Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Thirty Seven

Storytime began at 9:07 pm game time on September 5, 2006

(this was an aside in response to a question) Didn't mean to confuse by last night's chapter. What I meant to convey was that Paul didn't go to the doctor's by accident -- his sister in law had tipped him off that something was amiss.

**story mode**

Otto watched his father and Andy leave, then climbed down and secured the shop door. He put the lids back on the jars that were open and swept up a little before climbing the ladder again.

He moved the comfortable chair a little closer to the bed, where he could see the doctor easily, and lit the fire in the small stove.

He thought about how his Aunt Nancy had "wandered" into the market and let his father know things were not as they should be.

He thought about how easily his father seemed to handle things.

It didn't bother him at all to be a stranger -- different from and unknown to the others around him.

It didn't seem to matter to him whether other people "liked" him or not. He seemed to assume they did -- or would, once they got to know him.

Esmeralda shifted in her bed, and Otto got up to check on her. He freshened up the cool cloth on her forehead and pulled back the extra blanket so she wouldn't be too warm.

He set a kettle on the stove to boil for tea and returned to his reverie.

He thought about his Aunt Nancy -- she cared very much what people thought, and spent (it seemed to the young man) a lot of time mending fences and promoting the appearance she wanted people to have.

He looked at the doctor. In many ways, she was like both his aunt and his father.

She had very high status in the village, as one of the wisest advisors as well as being the one people turned to for most of life's biggest occasions.

Yet, she didn't mind telling the truth as she saw it, even when everyone around her was of another mind.

She certainly didn't dress to impress... and she was the same with a stranger as with someone she had known for thirty years.

Polite, succinct, but gentle and caring.

Esmeralda, like Paul, had come from a different place, but unlike Paul had arrived with some fanfare.

The village's former healer, a man of great reputation, had known for some time that he was ailing, and had written to all the doctors and healers he knew, asking for the name of anyone who might be willing to come to the remote village.

Many had replied, but one recommendation in particular had stood out: a young woman who had lost her husband and baby in a great flood that had washed down the side of their valley.

She had taken her grief and begun a quest to find a new purpose in life.

In this, she was no different from any person who has suffered a great loss. She spent many sleepless nights, reading books in monasteries.

She spent days wandering from one place to another, helping people as she could, and learning valuable lore on the way.

Eventually, she had found her way to a monastery on a vast plain, where they cared for the most ill and most disabled.

She had readily set herself the task of fetching and carrying for the healers in the monastery, and in a short time had started helping them gather ingredients for their recipes.

She learned to set broken bones; to help with difficult childbirth; to mix pain relieving potions for the injured; to sit as comfort and witness for the last hours of the dying.

Yet she was not satisfied, and it was soon obvious that, despite her many talents, she was not yet "home."

When the village doctor contacted the head of the monastery, who had been his own mentor, it seemed a perfect fit.

Esmeralda craved the connection with a community, where joy and life were still very present.

So the village doctor invited Esmeralda to come and learn by his side and take up the reins when he was through...

And she did.

Otto tried to imagine Esmeralda as a young woman.

He failed miserably. The kettle on the stove came to a boil and he added the herbs that would relieve her fever and let her get some restful sleep.

He knew that she was related in some way to the people of the village, but she hadn't grown up there.

Otto carefully prepared the tea for the doctor and opened the window briefly for some fresh air (the little stove tended to leak).

He stood there, looking out on the sleeping village. A light here or there in a window, the sound of a dog barking; a cat trying to attract attention.

When Esmeralda arrived in the village all those years ago, it had been Spring.

She had stepped off the wagon that transported her and looked cautiously around at her mother's home.

She had been there just once before, for her cousin Ava's wedding, but she was a young child then, and remembered only a little.

She was a thin woman, her features drawn with grief and hunger. Her small bag and the trunk of medicines from the monastery sat on the ground beside her.

The birds had sung and a butterfly came and perched on her shoulder briefly.

Soon, a crowd of children had gathered, and her face lit up.

In no time, a young boy named Peter had pushed to the front of the group and bowed courteously.

She still remembered his little speech, "If you please, ma'am, the doctor is with a sick person in the valley, and you are welcome at my mother's home until his return."

He had motioned to his brother and they had hefted the trunk with little effort.

To the songs of the other children, who were more numerous by the moment, Esmeralda walked bemusedly toward the edge of the village, to be greeted by a kind -- and familiar -- face at last.

Ava had met them halfway up the street, so excited was she. At the sight of Esmeralda, travel weary and careworn, she had given a gasp and enfolded her in loving arms, as only a cousin can do.

Otto turned from the window as Esmeralda called his name.

Quickly, he helped her sit up and handed her a cup of tea.

She looked at him critically.

"You haven't slept, have you boy?"

He grinned, "No ma'am, but I can sleep tomorrow at the market."

"Hm. And this is what you call tea?"

Esmeralda sighed happily and leaned back against the pillows.

"You're a good boy. I knew your mother before she was born, you know -- She is doing a fine job."

Otto stoked the fire and returned to the comfortable chair.

He looked at her. "What is wrong? Earlier you were too sick to tell Father."

She made a face and pulled the blanket up a little higher, "I was foolish, boy, that's all! I helped a fellow at the tavern a few days back, and forgot to stand well back when he was sick."

She drained her cup and handed it back to Otto with a yawn.

"There's a stool in the corner, boy, and an extra blanket in the chest under the table. I'll wake you if I need you."

Otto started to pull out the blanket.

"And don't forget to put out the light. Sweet dreams."

He turned and smiled at her, "Sweet dreams, ma'am."

And he banked the fire in the stove and put the cover on the lamp so the pretty pinpricks made pictures on the ceiling and walls.