A new day, in the eyes of some the first day of her womanhood, though this was a fact for the moment only known to two people. It was not known to the head chambermaid, or lady-in-waiting as she was known, Emma yet for a moment Caleigh did wonder. There was a strong sense of disapproval in her tone whilst she set Caleigh her tasks for the day.
Quickly, she dismissed the idea Emma was, after all, one of the few people who seemed to take Caleigh’s good looks and popularity as a personal insult to her. “And I know not when I shall have time to repair her ladyship’s necklace when I have so much else to do and so little help.” Emma commented. Caleigh smiled sympathetically, which was no mean feat when she knew that, if anything, there were more chambermaids than required to meet Dame Edith’s fairly light demands. No less than half of Caleigh’s duties were favours to other parts of the household so she had something to do with her time. “And with the Earl coming tomorrow night she will want it done before then.” Emma continued.
“I can get her necklace repaired if you wish.” Caleigh volunteered. Emma looked mildly shocked at having this solution presented. Some might have assumed her monologue was designed to illicit this response but then they would have misjudged Emma. “I should be glad to help if I can.” Caleigh added with her sweetest and most eager expression.
For a moment, Emma seemed caught in conflict before announcing with a shrug, “Of course I have no doubt I will have to pick up your duties while you attend to this but it may be for the best.” She fished out the broken gold chain and planted it carefully in Caleigh’s outstretched palm. “Make sure you see that it is repaired correctly. I would hate to explain to poor Dame Edith that one of her favourite pieces has been ruined.”
“Of course, ma’am, I shall get to it right away.” Caleigh knew better than to wait for thanks or any kind of encouragement so set off at once down the stairs to the ground floor, crossing by but not through the training yard to the workshop and stables beyond.
At the workshop, the steady clink of metal on metal told that the blacksmith, Master Garrick, was already hard at work. His back was to her when she entered while his assistant Clod moved between the smithy and the stables with bundles on riding equipment slung over his back. Garrick turned, being alerted to Caleigh’s presence by her shadow cutting across the light. “Good morning, Caleigh. How may I help you?” He said putting his hammer to rest. Before Caleigh could answer, a sense of desire flashed through her mind along with images of herself in states of undress. The sure and certain knowledge followed that Master Garrick wished to lie with her, “Something the matter?” Garrick asked seeing her shocked expression.
“No, Master Garrick.” Caleigh recovered. “I momentarily recalled something I must do later.” The smith seemed satisfied with the answer.
“What brings you here then?” Garrick inquired pleasantly.
“Dame Edith needs her necklace repairing.” Caleigh drew out the necklace from her pocket. “I think some of the links have broken.” Garrick took the necklace and nodded at Caleigh’s assessment. “Do you think you can fix it before tomorrow evening?”
“Perhaps…trouble is Sir Marc has set me to a full check of the whole armoury, not only his but all the thirty riders who live here. That has to come first, I’m afraid. Besides, I’m out of gold and it is fine work. I can send Clod into town later maybe and he can see what the goldsmith can do.”
“You mean Glyn?”
“Yes, do you know him?”
“A little, worry not I can take it to him myself. Thank you anyway.” Caleigh took back the necklace and made to leave. In departing, Clod nodded up at her and once again she was assailed by the same strong sense of desire leaving her quite disorientated as she stepped outside.
She took a moment to think about what had taken place. Of course women could get a sense that someone was attracted to them but this was something more. She knew that these men desired her and exactly how much. In a sense there was nothing surprising in it. At first, she had been taken aback that Garrick might harbour such thoughts because he was married. On reflection, she supposed this did not mean such thoughts did not exist. That Clod, an unwed contemporary, would think of her in that way was no revelation. Yet this did not diminish the impact. It was one thing to take an educated guess about someone’s attraction and it was another thing altogether to be presented with the sudden irrefutable knowledge of it.
It was fortunate for her that she had been prepared in this way because between the castle and the goldsmiths she was met with a barrage of lustful thoughts heading her way. Sometimes it was of an intense nature, personalised lust that had been stored up for a long time. Other times it was a passing thought, no more intrusive than the ogling looks she was used to. Soon she realised that she could sense a whole range of different ways of desiring someone. Older men whose wants were wistful, young teens with strong yet unspecific urges, carefully thought out fantasies and simple admiration. By the time she reached the goldsmith she found it more noticeable when a man walked by her with little or no reaction, simply because they were the rare exception.
At the goldsmith’s it did not take Glyn long to assess the repairs that needed doing. Caleigh smiled indulgently while he went about his inspection trying not to show how aware she was that the necklace was not the only thing he was inspecting. “A simple enough task, I believe.”
“Excellent, will you be able to finish by tomorrow afternoon?”
“That does not give me much time. The following morn would be more likely.” Caleigh watched Glyn in this short exchange weighing effort against disappointing his customer.
“I should hate to disappoint her ladyship.” She explained glumly then unleashed her most brilliant smile. “You would be doing me a great favour if you could find a way.” In her head Caleigh willed Glyn to succumb to her charm and within a heartbeat he relented.
“Very well, as it is for Dame Edith, I shall suspend all other work. Come by tomorrow afternoon and I will have it for you.”
“Thank you so much.” Caleigh left the goldsmith’s light of heart and had walked some way before she realised that Glyn hadn’t even asked for payment. A touch of guilt afflicted her at the thought that he would be putting aside all other work just to please her.
She could easily rationalise it if she wished, Dame Edith was the goldsmith’s principle customer and he was not so busy that he could not spare the time, nonetheless it disturbed her slightly how easy it was to get her way when she knew the effect she could have on a person.
A couple walked past during her reverie and the most vivid thoughts jumped into her head. “That is filthy!” Caleigh exclaimed looking at the guilty party, who went red at once trying to explain it away to his partner.
It was quite a revelation for an unassuming girl to find out that the vast majority of men in Connlad wanted her in their bedchamber including, to her shock and secret joy, Sir Marc himself. Nor was she unaffected by these tides of desire washing over her and often this unsought for knowledge triggered her own sense of arousal so that more than once she had to isolate herself to regain her composure. Even sharing herself with Penric did nothing to quench her rising appetite, if anything the strength of his desires only heightened her own.
Sleep did not bring an end to her confusion, again she found herself in the familiar seeming ruins responding to the call inside her head to press on inside. The woman in white was there as she was on the night before. This time Caleigh dared to move closer, feeling no sense of threat from the stranger who did not speak. The thinness of the material struck her the nearer she moved. She could trace the woman’s slender form by the darker shades where the light did not shine through. Her height was also more apparent now that she stood close enough to compare. Caleigh’s friend Ellie was an inch taller than her and she was the tallest woman she knew, yet she gave maybe as much as a further three inches to this long-limbed woman.
Emboldened by her proximity, Caleigh reached out to touch the robed stranger where her sleeve parted around her upper arm. A warm shudder went through her the moment her fingertip made contact and the stranger turned to her with eyes of gleaming blue. There the vision ended for Caleigh was shocked into waking by the sheer beauty of the woman in her dreams.
It was obvious to Caleigh by this point that something was happening to her and she needed to talk to someone about it. Normally Penric and Ellie would be among the first she would open up to but in this instance neither seemed the appropriate person. Penric would hardly be pleased to know that she could feel other men’s desires and Ellie had no more knowledge about visions than she did. While either could offer a sympathetic ear what she needed now was advice. Dana was the natural solution. She was older and knew more of the world and she was also, of anyone in Connlad, the most likely to know about the seemingly inexplicable.
There was a rumour that Dana came from a line of druidesses, and true or not Dana did certainly know her herb lore better than anyone else Caleigh had ever met. Not that any of this was apparent to look at her, or evidenced from the way she kept her home. To most eyes, she appeared an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, living like any other widow, getting by on homemade crafts sold at the weekly market.
Dana greeted Caleigh warmly as always and sat her down at her table with a stomach warming brew. They exchanged pleasantries to begin with as expected before moving on to matters of interest. The two of them had been friends for four years ever since Dana had become widowed. In the two years since Caleigh’s parents died, from a fever she had been spared, Dana had kept a watchful eye on her acting as, if not a surrogate mother, perhaps a surrogate older sister or aunt, of which Caleigh had no real versions. “So how goes it with you and that squire of yours?” Dana asked interestedly.
“You seem not sure.”
“Penric is not the problem.”
“So there is a problem?”
“Yes, I do not know how to explain it. On yester eve we lay together for the first time.”
“You have regrets?”
“No, it was fine, I enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would after your warnings.” Caleigh said with a giggle. “No, it was afterwards that…well, did you find that after your first time you could sense desires in men?”
“I am not sure what you mean, I suppose that as you become more experienced you can read the signs more easily.”
“No, I might expect that, this is different. I know when men have desires about me as clearly as if I had thought the thought myself. I’m sure that is not normal, I have never heard of such a thing before.”
“Is that all that has happened?” Dana’s tone suggested she expected more.
“The last two nights I have had dreams, very clear dreams about someone I have never met. I remember them when I wake in every detail.” Caleigh read Dana’s thoughtful expression; it was not the kind of look she was expecting, reassurance or confusion she would have understood much better. “Does this make sense to you?”
“Yes it does.”
“What is it then? Is it usual, am I ill?”
“Neither. You are gifted, Caleigh.”
“Gifted with what?”
“You have the gift of magic.”