Chapter 2:

The Girl From The Garden - II

The Crown Princess - Aphasia

The girl from the garden - they were going to call her Aphasia?Bookmark here

Aphasia, huh, her name sounded pretty to him.Bookmark here

It sat on his tongue nicely, flowing out in a natural but unique sound. It suited her, even if she didn't respond much to it. He studied her figure - eyes locked onto her skin as she stood there. If there was such emotion as aloof but interested, it perfectly described her expression.Bookmark here

She was fascinated by something. Her eyes, though dull, fluttered around the room for moments at a time. Was she getting accustomed to the surrounding area? Come to think of it - it was her first time surrounded by so many people. Was she feeling overwhelmed? He wanted to know. He wanted to ask so many things.Bookmark here

"Aphasia is a bit much, don't you think?" Father Nelwood spoke, "I mean surely Xanthea guided you to a name a little less..."Bookmark here

"I've prayed for the past seven nights. Xanthea's response remains," Mother Hane said as she guided the girl to her seat, "Believe me, I would have chosen a different one."Bookmark here

Aphasia sat next to Father Nelwood, in the space between him and Brother Igna's usual spot. The mature man poured her a glass of water while Mother Hane tied her mangled mane into a ponytail.Bookmark here

"I like her name," he said, "It sounds pretty."Bookmark here

"Her name is a little too on the nose if you ask me. I'd dislike being called Father Osteoarthritis."Bookmark here

"I don't understand?"Bookmark here

"Her condition is called Aphasia, Cullen," Alali clarified as she poured more water for herself, "Injuries that damage the ability to speak and read, caused by head trauma or so the Doctor theorises. It's a new field of medical research."Bookmark here

A sense of dread filled him, "Can she even understand us?"Bookmark here

There was no point in having a little sister who couldn't understand him. How could he express his feelings or she to him? That seemed unfair. Who would hurt her so badly that they'd rob her of her ability to communicate?Bookmark here

He narrowed his eyes at her; lips curled to a frown.Bookmark here

She was blissfully unaware of the situation around her. Aphasia took a sip of water and held her eating utensils patiently. Her gaze was aloof or was disinterested the better word? Amethyst was a jewel unfitting for her, he deduced. That gemstone represented Ulsie, whose domain of Merchants and Arts represented distinctiveness and expression.Bookmark here

To him, she had none of those qualities.Bookmark here

He wanted to reach out and touch her delicate looking skin. Mostly to see if it would gather a response out of her. What wast he point of pleasantries if Aphasia was no better than a doll? But such actions are rude, he reasoned, he should treat with her delicately and with dignity. He was a child of a Xanthean Cathedral. It was his duty to serve others with fairness and without prejudice. Such was the way Xanthea intended her domain. Bookmark here

Yet still, he felt unsure.Bookmark here

"Cullen," Mother Hane called him, "What did Kreilow say to Hernan before the Battles at Moutain's Edge and River's Spite? You read ahead, did you not?"Bookmark here

"By the power of the divines, there is no barrier between two hearts," Alali said confidently, "But, that's the lesson we take from that verse."Bookmark here

"Another lesson we take from that story is that the divines provide," Igna interrupted, "But we still have to meet them halfway. I made stew for dinner." Bookmark here

Brother Igna's voice was a very distinct sound. Unlike Father Nelwood's rhythmic sing-song, Igna spoke with precision and monotony. He stepped into the dining room - pale skin shining with sweat - placing the elevated cast-iron pot on the dining table. He finished this act with a theatric sigh, wiping his brow before grabbing each bowl and serving the table.Bookmark here

Father Nelwood received his first. Then Mother Hane and Aphasia got their bowls. As always, the Sister and Brother of the Cathedral received theirs immediately after and he was last. The aroma was notably pleasant. A rich smell that came from the perfuming of vegetables and meat, braised in a thick dark liquid. Bookmark here

Briefly, it took his mind away from everything. Bookmark here

He focused instead on the prayers Father Nelwood lead to Torel, whose domain of Feast and Hunt guided Igna to this meal. They prayed, as usual, for others to be satisfied as well and for the playful god to bless the lands with rich bounties. Bookmark here

Aphasia disrupted that prayer. She chose to lift her spoon towards the dark liquid and take a bite of meat and carrots. At that moment, the table fell silent as eyes lingered on her. They watched in anticipation as she brought the spoon to her mouth and ate the food without a problem - breathing a collective sigh of relief. Bookmark here

The moment when all eyes fell on her, he felt as though it belonged that way. Despite her messy ponytail and soulless eyes, Aphasia was undoubtedly pretty. Sometimes he wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. How else was he to describe the ethereal glow that sometimes covered her figure? Bookmark here

A small smile lined her lips, and the room went back to normal. Bookmark here

In the absence of chatter, his ears focused on the utensils hitting ceramic bowls and the thud of glass as it hit the wooden table. Bookmark here

The food was delicious, and he thanked the divines that Aphasia didn't have to taste Father Nelwood's cooking. The honourable head of the Cathedral was no chef. It made his stomach gripe to think about the time Igna went to train, and Father Nelwood cooked in his stead. The flavourless beige liquid made his stomach hurt. Bookmark here

"Cullen," Father Nelwood interrupted the silence, "You haven't answered Lucia's question." Bookmark here

He secretly cursed his brain - bewitched by Aphasia and the stew, he forgot to think of the answer. His eyes wandered the room. Brother Igna looked to him encouragingly, while Alali had a sly snicker. For a moment, it fell to Aphasia - the girl from the garden. Bookmark here

The girl from the garden with soulless amethyst eyes and honey-coloured hair, she wasn't interested in what was happening around her. Her disinterest didn't stem from malice. He understood that very well. There was a bridge between them - a barrier in their ability to communicate their feelings directly. Bookmark here

"Kreilow told Hernan that through tempests and icy waters, they would always have each other's backs. That their love was too strong to be broken by any barriers man made or otherwise." Bookmark here

"Precisely," Igna cheered, "No wicked storm shall silence me, we who were born as one remain one. And Hernan said, leave in peace and return in peace. If you return maimed, I will tend to you. For that is my duty." Bookmark here

Father Nelwood clapped, "It's where we get the saying 'leave in peace'. It's a commonly spoken expression, especially near the Blackwaters." Bookmark here

"Hmph, took you long enough," Alali snorted, "That is to say, as long as you show kindness and compassion, it will touch her heart. Do acts of gentleness and doting." Bookmark here

Actions of gentleness and doting, huh? Bookmark here

His eyes fell to Aphasia - finishing her meal and sipping on her water. Without a care in the world, she was oblivious to the people around her. A girl who couldn't speak of her desires, but needed someone to tend to them all the same.Bookmark here

Perhaps that would be his role in her life.Bookmark here

He mumbled, "I'll be a good big brother." Bookmark here

"What was that, Cullen?" Mother Hane asked, "Did you say something?"Bookmark here

"I want to be a good big brother to her. I want to be someone she can depend on. Someone who protects her." Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.