Morning came with a wave of misery as Stanton recalled the minute details of the previous day. Escape from the king had felt like new freedom especially since they followed the advice he received from William, who relayed a message from Attrea. Now, as he walked outside to discover he was alone and the ashes from the pyre still lay in a mound where he last saw them, except for what was scooped out where Margaret’s body was incinerated, he stood as still as possible.
When the tension he felt quivering throughout his body didn’t lessen, he turned and walked into the forest hoping to find solace within nature as he always had back on earth. He followed a narrow river where eventually, he discovered a resting water wheel alongside a dilapidated gristmill.
He entered through a double door set in tracks at ground level and found the wide plank flooring solid. He pushed the doors open with little effort and nodded. After examining the wide rough timber hand hewn beams used as framing and for rafters and joists Stanton found all solid and stable.
The siding was not in good condition, but he knew it could be repaired. He stepped in a deep puddle as he approached the waterwheel, stumbled and caught his balance before falling into the river.
“You might want to watch your step out here.” Galyna said with a note of concern.
“Didn’t hear you approach,” he said as he dragged his boot out of the mud, knocking it against a large stone to dislodge the mud. Instead of putting it back on he removed the other and his socks then walked to where she stood.
At first he wasn’t sure if she was the warrior although she had the warrior’s soprano voice. She wore a loose fitting opaque blue blouse made from a material that clung and moved as she did, and trousers that he believed were made from something kin to denim, but silver grey.
As he drew closer, he saw that on her face she had a tattoo of a vine starting at the tip of her nose. As it rose up her face the vine spread out with tiny flowers evenly spaced to the entire thing was symmetrical. Along her ears were separate vine highlighting their details. More rose from the center of her chest and spread left and right and then over her shoulders. All of them glowed a light bluish color leaving Stanton to think they were not tattoos but natural.
“I needed to walk,” he said, “and nature normally offers me peace and at least a bit of solace.”
She nodded as if she understood. Then she pointed at the mill. “No one has run the mill in several generations. Last I heard the wheel locked, perhaps rusted or something.”
He watched her eyes as she spoke. In his training he was taught that a person’s eyes told the watcher everything they spoke and much that they did not.
Galyna appeared truthful and he felt himself relaxing. “It is a solid building. I was thinking I might repair it do something useful while I wait for my daughter to…” He ran out the thought as a picture of Margaret’s smiling face invaded.
“That would be constructive. We normally travel half day to acquire the grain we need for both us and our livestock.”
“Are there tools I might use?”
She nodded and pointed back to the village. “We have a series of workshops and a outbuilding where all tools are stored. You are welcome to use what you need.”
“Good,” he said, and then needed to sit, which he did with her assistance.
“Grief is like an ocean storm. At first the waves are quite high and knock down the living with no effort. Then as time passes they grow smaller until we can tolerate them, but we can never ignore them since like the ocean grief never departs completely.” She sat alongside him, placed a hand on his shoulder and both grew quiet.
When Stanton finally felt he’d regained the strength to stand and in some ways to continue living, he walked alongside Galyna as they returned to the village.
“It is afternoon mealtime,” she told him. “If you want to join us please do but if you are not feeling that comfortable yet, I will bring yours to you.”
He drew a deep breath through his nose and exhaled hoping that might help his decision. “I’ll join you. I cannot hide in my grief and expect it to pass to any degree.”
As they found places to sit, at platter was passed from person to person. Stanton took a small helping of cooked meat, what he thought was mashed potatoes, and a variety of vegetables.
No one spoke before, or during the meal as mugs of a strong tasting ale were distributed. As Stanton felt the alcohol warm him slowly, he heard voices and turned to see a healer walking in his direction.
He stood and met the healer. “Is my daughter okay?”
The healer looked to Galyna as if she needed a translator. Then the healer nodded and spoke in musical tones to the warrior.
“The healer says you daughter is strong and that she like her father is gifted. They do not yet know her gift, but since her mother was both gifted and a hybrid human, it is likely your daughter will benefit all around her.”
Stanton frowned. “I am not gifted. I am as ordinary as any man might be.”
“You are wrong in that assessment, Stanton Wilson. No one is allowed to pass through a portal to our world unless they are gifted. I suspect you are unaware of what your gift may be. However since your child bears a gift of healing and unification, it is possible you carry one or part of both.
“Quite often a child bears a stronger gift when two parents give her each of their gifts. We shall see how you and your child do. Attrea will alert us as she learns more.”
As the warrior spoke the name Attrea, Stanton felt mixed emotions. There was still strong almost powerful feeling of attraction he never denied, but added now was a sting of confusion.
“How much does Attrea control this world?” he asked as calmly as possible.
“Attrea is descendant from the builders. The original families mostly died off due to the usual things that happen to families over centuries of time. Attrea’s family is one of three that remain pure.”
He shook his head feeling confused and then exhausted. “Does the healer have any more to say about my child?”
Galyna trilled to the healer who trilled back a long sequence of tones.
“She tells me your child will grow and develop quickly. That is one of the gifts she received from her mother. The healer also wants you to know and understand the reason that they could not save Margaret.”
“The poison the king’s men included in the explosive that severed her leg, was a slow acting nerve agent that killed incrementally and quite painfully. If Margaret had not lost her leg and therefore became unconscious, her pain would have killed her within minutes of injection.
“So the healers, recognizing the poison from previous engagements with that enemy had to act quickly to save the child. Had the poison reached her to the smallest degree, she would’ve been lost. Her heart might have seized and if not her lungs would have.” Galyna looked at her feet, then up again. “I am sorry for all that happened, but the healers made the correct choice.”
“I know,” Stanton agreed. “Please tell her I thank them for saving my girl.”
The warrior trilled to the healer. Thee healer stepped close to Stanton placed one hand on the center of Stanton’s chest and one on the top rear of his head. He felt energy pass through him, and with it his grief lessened enough that he knew he would survive it.
When the healer stepped back, Stanton bowed with his hands on his chest to show the universal expression of gratitude.
The healer smiled, turned and rose into the air, stepped onto a moving disk and was gone.
When he began collecting tools for the repairs, he understood he would need a source for planks to patch the flooring in places and replace missing siding. He climbed on the roof and found it mostly sound, but in need of shingles on the riverside.
With what he considered a complete inventory, he gathered what he found near the workshops and after inquiring about its use, found it all available.
For the first two days, he removed rotted and damaged wood throughout the mill. As he did he discovered a wide belt and pulley system that included massive tools powered by the waterwheel including a round saw blade, and a pounding device that he might use to split logs. However the belt was dry and brittle and where it attached to the waterwheel, the main pulley was hanging to the side showing that axle had split and broke.
Deciding to change his plans, he removed the hundred-foot belt, laid it on the ground up the hill from the river and returned to remove the axles supporting the belt from the waterwheel to the end where the round saw blade sat idle.
A week passed without much progress except the feeling of acceptance and satisfaction that he was at least working with his hands and accomplishing a task that in the end would help those he lived with now.