Her parents were worried about her. Her mother watched her with fear in her eyes and her father was becoming more adamant about taking her to the healer.
She smiled mockingly, if they only knew. The voice in her head was getting increasingly louder. It had started gradually and built up to where it could no longer be ignored at first she only heard it in her sleep then as time passed it began to keep her awake an in the past days she even heard it during the day faintly but still audible. Frowning she rested her head on her knees.
If only she could understand what it was saying maybe… it would...She listened intently. It was singing, pleading, demanding but at the same time it meant nothing. Straining to understand made her headache. Her clenched hands began to cramp painfully. She forced herself to relax.
Again she considered telling someone. Once again she quickly rejected the idea. The only possible diagnosis was madness and it would hurt her family too much. No one would marry her sisters for the family would carry the stigma of tainted blood for everyone knew madness is inherent. Her family would become outcasts the superstitious would shun them all and it would all be on her shoulders.
A tear ran down her cheek as the possible future played through her mind. Forcefully she closed the door to that line of thought.
Dully she stared at the pink moonlight that bathed her bed. The flaming first moon Ludrq was already beginning to fall as the pure platinum Qu'li began its climb.
She had always preferred the second moon she loved its crisp clear light. As a small child she used to climb out the window when Qu'li was at it's peak and spin in the intoxicating light.
Now though she felt no lift at the sight of her old companions climb to glory she didn't even notice.
She jerked awake eyes dilated heart pounding. Something was different.
Her room now glowed silver as Qu'li illuminated the world with her pure light. The girl listened to the voice it had changed it was more urgent a chant now. Once more she strained to listen. The meaning began to materialize and then slipped away among the mist of her overburdened brain. Something was.. She looked around her room and felt panic begin to surge through her. Now she was truly mad.
The radiant moonbeams had taken shape and were moving to the beat of the chant. They seemed to join in on the chorus all around her in misty humanoid forms. One moved near her and a small animal cry of terror escaped her lips as she huddled up to the wall. The beam paused for a moment seemingly studying her. There were dozens of the forms dancing in her room flashing by her, singing the song that had driven her to this point of madness. Trembling, the girl closed her eyes and willed them all away. The song seemed to fade somewhat and cautiously she opened her eyes again. The room was almost back to normal the dozens of shapes having vanished, the room once more flooded with the familiar moonlight. Only almost though.. for the one that had approached her remained still, observing her. The girl closed her eyes once more hoping it would banish the last apparition from her mind. She opened them. The creature was closer. I must be dreaming she thought and tried to find comfort in that thought. Abruptly the urgent chant in her head changed becoming a beautiful soothing song. The creature moved toward her and reached its effervescent arm out to touch her. The girl tried to open her mouth to scream. The creature laid its hand on her cheek gently and the girl found herself unable to move. Her panic oddly enough began to subside. The misty hand felt odd it was like sun warmed marble, more substantial than it looked. Slowly all the fear, and tension of the past few hours and even weeks began to flow out of her. She could almost see it as a living thing flowing out of her hands and feet coiling angrily at its exile. She began to breathe again only then noticing that she had been holding her breath.
The creature stood back regarding her hands folded as if waiting. The girl felt a poignant loss when the hand was removed from her cheek it had been so warm so … comforting. The two continued regarding each other for long moments. The creature appeared more solid than moments ago. It became apparent that she yes she was a beautiful woman with soft glowing skin and golden eyes. Long white hair coiled around her caressing, a living entity. She wore a simple gown of snowy mist flowing to the ground to pool gently at her feet. From pale pink lips issued the lovely soothing melody from which one feeling was made know “Soon.. Not yet but soon.”
The bright yellow sunlight poured through the open window blazing its way into the room. Banishing all shadows and unsettling dreams to the night. The girl blinked sleepily. Slowly she pulled herself up stretching and yawning, pushing thick black hair away from her face. She smiled and laughed aloud. She felt so alive this morning. Briefly frowning remembering that for some reason she had not felt so well the past few weeks. The reason evaded her. Shrugging she yawned once more again rubbing the sleep from her golden eyes.
Her mother and sisters chatted in the kitchen where the sounds and odors advised of preparation of the morning meal. She heard Jolisha’s young voice inquire
“What about Anshuli?”
Her elder sister Zoi quickly volunteered to roust her from bed in disapproving tones. There was silence for a moment Anshuli could almost picture her mother standing, hands on her hips eyes bright as she considered what to do with her recalcitrant daughter.
At the same time the girl leapt from her cozy bed and hauled her nightdress over her head throwing it aside. Pulling on the rough woolen skirt that had lay carelessly in a pile on the ground and lacing the white blouse retrieved from the same place. After a moment the sounds of the meal being served commenced.
Anshuli stopped her hurried dress amazed; it was unusual that her mother had not taken Zoi up on her overly helpful offer. Lying abed while everyone did their chores was not tolerated. Anshuli grimaced as she remembered the many tongue-lashings Zoi had happily applied to her difficult sister. Come to think of it she considered, remembering, her mother had been treating her oddly the past while. Anshuli remembered the feeling of worried eyes following her around the house. She shrugged again and finished dressing.
When she joined her family everyone stopped eating for a moment and watched her as she took her place. She feigned indifference at the scrutiny and began to serve herself a generous portion of food. Her sisters returned their attention to their meals but she could feel her mother’s eyes boring into her forehead. Finally she too went back to eating.
Anshuli attacked with relish her overflowing plate, briefly wondering at her ferocious appetite.
As she ate she studied her family thoughtfully. Zoi was the eldest of the sisters she had 19 cycles. She had thick waist length honey blonde hair that was tied back with a pink ribbon complimented by sky blue eyes. Her complexion was clear and rosy with a small pert nose and soft lips. She was beautiful, petite giving the impression she was quite helpless and vulnerable. The town boys found reasons to stop by the house frequently making fools of themselves. Driving her poor father to distraction. “I pity the poor man that does finally catch her interest.” She thought uncharitably.
Next in age was herself she had 16 cycles. She was the exact opposite of her lovely sister she had inherited her fathers jet hair that was a shock against her white skin. Her most startling feature though was her eyes. They were golden yellow fringed with thick black lashes. She was boyishly tall and slender. She thought herself very odd looking indeed many of the townspeople seemed to think the way she looked was her fault yet another way for her to cause trouble. She sighed.
Next born was Yel’ae a sweet tempered girl with thick waves of blonde hair, sparkling brown eyes and an impetuous nose with a healthy dusting of freckles she had 14 cycles.
Then little Jolisha, with 9 cycles she too had her father’s dark hair but she has also inherited the dusky complexion to match. The child had a quick laugh that was mirrored in snapping black eyes. She was quick-witted, with a tongue that often ran ahead of good sense earning the rough side of Zoi’s tongue even more often than herself. The girl smiled wryly.
Again she felt eyes on her, looking up she met her mothers concern filled blue eyes as she studied her intently. Anshuli smiled at her. Retha half-smiled back but the worry was still apparent in her eyes. Anshuli shrugged mentally to herself, thinking she was in such a good mood that not even Zoi would be able to ruin it today.
After breakfast Anshuli and Yel’ae cleared the sturdy wooden table and washed the dishes. After Jolisha pulled a pail of water from the well she went to the sitting room and was busy getting the study books together. As they cleaned the dishes Yel’ae looked earnestly into her sisters face her brown eyes serious and asked, “Are you well today?” Anshuli paused a moment looking at her brows drawn together and replied questioningly “Well? When was I not well?” Yel’ae looked puzzled frowning she said, “You have been so strange the past while we were worried about you. Mother and Father even had us do your chores the past nine-day. Don’t you remember?” Anshuli again regarded her sister for a moment with a confused look. “No, I don’t remember.” Then continuing brightly “Let’s just forget it. Today is a beautiful day and if we get our studying and our chores completed in time perhaps we can go to the pond to swim later.” Yel’ae paused for a moment and Anshuli was worried she was going to keep on in that disturbing line of thought. The younger girl erased the line on her forehead and smiled at her sister. “Oh that would be nice it has been so long since we have gone.” They quickly finished the dishes and put the remains of the food in the cellar to keep cool. By the time they got to the sitting room Jolisha had the books all arranged on the big round wooden table. She looked at her elder sister shrewdly but for once held her tongue.
Just as the girls were getting settled Mother and Zoi entered the room. Zoi’s pretty face was flushed and angry. It was obvious she had not gotten her way about something. When her eyes rested on Anshuli her mouth tightened and her eyes were cold. Retha turned to her second daughter and beckoned. Anshuli protested “The girls lessons!” Retha frowned irritably and replied, “They have gone this long without you teaching them another day won’t hurt them.” Then significantly glaring at Zoi who shuffled her feet uncomfortably “or Zoi.” Her mother turned with a flaring of skirts and left the room.
Anshuli followed puzzled. “Gone without her teaching them?” That was ridiculous she had been tutoring the girls for the past three cycles ever since Zoi had decided that she was to grown up to be involved in book-learning as she called it acidly. Her parents had thought the added responsibility would be good for their headstrong daughter. Anshuli had not minded at all for she enjoyed teaching her younger sisters and had discovered that she had quite a talent for it, at least compared to Zoi. She decided to keep quiet something felt…
She joined her mother in porch to find her tying on the bonnet she always wore to town a pretty thing of iridescent white material with satin pink and lavender flowers. It complimented her mother’s fair complexion and golden hair making them both glow. Anshuli smiled she loved to see her mother in the bonnet it had been a gift from her father when they were courting.
Her mother finished tying the ribbon under her chin and glancing at her pulled Anshuli’s simple bonnet from the porch cabinet and passed it to her. Anshuli obediently pulled the drab gray thing onto her head and loosely tied the strings under her chin. She turned and looked at her mother expectantly. Retha gathered her market bag and stepped out the door.
Anshuli glanced toward her mother and cheerfully asked “Tired of Zoi inability to pick out ripe Gurqka?”
Retha smiled wryly replying; “I just felt it would be nice for you to get some fresh air as you have been cloistering yourself in your room the past few weeks.” She paused and continued, “You seem to be feeling better today, can you tell me what was wrong?” She looked at Anshuli expectantly.
Anshuli frowned biting her lip. Finally she answered. “Mother I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t remember being ill at all?”
Retha was silent for a moment. Anshuli snuck a look at her mothers face and was surprised to find she looked worn and sad.
Finally Retha said “If you don’t trust me with whatever is wrong that is fine just don’t lie to me.” She continued, “No matter what you say we are stopping by the healer I want his diagnosis on your condition since.”
Retha snapped, “You have no idea the worry you have put this whole family through for the past three sixtants. Now you suddenly want to act like nothing is wrong and nothing ever happened. That is not good enough. Since you will not qualify me with a satisfactory explanation I will get an answer from Healer Triinol. That is the end of it.”
They were silent for the rest of the walk. Anshuli found she could not concentrate on the mystery of her illness. The more she tried to think if it the quicker it slipped away, her mind wandered to the beauty surrounding her. They were coming up to the town now she waved at people she had know all her life many were taking advantage of the lovely day tending to the vegetable gardens most kept in their yard to supplement the vegetables they purchased from the farmers market held every morning. Many people also kept farm animals in small enclosures behind and away from the house. The town buildings were attractive most were built out of stone mined from a quarry a few leagues away. The stone came in an amazing range of color, shades of pink, lavender and blue. Most were pale the wealthier homes stood out as the more intense the color the more expensive. The colors all blended together in pleasant harmony making the town very pleasing to the eye.
Retha turned into the walk of a powder blue 2 story home. Anshuli paused a moment confused. The sign on the door announced Healer Triinol. Remembering she grimaced and followed her mother up the walkway. A moment later Jorna the Healers housekeeper answered the door. “Here to see the healer then?.” She observed perkily. She let them in to the house and guided them to the waiting room where Ansa an older lady sat patiently waiting. “Greetings Elder Ansa.” Said Retha politely.
Elder Ansa smiled and returned the greeting then returned her attention to the needlework on her lap. It was against protocol to engage in chitchat at the residence of the healer everyone protected their privacy jealously.