The Coinbearer - Chapter 3
In the middle of the night, Jerna felt her throat parched. Somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, she tried to swallow. She got up, seeing only darkness, she felt around for her pack in search of her water skin. A hand grabbed her wrist. She froze.
“What are you looking for?” asked a gentle voice. Jerna realized that her rescuer was still there.
“My water,” her voice raspy with thirst.
He fell silent for a moment. “You lost your water in the lake.”
“What time is it?” She wondered how long she had slept as unease crept within her.
“It’s morning, can you not see the sun?”
Jerna did not know if she had heard him right. “What did you just say?”
“I said, it’s morning.”
She waved her hand in front of her face, then, looked about her. Nothing. She could not see. She covered her mouth as she felt a lump form in her throat. Why? How did this happen? What about the cure?
“Jerna, do you want some water?” he asked quietly.
Suddenly, she felt him envelope her with his body. Something pounded in the ground around them, kicking up the damp scent of earth and broken vegetation. A drop fell and landed on her. Then another.
“What’s going on?” she wanted to call his name, but she did not know it.
“Do not move,” he told her gravely, he sounded winded. A gasp came from him, Jerna felt his presence shielding her from something, but could not tell what it was.
“Are you hurt?” she asked.
“Do not move.” This time it was a command.
More precipitation fell landing on her, she could still sense him hovering over her. But what is this precipitation?
Gingerly she touched where the drops landed on her. The moisture was not cold like rain, it was warm and sticky with a scent of iron. Blood? She shook her head. She grabbed at the air before her and found the material of his cloak.
“Get off me.” She felt her mouth work. “Move!” she begged, trying to push him away.
“Are you bleeding? Why are you bleeding?” Panic rose with her voice. “Why are you doing this? What is going on?”
An agonizing cry came from him. Some droplets fell on her eyes, she wiped them with the back of her hand and finally saw him. He was covered in blood. Something rose up behind him – a thorny vine, red with blood.
“Get off me!” she begged, as she watched the point thrust into his back.
A hand covered her eyes. She tried to remove his hand.
“It will be over soon,” he whispered.
Sure enough, her vision opened, he still hovered over her drenched in red. She was covered in blood – his blood. The vines withdrew, slithering away from them.
In relief, he collapsed to the side. She sat up and turned towards him.
His eyes were closed, his back was filled with puncture wounds. Seeing him wounded for her sake, her shoulders shook. Her cry tore through the air.
A stranger had taken the blows from the demons in her place, yet he was not any stranger. He knew her and was her rescuer. A pair of strong arms encircled her and held her close as she sobbed uncontrollably.
“It is all right. They will not harm you. It is over,” he comforted as he rocked her.
“B-but, you were dead. I swear –”
He removed his robe and revealed his back, now covered with puncture wounds fading into scars.
Relieved, Jerna threw her arms around him.
After being held and rocked in comfort, he finally asked, “How do you feel?”
“I feel –” she stopped and noticed her leg felt different, there was no pain or burdensome weight. She looked at her leg and lifted it. Slowly, she stood up, her eyes still staring at her leg. It was not grey and dying, but healthy with its natural colour. She turned to him in disbelief.
“I’m healed!” she whispered.
He smiled as they embraced each other.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Mother, Jerna came back!” one of Jerna’s brothers told her dying mother. Jerna entered the house with the man.
“Mother,” Jerna approached the bed, taking her mother’s hand she told her, “I found the cure!”
Her mother turned to her, her eyes staring at her daughter sadly. “Child, you don’t believe in those fairy tales, do you?”
“What are you talking about? There was a cure to the disease. All you need to do is receive the water of life –”
“There is no such thing, child!”
“Why do you believe in such tales that your superstitious grandmother told you? You are just like many of those dreamers who thought they could find the cure. Those people never came back!”
“But I did, Mother! There is hope. Immanu is with me.”
“Immanu? Don’t be foolish! He is just a myth.”
“But I met him! He is right here with me! Can’t you see him? He is in this room with me –” Jerna stopped as she noticed something. “Mother, is something wrong with your eyes?”
“What are you talking about? My eyes are fine! I can see that you are right beside me.”
Jerna swallowed. “Who else is in the room?” she asked.
“Just you, I could tell by your presence. Your brother left the room momentarily.”
Jerna turned to Immanu who had come with her. He approached her and stood behind Jerna.
“Mother, don’t you want to get well?” Jerna begged.
“Child, how many times have I told you? There is no hope for me?”
“But there is!” Jerna wanted to shake her mother. She wanted Immanu to help her mother see. She wanted her mother to see what he had done for her, but knew it was up to her mother to accept this gift.
That night, Jerna’s mother died. Jerna sat beside her and held her hand.
The mourners had left Jerna’s home after her mother’s burial the next morning. Jerna sat outside her home with Immanu beside her.
“Please forgive my mother,” she told him softly, “She was stubborn and proud.”
He reached over and pulled her close, letting her lean against him.
“I understand,” he replied, comforting her with his presence.
“What do you plan to do?”
“I will visit other towns. There are many who still need me. I will bring my life to them so they could also live.”
“Can I come with you?” she asked, holding his hand.