Lady Abigail stopped in front of Jason’s room. Sarah recognized Annabelle who led them in with a steaming teapot. She didn’t acknowledge Sarah’s smile, but left as soon as she’d set the pot down. Lady Abigail poured her a cup of the aromatic tea. It smelled of chamomile and mint. Then, much to Sarah surprise, she poured the rest into the tub of hot water.
“Go on and drink, and then you will bathe.” Lady Abigail held her hands in silence above the water before turning to face Sarah. “During Tri-Luna you will develop a deep mental connection, one that will only be strengthened with the physical connection of marriage. In these next three months you will live together as husband and wife, you will share the same bed and yet you will be physically apart.”
“Right,” Sarah sighed as she picked up the teacup and took a sip.
“Now,” Lady Abigail sat upon the bed next to Sarah, “your visit with us serves two purposes. The first is to allow you to meet your future Family-by-Gods, though I must admit my eldest son and wife are absent as is my second youngest son.” She sighed with disappointment and then smiled. “It also gives you a chance to see what your future husband might be like as he ages. Not,” Lady Abigail laughed slightly, “that I think he will be anything like his father.”
Sarah returned the smile. Based upon what she knew of Jason’s father she was quite certain he wouldn’t either. Then again he wasn’t a Lord, he was a Scout Sergeant. The two jobs probably came with different responsibilities and different stresses. Sarah suddenly realized that she could end up forever worried about Jason’s health and welfare while he was out with his troop. Setting the teacup down Sarah sighed.
Lady Abigail smiled. “Trust me, your Tri-Luna is meant to be the hardest trial of marriage. Those who make it through have formed strong bonds that will serve them well through their many years together.” She helped Sarah from her garments. “Now I must ask, as you slip into the waters to think upon the dark matter that was your forcing.”
“My forcing,” Sarah sighed again, “right.”
“You may speak if you wish, or you may just relax in the waters.” Lady Abigail said her voice soft and gentle.
Sarah slipped into the warm tub and let the water envelope her. The scent of mint and chamomile rose from the waters providing a calming backdrop to her troubled thoughts. Taking a deep breath she let it out.
“I’m not sure where to begin, or,” Sarah smiled slightly, “if you will be able to understand.”
“What might I not understand, child?”
“The words I use. Some of the objects that, were, um, well,” Sarah struggled with her words for a moment. “They don’t exist here and therefore their words don’t either.”
“Just tell me what you can as you can,” Lady Abigail soothed her. “I am here to listen, not judge.”
Sarah breathed deeply for a bit, her eyes closed. She sat in silence trying to enjoy the calming quality of the tub and scent while also trying to organize her thoughts. Telling one more time couldn’t hurt, she thought. She took a deep breath and let it out. One last time and then I will set it aside and not think of it again.
Decision made, Sarah began to explain to Lady Abigail, the best she could, how it had happened. It had started when her and her friends had gone out on the town. Sarah had stayed longer to keep talking with a man whom she’d met there. When the establishment closed, she’d chosen to walk home, right through one of the worst sections of the city. Passing near an alley, she’d been accosted by two large men. They had wanted her to come with them and when she refused, three more men appeared from the shadows. Sarah couldn’t beat them all. She didn’t give Lady Abigail many of the details, but she explained how they held her down, used a knife to cut her and took turns ‘playing’ with her body before leaving her for dead.
“I survived,” Sarah whispered through the tears, “by sheer force of will.” She turned her face to Lady Abigail with a slight smile. “Dragged myself back out to the street, back the way I’d come till someone found me and took me to a place to heal.”
Lady Abigail did not respond. Her eyes gazed out the small window, her face nearly expressionless.
“Lady Abigail?” Sarah sat up concerned. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to shock or offend you, it’s just...”
Sarah’s voice trailed away as the woman at last turned to her. There was an odd glow about her.
“Let the waters wash the event from you.”
Lady Abigail’s hands took a firm hold of Sarah’s head and dunked her in the water. Spluttering Sarah came out, but before she could utter a word, Lady Abigail spoke again, though she did not sound like herself.
“Rise, sleep and heal.”
Gentle hands helped Sarah out of the tub. Now very confused, she let the woman help her into a clean chemise and tuck her into bed. Kissing Sarah’s forehead, the woman pulled the covers up to her chin.
“Good night my great-grand child.” Lady Abigail, who wasn’t Lady Abigail, smiled a glowing smile. “You shall meet Lord Phoenix’s family in the morning, as he shall meet yours.”
“But...” Sarah furrowed her brows.
“Sleep child.” The woman kissed Sarah’s forehead and Sarah could no longer resist sleep.