|Heal the Whole
Author: pygmymuse PM
There are remedies in nature for many ailments, more than most people imagine. Very, very AU.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 8 - Words: 29,354 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 01-18-10 - Published: 01-11-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5659352
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Heal the Whole
Word Count: 4,295
Disclaimer: I can't own anything. The pygmies and debt collectors own me.
Summary: There are remedies in nature for many ailments, more than most people imagine.
Spoilers: Um, none. This is very, very AU. :P
Author's Note: So... This is one of those things where I go... Where did this come from? Actually, I know. I do. This story came from watching The Mists of Avalon, which I must admit, I really only did for Michael Vartan because I have never cared for Arthurian legend, and playing a game called Dragon's Age, and an idea that using my knowledge, albeit it limited, of essential oils/natural remedies would make a good story. Not so sure that's what I achieved because it took a few... turns on me that I wasn't expecting...
Title comes from a saying used by an essential oil expert, "Heal the whole, not the part."
"What are the heralds saying?"
"Nothing so far, my lord," Silas answered, bowing his head in reverence to the crown prince. Young William was the heir, and due all the respect of his father, but Silas had long served the family, and he could not help his favorites. Were it not determined by birth, Silas would choose, not the king's first son or even the second or third, but the fourth. It would surprise many, for young Thomas was not the fierce leader that his brother William was, or even a distinguished fighter as any of his other brothers had proven themselves to be. Battle did not make a king.
"You believe that he's still coming," the prince said, looking out at the darkness. The torches did not extend far enough, just barely out below them, not far enough to see the much desired approach.
"You lack faith?" Silas asked, though it was dangerous to do so. William was the heir. His word was as much law as his father's.
"You have the advantage of hoping on others. I have to plan for the alternative. I have to be prepared to lead this country to war. This could be the last night of peace, the last night of freedom. Our enemies will not hold back if our alliance falls," the prince went on, shaking his head. The king had six heirs, it should have made for a stable kingdom, but the land was in turmoil and chaos, and the unrest continued. The borders were besieged by threats from all surrounding lands. "I wish we had never had to send him. It is so hard on my father when he is abroad."
"Your father worries over all his children." Peace was held through fragile alliances, and the king's wives had a tendency to die young, in childbirth. King William had three sons and two daughters by his first wife, William, Robert, Charles, Elizabeth, and Mary. William was the head of all the armies, with Robert and Charles and two other brothers as generals below him. Elizabeth had married into one of the kingdoms on the border. Mary was allied to a local man, a marriage to ensure the loyalty and safety of the northern border. The only surviving child from William's second wife, a Frenchwoman, was the most valuable strategically, the one who held the fragile peace together.
"Not like him. It is no secret that my father's second wife was his favorite, or that her only child is his favorite as well. He is a good person, my brother, or I should hate him for taking what should be mine. I speak not only of the love of my father, but that of the people. Do you think I am unaware of how many would wish him the one to assume the throne when Father dies?" William smiled as he leaned against the railing.
"He would not wish it. It is not his way."
"Of course he doesn't wish it," William laughed at the words. "Thomas has no desire for prominence or power. He would willingly live in seclusion, were it an option, devote his life entirely to his studies. It is not possible. He is of royal blood, and he has a great number of responsibilities."
"Indeed, my lord," Silas agreed quietly. He had spent a good deal of time with Thomas in the scholarly pursuits that William and the others mocked, and he knew their value. If only he could be allowed to live free of his family and these responsibilities, if there was not a constant threat of war from France that only Thomas' intervention could abate.
"Wait, do you hear that?" William asked, leaning over the balcony. Silas looked out as well, as the heralds lifted banners and trumpets sounded. He had returned. Lord Thomas had returned. They watched as the horse and its rider approached them. "What news, Thomas?"
Thomas adjusted the cloak around his neck and wished that all of this secrecy was unnecessary. He knew that his father's kingdom was in trouble, that his own life was in danger, and that these steps were necessary, but he hated it all the same. He hadn't been alone for many seasons, so long that he had begun to despise even his closest of friends and the knights assigned to be his protectors. He wanted nothing more than to return to the quiet life that he had before his brother had been killed.
Tom was not the only heir left, though his brothers were equally unsuited. Tom had not trained as his brothers did in the military arts. He was not defenseless, but his brothers led armies while he studied the healing arts. He had never been interested in fighting, not like his brothers. His father had appreciated his wisdom, called him his favorite adviser, but Tom was uncomfortable at court.
"My lord, you should not linger here. These words are dangerous."
"Is there anywhere I am free to linger anymore, Silas?" Tom asked, looking at his close friend with amusement. "They tell me it is not safe to walk, not safe to ride. They would have assassins in every bush so that indeed I would almost rather they come for me than live this constant regimen of fear."
"I am aware of my own value as a political asset, believe me," Thomas said as they returned to the horses. "Robert has never let me forget that my father married my mother for her father's alliance, and that I am necessary for the maintenance of that alliance."
"Your brother has never understood diplomacy except to scorn it," Silas said, shaking his head. "You have always understood its delicate nature."
"I am the fourth of the king's sons, a position that is, by its very nature problematic. My mother was foreign, again a problem. They said my mother was a spy, that I am," Thomas shook his head. "I am well aware of diplomacy because I have always needed it."
"You know that your brother was simply jealous," Silas said as he mounted his horse. No sooner had he sat down than he was struck with an arrow and fell from the saddle. Thomas drew his sword as men surrounded him. He could hear the panic of the horses, more arrows struck trees and flesh, sounds of battle all around him. There were five men around him, and he knew that he was not the type of fighter who could defend himself against this kind of fight. He was aware of the men behind him as he parried one attack, throwing his weight into the man to make him fall into one of the others.
Another attack came from the right, and he dodged it. He continued to fight as more men joined the ones attacking him. Yet, none of them were really trying hard to injure him. He recognized this now. It was a tactic designed to weary him. They wanted to take him alive.
He found himself caught, and then there was another man. He came through the others and approached, grabbing Thomas' face. "Lord Thomas. Interesting. You were a much harder target than your brother. And he led an army."
Though the man's face was covered with his hood, Thomas recognized the voice. He looked up at the other man with hatred and shock. "What do you think you will accomplish with this?"
"You will watch all of your men die, and then you will. That is all you need ever know."
Christina walked through the woods, gathering the supplies he would need for the months to come. She paused to rub her back. The weight would only increase in the months to come. She knew that. She didn't really want to think about her child. It would cause her to remember her husband, and that she could not do. She wanted to join him sometimes, the pain of losing him was that strong.
It did not help what he'd left her to, a woman of her color skin in his country. She was an herbalist, a healer, but they all believed her to be a dark sorceress. Desdemona, she was, waiting for Othello to murder her. She had never betrayed Micheal, though her marriage had not been happy news for his family. His mother led the other women of influence to shun Christina, forcing Micheal to move them to quiet village, and even here they would not be accepted if she had not helped the village elder's son.
She approached the stream, ready to harvest some of the roots surrounding the bed of the creek. She had just bent to retrieve one when she heard it. A soft moan. A man's moan. She couldn't move any further. She knelt next to him. He was in terrible shape. He had been in some kind of fight, that was clear. He had lost. He was covered in blood, most of it from his head, side, and leg, to stop the bleeding and start the healing. He should have been dead from the wound in his side. It was deep, possibly infected already. She would have to treat for that, but she believed that she could save him. She sat the basket down, next to him. She pulled the apron from her waist. She dipped it in the creek and returned to him, cleaning the blood from his face, his hands, his side, and leg. The leg would heal, given time, especially since he knew since he knew enough about herbs to have shoved some hastily ground geranium in the wounds to stop the bleeding and used something to ward against infection as well.
She inspected the wounds after they were clean. She took some of the plants she'd gathered and mixed them together, lavender and tea tree, crumbling them into the open wounds. He could use something for the pain, but since he was insensible, it wasn't a priority. When he woke, she could give him something. She knew that he was going to need a long time to recover, and she could not carry him to the village herself.
"There. I have done what I can," she told him, getting back to her feet. "I have to get someone to carry you back, but you should live. I'm sure that will please you since I know you fought hard to stay alive so far."
He only moaned again, and she smiled as she headed to the village. She did not know anything about him, but she liked his persistence. She wanted him to live. He was strong, and she did not want to seen another man die. There had been too much death lately. Michael. So many men that she didn't. William, the crown prince, his brother Robert, and his brother Thomas, they had been slain, with all the men accompanying them. Lord Marcus and Lord Julian had also been attacked. The king had died, just yesterday.
It was too much. Too much death. It had to stop.
"You are a fine healer, Christina, but you know that we cannot permit this. He is not your husband. He cannot remain in your home," Morrissey said, and she sighed. She looked back at her feverish charge and shook her head as she faced the town leader again.
"What do you expect me to do?" she demanded. "He needs constant care. I cannot allow him to die because of some—"
"The priest has decided there is one solution and that he will grant you absolution for your sin of the last few nights if you marry him," Morrissey explained. Christina stared at him. She couldn't believe that he was actually considering this.
"What? He's been unconscious since I found him. We do not know his name. He could have a wife. Children. And I am still within your restriction of mourning. Micheal has only been dead for two months. I cannot—"
"They are not expecting this marriage to be more than a way to keep your dealings respectable. If he is already married, it will fall under the exceptions and be annulled. They merely want to pretend that they are being... strict but reasonable. It is for them, not you."
"As I can see," Christina agreed coldly. "Let them do as they must. I will not abandon this man to die because of their hypocritical judgments."
"I expected you would say that. Congratulations," Morrissey said, turning to leave. She shook her head as she shut the door behind him. She turned back to the cot and sat down next to her new husband. She took a wet cloth and ran it over his forehead.
"So, you know what? You have to wake up. They have gone and declared you my husband. I think you deserve to know a few things about me. I have... They call me a sorceress, but I just know enough to help people with herbs and plants. You know a bit about that, too, I think. I guess we've got that in common," she said with a smile. He didn't stir, nor had he any of the times she'd spoken to him since he was brought here. "I had a husband. He died. I have a child coming. I don't expect you to care for either of us. I can handle myself, and I can care for my own. I am already caring for you, after all.
"Not that I expect you'll stay around for long," she told him. "You're not the type that would, are you? You must have gotten separated from some lord's lands or army. Maybe you were even with Lord Thomas' men when he died, though I heard they all perished. It would be good to know someone survived that. Too much death..."
She laughed, shrugging. She did not want to think about that. Though she was already in the custom of speaking to her child, and she knew that neither of them could hear her. It was nice to have someone to talk to again. She rose to prepare a new dose of herbs, and he caught her arm.
His voice was weak, and his word almost baffling. She stopped. "Excuse me? You just woke up, and you want to argue about how I treat you?"
"Palamarosa," he croaked out and added, "My head..."
"I bet it hurts," she agreed. "You took a good knock to your head. Let me get something for the pain, and you better not even think about moving."
She added a gesture of warning with her hand and moved to get the herbs. His hand fell back onto the bed, and he was quiet until she returned, using a paste on his forehead. She gave him a peppermint leaf. "Chew this, if you can."
He accepted it, doing as he was told, though from the look on his face, he disagreed with her choice. Perhaps he felt the peppermint was not as strong as he needed. It should help with the pain regardless, and it had been many days since he had eaten. Better to start with something easy on the stomach. After a few moments, he asked. "Where am I?"
"They call this place Trinity," she answered, explaining. "It is in the center of three towns... Richmond, Mansfield on the border, and the capital. It's pretty small village, far from most places, for all that it's in the middle of them."
"I have not heard of Trinity," he said quietly.
"I doubt you were not on your way here when this happened. No one comes here. If anyone has a choice, they live upon the lands that were Lord Thomas'. Not here," she shook her head. "The south lands are practically unprotected and under constant threat. Do you remember how you got here?"
"I'd say by horse, but with the pain and exhaustion it's difficult to be sure," he said, his hand on his forehead. "I couldn't... I don't... You said you were my wife?"
"Until you say you have one back where you're from," she told him, sitting down and checking the wound on his side. She supposed that was what they considered unseemly—that he was bare above the blanket, but his treatment required that she see him. He had broken the bones inside his chest, he was badly bruised, and the wound was too raw to cover with more than a bandage. "Do you?"
"I... I do not know. There is a strange jumble inside my head. I... I know that my ribs require birch, but I do not know my name."
"Just rest. Memories can get lost with blows to the head. Perhaps the next time you wake or even in a few minutes, you will know," she said, rising again to find some birch. She did not understand how a healer came to suffer such violence.
He closed his eyes, whispering curses in a language that she did not recognize.
In the week since he had woken in the care of the enigmatic woman who called herself Christina, he had sought desperately to remember anything of himself and his past, but it remained stubbornly locked away, out of his reach. He had little else to do with his time, since his injuries and her insistence kept him still. It was hard to move with such pain, and she would lecture him if he tried. Since he could not walk, and she could not lift him if he fell, he halted his efforts there.
The bed was not comfortable, nor was he. He did not like to be abed all day, and this inability to remember did not improve his mood. If he had something, he would have thrown it. As it was, he was forced to lay still, miserable with nothing to occupy his mind but questions.
"I see you are grumpy again today," she began as she came into the house. He looked at her. She smiled. "I think I may have something to brighten your day. I have found a way to get you out of that bed for a while."
"I do not know my name. I do not remember anything before coming here, yet I know herbs and history, though as you have explained, I seem to have missed a month somehow, not knowing what happened to the royal family. I should know things that I do not, and even the prospect of leaving this confinement cannot change what I do not know."
"No sense in feeling sorry for yourself," she told him, rubbing her back. He had noticed her doing that a lot in the past few days. He frowned.
"You know that you should not be handling some of those herbs in your condition," he told her, and she sighed, taking a seat next to him. "You are not going to tell me that you are not in a condition?"
"I am. You do not have to worry about it. This is not your responsibility."
"It is mine if you get sick by handling those herbs. I know you want the child or you would have dealt with it sooner. Do not risk it on my account. I can prepare them myself," he told her, and she nodded.
"I am not comfortable with others using my herbs."
"I have training. You know that. Herbs I know even though I know nothing else. Pretty soon you will not be able to gather them yourself," he reminded her. She made a face as he sat up in the bed.
"You say that like you think will be here by then. I doubt that. You will be walking soon, and you will leave as soon as you can. You will get your memory back. You do not have to remain," she said as she brought him the mortar and pestle. He sat up and worked the mixture to the consistency that it needed. She watched with approval.
He looked at her. "I am not as confident as you in thinking that my memory will come back. I know of herbs and plants that aid memory, not restore it. I have nowhere to go until I can remember where I should be. I would not ask you to continue to lodge me or care for me in any way after I am able to do so myself."
"You are my husband."
"Because they would not permit you to treat me if they did not marry us. You have done more than enough already. I have seen my wounds, and I know that I should have died. I knew when they married us that you had already had me under your roof for a week. At any time, they could have executed you for such behavior, and I am not ungrateful for the risk you took on my behalf."
"I have a bad roof and I need another room for my child. I do not suppose you have any skill in that regard?"
"If not, I will learn," he agreed. It was the least he could do.
"What is this?" Christina asked, setting a bowl of soup next to her charge. He should not be out of the bed, but he was stubborn. He had dragged himself across the room somehow, the idiot, and he sat at the table, next to a preparation of birch and other herbs, most painkillers, working on a piece of paper. She frowned. "Are you an architect?"
"I am... some form of strategist, I believe," he answered. "Though I have some education in the matter of architecture, I do not think I ever built anything. Still, I hope I would have done better than the current state of this house."
She made a face. It wasn't the first time she'd gotten the feeling that he was accustomed to finer things and a better way of life. She was tired, though, and she took the empty seat next to her. "What do you mean?"
"Well, aside from the roof, the foundation is uneven. There are gaps in between the bricks, the stove improperly ventilated, and the layout is just... unsatisfactory. The kitchen is too small, the bedroom is the same," he shrugged. "If it were up to me, I would rebuild it completely."
She looked at the walls and shrugged. "You are my husband."
"It would be at least two weeks before I could start," he said. He pointed to the drawing. "What do you think? This would be the bedchamber, this the nursery. The kitchen is here, and the rest of this room would be as it is now."
"I like it," she answered. "Eat the soup."
He took the bowl and took a bite absently, adjusting his drawing. She knew that he was trying to keep himself busy, keep his mind off of the pain and his missing memories. "I was thinking about our temporary arrangements. I still believe that you will regain your memory. But in the meantime, I would like to have a name to call you by."
"I have been trying to remember my name, but I cannot. I do not know what it is," he shook his head. "I suppose that I should have something to go by until I remember."
"Anything sound familiar? Christopher? Micheal? Andrew? Alexander? Robert? Marcus? Lucas? Charles? William? Benjamin? Thomas? Phillip? Edward? Clarence—"
"Wait," he frowned; his head was hurting him again. He set the soup spoon down and reached for the herbs. "There was... So many of them seemed familiar, but... William, no, not... Thomas. Thomas. I think maybe... That one is more familiar than the others, but I still can't be sure."
"Tom," she looked him over. She'd thought maybe he was one of Lord Thomas' men. It could be his name or the name of the lord he followed. "Suits you. I want tea. What about you?"
"Tea would be fine," he said as he got up. He touched his head again. She made his tea with peppermint and gave it to him.
"Stop trying so hard," she told him. "The memories will come in their own time."
"I have to wonder if my head will ever stop hurting again," he admitted. "There is another matter we should discuss."
"The sleeping arrangements. You are pregnant. You cannot continue sleeping on the floor. You should have the bed."
She laughed. "And you, the wounded man, sleeps on the floor? Are you really suggesting that? You cannot sleep on the floor with broken ribs, with your leg like that. Absolutely not."
He took a deep breath and hissed in pain. "I understand you are a widow and that our marriage is not a true marriage, but unless we obtain another bed, we should share."
She looked at him. She did not know what to say. His argument for this was sound, and she did not know what held her back. He was injured. It would not be like that, and Micheal was dead. There was nothing to betray. Finally, she nodded. "Of course."