Saturday, October 23, 2004
the child, seven
The days flowed by. The strength of the Child's arms and legs grew greater. As did the longing within her for the return of he who had brought her here, the one that Mathilda spoke of as the Master. The days passed, and the Child often gazed up on the Mountain of Spices where the daughter of the enemy roamed freely, acting the part of owner. The Child longed to go there again, but the memory of the woman's anger held her back.
Wake, eat, go outside, come inside, eat, sleep - the days passed. Many, many days.
Sometimes in the evenings alone in her room, the Child would bring out the sword that Mathilda had dropped into her lap that first day. The scabbard was simple: plain brown leather edged with some sort of metal. Often she placed one hand on the hilt, as if to draw forth the blade. But she never did. The sword made her a bit nervous - what if she held it wrong as she drew it, and cut herself? And so she never actually drew the sword, only looked at it and put it away again, hiding it between the mattress of her bed and the wall.
One long evening, after Mathilda had shared her suppertime (but Mathilda never ate, not that the Child saw) and then left her to her rest, the Child spent a bit of time looking at the undrawn sword, then put it away. And then, out of curiosity, she went to the corner where the cast-off chains had lain all these many days. She took them up, examining them. Curious indeed they were, with intricate designs upon them. Parts of the chains even gleamed like gold!
How strange, thought the Child. The sword she had been given - and she was sure it was a gift to her - was so utterly plain. But the chains - quite the opposite of a gift to her - were rich and beautiful.
She held them, turning the chains this way and that. Yes, beautiful was the word for them! Exquisitely beautiful...
A sudden hunger to see how they had looked on her wrists seized her. Here was the one shackle; it must have fitted just so...
'Your arms are fairer without them.'
The Child jumped and dropped the chains, partly shamed with the guilt of having been caught trying them on, and partly frightened with a complete and utter fright.
For that was not Mathilda's voice!
Who could be here? Here, in her room - here, in the depths of this house? Here, where no one else came but her and Mathilda?
Shaking with dread, she forced herself to turn, to face the unknown someone who had spoken to her.
A man. Smiling, his eyes kind and wise and deep. 'Little one,' he said softly. 'Dear Child. Why do you burden again your arms with the chains I broke off of you?'
'You?' Her hand flew to cover her mouth. 'You? You are the one?'
'I am, dear.'
'You have come for me?' Oh, but her heart was pounding suddenly!
'I am come, yes.' His smile both deepened and broadened. 'I am glad to see you so well, little one. Mathilda has been taking good care of you, I see.'
A blush crept across the Child's face. She felt so embarrassed to have been caught playing with those foolish chains! And caught by him! He - the one whom Mathilda called the Master.
'Come, walk with me, my sweet Child,' he said. He held out his hand, and she took it. Then he turned and opened the door and led her from the room.
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