.
Breanne nods her head before falling back asleep.
The next day, when Breanne wakes up, she slowly remembers, remembers the words, the hitting, and the confusion. She does not know what she did wrong.
Alarica cares for Breanne during her recovery and is able to see into Breanne’s memories. Breanne’s defenses are weak, and in an effort to assist Breanne with her recovery, Alarica has to know what happened, but also knows she has to confess to Breanne what she has done. Alarica has a responsibility to care for her family, and that family now includes Breanne and the girls. She can not do that without knowing everything. Now that she does know, she understands less than she did before. Knowing and understanding are two different concepts. That is a lesson that is hard to learn.
The bandages are removed and Breanne is getting stronger. Alarica’s healing knowledge is rewarded as she continues to see Breanne heal. That is the easy part. The hard part is admitting what she has been doing without Breanne’s knowledge and approval. It is a betrayal of trust. Good intentions or not, it is still a betrayal. Her training with the Sages comes back full force every night as she attempts sleep. But sleep will not come until she admits the truth.
Alarica enters her laboratory with an attempt at a smile on her face.
Breanne sees this and wonders what is wrong. Alarica said everything is fine. What is wrong then?
Hesitating at the cabinet that holds the herbs, thinking how the subject should be approached, she stands there. She told Leonessa what had happened, and though disappointed, Leonessa understood and said to tell the truth.
Alarica, what’s wrong, your shoulders are slumping? Breanne asks in an attempt to get Alarica’s attention.
“Breanne, I . . . I have something I need to tell you,” Alarica states, still standing at the cabinet, looking to the doors for answers. She shakes her head then slowly turns around to face Breanne. “Breanne, as you know, as sovereign there are certain things that I am capable of doing. To shorten the story, it was decided that it was a necessity to better serve her people to protect them from harm, as the enemy was not always forthcoming with the necessary answers. One of those things is being able to see into someone’s memories. Reading thoughts and seeing into someone’s memories are different things, as one is immediate, and the other requires more probing.” Alarica stops and rubs her hands on her dress and realizes it is useless. The armlets that adorn her arms have leather palms. “Breanne . . . I . . . I looked into your memories to see for myself what had happened. So many questions needed to be answered. It is my responsibility to care for my family. You and the girls are a part of my family, not by blood, but by heart. I cannot explain it any more than that. I find myself confused over what I have seen. There are still many questions. This does not happen on Avalon. If a mother is seen as an unfit mother, the child is immediately adopted into another family of the same village without question. They need only provide the necessary documents to support this decision. Please understand, Breanne, please . . . I beg you to understand,” Alarica finishes, lowering herself to the floor, bowing in humiliation, waiting for Breanne to answer.
Breanne does not know what to think. She only knows what to say. Alarica, what did you see? Alarica, you can get up now. I remember you had Ernestine do that. I don’t think this is the same thing. Alarica..? My sovereign..? Breanne says, before attempting to sit upright because of Alarica’s unresponsiveness. Successful in her attempt to sit up, now all she has to attempt is to walk over. Feeling proud of her accomplishment, she sits down in front of Alarica, and taps her head gently. Alarica slowly raises her head, not sure what to expect. Alarica is a strong and confident woman, and sovereign. Except when something bothered Breanne, and she was the cause.
Tears lingering in her eyes, she says, “Yes, Breanne?”
Why don’t you sit up? That way we can talk without you hurting your neck, Breanne responds, hoping to lighten the mood just a little.
Alarica nods and sits in front of Breanne. “Am I forgiven? Etiquette dictates that I need your permission first. I did not ask for permission. I did not think it was necessary, as I was only looking to find out what happened. The more I saw, though, the more curious I became,” she explains, looking at the floor.
It’s okay. I don’t think you would hurt me. I just want to know what you saw. Breanne starts to rub Alarica’s hands, hoping to sooth the worry that has enveloped the woman who has become her friend.
Looking into Breanne’s eyes, she begins. “What I saw was very confusing. There were . . . I am not sure how to explain this . . . there were attempts to help you with your speech, but I am not sure they were attempts made with love. The hitting, the words, everything, was just puzzling. I do not believe they saw the frightened child they had created. Your mother blaming you for your father’s death, stating that he died because of you. Nothing made sense.” Alarica finishes angrily, mentally sorting through the images she had seen.
Breanne sits there, thinking how to explain what happened. She knows that Alarica will understand her, but she needs to be sure that Alarica and Leonessa both understand who she is. That meant asking Melisent to speak for her. Melisent knew everything. Where is Melisent?
“She is outside with mother. Mother has been spending time with the children, teaching them how to defend themselves. Why do you ask?” Now Alarica is confused. Did she go too far? Now that Breanne is well, does she want to leave and never return?
Their too young though. Breanne is suddenly concerned that her girls will be needlessly hurt.
“Do not worry, they are well. Mother is a good teacher. If you ask her what she has been teaching them, she will tell you.” Alarica is desperate, now trying to find something to keep Breanne with her.
I have to find Melisent so she can speak for me. I don’t speak well, so she has to speak for me. She can explain to you what happened. She knows things. Please let Melisent speak for me, my sovereign. Breanne attempts to bow, as a pleading gesture.
Alarica still does not understand, but does as Breanne requests. She leads Breanne to a sleeping cushion to rest as she sends someone to get Melisent.
Melisent comes into the laboratory with a big smile on her face, excited about what happened, as evidenced by the manner in which an update is delivered. Alarica starts laughing, while Breanne covers her mouth in an attempt to hold the laughter in. Leonessa joins them in the laboratory as well. Breanne calls Melisent to her, and quietly asks her daughter to tell everyone everything, from the beginning. Melisent nods her head and sits in the middle of the floor.
“Mother has asked me to tell you the events that have been happening so far. Mama is an orphan. She doesn’t know who her real parents are. The woman that we are supposed to call mother or grandmother, adopted mama because she thought it would be fashionable to adopt. I say she’s crazy. I watched Mommy Dearest once, and they looked alike. Grandmother couldn’t, and still can’t, accept that mama is handicapped. She thinks that mama isn’t trying hard enough and is only doing it to annoy her. It’s not her fault she has trouble reading, it’s not her fault she doesn’t always understand, and it’s not her fault that she is the way she is. We only know that she’s our mama. I don’t know who our father is, and I don’t care. I’ve never met him or seen him, and he never bothered to come find us, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s only us girls, which is fine by me, because I only need my mama and my sister. Mama told me once, that grandmother paired the two together. He drugged her one night and mama woke up the next day not knowing what happened, or where she was. She found out later she was pregnant. She never saw him after that. The other day grandmother got angry because mama left the house without telling or asking for permission first, which doesn’t make sense, because we don’t live together. Grandmother said that mama was conspiring with known terrorists, and will one day ruin the United States of America because they will be spreading their impure thoughts, beliefs, and customs to everyone. She forced mama to tell her who they were, but she didn’t. Grandmother only left because she was going to be late for the ladies get-together,” Melisent finishes, still sitting there, watching puddles form on the floor from the tears that were shed as s told everyone her story. She needs to finish though. Taking a deep breath, she continues. “I know everything because I’m always looking to see what’s going on, and making sure that mama’s okay.” Melisent turns around and leaps into her mother’s lap, to cry on her shoulder.
Breanne rocks Melisent back and forth, thanking her for a job well done. Leonessa gets up after everything is said, to make tea for Breanne. Alarica leaves, to tell Elmira that she is not to be disturbed. Breanne misunderstands however, and thinks everyone left because they are disgusted to be in her company. She stands up, gathers her girls, and goes in search of her belongings. Leonessa returns with the tea, looking for Breanne, not realizing she and the girls are in the wardrobe gathering their belongings to go home.
“Breanne, I have tea here for you. My daughter said that you like this tea.” Leonessa places the tea on a table in the sleeping chamber. Hearing noises coming from the wardrobe, she realizes where everyone has disappeared. “Breanne, it is too early for you to leave. You started recovering from your injuries only two days ago. When you have fully recovered, we will discuss things further.” Leonessa peeks her head outside of the wardrobe and calls to her daughter when she hears Alarica call for everyone.
“There you are. Let us take a bath. It will help you to feel better,” Alarica says, urging Breanne to follow her.
Breanne hesitates, confused. Do they still want to be with me? They aren’t disgusted with my presence? She looks between Alarica and Leonessa. Those eyes again, those same trusting eyes.
Alarica assures Breanne that she enjoys Breanne’s company. Breanne nods her head, and remembering the way to the bathing chambers, walks ahead of everyone. She stops at the bench and realizes that she was being followed. Alarica, Leonessa, and Melisent are taking off their clothes to get into the bath.
Breanne stays in the corner of the pool by herself. Playing with the water and washing herself clean, Breanne escapes into her imagination. It is her own world, a world that she created. It is the only place where she feels comfortable. She sees pictures being created in her head, the colors, shapes, lines, everything. All she needs is her pad and her paints. Her hands know what to do. They always do. There is something else, something wanting to come in. She is startled when she feels a hand placed her shoulder. Looking up, she sees it is Leonessa. Breanne smiles, and Leonessa smiles back, satisfied that everything is all right.
Leonessa joins Alarica. “Alarica, what is she doing? She seems lost. Are her thoughts still open to you? I ask not only from curiosity, but because I am concerned. She has carried a heavy burden.”
“She is fine mother. I think she will answer you if you ask her,” Alarica replies, smiling at her mother.
Leonessa rejoins Breanne. “Breanne, what are you doing? Are you all right, child?” No response from Breanne. Leonessa scoops a handful of water and pours it on Breanne’s shoulder, startling her. “There you are. What are you doing? Are you all right?” Leonessa asks Breanne once again, smiling and waiting for an answer.
The water is pretty. See, it makes waves. Breanne demonstrates to Leonessa, knowing that she will not understand. No one did. They all thought she was just crazy.
Leonessa turns around to look at her daughter, wondering what Breanne is thinking. Alarica replies, “She said the water is pretty because it makes waves.”
Leonessa’s comments surprise her, though. “You see the lines that the water makes, wondering where they will end. A philosophical discussion, I think. Come and join us on the other side. You can scrub my back. Or would you rather stay here and play with the water?” Leonessa asks Breanne, slightly tilting her head, wondering how Breanne will answer her question.
Breanne lowers her head and continues to play with the water. It is not that she is ignoring Leonessa; it is that Breanne is confused. Leonessa senses this, and walks to the other side of the pool, gathers the necessary supplies, and comes back to be with Breanne. Leonessa reassures Alarica that everything is fine. Breanne is simply doing what she can to help herself understand these new events.
After getting Breanne’s attention, Leonessa holds up the necessary supplies in front of Breanne, asking the silent question. Breanne hesitates, looking at Leonessa. Suddenly, a picture comes to life, a picture that only she will see for now. But with time, Alarica, too, will see the picture. Smiling, she takes the supplies from Leonessa, who in turn smiles and turns around, showing Breanne her back.
Once Breanne finishes, Leonessa makes the familiar gesture to turn around. Breanne shows her back, so Leonessa can scrub her back. That is when Leonessa sees the scars; the scars that Melisent said no one knew were there, unless you knew where to look, because the scars were on Breanne’s buttocks. Now, Leonessa is furious and make the decision to adopt Breanne. It is not unusual on Avalon to adopt someone, of any age, without a home or family to call their own. She will discuss this with her daughter later. Now, she has a child to take care of.
After bathing is completed and everyone dressed, Alarica brings Breanne into her study, to speak with her about an issue that became clearer to her, now that she knows the facts about Breanne’s life. “Breanne, I need to speak to you about something I have been thinking about since I first met you. I am in need of a consors, a companion. I have had visions of what the consors looks like, and at one time, I thought I had found her. I was wrong. She betrayed me. It was because of that betrayal that I promised myself no one would be permitted to be my consors, until I met you. You are the one to be my consors. To explain the position, you would need to understand that a sovereign marries because it is what is done. A match is made between two people that the mothers feel would be a good fit. Sometimes the matches work, and sometimes they do not. That is where the consors comes in. The consors holds the sovereign’s heart and soul. It is often the consors that the sovereign relies upon to reveal things only the consors would understand. They hold a trusted position in the aristocracy. It is the sovereign’s duty to train the consors, as they would be relied upon to perform certain functions. I will train you, and the Scrolls of Protocol will tell you what you need to know. If you do not understand something, you need only ask, and I will explain to you what you need to know. There is information that needs to be provided, though I know most, I do not know all, so you will assist me in providing the information. Protocol states that I will need your mother’s permission for you to take the position of consors. It needs to be your natural born mother. You do not have one. The proper substitute would be either a close companion that you trust implicitly, or your natural born family, which in your case are both Melisent and Emily. I will explain everything to Melisent, and ask for agreement. Emily is very young, much too young to understand,” Alarica explains, while holding Breanne’s hand. They are seated on cushions, as Breanne is still recovering from her injuries.
Breanne is stunned. She feels like Cinderella, or that she is in a deep sleep, dreaming of everything that has been happening. Breanne does not know what to say. The only thing that comes to mind is to be sure she understands that Alarica wants her. Breanne points to herself, asking silently if Alarica is sure. Alarica nods her head in answer then takes Breanne to the sleeping chamber to rest.
Upon returning to her study, she finds Leonessa waiting for her. “Alarica, I need your permission to adopt Breanne into our fold. She has been beaten both physically and emotionally. She needs a family’s reassurance, a love that only a family can provide. Will you grant me permission to adopt Breanne?” Leonessa is desperate and wants Alarica to understand that Breanne needs a family as much as Leonessa needs a family. Breanne would have that.
Alarica listens to her mother’s desperate words. She tells her mother of her intentions of granting Breanne the office of consors. The scrolls will take too long to pass through the council if both a request of adoption and a request for office of consors are submitted. The time will be less if only a request for office of consors is submitted. Breanne will be granted immediate citizenship when Sovereign Cyan Alarica and her Royal Majesty Melisandra, with Lady Leonessa as a witness, finalize the scrolls.
Leonessa is happy at the turn of events. She is not granted permission, but when the scrolls are finalized and Breanne becomes a citizen, she knows that Breanne will have the peace and the love she needs. Leonessa will also have her wish, because as consors, Breanne will have residence within the palace, and that means Leonessa will be able to visit often.
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