Whether ’tis Nobler in the Mind...
Despite her worries that she would have a fitful night in a foreign bed, Althea slept deeply her first night in her new rooms. It was no denying that the fine mattress and soft sheets were nothing like she had ever experienced before, she embrace her new, fine things instead of fretting over them. And she was so overwhelmed by her state of rooms that she was too exhausted to do anything but sleep that night.
Her rooms were so grand and large, she didn’t know what she would do with so much space. The same amount of space in the village was enough for five or six families, and she was just her! But her balcony was so lovely, and she had her own greenhouse of precious plants she used in her work often that thrived in the Eastern morning light. She certainly didn’t need to worry again about supplies. The greenhouse had her plants and one of her rooms was a study and work room that had vials, jars, and familiar books that most Healer families had. And the attendants were going the next day to her hut at Base Village to bring the rest of her things up to her, news which made her very happy.
When she woke up that morning and went from her bed chamber to the living area of her suite, she noticed the attendants that had come to take her measurements for new clothes already had a set waiting for her. She put on the new clothes that felt so smooth and soft, she thought she must have transformed into delicate, living gold. At first her modesty felt uneasy about the low neckline and form hugging design of her dress, but then thinking of the kiss on her hand from yesterday made her think that this dress might not be so bad. She also like the color of deep red which complimented her dark hair. Accents and embellishments of black danced about the dress in a pleasing way, and it was incredibly comfortable despite the fabric being heavier than she was used to; the weight was actually comforting and attractive in the way it made the fabric behave as she moved. She liked it very much.
She wanted very much to get started with her task, and then realized she was very hungry. There was fruits and such in her room last night, but she had been far to overwhelmed with all that had happened to her for her to remember to eat. And now she didn’t know what to do.
She stepped out her door rather meekly and saw no one. She couldn’t decide if that was good or bad. No one would see how utterly befuddled and lost she was, but then they weren’t there to be able to help either. She tried very hard to remember how she got to this wing yesterday, but then she giggled to herself at how utterly pointless that would be. Even if by some miracle she could remember, that just leaves her knowledge of this room and the throne room. Doubt they ate there.
Suddenly she felt a hand take hers, and she let out a small scream in her shock. She could have sworn she was alone. “My Lady,” she heard Durai’s melodic voice and turned around so happy that a familiar face was there to help her.
As she turned around, Durai could see the full sight of her and her new clothes. He let his eyes linger far too long and the lowered neckline and the fullness beneath it. He finally broke away and couldn’t help but look her up and down just one more time in pleasant shock at how alluring and natural she seemed in these complimentary clothes. He raised her hand to his lips again and kissed them, somewhat harder this time than last night. He couldn’t help it.
“May I escort you to breakfast?” he asked. Althea let out an audible sigh of relief as she locked her hands into his extended arm. “You are going to love the food here. Our cook is gifted, and he is rather excited to show off to someone new, I must say.” Althea let out another giggle hoping to hide the hungry sounds of her stomach. “And” Durai continued, “you’ll get to meet your patient, her Majesty’s brother.”
After a thankfully straightforward route, they reached the massive Dining Hall. They were the first to arrive, and Durai led her down to the right hand of the head of the table. She looked at him frightened, for that was a place of honor in any dining area. He nodded at her that this was her seat, and pulled out the chair for her. After she sat, he seated himself next to her, which she was grateful for.
“Her Majesty is anxious for you to meet her brother and start your work right away. But I’m hoping after you would consent to walk with me?” Durai asked with a mixture of timid hope and confidence.
“I would like that very much,” Althea said not ready to look into his eyes again and feel those warm feelings she had felt last night. Now was not the time, she would be meeting royalty soon and didn’t need to look like an idiot child.
The doors to the hall were opened by attendants, and Durai took Althea’s hand to rise at the arrival of the Queen and her brother. “Althea!” Mireya started walking faster in excitement. She burst forth with rapid questions wanting eagerly to know about the rooms, how she slept, did the clothes fit, and so forth. She then turned to the handsome young man at her side, not much younger than she and Althea were. “Althea, this is my brother Baldrik. He is the light in my life.”
Althea reached out with her body and engaged her trained eye to see beyond seeing. She could see the kindness in his aura, his pride mixed beautifully with humor and a lightness of heart. She could see some slight looseness in the skin of his exposed arm that were very pleasingly filled with muscle. So while he looked very strong and toned, it wasn’t what it once was. She saw laugh lines around his eyes that indicated someone who smiled and laughed often, but not right now. This eyes were somewhat clouded, though he was battling inward. This was probably the silent fight with pain that the Queen spoke of yesterday. Baldrik made an effort to reflect a fraction of his joyous nature, but he couldn’t muster it this morning.
“Forgive me,” he said with a light voice, not nearly as deep as she would have thought for a man of such stature. He really was a boy. “I’m not quite feeling myself today.” He moved to his seat and sat before his sister had the chance to seat herself first. Durai went and pulled the seat out for Mireya instead, and Althea was already taking on the suffering of this young man into herself wanting and praying so much to be strong enough to help him.
Breakfast was utterly delicious, and the cook was such a sweet, round man full of a desire to please. He ate up Althea’s compliments and assured her that he was at her disposal night or day. She feared she ate too much to walk back with Baldrik to get started on her work with him, but she managed somehow to make it down the opposite wing to his room.
He immediately went back to his bed and laid there. He was indeed having a day worse than usual. Her heart bled for him as she saw his eyes darken more and more with a pain he tried so hard to hide away. Althea went beside his bed pulling up a chair to sit beside him. “I’m sorry,” Baldrik started from his bed, turning to lay on his side with his back to her. “I’m really not in the mood for this today. I don’t have it in me to get up and entertain your rites and try your drinks and salves today.”
“I don’t want you to do anything but lie down. I won’t ask you to do anything; I just want to listen. I’ll stay here as long as you’d like just listening. Your eyes are hiding something you both do and do not want to say.” Althea’s voice was low, calming. She sat back in her chair comfortably and quite willing to wait all day for him to be ready on his time.
Baldrik turned to her with a surprised look on his face. “What?” He knew that his sister ordered her to get started right away, and all the other Healers that had come and tried and gone before her jumped right into treatments and songs. But she was asking him to just talk? He was intrigued. “I’m not sure what you mean, Healer.”
“Well first, my name is Althea. You may call me that because I want you to trust me. Don’t see me as the same tool who has tried and failed before. I want you to trust me. We won’t get very far together if you don’t.” She really was different. “Secondly, I want to hear you speak of this pain that makes you suffer. If you don’t face it…if you don’t speak about it and give it light, it’ll be this illusive shadow that neither of us will know how to battle.”
Baldrik had never thought about it that way. It was true; he hadn’t really looked at his condition honestly and directly. He’d pass it off with some excuse here and there and never truly admit that something was really wrong.
“You have my permission to be vulnerable, your Highness. And it will only ever be between you and me if you want.” Althea’s eyes warmed his heart and silenced his doubt. He thought maybe it was ok, just once more, to hope again.
“Call me Baldrik.”
Althea smiled so much she thought her mouth touched her ears. “Ok, Baldrik. Let’s talk.”
And he did talk, he talked well past midday and even let loose the tears that he had swallowed for years and eaten his spirit. Althea was worried; she had never known something like his suffering before. He seemed to always be in pain in some form or another in a varying range that was never consistent. Some blessed days his pain was mild, others his body swelled with redness and hot aching. When he got sick, which seemed far too often, he didn’t get over his ailments for far longer than other people did. Some days he itched, some days he had a strange rash, and some days he felt as though a bone had been broken in the night. “I even sent the guards to look for a prowler in the castle one night because I thought an intruder broke my leg. Turns out it was just me.” Althea was more determined to do all she could for Baldrik more than she was scared to fail.
Althea put her hand on his shoulder as he was propped up in his bed. He looked at her with hope. “We will work on this every day, you and I. Your suffering is my suffering now.” Baldrik was overjoyed in her words, and placed his hand on top of hers. And they connected in a kindred way. “We’ll fight this together, Baldrik.”