Strands of Starlight

Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino Read Free Book Online

Book: Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gael Baudino
pay me to live here, I won't complain. Nor will my ladies.” She chuckled again. “Nor will his. What a fine, big boy she had last week!”
    But Furze was half a league away, and when Mika was gone, the house was quiet and still, the only sound that of the wind in the branches of the oak trees. The crocuses were blooming fiercely. The daffodils were up, and the tulips also. Miriam sat amid a torrent of color, lapped in a comforter, and it seemed that here, in a little hamlet south of Furze, she had found an end to her fears.
    For a time. She reminded herself of that. For a time.
    But for now here were flowers, and a bright sun, and a blue sky. The neighbors, bluff, earthy people who had little to do with formality, accepted her within a week, and it was not unusual for Jeanne or Agnes or even Robert or Charles to stop at the door and ask after her, the women more often than not bringing something to eat for Mika's little cousin, the men bowing, their hoes or shovels or picks over their shoulders and their voices rough but friendly.
    Miriam spoke politely in return, and she even learned not to start in fear at a knock on the door. But she usually kept her eyes averted as much from the instinctive aversion to forming attachments as from a real and immediate fear that she would see something—a cut, a bruise, a skin infection—anything that would awaken her slumbering power and send it climbing up her spine in a rush of white heat. Then these same neighbors would shun her and talk among themselves about the horror that had come to dwell among them. And word would spread, widening like the ripples left by the leap of a fish, until it reached Hypprux, and Cranby, and the Inquisition.
    It can't last.
    She drowsed in the warming sun, bits and pieces of her imprisonment drifting into her thoughts and startling her out of sleep: the soldiers, impassive; the torturer, grim and taciturn; Aloysius Cranby, passionate, ironic, and insinuating by turns.
    Elves? She knew nothing about Elves. She healed, that was all. There was nothing else. What did Elves have to do with it? They lived in Malvern Forest, sheltered from the same persecuting Church that captured and tortured small healer girls. Elves?
    If Aloysius Cranby wanted information about the Elves, he should ask someone from the Free Towns. Certainly the bishop had heard the same stories as she. The mayor of Saint Blaise, it was said, went out and danced with the Immortals on Midsummer Eve, and there was even a rumor that elven magic had turned a particularly troublesome priest into a pig. One could hear about it any market day int eh square. Why did Cranby have to bother her?
    “Let that bitch's whelp deal with the Free Towns,” she muttered, shoving the memories down.”Then he can leave me alone.” She closed her eyes only to be awakened a short time later by a gruff voice calling her name.
    She cried out, flailing with her arms for a moment, but it was only Robert, husband of Jeanne's sister, Clare. “I'm sorry, Miriam,” he said as she gathered the comforter about herself. “Din't mean to scare you.”
    “It's all right, Robert. Is there something wrong?”
    “It's Clare sent me over to see Mika. Her water broke last night but she han't started labor. She's still dropsied, too. The herbs han't helped much.”
    “Mika's out with Petronella,” said Miriam. “It's her first. It'll take a while. I'll send Mika over when she returns.”
    “I'm worried.”
    “Clare will be fine,” said Miriam, though she did not know much about the woman who had been in last-month confinement since Miriam had come to Mika's house.
    Robert wrung his cap in his hands. “She's late, she's dropsied, she's han a headache for the last week, and her water . . .” He fell silent, almost embarrassed.
    “What about her water?” Miriam felt the barest stirrings of heat along her spine.
    “ 'Twas green and slimy,” Robert blurted out. “Like pea soup. Not clear like Mika said it would be.

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