Medieval Pilgrim - Free Photo
Medieval Pilgrim – Free Photo









Chapter 04 — Marissa’s Fate


In the Spring of her fifth year, her parents had left her in her uncle’s care and never returned from their journey, their bodies never found.  The mountain, sapped by rains, had fallen on top of the road they were traveling on and had covered them and two others from their party.  Those who had escaped with their lives had no memory of events of that night and nobody was going to dig under the mountain of dirt to try and recover bodies or valuables they had taken with them to offer their liege lord at the annual meeting…

She was orphaned and if she did not do her uncle’s bidding, she could forget of her lady status and find work to support herself.  A child was not good at hard work, aside work in the kitchens…  But doing as she was bid did not mean she agreed, or that she liked it.  Her aunt was not an especially bad woman, but compared with her own mother, this one was simply evil.

Her uncle liked her and they could have done well together, but his wife, her aunt, was a totally different matter.  She had made it clear from the very beginning, on the day after the news of her parents’ death had arrived brought by the few who had escaped the mud avalanche.  Marissa was good for only one thing – a good alliance through marriage.  Now, after six years, the aunt had found the BOY, to force the girl out of the castle through marriage.  Mayhap, Marissa thought, she could manage to find some secrets and thus compensate the betrothal event that seemed would change her fate so much!

Her grey place was wide and large, bigger than her Mam’s had been.  She could reach it from any place, but better without witnesses.  She had well learned from her Mam — never have witnesses or they could hold it over your head and bring all kind of mischief and misfortune.

She could walk through the grey, and if she thought about a place she wanted to be, next she came out of the grey exactly where she had wished.  How about wishing to be in the grey but close enough to the people in a room to hear them talking?  She did not know how it worked, but as soon as she tried, it was clear that she could go as close as she wanted to hear their voices through the wall of grey…  She had found she could do thus soon after her betrothal, by sheer chance…

Now that she had discovered she could advance in her grey space close enough to people to hear them, Marissa decided that it was a good idea to pass her time listening when she thought secrets were about to be discussed.  There was a slight danger of being found out, but her affinity to her grey space was very special indeed, as her Mam had explained to her — she was almost born there and such was the power of grey that she could ask for anything at all and, as long as she could imagine it, it would be given her.

A pity she did not spend more time listening to her uncle and aunt.   They were not nice.  Her uncle and her aunt were at each other’s throat every day, all day long.  And what they said meant they were murderers…  Even her parents’ death seemed to have been provoked by a small quantity of black powder exploded by one of her father’s men, one who did not escape his own evilness.

Marissa hoped that her mother had got out into the grey in time but she could not be sure, as she had not had any sign from her in all this time…  And all at once, through their death, she was a rich heiress.  On top of that, as her betrothed’s father had met his end in a most gruesome accident she was next to inherit after Peter…  It was an accident only for those who knew not the truth.  Her guardians had arranged for the accident to happen and for the BOY to be accused…not of a crime, but of grave negligence, and now he was hiding and nobody knew where he was.  All that was needed was for him to bed her and then to die as well, for the marriage contract to come full force, making her the sole heir of the old lord — his Father.

That convinced her to leave her uncle’s castle and find refuge in the grey — at least for a while, to gather her thoughts and decide what to do, (and of course — to spy some more).  From that moment on, she was seen only sporadically, mostly in the kitchen, where she visited in order to get more victuals, but not long enough to get spoken to…  Two years had passed, and there was talk of getting her a new betrothal.  True, she could take ownership of her missing husband-to-be properties, but it was not yet right.  The BOY was still alive, or so claimed her Aunt.

Marissa needed an ally and the only one she could think of, was Peter, the BOY.  Finding him was no problem, if she looked for him from her grey, but she needed to be strong enough to pass for a boy, for she had decided not to be at anybody’s hand again.  Her guardians were bad enough to last her for a whole lifetime.  She was already a consummate rider, but one could not take horses in all possible situations, so Marissa took to walking longer and longer distances and carrying bigger and bigger loads.  She needed suitable clothes and started taking from her mother’s old chest things that seemed made for her measure, so much did she resemble her mother, at least in stature, if not in any other way…

Soon she thought herself well prepared and set out to find the BOY.  He must be seventeen by now, and if the promises of old came true, he would be a good enough knight to serve her purposes.  She was not clear yet about those, but some kind of revenge for being made orphans by the same wicked people was her dearest wish.











Painting of Medieval Hands, Kodak EasyShare M340

Chapter 03 — Marissa’s Betrothal


Whom should I kill tonight?  My stupid uncle or his bitchy wife?  Marissa could not make up her mind.  It was her favorite game to pass her time, trying to imagine life without those who did not love her…

If only her parents were still alive, she would not have had to kiss that pimply boy and let him hold her hand all through the betrothal ceremony.

At eleven, Marissa had better things to do than to get tied to the shy, self-conscious, stupid, stupid, stupid boy.  But her stupid Uncle and bitchy Aunt had decreed it was high time she stopped tree climbing and started being useful.

How could they do such a thing to her?  Peter, her newly betrothed, had a glaring pimple on the tip of his nose and all through the ceremony Marissa could think of only one thing — in the end the pimple was bound to touch her when he would try to kiss her, and then, it would burst open inundating the chapel with its disgusting contents…

But in the end, he did kiss her without accident, and just out of contrariness, she had bit him instead of letting it go without comment.  He had it coming, had he not?

One thing still puzzled her — what was making her so upset? the pimple by itself, the pimple refusing to burst, or the boy who did know how to kiss?  As she pounded the grey soil in her grey space pondering this weighty subject, she came too close to the real world and heard voices that seemed known to her.  One was her betrothed’s, the other his father’s.  And they were talking about her, or maybe more about the betrothal and indirectly about her.

“What do you think of your new in-laws?” asked the father’s voice.  “I wonder they did not cancel the contract when you came with those buboes on your face.”  The young voice laughed and answered, “Father, I’m sure they would love your properties with or without buboes.  They did the contract without asking to see me first.  Does that mean nothing to you?”

“Son, I wonder where you got your practical mind.  They definitely wanted an alliance with our family, and the waiting period they asked to allow Marissa to grow into her womanhood was well justified.  Talking about your bride, how do you think you two will do together?”

“When I bowed to your decision, Father, I did not think I would like her, but she is a little minx, and I’m sure if her guardians will not interfere we’ll deal well enough among ourselves.”

“I’m glad you think so, my Son.  You know I love you and would see you happy in your married life.  She’s only eleven and will grow to be a beauty like her mother, and hopefully not a shrew like her Aunt.  And now, wipe those buboes from your face, or you’ll make me go without the evening meal.”  Marissa laughed highly amused to know the pimples were fake.  She was too close to the two men, for one of them asked, “Did you hear that?” but she had run away through her grey and did not wait to hear any more of their comments.  Knowing they both liked her was enough.  Now she could be honest with herself and agree she did like Peter too.

A pity father and son were leaving on the morrow and she would not see them again until the wedding, in four years time.


Unknown to her, father and son continued their discussion, and it was about her!

“Did you hear that?” asked Peter.

“What do you mean, hear that?”

“Like somebody laughed in the distance…”

The father looked a bit puzzled and then smiled and said, “You should know that there is a legend about one of Marissa’s ancestors, a great-great-grandmother of her mother’s.  It seems people believed she could hear their thoughts and tried to burn her as a witch, but when the pyre was lighted, a huge cloud of smoke covered everybody around and when it dissipated, there was no body left in the fire, and some believed they heard her laughing in the distance.  If you start hearing laughter, pay attention to your new bride — she may be a witch without knowing.  Then, if you do not want to stay married, ’twill be a good reason for you to use to break the contract…”

“I hope you are not thinking seriously to cancel the contract.  I told you I like her.”

“Yes, but I start having doubts about her family.  They were very insistent that you should live with her family and that I should endow you with all our properties even before your wedding.  Too grasping for my liking.”

“Why should they insist?  They know there is no other son to take over your possessions were I not to return from one unfortunate skirmish.”

“Exactly — too grasping by far… Let us forget this and go enjoy your betrothal festivities.”









The Grey — Photo by Paul Itkis

Chapter 02 — “Born” Anew


When Anne was fifteen and her father gave her into marriage to the lord of the neighbouring estate, nobody could tell what kind of life she would lead from that day on.

Anne was desperately hiding in the grey place where she could run to hide and cry without being seen or heard.  After three years of childless marriage, when she understood that her husband would not shy from killing her in order to get himself a new wife and try again to produce an heir, she decided to play a desperate card and lie, pretending to be pregnant.

Her grey place was there for her anytime she was in trouble.  If she put her mind and soul to it, when in the grey she could find the things that would buy her some peace in the marriage.  Like when her father had passed on and there was no money left to her in his last will, because Father had remarried and begotten a son by his second wife; Anne had been threatened with a beating by her husband, as if she were at fault.  She had disappeared in her grey place and wished with all her heart for a pouch of gold to appease her husband, and a pouch full of gold was waiting for her there, like a miracle…

Now, at the end of her ninth month of faked pregnancy, she wished with all her heart for a new miracle, or her fate when returning to the colorful world outside would be certain death for lying to her husband about the child…  Through her crying, she heard a crying echo, an echo that grew to cover her own sobs.  A baby was crying not far from where she lay crushed by her unhappiness.  A new ray of hope bloomed in her heart.  The new miracle of a live, new born baby was too much to even hope for, but here she was, coalescing from the grey of the place.  A baby girl!  Oh joy!

She could not explain the miracle, though she could take advantage of it.  As soon as she made sure the baby was real , she shed the pillow that had been her proof of pregnancy, cut herself to smudge blood on the baby and on her clothes, then enveloped the tiny creature in her discarded maternity clothes and returned to the colorful world leaving baby’s pink coverings behind.

Soon, Anne was found lying on the ground, in the tilting yard, holding a tiny baby to her heart.  Her husband was angry but could not take his anger on her.  She was looking so beaten and suffering, now that she had been delivered of her baby…

He had not believed her, not in the beginning, when it could have been a lie to avoid lying with him, but her growing belly was proof enough, and now the baby, though a girl, was better than nothing.  He would let his useless wife live until the little girl could take care of herself, and then, just like her grandfather, would get rid of the mother and get a son by another wife.

In her chamber, cleaned and changed into new clothes, with a wet nurse to feed her new born baby, or better said, born anew baby, Anne spent the first month of her newfound motherhood pondering on a name for her little one.  She decided that to appease her husband she would let him name her after his dead mother, Lady Marissa.


The peace was short lived.  Anne knew her brother-by-law hated her, but not how much more he hated his older brother — her husband.  She continued to seek refuge in the grey, taking Marissa with her and teaching her little girl how to find things in the seeming nothingness into which she could so easily hide…  In a way, she felt that Marissa had a bigger affinity to the grey than ever she could hope to achieve.

Years passed and her marriage became visibly a mockery, as her husband, her lord and master, did not seek her bed anymore, but had many of the working women in the castle and the bailey to appease his needs.  And she was glad of the reprieve from marital obligations, but lived in continual fear of repercussions.

Strangely enough, her brother-by-law had taken a liking to little Marissa and even after a hasty marriage to the daughter of one of their retainers, very much under a heavy cloud of anger on everybody’s part, he continued to dote over his niece, so at least Anne did not need to fear for her daughter’s life.

When Marissa was in her fifth year of life, spring came with terrible rains and storms; all roads were washed out, making travelling nigh impossible.  But when the need arose to go to their liege lord for the annual visit with no excuses accepted, her parents could not beg out from this yearly obligation and they set on the journey leaving the girl home with her uncle and aunt.  It was a long drive and the cart was filled with pillows and furs to keep them comfortable and warm on the way, and of course the presents for the liege lord and his family, as custom required.

Anne had fallen asleep, tired of the interminable journey, when a noise like a mountain rolling down to smother them woke her up with a start.

The horses were puling wildly and trying to escape their traces, while her husband was furiously lashing them, as if that would change the cruel reality — the mountain was really rolling, taking them along for the ride.  Scared to death, Anne closed her eyes and wished with all her might to be safe in her grey place, and lo and behold — quiet replaced the terrible noise, the horses neighed and calmed in their turn, and her husband stopped cursing, stunned by the change.

They were in her grey place!  They were alive!  They could not go back!

Because nobody could explain what happened, she would be judged to be a witch and no matter that she had saved his life, her husband would take full advantage and make sure to get rid of her.  While he was still awe-struck of being alive, she wished herself into a place of peace and quiet for herself and interesting enough for him to let her survive.

And just like that, they were out of the grey and onto a field bordered by tall trees and far on the horizon they could see the tops of very tall buildings. A metal box on wheels, but without horses, was traveling the road towards them and she signalled it as if it was just another wagon…  Though covered in mud and looking far from their best, the man inside the box stopped the conveyance to ask if they needed help.  Anne smiled fetchingly and said she needed help, yes, so much help, please… as she descended from the cart and fell to the ground.

Her husband looked at her disgustedly and cared not that the unknown man took her in his arms saying, “I’ll take her to the hospital if you do not mind.  You will find her there, for I do not imagine you would prefer to abandon the cart and horses here.  The car will do the job much faster.  And by the way — I see you have some valuables in there — I suggest you cover and disguise them, if you do not want to be robbed before you reach the city.”

Thus, Anne got finally separated from her husband and promised herself to never get in touch with him again — enough was enough for a lifetime.  She also found out that her saviour was a magician with the local circus, though he went on tours quite frequently…  He was very solicitous and for his benefit, she had to make up a story about an accident which had left her without memory…  The Magician found her very much to his liking and after she was discharged from the hospital, he felt duty bound to care for her.  Soon he was far too entranced by her charms and by her disappearing talent, so that he asked her to share his life…




Chapter 01 — A Disappearing Act


Baby Marissa (photo by Ann Quinn)
Baby Marissa ( photo by Ann Quinn)










The mother was 33 years old and had waited for ten long married years to finally conceive.  Together with her husband, The Magician, she was part of an exciting “Disappearing Act” with the local Circus team.  “Local” was a misnomer, as they were most of the time traveling from place to place.  Many other such teams had a similar act, but she and her husband were the only ones who did not make a mystery of it — anybody could check their paraphernalia, to make sure there were no secret traps or other means of tricking the spectators.  She was really disappearing and reappearing on cue and no one could find the secret to this incredible ACT.  That was the reason why they were in such high demand and it left little room for thinking about having a family bigger than two.

Now she was living a wonderful dream come true — when she had thought it was no longer an option, she had discovered she was pregnant.  The Disappearing Act had not suffered much.  Only the armoire in which she entered on the stage in order to perform it, had had to be enlarged to accommodate for her future daughter.

Now she proudly adjusted the head of her bed to be more comfortable when her baby girl would be delivered into her arms.  Feeding time was announced by tiny mewlings from tiny infants.

The nurse pushed the cart with the six pink and blue cocoons and started by placing a blue packet in the arms of the first of the mothers on her list.  Automatically, she picked the next bundle of joy on the cart and placed it in the next woman’s arms, intent on finishing the job in record time.  The poor mites sounded real hungry.

“Nurse,” said the woman holding a blue cocoon back to the nurse, “This is not my baby.  Mine is a girl.”

The nurse checked her list — the mother was right.  She was holding a blue cocoon though she was listed as mother of a girl.  Again, the nurse checked her list, then she checked the cart.  There were only three cocoons left out of six, but she had delivered only two.  One was missing.  She was sure she had had  six when she had started on this round, but it seemed that one had disappeared.  She ran back to the nurses’ station and announced that a baby was missing, then she ran back and placed the rest of the babies with their respective mothers, including the boy she had mistakenly placed with the wrong woman, then ran back again to check if anybody had found the missing bundle of pink joy…

The Police arrived and started by taking the nurse away for questioning.  The mothers in the ward all said they’d seen no one else aside from the nurse with her baby cart.

Security tapes were viewed and nobody could see anything but the nurse coming with the loaded cart, the six babies, and then, after some static interference, only five were left.  Even the interference could not be analysed more — just a moment’s shimmer in the video before the mysterious disappearance.

The parents were distraught, the father vocally furious, the mother crying desperately, facing total devastation.

The outside videos could not be interpreted either — too many people kept coming and going, crossing in front of moving or stationary cars, with nothing to point into a clear direction…

The nurse remained the only suspect, but they had to let her go in the end.

It became the event of the year — the baby of the most celebrated couple performing the Disappearing Act had disappeared, vanished without a sign…


Ttime did its duty — a year passed and almost everybody forgot about it except for the parents who, when the next miracle occurred, had the baby at home to insure no repeat could take place.

As for the nurse, she had to leave the hospital under a cloud of suspicion and had to change her specialty from pediatrics to orthopedics in order to survive.