/ STORIES

Light and Dark, Day and Night

By: Vanessa Westermann

First published as creative writing for teens in 2002 on http://teenwriting.about.com

A bright green wreath hung on the door to the tiny cottage. The wreath was made up of healing herbs and holy flowers, meant to bless anyone that passed through the door.

The heavy wooden door creaked open, and a young, slender woman stepped out. She was clothed in a rich, dark blue cloak; the hood drawn low over her forehead. All that could be seen of her face was her pale skin, that looked as though it were lit from within, and her rose-petal mouth, that curved in a wistful smile. She pulled the door shut behind her and walked into the woods. She had a certain aura about her; confident and vibrant, yet quiet and serene. She didn’t seem… quite real. To an outsider she might be mistaken for a fairy out of some long ago child’s bedtime story. It seemed fitting that she was named after the moon goddess, Selene.

The woods were quiet. A thick mist swirled around her feet. Selene wandered deeper into the woods, looking, searching. Ah, jasmine. Perfect for the herbal tea that she was going to prepare.

Selene had lived in the woods most of her life. To be more precise, ever since her mother had died. Ever since she had passed away, Selene had sworn to help other people. Which was why she spent her days perfecting her skills as a herbalist. The woods near her cottage were the best for finding things she needed for her soothing teas, soups, medicines and pastes.

Selene paused to look around her. A beautiful snow-white cat appeared at her feet as if from nowhere. It stretched leisurely and sat down, curling its tail around itself. Selene smiled lovingly at it, and bent down to stroke its ear. “Talutha, what’s the matter with you? I haven’t seen you all day. You’re usually always at my side,” Selene chided.

The cat meowed in answer, and stood up. Tail high, it walked deeper into the woods. Talutha stopped to look back at Selene as if to ask if she was coming. Selene sighed in defeat. She tucked the flower that she had picked into the leather pouch that hung at her side and followed the cat.

Talutha led her farther, and farther into the woods. Soon the trees swallowed the last rays of sunlight, making it increasingly difficult to see.

“Talutha? Where are you?” Selene called, pushing away the thick branches that hung in her face.

She blinked in surprise. The branches had disguised a clearing in the forest. The sunlight poured down and shone on a black as night horse and it’s rider. The knight was wounded, and lay in the thick grass. His shirt was cut to display a deep wound. Blood was still streaming steadily from it. It appeared as though he had lost a lot of blood.

She stepped closer to take a look and caught her breath when she saw his face. He looked like nothing she had ever seen before. He was breath taking. His dark hair hung over his eyes, and she leaned down to brush it away. As her fingers touched his skin, he stirred and he opened his eyes. She slowly gazed back at him from under her hood. When she looked into his eyes, it was as though she were looking up and through the leaves on the trees in the wood to see a hint of the brilliant sun far away. His eyes were a deep, deep green with tiny flecks of gold. She was astounded at the rush of emotions she had towards this stranger. She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry, and leaned back.

“Are you all right?” She asked, hesitantly.

“Does it look like it?” He snapped.

She was shocked, and stung by the tone of his voice. With a face like that she would have thought that he would be kind as well. She frowned, and even though all he could see was the way her mouth tightened, he still felt ashamed.

“Sorry,” he said gruffly, not sounding one bit like he meant it.

“Fine,” she said stiffly. “Let me help you back to my cottage. I can give you something to ease the pain.” She didn’t like him, but she could never see anyone hurt and not stop to help them.

“I don’t need your help.” He pulled himself to his feet too quickly. He grimaced clutching his wound, his face a sickly grey colour.

“Yes. You do,” Selene said. “Since you don’t look like you’re going to be able to make it back with me and I can’t carry you, I’ll bring the medicine to you. Stay there, and don’t move. I’ll be right back.”

Selene and Talutha disappeared behind the branches and hurried back to the cottage. I’ll be using the jasmine sooner than I thought. Selene entered the cottage and poured the water that had been heating over her fire since she first left the cottage, into a hardened, clay bowl.

She laid the jasmine on the table and went to her pantry. She opened the cupboard and took a moment to look over her collection of roots, herbs and spices. Selene finally chose a special healing root, honey to ease the pain, peppermint to give him strength, and cinnamon to add flavour. She went back to the table where she had put the jasmine and water. She quickly ground the root, the petals of the jasmine and peppermint leaves to a fine dust. As she ground the jasmine petals a sweet perfume floated through the air and wafted through the tiny cottage. She added honey to the mixture to make a paste. She stirred it together than put it in the boiling water to dissolve. Finally, she added the cinnamon.

At last she gave it one final stir. Selene called Talutha, took the mixture, and both of them followed the rolling mist back into the dark woods towards the wounded knight.

When they reached the clearing, Selene saw that the knight had sat back down beside his horse, his face still very pale. Selene sat down beside him with Talutha at her side. “Here, drink this,” she said, holding the bowl towards him. “What is it?” He asked, looking at the mixture as though it were poison. “Jasmine, peppermint, honey, and cinnamon. It’s to ease the pain and give you strength,” Selene explained.

The knight shrugged and quickly drank it down. She was relieved to see that the colour was slowly returning to his face.

The knight looked surprised. “I do feel better!”

“Don’t sound so surprised. I told you that you would.”

“I know, but I’ve never believe in all of this herbal rubbish,” the knight said stubbornly. “By the way, my name is Sir John of Wimsburry.”

“My name is Selene,” she said, standing up. “Come, we still have to dress your wound, and I need to do that in my cottage. All the supplies are there,” Selene explained, helping him to his feet.

“Fine,” Sir John agreed. Selene led the way back, Talutha and Sir John’s horse following behind.

Sir John tied his horse up outside, and they entered the cottage. Here, have a seat on the bench.” Selene got a towel and poured hot water over it. She was going to use this to clean the wound. Sir John obediently sat down, and took off his shirt to let her better see the cut. Selene sat down beside him and inspected the wound. “This is quite deep, but I don’t think it will make you sit out too many tournaments. Just take it easy for a while,” she said, quickly dressing the wound.

“How did you get something like this anyway?”

“Oh, I had a little fight with one of my enemies farther back in the woods. If you think I look bad, you should see the other one.” He grinned. “Ouch!” He exclaimed as she pulled the gauze too tight.

“Sorry,” Selene said. “Where are you staying?”

“In one of the inns in town.” He checked over the way she had tied the bandage. The way he did that bothered Selene immensely. As though just because she was a woman, she couldn’t do anything right. She frowned. He stood up. “Thank you for your help, Selene. Is there anything I can do for you in return?”

“No,” Selene said. She hadn’t helped him because she wanted his money, she did it because she cared about him. No wait, she didn’t know him. She did not like this arrogant stranger!

“All right. I’ll be on my way then,” Sir John said, going out the door and to his horse.

She wasn’t going to advise him not to ride all the way to town in his condition, because he probably wouldn’t listen to her anyway.

“Good-bye and thank you again,” he said, swinging himself up and onto the horse with only a tiny grimace at the pain. He turned around and rode off into the woods. In the following days, Sir John came to visit Selene often. He just couldn’t get her out of his head. She was mysterious and different. He’d never met anyone like her before.

One day, he asked her if he might see her face; if she would remove her hood. Selene was shocked. She didn’t know what to do but, at that moment, there didn’t seem to be a reasonable excuse not to.

She slowly pulled back the hood. Golden hair cascaded down her back and the bluest eyes he had ever seen stared back at him. Both of them knew at once that they had found their soulmate. Someone to walk hand in hand with through the ages. Someone to share joy and pain with. They knew at once that they belonged together like light and dark, day and night.