OoC: So... I'm goin' off the assumption that this happens right after the Tea Shop. Also assuming that Leonna immediately put Cey to bed, so this is the following morning afterwards. If somethin' is unclear, or that's not what you wanted, or you have issues in general with this or this was just a pitiful attempt and needs to be put to flames, feel free to say so!
There are many strange aspects of the Dome. At times it can feel so unstable and cramped, shifting and noisy like a busy marketplace. Yet there are moments when things are still, when the atmosphere is so peaceful and familiar that it feels as if I am… there again.
The morning sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon as I stood at the stove, placing the last touches upon my bread pudding before placing it in the stove. Once it was in, the sweet scent of sugar and apricots floated about the room, adding flavor to the golden touch of the sun. I did not bother with tea, saving instead milk in the ice box for my new guest.
Ceyrnan lay on my bed at the other side of the room, still asleep. His weedy form was covered by the thick woolen quilt, boots thoughtfully set at the foot of the bed for when he would need them again. I glanced back at him as I moved to set the table, gently smiling at his small sleeping form. Once Padme returned from her foraging, she was sure to be quite curious of him.
There was little else to do until the boy awoke. I busied myself straightening out the papers and books on my desk (none of which had illuminated any of my understanding of the Dome despite my great efforts), which was only a foot or so away from the bed. Beside that was the dresser, which had become a terrible pain.
Not only had the horrible thing managed to swallow my clothes into oblivion, it spewed out garments of its own whim, no matter how impractical the occasion. When I wanted my plain green dress, it spit out frilly blue frocks, and when I wanted casual garb to walk about the Dome, it gave me only embarrassingly odd garments like “jeans.” This had entertained Chanson to no end, who had made it her personal duty to make me wear and walk about in them.
Ah… Chanson. She was a good companion, but had a way of appearing almost only when she was needed. Where she went or what she was about I did not know, but her smiling face always lightened my heart, even when she was dragging me outside.
This morning I was alone, dressed in a pale yellow sundress as light as its color. It was at least comfortable for my wings, for the back was low and the garment tied at the neck instead of resting on the shoulders. The skirt frilled out about my knees, the fabric too thin for comfort, but at least no hindrance to my feet. I had not even been allowed my sturdy boots, instead wearing plain white slippers made of cloth and leather.
The last task I could think of was tending to my plants, which sat in a tough against one wall. I always kept strawberries growing, occasionally switching out herbs and flowers, which I hung and dried by strings tacked to the ceiling. It kept a pleasant waft of honeysuckle and rose in the air, too weak to be obvious, but pleasant all the same. Dried lavender and rosemary were hung among various other plants, each adding its own gentle scent when disturbed by a passing breeze.
I brought one hand over the small patch of strawberries, closing my eyes as I focused my energy. A warm tingling traveled down my arm and into my fingertips, leaping into the green with a warm and gentle spurt. I felt the leaves and stems lengthen beneath my hand, fat red teardrops bowing their boughs.
Opening my eyes, I smiled and collected the fruits, rinsing them and placing them in a bowl on the table. Work done and pudding still cooking, I took a comfortable place at a large opening in the plain wooden wall, which had a slight ledge before plummeting a good seventy feet below. There were other windows and such, but this opening was wide enough for my wings… a balcony of sorts. This opening was blocked by long strings of free growing ivy, which acted much like a thick curtain of leaves.
Yes, the Dome was odd indeed to house such a room near the top of a huge tree. As far as I knew, it was a great hollow in a huge tree. I had not yet identified its species, but it was within a vast forest of many trees of the same kind. Aside from flying out from the balcony, the only other entrance was a small wooden door that led to a long, winding staircase that wound all about the tree until it reached back to the ground.
As I waited, the sun continued to rise, the chatter of birds growing louder in the surrounding branches. It was only once I heard the boy stir that I turned back into the room, where the smell of the pudding indicated a breakfast cooked to perfection.
Ceyrnan slowly came awake, listening to the comforting sounds of the forest and - what was even more comforting - the complete lack of loud noises. He smiled vaguely, in his mind's eye still lying in the leaves and the grass. He wiggled his toes and hummed a tune he did not know, a simple melody that ran up and down the scales without pausing long enough to notice what they were. It was a simple tune for a simple boy, its only real purpose to bear witness to contentment.
His eyes still closed, his face screwed up momentarily. He squirmed in the bed, the blankets rustling, and then, "Pffffff!" He expelled his breath in one mighty exhalation, blowing his fringe up. The hair floated majestically for a moment, before clumping back onto his forehead.
“Ceyrnan, are you awake?”
As the words registered in his mind, he yawned hugely and begin to sit up. He rubbed at his eyes and glanced around the room, dimly recalling his surroundings from the night before. He blinked and sought to fing the source of the voice through his sleep-heavy sight.
I could not help but smile at the boy, so darling and innocent as his big grey eyes tried to blink sleep from his eyes. With the slow and quiet pacing I always used so as not to startle the child, I carefully sat upon the edge of the bed, gently stretching forth my hand to brush back the tangled hair on his forehead.
"Did you sleep well, Ceyrnan? I have breakfast for you, when you are ready. You may use the fountain over there to wash up." I pointedly glanced to a large wooden basin just beside the plant trough, where a small spout of water trickled into and drained out through unseen piping.
Cey scooted forward as Leonna's hands brushed against his forehead. "Yus!" he replied eagerly. "I like to sleep." He nodded, yawning once more.
After her words, he followed the kind lady's gaze towards the fountain bowl, and scrambled out of the bed. Crossing to the water basin, he stared curiously at the spouting water. Reaching forward, he gently pushed a finger into the flow, and chuckled as it diverted around his digit. Eagerly, he pushed his entire hand into it, and gave a cry of laughter as the spray squirted into his face.
He laughed playfully and moved his fingers back and forth, giggling at the changes it made in the water's flow. He stopped to wipe the water from his face, and then paused. Looking back at the kind lady, he asked hopefully, "Will there be milk, please?"
"Ah, yes." I beamed as I watched the child play with the water, feelings of both nostalgia and fondness flowing through me. He was so pure, so happy with the simplest things... and they were beautiful things, things so few ever seemed to notice or appreciate.
Still smiling, I carefully and quickly smoothed the sheets and quilt back over again, taking care to fluff the pillow. I then beckoned Ceyrnan to the table, gesturing to a chair for him to sit in. The scent of cinnamon and fruit was very strong now, and the warmth was most welcome as I stooped to take it out of the stove.
"Breakfast!" I set the hot dish upon the counter, slicing it into six even pieces and placing two heaps on two separate plates. Those I set on the table, finally moving to the icebox to retrieve a pitcher of milk. Before placing that, I poured a good measure of the cool, honeyed milk into a glass.
Cey climbed carefully onto the chair and scooted closer to the table. His eyes went wide as he took in the strange, alluring scents wafting over him. He took a deep breath, sniffing so hugely that the table itself was in danger of being sucked up.
His mouth dropped open slightly as he watched her cut the pieces. "...what is it?" He shut his mouth to swallow, and it dropped open once again.
I covered my mouth with one hand as I giggled, using the other to scoot the laden bowl closer to the boy. "Why, it is bread pudding. This mix in particular has corn bread, apricots, milk, and a good measure of cinnamon sugar. I think you will enjoy it--but do be careful, it is still rather hot."
With a warm smile, I took the seat beside him, poising my spoon delicately in my hand before looking to him. "Remember, it is rather hot."
He froze guiltily, his hand hovering over the new delicacy. He looked at the spoon held in Leonna's hand, and looked at his own hand, still hovering ready to dive into the deliciously scented food. He slowly pulled back and picked up the spoon. Looking at her for confirmation, he tentatively poked the pudding with the utensil.
Then, abruptly, he mashed the spoon into the food and pushed it against the sides of the bowl, scooping a spoonful up and cramming it into his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully, staring off into space. His mouth opened for a moment, and hot steam drifted out. He swallowed, and very quietly, "Ouch."
Then he looked at the kind lady and beamed. "Mmmm!"
I could not help but laugh, sobering only when I realized he had burned himself. With a sigh, I gently patted his head, hand falling to his shoulder as I carefully looked to him to make sure there was no serious damage. I then turned my attention to my own bowl, carefully gathering a lump of pudding on my spoon and brought it to my lips.
With a subtle wink, I blew carefully on the spoon to help it cool, then promptly took a bite. The pudding was wonderfully warm and thick. My lips puckered thoughtfully as I savored it, looking back to Ceyrnan once I swallowed.
"Mmm, that is a nice treat for breakfast! And to wash it down..." I poured a small measure of milk in my own glass, taking a delicate sip as I savored it. The added almonds and honey added extra sweetness and flavor, quite perfect after the hot apricot pudding.
Cey copied her actions closely, lifting another spoonful to his mouth. He looked at it speculatively, and blew. About a quarter of the spoon's load landed on the table. With a satisfied smile, he nodded happily at his success. His eyes shaped like half-moons from the sheer size of his grin, he shovelled the spoon into his mouth and swallowed. "Mmm," he repeated.
"Mmm, that is a nice treat for breakfast!" He nodded in agreement, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "And to wash it down..." His eyes opened wide as he looked to his own glass.
"Milk!" He grabbed his glass with both hands and brought it to his mouth, taking a huge swig. After draining half the drink, he set his glass down carefully. "Mmmm." His eyes shot open. "Mmmmmmilk!" he exclaimed, and laughed aloud at his own joke.
"Very well done!" I giggled again as I smiled at the child, quite amused at his antics. He was such a gentle and happy creature, so unknowing of world... it was almost as if each thing he experienced he was discovering for the first time. I was reminded again of why on earth a child of his age and nature was alone and how on earth he had been separated from his parents.
All the child had revealed was that there had been a woman, Tesha. I was certain she had been his guardian... but when Ceyrnan said she had gone to sleep... it was simple to assume what had happened. But surely that could not mean there was no one else in the world for him! He was a good and sweet child, and his Tesha had sounded like a kind enough woman. Could it be that both good persons were entirely friendless?
"Ceyrnan..." My voice was heavy with soberness as I looked to the boy. I tried to smile despite myself, fondly stroking his messy hair as I continued. "Do you remember last night, when I asked you about your Tesha? Is there anyone else you know, perhaps a friend or relative of Tesha's?"
Cey's smile drained away and his eyes cast down. He shook his head slowly. "Sometimes she bought stuff from people. Stuff to make my medicine. Other people's medicine too. She liked to cook," he finished thoughtfully. "But not food, not always."
"Ah..." This was starting to sound too familiar. Hemanias, too, had been a healer who lived away from the other villagers. He had also been the only person in Bren whom I had trusted. Without him, I would not have survived the forest alone, to be sure!
"It is alright, Ceyrnan. I am not quite sure what this medicine is that you need, but... perhaps if I examined it? At the very least, I shall not let you be alone any more. If we cannot find one who knows and can take care of you, I... I should be very happy if you will stay with me. There are some things I have not told you... but if you are ever unafraid or unhappy here, I will find someone for you, I promise."
I felt my eyes grow moist, heart stirred with sorrow for the both of us. Struggling to smile, I wrapped an arm about the boy's shoulder and held him close, pressing my lips gently to the top of his head. It was strange... feeling his energy as I held him. There was something off about him, but certainly not in a bad way. That I tucked away in my mind as something to discuss with Adrien and Leita when I had the chance.
"Ah, but we musn't forget about our nice breakfast!" I looked back to the table, smiling at the still warm pudding. "Eat as much as you like... but do be careful. I do not want you to burn your tongue or get a stomach ache. Slowly does it, eh?"
Cey nodded slowly. He dug his spoon into the bowl, but halfheartedly, pushing the food around aimlessly. He looked at Leonna, and then back down to his bowl, though he had stopped playing with the pudding.
Hesitantly, he reached down to his belt, slowly untying the strings that held his pouch. He lifted the oilskin to his chest and looked at Leonna. Solemnly, he held the pouch out, offering it to her like it was a great treasure.
We all have our secrets... even this child. It was both disturbing and sad. Surely, any who saw Ceyrnan play with the water or mimic my eating would deem him a happy, care-free child. Yet, it was clear that he had known loss in his life. Tesha was gone from him, and he suffered from some unkown ailment that required this 'medicine.' It was the one thing I had seen him handle with absolute care and reverence.
"Well... you are certainly welcome to stay as long as you please." I smiled and stroked his head as I accepted the pouch. Warily, I opened it, bringing it closer to have a sniff. I immediately snorted at the smell, blinking as the unfamiliar scent wafted up to my nose. It was unlike any plant I had experienced, but not wholly foreign. I felt the tingling in my nose and on my lips, and focusing on the swirling sensation, I poured a tiny droplet onto my finger.
When I tasted the substance on my finger, a smooth and airy buzz washed across my tongue. I narrowed my eyes in thought, knowing perfectly well that any substance with such an effect would be far stronger on a mortal. In this case, whatever 'medicine' Ceyrnan had been given was meant to numb and pleasure the mind. It was not entirely unlike some of the substances I had seen Hemanias use.
Corking the pouch back up, I looked to Ceyrnan with new concern. "This is a strong mixture for one of your stature, Ceyrnan. Why did Tesha give this to you?"
He watched nervously, almost flinching as she poured a drop onto her finger. Nervous concern showed clearly in his eyes as he watched her taste the droplet. "It's to stop the bad!" he squeaked. His hand quivered as he stared desperately at the pouch in Leonna's hand.
Something... was not quite right. Despite Ceyrnan's obvious discomfort, I hesitated to give him back the flask without understanding why he needed it. My experience with the substance was, of course, very limited, but I could not help but wonder if the child truly benefitted from its use. This was no tonic for a chronic disease, nor poultice for healing. I could only guess that it was a mind altering substance, not unlike the smoky incense that sent spirit speakers and the like into stupors and tremors.
This new fear of Ceyrnan's was also quite unlike what I had seen of him. This was not timidity around strangers, nor sorrow from loss, but an almost possesive fear. What on earth did the child mean by stopping 'the bad?'
My brow furrowed as I gazed at the child, steadying his hand with my own. "Ceyrnan, what is this bad? Do you mean pain? Are you sick?"
"Not sick!" Cey squeaked again, his voice high in fear. He looked into Leonna's eyes with fear in his own. "My medicine stops the bad from coming! Please don't take away my medicine!" He spoke quickly, his voice high pitched with fear.
I sighed, slowly offering the pouch back to him. "No, I will not take it away when I understand so little of your circumstances, Ceyrnan." I moved my hand again to gently stroke his head, feeling both guilty and sad that I had upset him.
"But... Ceyrnan... what is this bad? What does it do to you?"
He clutched the oilskin pouch to his chest tightly, his eyes downcast in shame. Her stroking his hair helped soothe him and made him calm. Very quietly, he began to speak. "The bad comes and takes me away. It makes everything dark, and red, and it makes me forget." He spoke with blatant fear, and a tremor in his voice.