The Keepers of Verdorso: A Finding of Kin. Chapter Thirteen, final chapter.

Normally writers may use the first chapter of their stories but here’s the final chapter of the first book. Swiftly following with the first chapter of the second book.

Chapter Thirteen – Trudy

 

Childhood amnesia is a cruel way of making us forget our earliest memories. There are very few adults who can remember before the age of seven and even less remember anything before they were three.

We depend upon pictures, stories, and our parents to tell us what happened when we waddled around aimlessly in wonder the first time we saw snow. Or cried in discomfort in the heat of the sun.

Steadying herself back into her chair, Nataleena prepared to be told some of her own forgotten memories. Samuel was always an odd man and true to form as the others including Trudy took their seats back at the table, Samuel stood still where he was.

Almost waiting for the right time to breathe.

Sitting next to Nataleena, Trudy grabbed her hand. Of course, Nataleena recoiled from her clasp and stared deep into Trudy’s eye.

“Nataleena, Samuel and I are married. We have been for many years.” Trudy started.

Stuck for words, Nataleena thought instead. Thought of all the occasions she had caught Samuel and Trudy in an intimate embrace or his arms locked around her waist. The odd smile here and secret kiss there that they did not know Nataleena had seen.

In her mind, Nataleena had always just put it down to her father’s loneliness. Him seeking companionship. Trudy was the obvious choice after her mother had died. “So, somehow you managed to find me here, just to tell me you and my father are married? Congratulations, I’m happy for you but I have a lot to do here… I won’t be coming back.” Nataleena said firmly.

“Nataleena, Samuel is not your father.”

“What?”

“That’s right, Nataleena Samuel isn’t your father.” Grace knew Nataleena would listen to her words.

“Nataleena,” holding Nataleena’s cold hand Trudy continued, “you were very young. Nati, your mother, we were very close friends. I made a promise that no matter what happened or what it took I would keep you safe. Not a promise I took lightly. We all made that promise.”

Nataleena fell silent. What could she say? So many questions to ask. Her eyes were heavy and exhausted from Babaleena’s return.

“Why? Why did you tell me he was my father? For all them years.” Nataleena’s head hung low to her chest.

“I ordered them to. It was my choice.” The unexpected announcement from Grace sent Nataleena into a spiralling confusion.

In the peak of the silence Samuel let out a breath of relief and finally sat as Queen

Trininastas stood to address the table.

“It is drawing closer to my limited time on land I must head back to the water. Nataleena, questions will be answered but I fear this evening’s events have weighed too heavy upon us all. Try and rest easy, all of you.” After addressing the kin Queen Trininastas left, with questions still left unanswered.

The ruffles of Queen Trininastas’ dress moved the air as she walked through the inn, like a dancer, moving to a beat, a rhythm that no one else could hear. As she left the music of her dress ended, leaving the inn once more in silence.

Standing, Nataleena slowly moved over to the window that held The Shield of Verdorso. Running her hand over the handles she pushed the shield open letting in the late-night star’s glaze over the sky. She stood perfectly still, gazing at every star.

“What happened to my parents?” Nataleena’s voice was so faint it was barely heard. “Nataleena, please rest tonight. It is too much to learn in one day.” Papou’s words were almost lost on Nataleena. His reassuring hold on her shoulders let her know, somehow, he knew she needed some sort of sleep before this news.

“And you promise to tell me the truth and no lies? No more made up stories? No more protecting me against things I do not know?” Nataleena faced them all as

Papou closed the open window, stopping the icy air getting through.

“Of course Nataleena, but first you need to rest.” She could see in Fuítsan’s eyes the sincerity of the promise made.

Collapsing onto her bed Nataleena did not see Lavito following behind her nor did she care at this point. Falling into her own self-obsession, wishing she could just ignore him and everyone else. This, she knew, would do her no good so instead Nataleena pretended to be shocked he was there. Even managing to force a fake jolt.

“I always manage to scare you.” Lavito laughed.

Nataleena smiled, she did not have the energy or the drive to flatter anyone’s ego with a forced laugh. Lavito, however, was well aware his presence was not wanted here tonight. He knew Nataleena would need him at some point, after she had learned of her past.

“Here,” Lavito gave Nataleena a mug, she knew what was in it, “I hope this helps you to rest well Nataleena, it is your favourite.”

Lavito left the mug next to Nataleena’s bed, after gently kissing her forehead he left the room.

It was the perfect temperature to drink quickly and so that’s exactly what Nataleena did, sending her into a deep sleep.

It did not last long. The dreamless peaceful passing of sleep turned to the everlasting nightmare of the day just gone. The lining of fire marking Babaleena and Fríton’s entrance replayed over again until the nightmare drew darker. Reliving the dreams from the crystals once again Nataleena saw a woman begging for her life, face blurred and screaming.

The sound of the empty mug being knocked over woke Nataleena up. Realising she must have been tossing and turning so much in her sleep.

Opening her curtains, she let in the paleness of the moon’s fading light creep into her room, illuminating her sweat drenched clothes.

Rushing to get changed into some clean clothes, the cold air combining with her wet clothes made Nataleena start to shake.

Sitting at her desk Nataleena looked at the picture of her mother and knew she would not make it back to sleep tonight. She would not want to anyway if it meant being greeted by such horrendous dreams.

Leaving the comfort of her desk and padded purple chair, Nataleena picked up the mug that ended her nightmare and quietly left the room.

The doors knew not to slam this morning allowing Nataleena to easily move through the Inn without waking anyone up.

She found herself once again running her fingers over The Shield of Verdorso, over the Tamotine and down to the dancing willow tree that sat proudly joining these elements together. Breathing out heavily her breath fogged up the panes of glass surrounding the shield.

A chubby finger dressed in dripping gold rings and precious gems appeared on the glass spelling out the word, hello. Turning around Nataleena was faced with

Freyothrot’s saddened face.

No words needed to pass in those few quiet moments but Nataleena knew why he was here. Freyothrot knew what he must tell Nataleena; it had kept him awake most of the night. How do you tell someone the painful truth behind why they were unknowingly orphaned at such a young age?

Freyothrot opened the window to smell the settling cold air outside and to keep him awake while he does what was needed.

“Nataleena, we have met here before. The morning you asked me what a Tamotine was. Do you remember?” Freyothrot’s question helped him prepare.

“Yes, I remember.” Nataleena’s voice was quiet, almost self-contained. Not allowing anyone to hear her.

“That morning you told me you had a dream, an odd dream. Nataleena, what was that dream?”

Nataleena focused her glare out of the window. The dream she had that night she was realising was a her only real memory of her mother, so precious to her. Too precious to tell, just in case it left her forever. Turning her eyes to Freyothrot she could see how red they were, almost filling up with tears. Nataleena had no choice but to share her dream.

“I was looking up at my mother, I must have been a baby. I think it might have been my only memory of her. One that is mine. Not other’s stories or pictures. But my memory.”

“Do you remember your cot? From your dream?” Freyothrot asked.

“No, I am not sure. I think… I think it was an odd green. Not sure.” Nataleena’s eyes had moved away from Freyothrot back out of the window in a bid to try and remember.

“It was, quite rightly as you said, an odd green. Painted green with the metal from Helthros. The green paint would crack around the heat of the black metal it would create a strange green colour with a black underneath,” Freyothrot paused for a moment taking a breath, “I made that for you Nataleena. My gift to your mother and father. Nataleena, come sit a moment.”

Sitting down at the Pentoak table Freyothrot snapped his fingers with instantly two very large pewter mugs of hot chocolate appearing. It had become apparent to

Nataleena how well this tasty treat was received by the kin of Verdorso, especially Fithro. Unknown to Nataleena the word had already travelled to the sweet loving kin, seeing every Fithro trying it. Although she was growing tired of the same drink, it was a warm welcome and a reminder of home.

“Thank you,” Nataleena began sipping the warm chocolate drink.

“It is my pleasure. Nataleena, that morning I found you down here with The Shield of Verdorso, I also had an odd dream that night.” Freyothrot sat for a few moments basking in the glory of his drink, trying to think of the words that fit best what he needed to say next.

“That night I relived the last time I saw your father, your real father, before…” Freyothrot wiped the sweat pouring from his forehead and slightly shaking breathed in deeply. “Before I killed him.”

The warm drink dribbled down Nataleena’s mouth as she tried to shout only to find

Freyothrot’s hand gently holding her scream.

“Nataleena, all is not what it appears but everything appears in time. Please sit and listen to me before you tarnish me with your wicked thoughts.” His eyes grew redder as he held in his emotions.

“You killed him?”

“Nataleena, how did your mother die? what were you told about Nati?” He asked. “That she had an accident, hit her head falling.” Nataleena’s mumbled words were becoming lost as Freyothrot let out a sigh.

“Your mother was beautiful, Nataleena, just like you. Any kin that encountered her always wanted to be near her. She had this glow that no one could shy away from. She was the light and the kin were her moths. Fergal, your father, was such a contrast to her. So quiet. A man of very few words but every word thought out, methodical, calculated, odd. But he seemed like a good man and Nati was so in awe of him.”

“So why did you kill him?” Nataleena’s voice grew louder. Freyothrot placed his hand over her fist on the table and eased her anger.

“Your mother never met her end by some ridiculously untrue accident. It was Fergal, your father, who killed her. Nataleena, I am so sorry you are having to learn this but I feel as I was the one who did what I did, that it must be me to tell you.”

“Why would he do that?” Her words were once again quiet, silently choking on the tears of sadness and rage building in her.

“Babaleena. She gave him a wand at the Battle of Babaleena. She enchanted him and gave him magic. It is forbidden to give Hidis Kin such power but of course it was all part of Babaleena’s plan. It was obvious to us all he had been placed under some sort of trance like spell but it was only me who realised his intentions. As he turned the wand upon his own wife, she kneeled in the ground begging for her life and yours,” Freyothrot rubbed his eyes with his thick fingers occasionally poking himself with one of his many bands of jewels, “as the spell left the wand I tried to counteract it with a different spell but it was too late. Nati laid dead upon the floor, her tears bathing into the mud.”

Nataleena sat forward, listening to the most horrifying news in her life. With facts laid in front of her she could understand Grace’s thought process. A way of never asking about her real father’s actions by curbing it with a stand in father. Freyothrot stood to close the window to stop his shaking though Nataleena knew it had nothing to do with the cold air climbing inside.

“I stood half screaming in anger half crying for the loss of Nati and the worst betrayal of all from her husband. Fergal, sorry, your father, turned the wand on me. I knew Babaleena would not be stupid enough to only supply him with a one spell wand. That is when he met his end. Before he could aim the wand, an extension of my own kin, he was faced with Meerofras. A spell of the furious fires of the snake, Meerofras.

That is the first and last time I was ever able to conjure up such a frenzy of anger.

The flames ate him whole. Nothing left but the wand he was holding.”

Nataleena’s skin grew a cold white layer as she imagined the painful end her father met but afflicted with what he had just done. Nataleena finally reasoned with herself that he deserved what happened to him. Finally looking up at Freyothrot, Nataleena notice the solemn hanging over his shoulders and eyes.

“Nataleena I am sorry.”

“No please do not apologise. Thank you, for trying to save my mother. And keeping me safe.” A slight sparkle came back to Freyothrot’s eyes as he knew there would be no need to carry his guilt around any longer. In the shortness of her reply, Nataleena had, unknowingly, released Freyothrot from years of torment in his own mind.

Freyothrot stood up taking Nataleena up with him and over to the window. The window opened gifting them with the view of what was left of the Verdorso woods. Still a beauty to behold even missing a few of its oldest trees.

“Lavito cares very deeply about you Nataleena. Although you remind me so much of your mother there are times you remind me of your father. Do not shy from his affection he has only the best intentions at heart.” This comment took Nataleena by surprise. Was it so obvious her coldness last night?

“I do not mean to be. I just…”

“Nataleena you have spent many years alone without many kin or friends around you. In those years, it was hard for us to see you lonely, to destroy any chance of you had of being raised normal. It had to be this way and for that I am sorry for. But Lavito, he has nothing to apologise for. Do you remember the first thing he showed you Nataleena?”

Instantly, she was thrown back to when they first properly met, in the woods and he scared her. They walked never wanting the conversation to end until they came to the Excrosk flower. Lavito had explained what they were shortly before holding

Nataleena close to him to stop any tears from escaping.

Thinking back now, Nataleena knew why he had held her so tightly.

“It was my mother’s Excrosk flower.” Nataleena looked out of the window and straight

at it.

“Yes, he took you there to be closer to her. If you ever need to speak with her sit with the Excrosk. She can hear you.” Freyothrot smiled at her and Nataleena threw herself into Freyothrot’s chest hugging him with thanks. Nataleena sat back down and Freyothrot excused himself to walk outside in the air for a bit. His intentions to let this all sink in for Nataleena. A lot to think about before Papou had even woke up to poke the stove alive.

Baffled, Nataleena wondered how and why her mother came here. Why did her father betray her? Betray Nataleena as well. If he had not killed Nati then they would have all been here together, no lies, no confusion and definitely no loneliness. “Everything happens for a reason Nataleena,” Trudy’s voice broke her thoughts, “I have just seen Freyothrot leave to go outside.” Trudy’s gentle mention of Freyothrot was all Nataleena needed.

“Thank you, for so many years keeping me safe. I know it must have been hard losing a friend that day.”

“Nataleena, we did what we must do to keep you and Verdorso safe. You put Verdorso in danger and Verdorso put you in danger. We had to take you away from that. I’m guessing Freyothrot has had his talk with you?” Trudy asked, knowing what the answer would be.

“Yes, he told me everything about what happened that day with my mother and father and him and Meerofras,” Nataleena paused to take a breath, “I have known you all my life but I never knew you.”

Sitting back Trudy began to tell her story and how she was involved in all of this.  Trudy was a land walking Hermativa, just like Grace. Only her name was not Trudy it was Trudencian. When she first met Nati, she could never pronounce or even remember it. One day they were sat just outside The Tailgate Inn on a hot summers day in Verdorso, easing their feet into the cool water that ran behind there when Nati said “Trudy! I can remember that and it kind of sounds like your name.” They had laughed at the random outburst but from that moment everyone who knew

Trudencian called her Trudy, even her husband, Samuel.

“When did you and Samuel meet?” Nataleena asked.

“Gosh, it was a long time ago, we’ve been married for ninety-nine years now. Our one hundredth anniversary is coming up soon.”

Nataleena tried to hide her surprise, Trudy barely looked forty never mind being married for almost three times that. Trudy continued to tell her how her parents warned her to stay away from Samuel. He was quiet, reserved and a cross kin, a Hidis Kin cross Hermativa, they thought he was trouble. In fact, he was quite the opposite.

“One day we were talking about Incapatok as young Hermativa did then,” Trudy’s mind broke off, “and I asked him ‘do you not grow tired of people asking you why you are so quiet’, he smiled at me and told me no. He said he was not so rude to ask people why they were so loud and seek attention in the oddest form. So, he would not justify them with a response. He said perhaps if they had better manners they would not ask.”

He was right, Samuel confidently did not need to explain why he was not so obviously vocal. If you knew him, you would know his love for Yagayoska, he thought they were so graceful, undeniably intelligent and of course outstandingly beautiful. You would also learn he was left a home many years ago in a will and that he always had a lemon drizzle cupcake drenched in lemon icing with a cup of tea just before he ate his nightly meal. A creature of routine.

“You were close with my mother?” Nataleena’s change of subject was expected. Trudy had been waiting for this moment as soon as she came down.

“Yes, I guess you could say I was one of her best friends. It was always me, Nati and… Babaleena. As the years went by we saw less and less of Babaleena, always thinking it was how smitten she was with Fríton but…”

“But that is enough of her,” Nataleena finished.

“Yes, you are quite right. When you were born, Nati would not leave you for a moment. Scared she would waste a second. One day I found her crying because you had a cold but I knew the tears ran deeper than that. She asked me if anything was to happen to her and Fergal, if me and Samuel would take care of you and raise you like our own. Of course, I promised that day that I would. Nataleena I’m sorry I was not much of a mother figure that I promised and wanted to be.”

“Trudy, you do not need to apologise.” Nataleena so far had held herself together well but on the inside, she was screaming. How could so many people who swore to protect and care for her lie to her for so many years? Not one of them had the courage or want to tell her what had happened all them years ago. That her own mother and father had walked the same path she did. Visited the same places, spoke to the same kin. Her sadness was sparking hateful thoughts.

“Do you know how we became such good friends Nataleena, your mother and I?” Trudy asked to which Nataleena shook her head in response.

“I can pin point it to one moment. We had travelled to The Mountains of Arías and found ourselves stuck halfway between the mountains and the archway. We thought we were on an adventure to climb down these mountains. Well it was a stupid mistake but a fun one we always remembered. I fell directly into a bath of mud and Nati lost a shoe trying to help me out! We laughed so much as we sat, literally, stuck in the mud. That was until your mum started singing for her Yagayoska. Trifo I think she called him. They were inseparable always together. I am surprised we did not travel down the mountain that day on him. Samuel loved him. But anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes, so Trifo arrived saving us from the mud. When you are stuck in a sticky, well muddy, situation like that, good friends will spend their time lost in their own thoughts of how to get away. True friends will laugh at the situation knowing they are both in it together. One falls, they both fall, one survives, they both survive.” Trudy sat with a warm smile kissing her face remembering that day and possibly many more that had happened.

Her long description and story did not have the desired outcome on Nataleena. Trudy had hoped that this story would silence her inner screaming but now outside a very real and visible tear could be seen falling from her eye. Selfishly Nataleena knew that although all these kin had selflessly given their own lives to protect her, she sat in silence thinking about how her entire life had been one lie. Nothing was real until she came to Verdorso. Nothing before that existed. The only childhood memories she clung to were not really hers. They were not really anyone’s. They were a fabrication needed to cover the very real person that lives underneath.  “Nataleena, we tried to give you the best and real life we could considering the circumstances. I am so sorry we could do no more but we all had our part to play in keeping you safe and away from Verdorso until it was time.”

“Time for what?”

“Time for you to understand without the reactions say a child would have. To think more levelled.” Trudy’s words were more of a warning to Nataleena to stop acting like a child.

“Still no one has told me why Babaleena was so shocked to see me. Still another lie.

Still no answer. If they were best friends surely she knew about me.”

“I cannot give you the exact answer Nataleena. I have been away for so long. But one thing I do know the morning Babaleena had attacked your mother very proudly wore the headdress of the Hidis Kin, just like you did last night. That was teamed together with her favourite white and gold cloak. Perhaps something is familiar to you now.” Trudy sat and gazed at Nataleena as this settled into her mind.

Babaleena was not shocked to see Nataleena. Babaleena was shocked to see Nati.

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