Authors: Naomi Baysinger-Ott
Tears of Leyden
Naomi Medha Baysinger-Ott
Tears of Leyden
Copyright © 2015 Naomi Medha Baysinger-Ott
All rights reserved.
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in an information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording, without prior written permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictitiously.
Printed by CreateSpace, An Amazon.com Company
CreateSpace, Charleston SC
Cover Art done by Michelle Laurencot and Rajasekhar Ampolu
Cover Art design in USA and India
In all the times of my life,
To one so fare and fine,
I must give you thanks,
For your endless care and grace,
Thank you mom
Sometimes in the most enveloped places,
The freest hearts abide.
~Naomi M. B. -O.
I quietly lift my head from my pillow and turn it in the direction from which the soft beating waves of breath are coming from. I sit up and twist a little away from the small figure in my arms. Still holding my sister’s head against me, I listen to the tune of my moeder’s melancholic sobs. I assemble myself a bit more and recognize the need for reassurance in the tune. I try to accustom my eyes to the dark, but teaching eye conditioning is futile, and I have no choice but to once again practice the ritual of blindly walking through the dark. I carefully set Meyleia’s precious head down on the pillow and start to untangle myself from the heavy covers.
When I am free, I shakily stand and breathe in the cool night air, catching a sharp intake of breeze and tasting rime. I try not to hold my breath from the cold as I make sure Meyleia is still covered and warm and then quietly step over the prickly wooden floorboards on my way to the door. I glance back once to make sure Meyleia is still motionless and dreaming. I find no stirring under the covers. I let out a staggered breath and turn away, stepping out into the space between the two bedrooms where the light coming from the flames in the hearths cannot reach. I shiver as the draft inside our main room leaks through my warm skin and chills my already cooling blood. I quicken my steps as I near the guarantee of cramps controlling the movement with my limbs.
I reach out and lightly touch my fingertips to the old wood frame as I enter Moeder’s room. Before I move I stand still for a moment, worriedly listening to the sound of her sobs. I slowly make my way from the door to the old bed. I wait a few moments, hesitating as I wonder whether I should even try to comfort her tonight as I had failed to the last.
Hearing her small choke, I understand my place as her eldest care and know that soon she will no longer have me as such, nor I her, considering my betrothal to Zenith Brooch. We were engaged a few years ago by my widowed moeder and by my own agreement. It was decided before the city problems began, and I now almost wish it wasn’t.
I bite my lip.
“Moeder?” I inquire uncertainly, indecisive of my permission.
There is no response.
I pause and let the absence of sound fill the room before I hover closer. I sit down by her side. “Moeder, are you ill?”
A few seconds pass with no indication of there even being another person in the room. She sniffs and lets out a shaky breath, and I think I glimpse her hands lifting to her mute face. I understand. She has no reason for concerning me, especially when she knows trouble outside our family is much worse.
“Should I leave you be?” I respond to the silence.
There is no reply.
“Moeder?” I request.
She remains quiet.
“Please be truthful…may I know of your infirmity?”
She swallows hard and the silence grows a little unbearable.
I wait. “Moeder, please…” My whisper eludes the absence of sound.
“I am not ill…my wellbeing is contrary to your suspicions of such…” Her voice is frail, but the presence of it seems to fill the room, making it whole again.
“Is it vader?”
The room grows very still and not even the small fire crackling in the grate seems to flicker the darkness out of the room.
I hesitantly slide my hand over hers. “Moeder…please do not be secretive on behalf of such dispenses of your health…he…is just traveling with the rest of our protectors…we are in here…and he out there…we are on both sides, doing what needs to be done for the city.”
Ever since the new reign over the Netherlands I knew moeder had been troubled after vader had signed into the Dutch States Rebel Army. When the Siege began this last winter, it was only more straining for her not to worry when we heard that the rebel army had failed against our oppressors. She has become somewhat hollow and I don’t blame her. I just wish I could fill that hollowness so that it would stop hurting our family. I almost wish it as much as I do to fill the hollowness I dread to soon disrupt the wall around the city (the only thing keeping the Spanish at bay).
She snatches her hand back out from under mine, glaring up as though I had just spoken words of Satan. I feel as though she has hit me.
“Lyra Thimlet,” her voice is quiet yet trembling, with a firm unearthing hatred for my words. “I am asking you to go to bed…before Meyleia wakes up and is troubled…it only causes more work for us both.”
I try to reach for her hand in apology, requesting forgiveness, but she slips it back and away from my reach. I feel my stomach twist. “Moeder…just tell me what is bothering you…I must know or else all will be secrets…as my marriage is presently…” I stop realizing for the first time that I had not mentioned my betrothal since vader had left for work or for protecting the Netherlands, he never truly explained which.
Her eyes soften into mine as her brow rests its case. “You will leave me too,” she whispers.
I shake my head. “I don’t wish it either…we could postpone it, until after vader comes back from the war. We could request to…”
“We have no say in the timing of your marriage. The dowry was paid long since the…” she stops, her eyes drifting off to the darkness in the room.
I think I might have just found the answer to my question. “You worry of the Siege?” I whisper.
She raises her eyes to meet mine and I understand all.
“How long…?” I inquire demandingly. “Why must you have gone on not telling me of…?”
She clenches her jaw tight and I bite my tongue before I lose the one hope I might have to hear from her. I wait. She closes her eyes and swallows as though trying to keep her cool within the house. It is quiet as the fire splits and crackles, as though playing with the absence of sound. Those two blue rings appear once again as she opens them and gazes down into her small hearth.
“It has been long since I thought of it…but I was eighteen when I met your vader…we married and came here from Holland…he was always so calm and quiet, and never often seemed to trouble me with money or anything of the usual things in a household…I never understood how he did it until…now I fear that I had been blind to not search for what he hid.” She looks across the room distantly, and as much as I want to ask her what she means, I know to keep quiet.
“Little did we know what was in store for us after Meyleia was born…” her face becomes as cold as stone. “I remember when there was a shift…two kings instead of the sun King, Charles…” she swallows again.
“I know, Moeder,” I half whisper it, not wanting to waste her energy telling me these histories but also not wanting to lose her confidence.
Vader had disallowed much talk of war and politics around me and Meyleia, but as the Siege closed in, he developed stronger bonds to it himself and seemed to find it necessary for me, since I was nearly eighteen, to know basic facts. He taught me of political affairs away from Moeder, not intending to worry her about “disenfranchising” my childhood as she would have called it. Of course it was no such thing. He merely took strong factors and twisted them to outline what was going on as “
not to frighten me, but to enlighten me”.
He constantly used this as his object, and it was a good one, but it hardly won in arguments with moeder.
The stories he told me were of a king, called the Sun King, whose lands never both watched the sunset together. One side of the land was where the sun rose, and the other side was where the sun set. He left the throne to two of his heirs and his sons were to split into two different portions of the lands. Our side of the bargain, the Netherlands, had received the Spanish King Philip II who had the Spanish colonies in America, had Spain, and had Holland. Vader must have lightened this a bit, but he told me the King disliked our family religion, and so we had to be careful with our practice. He told me that the King targeted different portions of his land, those that contained religious affairs such as our own; Protestantism.
Then, there was a spark, and it was taxes.
Around this stage of the build up to our own city being targeted, vader left us to be one amongst many in the Dutch Rebel Army.
The Netherlands was finally put up with his rules in reign and revolted. This was the start of our misfortune. The Duke of Alba came, sent by our King, and forced all aristocracy from the land. He targeted Alkmaar, and when he lost it to a William the Silent, he charged on to our city, Leyden.
During one of my surveyed visits with Zenith (as we had a few to get to know one another before the final engagement) I learned in depth the full condition of our city. When we discussed it, he told me the King promised that all Protestants in his grounds, such as us, must change religion immediately. Netherlands cities were under great gore and hanging already, and in time he turned on us, as we were great leverage on Holland’s part. Whatever happened in Leyden was surely to be the outcome for the rest of Holland. When he struck here, he did what forced us to comply best, which was to disrupt our provisions, food being the weight that he chose to use as power to get to our people. A very good one too, considering that we have no other way of getting by.
Leyden is such a tiny city in the middle of the Southern province of the Netherlands, that it does not produce its own food. It lies where the Rhine cuts through its path heading west, surrounding Leyden in a moat which separates it from the other lands. Around Leyden is a diked wall, and all cargo and main supplies come through this from the vaster places where growing is not an issue, and where now the Spanish banned any ships entrance but their own.
There was one man out there, who moeder calls William of Orange or the Silent Prince. He was a noble aristocracy that was forced to leave, and when lifting the Siege of Alkmaar was a success, he turned his attention here. Immediately, like others, our people of the Netherlands changed our loyalty to his power over King Philip II’s. He lead the Dutch Rebel Army (a Protestant army) against the Spaniards with my vader in his militia, a theory I know well because of Moeder’s constant tracking of the army after vader’s engagement in it. William the Silent has been determined for the past few months to save Leyden, but even though we followed his directions; recently knocking down some of the dikes around our city to help us in the way that had helped Alkmaar (by flooding the low lands for its relief), have endured this slow process of food vanishing, and have kept up to task with constantly keeping up the wall from the Spanish attacks, he fell sick with a fever and everything was put on hold.
We have heard that soon William would be back from his disability, but we don’t know when or how long it will take. Already it has been at least another two weeks since his movement towards the city. There were rumors that a carrier pigeon brought a message that he would take up his fight once more, as his health was strengthening, and in the message was also an order to cut the dikes. This rumor motivated us. We cut the dikes as he said, but, unfortunately, God evidently had other plans and the wind decided to push the water in the opposite direction.
We stood still, starved and held our ground. There were even rumors of people going cannibalistic…
…but it has never been strong enough to beat out these Spanish demons.
Moeder takes a breath and it rattles out hazardously. I can see that she is tired. I relate and understand why. She sighs and keeps her gaze settled calmly on the fire, the flames glowing in her eyes and making patterns run across her irises.
“Now I see that your vader was holding more back from me than I believed,” she takes another long gaze past me into the room before speaking again. “It is possible that he lost money…or took it and left us with nothing but our clothes and home…Lyra, I love you…and want you and Meyleia safe. I trust in him…Sir Orange and his rebel…but what if they fail? We will starve…I can’t bear to watch my children…” She bites her lip a moment and carries on more rushed now, as though just developing it. “We must get out of here…already many old and young have died…it has been going on for three months now…and we have suffered nearly one month without actual meals…and Meyleia is still too little to understand or to go to God…I was fine when we were rationed…fine to have two meals a day, but now…” She looks straight at me and I realize what she is implying. “We will starve if we do not try.”
“Moeder, they could…”
“I understand, but what matters more?” She interjects. “Our safety and fear or our trying and having faith?”
I swallow down the lump in my throat and want to get out the words in order to warn her, but she is already somewhere inside her mind, meditating over how to escape.
“They will kill us anyway now…no matter if we surrender…”
She meets my gaze and once more a firm look casts itself over the once so gentle and beautiful face of my moeder.
“You, Lyra Thimlet, are not of age to understand these matters as I do. I forbade you to discuss this with your friends or Zenith. I asked you to not time and time again, and here you come ranting about history and battle which I never speak of. I believe I am the mistress of this household and will not accept further opinions of this topic…I do not need my life…and if you are so selfish as to not save the little sister you have left then do as you think you would do best at doing.”
I want to fall off the bed and beg like a dog, a mutt in need of the recognition of my constitution and instinct telling me to warn her, but I am weak to her words and must obey.