Season 3, Episode 1
Written by Tof Eklund
Read by Tawn Krakowski
“Ohh, Yelen,” Kaye moaned as I arced over him, “don’t stop.”
“Never,” I husked back. “I’ll never stop. We’ll be like this forever.”
Then a small dark line appeared just below Kaye’s ear.
I watched in horror as that line spread and forked, running this way and that all over Kaye’s face and body. The fine lines opened up like fissures in the earth or cracks in pottery. First to go was Kaye’s ear, which flaked off like a piece of old bark. Bit by bit, my lover shattered, crumbled, tumbling away into the endless swirling mists. I tried to hold on, but whatever I grasped turned to dust and ashes.
A gust of air whipped around me, stealing the last few motes of Kaye out of my clenched fists.
“No, Kaye!” I screamed.
“Yelen?” The voice came from far off. “Yelen, I’m here.”
My eyes snapped open in the dark. There was Kaye, in bed next to me. His eyes caught the faint moonlight, and I could just barely make out the concerned furrowing of his brow. He reached out a hand to touch my cheek and I did the same, touching his ear, irrationally relieved to find it still attached.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asked.
“Just be,” I replied. “Just be here,” I said, and hugged him close.
My skin ached, a confusing mixture of longing for contact and the lingering sunburnt tenderness of the ritual marks I’d traced on our bodies the night before. Kaye wrapped his strong arms around me, even though his skin must be burning like mine. I wondered what further pains he would suffer because of me, then shook off that dark thought and relaxed into his embrace.
The sun had barely come peeking over the horizon when I heard Lily’s familiar knock. A moment later I heard the outer door open. Lily grunted and there was a dull thump, like something heavy hitting the floor.
“Back with more!” she called, and I heard her bustle out the door again.
I yawned and looked at Kaye, who still slept. The lines on his skin had faded from an angry pinkish-red to pale rose. That was something. Whatever I’d done to us, we were healing.
I rose and stretched. In doing so, I discovered that the less-visible marks on my own skin were now more itchy than painful. I scratched, and they began to hurt again. Throwing on an ill-fitting dressing gown of Kaye’s, I left the bedroom and closed the door behind me.
Lily came back in out of the hallway.
“Sorry, Milady,” she said, her voice muffled by a stack of dresses that came up to her hairline, “yours were all ruined.”
I looked at the garments, all in fashionable Thrycaen styles, and despaired. I’d worn the simply-cut dresses and skirts of the Order since I began my training.
“Tea,” I said. “I must have tea.”
I made my way to the fireplace, but there was no kettle.
“Lily…” I whined. “Please bring me some tea.”
“A’course, milady!” Lily pulled a hasty curtsy then spun on one heel and was gone.
It was then that the words of Crone Agata’s letter came back to me. The Council frees you from all of your vows and obligations, she’d written, and I’d taken it for nonsense. I’d wanted it to be nonsense, the ramblings of a doddering old fool. Now that my world was literally crumbling around me, had I lost my place in the Order along with my vestments?
My vision blurred with tears. My entire life before Thrycae, was it gone? It felt so distant now. What had I wanted, before my obsession with Kaye? To be a Sister of the Order, yes, to do the Goddess’ work, to help people, to…to show up my mother. I hadn’t thought of my birth mother in years. She wasn’t part of my life. It didn’t matter—she could go hang for all I cared. I’d be ten times the mother she was.
Goddess blight it. I cried silently, anger and sadness and confusion dripping all over the top dress on the stack, a shimmery red silk garment that was definitely too small for me.
“Milady? Milady, are you well?”
It was Lily, holding a tray with a tea set on it.
“I’m sorry,” she said, and set the tray down. “I’ll just come back later.”
“No, Lily, stay.” I replied. “I’ve just been…reminiscing.”
“Shall I pour the tea then?”
“Yes, and pour yourself a cup as well.”
“Oh, I can’t!” Lily’s expression was shocked. “That other cup’s for milord, and it’s good china, and…and it isn’t proper!”
“Lily,” I said. “I don’t have many friends here. I’ve treated you like a servant, but I’d rather consider you a friend. I’m not nobility, and in the Order…” the word almost stuck in my throat, “we don’t measure people by their rank.”
“Well then,” said Lily, reversing course in an instant, “I’ll have a cuppa with you.”
She poured, and we sat and sipped for a while, then Lily broke the silence.
“Well, ah, should I call you Maiden, then?”
“Could as well call me mother,” I mumbled.
Catching part of my meaning, Lily jumped up, her tea sloshing in her cup. “You aren’t…are you?”
“I don’t know yet, but I think so. It seems to be my wyrd.”
“Do you want to be? Y’know, with child.”
I paused. “I want to be with Kaye. I would be happy to have a child with him, but it’s not that simple.”
“Are you going to get rid of it, then?” I could see curiosity and concern mixed in Lily’s expression.
“Lily, even if I wanted to, my herbs are gone…”
“Oh!” Lily interrupted me. “You ain’t looked in the basket yet.”
There were several baskets on the floor, and I hadn’t so much as glanced at them. Lily was pointing at the smallest one, the only one with a lid.
“Go on,” she said, and when I still sat there, she continued, “If I’m your friend and not your servant, you can fetch it for yourself.”
“Sorry, Lily,” I replied, as I stood and went to get the basket. “My mind was elsewhere.”
I sat back down and opened the basket. Inside were a few of my books, dinged and dusty, a single tattered star chart, one of the lace gloves Kaye had given me, and, most remarkably, a few of my bottles and phials.
“I went out last night, when the moon was high,” Lily said, “and recovered what I could from the wreckage. No one had scavenged it because they’re all afraid of the…of you.”
I quickly inventoried the herbs, tinctures, and salves. I noticed, with a sudden heaviness, that I had everything necessary to end a pregnancy. If I had any doubt that fate was toying with me, it was resolved when I saw a piece of folded parchment, sitting there at the bottom of the basket. It was Agata’s letter, turning up like the cursed horseshoe in the old story.
I set down the basket.
“Thank you,” I said to Lily, trying to feel grateful, and appreciate the risk she’d taken. I finished my tea. “Thank you for everything, Lily. I think I’m ready to take a look through those dresses now. Care to join me?”
“Certainly, Mil…Maiden? Mother?”
“Yelena, Lily, just Yelena.”
Out of all the dresses in Lily’s haul the only one that fit me comfortably was a floor-length gown with a high waist. It was green, precisely the shade of viridian I have always known as Mother’s Green.
© 2013 Copyright Tof Eklund
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