Family, Chapter Two - Sabriel, Sameth, and the Lullaby

Notes: A Lullabye of Love's Design was written and composed by Miria L'auroel, who was kind enough not to demand I change it when she found the story.

"Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity - a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother." Rose Kennedy

Sabriel was more tired than she could ever remember being in her life, but that was no real deviation from the norm. She was always tired these days. Whether it was Dead Hands, or Mordicants, or Free Magic constructs, or state dinners, or raising children: there was never any end to the work.

Not that Sabriel minded most of it. She could handle the Dead, and Free Magic with something bordering on ease. The dinners almost always proved enjoyable, and she rather liked raising her children - as most mothers did - and was always incredibly disheartened when she had to leave them, especially now that Ellimere was in school, and it would soon be Sam's turn. There was barely a month until the term started, and every day that Sabriel could not spend with Sam -which was most of them- made her feel as if she were abandoning her youngest child.

That thought made leaving all that much harder.

By now the paperwing was ready, and waiting in the West Yard. Touchstone had risen from bed – though dawn was only a few hours off, and he needed all the sleep he could get – to help her dress. The two mages accompanying her were ready and set, assembled outside in the hall. Her sword and bells were laying across the stool of her neglected vanity, waiting to be strapped on.

She leaned over to kiss her husband goodbye; the tiny, niggling fear that she might never see him again present in the back of her mind - just as it always was on their partings – and when she pulled away, she saw Sam. He was standing in the doorway to their room, looking very small and lost. His red cheeks and runny nose were harbingers of the tears pooling in his eyes, just beginning to fall down his flushed little face. One of his socks was missing, and he was dragging his pillow along with him. Clearly, he'd meant to spend the rest of the night with his parents.

At the sight of Sabriel preparing to leave, the young prince dropped his pillow and ran to his mother, the tears falling faster. She knelt down to meet him, drawing him into her embrace. When he latched onto her neck with a strength that belied his small frame, Sabriel simply sat down on the rug and pulled him into her lap. When she buried her face in his dark curls, it was to hide her own wet eyes.

"Don't go Mama!" Sam pleaded, his voice muffled by her dark blue surcoat. "Please don't go! Don't leave me, Mama! Please!"

Taking her son's face in her hands, she kissed him on the forehead, her chapped lips brushing across the Charter Mark there as she smoothed the hair out of his eyes. "I wish I could stay, Sam," she said quietly, ignoring the wetness on her own cheeks. "More than anything, I wish I could."

"Stay!" Sam insisted, smiling suddenly through his tears as if the solution had been found. "Stay, and you can come and sleep in my bed, and we can tuck eachother in, and you can tell me stories and stay with me all night, and then we can go play outside all day tomorrow!"

"It's not that easy, Sam," Sabriel said softly, unable to keep from sighing.

Sam tilted his head at her, his eyebrows drawing down until he looked just like his father in a fit, and asked, "Why not?"

Sabriel didn't want to have that conversation. Not now, when there wasn't enough time for her to help him understand.

"We'll talk about it later, little one," she answered, hugging Sam's head to her shoulder as she rose from her spot on the floor. "I promise."

" 'm not little," he protested weakly, but he let his mother hug him all the same.

Sabriel felt a gentle hand on her free shoulder, and looked up at Touchstone. Sam felt her movement, and reluctantly pulled his face away from his mother's neck, knowing instinctively that the moment he let go she would be gone. Touchstone wrapped his arms around them both in a tight hug. He planted a quick kiss on his son's forehead – over the Charter Mark, just as Sabriel had done - and a slightly longer kiss on his wife's mouth.

As they pulled apart, Sabriel laughed softly at the look of utmost disgust on Sam's face.

"You're never going to find a nice girl to marry if you keep that up," Touchstone said to Sam, his serious tone marred by the smile attempting to turn the corners of his mouth.

Sam's look of disgust became one of horror, and he shook his head vehemently, silently vowing that he would never kiss any girl the way his father kissed his mother.

"She'd out there somewhere, son," Touchstone intoned. "And when you find her you'll be more than happy to oblige."

Finally, Sam said, "Yuck!"

Touchstone laughed out loud at this, and leaned forward to plant another kiss upon his son's brow. Sam covered his eyes with his chubby little hands when his parents kissed again.

Sabriel smiled sadly at her husband as he pulled away, then looked down at her son – her darling baby boy. She took a deep, steadying breath, and quelled the fresh tears beginning to well in her eyes. She didn't want to cry in front of Sam – he picked up on other's emotions so easily, and she didn't want to upset him any more than she had to.

So she kissed his cheek, and attempted to set him down. He steadfastly refused to give up his iron hold on her neck, and had to be pried loose. When both his feet were securely on the ground, Sabriel leaned down to give her son one final kiss.

"Goodbye, my darling," she said softly. "Be good for your father while I'm gone."

Sam began to sniffle again, but nodded his head and stood on tiptoe to kiss his mother's cheek.

Then she turned away from him and reached for her sword, still lying across the vanity stool.

Sam grabbed her hand suddenly, and – with surprising strength for one so small – pulled her back to him, and down so he could whisper in her ear.

"Mama," he began, so low she strained to hear. "Before you go, will you… will you sing me to sleep? Like you did when I was little?"

You are still so young, my dearest Sameth, Sabriel thought. Then she smiled at him through wet eyes, and nodded.

She took her son's hand, and looked back over her shoulder to mouth, "Stall them," to her husband, while tilting her head toward the hall door, where her mages were no doubt growing impatient. Then she led Sameth out into the parlor, and back down the little hallway to his bedroom. He stooped to retrieve his pillow, letting it drag along the ground, and she snatched up the lost sock when they passed it farther down the hallway, just outside his door.

Sabriel scooped Sam up in strong arms, and let him fall gently onto the bed. He wriggled around a bit while she took the pillow from him, situating it behind his curly-haired head. She shook out the little sock, and frowned at how cold his foot was when she pulled the sock over his toes. Sam squirmed and giggled when she brushed the extremely ticklish spot with her equally cold hands, calming only when she pulled the blankets up over him and began to tuck him in.

"What will it be then?" Sabriel asked, settling beside him on the bed.

Shifting around beneath the covers, Sam said, "That one you used to sing to me and Elli…"

This was a most unclear answer, so Sabriel remained quiet and waited for the elaboration, which Sam offered up gladly.

"The one about the moon and the clouds falling through the sky, and give me your tomorrow…"

"Ah," Sabriel said as she recognized the description. "A Lullaby of Love's Design?"

"Tha'sit," Sam replied through a yawn, smiling sleepily up at his mother as she began to hum the familiar tune.

It was new by Old Kingdom standards, because it had come from Ancelstierre. Sabriel had no idea where she had learned it, but she had always adored it. The melody was lovely and simple, the words warm and heartfelt. It was the only lullaby she knew.

Sam loved his mother's voice. It was the most soothing thing in his world, second only to the memory of her heartbeat when she held him close. She didn't sing very often. Sam knew her voice was something special, meant just for him and for Elli, and he held that knowledge dearer than any toy or plaything.

"When the twilight's over, there's magic in the night sky,
And moonlight dusts with silver the clouds that skim on high;
I love to be beside you, when stars begin to gather,
And then begin to play their lullaby."

Sam's eyelids began to droop just as soon as the song was begun. The old, familiar feeling of his mother's weight at his bedside helped to ease the pain of her impending departure, which still sat heavy on his chest. He voice coaxed all the fear and tension out of him, until he could almost feel himself falling asleep.

Sabriel sang on:

"A lovely twinkling message is in the stars that shine:
"Give me your tomorrows, and I will give you mine."
The stars all nod their heads, and the moon has closed his eyes,
To a lullaby of love's design.

"Moon and stars and clouds all tumble through the night,
And as we sleep beneath them, they fill the sky with light.
The clouds glide on the wind, and the moon and twinkling stars
Play hide and seek in mounds of fluffy white."

Lured down the hall by the welcome, but unfamiliar sound of his wife's singing voice, Touchstone stood silently outside Sam's door, sharing the goodbye between mother and son. Sabriel didn't sing for anyone but her children, though her voice was gentle and soothing.

"Dreams are on the nightwind, and dreams are in my heart,
And when one dream has ended, another dream will start.
You are my moon and stars, and my greatest dream is always
That we'll never, ever have to be apart"

Sam was sound asleep now, but Sabriel continued with the last verse all the same.

"A lovely twinkling message is in the stars that shine:
"Give me your tomorrows, and I will give you mine."
The stars all nod their heads, and the moon has closed his eyes,
To a lullaby of love's design."

Leaning over her son, Sabriel laid a final kiss against his cheek: a kiss filled with wishes for peace and sweet dreams, and with all the love of a mother whose heart is breaking because she cannot watch over that which is most precious to her.

Then she rose from Sam's bed and made her way to the door. When she had closed it with a gentle click, she turned to face Touchstone, who gathered her into his arms without a word. He pulled her head against his shoulder, and stroked her hair until her silent tears had passed and her trembling shoulders had stilled.

"You give him your best, and that's all you can give," he said softly. "Sam will understand when he's older."

Sabriel nodded, and let Touchstone guide her back down the hall. Together they belted the sword around her waist, and settled the bandolier of bells across her chest.

"Take care of my baby boy," Sabriel said to Touchstone as she kissed him goodbye one last time.

"Aye," Touchstone answered. "And you take care of yourself. Come back to us."

Sabriel gave a stoic nod, then she stepped out into the palace and was gone.