vineri, 27 decembrie 2013

New Addition To The Family

"Women may fall when there's no strength in men."

I was only 20 years old when I understood what beeing humiliated truly meant. But now, looking back to it, I understand that in a way, it was my fault. I was too young, too blind and I knew nothing of temptation and lust.
It was the beginning of winter and I was trying to enjoy a couple of non-working days with my children, taking delight in the fact that all four of them were hale and hearty. The house was clean and I just managed to lull the babies to sleep, so I went to bed earlier, hoping to catch up on some sleepless nights I had to spend caring for a young mother. Of course, sleep didn't come easy to me that night either.

Even Gregory was at home, fanning the flame in the parlour and recounting to his footman some insignificant happenings from the farm. For a few moments I felt like I was truly happy. And then, of course, I saw the housemaid beckoning me. I got dressed in a hurry and followed her into the kitchen from where she guided me to our servants' quarters.
The room was dark and poorly ventilated and the stifling air made me dizzy, so I had to grip to the kitchen maid's upper arm to prevent myself from fainting right away.
I heard her cry a moment before I saw her and I was taken aback, because that was the instant when I understood everything.
She was beautiful. By God, she was so beautiful she stood no chance, and I didn't comprehend that until it was too late. And my husband was a weak man...

Some midwife must I have been not to notice a woman living under my roof, trying to conceal her pregnancy from my eyes, while everyone around me was aware of it.
Right before my eyes was Maud, my devoted wet-nurse, the woman I took into my house and entrusted with the care of my children. Pregnant and ready to deliver a baby. My husband's baby. I wanted to weep and pity myself, for I must have been sightless not to notice what was happening right into my house.
I am ashamed to admit that the first thing that I wanted to do was leave her there and run upstairs, lock myself into my bedchamber and cry. But Gregory was upstairs and I was not yet prepared to see him.
It was the most difficult decision in my life, but I knew that I could never forgive myself if I left her there and something were to happen to her. I did my best, trying not to think about what this child meant for me and ignoring Maud's pleas. How could I blame her for my own recklessness?

I tried anything to save her, but I knew I would lose her by the sunrise. She bled to death one and a half hour after delivering a baby girl and I couldn't do anything to save her, beeing forced to watch the poor woman gradually wither away.

For a moment, I felt relieved, but then I looked at the little baby girl lying in my arms. In a way, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor baby, knowing what an orphan's life would probably be. She wouldn't stand a chance, especially now, during winter months.
"Poor, innocent soul ... Why are you supposed to pay the fiddler for someone else's sin?"

So I made the most frantic decision of my life. I swaddled the baby and took her upstairs, to my husband.
Needless to say, he didn't ask for many explanations. He did squawk and bawl at me for a couple of minutes, but began to sing a different tune when I placed the baby in a cradle in the nursery, next to our children.
"Her mother wanted her to be named Sarah, so I complied. She's healthy, but I'm sending her and our children at my parents' for a few of months. I'm sure they will agree and find a wet-nurse for them."
There was no way I was going to employ another woman under the age of 50 and bring her into my house.
Me and Gregory didn't talk to each other for the next two weeks.

joi, 31 octombrie 2013

The Gathering Storm

“The marks humans leave are too often scars.” 

On the far side of this land, near the Dark Sea, a tenebrous, old castle defies the mighty waves, its well-worn mures still struggling to resist each flowing tide. Long ago, this castle was inhabited by a Duke far gone in years and his young wife. But that was many years ago, and very few people still remember the old Duke's lour.

These days, in the gloomy castle dwells a so much younger Duke with his Duchess, both of them still bearing the same family name as the older Duke, whose steps no longer reecho along the damp galleries. Nowadays, a fire burns every day in each fireplace, carefully supervised by quiet servants.
The castle's living its glory again and monthly feasts are thrown only to amuse the Duke's family and maybe distract the people from the real problems that are beginning to make their presence felt. Because, even with the feasts and balls and all the splendour that radiates, everyone can feel the war clouds and knows that hard times will soon arrive.

There are two masters of this land and none of them can tolerate the other's presence, nor do they seem to try to come to terms for the good of their people. Up until now, and maybe for another couple of years, this dispute has been carried behind closed doors, but things are about to change. Gone are the poisonous flasks of wine and the tasters dying in the place of their master and gone shall they be for the next decades, for now each attempt has come to nothing and the two masters are starting to show signs of growing impatient.
The realm is divided and people are poor. Everyone wishes for better living, but ploughmen and peasants and merchants are in need of a mighty leader. And so, there will be one. Only one.

But what do children know of their parents' conflicts? Whose side are they supposed to take? For in the old castle, now live 6 children that, although have never seen their other 4 cousins, have been taught from the cradle how to hate them. But malignity and hatred seem to be a common emotion during brothers these days, because even if the two masters share the same mother and father and have been raised together, the days of their boyhood have long before been passed into silence.
For now though, the children have no knowledge of their father's schemes and they are unwittingly living the last years of their feathery childhood. The castle is replete with servants and dry nurses that would do anything to fulfill each of their young masters' desire.
As the chill in the air announces the imminent proximity of winter and the light of the day decreases, those 6 young noble children are happy to let themselves be carried by their mother's fingers gliding softly along the piano's keys, too mesmerized to take notice of their father's lengthened absence.

The Duke spends most of his time locked in his apartments, discussing various problems with his counselors, while his wife enjoys the fact that she no longer has to bear children, for her last pregnancy and delivery had been quite traumatic and had taken its toll on her.

Ever since she recovered her health, the noble woman became quite detached and even more fastidious, if such thing could even be possible if her case, leaving her children to be raised and cared for by various maids and governesses.

Related only by the blood of their father, the Duke's children don't seem to mind their mother's absence too much, nor the differences between themselves. The oldest of the girls, Maria, is barely 15, an age which would seem appropriate for a marriage, but in the absence of a proper suitor, she continues to spend her time with her younger sisters, playing grown up, while the oldest of the boys, Thomas, named after his grandfather, taken ill with phthisis at an early age, is far from the worthy heir his father would wish for inheriting the family's wealth and renown. Artless of his father's concerns, the boy prefers to spend his time instructing his younger sister, Agnes, in the art of chess.

The girl, while younger than her brother by a couple of years, is already showing an unhealthy interest in her brothers and father's affairs.

Last but not least, the other three children, a boy and his twin sisters, are far too young, for they have barely put their feet down the cradle.

sâmbătă, 26 octombrie 2013

A tale of a tub

“I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.”

"Come on, Alleken..."
"Not tonight, please."
"Please? It's been four months since you've given birth."
"I know Gregory, but I'm exhausted. I barely slept for a few hours in the last three days and I'm so tired I don't even have the energy to unclothe myself."
"You don't even have to take your dress off ... You could simply tuck up your skirts ... "
"Hands off, Gregory. Don't you dare tuch me tonight!"
"That's it! You managed to drive me crazy again, woman!"
The door closes with a heavy noise and here I am again, alone in my bedchamber, one more night. I could hear Gregory tramping along the hall and locking the door from his apartment. And, of course, all this bustle woke up the children ... 

Dear Mother,
I am sorry it took me so long to reply to your last letter, but those past few weeks of autumn proved to be quite challenging for me.
I was called to assist at numerous births all around the realm and I barely spent a few days at home. Fortunately for us, the children are in good health and the wet nurse adores them. Have I told you about the new wet nurse that I found last month? Of course not.
Four or five weeks ago, my breast milk suddenly dried up and, even if I knew from the very beginning that it would be almost impossible for me, as a first time mother, to breastfeed four babies, I found myself yearning for those moments that I used to spend with my children.
So, I had to find a wet nurse. Teacher told me about a young woman from a nearby village that gave birth not so long ago to a stillborn baby. She was also a widow and it was her first child, so it wasn't too hard to convince her to accept to live with us for a year or so. She's a simple woman, born and raised in a poor family, yet she came to love my children as her own and I couldn't ask for more, because she has been a great help those past weeks, especially with me beeing so busy almost all the time.
As I mentioned before, I became quite notorious in the past few years and people all over the realm come looking for my help. Of course, most of the time I assist women giving birth and cure children od colds, but, from time to time, there are also some interesting cases. Take today for example. I had to get out of bed long before sunrise, because a young girl, no older than 6 or 7, living in a building across the way, came to our door, asking me to help her mother. I got dressed as quick as I could and hurried to help the poor woman.
By the time I arrived at their house, the girl's mother had been in labour for at least ten hours and was nearly exahausted. I checked her and I came to the tragic conclusion that her unborn baby was no longer alive. I remember seeing cases like this one sometime during my first year with Teacher. Women, most of the time over the age of 35, would suffer from elevated blood pressure later in their pregnancy and, by the time their labour occurs, both mother and baby are in danger, because there are only two possible outcomes and both of them result in the unborn baby's death. All we can do is to try and save the mother.

So, 6 hours after my arrival, the woman gave birth to a stillborn son. I have to admit that, even if I knew that was the only way we could save her, my heart nearly broke when I saw her husband's and children's sad faces. How could I make those children understand that was the only way I could save their mother?
I remained there for another few hours, looking after the childwife and watching her husband chiseling a small wood casket for another son that he would lay in the ground.
Mother, do you recall all that tittle-tattle about the old Duke's daughter and her mother's lover? It happened before I was born, but I'm certain some old maids still like to discuss it over the fire, during long winter nights. How everyone whispered that the Duchess banished her daughter, because the young girl gave birth to a baby, and the baby's father was no less than her mother's young man? The Duchess' object of consternation, that innocent baby born in sin, died only a couple of months later, but no one but the young mother really seemed to care back then. Do you remember what happened with the Duchess' daughter? Everyone assumed her mother locked her in a convent, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Her mother forced her to marry a peasant that lived on their land and the young girl's name faded into obscurity in no time.
Would you believe me if I told you that this older, overwrought woman that I saved is the same as the young lady from more than 20 years ago? Of course you wouldn't be able to trust your own ears if I said something like that, so don't worry, I'm not going to tell you such a tale.
In lieu of such a tale of a tub, I'm telling you that I'm happy and that Gregory asked me to pass on to you his best wishes. I have a loving husband, a ripping home and my son and daughters are healthy, so what more could I ask for?
I'll finish now, as I'm running out of space and my candle is starting to flicker. It's late and small raindrops are beginning to batter into my window.

Your loving daughter, hopping to hear from you soon,
Alleken Marie

vineri, 18 octombrie 2013

Too stubborn to admit it

“There are two circumstances that lead to arrogance: one is when you're wrong and you can't face it; the other is when you're right and nobody else can face it.”

"I still can't believe you want to leave! It's too soon. At least take someone with you!"
"Teacher can't come with me today, because she has to assist someone from another village and she is almost sure it will last a day or so. And I already told you I feel fine!"
"Damn Alleken! You've only given birth less than 6 weeks ago! You should still be in childbed!"
"Please don't pretend to be a doctor and try to put yourself in my shoes! How would that be? How would you feel knowing that because you refuse to do something, a child is suffering?"
"What about our children?!"
"They are healthy. You know very well that I wouldn't leave if I wouldn't be certain that they are going to be fine!"

Of course Gregory wouldn't understand. And how can he dare to accuse me of not caring about my own children?!
Earlier that morning, a woman from the castle arrived and implored me to come with her and save her master's children. I knew she was talking about the marquess' children.
A few years ago, the sad story of this young nobleman became something close to a tale among the people around his castle.
Everyone knew that the young Marquess of Lancaster was banished from his family's mansion by his older brother after a complicated incident and that he took refuge in a castle somewhere not so far from our town. There, he married a beautiful elven princess, that died in childbrith. She was only 19 and she died giving birth to quadruplets, leaving her heart broken husband to take care of five children by himself (they also had another one year old baby). For the sake of his children and beloved wife, the young widower managed not to go off the edge, even if one of the babies died shortly after. That happened almost four years ago and since that time everyone knew that the Marquess chose to withdraw into his shell and spent most of his time with his children or hunting by himself on his domains.
I was aware that that fall young children from all around the realm became ill with various respiratory diseases and that many of them evolved into lethal cases of pneumonia so, if there was something that I could do to save those children and spare their father from burying another one of them, then I was ready to try my hardest.
Even so, the five hours journey to the Castle proved to be more fatiguing that I anticipated and by the time I arrived, I had to stop for a couple of minutes, because I was already gasping for breath and I couldn't let anyone to see me like that. Maybe next time someone called me, I could persuade Gregory to pay me a carriage or even consider taking someone into service.
I had to cut short my break, because the master was already expecting me.

A servant then guided me to the children's apartments, where the Marquess took charge of presenting me his children's condition.

After examining them, I concluded that the two girls suffered of acute fever, serrated pulse, pleuritic pain in the side and cough, all of those indicating cases of Pneumonia, while the two remaining boys both suffered of an infection of the upper respiratory tract, most probably Influenza, that could also evolve into Bronchitis or Pneumonia. Before I started their treatment, I had to first stabilize their condition, because all four of them had dangerously high temperatures. I knew that I wouldn't return home that evening, so I asked one of the maids from the Castle to send word back to my husband not to expect me for a day or so.

I spent most of the night keeping an eye on the children and by the sunrise I was relieved to discover that all of them were already feeling a little better. The next day I prepared a herbal decoction and instructed the wet nurse how to convince the children to drink it. I also prepared myself a hot cup of tea, because I felt exhausted after a night spent attending to the children.

Later that morning, the Marquess thanked me and even offered to lend me one of his horses for my journey back home. I was most thankful for his pleasantness, because at that moment I felt like I was going to fall somewhere on the way and sleep for a whole week.

When I arrived home I discovered that Gregory had left earlier the same morning to attend some urgent affair with the farm. I couldn't care less. I got off into a dead faint and slept for two days. When I woke up, I discovered that Lynnete also fell ill with the flu. Fortunately for all of us, she was sick only for a couple of days and she recovered her health in no time.
Also, on my nightstand, I was surprised to find a beautifully decorated wooden box, patterned with intricate designs. I let a discreet giggle escape, thinking that that must have been Gregory's way of saying he was sorry for our dispute and his sudden absence. The moment I openened the wooden box, I realized I have never been so wrong in my entire life. In front of my eyes, on elegant, black silk, lied the most beautiful pair of earrings that I had ever seen. Adorned with white pearls and precious gems, I was almost certain they weren't meant for someone like me. Still, I couldn't help but stare at them for almost half an hour, until the chambermaid suddenly barged into my bedchamber to help me prepare for the day.
"Oh, the box? Came here yesterday in the evening. A man riding an elegand horse stopped by and asked us to hand it to our mistress. I figured in must have been the payment for treating the marquess' children."
And what a payment, dear Lord in Heaven.

joi, 12 septembrie 2013

Life's surprises

“I'm just not built for fairytale surprises.” 

"I know it doesn't taste very good ... I'm sorry for that. One of our neighbours offered to help me next time ..."
"To Hell, Alleken! It tastes even worse than the last time!"
"I know ... I already said I'm sorry! It's just that I'm not good at it ... "
"You're not good at cooking, you burned my underclothes the second time this month and because you can't make one decent seam we have to call the dressmaker every week! The only thing you know how to do doesn't help me at all, because you spend your damn whole day seeing paupers and strumpets!"
"Husband, please calm down."
"Don't 'husband' me! I'm starting to doubt you can even carry out your duty as my wife and produce an heir!" 

Two years into our marriage and everything was already on the rocks. To everybody else though, we were still the perfect married couple.
Gregory was busy administering his family's farm, so he spent at least three days every week out of the town, while I finally managed to open the consulting room, so we didn't see much of each other. Even so, our relatives started to ask questions, wondering if there wasn't something wrong with one of us for not yet having children.
What children, if even when my husband finally got to spent five days together with me, we were both so busy with our own concerns? Of course, the fact that I still lacked most of the standard housewife skills didn't help at all with our problems.

As for our first problem, I can't say that we didn't try. At least during out first year of marriage. Seeing that I was still not with child, I was beginning to worry, because I knew that there shouldn't be anything wrong with me. Even Teacher saw me and assured me of that. And there was nothing wrong with Gregory either, not that he would ever allow me or Teacher to make sure of that.

My work with the patients kept me busy, so I didn't really have much time to give it a second thought that summer, but at the beginning of fall I started to notice some signs and in less than a month I was already certain I was with child. I told Gregory that very night and he couldn't be more excited. He finally started spending more time at home and I have to admit, I couldn't be happier. I thought all our problems would end with the birth of this child.

Of course, things didn't turn out as I expected.
As every new mother-to-be and despite all my knowledge, I was scared and starteled even by the slightest new detail that didn't go 'by the book' and although I had a fairly easy time during my first trimester - I only suffered of occasional headaches and my weight remained almost unchanged - during my 22nd week I knew there was something uncanny about this baby. I discussed it with Teacher and we both had our share of suspicions, but we decided to wait a couple more weeks. Of course, by my third trimester, both of us were certain about the fact that there were at least two babies, most probably three. And that's when I became really worried.

Even if twins were a common event among humans, multiple births occured almost stricly among elves or other species, mostly naiads or selkies and with me beeing a first time mother, things wouldn't be as easy as I would have liked them to be. Gregory became concerned too and insisted that I should stop seeing other patients. Teacher agreed with him and I had to comply.

The labour lasted for almost 20 hours and I have to admit that it was the most bloodcurdling experience in my life, not only because of the pain, but mostly because I was so nervous and anxious about the babies beeing born too early and their chances of survival. By the time everything ended, even Gregory was exhausted. I gave birth at 32 weeks of gestation, not that would have been a surprising thing, taking into account the fact that I carried three daughters and a son. The boy and one of the girls were slightly underdeveloped and I was really worried for them, but they survived. We named them Francis, Matilda, Rosaline and Lyonnete and had all four of them christened by the third day.

I knew that Gregory would never be able to accuse me of not fulfilling my obligations.
And that's how our sleepless nights began.

We both agreed that it would have been nearly impossible for me to care for four newborns by myself, regardless of how much experience I already had with young children - I didn't really have any experience with such young children ; I knew how to deliver them and I was good at instructing the new mothers what they were supposed to do, but everything is so different when it concerns your own children - so we brought another girl in the house to help me. Even so, I didn't get more than two or three hours of sleep every night and by the time the babies turned one, I was nearly exhausted. Gregory tried to help me at the beginning, but he gave up after almost a week and even my mother couldn't resist more than a few months.
Still, in spite of all those things like sleepless nights, infantile colics and the occasional colds, I can't say that I wasn't happy to be a mother and I enjoyed every moment of it. Now that we already had four children to concern ourselves about, Gregory didn't really care too much about our old arguments.

luni, 9 septembrie 2013

The definition of marriage

Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

Now, I don't want to make it seem like he wasn't a pleasant person and I certainly don't want to make myself look like an ill-mannered young girl, because I'm well aware that my parents took pains in raising me well and educating me. 

At the first inspection, Gregory was everything a girl ever wanted. And more, because his family, even if not among the noble ones, was very wealthy and well known as an industrious one.
Bright, blue eyes, tan skin and a boysh grin that would melt any girl's heart. Not to mention the fine manners. It wasn't exactly love at first sight - I was so young back then that I doubt I was even capable of something like that - but I think both of us felt attracted to each other. I was only 15 and he was 25 when we first met, but to everybody else, it was the perfect match.
As I stated above, it wasn't the first time we were seeing each other. Or, at least, you could say it wasn't the first time I was meeting him. If I remember correctly, I had the first glimpse of him many years ago, when I accompanied my father and brother on a journey to the lowlands to send Albrecht to a school at the Cathedral, in the township. Gregory was the one in charge of the newcomers, but I was barely 6 at that time and it was very cold in the monumental hall at the Cathedral, so I was hiding behind layers of warm frabric that my mother carefully wrapped me in. I too didn't pay much attention to him back then.
The second time I saw him was during my apprenticeship. It happened in a breezy spring morning. It wasn't even 5 o'clock when someone knocked on our front door and woke everybody up from their beds. Because I was sleeping in the kitchen, I was the fastest one and I got to open the door. That's when he stormed inside asking for Teacher and practicly begging her to come with him at their farm and help his father's wife deliver. I was 13 years old when this happened, so Teacher took me with her. 
His father was an old and morose farmer, otherwise very respected in the comunity. For many years, he used to be a widower, his first wife having died while giving birth to Gregory. So, of course everybody was taken aback when he married overnight. His new wife was a naiad that barely understood human language, but she soon gave him two sons and a daughter. The night when me and Teacher assisted her, she gave birth to three more boys. Gregory's father never really thanked Teacher for her assistence, but he offered to pay her money. He knew Teacher and her family never accepted payment for what they did.
All those things happened years before me and Gregory were first formally introduced to each other and we never discussed this subject.
So, a month after my return, I left my family again, only this time for a different reason. Because Gregory had so many younger siblings (one sister and five brothers) at the time the two of us got married, both our families decided that it would probably be better for us not to live at his father's farm. So his family purchased a stylish property in a nearby town, while my parents offered to furnish it.
It was a new construction, still smelling of newly applied polish and fresh cut wood. A large kitchen, a chique hall for receiving guests, my own consulting room where I could privately see each patient and all of these only on the first floor. On the second floor there were two apartments, one for my husband and one for me, each of those two apartment with it's own bedroom, cloakroom and parlour, another apartment for children that had yet to come and a nursery. It wasn't easy on the first days of our marriage, with our house still full of labourers, but now, when I look at this little piece of art that I call my apartment I have to admit that it was worth it.

Because we had already spent so much arranging everything, we had to accept the fact that for the first few months, we couldn't afford to bring a kitchen maid, a valet for my husband or a housemaid for me. And that only raised more questions and lead to our first marital quarrel. I was already 15 years old when I got married and I was an aknowledged healer and midwife ready to start practicing on my own, but I literally had no knowledge on the domestic field. I couldn't boil an egg. I couldn't even do a decent work preparing my husband's tea, so cooking turned out to be a real ordeal for both of us. Ironing his clothes and sewing were also another mistery to me.

duminică, 8 septembrie 2013


"Life is a ticket to the greatest show on Earth."

I was born in faraway lands, under a much warmer sun, at 10th of august 1617, but I don't have memories of that place, a place that I haven't seen in years.
My name is Alleken Marie Varnhagen, and the very thing itself was a game between my parents months before I was born. I was their first child, so, when my mother learned she was with child - a thing that didn't happen until the fourth year in their marriage - she and my father somehow established a rule. Like in any traditional family, everyone around them expected my parents to pray for a boy, but that wasn't what my they had in mind. They simply wanted a healthy baby, boy or girl I think it didn't matter for the two of them. And because they both had the same opinion on this, they decided to make some kind of a deal: my mother got to choose the name in case of the baby being a boy and, if the baby turned up to be a daughter, it was my father's call. Because it was everybody's opinion that the baby had to be a boy, I turned out to be somewhat of a surprise to everyone and my father suddenly found himself faced with a great decision. He came with my name and that's how far my parents' game went. My second name was my mother's choice, because back where I was born, there was this customary law for every child to have a biblical name along with a more formal one.
A year and a half later came my younger brother, Albrecht Rudolf, named after our paternal grandfather, and that's how this game between my parents came to an end.
A few months after my brother's birth, my family was forced to move, so they purchased a farm somewhere into the mountains. That farm became the only home that I knew for the next 8 years.
I can't seem to recall any major event in my childhood, or any other thing that could majorly influence my development back in those days, so I think I should consider myself fortunate. I know that there used to be a war, but that was too far away from us and there was nothing in my parents' behaviour to indicate that our life had anything to suffer from it. I remember the snow, which was practically an immutable thing for those 8 years and I can also remember that both me and Albrecht were loved and appreciated by our parents. Other than those two aspects, there seems to be something like a could leisurely settling on my memories. Life was easy back in those days, or so my parents knew how to make it seem like to us. Short days spent playing in the snow or simply enjoying the rare rays of the winter sun, cosy evenings in front of the fire and long nights under the warm sheets, when our parents used to tuck me and my brother up.
That's the life I lived up until I turned 9.

I think you could say that I got to make my own decision regarding the path I followed in life, because my parents never asked for an injunction. Even so, I can't trace any important events that could have influenced me in making this life changing decision at such a tender age.
All that I recall was that the day after I turned 9 years old, my mother helped me pack some of my clothes and other paraphernalia, kissed me good bye and sent me along with my father on our way to the lowlands. I think now it's the time to ask whosoever's reading these lines not to judge my parents for such a brief and seemingly unemotional parting. As I stated above, it was my own decision and my parents accepted it. There were, of course, different times back then and for a child to leave his parents at such a young age and start his apprenticeship far from his parents' home wasn't such an uncommon event. I know how hard it must have been for my mother and father and what sacrifices they had to make.
After two days of travelling, my father and I arrived in a sleepy village, where he left me with an elven family. Now, even if it wasn't unheard for girls to choose the path of apprenticeship, please let me say that beeing accepted in an elven household as a healer prentice wasn't exactly an ordinary event. I was welcomed there and immediately accepted in their family. I met my Teacher, a forest elf named Lyzara, who worked as a midwife along with her husband and brother, Lyzair, a famous healer of our lands. There were also two of their children working with them and a grandson.

Now, the fact that I was accepted there didn't mean that I was to become a healer in the twinkling of an eye. I was only a child that didn't know a thing about healing or life itself. I barely knew how to read and write and I had a very vague idea about mathematics and science. I could count up to a hundred or so and I knew how to add or substract, but that pretty much summed up all the things I understood back then. So Teacher had to be very patient with me. And even after I learned things like comparing numbers, reading clocks, units of measure and adding decimals, I still had a long way to go. For the first year that I spent there I wasn't even allowed to attend Teacher while she saw patients. My duty was to study by myself for as long as she was busy with other patients and help around the house. You could say I had my fair share or laundering, and cleaning, but that's how life used to be in their house, with everyone working together and doing their part of work. I also got to see my parents every couple of months and they visited me every time my father had work in a village nearby. I was also allowed to spend a month at the end of the summer with my family, helping them at the farm. Those visits became less frequent as I grew older and as my studying intensified. I was gradually allowed to watch Teacher when she visited other women in childbed or even when she assisted at a childbirth. Of course, beeing only 10 years old, I knew that I had to get out of the room and quietly wait outside every time things became complicated. I learned to read it on Teacher's face. Her usually impassive demeanor would become more demure and she would almost indistinguishably knit her brows. In theory, I already knew what in meant and what could occur, but I also knew that there would be at least a year or two until I got to see what really happened.
By the time I turned 14, I already saw two women dying in childbirth and assisted Teacher at delivering at least two stillborns. I knew that Humans, Elves, Selkies or even Demons were still mortal creatures and when delivering, all women were the same. Scared for themselves and for their unborn children. Back then I thought I knew everything about life and death, but, of course, I realized there were still so many things to learn when Teacher's husband, Lyzair, decided it was the time to start taking me with him when he visited the poor persons that lived in each and every village from this land. That's when I learned that there is misery in this world, true, tangible misery and suffering.
Being raised by a disbelieving father and a very indulgent mother, I have never been a religious person and I refused to concern myself with problems such as the existence of a divinity or my own soul's immortality, but the things that I got to see while travelling with my Teacher's husband convinced me that, even if God may or may not actually exist, there surely is evil in this world.
About the things that I saw until I turned 15 I will talk another time, as this is supposed to be only the foreword of my tales and not the entire story itself.
So, by the time I was 15 years old, I knew that I still had so much more to learn about life and suffering, but that's where this story begins and if things were to have happened as I hoped them to happen, maybe I wouldn't be writing those lines. That fall, my family decided for me to take up my indentures and called me back home, because it was time for me to get married. And this beeing such an important aspect of my existence, they already had everything arranged.
His name was Gregory Cooper, son of a wealthy farmer and trader, and it wasn't the first time that the two of us came to meet each other. Even if I doubt he remembered me as that insignificant girl from many years ago.

Warwickshire: A Renaissance Challenge

The year is 1600. You are a Serf, seeking out a hard existence from the soil. Though your life is hard, you love your country and your King, and believe that your place in the Natural Order of things is ordained by God. If He wills it, a Serf who is hard working may be smiled upon by Divine Providence and given a higher place in the Natural Order of life, though it has never occurred to you, until now, to question your place in the system. However, the world is changing.
Everywhere, the foundations of feudalism are crumbling. New possibilities are arising for those who are enterprising enough to seize them, but these people, many believe, threaten the Natural Order and create chaos. Still, others maintain that man’s destiny is not written in the stars, that one must seek opportunity and advancement where it presents itself—that a New World is emerging, one which favors free thought and trade and which rewards those who seek to better themselves. These self-made men rationalize that the ends justify the means, and that Nature’s laws reveal that there is a Divine plan for all of creation, but one which rewards those who study her mysteries and who exploit her resources for personal gain. For these new thinkers, Knowledge is Power, and the keys to power are through Intrigue and Cunning. Nature, according to them, is a vast repository of resources, ripe for the taking, and they are not willing to sit contentedly by in their “rightful” place and accept their place in the “Natural Order.” Such antiquated thinking is for them a nuisance, a foolish belief of their elders. For you, you’re not sure about all of this. There have been wild moments, when working the soil or fishing in the Lord’s ponds, that you’ve fancied yourself a Duke, but such nonsense didn’t amount to much of a real concern. Now, as you see the world changing about you, you consider whether you’d like to change your position in society.
This is where the challenge begins. To successfully complete the challenge, you must see a family rise from the level of Serf to Duke within ten generations. To answer the question whether it is possible to succeed without cheating, you will find multiple ways to play the system in order to get ahead more quickly. Death, disease, and general difficulty will be your constant companions, regardless of how virtuous or evil you plan to play the game.
Warwickshire Challenge 2.0