Reina’s Reason, a cry from beyond
Artorius and Scoithin communicated their worry in thoughts while Eric and his family shared theirs in tears that mingled together. Eric cared not if he cried in front of these women. They had seen far worse of him in their years of growing up, tears were the least of his concerns. Suddenly, there came a weak moan from the bed in the back of the room. A whispered questioning, “Eric… Eric is that you. Am I but dreaming again…”
At the soft pleading voice, all arms dropped, tears forgotten, it was a rush of all of them to the bed. Eric sank to his knees at the edge of the bed to see his wife, now a mere shell of what she once was, her eyes half closed, she was grasping out into the air searching for him. He grasped her hand and kissed the palm that was so cool to the touch, as if the life had already left her. He leaned to wrap his arms around her, whispered in her ear. “Reina, Reina I am here, open your eyes love and see me. Hold on for me.” Her hands were as cold as winter, but her cheeks were flushed and full of the fever that was consuming her.
Eric held her through tears, told her of how much he loved her and needed her with him, begged her spirit to stay within her body. She was in a half dream state that often comes with death so close, but his voice pulled her back. She summoned some inner strength to open glazed, clouded eyes to stare at him and smile softly. Her hands were weak and it took effort to squeeze his hand back, he barely felt it but knew how much it had cost her as she sank back on the bed and drifted off to that in between once more. She seemed to sleep now, they said, a good thing as she had not truly slept in some time.
Reina drifted in and out of deep sleep for much of the night. Eric refused to leave her side for any reason. As she slept, he prayed to those who might hold her fate, her spirit and begged them to send her back to him. The others came and went quietly, sensing that the time was close, they went about making preparations for the young woman’s death. They did not broach it with Eric, they knew he was not yet ready to say good bye. Artorius did manage to pull him aside to let the women tend to her for a bit and have their time to say whatever was needed between them.
Some time during the night, Artorius came and sat with him by her side. Eric gave a broken sigh, “Can you help her?”
Artorius held his hand and placed the other hand on Reina. “Much of that is up to her. I can not do it, will not do it without her consent. What I can do is give her enough strength for a time to be clear in her mind and say what she wants to do.” Eric nodded and motioned for him to go on with it.
Artorius called Scoithin over and they both knelt over Reina stroking her and sending her energy. Her hands began to warm, her eyes fluttered open, and her pulse began to beat stronger. The older woman left then while Artorius remained stroking Reina’s arm for a bit until she came awake. She looked at Eric, her eyes clear and her smile brightened. Her hand squeezed his much stronger this time and her voice, though raspy, was more than just a whisper.
Eric could not contain the tears of relief at what appeared to be some good sign of recovery for her. Perhaps the fever had burnt itself out, he thought, maybe Artorius had given her enough strength to fight this sickness. He held her face in his hands, kissed her sweet lopsided smile, tasted her tears and ran fingers through her sweat drenched hair. “You have come back Reina, you have come back to me… I knew you could do it. I knew you could fight this battle. Now, you will live, you will be strong again to face what ever comes with me. We will do it together.” He was so filled with joy that he could not stop himself from rambling on of love and of the future.
She pulled away from him gently, touched her fingertips to his lips to hush him finally. Her hands reached to his hair and stroked through the heavy locks of braids. She tugged on them and forced him to look into her eyes that glistened with tears. He wiped them away and whispered, “Shhh do not cry now, we will be fine… there is no more to cry for.”
Reina sighed and hushed him back. “Hush you now Eric and listen to me. I have things I need tell you and you must listen to me.” He tried to quiet her, told her nothing mattered, there was nothing she needed to say that could not wait. They should have all their lives to say these things. She shook her head and held his hands, this time with a grip so tight that he could not pull away.
“No, Eric… we do not have that time. I must go soon, I can not stay here much longer.” Eric was puzzled, her mind must not be completely clear yet. He assured her softly that she had nowhere else to go, where did she think she must be off to, he said with some faint humor.
Reina laughed sadly and kept a grip on his hands. She was leaving deep red marks from the tightness of her hold now. “Eric, stop now, I know you would tease to make light of this, but we must face this one last thing together. Yes, you and I together must face this. I must go, I must go to her soon, I hear her always crying out for me. I can not leave her there on her own lost in the mist and not knowing where to go.” Reina’s voice became softer, filled with her own grief and pain. She started to fade away from him , then suddenly snapped back. “Do you not hear her Eric, she is crying out so loud now, she is so scared and hungry.” She pulled her hands away from him then and clapped them over her ears. Her head shook and her breath came in short gasps. “Ohhhh Goddess, Eric, How can you not hear your daughter calling to us? She is screaming now, I can not make it stop…” Reina threw herself back on the bed, moaned and reached out into the air for something, someone. “I am coming soon, my Brenna…” She collapsed back into an agitated half sleep, wrapping her arms around herself and crying for the one she could not leave alone.
Eric knelt there next to her, holding her hand and faintly, he heard something. The sound came as if from a long distance through a tunnel, a weak cry, gasping for breath then another. It shook him to his soul. He turned to look at Artorius in confusion and panic. “Ohhh The Gods curse us… she is… her mind and her soul are broken.” He trembled and asked, “Do you hear that? Or am I as cursed as she is.” Eric had a dazed look on his face, not comprehending any of what was happening. He grabbed for Artorius’ arms and held on to him, violently shook his friend. “Tell me! Tell me you hear it, Tell me how to fix this!”
The distant cries in his mind grew louder, a wailing keening sound that ripped his heart. He put his hands over his ears in attempt to shut it out before it drove him mad as his wife. Artorius did not know quite what to do either. He heard the infant cries as well, and it shook him to some fright. He had never seen or heard of such thing before.
Suddenly, Scoithin appeared with a jug of spice wine. She touched both the men and told them sternly to drink it, drink it all if they need to. She would see to Reina and to the babe. The men just looked at her in shock, unable to propose what she might think she could do for a cursed spirit child. She just shook her head, “Of course you do not know, women do not much speak of it for the looks you men would give us… just as you are looking now!” She motioned for them to leave and take the jug with them. This was a matter for women to tend to…. She paused for a moment then had another thought, “Though, it is strange you heard it. Most times, men do not hear it. Maybe you do need to stay.” She pointed to a spot far back from the bed. “You stay back there and let me get them settled”
She sat on the bed holding Reina in her arms, forcing drops of the spiced wine down her throat, murmuring all the while in some odd language to her. Artorius listened closely, tried to determine what it was… slowly, it dawned on him. Came to him in a flash of distant memory. She was speaking to Reina in some old Egyptian dialect, speaking something of souls parting and meeting again, of finding lost ones.
Reina calmed down, her sobs turned to occasional gasps and hiccups. The distant screams and wails softened to the same small gasps and gurgles. Eric had a vivid flash, a sight of Reina somewhere in that mist, cradling a ghostly white infant wrapped in white swaddling, a fluff of curly wild red hair aout her head like a halo. She was making tiny little gurgling noices as she latched on Reina’s overly full breast. Reina sat in some sort of glowing trance rocking back and forth humming to the little one. He opened his eyes and looked over at the bed where Reina sat half reclining, resting in the woman’s arms wrapped around her, and her arms wrapped around some invisible bundle. A gentle sigh left her lips, she rocked to and fro and hummed in peaceful contentment.
Much later, Scoithin explained to the men as Reina slept soundly. “She will go soon, you will not convince her otherwise. Her mind and her heart is set to joining the babe. I tried to get her to let go, told her there would be others waiting for the babe, to care for it… but she has set her mind that she must go with the child.” She sighed softly. “I’ve seen it happen before, there is no way to ease them or reason with them once their heart is gone to the other place.” She looked at Eric with some other puzzled concern. “She will be back in a bit, says she still needs to speak to you of something… She was much upset by it and says it was not fair of you? Do you know of what she speaks?”
Eric lowered his head and nodded to Artorius. “I believe she speaks of what we talked of earlier.” He walked back to the bed and sat at the edge, fell into his own disturbed dreams while he waited for her to come back.
It was early morning when she woke, groggy from the spiced wine and the near death sleep. She reached for his hand and raked it hard with her nails. “Are you awake? I have words to speak to you before I go.” She watched the blood come to the surface of his hand where she scratched him… “Why did you do it Eric? Why did you not meet your death when you should have. We could have all gone together but now, I must go on my own with the babe.” Tears came to her eyes as she smeared the drops of blood from his hand up to her lips and licked it for the last taste of his soul before she left.
Eric gripped her hand, then reached to kiss her lips and tasted his blood on her. He wept with her now. “I did not know, Reina, how could I know what had happened to you. I was at the edge of death myself when Artorius found me and saved me from death. But, know this Reina, I will walk out into the sunlight, I will have them behead me if that will bring us together again on the other side. If that is what you want, I will surely give my blood, my body, soul to you for ever more.”
They held each other and their tears wet the linens around them as well as their clothes. She finally took a breath. “No, that is not what I want of you. This is none of our doing, yours or mine and we should not cause one another to suffer eternity for it. What I want from you now, my warrior is for you to fight on… fight on with honor, fight for this land, and for our people. Fight for me, for our babe, Brenna. Live your life well, my beloved one and know that I will find you again, again and yet again. I go willing to be with Brenna, she is a lost soul out there… I can not leave her. But, you, you are my warrior, my strength. You must go on and be grateful for this chance the man has given you. Do not waste it!” She wept again, held on to his hand and held it close to her chest, then whispered, “Do not waste it! For if you do, I will come back… I will haunt you till your dying day and never give you rest!” She laughed weakly and pulled on one of his braids, brought his lips to hers and kissed him deeply.” They laid on the bed together, holding each other murmuring words of love, of memories and of promises. Reina grew quiet, her breath would come in short gasps and she would drift in and out of sleep. At times she would whisper out to that spirit child, soothing and promising to be there soon. Eric closed his eyes and saw what she saw, that small bundle of light clouded in the red hair, pale blue eyes that filled the round little face. A slight frown that turned to almost a smile and turned towards them as though she heard her Mother’s voice. Eric fought back his tears and smiled softly. He added his own whispered offering. “Shhhh little one, Mama is coming for you. She will forever hold you safe until we can all be together again.” The ghostly infant looked to him and blew bubbles through a smile.
Reina’s heart slowed, the light in her eyes faded and she reached once more up to Eric. “I love you, I always have, I always will…If I die a thousand deaths, I will always come to you, do not weep. We will find each other again.” Her last breath left her as she rested within his arms, still now, at peace. Eric looked up and could see her spirit drift away. He saw her reach out into the air and turn back to him with daughter in her arms. Her head held close to the baby’s she looked up and smiled at him that one last time, her half smile as though she knew a secret that no one else should ever know.