A/N: So, everything is Nightwish this time. The story title, the chapter names, everything. Shall we say that Nightwish is where I got all my insperation for this story.
Be forewarned. I'm a little tired of writing right now after a seventeen chapter story so the writing in this might not be so hot. You'll have to bare with me.
"How far into the woods do you want to go?" the young girl asked, leading the horse by the reins. Cecilia sat sideways on a saddle specially made for a side rider and smiled. Her long, straight hair was tied back out of her face. Not that it mattered to her, even if she ever opened her eyes, she still would not be able to see anything if it was held right in front of her eyes.
"Only go as far in as you dare while still being able to find your way back to the cottage," the woman replied to her young helper. By the sound of the wind through the leaves on the trees and the decrease of the force of the sea breeze against her skin, Cecilia knew they had already entered the forest. She kept her hand on the horn of the saddle, afraid she would lose her balance and fall off at any moment. After the many times she had ridden her horse, the feel of the motion of the muscles in the animal's body and the shift between the legs as it walked made her more than a little nervous. She suspected it had something to do with her inability to see, but she could not be sure.
For as long as she could remember, she had been blind. Perhaps that was why her parents named her Cecilia. When she got old enough to be curious, she had someone look up the meaning of her name and she discovered that Cecilia meant "the blind one." This piece of evidence had led her to believe she was blind since birth. Why else would her namesake fit her so well? It was the only logical conclusion she could come to.
Now, what happened to her parents, that was a different story. She had never known her parents and had always assumed they died when she was very young. Cecilia had no memories of them so it was all she could think of, and all she had to justify why she never knew them.
The young healer nervously removed one of her hands from the saddle horn to feel the course, thick hair of the horse's mane. She ran her fingers through it and noticed that the animal was in serious need of a grooming. There were many tangles and knots in the mane and her fingers got caught on them several times. She figured that when she returned to her cottage, she would have her young assistant guide her to the stable so she could groom her mount.
"Mistress, I think I found some herbs that we need." The girl's voice rang sweetly through the silence of the empty forest. Cecilia nearly jumped and fell off her horse from the sudden interruption of her thoughts. Smiling, she reached out in the direction she had heard the little voice, one hand still on the saddle horn.
"Place a leaf of the plant in my hand. I'll see if it really is something we need or not." She heard a bustling to her left as the girl ripped off a leaf. The sudden pressure pushing her arm down to the ground indicated that the girl placed the leaf in her hand. As soon as the pressure arrived, it was gone and the jagged outline of a plant leaf remained in her palm. She released her grip on the horn and ran her fingers along the veined skin of the leaf. It was large, almost as big as her palm. The skin was fuzzy, almost like the fuzz on the skin of a peach. The water veins were small but there were many of them and the long stem was large and stretched to the very tip of the leaf. She ran the tip of her fingers along the edges of the leaf to find that they were razor sharp and jagged.
Finally, she brought the leaf up to her nose and sniffed it. It smelled strongly of cedar and had a brisk scent of stream water. She licked it. It tasted bitter and sharply sour. Cecilia wrinkled her features in a face she assumed meant disgust and handed the leaf back to the young girl who guided her through the woods.
"This is what we're looking for," she said. "Gather a few stems full of the leaves and place them in the bag you brought with you." She knew the girl obeyed her when the sound of a knife sliding out of its sheath and the sound of the blade cutting through green stems could be heard from her place on her saddle.
Returning her grip on the saddle horn, the two of them continued their search through the woods for herbs and plants to help with healing. A few times, they came across plants that would do no good for her and she ordered her assistant to leave them be. Those plants would only cause death to anyone who attempted to use them. Aside from the few failures, they did find all they needed and on the return trip to the cottage they lived in by a sea cliff, Cecilia's assistant drew her attention to something rather odd.
"Mistress, what do you suppose that is?"
Cecilia knitted her eyebrows together. "I have no idea," she commented. "If I could see it, I would tell you."
The girl seemed flustered next she spoke. "I'm sorry, ma'am!" she blurted out. Cecilia could not help but smirk at the girl's embarrassment. "Sometimes I forget you are blind!"
The young healer shrugged. "It is quite alright," she said reassuringly. "Now, what is this sight you were mentioning?"
"Do you want me to guide you over there?"
Cecilia nodded. "That would be a good idea. Help me off the horse."
She held her hand out for the girl to take. The girl's hands were small, showing that she was still young, no older than fifteen years of age but definitely younger. With the girl's help, she was able to find the stirrups of the saddle and stand tall on firm ground. The girl's hand was still held in her larger hand when she stood up and soon she was being dragged off in a new direction.
"Which way are we going?"she asked. She felt cool leaves graze her cheeks and stray branches scratch her bare arms exposed by her sleeveless dress.
"I believe north of the road," the girl replied. Cecilia did not bother to nod. At the moment, she was too busy concentrating on not tripping over fallen logs or small bushes that seemed to jump up at her from out of nowhere. Being blind at times seemed like a blessing and at other times seemed like a curse.
"We're here," her assistant said soon after they headed into the forest. Cecilia released her hand from the girl's grip and groped around for a tree to lean on. When she found it, she moved her head around as if she were searching for something but knew she was not going to find anything even if she opened her eyes.
"Where is it?" she asked innocently.
"Right in front of you, Mistress," her assistant replied. "Just squat down and you will feel it."
Cecilia did as her assistant suggested and squatted down, holding her hand out in front of her, her other hand resting on her thigh, as she groped about for whatever it was the girl had seen. Cecilia inhaled sharply when she laid her hands upon the object in front of her. Her fingers gripped thick, wavy hair and ran over smooth, yet craggy skin, a strong nose, and wide jaw. It was a man, an unconscious man left in the forest.
He was injured, judging by the thick, warm liquid she got all over her fingers after feeling his forehead along his hairline and running her fingers down his body. A wound bled from his side and one on his head indicated he had recently been in a fight and left to die after losing. He smelled of dried sweat and blood. The stench wafted up her nose and made her want to gag. She was surprised she did not smell it when she was standing right above him.
"Help me," she told her assistant as she stood up. "We need to get him back to the cottage."
Cecilia sat at the edge of the bed she and her young assistant had placed the injured man from the forest. When they had successfully placed the strange man on the horse's saddle and brought him home, they had placed him in her own bed after removing his thick clothes. The feel of the clothes intrigued her. The fabric felt neat and expensive. She had come to the conclusion that the man they found was a rather rich man. But she placed the thought of the clothes in the back of her mind, at the moment she had to concentrate on healing the man's wounds.
The young healer ran her hands over the man's torso. He was well built, his arms strong and muscular from years of practice with a sword, his abdominal muscles nicely toned with a healthy layer of fat between his muscles and skin. His pectorals were firm and perfectly proportioned to the rest of his body and his neck thick and strong. His skin was smooth under her palms, only a few scars disfigured his skin; one large one ran across his chest while a few smaller ones graced his arms and stomach. From what she could determine, he was a rather handsome man.
She was feeling the man's body for any more injuries than the ones she had found in the forest. So far, there were none to be found; on his upper body, anyway. After cleaning up the blood from his head and side with a wet cloth, she ran her hands all the way down his body to his feet. She wanted to know what he looked like and she could not do that without running her hands all over his body.
When she reached his boots, she quickly ran the tips of her fingers over the soft leather before pulling them off his feet and feeling his toes. His feet were big, but not monstrously huge. They were normal sized for a man, or so she assumed, and a lot bigger than her feet. Calluses had built up on the bottom of his feet from years of riding and possible traveling. It was impossible for Cecilia to tell without asking the man herself. The skin was stretched tight over the top of his feet and his bones and tendons could be felt through the thin layer of covering.
Cecilia's little assistant was grinding a healing paste at the table behind her as she undid the ties at her patient's waist. The sound of the grinding stone against the wood bowl was ominous behind her. She stripped the man naked, tossing his pants in a pile at the foot of the bed while the smells of the herbs the girl used wafted over to Cecilia's keen nose.
"You're using the wrong herbs," she said, feeling the man's hairy thigh, squeezing his taught muscles to feel if they were torn as well as ligaments and internal bleeding. She smiled when the sound of the girl turning around in her chair reached her sharp ears.
"How are you able to tell?" the girl asked.
"Leola, you know I can smell it from here," she replied with her unfaltering smile. She finished inspecting the man's left leg and, finding nothing wrong, moved on to the right. "You're using the Ragglebelt stem, you want to be using the Grugar Leaves."
Leola's annoyed groan drifted to Cecilia's ears. The young healer sighed patiently when the girl asked: "What is the difference? Aren't they both used for healing?"
Cecilia finished up feeling for injuries in the man's legs and pulled a thin sheet over his body, folding it down to keep his torso exposed. "The juice from the Ragglebelt stem is used to bring down high fevers where as crushed Grugar Leaves work wonders for external injuries. If he ever contracts a fever, we will use the Ragglebelt stem."
"But, I could have sworn you told me otherwise," Leola complained.
"I have never told you the wrong thing," the young healer told her assistant. "I am never wrong when it comes to healing herbs. You have probably just forgotten."
A low growl could be heard from the girl. Cecilia knew she had resumed her work soon after when the sound of the grinding stone rubbing against the bowl could be heard behind her. Leola's parents did right when they named their daughter. Leola was as unrelenting and stubborn as a lion. She was also very courageous, more so than Cecilia ever hoped to be. For a girl of fourteen years old, she held more courage and stubbornness than a soldier of Stormhold. She was truly a marvel to behold.
While she waited for the paste from Leola, Cecilia busied herself with studying the unconscious man's face. She felt every small feature of his face carefully, not wanting to miss any details. Her trained touch felt even the smallest scars that ruined his seemingly perfect skin. His features were craggy and weathered from long days outside and it gave him a rather rugged attractiveness to him that Cecilia thought was a rather nice attribute. It contributed nicely to his handsomeness she could not see along with his nicely toned muscles. She longed to know the man's name, to know who he was and where he came from. He was a mystery to her, a mystery she had a great desire to solve.
The young healer loved the feel of straw beneath her bare feet when she walked through the barn next to her small cottage. She smiled when the sounds of songbirds singing in the morning entered the barn as she walked slowly to the door. Because the man she and Leola had found in the forest was taking up Cecilia's bed, she had to sleep in the stables until he was able to move again.
A few days before, Cecilia, with the help of her little assistant Leola, had smeared the healing paste onto his bleeding injuries before wrapping them tightly with cotton bandages. When she had finished, she had taken up the man's clothes and ran the fancy cloth through her fingers, enjoying the feel of the fabric against her skin. It must be nice to be able to indulge in such fancy items.
Currently, Cecilia exited the stable and cautiously made her way to her cottage, feeling her way there by the feel of the dirt path beneath her feet and the soft grass that told her she was wandering from the path. When she reached the front door to her cottage, she opened it slowly and entered the thatched building. Once inside, she could move about freely without worry of getting lost or bumping into anything. She knew her home like the back of her hand. Unless Leola had left anything out of place, which she was constantly reminded not to do for she would be severely punished, Cecilia would never trip over anything and fall on her face.
Finding the chair that was placed next to the bed the man lay in, she sat down and ran her hands over the body in search of the bandages she had placed around the injuries. Finding them, she took a knife from a table next to the bed and cut the cotton bandages free of the wounds. She wet a cloth and rubbing it against his skin, wiped the gooey paste from the wounds, she then felt over the skin. A smile graced her lips when she felt the now healed skin where blood and puss had been only the day before. What a miracle her herbs did to physical abrasions.
Tossing the bandages aside, Cecilia ran her hands up the man's bare chest, resting it over his heart, feeling the subtle thumping of his heart and the slow rising and falling of his chest as he breathed evenly. His condition was much better than it had been when she had first laid him down on the bed. Satisfied with his condition, the young healer stood up and moved her body over his. Her hands felt his face, her fingers feeling his closed eyes so she would be able to tell if what she was about to try worked or not.
She lowered her face near his, his hot breath hit her face. His scent seemed new and interesting to her. It was fancy as if rich perfumes had just been used on him but it also had the scent of the forest, of grasses in the hills and pine trees of the high mountains. He was obviously a rich man traveling through Stormhold without a fancy entourage.
Keeping her fingers on his eyelids, she bent down and gently pressed her soft lips to his rough, chapped lips. She breathed into his mouth and almost immediately, she felt his lids flutter open and she removed her fingers from his eyes. Cecilia kept her lips on his, making sure he was wide awake before letting him go. She could not risk him falling back into unconsciousness while she could help it. As soon as she felt him begin to struggle against her, she released him and sat back down on her chair.
"What the hell are you doing!" he demanded. His voice was strong and slightly gravely. It seemed to fit his features.
"Healing you," Cecilia replied honestly. "You had taken quite a beating in the forest. I merely helped you out."
"No. I mean, what were you doing just now?" he seemed a bit confused at her forwardness, but there was still a hint of anger in his voice. "What possessed you to kiss me?"
Cecilia did not answer and longed to see what expression he was showing her, and without a second thought, she reached out to him in an attempt to touch his face. His hands grabbed her wrists almost immediately and held her in a firm grip.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!" He sounded angry and there was no mistaking the expression he was showing. Even though she could not see it, Cecilia knew he was scowling at her.
She did not answer his question, thinking he would understand when she did not open her eyes. But she had been gravely mistaken. When she did not answer, he seemed to get even angrier at her and threw her to the wooden floor, using her arm as leverage.
She could not see how close she was to the floor and, unable to brace herself in time, she ended up hitting her head on the wood floor. It dazed her a bit but otherwise she was unharmed. She remained on the floor for a short while as she waited for the fuzziness in her mind to go away before she stood again. Meanwhile, the man who had tossed her there discovered he was completely naked and voiced his anger.
"What did you do to me while I was unconscious?" he demanded.
"I told you," Cecilia replied as she struggled to get back to her feet. She groped around for her chair as she spoke. "I was healing you."
"So you strip me naked?" He sounded appalled at the thought.
Finally finding her chair and hoisting herself up off the floor, Cecilia sat down and crossed her arms. "Well, it's not like I can see it anyway! I would think you would have figured this out after noticing that I never open my eyes!"
There was silence, and for a moment, Cecilia had no idea what was happening around her. She heard nothing, which told her that the man was not moving and seemed shocked at what she had said. The fact that she could not hear anything but his breathing scared her but she tried not to show it in her face. What was he going to do next?
"You're blind?" he asked, sounding completely innocent.
Cecilia pursed her lips in annoyance. "Well, it's about time you figured it out!" She waved her arms around is if she were in hysterics. "I thought we were going to argue about this all day!"
"But why did you kiss me?" he asked again, plunging ahead as if the fact that she were blind meant nothing to him.
For a second she thought she was about to explode and start yelling at him, but she kept her calm and took a deep breath before answering. "It's called the Life Kiss," she explained. "I use it to bring people out of comas." She then fell quiet and sat back in her chair, waiting for him to say something in return.
There was silence in the room for quite some time. The man was obviously mulling over what she had told him and he did not speak until several minutes later.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"I will only give you my name once you give me yours. I don't like to let a patient go until I know their name."
Again there was silence. There was a bit of shuffling sounds from the bed; perhaps the man was running his hands over the sheets that covered him as he debated whether he should tell her his name or not. Finally, after quite some time, he broke the silence.
"I am Septimus," he said. "Now what is your name?"
She felt a smile grace her lips before she answered him. "Cecilia."
A/N: It is EXTREMELY difficult to write for a blind character, I will tell you this right now. I'm sorry if at times Cecilia does not seem blind, but she really is. I tried my best at this.