Timeless Spirit Logo DRAGON'S DAUGHTER

A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Faith"
Volume 3 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Dragon's Daughter
Part Two

by Jennifer Monaghan

If you missed it, here's a link to Part One.

Doted on by both father and maidservant alike, the child flourished. If the widower grieved, he hid it well from both daughter and world, for in public he smiled and laughed and with his daughter he visibly overflowed with joy and pride. He refused to call her by her given name, a name which he kept secret (many believe he named her after his dead wife). The maidservant, however, was often heard using the name "Abigeal", which eventually became her perceived name if not her given one. Abigeal was a cheerful infant, curious and social and always smiling. She was a delight to the members of the village, many of them showering her with homemade gifts, frequent visits and unending affection. Before she could even speak she had won over many hearts with her charm. She developed quickly, learning at an accelerated rate and by the time she was three she could speak and read better than most adults. She learned much by sifting through the pages of poetry that her father had written. Although he made his living otherwise, he fancied himself a bard and later, after his death, his works would become well known. He wrote many poems about his late wife, and many more about Abigeal. A select few were written for another, Liadain, the shy-faced maidservant who not only nursed but also mothered Abigeal, who remained loyal and faithful to the widower and later became his second wife. Indeed, she became the closest thing Abigeal had to a mother, and thus helped to raise the charismatic girl into a beautiful young woman. But I get ahead of my story, let us step back again into the infancy and early childhood of she who was known as Abigeal.

I have indicated that she was an easy child, but though she came with very few problems, she came with one that befuddled not only my mother but every healer, doctor and midwife that walked through the widower's front door. Abigeal was prone to unusual fits. Somewhere around the time of the full moon she would launch into a torrent of screams and tears that no one could calm. Her cries could be heard in every house of the village at night, unceasing for hours and sometimes days at a time. My mother was called many a time to examine her, only to conclude that nothing was wrong. The fits seemed to be a result of some severe pain, but no source of pain could my mother, nor anyone else, find. As an infant, her face and body would clench and her ivory skin would redden and darken into a deep purple. As she grew, the episodes became even more dramatic. She would scream and beg for her father to make it stop, clutching to him, tearing at his shirts and sometimes raking his skin with nails much too sharp, nails that could not be softened no matter how many times they were filed. Her voice would crescendo into something akin to a monstrous shriek. More than once she ripped out her own hair and clawed at her own body. Miraculously, her wounds healed and her hair grew back with baffling speed, leaving no evidence by morning light. The widower was not as fortunate and his body was most often covered in welts and scars. He was helpless against this unknown predator within his child's body, the only thing he could offer was comfort and so he would hold her, shush her, rock her and let her tear at him, just so long as it gave her an outlet for her pain. And then, as soon as the fit was ended, Abigail would grow quiet and calm, sinking fast into asleep, slumbering for hours and oftentimes remembering nothing once she woke.

This continued, once every month, lasting anywhere from three hours to three days, on into her adolescence. By this time I was toddling after my big brothers and learning how to make words into sentences and daisies into chains. I too was developing more quickly than my peers. That set me apart in Abigeal's eyes and she saw me as kindred. She was present at my birth, learning from the women who tended to my mother, hoping to someday to enter their profession. She held me first, before anyone else, and was said to have fallen in love with me in those few moments before handing me to my mother. Indeed, it was she who named me Aine and it was she who watched me when my mother was away from home. She would read fragments of her father's poetry to me and philosophize on their meaning. She would brush my dust-colored hair until it shined and plait it into varying patterns, fixing ribbons and flowers into it so that I felt like a princess. She taught me to read and write, to count and to sing, to understand medicine and the art of healing. From her teachings I learned to decipher toxic or ineffective plants and herbs from those that cured. She laughed with me and cried with me and hugged me often. She called me "sister" and treated me thus. I relished in the height of a girlhood enriched by her presence. She became a much loved and respected member of my family and in return I was welcomed at her own dinner table. As my father had died before my birth, her father became a distant reminder of what it would be to have one in my life. Our families were combined with Abigeal at the center, keeping us together.

And there, always lurking on the outskirts, were Liadain and her plain-faced daughter, neither excluded nor included, being neither acknowledged or ignored, politely keeping to themselves. If Liadain continued to act the part of mother as Abigeal exited her youngest years, it went unseen. I'd like to think that it was in the quiet solitude of late evening and early morn, just before bedtime and just after rising, but that is just my own fancy. Still, there was a tenderness between them that seemed to stem from an intimacy beyond that between maidservant and mistress.

Time passed and Abigeal started to show signs of becoming a woman. She grew into her body with grace and beauty much envied by the other girls and coveted by the boys in the village. Her skin remained flawless and her sleek hair was as black and blue as the witching hour sky. Her translucent eyes twinkled in the sun and glowed almost seductively in moonlight. Her voice deepened just slightly and whether she spoke or sang or laughed, the sound was harmonious. She developed curves where men liked them most and became subject to daily flirtations at an early age. She wasn't exactly oblivious to them, but she ignored them. Most of them. There was one whose shy attention she not only welcomed but returned. My brother, Conall, was the firstborn and only a few years older than she. He was neither obnoxious nor crude in his courtship, he was quiet and attentive and only slightly bold. He listened when she spoke and smiled when she turned her head his way. He lovingly called her "Abby" and whispered things in her ears that made her giggle and turn pink. He left her flowers and other tokens in unexpected places, always with an unshaped fragment of iron so that she would know them by his profession as the iron-smith's apprentice. She was coy with him, but would lower her guard just enough in private moments so that he would know his affections were equaled. I remember stealing in on one of these moments by accident, sometime around age five. I crouched low in the shadows, hoping to observe unseen. I watched with fascination as Conall took a strand of Abigeal's hair and fingered it lightly, coaxing her face upward towards his. His hand came around her waist, pulled her gently into him. They kissed ever so briefly before Abigeal turned her face away, blushing and trembling. Her eyes gleamed in the darkening light and though I was tucked away discreetly in a place I was sure not to be seen, I swear her gaze found me. I had the sudden feeling that I was trespassing on something too intimate for my viewing. I scurried away like a bunny chased by a fox, trying to shut out the image of her knowing eyes.

It was around this time that her fits ceased, or seemed to cease, altogether. Now, when the full moon made its rise into the night sky, the village was quiet. People whispered, claiming to see her stealing away just before dark and it was speculated that she went into the woods or the mountains to while away her torment in solitude. Her absences would last hours or days and were fully noted by many. The widower could be seen pacing in front of his house, glancing nervously towards the distant mountains. At other times he could be seen sitting in his wooden chair and staring in this same direction, sleepless nights spent this way until his beloved daughter came back. Liadain, his faithful maidservant, would sit with him, bringing him tea and draping blankets over his shoulders to ward off the chill. Perhaps it was this monthly devotion that led him to love her, or perhaps he loved her heretofore and had simply kept it hidden.

I remember vividly the day when Liadain the maidservant became Liadain the wife. It was a quiet affair, held in front of the widower's house. My mother and myself were present, as were Liadain's daughter, my brothers and a very small handful of other villagers. Abigeal was there, moody and brooding. She held my hand tightly as the ritual hand fasting took place, her lips pinched and her crystalline eyes filled with a transparent storm. She was no longer the only one her father loved and this caused a flame of jealousy to ignite within. Suddenly the woman who was the closest thing Abigeal had to a mother was now a rival. The ceremony came to a close and Abigeal released my aching hand. My mother must have noticed, for she took that hand in between her own and rubbed the ache away. Distractedly grateful, I watched Abigeal smile, kiss Liadain on the cheek and curtsy, all with coldness and grace. She then turned and ran. I broke free from my mother's grasp and followed, Conall shouting after me. He caught up to me, held me fast when I fought and ordered me to stay put. He then tousled my hair in an apologetic fashion before running after his dearest love. I saw nothing of what transpired when he found her, but when they returned, Conall's arm firm around her shoulders, Abigeal's face was streaked with finished tears and hard with resolution. There was something in her eyes, however, that betrayed her face - a swirling together of love and of pain, and although I was only seven, I could have cried for her and almost did. "I will return before nightfall," Conall announced, leaving us to tend to her. My mother prepared an herbal tea while I sat and held her hand. We waited in silence for my brother's return. When he did, his face was grave. He beckoned Abigeal to speak with him outside; we heard hushed whispers and murmuring, a muffled cry and the fall of Abigeal's feet as she ran away for the second time that day. This time Conall did not follow.

We found out later that Conall had asked Abigeal's father for permission to marry her. Conall first asked politely and after being declined he begged and after being declined again he lost his temper, berating the old man with hateful words. The widower was firm and unbending in his decision, though he would not give reason. Conall was somber and silent in those days that followed. Abigeal had been searched for and not found, had not returned, no sign was left as evidence to her whereabouts. The widower paced as he did during her more routine absences, although with a ferocity unmatched previously and a nervousness that seemed to increase as the full moon neared.

Please return next issue for Part Three of Jennifer's "Dragon's Daughter".

Jennifer is a writer and poet who has had a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM. In addition to writing, Jennifer recently graduated and is now working as a veterinary technician.

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