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Sister Amyl of Loamhedge
Book One: All's Fair in Love and War
In Loamhedge we were told of a brave mousemaid named Sister Amyl, who was wheelchair bound during a plague brought on by vermin. She stayed behind when all of the Brothers and Sisters of Loamhedge left for Brockhall. Yet, as if by magic, she could walk and continued to travel with her friends! But who was she, what was she like? How did she come to lose the strength in her legs? And how did she come to walk again? This story will reveal it all—happiness and suffering, life and death, love and refusal, and the ultimate sacrifice.
It is my job to explore the unknown, and explain it as it is.
The primroses were over, and summer was certainly on its way. Peace and tranquility blanketed the meadow. Suddenly, disturbing the peace, a petite, slender mousemaid raced across the field. Racing to the place she called home. Loamhedge! A sudden bust of happiness gave the young Sister a new energy. Gathering her skirts she ran on. Loamhedge! The sun glinted off of her creamy fur, her simple feautres shone with her true beauty and happiness. She was almost there, almost to Loamhedge. Home! To the young maid, the Abbey of Loamhedge was the most beautiful place on earth. Its tall, unsoiled white walls were covered in creeping ivy, its huge green wooden door was a welcoming greeting. Loamhedge!
As the mousemaid came within a few feet of the Abbey’s gates, she stopped suddenly. An immediate sharp pain in her hips and legs had made it almost impossible for her to take another step. Not again, she thought as she crumpled to the ground. This was not the first time those pains had come. Sometimes the pain came and stayed for hours, and sometimes it was quick and angushing. She had not told of her pains to anyone; it would be one more thing for someone else to worry about. And of course she didn’t want to burden her felow Sisters and Brothers. Besides, it wasn’t that bad…not really… Suddenly a shout, coming from the pure white paparet, brought the maiden to her feet and woke her from her thoughts.
“Sister Amyl, there you are! We’ve been expecting you for a while now. How was your journey?”
“Enlightening, Abbess Germaine,” the mousemaid replied to the small, shriveled grandmotherly mouse standing on the paparet. She had just returned from a long journey to a poor villiage in the woods, to offer them food and a new hope. It was Sister Amyl’s first time away from the beautiful walls and the bountiful food of Loamhedge. The young Sister, with so much more to learn, could not believe that there were creatures that were suffering so!
“Well, come on in. Let’s hear about your travels,” called Abbess Germaine. “I’m sure you are tired and weary from your journey.”
In a way you’d never imagine, thought Sister Amyl. Trying to hide her pain, she sucked in her breath and limped the remainder of the way home. Loamhedge! Home!
Sister Amyl never felt more at home. All of the Brothers and Sisters of Loamhedge, all of her friends, were doting on her, bringing her food and refreshments, asking her of her journey. Amyl was glad that everyone cared about her; she loved to feel cared for and loved, but she disliked being the center of attention, as she was a shy creature. Everyone in Loamhedge was waiting for her arrival, even the Abbey young ones, the Dibbuns. Sister Amyl searched the crowd. Suddenly, Amyl spotted the one she was looking for—her good friend Brother Rupert, the Abbey carpenter. The young mouse waived tentatively to her from the back of the crowd. How shy Brother Rupert was, how timid, but such a gentlemouse! Upon seeing her best friend, Amyl waived back joyously, and she knew for sure that she was glad to be home.
- Later that night
Finally, Abbess Germaine shooed the crowd away, and Sister Amyl was taken to her room for rest. Amyl welcomed the familiar sight of her chamber. Her simple belongings—a red feather, a smooth stone, and some dried flowers in a painted vase given to her by Brother Rupert—lifted her spirits. She lay down on her simple white quilt, and before she knew it, she was fast asleep in the place she loved most. In her dreams,
Amyl was running, running, running. Something was following her! Suddenly the pains in her legs came again. No! She fell to her knees in her anguish. The thing came upon her—it had been following her all along. It was a rat, a huge, black sea rat. Its eyes were yellow and diseased; its fur was full of mange. It spoke in a gnarly, prickly, awful voice, “Beware, young sister! I make my way to Loamhedge! I will take you all away! I bring pain and despair to all that cross my path. For I am pain, I am misery, I am disease, I am suffering. Beware, for I come when you least expect me!
The terrible words etched their way into Sister Amyl’s mind. No! Amyl’s pain consumed her, her eyes full of fear. The rat demon came closer, closer. She could smell the decaying scent of the rat. It closed around her. No! Before she could stop herself, Sister Amyl screamed.
Sister Amyl woke with a start from her nightmare. “My legs,” Amyl moaned piteously. The pain in her legs was awful; it had never been this bad before. And what did the dream mean? Dismissing the thought of the terrible nighmare and the hideous figure of the black rat, Amyl had hoped no one heard her scream. Unfortunately, sound of footsteps could be heard outside of her bedchamber. Candlelight filled the room as a familiar head appeared in the doorframe. It was Abbess Germaine.
“Are you all right, Sister? I heard your scream. And what’s this about your legs? Goodness, you’re drenched in sweat!”
“Oh, Mother Abbess,” Sister Amyl said wearily and weakly. Sister Amyl fainted, but this time into an uninterupted sleep, with the memory of the torrid dream forgotton.
Sister Amyl’s eyes fluttered open to see the sight of Sister Laura and Brother Christopher, the twin Infimary keepers, dabbing her brow with rosewater.
Christopher peered closely at her through his spectacles. “Look, sister! She’s waking up!” he squeaked with exictement. Laura smiled her gentle smile, to both Christopher and Amyl. “How are you feeling?” she asked politely. Amyl blinked a few times. She felt no pain, but moved each individual part of her body, one at a time, just to make sure she was alright. But when she tried to move her legs and toes, she found she could not. “I can’t move my legs!” Amyl cried in dismay. Sister Laura and Brother Christopher exchanged nervous glances. This only frightened Amyl more. “What’s wrong with me?”
Sister Laura took on the most gentle, but yet nervous, tone Amyl had ever heard her speak in. “Amyl,” cooed Laura, “We don’t know—exactly—what’s wrong with you. You were screaming about your legs all night long, but then this morning you suddenly were at ease. I can’t—exactly—tell you what’s wrong with your legs, you see. This has never happened here, never before. I’m afraid... I’m afraid… that you’ll never be able to walk again.”
The news shocked Amyl. As a lively mouse, she could not stand to sit still for too long, and she certainly could not bear not to be of some service. “Not…walk…” Amyl repeated, as if in a daze. “Not walk. Ever. Not ever again…”
Sister Amyl sat by a stained glass window that depicted young mice at play. Oh, how Amyl hated that window. She eyed it enviously. To be like one of those stained-glass young ones, to be able to walk again! It had been a week since Sister Amyl had lost the use of her legs. And each of those seven days she exercised, touching her tiny toes, hoping to get the feeling back into her legs. There was no way Amyl would accept her disability. She was not a cripple. No—how could she?
Her thoughts were interuppted by a familiar voice. A gentle, familiar voice. Amyl would know that voice anywhere. How she had longed to hear that voice!
“Rupert!” Amyl cried. She would have ran to him if she weren’t bedridden. It had been days since she last saw Rupert, and she missed him every minute. On acount of being so lonely, of course.
“Amyl, I’ve brought something for you.” The young mouse looked to the ground and began to make imaginary circles in the ground with his footpaw. “I am so sorry… I thought, I thought this might make you feel better.” Rupert quickly dashed outside the room, not because of his nervousness, but to retrieve the gift.
Amyl’s eyes could do nothing but stare at the present. A wheelchair. She found that her eyes were beginning to water and blur. “I made it myself,” Rupert said nervously. “You were so upset at not being able to move around, so I made you this, this…chair…to help you get around on your own. Do you like it?” Rupert blushed, but smiled with a sense of pride. “It’s very well-made…”
She looked at the wheelchair. It was sturdy, well-made, and just the right size for the tiny mousemaid. But to use the chair! Amyl would have to accept the fact that she was a cripple. A useless cripple. But Brother Rupert had made the chair especially for her… it would break his heart if she were not to use it. Amyl blinked back tears and mamaged to croak, “Rupert… it’s lovely.”
Even upon receiving the wheelchair, Amyl remained inactive. She considered herself useless. She could not harvest, or plant, or even work in the kitchens, because her chair did not fit in the tiny baking area. Even watching the Dibbuns became imposible, for they ran in all directions, and Amyl could not chase after them. Sister Amyl spent her days sitting in a corner, mostly feeling sorry for herself. Sure, she got visitors, but Amyl hated the fact that they took time out of doing something productive to do something so petty as keep her company. So, the visits ceased, and Amyl remained alone and solitary, with nothing to do. It was when Amyl was sitting in her chair, doing absolutely nothing, when she began to wonder, Each day goes by, and important things are forgotten. Someone should record the events of each day of life in Loamhedge. That’s what I’ll do! I will not be useless!
And so she wasn’t. In gossamer handwriting, Amyl wrote of the events of that summer day. She wrote of the cranberry crumble that was served for breakfast, of the Dibbun’s antics in the berry patch, and of the glorious story that was told after dinner to all that would listen. Amyl was pleased. She was keeping the day-to-day experiences of Loamhedge alive. Sister Amyl re-read her journal in her corner. She was looking forward to tomorrow. She thought of what the next day would bring. Suddenly, a Dibbun mouse came streaming into the room. He jumped on Amyl’s lap.
“Warra doin’?” he asked inquisitively.
“I’m writing in my journal, you little rip! Now leave me be!” the young Sister replied curtly.
“No way, Sista! Read to me!”
“Be gone, you maggot! And don’t you dare use that tone of voice with me, or any elder. Now shoo!”
Without warning, the tiny Dibbun grabbed the journal, screeching tunes of joyous laughter. “Give me that back, you, you…argg! Give me back my journal! Infuriated, Sister Amyl propelled herself in her chair. It certainly was well-made. She raced after the Dibbun, quickly catching up to him. “Almost got you, you cheeky blighter!” Amyl screamed, laughing.
“Sister Amyl, what on Earth do you think you are doing?”
Amyl’s chair came to a complete stop, right at the feet of the Mother Abbess! Amyl straightened her ruffled skirts and gathered herself.
“Well, you see Mother Abbess… That little demon, pardon, that little angel stole my journal, and I was just trying to get it back.” From behind Abbess Germaine’s skirts, the Dibbun stuck his tiny pink tongue out at Sister Amyl. Amyl was tempted to stick her tongue back at him.
Abbess Germaine turned to the Dibbun. “Give me the journal.”
Reluctantly, like a terrier that doesn’t want to give a ball back to its master, the Dibbun handed over the journal. Abbess Germaine quickly leafed through the pages of the leather-bound book. “Did you write this?”
Amyl nodded. “It was just something for me to do, something for fun…”
Abbess Germaine’s face softened. “This is wonderful, Sister Amyl! We need someone like you to record the events of the day. And so I, Mother Abbess Germaine of Loamhedge, appoint you, Sister Amyl, the first official Recorder of Loamhedge Abbey!
Sister Amyl burst with pride. She was not useless. She had a job, a job she would not take lightly. And by gosh, she was going to be the best Recorder ever!
Sister Amyl gazed contentedly out of the stained glass window, the very same stained glass window that she had envied so. Amyl envied no window now. She had a job, and she was useful. Closing her leather-bound journal, the tiny mousemaid gazed into the sunset. All was well…but what was that tiny speck on the horizon? It was different from the scenery… and it was moving! “Rupert! Rupert! Come here quickly!”
- * * . . .
All of the Order of Loamhedge was crowded around the Abbey gates. All eyes were on the figure in the distance. The creature was limping, favoring one leg. It seemed in pain, or even wounded. Everyne agreed—the wretched creature musst be helped and given aid, food, and shelter. The Laura and Chris fetched a streatcher and raced off towards the creature. As they slowly returned with the wounded creature, as they got closer and closer, the true form of the figure was revealed. Amyl had never seen such a creature. Its true species could not be identified—it was so mangled, so diseased, so hideous! Flies and gnats swarmed around the wretched body, and its eyes were yellow with disease.
Seeing those eyes, those horrific eyes!, Amyl’s mind raced back to a night, the night she lost the use of her legs. Her mind raced to the nightmare, and of the black rat and its terrible, soul-searching eyes. It said it was coming, Sister Amyl thought, And here it is. Although the wretched creature was no black rat, it certainly resembled it in mange. Amyl wheeled her chair over to Abbess Germaine. “Mother Abbess, we cannot let that creature in!” Amyl’s voice was filled with pure terror.
Abbess Germaine gave a look of pure shock. “Why, Sister Amyl, I’m ashaimed of you! We cannot refuse a creaure who is in need of our help.”
“But I have this horible sense of foreboding, Mother. It came to me in a dream, not long ago.”
“In a dream! Sister, who is to say that your dream had anything to do with this. Everyone dreams silly things once in a while. Why, just last night I dreamed I was young again—how foolish of me! There is no use arguing; the creature is to be let in!”
Amyl’s head hung low. “I am sorry, Mother Abbess. I did not mean to dissapoint our Order. My dream was probably nothing. Can you forgive me?”
“Of course, dear.” Abbess Germaine’s eyes twinkled. “Now, let’s go see what we can do to help that poor creature.”
I do hope my dream didn’t really mean anything, Sister Amyl thought as she rolled her wheelchair back to the Abbey of Loamhedge.
Laura and Chirstopher tended to the sick creature for days. They were still not sure what it was, but they knew for sure it was vermin. The two’s efforts finnally paid off when it began to talk, and walk around. This caused some uneasiness in Loamhedge, but the Infimary keepers were sure that it was harmless. Or so they thought.
The creature was on a rampage. Its yellow eyes gleamed with bloodlust. They were searching, searching, searching for a new victim. Ah ha! A mousemaid, and a lame one at that. Silent and sneaky like the shadows, the beast closed in for the kill.
Walking through the corridors of the Abbey, Sister Amyl and Brother Rupert were oblivious of the danger ahead of them. Suddenly, as if he could smell the danger, Rupert wheeled Amyl’s chair into a room. Shocked, Sister Amyl inplored, “Rupert, what on Earth—“
“Shhh! Danger! The beast is after us!” Rupert’s eyes were filled with sheer terror. Flinging open the closet door, Rupert revealed a hidden compartment. “Amyl, hide in here!” He pointed to the hidden compartment in the closet. “Hurry!” Brother Rupert was frantic now, his voice full of fear and anxiety. The barred door was being pounded, pounded, and pounded upon. The thing! Rupert quickly picked up the little Sister, and and tossed her into the the tiny compartnent in fear.
“Hurry, Rupert! Come inside! Quickly!” Before she could say another word, the door fell down. The demon, with his yellow eyes glaring, swept into the room. Rupert quickly closed the compartment door, and then the closet. He stood, like a soldier guarding a palace, in front of the tiny closet door.
The voice, the terrible voice from her dream, spoke in a menacing tone, its words curling like the snares of a noose. “Where is that priddy liddle mousemaid, boy?”
Amyl heard Rupert speak in a tone she had never heard before. “S-she’s not here a-and you can’t have her!” Rupert proclaimed defiantly.
Rupert, run away! Get out of here, thought Sister Amyl. Despite her great fear, her heart wwas softened. Rupert was protecting her, with no regard to what would happen to himself.
“Don’t give me those lies, Brother. I know she’s in here….somewhere.” The rat immediately began to search the room. Tables were turned over, and drawers were enptied. The creature’s devilish yellow eyes caught glimpse of the closet behind Rupert. The monster threw Rupert across the room, and the mouse’s head hit an overturned table with a resounding crack. Amyl wanted to scream, but she caught her voice in her mouth, and so held it there.
It ripped open the closet door. Amyl held her breath, and she feared the thing could hear the sound of her nervous heartbeat bounding off of the walls of the tiny compartment. To Amyl’s relef, the rat left the closet, and then the room, disgusted.
Outside, she could hear the Brothers driving the it away, away from Loamhedge. As the disease left for good, it screamed mercilessly, “I’ll remain long after I’ve left, Abbeymice! You’ll not soon forget me!”
Quickly, Amyl crawled out from inside the compartment. She crawled over to Rupert’s body. Holding his battered and bloody head in her arms, she tried to give him strength. Rupert’s eyes flickered open, and closed. “Amyl,” he whispered, his voice fading, along with the remainder of his strength. “I love you.”
Amyl, with tears streaming down her cheeks and a lump the size of an apple forming in her throat, managed to choke out, “And I you, Rupert. And I do love you.”
Book Two: All that Glitters is not Gold
Through the white stone walls of Loamhedge, footsteps could be heard echoing. Two teenaged mice—not yet old enough to be Sisters, were walking and talking in jittery voices, as maids of that age tend to do. The first one began to sing in the most beautiful voice, high and sweet and true.
“Springtime is a wonderful time, rejoice now and sing praise! For ‘tis the time of year, with warm and joyous days. And everything is fresh and neeeew! To birds who fly in skies of blue. Springtime is a wonderful time, so plant in fields of green, For ‘tis the time of year, to below ground grow unseen. And everything is fresh and neeew! To sing this song of joy to you!
“Silly!” interrupted the second. “It’s not spring, it’s fall!”
“Oh, but how I wish it was spring!” The singer, as beautiful as the morning sun, looked to her companion, who was as homely as the loam. “And now,”she said, in a voice filled with bubby exitement, “It really does seem like sit’s always spring now that that creature isn’t in Loamhedge! I am ever so glad that the hideous beast is gone from the Abbey. Ugh! He gave me the creeps!”
“Alas, Madrigal, all that glitters is not gold. Think of the price we have had to pay. Think of poor Sister Amyl. She has been sitting at Brother Rupert’s bedside for two days now—she refuses to belive that he’s…not with us anymore.” Jane spoke in a voice as calm as the river and as smooth and blunt as a rock.
“It was indeed a great price. I did love Brother Rupert; he was so kind, and gentle, and he even made me a wooden bird. I will surely miss him.” Her last sentence lost all of its pep, and her voice quivered. Madrigal stopped short—she swayed, as if in a daze.
“Madrigal, are you all right?” Jane looked at her friend straight in the face. Madrigal’s normally rosy cheeks were pale, and her blue eyes were misted and blurry. “You look like you could be sick.”
“No, no, Jane. I’ll be all right.” Madrigal seemed calm, peaceful, which was unusual for her. “I’ll be all right…”
Madrigal took a pummet to the floor. Jane caught her before she hit the cobbled stones. As she held her almost twin in her arms Jane could feel the heat of the fever that so consumed Madrigal. “Madrigal! Who has done this to you?”
“’Tis the beast… ‘Tis he…” Madrigal looked at Jane with her big blue eyes, which were brimming with tears. “You were always prettier than I, Jane. You shine…with the beauty within.” Madrigal’s eyes fluttered, then closed.
Raindrops made a pitter-patter sound on the stained glass windows of the Infimary. By candlelight, Sister Amyl sat by the still form of Brother Rupert, never leaving the love of her life, never ceasing her silent vigil. Her face was as still and smooth as the granite statues in the Abbey cemetary. Every once in a while, Amyl would dab at Rupert’s brow with the softest cloth she could find and some rosewater. Ocasionally, she would talk to the unmoving form.
“Now, Rupert. That was very brave of you to stand up to that beast like that, but you didn’t have to hurt yourself.” Amyl’s paw stroked Rupert’s gash—the one right on his left eye, where he had hit the table. “Oh, Rupert, you’ll get well soon. I can promise you that! Just stay still like you are, and you’ll be back to fixing tables in no time…” Amyl’s words were interrupted by a knock at the Imfimary door. Two familiar faces filled the doorframe.
“Sister Amyl, you really should come down for the evening meal.” It was Laura and Christopher.
“Come on Amyl! There’s your favorite—damson pudding with walnuts! Yummy! Hurry, or that fatty Marta will eat it all!” A stern glance from his sister silenced Christopher.
“It’s going to be a wonderful feast,” continued Laura. “It’s a celebration, you see, now that the vermin is gone from the Abbey.”
Sister Amyl looked at the two—how young, and full of zest for life. “I’m sorry, you two. I can’t go to the feast tonight—what if Rupert were to wake up, with nobody there? No, no. Send up a tray for me, though.”
“But Amyl…” Laura’s voice was cut off by a sharp scream.
“Help! It’s Madrigal! She’s sick!” The young mousemaid Jane came into the Infimary, carrying the still form of Madrigal. Quickly, Christopher and Laura set into action. They pulled various vials and boxes from the shelves, knowing exactly what to do in a such situation. Christopher looked at Amyl. “Sister, we’re going to have to move Rupert! Madrigal needs the only bed we have!”
Amyl’s hazel eyes bored into Christopher. “But Rupert needs this bed too! He’s dreadfully hurt!”
“Carry him somewhere else!” Laura’s voice cut harshly into the conversation. “Amyl, we need the bed for the living!” A lump came to Amyl’s throat as she realized the awful truth. Sobbing, she wheeled her chair away from the Imfimary, away from Christopher and Laura, and away from Jane and Madrigal.
Through all of the yelling and confusion, a sound could be heard as clear as the bells of Loamhedge. A soft, familiar voice. His voice could be heard. His one brown eye opened and gazed at the scene, over the Infimary, now silent amid Jane’s sobs. His lady in waiting was nowhere to be found. Had she been taken by the rat? Did he try but fail in vain? “Amyl? Where art thou, Amyl?”