My head reeled with the feeling of gyrating around a cyclone. The same as every other time I had travelled through time. Except this time, I was travelling alone to god knows where. If I could catch my breath I would be screaming. Even though I had my eyes closed the stricken and terrified look on Conall’s face just before he was hidden by the swirling grey fog was etched to the inside of my eyelids, a sob escaped my throat. How could I be travelling without him?
As my feet felt ground and the swirling slowed I suddenly realised that my foot was only half way on a step causing me to lose my balance, I was flying face forward. Pushing my hands out towards a fast approaching stone floor my head connected with something hard.
A pain shot across my skull as stars danced in front of my eyes, and then blackness engulfed me.
I was in darkness with people moving and screaming around me, but I couldn’t see their faces. I couldn’t make out the words. What was happening? The voices dimmed along with swirls of black and grey and as they did so a pain flashed across my head and I knew I was awakening.
I can’t get my eyes to open, they feel so heavy. I am though, I realize lying on something soft, and I can hear hushed voices, none that I recognized. The pain circled around my head landing on my forehead with a dull thudding. My tongue felt too big for my dry mouth, feeling like I hadn’t had a drink in days. The voices became clearer even through the thrumming of pain persistent in my head.
“Maestro she is wearing men’s clothing and carrying a crossbow. If they find her, she will be dragged to the square…”
“Calm yourself Solai. No one will find her while she is here.”
I finally cracked one eye open to see two men standing near me. A few more seconds and my vision cleared enough that I could see one younger a teenager perhaps, and an older one. I groaned, it was the best I could do with such a dry mouth.
“Ah, you are awake Bella, how is your head?” The older one said as he placed a cool cloth on my forehead. I simply stared from one to the other. Even though I felt dizzy I tried to sit up.
The older one gently pushed me back down. “No stay and rest, you had a nasty fall. You missed the step and your head caught the table.” He swept his arm to where three steps and a small table stood at the side of the room.
He brings a cup to my lips holding it while I take a sip, water.
“What is your name Bella?” The older one asks placing the cup on a table next to the bed.
“I…” I’m thinking but nothing is coming. What the hell is my name? “I don’t know. Where am I?” The more I tried to think the more the pain rocked my head. It was like there was nothing there no names, no memory, nothing.
“You are in the home of my Maestro.” The young man pointed to the older man, his tone though one of annoyance. “Maestro Leonardo da Vinci, how did you get in here?” He snapped, his hands on his hips scowling at me.
If I felt dizzy before I did so more now. “Why do I know that name?” The words came out as a whisper.
The older one smiled at me. His eyes were a soft brown full of concern. “Do you know me Bella, have I met you before?”
I shook my head causing pain to escalate as if a landslide of rocks crashed against my brain. His face held a kindness and even though his beard combed neat, slightly curled hanging near to his waist he was a handsome man. There was no mistaking his wide shoulders, he was obviously tall by the way he sat on a chair beside the bed.
“I don’t know.”
The young one came to stand over me a scowl still set to his face. “So how did you get in here? Where are you from and what do you want from the Maestro?”
I opened my mouth to say something but the more I wracked my brain nothing was coming. I had no idea who I was or how I got here.
“Solai, enough.” Leonardo turned to me. “Rest now Bella there is plenty of time to talk later.” He patted my shoulder as a father would to a child.
Tears welled in my eyes, I felt something, or someone was missing, I felt grief with no recollection of why. Why couldn’t I remember my damned name? I know it is in my head somewhere, and why do I feel as if I had lost someone, my heart constricted with the feeling of loss.
Leonardo leaned over me looking as distraught as I felt. “Are you in pain Bella?” He said softly as he wiped my tears with a finger. I shook my head, again wrong thing to do, another shot of pain surged. I waited a moment for the pain to return to a dull throbbing before I pushed myself to sit up. He turned to the younger man. “Solai make some tea.”
Solai huffed but did as he was asked stomping away. I couldn’t see where he was going not wanting to turn my head. As soon as he was gone Leonardo took one of my hands in his and patted the back of my hand.
“Bella what has you so upset, other than of course the bump on your head, what can I do to help you?” I felt totally distraught not remembering anything, who I am and where I came from.
“I can’t remember anything. I don’t know how I got here.” I uttered as I broke into a new round of sobs. Leonardo pulled me to his chest and held me patting my back.
“There, there Bella, all will be well.” His words were soothing, but it wasn’t just the fact that I couldn’t remember my blasted name it was something else.
I don’t know how long I cried for but while I did Leonardo continued to hold me and pat my back, even Solai came to the other side and placed a hand on my hair to sooth me.
Why was I crying, other than my head felt as if a jackhammer was tearing through it? I didn’t think I was a crier or prone to tears easily. My chest hurt but not from an injury, I couldn’t help an overwhelming sense that I had lost someone, like I was drowning in sorrow.
As my sobbing eased and I managed to settle, Leonardo laid me back down. I looked up to see Solai’s standing over me. He had not been too pleased initially with me, but now his face was etched with sadness.
He was almost pretty in a way, effeminate for a young man with a mass of blonde curls on his head. His dark brown eyes sympathetic, his mouth attempting a half smile.
“Bella.” The boy named Solai whispered. “What is the last thing you remember?” I tried to think but nothing was coming just shadows across my mind. I opened my mouth only to close it again.
Leonardo let out a sigh. “Bella you had a nasty bang on your head. Rest for a while, I am sure everything will come to you…eventually.”
Solai sat on a carved timber chair with a red and gold tapestry seat. “Can you remember nothing of how you came to be here, in the home of my maestro?” His words much subtler than before.
Scrunching my eyes trying to find in the recesses of my mind a thread, a fiber of anything. Nothing. I couldn’t give them an explanation, I had no answers for them or myself.
When I asked where exactly I was and what the date was, it was Solai that told me we were in Milan 1494. That didn’t sit right with me. I knew there was something wrong with the place and date, but I had absolutely no idea why. Leonardo handed me a cup of tea, a welcome drink as my throat was still very dry. The tea had a bitter after taste.
Leonardo must have seen the face I pulled. “That will help with the pain, drink.”
I continued to sip the tea, it really had an ugly taste. A shot of déjà vu hit me. That’s strange, I still don’t remember anything but maybe I had had this tea before.
“Don’t worry too much you will remember in time. In the meantime, we are honored by your visit to our humble home. Please feel free to stay as long as you need to.”
Stay as long as I need to? Where else would I have to go? I had no idea who I was or where I came from, so going anywhere at the present was impossible. Still it was very kind of them to offer. I somehow thought that most having a female land in their house and not having an iota of who or what she was would cause a normal person to have thrown me out of their door on my ear.
Solai gave me a wicked grin. “Perhaps you are an assassin, a soldier, or a runaway slave.” Oh god I hope not. I looked at him with my mouth open wide and a startled look on my face.
“Solai!” Leonardo snapped. “You will mind your manners while you are in the castle and in the presence of Bella.”
“Castle?” Oh lord this is getting worse by the minute. Whose bloody castle am I in?
“We currently reside in the castle of his Lord Ludovico Sforza.” Leonardo said. “Do not worry you are quite safe here.”
“Okay.” I took another sip of my tea. No a clue as to who this Ludovico Sforza was shouldn’t really surprise me, hell I didn’t know who I was.
My eyelids felt heavy there was something in the tea that begged me to lay my head down and sleep, not something I wanted to argue with. Lying back onto a pillow Leonardo patted my hand again and told me to sleep. He didn’t have to ask twice and within seconds I drifted into swirling grey fog, black images and voices I couldn’t discern.