My early childhood was no different than the childhood of any of my peers. My father was a minor nobleman, and the first toy I remember playing with was a wooden sword.
And then the sickness swept through our lands. When it left, it took my parents with it. My remaining brother and I were much too young to take over the lands, so my eldest sister's husband did, with the approval of the Earl of Colmet. I cannot complain about how well he has brought Gilmairay back to life and economic strength. He truly cares about the people, and I am content enough to let the title pass to him.
Hugh, my last living brother, didn't seem to care one way or the other. The sickness hit him hard, but didn't kill him. My sister's husband wanted to send him to the main temple of healing, but I refused to let him go without me. Our people were in good hands, and I wanted to watch over Hugh, as though I could prevent him from being taken by the disease that had claimed more than half of my immediate family.
So it came to be that, at the age of six, I went to live at the Healing Temple of Diancecht. For months I helped with Hugh's care, only going to play when the priests would not take 'But... my brother...' as an acceptable answer. My only toy was the one I had brought with me, my little wooden sword. I would hack away at a straw dummy that Priest Willem had made for me. Every day, I watched people come to the temple for help. Some were ill, some injured in mundane events, but some were badly injured by bandits or by odd creatures. These puzzled me when I was small, but as I grew older and learned more about the world around me, they filled me with indignation.
The priests and priestesses were so patient, so accepting of all these ills and hurts. When I was not quite ten, a girl younger than I came to live with us in the temple. She was a quiet child who left us when the priest Pwyll died. Willem merely said she wished to serve out in the world, but I could see the pain of her loss. I had felt that pain so deeply when the plague came to visit. Hugh grew stronger, thanks to that quiet girl, and he learned the ways of the healers. Although he wasn't very good with wounds, no sickness could escape him. It was as though his own bout of illness had left him with some sort of gift.
I was never sure why I was allowed to remain at the temple, when it was obvious I would never be a healer. They didn't even try to teach me from the herbals. But as I grew, it seemed as though my little wooden sword grew, too; we both became larger and heavier. When I was thirteen, I realised that holes had been bored into the sword and filled with lead to weight it. Many of the adventurers who stopped at (or were brought to) the temple would teach me things; fighting techniques and how to hold a weapon properly. I always wondered why I was allowed these things, until the night I caught Willem taking my wooden sword away and replacing it with a battered but serviceable metal sword.
We talked long into the night, until the false dawn arrived. I slept deeply, and arose with purpose. From that day, I trained harder than ever I had before. And, the day I left, I had a mission. Hugh would live forever in that temple, his work as a healer of illness known in every part of Colmet. But I would return rarely, and only if the Priestess whose safety I was charged with chose to return. I am at peace with that; Hugh no longer needs me and now I know who I am. What I am. For whom I bear my weapons.
For Diancecht, who saved my brother. I serve willingly, and with peace in my heart.
And perhaps, from the Priestess Moirra, I may learn patience. Perhaps.