Niebos, Greece, 2003
The early morning sun shone brightly through the windows and into her bedroom and a gentle breeze blew through the gauzy curtains that hung over them. Eleanor stretched and rose to stand looking out at the remarkable view. It was going to be another beautiful day.
Within the villa she could sense Methos and Phillip in their respective rooms. They were still asleep and likely would be so for some time. It had always been she who rose at the dawn that last morning they were together. She would gather the wood and tend the fire and the animals if they had any, and wait for her friends. This time there were no animals needing her attention, and no wood to gather or fire to tend. She had nothing to do but wait. But it was too glorious a day to wait inside.
She dressed quickly, pulling on the pale green linen dress she had been wearing the first day she had arrived. It was a little wrinkled, but otherwise would do fine. She slipped into her soft flats, grabbed the straw hat and wandered out of the villa and down to the village.
All about her, the villagers called greetings as they moved through their familiar daily routines. They knew she was one of Phillip's guests and respected her need to be alone. At the end of the main street, she saw the small white washed church, and beside it the cemetery.
Eleanor paused. She would likely always be uneasy on holy ground. Every bad thing that had ever happened to her in her long life had seemed to happen on or near holy ground. It was supposed to be safe. It was supposed to be a sanctuary where her kind could meet in peace. Yet for her, it had never been... not really.
She paused at the cemetery gate for a long moment, then opened it with a purposeful movement and slowly stepped inside. Within her, she could sense Nin stirring. The ancient seldom spoke any more than she had in her long life, but Eleanor sometimes seemed to understand what the ancient was feeling. And right now... it was as if she had suddenly sat up to take notice of where Eleanor was.
Within her mind, Eleanor could see the standing stones of Nin's long-dead people. No... not Nin's... the standing stones were there first. Eleanor let the ancient's memory play across her mind. Nin sitting in the center of the stones, wailing for the last of her tribe. They were all dead... and only she was left behind to mourn their passing and remember their lives. Nin had to become the living monument to their passing so that they would always be remembered.
O ro' dred's voice came next, coaxing Nin to come and rejoin life. The two of them together for all time, not just for a thousand years... but always together wrapped in the memories held in Eleanor's mind.
For a moment Kae Dhun reared his head and struggled... but Kritis pulled him down again with a hearty laugh. "Sacrifice makes us powerful," Kritis said within her mind. "I will hold him. I will hold him always. He will never be free until his rage is spent."
And lastly came Aja, the Lady of her childhood. "All that lives must die and fade away, my child. Change is inevitable. It is the one constant of this world. Accept the change and move on."
Eleanor fell to her knees in the small cemetery fighting back tears. "But it's not fair... it's not fair. We never had a chance... we never had a life. He should have been safe... he should have been safe. I don't even have a grave to visit or a memory of his within me."
"Life is not fair, child... it has never been fair... and you have all the memories you need."
"Oh be silent all of you!" Eleanor screamed at them... and they were. In the silence that followed, she finally wept until she could weep no more... finally shedding the tears she had denied herself for so long. When she was exhausted, she wiped them from her face, and rose to look about the cemetery.
Her interest was caught by a family plot, surrounded by an iron grill fence and shaded by a tall cypress tree. There beside Vincenzo's and just below Luigi's was Carlo's grave. "Carlo...Beloved Companion... Dearest Friend... 1957-2003... And I Alone am Left Behind".
Eleanor smiled at her memories of Phillip's friend. In her mind she could see him painting away at some canvas or sketching his absurd cartoons of them and finally she could imagine him painting those final murals for the walls of the villa. He'd had a rare gift... and he had made Phillip happier than the gregarious Greek had been in the over eleven hundred years she had known him.
And it seemed to her, that Phillip's memories of Carlo continued to make him happy and at peace.
But Carlo was mortal and mortals die. That was always to be expected. She knew... she had lost her share. But... Darius was not supposed to have died!
Once again she seemed to softly hear Aja, "Everything... everyone dies Eleanor... all that is passes away, even we immortals in our time. It was his time... it was his choice... he made it long before he ever met you. You cannot change the past... you cannot make it not so... to do so negates his sacrifice... and sacrifice is a powerful thing. Do not belittle it. Move on. Remember him as he was and move on."
Eleanor moved back to lean against the cemetery wall and remembered.
To Everything a Purpose
Eleanor wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of one hand and concentrated on the moaning woman before her. She glanced over at Darius and nodded. "It won't be long now. The child is coming."
Normally, they would not be delivering a baby here at this makeshift hospital in the shadow of Notre Dame's construction, but the woman had come to visit her injured husband and had gone into active labor during the visit. At least it seemed a normal delivery. Eleanor had delivered many babies over her past three hundred years... but never on so short a notice. And this was the first one she had delivered here in this city.
"Well," she thought, "babies come into this world in their own time." Then she resumed her directions to the woman and kept up her calm murmuring. Beside them, Darius wiped the woman's head with a damp cloth and smiled encouragement.
Finally with a loud scream, the woman rose slightly and pushed the newborn into the world to be caught by Eleanor's waiting arms. Deftly she turned the baby and spanked it. The first cry of the infant was met by applause from those around them... the others at the hospital... patients and their families alike. New life was always welcome.
Afterwards, once the baby and his mother were resting, Eleanor sat on a small bench in the late afternoon sun. She was tired and the day had been a long and hectic one. Every day here was. There was so much that needed to be done. The injured kept arriving... their sometimes grieving families kept arriving... it was a never-ending struggle just to keep up some days.
A hand rested on her shoulder. She glanced up as Darius offered her some water. She took it gratefully and sipped at it. It had taken a while for to get used to the nearness of his presence. At last she no longer stiffened or pulled away if he inadvertently touched her. She was beginning to trust him a little. The priest sat down beside her. "You did that very well."
"Oh... that one was easy." Eleanor leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes.
"You are tired... you should go home to rest."
"Home..." Eleanor thought of her home in the far north... green fields and beehives and pastures of wheat and barley. She thought of running horses and laughing children and... "I would love to go home someday."
"I meant for today. You are weary. We have been very busy this day but work on the cathedral has stopped and I, and the others, can carry on for the evening."
Eleanor opened her eyes and looked over at Darius. "Do you ever sleep?"
He shrugged and smiled in a motion, which was becoming as familiar to her as breathing. "Sometimes."
She laughed. "I think I will if you really do not need me this evening." She was becoming very comfortable in his presence. His words always seemed to hit their mark with her. They were always just exactly what she needed to hear. "How do you do that?"
"Know just what to say..."
"Ahh... after a thousand years, one learns to listen... people will generally tell you exactly what they need... even if they do not know what that is... all you have to do is be observant."
Eleanor shook her head. "I still cannot fathom that you are over a thousand years old. I have never met anyone who claimed to be so old." She knew Phillip and Edward were older than her paltry three hundred years, but they had never given her their ages. There were no other immortals with whom she had spent so much time. "It is hard to conceive that any of us could live so long."
"All things are possible."
Eleanor suddenly turned to him with an impish grin, "I wish I had known you before you became a priest."
"Ahh... Eleanor... I am afraid you would not have liked me very much. But... that is a tale for another day. Go home and get some rest. Tomorrow, I shall begin showing you how to listen and observe people so that you too can read them and know what it is that they need. You do it anyway, but you are not always aware of it. I will show you how to be more aware... of just what it is that the people around you need." And with that, Darius rose with a smile and returned to his patients.
Eleanor sat for a moment longer in the waning sunshine... then rose
to go home.
To Embrace the Future
The day Aella first reached Paris was rain-soaked and cloudy. Huge dark thunderclouds had covered the sky all day long. Sounds of thunder had punctuated the voices she heard around her. Already she understood much of this French language she heard. Her ease of learning and understanding new languages swiftly was often of great use, especially when she came to a new land.
When she had left Edward and Phillip, she had returned to her rooms in Stuttgart and proceeded to erase the wild child she had seemed while with them in the Black Forest and reinvent the person she would be for this next life. She ordered a bath, washed her long dark hair and soaked in the water until it was almost cold.
As she soaked, she smiled at the memory of being again with Edward or Antoninus or whoever he truly was. She had been surprised to see him...indeed... she had been surprised that Phillip knew him. It had startled her at first.
Somehow she had always thought that when next she saw her former husband she would be a little more presentable... a little more in control of the situation. Yet he too had seemed startled. Yes, it had been nice to trust him just a little that first night... and her wild appearance had not seemed to cause him worry or confusion. He had simply accepted her. And after that first night... well perhaps they could become friends over the years... perhaps. That is if she could ever truly trust him... if he could ever trust her. She smiled at the thought of him in her arms once more... she could still feel his kisses and could almost smell him... even now.
Aella was not certain why Edward had suggested Paris, but when the voice in her head had whispered for her to choose this place as her next life... she had agreed. Her voice seldom led her in wrong directions. She sometimes disagreed with what it wanted... but it was, as always, her choice. Something or someone wanted her to see or meet what was in this place. So she had come and she would see this great cathedral being built and see just what it was that had made her friends so certain that it was here that she needed to be.
A shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds where Aella was standing just as she came upon the construction of the cathedral. It was as Edward had said it would be... a marvelous site. It was going to be magnificent! It was going to be larger than anything she had ever seen! The sunlight hitting her at that moment had been a warm and welcome friend. It was as though the city itself were opening its arms to her and welcoming her into this life.
It was at that moment that she felt the presence of another immortal. Aella did not overtly react. She slowly pulled her cloak about her as though in a great chill but her left hand reached inside to adjust the grip of her short sword... just in case. Slowly she had looked about her... casually... as if only observing the crowd.
Her eyes fell on the form of a priest who had stood up and was staring at her. "A priest?" Aella arched an eyebrow... "I guess it takes all kinds." She could not imagine how an immortal could be a priest... and she certainly did not just accept that he was as he appeared. He nodded in her direction slightly, then returned to caring for the laborer supine on the ground.
Intrigued, Aella continued to watch the construction for a time, aware only from the corner of her eye that this immortal was also ignoring her... or perhaps waiting for her to make the first move.
Cries broke out suddenly from the scaffolding about one of the towers! A workman had lost his footing and was dangling from the edge. His grip loosened even as his companions tried to hoist him up. With a loud cry, he fell all the way to the ground and lay in a crumpled heap.
Aella was even then on her way. She was not certain if she could help, her skills lay in other areas, but she had learned many old healing ways over the centuries. Perhaps she could do something... at least offer the man calm as he died. The immortal priest was also running to the fallen worker.
They reached him together at almost the same time.
"He is still alive," the other one said, "but he cannot be moved... not yet."
Aella dropped to her knees and held the man's head in her hands. She gazed deeply into his pain-filled eyes and whispered, "Sleep for a while... you are safe... we will take care of you." The worker's eyes calmed as he focused on the sound of her quiet voice. Finally he did close his eyes and seemed to rest.
The priest listened to the man's heart and then called for planks so they could gently move him out of the way of the construction. Aella followed the party closely as they carried him to near where the priest had been earlier and set the injured man down. If he awoke in pain, he would need her. But he seemed to remain asleep.
"You have a rare gift... please stay, I could use some help with him." The priest regarded her for a long moment as she hesitated. "I am Darius," he said and offered a slight smile and a gentle shrug.
Aella removed the bag she had slung over her shoulder and squatted down by the man's head. She did want to stay... she did want to help. And she sensed, on some level she could trust this immortal... at least here in this crowd of workmen and others. Within her, the voice agreed. "Was this who she was supposed to meet in this place?" she asked it. The voice was silent.
Darius busied himself with the man's broken limbs and set them. When he pulled on the worst one to get it into shape, the man's eyes flickered open and he groaned. Immediately Aella leaned down to him and whispered again... calmly he closed his eyes with a great sigh. She stroked the side of his face and blew into his eyes gently.
As he placed splints on the injured man's legs, Darius smiled at her. "If not for your help, I fear he might have struggled and then he would have been beyond what skills I have."
Aella nodded. She offered no words to this immortal... she betrayed nothing of herself to him... already he likely knew too much. She glanced at the worker... yet how could she not have helped. Finally Darius motioned to some of the others and they lifted the planks and carried the man away.
"I have a small hospital set up nearby for the ones who are severely injured. I always have need of healers to help. Every day there are more and more." He gathered up his supplies and repacked them into a small case. "I am only one man, after all."
Aella retrieved her bag and stood to leave.
"I would be pleased if you could assist me some," the priest continued... "Perhaps tomorrow... once you are settled?"
"Perhaps..." Aella nodded at him and turned to take her leave.
"What do I call you..." His voice was gentle... there was no insistence in it... yes... he would have to call her something if she did come to help tomorrow.
"I am unfamiliar with the language here and do not know the names that are used. Pick one you think is appropriate and you can call me that when I am here." she said in her most formal Latin.
The priest stood calmly and placed his hands inside the sleeves of his monk's robe... "Perhaps you should be Eleanor."
Aella started and narrowed her eyes. Had Edward told him to expect her? No... Edward had seemed as surprised to see her when they had met, as she had been to see him. Edward could not have known she would come here. Still... She shook her head and felt the familiar motion of her long braid swaying behind her, "Why Eleanor? ... What does it mean?"
"Oh," replied Darius, "when I first saw you earlier the sun was shining on you. The shaft of light glittered on you and you seemed bathed in sunshine. I was surprised... for the sun has not broken through the clouds all this day. Even now," he gestured about the sky, "It has already clouded back over. Eleanor... it means 'light'."
Aella nodded thoughtfully, "Eleanor... I like it. Then for you I will
always be Eleanor." She threw him an impish smile before she turned away
to find lodgings for her stay in Paris. She might like it here after all...
perhaps she had made a new friend... one she could trust in years to come...
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 08/10/2003)