The Tall Tale Begins
Tall tales were repeated over and over again about the healer who visited the House of Victor. Some called his massive hands miracle workers, others thought he was a magician, and a small group believed he did the work of the devil, but Ashling Bevins knew first hand that this man touched her, and it was magical.
Ashling Bevin was one of the handmaids for the Lady of Victor. When not doing the Lady’s bidding, she often sat around the large hearth in the workers quarters warming herself and listening to the town gossip. These days, conversations among the House of Victor’s staff always ended up about Roderick Gordon, the healer.
Roderick was a hairy man, full head of shoulder length dark red hair and a beard to match. Tall like a tree and as sturdy and strong as the mighty oak, Roderick filled any room he stood in and all the ladies of the court wanted his long eye lashed, deep blue eyes to look their way. The Lady of Victor invited Roderick to their small castle in the woods after she heard he was performing miracles in Dublin. She thought he would make fine entertainment for the annual celebration on the twelfth of July, which commemorated the victory by William III on the battlefield.
Ashling, like all the other the ladies of the House of Victors, found Roderick attractive as well. The moment she laid eyes on him, she wanted his large healing hands on her body. There were no men in the tiny village of Victor that matched even one hair of this mammoth man.
The Lady of Victor introduced Roderick to court on the celebration day and asked if there was anyone in the court who wished to be “healed” by him. Several beautiful girls, and some not so beautiful, stepped forward with wide grins on their faces. Even if they had nothing to be cured, they invented illnesses just to get Roderick to touch them.
Roderick, who wore the Gordon tartan clan colors of blue and green, swaggered over to one girl, who couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old. Her cheeks blushed pink when he looked at her.
Graciously, he bowed and took her tiny hand and walked her to the center of the large hall where all the guests could see.
“What is your ailment young lady?” Roderick asked her.
With a giggle, the young girl lifted her long silk gown up and pointed to her knee. “I fell on the castle stairs and skinned my knee, sir.”
Roderick knelt on one knee and examined her pure white knee which had a bloody scab. He closed his eyes and said something silently. Then he puffed up his cheeks as if he were going to blow out candles and blew his warm breath onto her injured knee.
“May I?” Roderick asked as he, then, placed his left hand over her wound.
The young girl nodded and lifted her skirt even higher.
“Done!” he shouted and rose from in front of her exposed leg while waving his arms above his head.
The young girl looked down, obviously disappointed that his procedure didn’t take longer, but expressed surprise when the red scab was gone. No scar, nothing was evident of her injury.
The court, as well as the Lady and Lord of Victor, burst into loud applause.
Roderick performed four more healings, so called miracles, on four other ladies of the court with the same overwhelming excitement. He cured an eye sty, a hangnail, an ingrown toenail, and the gout on one of larger ladies of the court.
Ashling watched from the crowd. She wished she had an injury or ailment he could perform a miracle on. She wished he would blow his hot breath on her and place his enormous hands on her body.
After Roderick’s entertainment was over, the Lady and Lord of Victor invited him to dine with them and other members of their court. Ashling wasn’t a member of the high court, so she ate her supper in the kitchen with the other lowly handmaidens. Everyone talked about the miracles Roderick performed. It was an exciting evening.
After supper and assisting the Lady of Victors to bed, Ashling put on her woolen red cloak for a walk in the cool night air. This nightly vigil helped her sleep as she walked a path around the Lady’s garden.
“Hello,” Roderick said from a seated position in the shadows of an ancient elm tree in the garden. “What brings you out in the cold, ma lady?”
Startled, Ashling did not know what to say. She wrapped her woolen cloak around herself tightly, a gesture of assurance.
Roderick rose from his seated position, smoothed out his tartan skirt and shoulder wrap and stood directly in front of Ashling. In the moonlight, he towered over her. He stood so close, she could feel his warm breath on her face when he spoke.
“What is your name, girl?” Roderick said.
“Ashling is a beautiful name for such a beautiful girl. May I be so bold and walk with you this fine evening?”
Surprised by his brashness, yet willing to spend time with this unique man, she nodded. He appeared harmless. They talked of his travels around Ireland and Scotland and the people he has healed.
When the night air became too chilly, Ashling reluctantly bid good night to her handsome chaperone, bowing her head to him as she scurried away with the hope that she would have such an encounter again.
Each night thereafter they met in the garden. Ashling looked forward to their rendezvous.
Ever curious about his healing gifts, one evening Ashling got the courage to ask Roderick about them.
“This may be a bold question, sir, but how did you become a healer or is it all magic tricks?”
Roderick laughed out loud, “I thought you would never ask. Most people ask me the first time they meet me but you waited this long. Well done, m’ lady. First of all, what I do with my hands is not tricks. It’s a gift from birth, I’ve been told. To me, it is a curse. I would be perfectly happy to have it all go away and I could live a normal life.”
“From birth? Who is born with the gift of healing? And why you? Ashling asked.
“When I was a small boy I drown. I died that day, I was told. I was brought back to life by a holy man from our village.”
“You drown? You died and you came back to life?” Ashling was having a hard time believing this story. “So it’s was miracle?” Ashling said.
“I suppose you could call it a miracle. But while I was dead, I saw things and was told things and was sent back to do things.”
“What did you see and who told you things,” Ashling said.
“I don’t know who they were, but there were many of them. Old men, young men, and a few white-haired women, all dressed in brilliant white robes. They didn’t speak, like we are speaking, but I could hear them talking to me. Then, they all laid their hands on me. I remember feeling hot all through my body. It was quite pressurable, as I remember it. The next thing I knew, I was coughing up the river’s water.”
“May I touch your hands, sir?”
He nodded with a look of suspicion as Ashling took Roderick hands in hers and kissed each of his palms. When her full lips touched the palms of his hands, she felt a tingling feeling run down her spine.
“The gods have blessed you with this gift, Roderick.”
“Yes, I suppose they have. I have used it well.”
Roderick’s last evening at the castle was approaching. On his last evening before his departure, Ashling waited in the garden under the oak tree, as usual. But this evening Roderick did not arrive at dusk like he had the week prior. Disappointed, Ashling walked the path alone until the moon shown bright over head and the chilly night air ran through her bones. Ashling knew that in the short time she knew Roderick, she had fallen in love with him. He would leave her tomorrow.
Feeling the chill of the night air and the disappointment that Roderick did not meet her on his last night, she started back to her room.
“Ashling! Ashling! Wait! Wait don’t go,” Roderick yelled from across the garden.
Ashling turned and ran into his arms. His muscular arms held her tight.
“My darling, I could not go without saying good-bye,” he whispered into her ear as he held her. He kissed her neck and it sent chills down her spine. She could feel the warmth of his breath on her neck. It was magical.
“Come, let’s walk together,” he said and held her hand in his. Her whole body shuttered with electricity.
“Stay, don’t go. I know this is improper of me, but I love you Roderick. I want you.”
In the moonlight, he stopped and held her at arm’s length. Both of his hands circled her small waist under her red wool cloak. Ashling felt chills and heat all at the same time. He smiled and pulled her close and kissed her softly. Then he lifted her hand and planted a warm moist kiss there, with his other hand he slipped a golden gemstone ring onto her middle finger. It sparkled in the moonlight.
“Ashling, I want you, too. I want you like I have never wanted anyone before, but I cannot stay. I must go home to Scotland,” he said. “I give you my ring to bind us together forever. We will find each other again. I know it. This topaz ring has been blessed many times and has its own magic. Let it show you the way.”
Ashling started to weep. She knew he could not stay.
“Hold me, Roderick,” she said. “Hold me, all night.”
He walked her to his room. Ashling did not resist.
Behind closed doors in the dim candlelight, he slowly removed her wool cloak. Ashling never laid with a man, but knew what was coming and welcomed it. He untied the laces of her gown and let it drop to the floor. She stepped out of her shoes and removed the ribbon from her hair. Her long brown hair fell around her shoulders. Roderick stroked her long hair with tenderness. Standing now in only a cotton slip, he held her face in his hands, his magical hands. They felt warm on her skin. He kissed her lips softly several times. She closed her eyes and tingled all over. The heat of the moment overwhelmed them both. In a rush, knowing time was running out, they quickly removed the rest of their clothes and fell into his bed. His massive naked body was hovering over her naked quivering body. It was everything she hoped it would be. He placed his large hands gently on her breasts and she felt her heart beat faster. Wanting and with eagerness, they came together.
Ashling lay in Roderick arms until he fell asleep. She kissed his full lips softly without waking him.
He left the House of Victor’s in the morning without seeing her again.
A month later, Ashling discovered Roderick left her with another miracle, but their child would remain her secret. When it was time for delivery, she found a midwife in a gypsy camp, who, for a yard of satin and a sixpence, delivered her baby girl. Ashling held the pink bundle for only a moment after birth and decided the child would need all the blessings the world could offer, so Ashling slipped the golden-yellow gemstone, the magical topaz, onto a pink ribbon, and tied it loosely around the child’s neck. She told the gypsies that the ring was blessed, like the baby, and the ring must stay with her child always. Already a superstitious clan, the gypsies agreed to raise her precious red-haired child, who would carry all her father’s gifts into their humble world and pass them on for generations.