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Andrew R WynnWilliams

"Mother´s Gift" by Andrew R WynnWilliams

SciFi/Fantasy text 6 out of 7 by Andrew R WynnWilliams.      ←Previous - Next→
 
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A man is rushing home ... for something?
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←- Keet three | The Brass Cross -→

THE MOTHER'S BLESSING

The rain fell in sheets but he knew the road well so it slowed his pace but little. His hood was tied tightly about his head but the speed of his passage pushed the wet cloak over his shoulders. His undertunic was cold and heavy with rain that had seeped through his armor.

Well he knew the danger of travelling alone. His last two companions had stopped to deal with highwaymen at the ford. He had ridden through them and splashed across the ford without slowing. Now he rode without an escort for his need was great.

The same need had driven him to leave the field ere the battle was done, to give command to his brother. The battle was won. He would not abandon his men if the outcome had been in doubt, but he had left the field when the Northmen began to flee. That had been yesterday when the sun was still high and now he was on his fourth horse and well into the second night of his frantic ride. His desitination was near though and Mother providing he would be in time.

He crested the last rise and the town was a scattering of dim lights below him. He gallopped through it to the castle that bulked darkly on the crag above it. He only pulled up when he reached the gate at the bottom of the castle road.

"Hail the gate," he called. "It is I, Stephen."

"The King has returned!" shouted a voice inside. "Open for the King."

Stephen rode through the gate and started up the hill.

"Milord Stephen," called a guard from behind him, "The battle?..."

"'Tis won," he replied over his shoulder. He kicked the weary horse to a canter as cheering rose from the men.

Stephen passed through five more gates without slowing for the other guards were forewarned knew he was in haste.

He rode through the Citadel Gate and stopped before his castellan in the inner bailey. She had her armor on and her hair was pulled back. He knew that if he had arrived at any time of the day or night she would be in the same place, her face square and unchanging.

"The battle is done Sire?" she asked.

"Aye Ceecee, yesterday." Her name was Clarissa but he knew better than to use it.

"A dirty business it was, on that big muddy plateau above the Sirge north of Westerburg. I left ere it was done. Am I in time?"

"Aye Sire, but you cut it fine. They retired to the white room near an hour ago."

"Ah, Mother Provides. Help me down Ceecee. I am stiff and weary."

"You should have rested on the way Milord."

As she helped him from the saddle he told her of the men he had left on the road. She quickly detailed a patrol to help hunt the highwaymen and then followed him inside.

"The battle milord?" hinted Ceecee.

Stephen looked over his shoulder at her as he limped through the castle. "They near to had us," said Stephen. "Hamaar came at me himself. A great brute he was. I took his first blow on my shield and it still flung me from the saddle. I was saved by the mud. He slipped and his next blow went awry. Mine did not."

"You have done well then, Sire."

Stephen stopped. "Ah, it was horrible Ceecee. We lost as many to the mud as to the Northmen." He turned and continued on his way. "The Mother must weep at our folly."

"I think She allows us leeway in defense of our lands Milord." Stephen could tell Ceecee was uncomfortable with the conversation. "She must certainly weep at your beard though, it is truly hideous."

He smiled wryly at her change of topic. She was a soldier and war was her life. "Perhaps you're right. I wish you had been with us."

"I'm getting too old Sire."

Stephen was still laughing as they came to the door of the antechamber. He stopped and looked at Ceecee. "Mother Bless you Sire. I will send up some wine and some stew." She turned to go.

He grabbed her shoulder and turned her to look into her face. "Thankyou Clarissa," her eyes widened, "but make it tea. Wine will put me to sleep."

She turned without speaking and marched away. Stephen pushed open the door and entered the room.

The antechamber was fairly small. It had a scattering of wooden furniture, tapestrys on the walls and a large fire in the corner. He paid them little attention as he crossed to the other door.

The elderly priestess moved surprisingly quickly to block his way. "You may not enter yet Sire."

The door was thick but standing beside it he could hear muffled noises from within. "But..."

"No buts," said the little woman. "To go in like that would be an offense to the Mother." She reached up to rap her knuckles on his armored chest. "You must remove this and wash clean the grime of travel." She wrinkled her nose. "You smell like a wet horse."

"Is there time?" asked Stephen.

"Of course there is. I already have a bath prepared." She indicated a large tub by the fire.

"Hot already?" asked Stephen. "Did the Mother tell you I was coming?"

The old woman looked up and chuckled as she began to steer the still reluctant Stephen toward the steaming tub. "I've been keeping it hot for an hour. I knew you would be in frantic hurry if you got here. Sit down," she said. "I can't reach that top buckle." She pushed him into the chair by the tub and began to help him off with his armor.

"Elder Mother, you can't watch me bathe."

The old nun snorted derisively. "I promise to keep my hands to myself."

Ceecee arrived with food while Stephen was in the bath. She laughed raucously at his situation and would have stayed to watch his discomfiture but the old priestess fiercely shooed her out, no more intimidated by the castellan than by the King.

Once cleaned and fed Stephen was less frantic but his whole body felt like jelly. He allowed the priestess to push him into the simple, white robe which she said was all the Mother required and didn't complain when she stopped him in front of the door.

"Are you ready?" she asked.

"I thought I was ready when I got here," he replied, no longer so sure.

The corners of her mouth rose slightly. "All will be well," she said, and pushed open the door.

It was called the white room for a reason. The walls were whitewashed and the flagstones were very light in color. The door to the smokeless stove in the corner was the only black in the room. All occupants of the room were wearing the same simple white robe as Stephen. Lisa was reclined on the birthing chair, her face red and sweaty, and her eyes shut. She was gasping for breath. Stephen was frightened by what he saw. He had expected to see pain but he thought it would be equally mixed with exuberance. He was shocked by the agony and exhaustion that seemed to have permeated her very soul.

Stephen thought something must be going wrong but the women in the room seemed excited rather than worried. One of the Mother's representatives was sitting and holding Lisa's hand. One was pouring a glass of water from the pitcher on the table in the corner and two others were seated at the foot of the chair. Stephen looked down and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. Lisa must have sensed something for when Stephen looked up again she was watching him. She said nothing to him but smiled weakly and then beckoned him over.

Stephen was instantly contrite. With all she was going through he had been afraid to approach her. His fear was replaced by embarrassment as he hurried over, fell to his knees beside Lisa and gently raised his hand to push the hair off her face. She moved much more quickly than he did, grasping his beard with her left hand. Lisa suddenly seemed much less helpless. Stephen cried out sharply and much to his regret tried to pull away. Lisa had fencers wrists and did not yeild an inch. She instead pulled his face much closer to her own.

"You said you would be here." She spoke slowly.

"Lisa, I got her as soon as I could." Stephen gently tried to unhook her fingers from his beard but they were irretrievably laced laced through it. She gave a tug both to shut him up and to shake his hand from her own.

"We were supposed to be doing this together," she hissed. "Now at the first hint of trouble I find myself all alone."

"It was more than just a hint ..." Stephen began becoming frustrated with the unfairness of the situation but Lisa tugged on his beard to silence him again. Stephen silently resolved to shave it off at the first opportunity.

"Could you not find time in three months for one quick visit or even to send me a note?" she asked.

Stephen licked his lips while trying to think of an answer. He never got an opportunity, however, for Lisa suddenly tensed her whole body in a contraction. She did not cry out but Stephen did for he had abruptly lost nearly half of his straggly beard.

He staggered backwards to the wall and was about to yell when he realized what was going on. He wanted to help but had no idea what to do and so ended up standing forlornly in the corner. Everyone was occupied with their own tasks and aside from the occasional amused look were content to ignore him. He wanted to leave but he had made such an effort to arrive in time.

After an endless minute the old priestess came over to him. Stephen noticed that she was not trying to hide her smile. He was not receiving a great deal of respect in this room. She spoke first, forestalling his bitter comment.

"You must go to her," she said. "Think how she must have felt, forced to stay with the old and the weak when she would rather take the field. The waiting is harder than the fighting, paticularly in her condition."

"Elder Mother ... I know not what to say." Stephen was feeling hurt. "I certainly can not be any help. Perhaps I should wait in the other room."

"Now you are sulking." The woman was no longer smiling. "You have made her do most of this alone but this birthing is by no means finished. She needs you now as much as ever and if you abandon her now that child will never be truly yours.

"As to what to say; try telling her you love her." The priestess smiled wickedly and pushed him toward the bed. "That always used to impress me."

 

←- Keet three | The Brass Cross -→

DateNameComment 
15 Jun 200245 I'm #1
Hey, what do you know, I'm first!
Not a bad story. I'm a little confused on the title (although it's a pretty good title). I wish that it wouldn't take so long to read a story, otherwise I'd be doing a lot more of these comments. (No one comments on stories) Anyway, back to "Mother's Gift". Again, it was a great story. It kind of stopped short. I'm wondering what will happen next. I do feel that it was slightly unfair for he king, as he did try so hard to get there on time. Yet, he was gone for 3 months. Ah well, that's how it goes. Keep writing.
8 Jul 200245 Nikki
Aye, same here. It was good, but I don't know if I caught the point of it exactly. And it did end rather fast...Never the less, you have amazing writing skills and that was wonderful!

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "thank you nikki ... it was the first short story I ever wrote. "
27 Oct 2002:-) Reinder W Langhout
Okay, You've got me confused with the title, Its a good one though if u think of it. But from reading the rest of ur stories completely different then what i expected. I'm wondering how it continues. Just a stupid idea, You have a story over a Battlemaster, involving a princes, You have a story over a royal birth, ( perhaps a princess ) You also have a story of a Guard, and the banier of a princess. And you have a story of a messenger, Could it be an idea to combine these stories, They all seem to be in the same world. You do have the beginning with this story, Then you have Dragons Eye where the princess plays a part, Between then you could tell loads of tales of why she wants to kill him. Then you have the Dell story, that could be used in this tale to as does the Keet story. Add them together and write some more and ur on ur way to creating an epos. And more important, you'd really do me a favour because i'd love to read more from ur hand.

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "thanks for your comments/compliments. I don't intend to combine the stories. Dell was part of a novel that was really bad. It was a prologue to a part 2 and wasn't meant as a stand alone.Mother's Gift was just something that came to me one day ... I was trying to put a little humour into a tale. Difficult to do.Keet is the only thing I am still working on ... sporadically ... The eye was an excercise in fun and trickery. It is intended as a stand alone short story."
18 May 2003:-) Vicki "Kiddalee" Nemeth
A beautiful story.
A positive note is that I felt a sort of affection for the realistic characters. Stephen seems to be very young and pushed into his kingly duties too soon in life, although he is really an adult. I'm glad to know the state of the people in this story.
Also, from the very beginning, I felt tied to the story with knots that could only be undone if I finished it.
However, there was, once again, a slight lack of pronouns. Other than that, this story gets The Magic Seal Of Worth-It-Ness...ya! And I am in love with all the characters of the story, for you displayed all their feelings appropriately and very well.
Certainly a good work of yours.

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "why thank you

Praise indeed."
28 May 2003:-) Elizabeth Fitzgerald
Nice. A very concise style that I think worked well with the sense of urgency that went with the piece, but still gave out enough detail to set the picture.
I have to agree though that the title could use a little work, or the piece lengthened perhaps to fit the title (although I'm not sure I would really recommend it). I'm at a bit of a loss to suggest something better however. Perhaps "Mother's Curse" as she would certainly be cursing him.
I also felt a little uncomfortable with the name Lisa. I'm not certain of it's exact origin, but it appeared a little modern beside the names of other characters. It was a small detail, though and one that can be more readily overlooked.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about it however was seeing the humanity of the king. At no point did he seem like some exalted individual, but rather just a human, going through the same life-changing experiences that the rest of us do.

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "thanks Elizabeth
I have no idea why the name Lisa popped into my head ... it just did ... maybe I knew a bad tempered woman named Lisa once ...
I will think about a different title ... see if I can find something that works ... the idea was that the 'Mother' is a diety ... something like Gaia, and the gift is the child. It is meant to have a dual meaning. I must not have conveyed that particularly well because everyone seems to be missing it.
thanks for the comments ... glad you liked it."
27 Dec 2003:-) Ben Cameron
I was not let down by your following works. This is perhaps even better than the last. The importance of birthing is stressed, almost to a humorous aspect, in this story.

One nitpick: "for the other guards were forewarned knew he was in haste." - I think it should be "...were forewarned and knew he was in haste."

Though I am by no way a father, nor near to being one, it seems you have captured his uncertainess and unease at, probably for the first time in his life, being in a situation of which he has no idea and cannot help out. You also managed to capture the stress of an expectant mother worrying about the birth and her husband.

To put it simply: I loved it.

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "to put it simply ... thanks"
24 Aug 200445 Lisa Eshkenazi
Parts of my comment didn't make as much sense as they did before I typed them out. Oh well..I've been reading your stuff for a long time now. My brain is starting to fizzle. We'll just pretend that's why. 2

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "ah ... you read others ... good. I hope you had a chance to peruse the other Keet story so you can see inside her head ... and the Brass Cross which is my particular favourite. Unfortunately, with a 70 hour a week job and two kids I haven't had a lot of time to write recently."
24 Aug 200445 Lisa Eshkenazi
I like that her name is Lisa 1 In any case Lisa comes from Elisabeth, which is a Hebrew name and pretty old probably. So I don't think it's any more out of keeping than Stephen.
The part where he nearly got his scraggly beard ripped out because of a contraction had me laughing. I had guessed before that why he was in such a hurry. I love (love!) how she smiles so sweetly at him only to grab him by the beard and yell at him when he gets within her reach. *L* You did a great job with showing his discomfort. Men can be quite amusing during labor.
Also--the part where he pushes her hair out of her eyes. That part was funny to me because when I was in labor, my husband kept doing that to me and it drove me nuts! Too bad he didn't have a beard. *L*

One last thing--I didn't find the title confusing in the least. I even caught the possible dual meanings. I don't think you should change it.

:-) Andrew R WynnWilliams replies: "thanks again Lisa ... I am so glad you liked it. I wrote this long before I became a father and am pleased to report that I was far more useful and far less brainless during the whole process. Thanks fo rthe comments"
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'Mother's Gift':
 • Created by: :-) Andrew R WynnWilliams
 • Copyright: ©Andrew R WynnWilliams. All rights reserved!

 • Keywords: Battle, Childbirth, King
 • Categories: Magic and Sorcery, Spells, etc., Celtic
 • Views: 595

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