November 4 – Spirit Bells

NaNoWriMo: Posted November 4 @10:18

I’m not feeling a good flow yet. I’m going to try this from Safreen’s point-of-view.

The three, white ceramic Spirit Bells over the herbalism shop’s entryway chimed a series of notes, announcing the presence of a guest. Like Nom, Safreen grew up believing that the sound was a gift of good luck and a reminder that this home was for the loved, the loyal and the befriended…even if one came in as a complete stranger.

Today’s guest was not a stranger.

The Lord of the High Royal Guard calmly ducked under the bells. His left arm trailed behind him still holding open the door while his alert blue eyes inspected the store’s interior. Aara, Lynthia’s Princess, followed behind him. She had a wobbly walk and hugged her stomach. I pushed my studies aside over the clear glass of Nom’s display case and stood slowly. Aara wasn’t due back for an appointment for two weeks. Her last one wasn’t even a week ago.

The Lord of the High Royal Guard did have normal visits, stopping for supplies, common first aid treatments needed for the occasion injury he received when training his soldiers…or training a falcon. Commoner rumor was that The Lord failed miserably at falcon training. Nevertheless, his visits came on Bazaar days. It was Saturday afternoon.

It was the Lynthian Princess’s presence that altered the shop’s usual conception. Her secret was of highest priority. She even refused to tell the Lord of the High Royal Guard about it. I personally didn’t understand the point of hiding a pregnancy, but that wasn’t for me to judge. I was just here to help, but the Princess didn’t look sick—

“Is Nom here?” The Lord asked, breaking my thought. A fierce blush colored my cheeks, my pale skin turning from white to probably looking like it received second degree sunburns in a split second. I had been so devoted to figuring out their needs that I failed to realize the man had been scanning the room for Nom.

I waited for him to finish shutting the shop’s door, just in case a nosy commoner strolled by. Palace servants enjoyed gossip, even if the rumors came in half-truths. Then cleared my throat and stammered out a quick, “yes.”

Unlike other mercantile shops in Lynthia, Nom’s shop did not share its walls. It stood alone, and did so for a reason. The lower portion of the shop did not own windows although half of the rooms upstairs did. It was easier to hide battered women when the world has less chances to peak in on you. But lacking the glow of sunlight, the customer portion of the shop remained forever dim even though the brown stone walls glimmered with a number of lanterns.

I glanced over at Nom’s Guardians, who waited in either side of the stairway that angled upward like an “L.” Nom preferred the men to conceal themselves in the shop’s dark corners. Their plain dark clothing matched the dark wood fixtures. The Guardians were a paid means of transportation, like one would use a camel or a horse, but they had other purposes too like ensuring the shop remained protected. They enforced the smooth flow of day’s work.

Today’s work, however, was supposed to entail an important meeting on the second floor. Nom’s entire staff knew she was meeting with another abused wife. The Lynthian woman had been checked in as a flu patient with a note that other members of her family may be affected. The coding meant Nom and the family were under quarantine and that no one was to enter the room until further notice. Nom’s work happened under the strictest of privacy guidelines. It was my job to decide when those guidelines needed to be adjusted, and as I said the Lynthia Princess took highest priority.

“If I may ask, can I tell Nom the purpose of your visit?” I looked at Aara, the Princess and still new bride to the King’s newest Consult. Her smile looked forced but genuine. I’d seen smiled like hers before. They came from worried patients.

Unfortunately, it was the Lord of the High Royal Guard who tried to answer. He turned away from the princess, lifted his chin and gave an easy nod both to myself and the Guardians. I ignored his gesture.

“Something’s wrong,” Aara replied from behind the Lord.

“Are you sick?” I asked her, still trying to gauge what that meant.

“I’m bleeding.”

“You’re bleeding?” The Lord barked with a start of surprise.

“You should sit,” I told her, rounding the display case with my stool.

The Lord’s head snapped back toward the Princess that at me. I knew he was reading body language, compiling information and clues. He did it every time he entered the shop. His mouth opened and his right hand raised with a pointed finger that he aimed in my direction before his eyes sharpened and his shoulders squared.

“What information have I been excluded from?” His words came out in a curiously controlled but strangled tone.

“You’re jumping to conclusions, my Lord.” I touched his arm lightly as I set the stool down for the Princess hoping the skin on skin contact would diffuse him.

The Princess sat with a hushed “thank you.”

I knew the interaction with The Lord would be a gamble as my words could just as easily sound offensive, but I had a patient to protect regardless of the sacrifices I needed to make to accomplish that task.

“No, I don’t think I have.”

Lynthia’s highest ranking soldier pulled away, stepping back with his hands on his hips, leaving me to stand uncomfortably between the two.

“There’s going to be an addition to the royal family.”

Aara’s soft voice always sounded humble when I heard it, but I had been watching the Lord of the High Royal Guard whose face glazed over with a pained shock. He stared at the Princess, saying nothing to such important news.

“I meant to tell you when we left.”

He blinked then, as fast as his face dropped with emotion, he recomposed himself. He shut his gaped mouth and became the soldier expected of him.

“I’ve been taking you to see Nom because you’re pregnant?” The short snort of dismissive laughter that came with his question gave away his emotional state.

“I needed someone I could trust.”

“Someone you could trust?” He body jerked back, leaning away from the offense. His voice sputtered louder. “You trust me enough to bring you here, but you don’t trust me enough to tell me why…until now?”

“It’s been over four months.”

“Why couldn’t your husband take you here?”

“Because he doesn’t know!”

As fast as it started the argument stopped.

“Um, let’s get you settled into a room upstairs,” I suggested, grabbing the Princess supportively around her elbow. I wasn’t sure how exactly to response, but instinct told me to get them separated. I nodded to Nom’s Guardians then turned for the dark wooden stairs that matched of all of the fixtures in Nom’s shop. My eyes dropped long enough to watch my foot plant on the first step, and I noticed that I forgot to remove my apron. We were supposed to take the apron when we weren’t directly working with herbs and elixirs. As I ascended to Nom’s second story, I untied the item with my free hand.

I didn’t see it, but I heard the slapping of skin on clothing…I imagined of The Lord of the High Royal Guard’s hands expelling to the fullest in frustration then falling to his sides.

“Your husband really doesn’t know about the pregnancy?” I asked, the words coming out barely a whisper, all sense of using proper titling forgotten.

“No.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, my lady…how come?”

The Princess smiled, the radiant warmth that came with bearing a child returning to her skin. “I wanted to wait until the first trimester was over. My mother always made the commented that it was a safer practice.”

I hummed in understanding. She held an old traditional belief, common of royal families who at one time were at higher risks of miscarriages due to genetics. It was not my place to judge, only help.

I escorted her pass the third room on the right, where I heard Nom talking to [name]. The Princess paid the voices no heed. I chose the last available room on the left and opened the door, gesturing for the Princess to proceed before me. Like the lower floor, this particular room was windowless, but illuminated by lanterns. We never let the rooms be without light unless there were our own. We never knew when a surprise patient would show up.

“I’m going to tell him tonight, when I get back,” The Princess said as she settled down on the bed.

“Your people will be pleased with the announcement,” I shared as I pulled out blankets from the room’s small closet and handed them to Nom’s next patient. “In case you get cold. If you don’t mind excusing me, I’m going to get Nom. Would you like the Lord to remain downstairs?”

The princess’s hands sandwiched the bedding. It felt odd to hand over blankets to the woman then asked if she wanted another man to join her in the room or not. She must have felt the same way because her fingers instantly began twisting the material. “I don’t want him in the room—”

“I’ll see that he’s comfortable.”

I gave the girl a quick nod then excused myself.

Down the hall, I paused at Nom’s door and knuckled three knocks. The exchange inside ceased immediately. “Yes, Safreen.”

“You have a patient.”

I heard my mentor excuse herself politely then heard wood scraped against wood as Nom pushed her chair away from the small conference table. Her step always sounded heavy but with purpose. The door cracked, just enough to catch the glimmer of Nom’s eyebrow ring. “Aara,” I told her.

The door shut.

An empty water basin rested on a square table along the far wall. “When did the bleeding start?”

“I’m not entirely sure. I

The only time Nom’s bells didn’t ring was that same evening…when Prince Destovl slammed through the door so violently that the set flew across the shop and shattered.

“Nom!” The gravelly deepness of his voice normally commanded attention, but it was the harsh crack in his words that pleaded desperately for help that took it.

WORD COUNT: 1753


 

These Draft 0’s are so hard to post. This crap is normally a secret file on my computer. It’s like the “Gramma Panties” in the sexy underwear drawer – comfortable but not for the general public.

I decided to work with a POV change. Again, Safreen is one of Nom’s assistants. At this point in the story she is still new-ish to the trade. Nom’s usual routine is to select a series of young girls in a “try-out” fashion wherein only two are selected for ongoing training. Nom has already decided to keep Safreen as an assistant; the decision had been made a year prior. I was looking for someone close to Nom that could offer my a new viewpoint of a comfortable scene. I knew from Aara’s story that Javed took her to see Nom for pregnancy well-visit, check-ups. I know the whole story…from Aara’s POV. However, a lot is happening in the shop that I didn’t know and some details I can’t share.

The POV change allowed me to see research I need to do to fill holes in my comfort zone before tomorrow’s work.

FUN FACT? I love writing Destovl /happy sigh


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