The sound of laughter wafted though my window. I slowly opened my eyes and wiped away the last traces of my slumber. Listening to the merry voices below caused me to smile sweetly to myself. I took a deep breath and savored the fragrant air, distinctly picking out the scent of the fresh bread. Made by Grandmother Cuillen no doubt. The thought of her softly wrinkled face and loving eyes caused me to smile to myself yet again.
"Rhonwen, hurry up! We must get ta' the woodlands before the noon" I heard my cousin, Ryjk. cry up the stairs of our humble cottage.
"All right, Iím coming" I sighed. I stretched one last time, taking plenty of time to fully enjoy the sensation, and swung my legs over the side of my mattress. I reached across and grabbed my blue elle from the chair and dressed as quickly as I could. Grabbing my hair brush, one of the few things I have to remember my mother by, I pulled it through my hair hastily as I made my way down the stairs.
As I entered the small kitchen I was greeted by the loving face of Grandmother Cuillen and an obviously impatient Ryjk. Although barely three deochs apart, she made me feel so much younger at times. It seems Grandmother Cuillen was always after her to be a bit more ladylike, but Ryjk had found her spark as a warrior quite some time ago and was rather set in her ways. I loved her never the less, she had shown me great compassion when I first arrived here in Mileth from Rucesion. So long ago it seemed now. Long before father had died.
I gave Grandmother Cuillen a quick hug and a peck on her wrinkled cheek and hurried to take my place at the old oaken table.
"Ye look very fetching today child, have big plans do ye now" Grandmother Cuillen asked.
"Aye, weíre off ta' the woodlands today. Ryjk needs a few more wolf pelts ta' complete her new helm and I need ta' gather some more hydele."
"Well, ye both be careful. Be wary of the creatures that lurk there" she replied.
I nodded and Ryjk gave out a small sigh and went back to eating her porridge. I gazed appreciatively at our cozy kitchen. Admiring the arrangements of dried herbs Grandmother Cuillen had hung above the cabinets. She had in her day been the foremost healer in Mileth. Her name even commanded respect and admiration all the way to the Kingís court in Loures. It was she that had fully instilled the love upon me. Her daughter and my mother, Lavercham, had once been a noted healer as well. As had Grandmother Cuillenís mother. ĎTwas the family path so to speak. And while I missed my father deeply, I couldnít help but think if it hadnít been for his death I never wouldíve been able to live my dream.
My father was a successful merchant in Rucesion. He was not of noble blood, but did have several close confidants in court. Which did prove to be quite useful now and then. He met my mother when she was but a young woman of 15 deochs. He was quite a bit her senior, but was so taken in by her beauty and displayed humility. She had accompanied Grandmother Cuillen to Loures, as she had been summoned to tend to a sick child and the court healer was away at the time. My father was visiting friends at court and caught a glimpse of her from across the courtyard. He used to say that was when he truly began to live. The skies seem bluer, the birds more joyful and the world so much more vivid. After several months of courting they were wed with the Kingís blessing. Following a tearful farewell to Grandmother Cuillen and her brother, Aillen, my mother departed the only land she had ever known and traveled with my father to the city of Rucesion.
My mother wasted no time in establishing herself as a noted healer in her new home. She used seeds that she had brought with her from her home land to plant, as my father had forewarned her at Rucesionís lack of natural growing herbs. She was called upon by all walks of life to cure their ailments. After a few deochs of marriage my mother gave my father the joyous news that she was with child. If ever my father though life with just my mother was overly joyous, the thought of life with her and their child was slightly overwhelming! After his initial shock, he set about procuring items my mother would be needing for the babe, however odd they may have seemed to him at the time. The next months were full of joy and laughter as they awaited the arrival of their first child.
The winter of my birth was very cold and stormy. My mother had still not fully grown accustomed to these conditions, but was faring better than she had at first. Father, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, used to tell me she refused to get out from under the thick down quilt at times! She spent most of her time caring for the herbs she had meticulously uprooted and planted indoors in anticipation of the winter. Yet another lesson she had learned during her first winter in Rucesion, no doubt. She had gotten better at rationing out the herbs for different potions, but feared she may not have enough betony to last till spring.
I made my first appearance into Temuair one snowy evening of that winter. My mother was home alone, as my father was on one of his frequent trips examining silks from the far away land of Suomi. She felt the beginning signs of the labor and set about to mix all the potions she may need. This is all is known of that day until my father arrived very late that night. As he walked though the door he heard a babyís cry. Overjoyed, and somewhat annoyed with himself for missing such an event, he bounded up the stairs as any newly made father should. The site that was waiting for him when he reached the master chamber was more than anyone ever should have to see. There, in the enormous bed, was my mother covered in blood and clutching an obviously newborn child. My father rushed to her side and grabbed her small hand, shocked at itís chill and dead weight. He desperately searched her face through his tears for any sign of life. He thought her to be expired, until his eyes reached hers.
"Gawain, my love, I could not stop the bleeding"
"Hush my darling, I will go and fetch someone, it will be all right, just lay still."
"Nay, Ďtis too late for that" she said weakly "I was waiting ta' see you one last time and ta' have my last memory of you and our daughter together."
"LavieÖ" he sobbed.
"Her name is ta' be Rhonwen. Please, donít let her ever forget me, for I will always be here looking over the both of ye." Her eyes closed and a tear escaped from under her lid trailing down her pale cheek.
My father sat by her bed rocking me for hours with the vain hope that she would wake again. We were found several days later by the maid, Ena, who was coming home from a visit to her mother on a small farm outside of Rucesion. My father was completely disheveled and I in bad need of some care. She sent for her husband to come and attend to him as she cared for me, as she continued to do up until her death when I was 7 deochs.
Despite my grievous entrance into the world, my childhood was rather happy. It took my father quite some time to be able to function normally, but he recovered, at least as much as he was able to. He would not, however, let me have anything to do with the art of healing, which I had expressed a great interest in at an early age. I had found my mothers chest full of potion mixes and forgotten lore and had been fascinated with the mere thought of it ever since. But, my father blamed the path for my motherís death. He felt that it was worthless and wouldnít pursue the subject any further. I pleaded with him for quite some time to let me peruse my mothers books, but he simply wouldnít budge on the subject.
I looked up startled at my cousin standing there in full hunting gear.
"Are ye coming or not? I dunna have all day taí wait fer ye now" she said giving me a small wink.
"Yes Ryjk, just let me pull on my boots." I chuckled to myself at her prickly exterior. I knew the true inner working of my cousin through many late night confessions beneath the stars. In truth, I greatly admired her. She had supported Grandmother Cuillen and I for some time after the death of her father and until I found my spark as well.
I grabbed my cloak and my cloth gathering gloves and followed my cousin out the door of our cottage. I looked around appreciatively at busy street. I had grown to love the streets of Mileth. When I first arrived I must admit I was rather intimidated by my new surroundings. Although, most everything intimidates you when youíre young I suppose. I saw the band of men whose laughter had awoken me that morn. As I gazed over at them I caught one of their eye and he winked at me. I blushed furiously and rushed after my cousin. I still canít help think what father would think of me today. I like to think that he would approve of what Iím doing. That he would see that healers are very much needed and that nothing really couldíve saved my mother. But alas, I shall never really know. Ryjk teases me about it sometimes, saying my mother wouldíve talked some sense into him once they met again in the heavens.
My father died shortly after Ena did. His ship was lost at sea returning from yet another voyage to Suomi. I was 9 deochs at the time and had no knowledge of my family in Mileth. My father had refused to speak of anything regarding my motherís past, just some random memories of experiences that he had shared with her. Enaís husband Caedmon came to check on me daily, and sometimes even spent the night when I was plagued with nightmares. He was a kind gentleman, and cared for like as if I was his own. Ena and he had never had any children of their own and were my surrogate parents. I spent may days down at the port, searching the vast blue sea for any signs of my fatherís ship. I hated the way passersby looked at me piteously for my refusal to accept my fatherís death. I was so certain that he would return someday and bring me another beautiful kirtle of some sort.
By the time I was 12 deochs of age Caedmon was getting rather frail and ill. Enaís siblings, who still lived on her mothers farm even though her mother was long since deceased, wanted him to move in with them. They thought the country air would be beneficial to his ailing lungs, and I had to concur with that thought. They came to get him on a lovely summer day, and though a tearful farewell, it was joyous to witness their reunion.
I was then alone, and completely terrified. I had plenty to live off of as my father had been a fairly wealthy man, and Caedom had maintained his mercantile business even after his death. It was no where near the grandeur of what it used to be, but still fairly lucrative. I set myself to cleaning the house to occupy my mind and reading my fatherís books of all the far off lands that heíd visited in his travels. It was during one of these cleaning sprees that I uncovered my motherís trunk. I had long since thought that it had been destroyed and was overjoyed at itís existence! With nervous fingers I unlatched itís clasp and opened the lid. My eyes bulged at itís contents. Inside were all the books and parchments I had seen so many years ago. I carefully picked up a worn parchment and studied itís contents closely. It appeared to be some sort of a recipe, I recognized several of the ingredients, but most were very foreign to me. I spent the next few days studying the chestís contents, housework and my fatherís books completely forgotten. After a few days I came across a stack of letters from Mileth. Imagine, letters from so far away! I hastily untied the ribbon holding them together and opened what seemed to be the newest. It was addressed to "daughter". This confused me a bit as I had never received any letters, at least none that I had known of. I continued to read and it soon became apparent that this letter was addressed to my mother from her mother. I have a Grandmother! From the letters I learned about my Mileth family. About my motherís brother, his wife who had also died young, and their daughter Ryjk. The stories of a young Ryjk were very humorous to me. The things described seem so foreign to me. Family dinners, walks in the gardens, it all seemed so wonderful!
I soon decided that I would seek out my Mileth family. I sold my father business, it really was not doing very well now without Caedmonís attention., and used the proceeds to fund my move. I packed as little as I feared I could, and went down to the docks to await my shipís departure. I had procured a comfortable enough cabin, although the ship was a merchant ship and I was the only passenger. After several moons, we finally arrived in the Abel port at which I commissioned a horse and a guide to take me the rest of the way to Mileth. Once there, I had little trouble finding my family. Grandmother Cuillenís name was well known in the area and I was kindly directed to her humble cottage. As I rounded the bend in the road, I saw an old woman in the garden tending to herbs. My heart lept, for I knew that this was my Grandmother! Our eyes met and she dropped the basket she was carrying. She hobbled over to me as quickly as she could and I ran to her.
"Lavercham" she asked.
"Nay, I am her daughter, Rhonwen."
"My child! It took ye long enough ta' come, I was beginning ta' think ye never would" she exclaimed as she pulled me close to her and gave me a warming hug.
I then knew I was home. I had a home and I always would have a home. Later on that evening I met my cousin Ryjk. While we had a bit of a rough start, we soon bonded and became like sisters. Weíre practically inseparable now. Grandmother Cuillen taught me all the ways of the path, spending hours pouring over all the documents I had brought with me that were my mothers. She taught me much, and I was in awe of her wisdom.
My cousin Ryjk became an aisling just 3 deochs after I came to Mileth. When I reached my sixteenth year she found a suitable guide for me to do the same, as it was my dream to devote my life truly to my chosen path. I am reminded of it every time I see Aoife. It was one of the most scariest and most wonderful experiences of my life! But oh, how it was worth it!
"Rhonwen, pick up yer feet, or all the good groups will be long gone!"
"Aye, Ryjk, weíll have plenty of time, dunna ye worry."
I smiled warmly at my fellow Gliocian priests as I rounded the bend to the road leading to the Eastern Woodlands. Although my life has had itís share of tragedies, my family and my path has truly completed me. I can truly look at the world in wonder and love know, for I too know what it is to live now, just as my father once did.