Title: She Gave More Than I
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of The Squire's Tales series. All rights and recreant knights belong to Gerald Morris and his respective publishers.
Spoilers: Books 1-2
Summary: "Your face is the face of a faery, my son. But your selfless heart is the gift of your mother. As always, she has given more than I." - From The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady
Author's Notes: We learn very little about Terence's mother in canon, and I've always been curious about the human girl that so enchanted Ganscotter. She's described in the books as being a gentle peasant girl from Yorkshire, but in the tradition of Morris's canon female characters, I aimed to make her just a little bit tougher and more independent than the term gentle might encompass. However, I hope you still enjoy my interpretation. :)
Apologizes for any historical inaccuracies that may or may not be deliberate. Since ST is obviously not a historical series, I went more for simply entertaining than factually precise.
Also, fair warning, this one's tear-jerker, folks.
She was sitting on the side of the road when her life changed.
Her foot had caught and twisted in tree root hidden deep in the mud. It was raining hard, and she watched, in morbid fascination, as a small stream of water flowed down the sandy lane and soaked into her skirts. She wrenched her foot from the soggy dirt with a gasp, and propped her heel up on a rock to examine the red welt. Her herding dog, wet and miserable, whined beside her. She silenced him with a look.
Just as she'd decided to abandon her buckets and limp her way back to her farm, a form appeared in the drizzle-sudden and without warning.
She doesn't know him, which is strange, because she knows nearly everyone in Yorkshire; and as he approached, her dog circled round and hid behind her back.
When the man asked her if she was alright, she glared and shook her head, but winced as pain spiked up her calf. The stranger laughed and offered her his hand.
At twenty-four, she was an old maid.
Her mother had died of fever when she was young, and as an only child, supporting her father's farm became her definition in life. She liked the work, the animals, and the earth. After the last frost, she would walk up the hill with her dog and sink her hands into the fresh soil, willing the buds to rise and grow towards the sun.
When she was small, the work had been harder, and she had to chase the cattle with a stick to get them to the milking pail. With each year and each sack of grain she lifted, she grew stronger, and the toil was easier.
Once she was a teenager, she'd sneak into the forest and admire the plants she'd never seen before. The trees were easy climbs for someone with hands as strong as hers, and when she reached the top, the site of an endless forest stretching towards the sea never failed to take her breath away.
The far-away scape, the coasting sea. It was a dream. A dream she abandoned when her father followed her mother to the sick bed then the grave.
Dreams were made of impossible things.
She wasn't sure what he was doing at the tavern the next day. He wasn't drinking, eating, or playing cards with the old farmers. She walked up to him and asked if he preferred to walk in the rain and stay indoors when it was sunny. He just laughed at her again.
She couldn't figure out how old he was. He appeared young, maybe a few years older than herself; but his eyes, grey and intense, looked older than time itself.
To answer her question, he explained. The water is quite shallow at the nearby lake, and he preferred to keep his clothes dry when crossing into town.
She decided he was insane.
She likes to watch things grow not die.
It's a different story with the cows and chickens. Those animals grow fat and live happy on the food her farm provides for them, and when the time comes, their flesh is a fair trade.
The forest is a source of food to those who know how to use it; but the deer and the boars live free and see to their own needs. She doesn't need the wild to feed her.
She was trying to plant berry bushes in her garden when he came to see her at her farm. He told her the soil was all wrong for the plants. She glared at him, and he informed her with a smirk that her garden will grow well this year. Better than it ever had before.
She was a little disturbed when it did.
She doesn't see him for months, and she started to wonder if she had offended him. She chided herself harshly for caring what a nameless stranger thinks when she has fields to tend and grain to reap.
The corners of mouth still turn up when she saw him walking down the road.
It was nearly a year later when she found him in the forest. Her dog was sick with spoiled food it stole from the compost pile, and she had left it in the barn with a pail of water and a sympathetic pat.
She rarely came to the woods at twilight. Too many wolves and bears and creeping things that hid in the bushes and dark places under the trees. The fear wasn't what kept her away, it was admitting to herself she felt the fear at all.
Along the narrow, dirt road, she saw him.
He wasn't alone. He was surrounded by shinning creatures with effervescent wings, tiny people no bigger than a budding tulip, and hovering lights that looked like fireflies but were far too big and bright.
Her jaw dropped, and for a moment, she wanted to run. It passed quickly when his ancient, kind eyes met her naïve, young ones. He waved away all the fairy creatures he appeared to be administering to, and knelt beside her as she dropped to a crouch. He apologized for frightening her, but he said he wanted to be honest before he asked.
Asked what, she wanted to know. It's odd that this is the only question on her tongue, but in a way, him being of faery stock seemed like the most natural thing in the world. She wished, not for the first time, that she hadn't stopped believing in things unknown.
To marry him, he said. There was a long of moment before she started to cry. No one has ever wanted her. Not even as a friend, and most certainly not like that. She was too much muchness, and in a way, it never mattered. She only needed her dog, her farm, the first fire before winter, and, she's just realized, him.
She falls asleep crying in his arms, and when she wakes, she's in her bed in her house. For the first time since she was a small child in her late mother's arms, she thinks it's okay to believe in a far-away forest by the sea.
She has but a few days with her son, and her only regret is that she will never see him grow up.
His father is a great man, and she knows her small baby, so soft and helpless now, will live a strong life. After all, he has his father's eyes.
She held her husband's hand, the one that all of Yorkshire believes to be a crazy man who wanders the streets to visit his equally crazy wife. She never cared. She only cares about letting him know she regrets nothing. Not meeting him, not loving him, not giving birth to such a child.
As she felt her last breath slip into the air, taking her soul with it, she stroked her new born's thin hair, and she could swear he smiled as she kissed his forehead.
She learned to dream again.
And she prayed that this boy's life will be full of many, many impossible things.
"I wanted to give her everything, but I never gave her as much as she gave me."
-The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady, Chapter XI