A Triptych on the Feast of Mothers

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Billowing sheets and scented herbs filled the air as the servants prepared the bed linens.  Kila was grey-haired, old for a Fae woman, but proud of her work regardless.  She had seen a lot of things in her time.

There was a soft sound at the doorway, and Kila looked up to see who had entered.

The boy was scrawny and looked as if he hadn’t eaten recently, his tied-back hair making his pointed ears and aquiline features look even harsher.  But in reality, he always looked that way.  The runt of the litter, some would joke when they knew they wouldn’t be overheard by the wrong people.

“Where’s my mother?” he asked Kila, touching her on the sleeve.

She backed away from the familiarity, from the action that was so untraditional.

“Begging your pardon, your Grace, but no one can go into the tower without the King’s permission.  Not even you, my Prince.”

“But she’s my mother!” he said, and withdrew a wilted and scraggly bunch of flowers from behind his back.  “I want to give her these! It’s her feast day, after all!”

One of the other servants snorted at his offering and quickly stifled it into a cough when Kila glared at her.

“I’m sorry, your Grace, but that’s just tradition.  You will have to talk with your father, the King.”

“But — he’s in a war meeting all day—“ he stopped, and glared at the floor.  He dropped the flowers, the offering relinquished.  His eyes were fierce for one so small, and his mouth thin as he rounded, leaving the room.

“Poor child,” a servant girl whispered as she tidied up the fallen flora.  “He is very unusual for a Fae boy.  Such attachment.”

“He is a crowned Prince,” Kila scolded, snapping the sheet she was holding in a swift motion.  “Better for him to learn now — King Angelus would never allow a boy his age into the harem.  When he was smaller  the King would’ve been more forgiving, but now, the Prince would risk his wrath.”

She stopped, seeing the hurt look on the servant girl’s face, and tsked.  “It’s the way it is.  Crowned Princes don’t get to celebrate mother’s feast days.  That’s all there is to it.”

The sheets billowed upward again, and scented powder rose in the air.

Kila had seen a lot of things in her time, and frankly, none of them changed.

~*~

“Whooa, boy!” The mustang came back to the ground, tossing his head, and the tall black-haired man patted the horse’s side, still holding tight to the reigns.  “You are very excited today.  What’s the matter with you?”

“Daniel?” the voice called on the wind, and Daniel smiled at the sound.

“Over here, wife!”

Veronica Chandler climbed the hill, her curly brown hair bouncing over her shoulders, the tiny black-haired boy clinging to her skirts as he beamed up at his father.  Veronica gave him a sly look, and when she spoke, it was without any real annoyance.  “You know, I thought the point of the Feast of Mothers was for the mother to sit and do nothing in the house while the father waited on her hand and foot?” She pushed the boy forward and he ran to his father’s leg, grabbing on tightly.

“Daddy!” the boy cried.

“See? He’s even more excited to see you than me, today.”

“Daddy, we made cake!” the boy said, tugging on his father’s leg.

Daniel laughed, patting his son on the head and giving his wife a big grin.  “I promise, I’ll be back down shortly to the house to wait on your every whim.  I just need to get this horse back to the stable.”

Veronica crossed her arms and jutted a hip out as she stood, smiling at the two of them.  “Take Nyal with you.  It will be good for him to learn his way around horses.”

Daniel nodded once, and Veronica walked back down the hill, towards their home.  Daniel sighed, thumping his boy roughly on the back.  “Come on, Nyal.  Let’s go put this horse away.”

Nyal walked just behind his father, as Daniel led the horse down the hill and towards the stable.

“Daddy, why do you have to wait on mommy today? Why can’t the cook do that?”

Daniel smiled.  “Because today is the Feast of Mothers.”

Nyal’s face looked wide and tearful, and Daniel backtracked.  “It doesn’t mean we eat mothers, it means we celebrate them!”

Nyal looked relieved, and was momentarily distracted by a butterfly before he had to run to catch up with his father again.

“What does it mean?”

“It means we make bouquets and garlands of flowers and put them all through the house to make your mother feel as if she is the most important woman in the whole world.”

“But mum IS the most important woman in the whole world,” Nyal said, looking confused that this wasn’t common knowledge.

Daniel nodded, “Every woman feels that way, Nyal, and especially mothers.  Especially today.  It’s very important we take care of them.  Women need to feel special if they are to be happy — and what is the code all we Chandlers follow, young Nyal?” he said, changing his voice to an authoritative one as they reached the stable gate.

Nyal stood up straight and proud.  “A happy woman means a happy village!”

“Right you are!” The horse was stabled, and Nyal stood outside the door, watching.  Daniel shook the dirt off of his hands and led the boy forward, back towards the house.  “You know what would make your mother really happy?”

“What?” Nyal said, looking excited.

“If you would go and pick some nice flowers from the field for her. Go on, go ahead!” The boy ran ahead, no further prompting needed.

Daniel went to his home’s front gate, and Veronica stepped out of the doorway, looking at him, and past, towards Nyal. She walked up to him, and Daniel put his arm around her.

“He’s such a sweet boy,” Veronica whispered.

“He didn’t learn that from me,” Daniel said.  “I made you miserable before I finally made you happy.”

“Nonsense,” Veronica said, leaning up and kissing him on the cheek.  “It was completely the other way around.”

Nyal pulled a plant up by the roots and quickly tried to get rid of the dirt.  His parents laughed, and Veronica hid her head in Daniel’s shoulder.  “Well, I guess I’ll need to work with him on some gardening then… our son.  Our brilliant, wonderful son.”

“He is,” Daniel said, “and he wouldn’t be anything without his brilliant, wonderful mother.”

They kissed, and she sighed, watching as Nyal ran away from a bee he had dislodged, back to their gate, back to them.

“Mum, these are yours!” he said breathlessly, handing her a clump of mismatched wildflowers.

“They are absolutely beautiful, darling!” Veronica said, taking them and swooping down over her son, grabbing him into a hug.  “Come here!”

“Happy Feast of Mothers,” Daniel said, and Veronica kissed Nyal repeatedly on the head until he squirmed away.

“Happy Feast!” she repeated.  “I’ve got the best boy a mother could ask for, and the best husband to set him straight!”

She clapped Nyal on the back as he ran past, back into the house.

“Can we eat the cake now?” his small voice called.

Daniel took his wife by the hand, and they went into the house laughing.

~*~

The hour was growing towards night, and the clatter of drums in the street was raucous.  Ebony danced in the front garden with reckless abandon, her curly red hair bouncing with every movement.

“I love feast days!” she said to her friend Bree as she did a spontaneous cartwheel across the lawn.  “They are always so full of music!”

“You love your music,” Bree said, laying back down on the grass and weaving another flower into her garland.  “I wonder if the feast days will still be as good when I’m a mother.”

“You, a mother?” Ebony said, putting her hands on her hips.  “I thought you hated little kids.”

“Just anyone under eight,” Bree said, giving Ebony a hard look.  “We’re nine, we know better.”

Ebony rolled her eyes.  “They all start out tiny, Bree, you know that.”

Bree gave a long sigh.  “I know… oh well.”  She stood up, holding out her garland.  “What do you think?”

Ebony studied it carefully for a moment.  “Add some mint.  It’ll look pretty and make it smell more interesting.  Maura won’t mind, she’s already made her tea for the day.”

Bree shrugged, staring over the herbs.  “Uhh, which one, again?”

Ebony pointed at it, and Bree gathered some sprigs, filling out the edges.  “Okay, now?”

Ebony gave it her best critical eye, then a sharp nod.  “Yes, your mum will like it.”  A Pixie came from Maura’s front window and landed on Ebony’s shoulder, whispering something into her ear.  Ebony nodded and the Pixie went on its way.  “I’ve got to go in, anyway.  Dinner is almost ready, and I’m surprising Maura.”

“How’d you get the Pixie to do that?” Bree asked, looking at her friend in awe.  “Ours are completely unruly!”

“He’s not mine, that’s why,” Ebony said with a shrug.  “They are horrible pets.  I just asked one that landed on me to let me know when my water boiled.  Said he could eat all the bread he wanted.  Fair enough deal.”

“That’s almost… treating them like Humans, rather than Pixies,” Bree said.

“Well, how else would you treat them?” Ebony said.  “You’ve gotten bitten by enough of them to know they aren’t good pets.  Anyway, happy feast day!” She gave her friend a big hug.  “Maura’s dinner awaits.”

“Ebony, why don’t you just call her mum?” Bree said, as Ebony turned away.  “I mean, she raised you and all.”

Ebony stopped at the doorway, holding the peeling wood a little too tightly.  “Well…I mean, she’s not my mum, is she? She raised me but… she’s not Roswen.  Even she says so!”

Bree shrugged.  “Eh, seems strange to me.” She threw her garland over her shoulder and gave Ebony a wave.  “See you tomorrow!”

“Yeah, see you then,” Ebony said, watching her friend bound away through the front gate.

Ebony went inside, to the kitchen, and started boiling the potatoes.

After a minute, she looked both ways, and stole out the back door.

It was a quick run through the woods to the place.  She could get there in less time than it would take for her to have to mind the potatoes.

She stopped at the walking tree on the way.  She called it that because its roots grew huge and rambling above the soil, and she was convinced it walked by itself at night.  But its roots left many a small hiding place, and she often kept treasures within.

She withdrew today’s  —  a small posy of wildflowers, and ran ahead, to her destination.

The trees cleared, and the great grassy hillside stretched before her.

There was one marker, alone, just under a cherry tree that was past blooming already, the pieces of pink flowers rotting into the ground.

The marker was nameless, in the tradition of Cross Haven’s people, but the burial site was unique, chosen by the closest kin, and everyone knew who was buried there.

“Happy Feast day, mum,” Ebony said, placing the posy on the marker.

It brightened the white stone and brought out the green of the grasses around them.

“It’s been nine years, but I still think about you every day,” Ebony said.  “Maura encourages it.  I used to think it was strange, because so many times, adopting parents try to make you forget about where you came from.  But she never made me forget.  She made me remember.”

She smiled at the marker, and sniffed as one tear rolled down her cheek.  “Still, sometimes I wish you and Father could be around to give me some advice.  Especially about clothes, I’m awful at looking like the other girls.” She laughed to herself, and stood up, feeling suddenly cold.  “I’ve got to go back to making Maura dinner.  She’s doing a real good job at raising me.  You picked the right midwife.  She’s brilliant.  I love her, and while she can be gruff sometimes, I know she loves me too.”

On a whim, she hugged the marker and waved to it before stepping back.  “Bye, mum.  Talk to you soon.”

She ran back through the woods, back to the house where she would make her adopted mother dinner.  It wasn’t the same, she knew, not the same as the garland being presented to Bree’s mother right then, or the other mothers that had borne their own children hugging them by the tables tonight as they received gifts and kisses.

But…

Maura entered, covered in greenery, beaming.  “What is all this?” she said, looking around the kitchen.

“I’m making you dinner!” Ebony said, giving her a broad grin.  “Just sit down and make yourself comfortable.  I’ll take care of everything!”

Maura nodded, and looked around the kitchen again, sniffing at the herbs Ebony had placed out, and sat down on a chair.”

“Goldberry wine!” Ebony said, handing her the glass she had prepared.

“Oh my, this is certainly a surprise!” Maura said.  “I didn’t think you’d remembered.”

“Of course I remembered,” Ebony said, turning, and taking a deep breath.  “It’s the Feast of Mother’s, and… you’re my mother.”

Maura looked as if she might cry, and glanced to the right.  “Are you really going to use that combination of herbs on the meat?”

Ebony looked over.  “What’s wrong with them?”

“I mean, I’m sure it would be fine, but maybe if you used a little—“

“Maura, I’m the one making dinner! You don’t have a say!”

“But really, it would taste better if you—“

“MAURA!”

“It’s my Feast Day, I can do what I wish!”

“It’s your Feast Day, so you need to stay out of it!”

Their voices echoed, carrying out the window of the small cottage, and the Pixies lighting up the darkening treetops snickered and chuckled with the sound of boulders grinding together, and wondered at the Humans with their silly feast days.

It was the Feast of Mothers as the sun set on Cross Haven.

~*~

This series uses characters and settings from my original fantasy series, Ebony, currently in submission to agents.

I saw the Story Dam prompt about mothers, and just wanted to try character sketches about important people to my series.  It was sort of fun to explore the very different familial settings.

I hope you liked them, I am sorry that I couldn’t go into more details but… spoilers!

Glad to be back to the blogging, I promise you will see more.

I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day, and I hope that you at least called your mums or visited their graves or whatever it is you do!  Remember them!

Mine was lovely, thank you, although it was smaller than usual and there was much yelling of: why are you putting that table there and, the potatoes have gone cold, etc., but it was nice to have three generations of my family together.  (Even though I’m the odd woman out, being adopted!)

JM

This prompt was inspired by StoryDam, specifically this page here.Story Dam

3 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading that (although I did keep hoping that the scene would shift back to the prince, and that he would have the chance to see his mother). i definitely look forward to reading the Ebont series when it is realeased.
    ~~Victoria (visiting from story dam)

    1. Ahhh I would have loved to let you see more of the young prince, but unfortunately it would have given far too much away about the actual series! It’s hard writing pre-series without ruining it. :/

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