Where am I? What is this place? The last thing I remember is transporting everyone to Tutela Isle. Is this it? Meschelein sat up on her bed to look around. Familiarity started to settle in as she recognized the tapestries and the paintings hanging on the wall. I am in the palace in my chambers. We made it home. However, where is Nerissa? Where could she be? Finally rising out of bed, she bathed in the bathing pool. It has been a long time since I had bathed in this pool. A good meal and drink will help as well, and then I will search for Nerissa.
The palace servants were excited to see their Empress again. If it was possible, the palace was just as excited to have the Empress return, not just its servants. Bessa, the Empress’ most trusted and loyal servant, had been caring for Nerissa until the reemergence of the Empress. Bessa and Meschelein were the scoundrels of the palace. Bessa, the servant’s daughter, and Meschelein, the Lady’s daughter, were always in trouble, or just getting out of trouble. The other children were afraid of Meschelein because of her abilities, but not Bessa. Today she was just as loyal as she was when they were children.
“Empress Meschelein, you have awoken. It is good to have you back where you belong. Is there anything that I may do for you, my Empress?”
“Bessa, you know as well as I that I am not the Empress until the council declares it so, and it is good to be home. I am searching for my Nerissa. Have you seen her? I have placed her in maternal slumber because the baby’s energy was very low.” It is good to see her again. I missed my old friend. It feels good to be home. When Nerissa awakens, I will show her my home as she did with hers.
“They will declare you Empress again. They are just waiting for you to wake up. Would Nerissa be the little one with golden red hair? If she is, then she would be the one that I have been looking after. The search party came back and told us that they found you. You collapsed when you arrived. I had them put you in your chambers, and to put the sleeping one in my chambers so that I may look after her until you woke up. They were reluctant, but I assured them it would be all right.”
“I will take care of her now. Thank you very much for your assistance, Bessa. I will see the council to let them know I have returned. The sire’s body, has it been properly taken care of?”
“Meschelein, it is me, Bessa, not one of the other palace servants. The sire’s body has been properly taken care of and placed in the family burial house. Is there anything that I may do for you?”
“No, Bessa, there is nothing that you can do for me right now. I will visit our sire later, when I am assured that Nerissa is safely placed in my tower. There she will continue to slumber.”
“Are you sure you wish to move her? It would be best for her to stay here. I will see to it that she will be taken care of. I will see to that right now.” Bessa turned around to immediately return to her room, but was immediately stopped by Meschelein.
“No, Bessa, I will see to Nerissa’s care. The only thing that you are to do is to oversee the other servants, and be sure that the palace is properly taken care of. Please excuse me. I have other things that I must do. Thank you from both of us, as I speak for Nerissa as well.” Meschelein did not trust anyone with the care of Nerissa. I cannot trust anyone within the palace to care for Nerissa, not even Bessa. May our sire’s spirit haunt me as I state my return. Upon my death or the fall of the empire, though, we have not had an empire since we left our motherland. First, get Nerissa, then speak with the council, visit my sire, and finally announce my return to the public. I hope mother will forgive me when I visit her tomorrow.
Meschelein immediately left for Bessa’s room to retrieve Nerissa, eager to place Nerissa in her tower. Meschelein’s tower stood alone on the western side of the palace with only one way to enter, and only Meschelein knew how to enter her tower. Her tower was her sanctuary, with her own library, various supplies, comfortable sleeping chambers, and her laboratory. Some would say it is a fortress, but to Meschelein, it is where she could be free to be herself. No one entered her tower without permission, not that anyone would be able to enter without Meschelein’s knowledge. The other chamber inside the palace itself was used for show purposes when visitors were present. After they left, Meschelein would return to her tower, only to be seen going back and forth into the forest.
Meschelein carefully placed Nerissa onto a bed located in her laboratory. Meschelein had a lot of cleaning to do, as she had been away for quite a while. Nerissa’s energy was still low and steady, as it should be in this type of slumber. The baby’s energy had improved because of the decreased stress on the mother. It would be another few months before the birth of the baby, but that was all right. It would take that long to prepare her tower properly before Nerissa’s awakening. After securing the tower and sending her love to Nerissa, Meschelein left to speak with the council.
“Empress Meschelein, may I speak with you a moment?” Bessa was shocked to be treated like the other servants. They had always spoken to each other, and treated each other as sisters. Now, since her return, Bessa felt as if she was being treated as a common servant. Something had to be wrong.
“Bessa, I am busy right now. Wait until I finish speaking with the council, then we will speak. We will share our meal together tonight, and you may speak your mind then. Please excuse me.”
“But, Meschelein, I . . .” Bessa did not finish what she wanted to say since Meschelein left immediately after speaking to her. Bessa had never been spoken to before; they had always spoken with one another. Tonight, I will have the opportunity to speak with her and to find out what is wrong with my friend.
Upon entering the council’s chambers, Meschelein spoke, “Lead councilor, I, Meschelein, from the house of Pendragon of Lady Celia, announce my return to Tutela Isle.” Meschelein was in proper posture, as would be expected from any member of the palace, any member of the palace except those of the aristocracy. Meschelein was not sure how her sudden arrival would be thought of.
“Meschelein you scoundrel, you may stand and face me. You are the Empress, you know. We were just waiting for you to arise from your eternal slumber.”
“Arise from my eternal slumber?”
“Forgive an old lady and her melodramatic expressions if you would, Empress. Our sire is dead, and because of that, you have been excused. None of us agreed with our sire, but we are only the council, and our words do not mean much. Therefore, in our sire’s death, you are now Empress Regnant Meschelein of Tutela Isle. You need only sign this document so we may prepare for the formal announcement to the public. That is, if you agree?”
“I forgive you. I will sign this document, and I agree to take the crown to secure my place as the ruling Empress.” The lead councilor laughed as she waited for Meschelein to sign the document. That being done, there was only one thing left to do, and that is to set a date for the formal announcement. It would have to be after the birth of the baby. Nerissa would need to be present for the ceremony, it was only right. That way she would also be able to make a formal announcement of her own. “The date of the formal announcement would need to be postponed until after the birth of the baby that my beloved is carrying. Then and only then will the preparations begin.”
“So the rumors are true. Very well, we will wait, then. May I suggest that we post the declaration instead in the villages announcing your appointment and a postponement in the formal announcement, Empress?” The lead councilor and Meschelein had a history of long talks and debates over the new laws that their sire had imposed. It was because of this that they had formed a sort of bond.
“Yes, what they say is true. And make the declaration. Be sure to publicly announce the posting first. Not all the villagers are able to read yet.”
“Very well, Empress. I will see to it that it is done. Welcome home, Meschelein, it has been a long time since we had a voice of reason. It is good to have one. An outing later tonight to toast your return perhaps, my Empress . .?”
“I cannot, later, councilor, please. There are things that I must do, and I already have plans tonight. I am sorry.” Meschelein had been home for a short while now, and already, she was growing tired of the explaining and the apologizing. She longed to return to her tower to be with Nerissa.
The lead councilor prepared the posting for the villages. After Meschelein’s approval, the announcements were made to the various villages. Meschelein knew it was only a matter of time before her mother heard of her daughter’s return. Her mother would need to wait until the next day to get the explanation that only Meschelein would be able to provide.
Meschelein needed to be sure that a proper meal would be served to both herself and Bessa, and the only way to be assured of that, would be to prepare the meal herself. Meschelein had grown accustomed to preparing meals, and felt she was quite good at it. The kitchen staff stood aside in awe watching their Empress move about the kitchen with ease. She had never done this before, but then again, the Empress never followed the rules. Meschelein remembered her first meal with Nerissa, beef stew, bread, and milk. Smiling at the memory as she looked at the tray, she left the kitchen to present Bessa with very much the same foods.
Meschelein knew where to find Bessa. At this time of day, Bessa would be with the guests of the palace to be sure that they were well taken care of. If there were no guests at the palace, then Bessa would be with the guards helping to serve the last meal of the day, and that was where Meschelein found her friend. After getting Bessa’s attention, they left the guardhouse to return to her tower.
“Let me reheat this stew, it has grown cold. Please be comfortable, I will only be a moment.” Meschelein ran up the stairway to quickly check on Nerissa to be sure she was all right. Softly placing a kiss on Nerissa’s cheek, she retrieved a bottle of wine to be shared between two friends. “In lieu of beef, I have used lamb for the stew. The bread is fresh and the wine was given to me just before I left. I have kept the wine in a cold room, so it is still a very nice wine.” I am sorry, Nerissa . . . but I could not recreate our first meal together without you.
“Meschelein, we have always had lamb, never beef. And I am sure the wine will be fine. What I want to know is if you are well? We have always spoken to one another like sisters. Never as if you are lord and I am a slave. What happened, what is wrong?”
You just do not understand, Bessa. I know Nerissa would, though. She always tried to understand me. “I am sorry, Bessa, but there are many things that must be done now that our sire is dead. As for my well-being, I am fine. It is good to be home again. The council has granted me the ruling crown. The preparations will begin after the birth of the baby for the public ceremony, not before.” Meschelein continued to eat the stew wondering if Nerissa would appreciate lamb as much as she did.
Bessa continued to eat, thinking about what Meschelein had said. Everything just sounded too aristocratic, as if Meschelein only said what she thought she should say and nothing more. “Meschelein, about the girl, I am wondering if maybe you are emotionally attached to her because of something she may have done instead of there being a real connection between the two of you.”
“Nerissa is not a girl, and you do not question my feelings. I know how I feel about Nerissa, Lady Nerissa. When she awakens, you will have the opportunity to know her for the reasons why I did what I did for her.”
Bessa immediately stopped chewing to look at Meschelein with astonishment. She could not believe what she was hearing. Where is the Meschelein that I know?
“I am sorry, Meschelein, of course she is a lady and not a girl, but I was just wondering why her, and not somebody else, that is all.”
“Be sure to use proper words, Bessa. There is a difference between a girl and a lady, and Nerissa is to be joined with me.” Meschelein was growing tired of this conversation. The conversation had a sense of jealousy. When they were children and playing together, they were close and told each other everything, but now, since she met Nerissa, Meschelein did not feel as close to Bessa as she once had.
“Okay, I understand that, Meschelein, I just want to know more about this new relationship with an outsider.”
Meschelein did not answer. She continued to eat, feeling it was not necessary to justify her feelings to anyone for anyone. Meschelein, what is this? I can taste the chicken, the carrots, and peas, but I don’t know what kind of sauce this is. This is great. You are a wonderful cook, and since you worked so hard in the kitchen preparing this fabulous meal, I’ll do the dishes, no arguments. Meschelein smiled at this memory. Memories are all that she has, now that Nerissa is in maternal slumber and will not awaken for another few months.
“I will leave now, Meschelein. The meal was delicious. I have to ask the cook how she prepared the stew.”
Meschelein led Bessa to the door to wish her a good night then cleared the table, washed the dishes, and put everything back in its place. Feeling a need to be with Nerissa, she went back up to her laboratory to be close to the one that held her heart. She told Nerissa everything that had happened. She knew that Nerissa would not be able to respond, but she would be able to hear everything that was said. Placing a sweet kiss on Nerissa’s cheek, there was one last thing that Meschelein had to do before bedding down for the night. Visit her sire to say her final farewell.
It was a long way to the burial house, especially at night. Meschelein laughed as she looked above to see the full moon. She held up the lantern to see if she had arrived at the appropriate place. House of Eternal Slumber was emblazoned above the door, and a family crest adorned the entryway marking the house. This is it. I hope my sire forgives me for not dressing properly. Wearing a white gown so late after death, I do not believe is necessary. Entering the house, she placed the lantern on a table that was designated for that purpose. Finding the appropriate casket, she placed their joining bracelets, the bracelets that she had been carrying since she was cast away, upon the adornment. The only memory that you will carry is our joining bracelets, our sire said as they were dropped at my feet. I have not worn or seen these since I was cast away.
Standing alongside the casket looking down to where the head should be, she softly began to speak. “My sire, Emperor Brogan, it is I, your Empress Meschelein. I am standing here before you to tell you that I have won. I am still alive. I have the ruling crown. And I have found the one to hold my heart. You once told me that there was no one on this earth that would dare become my love due to all the power and evil that I possess. Who is the evil one? Who is the one that is dead? Who is the one that died alone? It is not I, my dear sire, it is you. May your spirit come alive to find me to haunt me until eternity or until my death. Mark my words, Brogan . . . I will meet you in the bowels of hell. It is there that we will continue our battle. I am not the shy, timid woman you sent away. I have found my heart, and in that, I have found my strength. My destiny will be fulfilled.” Meschelein picked up her lantern and proceeded to follow the same path back to her tower.
Once in her laboratory, she changed into her nightdress as words of love were whispered. Tired now, she climbed into bed to hold her heart, as sweet memories turned to dreams.
At sunrise the next morning, Meschelein noticed that Nerissa’s energy had fallen. It was not dangerously low, however, the sooner the energy was restored, the less risk to both the mother and the baby. Placing the appropriate stones on the proper places of the body and lighting enchanted candles, a short spell was cast, creating an energy blanket that covered Nerissa. As Nerissa’s soul absorbed the energy, the blanket would slowly disappear into nothing and her energy would be restored. Once Meschelein was certain everything was well again, she left her tower to ride to her mother’s village.
Meschelein walked around the palace to become reacquainted to the place she once called home. Seeing one of the search party members, she said, “I want you to gather everyone in your party and meet me in the stables. We will ride together to a village to meet with my mother.”
“Yes, my Empress, I will find them immediately.” The party member left immediately to search for the rest of the original search party members to deliver the message. All of them were young soldiers ready to protect their Empress, and now it seemed as though their dreams would come true. Upon finding the rest of the party, they met at the stables to prepare themselves for a ride to the village.
Bessa had heard about the excursion, and wondered why she was not invited to come along.
“Mesch . . . I mean, Empress Meschelein, would you be in need of assistance? I heard about the excursion to find your mother, so I was wondering if you would like extra company. I have missed your mother, as it has been quite some time since we visited last.”
“I will tell my mother you send your best wishes. While we are away, be sure that the guest quarters are prepared. Mother will be staying here a while. Go and do as I say.”
Bessa was shocked, to say the least, because of the reply she received. What did I do? What did I say? Where is my friend? Maybe another dinner alone would be best tonight. “Yes, my Empress.” Bessa bowed fully before leaving to do as she had been ordered, hoping that the cleaning and the preparations would help her to think.
Meschelein and the rest of the party left to find her mother. It would not be a long journey, but the explanation would be. The plan was simple. Greet her mother and urge her to come back to the palace. Then Meschelein would introduce her mother to the one she loved.
It was a small farming village that grew ground vegetables as well as the Empress’ favorite berries. In the middle of the village, there was a small house where the children of the village gathered around to hear stories and tales of the palace.
“Hello, Mother. I ask permission to enter your humble abode,” Meschelein requested in her mother tongue.
Meschelein’s mother did not understand or speak English. It was not that she did not want to learn, there was never a purpose. Her mother had settled in this village because the villagers communicated well with her.
“Daughter, is that you? I thought I would never hear your voice again. Come and let me greet you properly.”
Meschelein embraced her mother with all her strength, afraid to let go. Meschelein did not yet fully believe she was home back on Tutela Isle. It was only when she touched Nerissa and moved about her tower that she could believe it was true. Now, her mother still greeted her the way she remembered, always with open arms.
“Come with me, mother, come with me back to my tower and I will tell all that has happened. I will introduce you to my heart. Please come with me mother, please come with me.” Meschelein spoke with tears in her eyes. Knowing she had to let go, she did so reluctantly to look at her mother. Not a day went by that Meschelein did not think of or miss her mother.
“Yes, I will come with you. I just need to do a couple of things then I will be with you. It is good to have you home again.” Mother went about the house to be sure everything was put away and well secured. Putting on a cloak before coming outside, she stood there in the middle of the house with her eyes closed, thanking whatever spirit or holy entity for bringing back her daughter.
Singing a traveling song on the way back, they arrived with laughter and good cheer. Meschelein escorted her mother into the palace and led her to the guest quarters. The tower was comfortable, but it was designed for only one person. Having three people with another on the way in the tower would be a bit crowded.
“Daughter, you escort me into a cold and dark palace when there is a warmer and more suitable place to stay that is not that far away?”
“Mother, what are you talking about?” Meschelein was confused. She would like to stay at the inn?
“Meschelein, I am speaking of your beloved tower. I am sure you have my comfort and well-being in mind, which would explain the reason why you escorted me here. I miss my daughter, therefore, I think it would be best for us to stay together.”
“All right, Mother, but I would like to remind you that it may be a bit crowded in the tower with all of us staying there.”
“All of us? Who is all of us?” Now mother was confused. What is Meschelein talking about?
“That would be you, me, Nerissa, and the baby.” Meschelein stood there waiting for the question. Who is Nerissa and why did you not tell me? Why is she not staying in the palace?
“Well, that just means we have to move around the furnishings a bit.” Mother left the palace and started walking in the direction of the tower, leaving Meschelein behind standing at the entryway, wondering if she had been suddenly transported somewhere else, or if someone had transplanted a mother look-alike. Is that my mother?
Mother was there waiting for her daughter to catch up to be let inside. After coming inside, she led mother to the laboratory. Meschelein promised to start explaining as soon as the tea was ready. She examined Nerissa to see if the spell had taken. Pleased with the results, she sat down with her mother to explain everything that had happened. Mother listened silently to her daughter, noticing the change in voice and words of affection. Feeling comfortable enough to do so, Meschelein removed her necklace and placed it in a secure place.
“That, Mother, is the entire story. She is my heart. And though she is slumbering, she holds it still. It will be another few months before she will awaken to birth the baby, who will be a girl. I did not tell Nerissa, but she has a mother’s heart, a mother’s soul. She knows. I would like for you to stay here with me until after the formal crowning ceremony. She does not have family, not anymore. That is why I brought her here. That and to raise our daughter in a free and less chaotic society. They will do well here, I think.”
“Explain Nerissa to me, why do you say she does not have family anymore?” Mother was curious about the woman who had taken her daughter’s heart.
“Nerissa’s natural family is dead. A woman who gave Nerissa back her heart adopted her. There were circumstances that led to this woman’s death. Nerissa has been alone, and I promised Nerissa that she will not be alone again.” Tears streamed down Meschelein’s face as she remembered the love she felt for Nerissa. Sleep is best for her right now. Later, we will create more memories. For now, I can only hold her at night, telling her the events of the day.
There was somebody waiting for Meschelein below the tower. Mother made herself comfortable in the library while Meschelein checked the entryway. “Bessa, you are early, please come inside.” Meschelein led Bessa up the stairway to the library, where her mother was scanning the books.
“You took off the necklace, why?”
“I need to be comfortable, and when I need to be comfortable, I take off my necklace. Do you not remember, Bessa?” There was humor in her voice again, and Bessa was pleased. Maybe she just needed a couple of days to sort through the events.
“I do not remember, maybe because it has been centuries since we saw each other last.” Bessa was feeling happy now that her friend was back.
“It certainly has felt like centuries. Please join mother in the library while I prepare something for us to drink.”
“Mother, it is good to see you. I am sorry for not seeing you earlier, but I have been seeing to the upkeep of the palace. When our sire fell ill, things just turned into a calamity. Things are settled now, and I am able to spend more time with my family.”
“Bessa, would you assist my daughter. I am not sure what is taking her so long.” Mother tolerated Bessa because she is and was her daughter’s friend.
Bessa did not speak or understand the language with which she spoke. Meschelein would always translate for her. Not seeing any other choice, she left the library to search for Meschelein. “It is me . . . Bessa. I was wondering if maybe you could translate for me. I could never remember where to place the proper accent.”
“I know it is you, Bessa. You know mother does not understand English. Carry the sweets for me, would you?” Meschelein watched as Bessa searched for the sweets that she mentioned. Meschelein started laughing. “Stand up, Bessa, and look in front of you. Carry out that tray for me, please.”
“What? I will find out how it is you know what I am doing without your necklace. These are not sweets, they are bread.” Bessa was truly puzzled. How did she know?
“I am sorry this took a while. Would you like tea, Mother?” Bessa followed close behind Meschelein. Seeing a nearby table, she placed the tray on top next to the tea.
“Thank you. Yes, I will have some tea. What are those breads?”
“They are sweets, Mother. While I was traveling, I discovered them and fell in love. They are cinnamon rolls, very delicious and quite addicting.”
“They sound delicious. May I have one, please?”
“Of course you may have one, Mother.” Meschelein picked up the tray and held it in front of her mother.
“Bessa, if you would like to join us, may I suggest you sit down somewhere. I will return soon.” Meschelein left her library to see to Nerissa.
Everything was well, the baby’s energy was strong and steady, and Nerissa’s energy had improved and was steady as well. “I dragoste tu, Nerissa. I domni?oar? tu.” I love you, Nerissa. I miss you. After a soft kiss on the lips of her love, she joined her mother and Bessa in the library.
The history of the antics of two members of the palace was discussed, which was the only time that Meschelein would be seen turning a shade very similar to that of a tomato. If only Nerissa were here to be a part of this, then this day would be complete.
Bessa left to see to the palace, and mother had fallen asleep. Meschelein knew her tower, remembering where everything was placed. To be safe, however, she clasped her necklace around her neck to rearrange the layout of her tower. The environment needed to be safe and friendly. More room was needed to accommodate the addition to her family. First, the sleeping chambers needed to be cleaned and rearranged. Being careful not to awaken her mother, she rearranged the furniture for easier access and to clean away the neglect and disuse. Pleased with the results, the chambers were sealed.
The cleaning continued through the following months. Nerissa was still slumbering in the laboratory, and Meschelein cleaned around Nerissa, the rearranging would have to wait. Mother agreed to stay until after the birth of the baby. The lead councilor saw to the business of politics and to the well being of her people, though Meschelein would be consulted to approve the ideas the lead councilor proposed. The villagers were given the opportunity to be educated, learning how to read, and write, and to count as well. The villages became prosperous because of their education, and the people were happy to have their beloved Empress return.
Meschelein felt the baby readying itself to be born, so now it was necessary to awaken Nerissa. There was no way to tell the exact time the baby would be ready, however, Meschelein estimated it would be at least another three days. Meschelein awakened Nerissa slowly out of her slumber, to lessen the trauma of the move.
Nerissa started blinking her eyes and asked “Where?” before she started coughing. Meschelein lifted Nerissa carefully up off the bed slightly so she would be able to swallow. Meschelein had a teaspoon full of water to give to Nerissa. “Mesch . . . Meschelein, where am I?” Nerissa was confused upon awakening, not recognizing her surroundings.
“Yes, it is Meschelein. You are in my tower on Tutela Isle. We made it home, Nerissa.” Meschelein lowered Nerissa to the bed. “I have awakened you. It is almost time for you to give birth.”
Nerissa did not respond, only looked around at her surroundings. She felt something. There was something inside of her. Looking down, she remembered. “I’m pregnant, and who’s that lady standing up. Do I know her?”
Meschelein quickly translated before replying. “That is my mother. I have asked her to stay for a while. There will be many things that I will need to attend to. She will help me care for you, Nerissa.”
“How long does it take to fully awaken from the mother’s sleep?” her mother asked.
“It depends on the person and how well they react to the spell.”
Nerissa did not know what they were saying to one another. Not awake yet, she laid there peacefully, feeling the baby move within. “Nerissa, it will be sometime before you are able to eat. Before you are able to resume your normal diet, a slow graduation from liquid to solid food is needed to help your body remember its function. I believe the baby will not be born for another three days. It may be sooner, it may be later. It is hard to tell.”
“The baby didn’t tell you? I have to remind her of her manners, I guess.”
Meschelein started laughing. It is a good day, and my Nerissa has returned.
Three days later, the baby was born. It was a girl. Nerissa already knew what to name her baby. She also wanted to ask Meschelein something that she might not consider. Meschelein came back to the laboratory after seeing to the preparations for the crowning ceremony.
Well, it’s now or never. “Meschelein, can I talk to you about something? You might want to get a chair, this might take a while.” God I hope she agrees or I’m going to be lost in this foreign land. Hi, I’m lost, and you would be?
“Nerissa, you are not lost, and what are you hoping I will agree to.” Meschelein made herself comfortable by laying next to Nerissa. The baby had been fed and changed, and all was peaceful in the tower.
“Well, you see, you know that I don’t have any parents. In the beginning, when I found out I was pregnant, I considered having an abortion. I didn’t have any parents or anybody to share a life with. I didn’t want to be a single parent. I wanted the baby to have two parents, not just one. Then the matter of how the baby came about in the first place. What I’m wondering . . . is . . . if . . . um . . . maybe . . . you would be the other momma?” Nerissa waited for the explosion to happen. She closed her eyes tight, waiting for the yelling and the screaming. Instead, she felt kisses on her face. Why does my face feel wet? That’s not wet, that’s kisses. She’s kissing me. Nerissa opened her eyes to see a glowing Meschelein looking down at her. “Is that a yes?” Meschelein happily nodded her head and carefully held Nerissa, aware of the baby between them.
“Yes, I will be the other mother. Thank you for asking me. In seven days, there will be a formal crowning ceremony. I need you to be present, because I have something to ask you as well.”
“Do you want to know what the baby’s name is? I know what to name the baby.”
“I would like to know now, so I may announce it properly at the ceremony. The ceremony will also be a time to bless our daughter. She will be very beautiful.” Meschelein looked down at the baby, smiling with pride, and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek.
“I decided to name the baby Gretel Margaret. I always thought Gretel was a magical name and Margaret because that was Lexa’s middle name. Mind you, it took me two Christmases to get that out of her.”
“Gretel Margaret is a fine name. Here, tradition dictates that the middle name should reflect the birth mother. What is your middle name?”
“Mine? You want to known mine? Can’t we just use yours instead and tell everybody you gave the baby to me and it was transplanted at the last minute?” Nerissa was desperate. She didn’t like her middle name, and did not believe it would fit with Gretel.
“Nerissa, I think it is time for you to have another tea with these ideas that you are telling me.” Meschelein started to get up when her mother entered the room.
“Do not get up off that bed, you look like you need it. Would you like anything?” Mother was enjoying herself staying at the tower.
“I was about to fix Nerissa some tea. I was thinking her mind needs to be cleared a little with the crazy ideas that she tells me.” Meschelein lay back down on the bed, picking up the baby and placing her on her chest. She did not see the look of confusion that Nerissa had on her face.
“Are you going to tell me what you said or am I going to guess that you told your mother I am up for execution.”
Meschelein suddenly sat straight up, holding the baby. She turned around to look Nerissa in the eyes. “I was telling mother I was going to fix you some tea. It seems as though I need to cast a spell as well to clear your mind. Execution . .? I would never have you executed.”
Nerissa started laughing, with a silent ‘gotcha.’ Meschelein did not know what to think or say. “I was just trying to get your attention. Honest.” Nerissa crossed her heart, “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” Nerissa continued to laugh, causing Meschelein to wonder if maybe the transfer to Tutela Isle had caused Nerissa to lose her mind.
Mother came back with the teas, one for Nerissa, and one for Meschelein. She noticed Nerissa laughing, and the look of confusion that Meschelein had on her face.
“Is there something wrong?”
“I am not sure how to answer that question at the moment,” Meschelein answered as she continued to check Nerissa to see if she had suddenly fallen ill.
“We will be having a lamb roast for our night meal. Do you think she is well enough to sit at the table with us?”
“I am not sure how to answer that question at the moment. If you would wait a moment, I will ask her how she feels.”
“Nerissa, if you are well enough, mother would like you to sit at the table with us for dinner.” Meschelein hoped that the fever or whatever it was that caused the temporary insanity of her Nerissa had passed.
“Okey dokey pokey . . . shall do.” Nerissa let out the last of the giggles as Meschelein told her mother they would be there. Nerissa was still on a liquid diet, but would soon be graduating to a semisolid diet. Nerissa could not wait to be able to eat solid food again.
“It felt good to laugh like that again. I missed my Meschelein. Are you ever going to tell me what those words mean in English?”
“I missed you too, Nerissa, and the words that I have been telling you are I love you and I miss you.” Meschelein leaned over to kiss Nerissa. The kiss was long and slow, as a feeling of love passed between them.
They stopped kissing, with Meschelein still hovering over Nerissa. “You love me? Nobody ever told me that before, nobody except Lexa. Meschelein, can I ask you something?”
“You may ask me anything.” Meschelein had a look of pride and love on her face, her eyes wide and dilated as she looked at Nerissa.
“Is it okay?” Nerissa could not find the appropriate words. They were there in her head somewhere, but the communication between her brain and mouth had malfunctioned for the time being.
“Is what okay?”
“Is it okay, I mean, here I am a working class folk, and there you are royalty. I don’t know if it has ever been done before. I mean, you know I’m an orphan. I don’t want to cause a scandal. I could go away to another village or something if you’re ashamed of me. We haven’t done anything yet, and nobody knows yet.”
“Nerissa, you are not making sense. Yes, I know you are an orphan, and it does not matter if whatever it is you are trying to tell me has ever been done before. You do not shame me, and everybody knows that I have been waiting for my beloved to awaken from her maternal slumber. What is it that you are asking? If you would like, we could move, but it would take time to build another palace.” Meschelein was confused, not sure what Nerissa was asking. Nothing connected with another idea enough to be able to come up with a plausible question.
“I don’t know. I was just wondering if you would get tired of me because I’m common folk, not royalty. I don’t want to embarrass you if I use the wrong fork or something.”
“Nerissa, I love you. You would not, could not embarrass me. We will be bonded for eternity.” Meschelein now had an idea what Nerissa was asking. All she had to do was reassure Nerissa that everything was fine, that she was panicking for nothing, right?
“You say that now, but . . .”
“Nerissa, listen to me. You know what I say is the truth. I have never lied to you. I have always told you what happened during the day, even in slumber. Believe in that, Nerissa.”
“Okay, I believe you. I love you, Meschelein.” Nerissa raised her head just a bit to place a kiss on Meschelein’s nose. Meschelein reached up to her nose and smiled, knowing that this bridge was well on the way to repair.
“There is only one other matter to clarify.”
“It’s Zelda.” Nerissa suddenly found the top of Gretel’s head fascinating, especially since she was waiting for the inevitable. Okay, on the count of three . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3. Sure enough, there it was. The baby was enjoying the bouncing motion, and if Nerissa was not lying on the bed, she was sure she would have fallen over.
“I am sorry, please understand.” Meschelein was having a hard time controlling her laughter. Trying very hard to stop laughing, she said, “Zelda means gray battle maid, and you are definitely not a gray battle maid. We will keep Margaret for her middle name.”
“Thank you very much for your support.”
Mother heard her daughter roaring with laughter and wondered what was so funny. In between snorts, Meschelein told her mother what had happened. Now, not only Meschelein was laughing, but her mother as well.
“Gretel, is it possible we could swap bodies?”
The following day, Nerissa, with a little help from Meschelein, walked around the outside of the tower. Meschelein helped to construct a baby carrier for Nerissa to help carry the baby. Bessa was outside tending the laundry, and saw a stranger walking around the palace. Not knowing what else to do, she called upon one of the guards to see to the stranger. Nerissa tried to explain, but the explanation just seemed to pass through one ear and out the other.
Meschelein returned from her visit to the village, and expecting to find Nerissa walking around outside, she panicked when she could not find her. She saw Bessa tending the laundry. “Bessa, did you see Nerissa? I have searched for her and I cannot find her. Do you where she could have gone.”
“What does Nerissa look like? The only Nerissa I know was the one with . . . oh no . . . I could not tell it was she from her profile. I am sorry. I called the guards to take care of a stranger. I thought it was a vagrant come to beg for food again.”
Meschelein’s nostrils were flaring, eyes growing red, and voice deepening. “You called the guards on my wife, who not seven days ago gave birth to a baby. My daughter, our daughter, that she was carrying, was outside to take a stroll to appreciate the sunshine. How dare you.” Meschelein quickly ran to the guardhouse.
“My Empress, may I be of service to you?” It was one of the members of the search party.
“I am searching for Nerissa. She and the baby were outside today. Upon my return, she is missing. Bessa says that she called one of the guards to see to a vagrant.”
“I have good news, then, Empress.” Meschelein was about to speak, but was stopped when the guard continued. “Lady Nerissa was brought here to the guardhouse. I escorted her to your chambers in the palace after explaining to everyone that she is your beloved. The last I had seen her, she was slumbering peacefully with your baby as well, my Empress.”
“Thank you very much for your help. I am happy to know that someone was thinking.” Meschelein immediately ran into the palace towards her chambers. There sleeping on her bed, was Nerissa, with Gretel on top of her chest. Meschelein entered as quietly as she could.
“It’s all right. I’m not sleeping. I’m just wondering how many cookies to bake for the guard that brought me here.”
“I am sorry, Nerissa. Bessa mistook you for a vagrant and called the guards to escort you off the grounds. Are you injured?” Meschelein was relieved to see Nerissa was doing well. Letting out a long and slow breath, helped her to relieve the worry that she felt.
“It’s all right; it’s not your fault. I guess that just means I have to change out of my rags, then. Do you have a mall?” Nerissa started laughing with the hopes of breaking the tension.
“Nerissa . .!” Meschelein started laughing as well, glad for the break. She helped Nerissa to sit up on the bed, giving Nerissa some time before standing up. Gretel chose that moment to announce her desires. Once the baby was taken care of, they left the palace to go to Meschelein’s tower. A round about route was taken, however, when Meschelein spotted Bessa.
“That is Bessa there.”
“Which one is Bessa, the blonde or the brunette over there by the laundry line?”
“Bessa is the brunette carrying the basket.”
Nerissa wanted to introduce herself to Bessa for two reasons, one, to announce who she is, and two, to prevent the same thing from happening again. “Hi, are you Bessa?”
“Yes, I am Bessa. We do not allow vagrants here on the royal grounds. As you can see, we are very busy. I suggest you leave now before I call the guards.”
Nerissa heard everything that she said, but chose to ignore it, hoping that after the introductions, she would change her mind. “My name is Nerissa, and this is our daughter Gretel. I’m happy to meet you.” Feeling Meschelein behind her, “Do you know Meschelein? You see, I don’t think you and I know each other because I was asleep when I got here. Meschelein brought a bunch of us over so she can help with whatever they needed help with.”
Bessa stood there amazed at what was just said. She dropped the laundry basket to bow before both Nerissa and Meschelein. “I am sorry, Lady Nerissa. Please forgive me in my error of judgment. I am only a humble servant that seeks humility in your presence.”
Nerissa turned around to ask Meschelein, “Does that mean I’m sorry?” Meschelein nodded in response.
“I forgive you, but just this once. If this happens again . . . I’ll think of something.” Nerissa held out her hand, waiting for Bessa to take it. Nerissa shook her hand in agreement. “Did you want to come over for something to eat? I haven’t graduated to solid food yet, but I’ll sit down with you though?”
“Thank you, Lady Nerissa, you are most kind. I am sorry I have to decline your offer, as I must help with the preparations for the crowning ceremony.”
“Okay, well, I’ll let you get back to work, then. I’m not at full capacity yet, but if there is something that I can do, just let me know.”
Seven days had passed, and the time for the ceremony was here. Meschelein left at sunrise, leaving Nerissa and Gretel to sleep. She asked her mother to help Nerissa and Gretel prepare for the ceremony.
Nerissa woke up to Gretel’s cry for attention. Once that was done, she gathered a dress and a towel to bring along with her to the bath. “Just think, Gretel . . . today will be the day that I get to become a queen. I know that life is not a fairy tale, but, Gretel, you have to understand. All my life I have felt like I would always be wishing for the stretch limos and fur coats. Now, I’m living that dream. Oh, Gretel, I wish more than anything else you will not grow up like I did. Let’s go take that bath so we can be presentable, correction, beautiful for tonight.”
Mother appeared a short time later with the proper clothing and accessories for both. After the baby had her bath, mother dressed Gretel in a soft, yellow gown made of silk, a bonnet of the same color and fabric, and wrapped in a soft, powder blue blanket. Mother clasped a necklace around the baby’s neck. It was only worn on this day because it is a very special necklace set aside specifically for such an occasion. It is a single, clear crystal hung on a golden chain. The crystal is so clear a rainbow would be cast on the wall as the light shone through. Gretel was now prepared for the ceremony.
Now it was Nerissa’s turn. As tradition dictated on Tutela Isle, the betrothed presents herself in an ivory silken gown, with an ivory veil placed on top of the head and held in place by a simple golden crown. The sleeves long and flowing and the skirt stopping just below the knee, the neck is bare in preparation for the necklace to be presented upon announcement of the engagement. Nerissa will hold a bouquet of red roses, which Meschelein will accept as an expression of love. Nerissa had been practicing her speech, and she crossed all her fingers and all her toes hoping that she would not be too nervous to remember it. A guard announced it was time for the ceremony to begin. Nerissa picked up Gretel and held her in her arms. Gretel would be first. Mother would hold the flowers until it was time.
Everyone was gathered in the public arena, which is a colossal room, some saying the size of the Roman coliseum. Beige walls, each with torches to provide the necessary light, surrounded the dais located in the center of the room. There was only one device in the entire palace that would be able to light them, because not only were these torches enchanted, they were up so high nobody would be able to reach them. The walls extended what seemed to be forever, until they reached the very top, where the ceiling was dome shaped, painted a dark blue, with movable doors that when closed, an engraved golden disk was seen in the middle. And when open, anyone who looked up could see the beautiful clear, blue sky.
Mayors, governors, magistrates, and members of the council had gathered in the room, sitting on the provided benches. The royal guards, the best of the kingdom, surrounded the mother and the lady as they entered the arena, where the guards stepped aside to let the lady pass at the appointed spot. Nerissa stood in front of the dais, with Gretel in her arms. Suddenly, the talking ceased as the lights blew out. A shining light was seen coming down from the ceiling, stopping midway between the floor and the steps of the dais. A burst of light with thunder blinded everyone, and Nerissa felt Gretel pulled from her arms. When she opened her eyes, Nerissa was at a loss for words because there before her, was Meschelein in a long gown resembling the midnight sky floating in the air, now descending slowly onto the dais. Gretel floated towards Meschelein, who grasped her securely in her arms.
An older woman now standing next to Meschelein placed a crown adorned with sapphires, emeralds, and rubies upon Meschelein’s head. “All behold the beauty and power of our Empress. Here, standing before us, is Empress Meschelein the Enchantress. Let us stand in awe as she announces the joining of her heart. All hail our Empress!” the announcement echoed throughout the room.
“It was six years ago that I was cast away from society. With no one by my side, I was alone, cold, and hungry. A stranger shared the meager means of her household. Over time, I am no longer alone, as I found my heart. Over time, I am no longer cold, as I found the warmth of love. Over time, I am no longer hungry, as I found nourishment of a shared life. I have been further blessed by the sharing of a soul. Behold and gaze upon your future ruler . . . Princess Gretel Margaret . . . born of a woman that has granted me a gift no one can equal.” Gretel was lifted for all to see, held securely in her mother’s hands. “I call upon the one that has granted me this gift.” Everyone glanced at one another, wondering who it could be.
Nerissa was stunned. She could not move or speak.
Meschelein climbed down from the dais, looking at Nerissa, who still had her mouth open. Meschelein gently closed Nerissa’s mouth and whispered, “Nerissa, I need you to come with me.”
Nerissa heard the words, but she could not understand what was said.
Meschelein whistled the same tune she used when they first met, finally getting a response. Nerissa blinked repeatedly, attempting to come to her senses as Meschelein levitated them both to the dais. “Here, standing before you, is our princess’ birth mother. Do you, Lady Nerissa, promise to love and cherish our daughter under the eyes of the gods?”
Nerissa found her voice, “Yes, I promise to love and cherish our daughter under the eyes of the gods.”
“Do you, Lady Nerissa, promise under the watchful eyes of the gods, to protect and teach the princess, to teach her right from wrong, to impress upon her the importance of morals and values, until your death?”
“Yes, I promise under the watchful eyes of the gods, to protect and teach the princess all that she will need to be able to lead a happy and fulfilled life until my death.”
“The gods have heard your promise. Now let them bless the princess so she may forever be protected by the gods.” Meschelein let go of Gretel as the baby started to float high in the sky. A light shone down from above, and the necklace Gretel wore intensified the light and filled the room with a rainbow of colors and light as it descended from the dome. The light, which is a pure, soft light, then slowly cocooned the baby. Meschelein, being an Enchantress, recognizes the light as a light that could only come from one source, the will of the gods. The gods had truly heard the words that were spoken, and granted the gift of protection to the princess, a gift that is only granted to those deemed worthy by the gods. Gretel slowly came down and Meschelein held her securely in her hands once again. “Let it be known on this day that Princess Gretel Margaret has been blessed by the gods above.” Meschelein gave the baby back to Nerissa, who in turn gave Gretel to mother, who gave the roses to Nerissa.
Meschelein bowed down on one knee and lowered her head in respect in front of Nerissa. “Lady Nerissa, it was a short time ago that you found me cold, alone, and hungry. It is because of your gift of warmth that I am no longer cold. It is because of your heart that I am no longer alone. It is because you have nourished me with a shared life that I am no longer hungry.” Meschelein slowly rose off the floor, reached inside her sleeve, and pulled out a necklace. Holding the necklace, a bright gold chain with a heart pendant, she stated, “I give this to you as my gift of love. This is my heart, as it contains my blood. May you always protect it, as it beats with yours, and keep it warm, as it lay on your heart.”
“I, Lady Nerissa, give these roses to you, Empress Meschelein. When the petals fall, may they be swept up by the blowing breezes to float around the world showing everyone my love for you. I give these to you as my humble gift of love.” Meschelein received the roses and held them up for all to see.
The lights came on and loud applause erupted through the palace. Meschelein set the roses on the throne while she held the hands of love . . . Nerissa. There were no more words to be said; their eyes said everything that words could not.
Gretel, however, had had enough. She had needs to be met, and made them known.
Nerissa had been glad for the disruption, needing a little while to gather herself together. The lights, Meschelein, the announcement, everything had been magical. All of her dreams seemed to be coming true. I guess dreams really do come true. I just wish it wasn’t all at once. It wasn’t too long ago I was hoping and wishing for all of this. Yet I wanted to commit suicide because I didn’t have a reason to live, I was wasted space. But now, Meschelein and Gretel have changed all that. To die now would be . . . well, insane.
“You wanted to end your life, have a sinful death?” Meschelein searched for Nerissa after changing into a cool summer dress, sky blue in color and made of a thin, comfortable material, the long, open sleeves allowing the constant breezes to blow through the dress, and was a little more comfortable to wear to the celebration. She had heard Nerissa’s thoughts and could not believe what Nerissa had said.
“What?” Nerissa looked up, to see Meschelein standing in the doorway of her chambers. “Oh, Meschelein, it was a lovely day, wasn’t it? It was so magical, with Gretel and the rainbow. Too bad I don’t have my camera. Thank you, Meschelein, you know, you’re not the only one that was lonely. With you, I found love, and I don’t feel that way anymore.” At least, I don’t think I do. “I still don’t know what happened to that cat, but it’s not important now. Gretel’s done now did you want to hold her?”
“Nerissa, are you all right? I am sorry if I frightened you.” Meschelein was still worried about the thoughts she had heard.
“Oh, Meschelein, I’m fine. No, I no longer want to kill myself . . . that would really be insane. Why would I want to do that now? I have no reason to now that all my dreams have been fulfilled. Everything is absolutely perfect, Meschelein.”
Meschelein took Gretel and held her in her arms. Gretel seemed to snuggle up to Meschelein as soon as she held her. “Nerissa, are you sure you are well?”
“Do you think we could keep the necklace? She doesn’t have to wear it. We could just keep it and put it away somewhere. Yes, I am fine, so stop worrying.”
“Nerissa, I love you, and I wish to be with you for an eternity. I worried when I heard your thoughts of an undignified death.” Nerissa looked up to look at Meschelein, who had taken off her necklace for the ceremony and had not put it back on. Nerissa was not scared. In fact, a feeling of trust, of being settled seemed to emanate into her soul. The kids always ran away when Meschelein did not have her necklace. Bessa was the only one who had not run away, and now Nerissa.
“Um, Meschelein, does your mother know about me?”
“Nerissa, I have told my mother that you are an orphan. I did not tell her how it is you came to be pregnant, however. That is something that I think you should tell her.”
“Well, there’s just one problem with that theory. She and I don’t speak the same language. We communicate with hand signals and gestures. The two of us together probably look like Abbot and Castello.”
“I will translate for you.”
“Okay, then why not just tell her. You know all there is.” Do I have to tell her? Please don’t make me.
Meschelein sensed the avoidance and hoped to put a stop it. “Nerissa, it is better if it comes from you. A translator is just that, a translator. They translate what the originator says into the language of the listener. You are the originator. I am the translator. Mother is the listener. It needs to come from you. I only gave my mother the barest of details about you. The rest must be told to her from the originator. Do you understand?”
“I could just write . . .”
“No, Nerissa, it must be told to her. You know it must be done.”
“I don’t want her to hate me.” Nerissa stood up to change her dress and she was suddenly grabbed. Meschelein held Nerissa while praying to whatever deity would listen to take away the pain that her love was feeling.
“Nerissa, I do not believe my mother would hate you. You are the mother of her favorite grandchild.”
“I’m sorry, and as far as I know, you are an only child, unless you’re hiding a sibling somewhere. That means that Gretel is her only grandchild, so it would be a given, wouldn’t it? Now let me get changed. It wouldn’t be right to go to the party in this dress, as pretty as it is.” Nerissa gently cleansed Meschelein’s face just as she had done many times before, except this time, Meschelein started purring like a cat. “It was you! You were the cat! Well, I couldn’t ask for a better pet, now, could I? After all, it turned out to be the one that I am going to spend the rest of my life with. I love you, Meschelein.” Nerissa gently urged Meschelein to bend over to let Meschelein know how she felt as only two lovers can. It was a short kiss, but it would have to do until later.
“Do you have your necklace or is it back at the tower?”
“I will put it back on. I needed to be certain you are well.”
“I’m fine now, thank you. The population is probably used to you not wearing it, but it still might scare some people. I feel sorry for servants who would be cleaning up the mess after the party. Can you imagine?”
“Really, everybody wearing thick dresses and suits, can you imagine the smell afterwards? Yuck, I really don’t want to go there.”
“It would really be better if we get your necklace back on. We’ll slowly train the population. We don’t want to rush it.”
“Nerissa . . .” Meschelein clasped the necklace around her neck. Everything was good again.
Nerissa’s dress is a short sleeved peasant style dress. The inner dress, spring green in color, the shell a dark tan, adding contrast to the garment made of a fine material. The hem reached the middle of Nerissa’s knees, and the cut, although conservative in nature, still allowed everyone to see Nerissa’s trim figure, even after the birth of the baby. Both were wearing boots. Not the thick boots that would be worn while tracking or hunting, but a lighter more comfortable style for this season.
Meschelein told her mother about the conversation. Gretel was given back to the proud parents, and all three entered the room in which the party was being held. A loud roar of applause was heard as they entered.
The party came to a close soon after sunset then it was time to take care of Gretel.
On the way back to the tower, there was another concern that Nerissa needed to address. “Meschelein, I need to talk to you about something. After Gretel is settled, we’ll talk about it.”
Gretel was fed, changed, bathed, and bedded down for the night. Nerissa held Meschelein’s hand as they strolled to sit on the bed. “Meschelein, I want you to promise me something. I want you to promise me that Gretel will never be without a mother. I want her to always have someone to call momma. Will you promise that to me? When I die, I need you to see that Gretel has a momma. I don’t want her to grow up as I did; it was not a pleasant childhood. Please, Meschelein; please promise me that Gretel will always have a momma.”
“Nerissa, do you realize what you are saying? You are asking me to live an empty life without you.”
“Please promise me, Meschelein.”
“Nerissa, if you die my heart will die with yours. I will live an empty existence.”
“Please promise me, Meschelein. I need Gretel to always have a momma. You don’t know what kind of life I had, how empty I always felt and still feel because I don’t have anyone to call momma. I want you to promise me.”
“All right, Nerissa, I promise that Gretel will always have someone to call momma. It may not be me, but I promise that Gretel will always have a family to call her own.”
“Thank you, Meschelein, it does mean a lot to me. I trust you in your judgment to know who would be called upon to take our place should something happen to the both of us, God forbid. I love you, Meschelein. I love you because of everything that you did for me. I trust you. I love you. I want to be with you for eternity. You have made my fairy tale wishes come true. I will always be here for you. I know that during our life we may go in separate directions, you in yours and me in mine. I want you to always remember I love you. When your journey is done, all you have to do is look and I will be there with my arms open only for you. Gretel and I will always be here waiting for you to come back.” Nerissa reached around Meschelein’s neck to unclasp the necklace then reached over to place it inside a dish on Meschelein’s bedside table.
“Nerissa, you are the most beautiful lady in my kingdom. I have truly been blessed with your love. As you wait for me, remember, I will wait for you. Gretel and I will have a fire burning, stew waiting, and a warm bed waiting for your return. As I made your fairy tale wishes come true, you filled my empty heart with love, strength, and confidence. If you ever get lost and cannot find your way to return to me, remember our love, hold the necklace and remember our love with all your strength and I will return to you, and you will find your way back home. I wish for you to spend an eternity with me. I love you, Nerissa.”
That night was a special night because Nerissa gave Meschelein another special gift, the gift of love. Long hours of caressing, holding, and whispering words of amity since it was still too early for them to fully consummate their love for each other. They would need to wait a while longer before they could exchange their souls, their hearts, their love. As a shooting star was seen above, they wished for the same thing . . . to be with each other for an eternity. If either of them were ever separated from each other, they would always find their way home to the other’s heart.
A year had passed since the announcement was made. Meschelein immediately set about changing and improving the existing laws that the previous ruler had made. Since education was now open to everyone, where as before education was seen as something only for the elite, the villages had improved. Crime rate was down, profits increased, and an increase in morale was seen in every village. She would like to continue that idea and create an advanced educational system similar to the universities that she had seen while traveling.
Though the crime rate had decreased considerably, there was still a problem, so a system of law enforcement had been established. Tutela Isle had lived in peace for many centuries, and Meschelein did not see the reason for so many armed guards around the palace, so she appointed some of them to the surrounding villages. Even by taking away a quarter of the armed guards that were stationed at the palace, that still left the palace with adequate security. The guards that were now recruited for law enforcement duty were stationed in various villages around the island. These and other such changes kept Meschelein very busy.
Nerissa was busy as well. Gretel would stay with her grandmother during the daylight hours while Nerissa was studying the laws and protocol that she needed to learn to become Meschelein’s queen. After supper, Nerissa would have lessons in Meschelein’s native tongue. It was a slow progress, but Nerissa was finding it easier to understand Meschelein’s mother without relying on a translator. Nerissa, however, was finding it difficult to learn how to dance. All right, let’s face it, I have two left feet and can’t tell one step from another became Nerissa’s mantra.
According to protocol, the queen was the governing body’s silent voice. Nerissa interpreted this as, the king thinks of an idea and the queen is the one to do all the legwork to see that it is done. Nerissa and Meschelein had many discussions on this topic, but there was one that she would always remember.
“Meschelein, why is it you get to be the brains and take recognition for the work that I do? It’s not fair, I mean, you’re the king, and I will be the queen. Aren’t we supposed to have equal power in this? Why do you get to have all the credit for the work that I do?”
“Nerissa, the protocol is broad in scope to leave it open for interpretation. Who takes credit to see that the laws and ideas that are passed is left up to the ruling body. That means, Nerissa . . . that I get to choose to have you recognized for the work that you had done.”
“Okay. And your choice will be?” Nerissa waited for the answer with her arms crossed and her foot tapping. You had better answer right buddy or else . . .
“Nerissa, I would not be here without you. With every chance that I have, I will always let the audience know, be it the council or the mayors, that you are a part of my life and my queen. I may be the voice, but you will always be the heart, soul, and silent partner to the crown of Tutela Isle.”
“So I don’t have anything to worry about?” Nerissa was starting to relax and her arms unfolded as her stance relaxed.
“No, Nerissa, you do not have anything to worry about with this protocol. However, there seems to be some difficulty with your dancing lessons.” Meschelein was finding it amusing. Every time Meschelein brought up the subject of her dancing lessons, Nerissa quickly changed the subject. Not this time, not if Meschelein had anything to do about it. “Let us begin, then.”
Meschelein brought Nerissa into proper posture and started dancing. Soon, that, too, was resolved. All she needed was the right teacher.
According to tradition, the couple spends thirty days apart from each other without contact. The palace was large enough for the two of them not to meet each other, but it was at night when the loneliness would set in. As time grew closer, neither was able to sleep much and both were distraught in their own right. The palace servants could not wait for the time to pass, as both expressed their misery by yelling and screaming about everything.
The day of the wedding finally arrived. The location was a hilltop half a day’s ride east of the palace. The ceremony would be held during the daytime under a canopy, which was octagon in shape and ivory in color. It was made of a very strong material held in place by rope tethered to strong and heavy wooden poles to provide stability. The priestess had agreed to perform the ceremony of this new joining, the same priestess who had presided over Emperor Brogan and Empress Meschelein’s own wedding. The priestess hoped and prayed that the Empress had truly found her heart the second time around.
In the past, the groom would ride to the ceremony on a strong stallion, leading the bridal carriage to the ceremony. The bride is blindfolded, so she must rely upon her groom to lead the way to safety. Once at the altar, the blindfold is removed and tied around the adjoining hands during the ceremony, as she had done with Brogan. What Brogan did not know, however, was that Meschelein did not trust her Emperor, so she saw through the blindfold as she walked the path to the altar.
This time would be different. Meschelein needed to find a way to convey her love, her trust, and her loyalty in a way that only Nerissa would understand. Meschelein felt part of her duties included the upholding of tradition and customs, but customs and traditions do change, and this was such a circumstance. This would indeed be a special occasion, an occasion that every storyteller would never tire of retelling, as well as the listener never tiring of hearing.
The gown and accessories would be the same. Meschelein would be dressed in a long, flowing, red gown with a veil headdress anchored in place by the royal crown. Around her neck would be the Pendragon family crest made of gold. Gold armlets worn on each arm with a carved design symbolizing power and loyalty adorned with precious jewels were worn as well.
Nerissa would wear the same color gown and headdress as Meschelein’s, the difference would be the simple golden crown, but only until the formal ceremony announcing the appointment of the queen. The gold armlets are much smaller and less intricately designed as well. The neck is bare until she is bestowed with the family crest of the one she is to spend an eternity with.
Once at the altar, the priestess will bind their hands with a silken cloth anointed with the purest water on the Isle, the water from the Fountain of the Gods. It is told that the water within are the tears of woe from the gods as they viewed the mortals’ bloodshed. Meschelein’s family crest will be placed upon Nerissa’s chest, and they will be wed. The ceremony is completed without words spoken by either Meschelein or Nerissa. Once wine is had by both, the ceremony is complete.
A small camp was set up approximately five miles from the altar, which by horse was a short distance, whereas walking the distance would be trying, as there were steep hills and valleys to contend with. It did not matter how in shape the person was, it was still a trying distance.
“I can’t help it. I’m marrying a king or sovereign or ruler. OOOOHHH! I’m marrying Meschelein today! There, I said it three times and it still didn’t help. I hope Meschelein is in better condition than I am.”
“Meschelein, if you do not hold still you will embarrass yourself at the altar, because you will only be partly dressed.”
“But, Mother, this is the day that I am to marry Nerissa. She is my beloved. This day has finally come. I’m sorry, mother, of course I will calm down. It just seems an eternity, mother, it seems an eternity.”
Eventually, both were prepared for the wedding.
“Except I wish you were here.”
Bessa announced somebody waiting for Lady Nerissa. Expecting guards to escort her to the canopy, she found instead . . . Isn’t there supposed to be a pair of eyes there instead of a chest.
“I am to escort you to the ceremony.”
“What?” Nerissa was confused. That was, until she looked up. “Oh. Oh, I’m sorry, Meschelein. You must think I’m a ditz. I think my brain turned to mush. How are we going to do this? Ride the ponies or ride the buggy?”
Meschelein laughed at Nerissa’s attempt at humor, but they had to get started or they would not make it on time. “Nerissa, we will take the horses. We will stop at the bottom of the hill and walk our way up. It would be too trying for you to walk the distance from here to the canopy.”
“Oh, okay. Come on then, on the ponies we go.” Nerissa grabbed a hold of Meschelein’s hands and led her to the horses. “Is there a preference or is it a free for all?”
“Nerissa, this is a wedding.”
“I think you misunderstand. There are steeds that are meant for such an occasion. They are large enough and strong enough to hold two. Look for those.”
Nerissa did as she was instructed, and found the described horses, which were about the size of a Clydesdale, or she imaged it was. There was one in particular, a large, white horse, about as large as large could be, adorned with silver from head to hoof and head to tail. Saddled and ready for such an occasion, they approached the horse standing by a platform. Nerissa stood aside, waiting for Meschelein to climb up.
“Nerissa, I need for you to guide the horse to the destination. I do not have the eye. Mother gave me a potion to lower my abilities upon my request.”
Suddenly concerned about what she had heard, Nerissa asked, “Are you telling me what I think you’re telling me?”
“My life, my trust, and my faith are in your ability to guide us to bind our hearts together finally as one.”
“In other words, you’re defenseless and you’re relying on me to get you there. I don’t have a problem with that; it’s just that I don’t know how to drive . . . a horse.”
Meschelein could not help but laugh. “Nerissa, everything will be fine. These horses have been taught where to go. All you need to do is give it a little push.”
“A little push, huh? You do realize I’ll get a hernia if I push this thing, and not only that, but suffer your mother’s wrath? She barely forgave me for breaking her prized vase.”
Meschelein laughed even harder at this point. “That prized vase is worth nothing, and was only used to place trash inside. I will instruct you how.”
After careful instruction, the horse started moving at a slow pace towards the altar, Nerissa in the front, Meschelein in the back with her arms wrapped around Nerissa’s waist. Nerissa was thankful as they reached their final destination, and wondered if maybe it really would have been easier to walk the distance. Up the hill they walked together, arm in arm.
Upon reaching the altar, their hands were bound together . . .
Everyone watched in awe as the cloth glowed. Nerissa stared in fascination. Meschelein could feel the tingling of the cloth. Once the cloth had stopped glowing, it was removed and their hands unclasped. A cup of red wine had been placed on the altar. Each was to give one drop of blood into the wine.
First, Meschelein sipped the wine then turned the goblet so Nerissa was presented with the same area from which Meschelein had taken her sip. After Nerissa took her sip from the goblet, the priestess continued.
They walked silently down the hill as the crowd applauded.
I feel like I’m dancing on a cloud. I feel so free. I wonder what Meschelein is feeling.
“Now we must ride the horse back to the camp and change our clothing. You will assist me, and I will assist you.”
“No offense, but can you do that?”
“I never take offense from you, and yes, I can. I will do it through the eyes of love.”
They stopped at the bottom of the hill. Standing in front of their horse, they kissed each other as only two lovers can. The outside world became nonexistent. They heard nothing but each other’s heartbeat. They felt nothing but the other’s breath. Once they pulled apart, they each sat down on the saddle once again for the ride to their new future.
“All right, pony . . . let’s get back to camp, shall we?” The horse did not react. Nerissa did what she was taught to do . . . again. It only stared straight ahead.
“Okay, so you’re not a pony. How about Valiant instead? Will that work?” The horse started moving for the ride back to camp. “Hey, Valiant works.”
Meschelein lightly laughed as she gathered Nerissa up in her arms during the ride, enjoying the feeling of her love in her arms.
When they arrived back at camp to change for the ride back to the tower Nerissa and mother had an argument about the change of clothes.
“Look, I still have the dress that I wore for the announcement. Why can’t I wear that one?”
“Because a queen never wears the same dress twice, you are now a queen. Though the announcement has not been publicly made, it is how the people will see you. You cannot go out there, in public, in tattered rags and old dresses. It would not be appropriate.”
“Celia, that dress is not an old dress. It doesn’t even have the cobwebs on it yet.”
“Nerissa, you are not of that life any longer. The sooner you realize that, the better. You do not wish to embarrass your betrothed . . . do you?”
“Of course not . . . We’ve been through that issue. It’s just that I don’t see the sense in having a dress for every party for every excuse created.”
“Then listen to mother. You have new responsibilities now. It is not just yourself you must think of, you must also think of the people.”
“I don’t have to listen to you. I’ll wear what I want to.”
There were beautiful wild flowers growing in the forest, and after choosing a variety of shapes and colors, Nerissa bound them together to give to Celia as a sort of peace offering. Nerissa found mother attending her garden.
Holding the flowers out in front of her, she said, “Celia . . . Mother . . . which dress did you recommend again? Quite frankly, I think the white dress with the pink flowers was pretty. If you had another dress in mind, however, we could go take a look again.”
“Are those for me?”
“Yes. I’m sorry. I thought you might like them. I remembered Meschelein telling me how fond you are of flowers.”
“The white dress with the pink flowers is very pretty. Let me put these in some water and we shall go take a look again.”
“Thanks, Mother. I’m sorry. I’m still getting used to it . . . you know?”
“Yes, dear, I do know. Just let me pass some of my wisdom down to you and I believe between the both of us, we will have this kingdom falling at your feet.”
After changing their clothes, they climbed inside a carriage and rode off to their next destination. First stop was to the tower to pack a few necessities, and then they rode off in the carriage once again, somewhere peaceful and romantic. A place they would remember for always as the magical place they consummated their new life together.
It was a small seaside hut, just large enough for two, which was perfect. Meschelein had the hut built while still married to Brogan as a sort of retreat away from the palace. Meschelein wanted to bring Nerissa to a special place known only to her, and now, Nerissa knew of it as well. She had secretly ridden out there herself to be sure everything was perfect.
“When is that potion supposed to wear off? No offense, but I don’t even know if we’re going in the right direction. I don’t see anything . . .”
“Nerissa, what is wrong?”
“Oh, um, nothing, really, it’s just that I think I found the hut that you described, except you said it was very humble in appearance. I have to say you were way off your mark on that one, because it’s absolutely adorable.”
“That is it, then, and to answer your question, the potion is starting to wear off, so do not worry.”
“Okay, so do we park here or somewhere else?”
“There will be somebody waiting there for us to take care of carriage. We just park in front of the hut.”
Doing as instructed, they entered the hut, and Nerissa stopped to admire Meschelein’s humble beachside hut. Nerissa fell in love not only with Meschelein’s hut, but with her all over again. Everything was so lovely. It was a small house made out of clay for protection from the elements. The house was almost white in color from the bleaching by the sun. The door was made out of heavy wood for protection. The windows around the house were still there, and not a crack, even after all this time.
Nerissa found the bedroom, and once her heart started beating again, she stated, “Meschelein . . . now is the time for us to get to know each other on a deeper level. I have never done anything like this before. I would be honored if you would be my teacher.”
“Nerissa . . . I have waited for so long to bond with someone on a deeper level, more than just my body, but with my soul as well. I am not your teacher; I am your soul, just as you are my heart.”
“I am your heart, just as you are my soul.”
They leaned forward towards each other until their lips met in a soft kiss. The tip of a tongue emerged between a set of lips in askance. It was a silent message between the two, as only two people in love would understand, a silent question asking for permission. Being granted permission, they came together softly, lovingly, caressing each other’s tongue. Time held no meaning now, no other person, place or thing existed; it was just Meschelein and Nerissa showing their love for one another on a most basic level.
Once the kissing stopped, they silently and carefully undid each other’s clothing, letting each piece drop on the floor, each exploring the other’s body, gazing, caressing, stroking the other, eliciting the excitement between them. The kissing began again, and then stopped just long enough for Nerissa to lead Meschelein to the bed, with Meschelein on top of Nerissa.
Meschelein had a need to explore Nerissa, to know every sensual spot by heart. She started with the lips, and worked her way down, exploring very carefully with her tongue, always tasting first before proceeding any further. She stopped at Nerissa’s pulse point, Meschelein needing to revitalize her energy. Then in tune with Nerissa’s heartbeat, began sucking as a vampire would its victim. Feeling her energy revitalized, and Nerissa’s sensuality awakening within, she continued her way down to her breasts; and began feeding herself on her heart’s energy. The more energy Meschelein revitalized herself with, the more she could feel her heart’s awakening desire. No words were spoken, but the vibrations cast off by Nerissa told her all that she needed to know.
As she was feeding, Meschelein very carefully slid her hand down to Nerissa’s nether region. Tickling her sensual folds, Nerissa took in a sharp breath and her body tensed, hands gripping the bed linens tightly.
“You are a cruel woman, my soul, cruel for teasing me,” Nerissa spoke between breaths.
“Be patient, my heart, all good things come to those who wait.” Meschelein smelled the sweet scent of her love on her hands, and became even more aroused. Opening Nerissa’s mouth carefully, she swept her index and middle finger on the inner lining of her lower lip, giving Nerissa a taste of ambrosia, the nectar of the gods.
Meschelein lowered herself in between Nerissa’s legs so she would be able to tickle her heart’s sensual folds with her tongue, listening to the sharp intake of Nerissa’s breath, exciting her even further. Sweet ambrosia started flowing, and Meschelein licked up every delicious drop. Nerissa’s body tightened even more, her back hunching at the teasing she was being tortured with. Meschelein smiled as she felt the constant vibrations and tensing of the muscles under her. Meschelein needed to send Nerissa up to the heavens now, and that was exactly what she did, carefully caressing Nerissa as she descended to be with the mortals once again.
Nerissa was speechless. She could not find the words adequate enough to express her gratitude in Meschelein’s ability to satisfy her carnal desire. When words fail, action must be taken, and that was what Nerissa did. Nerissa expressed all her love and gratitude in a very sensual kiss, causing both to see the stars. Nerissa let go, and dreamed of the heavens that she only had a brief glimpse of.
Nerissa awoke the following day to find Meschelein peacefully asleep next to her. At least that was what she thought.
“How is my heart feeling this morning?”
“Every bit as wonderful as wonderful can be. I’m only sorry about one thing.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“Because I didn’t take you up to see the heavens yourself, I fell asleep before I was able to.”
“We have an eternity, there is no rush. Are you feeling sore?”
“Yes, just a little, but it’s well worth it. It definitely was a magical time. I never dreamed it could feel like this. How about we bathe, take a leisurely stroll along the shore, eat a little, nibble a little, and then come back so you can teach me how to send you up to the heavens?”
“You do every day, Nerissa. You send me up to the heavens every day. How about, instead, you let me see your soul, bind with your soul, Nerissa . . . hmmm? Let me see the place that you call heaven.”
“Your wish is my command.” And so it began . . . two people coming together as one.
They spent a week exploring, caressing, and loving one another.
As much as they would like, they could not be here for an eternity, so after seven days, they packed up to go back to real life, the life of ruling a kingdom.
Gretel and mother were waiting at the tower when they arrived. On the outside, Gretel looked very much like Nerissa. On the inside though, she was very much like Meschelein. Despite her beginnings, if no one knew any better, they would believe Meschelein had fertilized the seed.
“Momma, momma,” Gretel cried when she saw her mothers approaching the tower. Mother held Gretel’s hand firmly to keep her from running towards the wagon. The little princess knew no fear, which was both good and bad, depending on your point of view. Once the carriage stopped, Celia let go and watched happily as her granddaughter ran towards her mothers.
It was decided, when Gretel started to learn how to speak, that she would speak the native tongue for the first six years of her life. This way, she would be better able to communicate with her people. After that, she would learn English, giving her another opportunity in learning how to communicate with her people. Not everybody spoke the native tongue, so it would be necessary to learn both languages. Other languages would be learned as she grew. The first lesson that anyone of the hierarchy learned, is that communication is the key to a happy and successful kingdom.
This was decided despite Nerissa’s objection. It was not that Nerissa’s objection went unheard . . . it was the lack of experience, the lack of knowledge that weakened Nerissa’s objection. She needed a walk to collect her thoughts, to give her a chance to put herself back together. She walked into the forest that surrounded the tower. Strange things happened in this forest, where mysterious voices, images, creatures were found. Those who entered were often seen running without any explanation, mumbling words that no one was able to understand. She unknowingly entered the forest nicknamed codru de insanity, or the forest of insanity.
Thinking of Lexa, she started to speak. “Oh, Lexa, here I am a queen. My fairy tale dreams came true. I am Queen Guinevere, and King Arthur is my husband. We have a little princess, Princess Gretel, whose middle name is Margaret. At last, Lexa, the fantasies are fantasies no longer and I . . .” Nerissa suddenly stopped her musings as she saw something. Right there, in front of her. Somebody was standing in front of her, and she could see right through them. She knew she left the tower all by herself, so why was there somebody now standing in front of her, blocking her path. The fight or flight decision time took over at this point. Nerissa not being a fighter, flight was the only option, and that she did. Her body seemed to have a mind of its own, because she certainly did not know what she was doing, running as fast as she could to the tower, opening the door, running straight up the stairs, to finally stop in the bedroom.
“Momma, cum te sim?i . . .” Momma, how are . . .
Meschelein was giving Gretel her lessons when she heard the door suddenly open. Seeing her wife fly by the laboratory in a panicked state put Meschelein on alert. She asked Celia to watch Gretel so she could find out what had happened.
“Nerissa . . . Nerissa, are you there?” Looking around the bedroom, she found Nerissa cuddled in a corner in the fetal position. This brought worry and concern to Meschelein. Never had she seen her love in such a manner. What could have happened to cause this? Attempting to read her thoughts, she could not. Nerissa’s thoughts were confused, jumbled, and difficult to read. The only option would be to ask. First though, she needed to be able to reach Nerissa . . . to reassure her that she was alright, she was safe . . . she was home.
“Nerissa, listen to me. Listen as I speak to you.” Meschelein concentrated as she used her powers to influence Nerissa’s mind to calm itself. Then and only then did Meschelein believe that Nerissa would hear her. Sensing Nerissa’s mind calming, she continued, “You are safe now. You are home. Feel the love within your heart and let that calm your spirit. Slowly rise up, Nerissa, and come to me. Listen to my voice and come to me.”
Nerissa started blinking her eyes rapidly then slowly got up to sit up in a kneeling position. She was confused at first, and then she saw the eyes, those magical eyes that meant love. “Meschelein . .? What . . . I . . .”
Meschelein slowly approached Nerissa and held her, feeling Nerissa melding into her body as she always did when she was troubled. When Nerissa felt better, more calm, she lifted her head and looked at Meschelein, just looked at her.
“Your mind is puzzled, Nerissa. What is wrong?”
“I don’t know quite how to ask this without sounding mean, so I’ll just apologize ahead of time and say I’m sorry. I thought you were here with your mother and Gretel. Were you in the forest?”
“No, I was not. I was here with Gretel giving her lessons. Is that where you come from?” Suddenly, Nerissa’s actions made sense. She had come from the forest of insanity, a place known for its strange occurrences.
“Yeah, I needed to go for a walk, and that’s where I went. Why?”
“That forest, Nerissa, is not a place to go without me by your side. Not many people know the story of why the forest seems to be haunted, or enchanted. I will tell you the story. Let us make ourselves comfortable and I will tell you. I will return in a moment.” Meschelein left to let her mother know everything was fine now, and to ask her if she would watch Gretel for a little while longer. Celia asked Meschelein what had happened to Nerissa. Meschelein told her mother the story and now understood. She asked Meschelein if she would not mind letting Gretel stay with her in the village, knowing just how long the story would take to tell. Meschelein approved, and left to make tea while Celia gathered a few things to bring with them back to her village.
Coming back into the room with tea for each of them, they settled by the fireplace ready for the tale.
“Many centuries ago, during the time of the first emperor, there were sages that inhabited this island. The sages were not only wise, but powerful as well. They could move mountains, kingdoms, the oceans . . . they could make the earth tremble at their feet. There was one, Aqila, the Sage of Wisdom, who created the forest that we know today. Aqila had a need to explore, a need to search for what may lay ahead. The other sages warned Aqila, only look and observe, do not fall victim to the evils of man. Being the Sage of Wisdom, Aqila did not believe that the mere mortals that inhabited the villages below could be able to do anything that she could possibly fall victim to. Yes, the Sage of Wisdom was a woman, and like any woman, she let her heart fall victim to the evils that men do. She was the only woman among the sages. They protected her, nurtured her, shielded her away from everyone high up on the mountaintop. The isolation protected her, but it also made her a fool. It was not long before she came upon a village, much like mother’s village, in fact. She felt that in order to understand the people below, she must look like them as well. Doing her best to appear as a villager, she entered the village, not knowing what to expect. She was immediately accepted. She was shown what she must do, how to do certain things, and most of all, what to do in case of danger. She was taught everything, everything, that is, except to avoid a man named Harland. He looked every bit the part of every woman’s dream of what her ideal man should look like. His beauty, however, did not run so deep. He used his beauty, his charm, his wit to con any woman of his choosing, to take their most valuable treasure. For Aqila, that meant not being able to return home. Harland had been observing her from a distance, studying really, to see what he might be able to gain from this victim. After some time, he approached her, and using every trick that he had used in the past, he lured her in. There was an old woman in the village. People believed she no longer had a mind, could not see, could not hear, but she had all her senses, and was watching them. When Aqila was alone, the old woman approached her, warned her of this man’s evil ways. Nevertheless, it was too late. Harland had already taken Aqila’s heart, and there are times that the heart is much more powerful than the mind. That, however, was a lesson that Aqila had learned too late.” Meschelein paused for a bit, just looking straight ahead into the fire, Nerissa still by her side, waiting to hear what happened.
“So Aqila was killed by Harland? They say love is foolish, but it’s also the greatest gift that anybody can give.”
“She was not killed right away. First, Harland needed to find a way to lure Aqila away from the protection of the village. Harland started hearing the villagers talk among themselves that the two-legged snake had come into their village and was ready to take its next victim. He had taken his victim already; the only thing left was to lure the victim away from safety. He left the village for a time. He told Aqila the reason he left was to take care of his dying mother. He never had a mother. What he did was to search for anything, any type of information that he could learn so he could use to gain his prize. No one knew anything about this woman. She is a stranger that needs a home. That is all anybody had said. He found his way inside the palace, the place of the great archives that held all the knowledge of the island and its inhabitants. Acting quickly, he found the necessary scrolls and left the same way he entered, without being seen. He found a cave to hide away to read the scrolls. All that he needed to know he had in his hands. Aqila’s history was laid right there in front of him, and he studied those scrolls so he would know exactly how to get the most valuable treasure.” Meschelein stopped to sip her tea. She could feel Aqila’s anguish and despair when she learned the truth.
“Once he studied the scrolls and knew exactly who Aqila was, he burned the scrolls to return to the village. His plan was simple. Steal the magical amulet from around her neck, and watch her as she withers and dies beneath his feet. The amulet was Aqila’s hold on life, without the amulet, she would die. All the sages had amulets that not only protected them, but kept them immortal as well. Each amulet feeds off the other’s energy. Together they are powerful, but destroy one, and they will all perish. They all will die.”
“But if he has the amulet, wouldn’t that keep the others from dying? The circle would still be there, wouldn’t it?”
“No. Once the amulet is removed from a sage’s neck, the circle is broken, never to be repaired again. There is no place for the energy to go. Aqila had a fascination with the animals. Basic in intellect and desire, she watched them, fascinated as they moved about the forest. Harland finally had an idea, to use her fascination with the animals to lure her away from the village. He gathered some food and placed them in a basket to use as a prop for a picnic idea. What Aqila did not know or was not aware of was that nothing was in the basket except a potion. It would be that potion that would damn us all.”
“But if she is the Sage of Wisdom, wouldn’t she see through this ruse and leave him to go back home?”
“You forget, Nerissa, that she lost her heart a long time ago. And with that, she lost her sensibilities as well. Love truly blinded Aqila. He found the perfect spot in the middle of a glade to settle down. Claiming he scouted the area before he arrived at the village, he left with the basket in hand, to pick some fresh berries, he said. He wanted Aqila to follow him to the berry patch. Suddenly changing his mind, he said he did not realize he was so thirsty. He stealthily poured the potion into a water skin while still in the basket. Being a true gentleman, he offered her the first drink. He had been assured that the potion would work immediately, but it was not working, something was wrong. He started to panic. Because of Aqila’s magical abilities, her body did not react right away to the poison, it took time. She started choking, she could not breathe. It was during this time he removed the necklace. Aqila was horrified that she had been wrong. She is the Sage of Wisdom, and she was taken by a mortal man. Just as the island started drawing her energy away from her, she cursed anyone that dared step foot on the glade. And if they did, may they always see their heart’s greatest desire. Just as she finished casting the spell, Harland was drawn into the magic as well. For as long as he held the necklace, he, too, would be cursed for an eternity. His spirit lies deep beneath the earth. The moaning that is heard is his life’s energy being drawn from him little by little. He cannot die as long as he holds the amulet drawing his life’s energy. He will never be able to pass over to find peace. He will be there for an eternity searching for his greatest desire.”
“Wow . . . that’s some story. How do you play a role in all of this? Don’t tell me she’s your great grandma or something.”
Meschelein just turned in her direction, replacing her own amulet as she did so. As her eyes returned, Nerissa could see that she was not that far off with that remark. “You have got to be kidding me. Aqila was your great grandma? I mean, you’re trying to make light of this whole . . .”
Meschelein continued to look at Nerissa. Nerissa finally understood. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, Meschelein. I’m so sorry. If she’s your great grandma and she’s dead, then how did you get here? Yes, I know about the birds and the bees, but . . . I mean . . . how?”
“Harland was her love, yes, and she was curious about many things. One of the things that she was most curious about was procreation. Being the Sage of Wisdom, she knew about the souls and how they are delivered to the vessels that inhabit the earth. What she did not know was the feeling. The feeling of desire that is what she did not know. While Harland was away, she had a brief affair with one of the village elders. That village elder had come to love Aqila as one of her own children, and she loved her as well. This village elder had become injured very badly in a fishing accident, and was losing a lot of blood. Not knowing what else to do with very little time, Aqila gave some of her blood to the village elder, not knowing that in doing so, her powers would be transferred to the elder as well. The powers would lie dormant, however, until it was time.”
“And how does that answer her question about procreation and the feeling of lust?”
“It answered her question because she needed to know what true love was, between man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman. It is because of that incident that she was able to find her answer.”
“And the answer is?”
“Love is love, Nerissa, you know that. Now, do you understand about the forest and why it is you thought you had seen me there?”
“Yeah, now I get it. I have to say, though, that’s quite a story. Well, I know where I won’t be going in the near future, or any future for that matter. Anyway, what is it with you? Why have you been so glum? You’ve been hanging around here a lot lately, not that I mind. But you are a busy lady, and I understand that, but what I don’t understand is what’s wrong. I can’t twitch my nose and make a pony appear in the laboratory, not that there’s room in there, but I may be able to help. If nothing else, it helps to talk. So what’s up?”
“I love you, Nerissa. With you everything is easy. I can be me with you by my side. I do not have to hide. You do not have my powers, no, but you have a good soul and good instincts that you listen to, to tell you something is wrong. My Nerissa, with you by my side, I feel invincible, but it is not so. I am afraid, Nerissa. I am very afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“The answer to that question is about as long as the story that I just told you.”
“I suppose there isn’t a Cliff Note version available, then, huh?”
Meschelein started to laugh, feeling a little lighter than she had moments before, thinking back to their first meeting. “I am afraid not, no. It pains me to learn that the one I trusted the most betrayed me. I thought I found someone I could trust, but they betrayed me.”
“Who are you talking about, Meschelein? Who is it that betrayed you?”
Continued in the conclusion.Return to the Academy