tagNonHumanHealing Rites of Passage Ch. 03

Healing Rites of Passage Ch. 03

bymusecues©

The priest was surprised to see Raphael that morning. What was surprising was that he brought another woman with him- a pale blond lady that did not look at all like the Isabella who had came for her Affirmation not too long ago. They church of the Virgin Margaret did not often see strangers that were outside of the family tree and his curiosity was piqued.

"Raphael, what brings you... and your guest here today?" the priest asked kindly.

Raphael had not been happy that he had to be with Heidi alone for Adrian and Aqurico were accompanying them in their spirit form; unseen.

The church had a very strong power that separates man from horse; body from soul. As an undead over a millennium, the guardians were never allowed to enter unless they were stripped down to their barest form.

"Isabella, is in trouble, Father... and my heart is growing restless each day. This... lady here tells me that there are some words written at the back of this bracelet. It seems that Ella had gotten this from the late Anabella. I was hoping you would know something about it, Father," said Raphael.

Taking the wooden bracelet from him, the priest turned it over. His fingers traced the minute carvings etched skilfully behind the bracelet. He could not make out the words and he did not know what they meant.

"Tell me child, do you know what are these words?" he asked Heidi.

Translating for him word for word and then as a sentence, Heidi tried to explain to him that it didn't make sense. Translated literally, it means to 'protect. rider.'

"Who is to protect who? And who is being protected?" she asked. The priest had a look of surprise on his face but after a while regained his composure. "My child, you see... I am not supposed to reveal any secrets to anyone who are not part of this Church. Perhaps, I should know what has happened? Raphael?"

Raphael looked at Heidi, his eyes still full of mistrust. Looking back at the priest, he launched into a full recount of what was told to him by the remaining three guardians about Isabella's disappearance and Abben's state of comatose- in Italian. Heidi tried to pick out certain words to try to form some understanding but it was of no use. She did not know anything besides 'Isabella' and 'Abben'.

"Your girl is quite something brother," commented Aqurico, watching Heidi from a far.

"She's not my girl," Adrian replied.

"She's here in Saint Margaret's church and you dare say she's not?" questioned Aqurico. He was impressed with Heidi's tolerance of Raphael's mistrust and hatred for her.

"She is a mortal... that... makes me curious. But I have not yet turned mortal and my powers are still strong... so she is not my girl... yet."

"As you wish Adrian... your baby sister would have much more to say if she was here, but I will choose to keep quiet and watch instead. Perhaps we should follow them now... I wonder where the priest is bringing them..."

They were all gathered in an open space; sun shone brightly in the spring sky and warmed Heidi's cheeks. However, in front of her, in all its gloom, were tombstones of marbles and granites.

Speaking in English for the sake of Heidi, the priest spoke: "As a young pastor I was always told that the women buried in this church had a secret but I was never told what. My job was to protect them from the gaze of the public and to allow their secret to continue. But today, we might have a piece of the puzzle in helping us understand a part of their secret. The answers... or perhaps, the next clue should be here. But you must seek it for yourselves."

Raphael stared at the priest. Surely the Father must be joking. They couldn't possibly look at all the tombstones, one by one! But Heidi was already on the move. She didn't know what was it that she was suppose to look for but she kept walking anyway. The names all sounded strange and alien to her but she made a small prayer for each one of the tombs that she passed.

"If the two of you are here, you might as well help out," snapped Raphael. He had already spotted the tombstone that he wanted to visit first and was walking towards it. Kneeling down in front of Anabella's tombstone, he whispered a prayer and plea.

"Please forgive me my love... please forgive your old and helpless husband... I will do all that I can to find our baby... I promise... but I need you to lend me your strength to help me find her..." He raised his eyes, searching for Heidi. She was kneeling in front of another tombstone too, just as he was. Curiosity filled his mind. Did she recognize someone here? Getting up, he walked towards her. She was paying respects to the late Lady Margaret, his mother in law.

"I think this lady is important." "Why?" "I would, but you will have to treat me nicely." Her reply surprised him for Raphael stepped back and considered his options. If this woman knew anything at all to help his baby girl, he would have to play nice.

"Alright Heidi. I will put in more effort. Please tell me..." he pleaded.

"Margaret's name was etched along the width of the bracelet. At first I had thought that this bracelet was a property of someone called Margaret... but since you said it was your daughter's, it got me thinking that perhaps this is the first place we should look."

"Margaret? Wait... let me look at that bracelet again... oh my... I wonder..." "What is it?" "This first part... is German... but the second part... is Latin... it says Sacrum Romanum Imperium ... and I do not think that my mother in law is the kind to carve her own name on a heirloom. We're looking at the wrong Margaret, Heidi. Look for the Saint Margaret Antioch- the one whom this church is built for!"

An hour later....

They were puzzled as to why the martyr's tomb could not be located. They had passed by so many others but nothing was special about them. After finding the priest again, they asked him about her tomb.

"She is here, buried with her most faithful. This church is built in her honour my children... it does not need a tomb for her followers to pay respect to."

After he left, Heidi and Raphael felt very upset. They were tired and sweaty from their search. "What do you think he meant by 'her most faithful?'" asked Heidi.

"Someone who was steadfast in prayer I suppose... I don't know... arghhhh!!!" groaned Raphael.

"May I say something Raphael? I know it will sound silly... but I've heard of Saint Margaret before in one of my childhood stories but I don't know if it's the same one..." Heidi said kindly. The old man was looking so worn out and she wanted to keep him calm. When he nodded, she continued:

"When I was a little girl, my father would tell me these fairytales... He would tell me about many Saints who did many heroic acts, but my favourite one of all was about Saint Margaret. She was swallowed by a dragon but she fought her way through and emerged, alive. My father always told me that I must be strong as Saint Margaret for the dragon is like the world; it's hard and cruel and we must persevere to emerge victorious." "That's very kind of you Heidi... yes we all need to be strong right now... But you see... a German folktale cannot have had any connection with the Roman empire and its Italian descendants. You see... all these Italian names here- Anicii, Donati, Portinari... Portinari... oh god... that's right... come on!" exclaimed Raphael suddenly, pulling Heidi up and walking briskly.

"What are we finding?" "Beatrice Portinari. She should help give us some clues. If anything, Beatrice died a virgin too... Are you familiar with Dante the poet?" "No, I am not..." "Beatrice had prayed to Saint Margaret at this very church for Dante to be purged of his sins. He had written the Divine Comedy after that happened. I know it's just a piece of literature but I have no doubt that she was a faithful devotee."

"It says nothing much here..." said Heidi when they had reached Beatrice's tombstone. It read: Fore here I lie To rest or to die

"Wait... fore here I lie? Heidi, look behind or around, whatever! I think she's saying that the front is just a façade."

"Are these... I don't know what... what's this?" Heidi asked. She had found carvings behind the tomb, right at the base, hidden partially by the weeds.

"I might need some help here. My Latin isn't that good," Raphael said out loud. He knew the brothers were around somewhere. "Let's write it down. We can ask the boys later on. They are fluent in Latin as well."

****

They decided to meet back in Adrian and Heidi's hotel room. They needed privacy and somewhere not far from the church.

Adrian and Aqurico had already materialised in their human form and were pacing about the main room of the suite. Raphael was excitedly giving ideas as to what Beatrice had possibly meant by her short couplet:

Adjoined as virgins in an aisle, Tales of past to enchant and beguile

"What tales do you think she's referring to?" Adrian asked. He was starting to have an ominous feeling about their discovery that day.

"Dante's travels of course!" exclaimed Raphael. "Perhaps we should make our way back to Princeton now so I can retrieve my book. I have read it a couple of times and annotated it."

"Then what of the 'virgins in an aisle'?" asked Adrian.

"The priest told us that Saint Margaret was buried with her most faithful... and this could mean that they were buried side by side," said Heidi. She really didn't want the two men to start quarrelling again.

"I don't think he meant that literally... Saint Margaret was put to death in AD 304 but the church was built sometime in the year 1032.

Surely her physical body would have dissolved to dust by then!" chimed Aqurico.

"Then why were they adjoined in an aisle?" asked Adrian, slightly annoyed.

"Uh... well... as I was in the church, I noticed that there was an effigy of a woman, whom I assume is Saint Margaret at the altar," said Heidi.

"And I would assume too that in an aisle would refer to her being in front of Saint Margaret? As in a line?" added Raphael.

"I would think so... as would any other devotee in their prayers right?" replied Heidi. Silence filled the room for a few seconds and then she spoke again. "Didn't you mention something about Beatrice praying to Saint Margaret for Dante's sake? She must have loved him a lot to ask for something so unselfish."

"Ah, yes, yes my child... you are absolutely right. But now we are stuck. How will this help us find my daughter..." sighed Raphael.

"Would you like to take a look at that book I was telling you about?" Heidi replied, trying to be helpful.

"If anything, Italian descendants cannot be a part of your German history, Heidi," said Adrian. Heidi looked up at him, surprised. She remembered only sharing the information with Raphael and he certainly did not leave her side in the past hour to have had the chance to tell that to Adrian. "Give her the benefit of the doubt Adrian. Oral history precedes written history and we should not rule out any possibility!" said Raphael heatedly.

"If only Abben was around. He'd know these things. Well... I will discuss this further with Adrian and Aurora. Raphael, please stay here with Ella. We'll be back soon." With that, Aqurico left, with Adrian in his tow.

****

Aurora was sitting on the newly grown grass outside of Lady Margaret's house. She had seek refuge there to regain back her strength. It surprised and pleased her when her brothers came to visit, bringing news of progress. Listening intently to them, she began to think about what had been discovered and eventually spoke: "Don't you find it strange, that there is a church for Saint Margaret but no one from the public really comes to worship her? If anything, that church is a place just for the rituals. Who exactly is this Margaret? What is her history?" "It is confusing us as well Sister. But that aside... are you feeling stronger now?" asked Adrian. His voice had become softer and kinder and he was looking at her with genuine love.

"I think I am stronger now... but you should know better Adrian!"

"You're still not throttling him yet that's why he's concerned," laughed Aqurico. He knew that his sister was a feisty one.

"Well, I am merely conjuring up the perfect plan. In time brother, in time..." she said, smiling at her two brothers.

"Aurora... I need you to do for me a favour..." said Adrian softly. The smile faded from Aurora's lips as she listened to his request.

"I will try... but... I cannot guarantee anything," she replied.

"Hold both our hands this time. It should give you a bit more strength," said Aqurico as he held his sister close.

Aurora closed her eyes and tried to locate Ella's presence. Was she still in this world or the next?

"Isabella... Ella...can you hear me?" DadupDadupDadupDadup...

"It is me, Aurora... Ella...?"

Opening her eyes, Aurora spoke. "I can hear her heartbeat... but nothing else... I can't read her mind or hear her..." said Aurora. With only a third of her brother's abilities and in her weakened state, that was the best she could do.

"Try harder little sister," said Adrian. He gave her a smile to encourage her and gripped her hand tighter.

Closing her eyes again, Aurora let her consciousness roam free as she tried to search for Ella's stream of consciousness.

After 10 minutes of silence, Adrian started to panic and gave Aurora's arm a little shake. She was still silent. A feel of her pulse showed that it was barely there.

"Adrian, let Mélas hold her steady or else we'll lose her!" instructed Aqurico. He too had separated himself from Purrós.

A few minutes later, Aurora opened her eyes. They were pale, almost translucent shade of green. Adrian looked at her and felt his tears threaten to fall. She was so frail and weakened by that search alone.

"I heard them... there are two heartbeats... I cannot hear her thoughts still but there are definitely two heartbeats... and they are strong. I... I must rest now brothers..."

"I will stay here with you," replied Adrian, adamantly.

"No... please, you must find Ella... Take Heidi's suggestion and go find who is Saint Margaret. Aqurico... take him away... please..." she pleaded. It took a lot of Aqurico's strength to pull Adrian to his feet for his brother was stubborn as he was concerned for their sister. He simply silenced Adrian by removing his emotion for hurt and they disappeared to return to the hotel.

Back at the hotel...

Raphael was studying Heidi carefully. He wondered what role she played in their quest to find his daughter. Sensing how tense she was becoming, he decided to calm her down by striking up a conversation.

"Tell me about your family, Heidi," he asked kindly. He had guessed that Heidi was about Ella's age and it helped him feel less saddened by his daughter's disappearance when she smiled at him.

"Oh? My family? We're just farmers really... nothing special at all!" she began. Raphael smiled and encouraged her to continue. "We've been living in Germany for a long time. Before that, my great great great great grandfather was living in England and he later moved to Germany with his family."

"Oh? Why is that so? Was he a fugitive?"

"What? No, no of course not! It was during the 100years war between England and France and he decided that it was best to move to quieter regions to raise his family. I do not know much about him except that he used to be a scribe for the court but fled soon after the war started." Raphael leaned forward, obviously interested in her story.

"My great-great-great-great Grandfather, William, opened up the farm in which we now stay at with the money he had saved. I think he initially wrote children stories for a living but after a while dedicated his time to being a farmer. My father still reads his stories to me when I was younger. He still kept all the drafts and scripts that William had when he first came to Germany. I think Father has them in his library." "What about that book you were telling me about the saints?"

"Oh. Father keeps it in his library too. I have not read it for years... I guess I grew up and forgot about all the stories. Do you like stories Raphael?"

"Of course! I study them for a living," he replied, smiling. "Perhaps we could ask the boys if we could make a trip down to see those books before going back to America. I might have some use for them for scholarly purposes, of course." Heidi was about to refuse when the door to their hotel room was suddenly opened and in strode Adrian and Aqurico.

"Raphael we have to go for now. Adrian and I have decided to leave tonight."

"To where Aqurico?" asked Raphael, puzzled.

"Heidi, where's your hometown?"

"Allgäu... may I know why you ask?"

"Pack your things Heidi. It's time to make a short trip back home. Raphael and I will get our tickets. We'll meet you two at the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport at 7pm," said Aqurico, walking out the door as he spoke.

Heidi was left with her mouth hanging wide. Back home? Surely Aqurico was joking!

"You might as well start packing Heidi. We do not have much time," said Adrian stoically. He had been silent the whole time and his sudden comment made her jump slightly.

Looking up at him, Heidi noticed that his eyes were clouded with unease. He seemed lost in his thoughts and didn't even look at her when she started to change out of her clothes. She packed her things in silence and dared a glance at him again. He still remained passive, staring out the window, oblivious of her.

She looked at his shirts and jeans neatly hung in the cupboards and went to fetch them for him. Folding them nicely, she tucked them into his small luggage bag and went to fetch their toiletries. When she came out, he was lying on the bed, facing the ceiling.

"Adrian? Is something on your mind?" she asked softly. She walked towards the bed and sat by his side.

Suddenly, he looked at her and searched for her hand. Holding it firmly, he rolled over to his side and rested his head on her thigh. Her first instinct was to smooth the hair that was starting to cover his face. She liked his raven hair. It was almost touching his shoulders but never made him look less masculine than he was. It was soft and smelled of morning dew on grass.

"Heidi... do you miss your family?" he croaked; his voice unstable.

"Yes I do. I think about them every time. Why do you ask?"

"I miss mine..."

"You have your brother with you now don't you?"

"But I still have another brother and sister... and I failed to take care of them... when I am the healer..." he replied, in between sobs that threatened to surface.

Heidi thought it was strange that he thought of himself as a 'healer' when he was a doctor. That was such an... ancient word. And it was then that she realised that she never asked him before about his family. Perhaps it was because of his cold disposition that made her fear to ask him. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked, instead.

"No... I... I just feel like a failure..."

Heidi didn't know what to say, because she didn't understand the context of his worries. Rubbing his cheeks tenderly with her knuckles, she tried to coax him to calm down. Bending slightly forward, she kissed his forehead.

He held her face and brought her lips down to meet his. The kiss was soft, needy and gentle. Pulling herself away from him, she laid his head down on the pillow and settled herself beside him, such that their faces were facing each other.

She cared for this man, somehow, and wanted to protect him; take away his sadness. He was looking at her, searching her eyes, wanting to kiss her again. Closing the gap between them, Heidi kissed him again. She let herself get lost in the feeling of his warm lips against hers. Adrian's hands were rubbing her shoulders gently, as he deepened his kiss.

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