I am a Daughter of Avalon. It means I have lived in Avalon, the Isle of Apples, my entire life. We are a Christian place of healing. We look to the one God for our love, faith, and trust. My mother also lived her entire life in Avalon and it is here that she gave birth to me. Though I have heard many strange whispers among the injured travelers that come to us, I have never seen the world beyond Avalon's walls. I wonder sometimes what is out there. But then I chastise myself for having such thoughts. Avalon is my home. My purpose lies here in the healing of others. There is no else I belong to except my mother and God. I am a faithful Christian and that is the way I wish it to remain.
One of the younger girls spilled the water bucket all over the walkway. I carried my bucket past the scene, ignoring the chastisements of the girl by the matron in charge. She would likely be struck before the end of it. She was always making mistakes and the matron was tiring of her. The girl would not be permanently damaged, that was not Avalon's way, but the monastery did believe in strict discipline. It was the only way men and women could live so close to one another and be assured that there would be no improper conduct, as well as other improprieties. This was why noblemen were not afraid to send their daughters to Avalon for schooling. They knew they would be well looked after by over-bearing nuns.
"Melody!" the matron barked for her. She almost dropped her bucket in surprise and then turned to face the matron guiltily. "Take this girl with you. She is absolutely useless and I'm tired of looking at her."
"What should I do with her?" she asked, as the younger girl moved to hide in Melody's shadow.
"I don't care. Just put her to work and make sure its something she can handle. You're responsible for her now." the matron dismissed her.
Melody dumped her bucket into the holding bowl in the last bedroom. Now the nuns would be stocked with water for the rest of the day. The young novices would do it all over again the next morning. Melody turned to face the young girl hiding just behind her. "What is your name?"
"Nydia" her soft voice answered. The girl was small, with brown hair and blue eyes. She hunched her body as though she were afraid of doing something wrong, which given her record, would probably happen all too soon. Melody pitied her, but she was also irritated at the extra baggage she had been handed for the day. Nydia would cling to her all day long like a frightened rabbit. Melody sighed aloud, "Herb gathering ok? You know how to do that right?"
Nydia nodded quickly. "Then let's go." Melody lead the way.
Melody sat by her basket in the garden as her quick fingers tied string around another fresh bundle of herbs. Nydia worked silently beside her. Their two baskets were almost full. They had collected a variety of things today based on the requests of the nuns who were doing the healing. Sage, aloe, catnip, nettle, clover, feverfew, skullcap, and bloodwort filled their baskets, but were still arranged in a neat order. Melody secretly slipped some lavender in her pocket to use for later.
After she finished delivering the herbs, Melody decided to see if her mother needed anything. Nydia trailed behind her the entire time. She entered the room of a patient with severe burns. He had apparently been accidentally shoved into a cooking fire in a great stone castle far away. Her mother was usually given victims of burns because she could sympathize with them more than most. She herself had been burned by fire when she was young. Melody had once asked how it happened and her mother had remained silent for so long she wasn't certain she would get an answer. Then her mother had told her in a quiet voice that it had happened during the great wars and that she had been burned in a frightening attack on her village.
Melody leaned against the doorway as she watched her mother's gentle fingers assess the damage on the poor man. Nimue glanced up at her daughter lounging calmly in the doorway. "You can come in."
Melody moved to help her and Nydia followed. Melody silently passed whatever object, herb or bandage, her mother requested. Nydia waited in the shadows of the dying sunset.
Afterwards, Melody finally shooed Nydia away and retired with her mother to their chamber. Her mother lit the candles and opened the window to let the cool night air into the bedroom. They shared a bed because there weren't enough beds in Avalon for everyone to have their own. Nimue opened the window because it could get very hot and uncomfortable during the summer when you were that close to another body.
Nimue trembled suddenly as she looked at her daughter. "Mother, what's wrong?" Melody asked with concern.
"Nothing, my child." She brushed Melody's dark hair back and stared down into her daughter's perfect green eyes. Her mother flinched when Melody's mouth began to form words. Melody paused in concern again and said nothing. "Let's just go to bed. I'm seeing things tonight that I'd rather not remember." Nimue vaguely explained away her behavior.
Melody curled up on the bed next to her mother. Nimue gathered her child into her arms and held her like she was still a little girl. Melody fell asleep instantly, but Nimue was wide awake for hours. Most nights Nimue had no trouble falling to sleep, but sometimes old memories would go chasing themselves through her mind again. Did Melody scar her with fire or was that someone else? It had taken years before she was able to touch Melody's beautiful hair without flinching and to meet and hold her gaze to those emerald, green eyes. Melody didn't remember her mother's earliest fearful behavior towards her thankfully. She had been too young. But Nimue still remembered everything. Sometimes, when Nimue looked at her daughter, she would swear she saw something else staring at her behind those jewel-bright eyes.
She trembled as she held on tightly to her daughter, the object of her love and loathing.
Second chapter will be up soon. So review this one quickly!