Disclaimer I own Barisia.
Rating: PG-13 (Tragedy)
Summary: Balian meets his half sister.
Comments: Welcome, as always, peoples!
The iron was molding finely for Balian. There were times when the metal gave him more troubles than he needed, but this day everything seemed to be going well. The sapphire sky never faltered, the brilliant rays of the sun remained in tact, and the air was cool, but gave no chill.
Pausing in his hammering, Balian stood straight and felt every bone in his back pop. Working out a few of the joints, Balian wiped his brow on his sleeve and rose his hammer once more in preparation to beat the iron into perfection.
"Balian?" A stranger's voice came, making the blacksmith hesitate to strike the metal. "Balian of Ibelin?"
Glancing over his shoulder, Balian saw a cloak figure, furs and gold trimming the robe of this visitor. Just beyond the stranger was an ornate carriage with one dapple gray horse and a shaggy looking driver. Putting down his work, Balian took off his gloves and rubbed the soot from his hands onto more soot caked to his apron as he walked to the visitor.
"Yes," Balian smiled kindly, his brown eyes surveying the robed form, "can I help you?"
Dainty hands removed the hood of the cloak and the features of a lovely young woman emerged. Her long chestnut hair was pulled back slightly, her lips a rose red, and her skin a lovely shade of olive. "I believe you knew my father." She said with a smirk across her lips, her lively amber eyes lined with kohl dancing. "Godfrey of Ibelin."
Balian was taken aback and he furrowed his brows as he examined the woman. Instantly, he noticed the similarities between himself and girl; the sharp jaw line, high cheekbones, dark eyes and hair, but her features were much smoother than his. Despite it all, Balian could barely believe his ears. She was the child of Godfrey as well?
At first the blacksmith considered foul play. What did she want? Why was she here? Was she even telling the truth? Why in God's name hadn't Godfrey told him he had a sister? Maybe Godfrey didn't have the time; maybe he didn't even know.
All Balian could get out was a stunned question. "Pardon?"
The girl gave a chuckle and her eyes danced merrily. She was not nearly as stoic as Balian considered himself to be. "You are Balian, aren't you?"
"Yes." Balian sputtered. "But I…"
"Then you are my brother." She stated bluntly. "Well, half brother, but all the same our father was Godfrey of Ibelin. I fear he knew far less about you than he did me. He always did want a son."
Balian's brow rose at that—it was rather melancholy to think about it, but she said it as cheerfully as she would proclaim something about the sun. Again, Balian was unsure of what to say to the girl. "Welcome…" he finally said and smiled, "it is an honor to meet you…sister."
"Barisia." She corrected as her tone weakened a bit and she brought forth a handkerchief, covering her mouth and coughing. Regaining her breath, Barisia tucked her kerchief away. "My name is Barisia."
Balian took off his apron and tossed it aside, moving closer. "Yes, welcome, Barisia, to my home."
Glancing to her left, Barisia inspected the home with a grin and then looked back to Balian as her large, beaded earrings jingled. "It's lovely. You're a blacksmith, then?"
"I am." Balian replied. "For I few years I went south, with…Godfrey."
"I know." Barisia smiled kindly, tilting her head as admiration flitted in her eyes. "I've heard so much about you already…I didn't know you were a blacksmith, though."
Balian gave a nod in reply. "Would you…like to come up to the house?"
"I'd love to." Barisia replied and looked to her driver, signaling to him to relax. Turning to Balian she smirked. "Forgive me, he's driven such a long way and I would not want him to sit in wait for me while I visit with you."
"It's all right," Balian replied with a tense smile, "come with me."
When Balian offered his arm, she took it, her hand sparkling with jeweled rings as he led to her to the house. Well, she did not need money. Barisia was well dressed, well mannered, and extremely well groomed. Though Barisia looked as if she might have squirmed from Balian's soot-covered physique, she did nothing of the kind. Instead, she seemed to lean into him as they went towards the house.
"I always dreamed of a brother," she said in a lively tone, "I always imagined what it would be like to have an older sibling to help me when I fell or protect me from my father's anger. Of course I never needed a brother much for the latter; Father rarely came home. That is why my mother and I left Ibelin and went to live with her family in Italy."
"Italy?" Balian queried with concern. "Have you traveled so far?"
"It was not so very far." Barisia smiled at her brother. "Besides, I like a good adventure."
Sybilla came in view, for she was in the garden, her long skirts hiked up as she helped their son play in the dirt. Glancing at Balian, Sybilla immediately stood up and waved her welcome, then scooped the baby up into her arms.
"She's lovely," Barisia noted, but even the short jaunt had withered the young woman, "is she your wife?"
"Yes." Balian replied proudly. "And that is our son, Baldwin."
Barisia laughed seeing the baby wave to his father. "Blessed be."
When Barisia and Balian reached Sybilla, they immediately began their introductions. "Who is this, Balian?" Sybilla questioned as she rocked their son in her arms.
"This is Barisia," Balian began before Barisia could react, "her father is Godfrey of Ibelin. She is my half sister."
Pulling from her brother's grip, Barisia outstretched her hands in excitement. "May I hold him?"
Sybilla was still in shock, but she remained kind. "Yes." Slowly, she handed her son to the stranger and shot Balian an odd look.
"Beautiful…" Barisia cooed as the baby giggled in her grip, "oh, you look every bit as handsome as your father."
Holding him to her bosom, Barisia tickled the baby's tummy, making him laugh louder. Sybilla looked to Balian with uncertainty, but her husband only smiled in reply. Looking back to Barisia, Sybilla smiled. "Won't you come inside, Barisia?"
When Barisia laughed the air filled with a great lightness and the hearts of those she sat near seemed to be lifted as well. Balian smiled as he sat across from his sister, watching her play with his son Baldwin.
Sybilla still had her concerns, but made no move to separate her son and newfound sister in law. "He is the most beautiful child I have ever seen," Barisia said as she caressed Baldwin's head, "how blessed you are, Balian. How blessed you are."
Balian smiled at that. "Where in Italy do you travel from?"
"Tuscany." She said, but she had no trail of an accent. "My lineage is Etruscan. Certainly not Roman."
At that Sybilla laughed and sat back in her seat. The supper they had shared had filled them greatly and the servants had yet to clear the table. "I should have found an inn before I stopped," Barisia said, standing with Balian's son, "it is a crude hour to be about now."
"Nonsense." Sybilla stood, taking her son. "You will stay with us."
"You will." Sybilla said swiftly before Balian could put his foot down. "We have more than enough room. You are staying with us."
Sybilla went off, talking to the servants for preparations to make. A hand gently slid over Balian's. "I hope I have not troubled you, brother."
Glancing up, Balian smiled kindly and entwined his fingers to hers. "Never."
Barisia squeezed his hand tightly and spoke softer now. "I know you did not spend a great deal of time with our father, Balian…but he loved you more than you could ever imagine."
Before Balian could reply, Barisia followed Sybilla to coddle Baldwin once more. "Do not overwork yourself, Sybilla," Barisia commanded and placed her hand on her sister in law's stomach, "you are fragile in these first months."
Sybilla went red and chuckled. "How did you know?"
"A little lark whispered it to me." Barisia winked and took Baldwin from her. "You need your strength for her."
The next morning was even lovelier and the day started out with a sweet, satisfying rain, but soon the sun reappeared from behind the clouds. Sybilla was up with Barisia and Baldwin, the three of them making shapes with mud.
Balian walked toward the ladies with a look of exhaustion. "Good morning, husband." Sybilla stood and kissed him kindly. "Have you had any breakfast yet?"
With a smirk, Balian kissed his wife in return. "I can tell you what I would like…"
Sybilla grinned at that and playfully pushed him away. "Barisia," Balian turned to his sister, "I hope your sleep was well."
"It was." She smiled, squinting in the sun. "And I thank you for your trouble."
"No trouble at all." Balian assured. "You are Godfrey's daughter and you are welcome here at any time. Besides, we've been needing someone around to help watch Baldwin."
At that Barisia began to laugh, but suddenly broke into a violent coughing spell. Covering her mouth with her kerchief, Barisia kept coughing loudly as Sybilla rushed to aid and Balian took Baldwin.
"Are you all right, Barisia?" Sybilla asked in concern.
"Yes, yes," Barisia said in a hoarse tone, finally beginning to catch her breath, "forgive me…forgive me…"
Sybilla noticed spurts of blood on the kerchief and immediately became worried. "Blood! Barisia, you—"
"I am perfectly fine." Barisia assured getting to her feet and tucking away her kerchief with a laugh. "It is only a cough."
"Come inside, out of this chilled air." Sybilla commanded. "It is not good for anyone."
As Sybilla led the way, Balian followed. In the pit of his stomach, Balian knew that his days with his sister were numbered.
The days passed, each one more beautiful than the last, and Barisia's company was well enjoyed. Balian had never understood how some siblings could know each other all their lives and grow up to hate one another while Balian and his younger sister had been so far away and yet he adored Barisia. Barisia had such an admiration for Balian and great affection for him as well, but as the days passed Barisia grew frail.
Each day the coughing spells lasted longer, then they would come more often, and soon, because the air outside was too much, she was ordered to stay inside. Balian had called for a doctor some time ago, but it was a week later when the physician came.
By that time, Barisia could barely get out of bed without losing her breath and she had trouble sleeping. Balian and Sybilla waiting outside while the doctor examined her.
Finally, the healer appeared. "She's known for some time that she's dying."
Sybilla gasped, holding Baldwin tightly as Balian pulled his wife closer. "Dying?" Balian asked, his heart slamming into his knees. "What do you mean?"
"The disease is untreatable—not infectious, but untreatable." The physician replied. "She's known for some time…that is why she came here."
"There has to be something you can do!"
"I can only dull the pain," the healer sighed, bringing out a packet of ground dust, "give this to her as a tea twice a day. She won't improve, but it will ease her passing."
Balian saw that there was not much in the packet and knew that the doctor did not expect her to last very long. Sybilla pulled away from Balian and rushed away to mourn on her own as Balian stood before the physician. "I'm so sorry, Balian."
"May I go in?"
The doctor gave a grave nod and stepped aside.
Slowly, Balian went into the room. Only a single ray of sun filtered into the room and Balian saw Barisia's pale, fragile form lying in the bed. The girl had lost a considerable amount of weight and her breathing was labored. Opening her eyes, they fell upon Balian and she smiled. "Balian…"
Moving forward, Balian sat on the side of the bed, taking his sister's hand. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Barisia smiled in reply to hide her own sadness as her eyes dampened. "Why should have I?" She queried as her brother bit his lip. "I did not come for your pity, Balian…I came to see my brother before it was too late."
"Oh Barisia," Balian sighed and looked away, closing his eyes, "why must I lose you, too?"
"Lose me?" Barisia chuckled and choked a bit. "What ever do you mean, Balian? You will never lose me."
Looking back to his sister, Balian felt the tears burning down his cheeks as he reached up and placed his hand on her face. Barisia took his hand and smiled as she wiped his tears. "Save your tears for another time," Barisia commanded, "I am not dead yet."
Balian then took a deep breath as Barisia continued. "I was hoping to stay well a little longer, but fate decided otherwise. Will you remember me, Balian?"
"Of course I will." Balian said assuredly. "How could I ever forget you?"
Barisia smiled broadly. "See? Then I will not be completely gone."
With a laugh, Balian pulled his hand from her face and sat up. "You are far too clever for your own good, Barisia."
"My time has not come, yet," Barisia said firmly, "I will leave when she comes."
And so Barisia lived, but in great pain. Each day Balian faithfully brought her the soothing tea, but soon its effects became little and he ran out quickly. Balian received more tea and the doctor's second prognosis was that Barisia only had a few days to live.
To everyone surprise Barisia lived for three more laborious months and still she remained a great light in the darkness of the world. Barisia removed all of her jewels and placed them in a small, ornate wooden box that her father had given her. When Barisia presented them to Sybilla, Balian's wife refused, but Barisia would not be deterred. "What have I to do with them from now on?"
Sybilla, round with child, gave a sob in reply and ran from the room. Balian came in a few moments later with great fear on his face. "Barisia?"
"I'm alive." She assured her brother. "Your wife is just mourning me far too early…it's not her fault with how thick she's gotten."
Balian smiled and moved closer as Barisia placed the small box on the stand beside her bed. "That box goes to your daughter when she comes, Balian." Barisia insisted. "I've no use for such things any more."
Coming forward, Balian explored the box and admired the detailed craftsmanship. "It's beautiful."
"It's from Arabia." Barisia informed. "Godfrey sent it to me long ago…open it."
Sliding off the top, Balian saw the dazzling jewelry inside. "Barisia…"
"They are hers now." Barisia turned away. "They belong to her."
On Barisia's final day, Sybilla went into labor.
Balian was sitting with his sister then, his hand entangled with her thin, frail one. Barisia had been sleeping when she suddenly opened her eyes and looked to Balian. Giving one final sigh, Barisia spoke. "She is coming…"
Before Balian could begin to mourn his sister's passing, his wife began the birthing process. By nightfall a daughter was born.
As Balian held his newborn child, he was overcome with both joy and grief. His child, perfect and beautiful, was born and yet he had lost his kin as well. Barisia lay in the next room, being washed and blessed for burial.
When Sybilla woke, Balian brought the baby to her mother. "She's lovely…" Sybilla sighed with exhaustion, "our beautiful Barisia."
Balian smiled; his hand on top of his sleeping child's head. "Barisia." Suddenly Balian's smile faded. "Barisia has passed…"
Sybilla's eyes closed. "When did she go?"
"Moments before your pains came," Balian replied, "I was with her…"
"Oh, Balian, I am so sorry."
Instead of crying, Balian smiled, gazing at his yawning daughter with pride and love. "She hasn't left us, my love. Not completely."
The next morning the rains came and washed the earth completely before the clouds permitted the sun to shine.