Fair

Whew, what a night! It’s Fair, of course, and if one lives in Gropecunt Row, it’ll be noisy. That was fine, and besides, once Arni and I had gone to bed, we were making noise, too. But just when we had become thoroughly tangled up, we heard shouting on the street. So we got down, put on our clothes again and went out.

We found Lyse yelling at a young man, his breeches on his ankles, his face flushed with drink and probably shame.

“I fucking told you, you don’t get to stick me in the back entrance. If that’s what you want, go and fuck Ervan from around the corner, but not me. I’m a whore, not a pervert! And you owe me two shilling for what you’ve had from me already before!”

I helped the boy up, pulled up his breeches, knotted the belt rope, lifted two shillings from his purse and, not listening to all his sputtering, sent him on his way…

Most of the rest of the night, we sat together, me, Arni and Lyse, in Lyse’s house, drinking wine. I’d been smart enough to fetch a pitcher of warm water, so we could water it down really well. And after a while Arni-from-the-other-side was done with her customer, so she came for a visit.

Turns out that Arni and Lyse are pretty much the same to each other as Hylti and Arni. Kind of nice, I thought… And so did they. We’re real friends now! But it was mid-morning before I managed to wake up, and gosh! We had a head-ache. Without bothering to put on a skirt, I struggled to the well, to wash myself with cold water.

At the well, I met a boy, he’s the son of the local potters, and he was going to be my first patient, suffering from rat bites, but I didn’t know that then. If he was even a bit surprised or confused by my mode of dressing, he didn’t show it, but asked me, should he send the baker’s girl to us? The answer to that was a great, big definite YES!

It turns out that Arni, even with a headache, is a great cook, and she’s so practical and matter-of-fact in lots of things. We’d bought lots of old cloth and clothes, and she was already picking them to make lint for bandages. She’d got breakfast ready when I returned from the well… She had our bedclothes aired, and prepared a sign, “Nurses Post. Consultation: 2 pennies.”

With bread and eggs and bacon, we were ready to sally out and buy some piglets and a clutch of chickens, and a coop… Plus a cockerel, of course! Tomorrow morning we’d be awake at daybreak, like all proper little nurses. And then to the bathhouse, to get really clean and fresh and awake. The owner of the bathhouse, Aine, is also in our Guild!

From that errand we went to the local Temple of Naigha, where we had a quite comforting chat with Mialle, the Priestess. She even goes to the leper village, which existence I had deduced already, but not confirmed because there are no cripples, no permanently ill, no lepers, nobody who’s not reasonably healthy or can be expected to become healthy again in the villages and hamlets we’d finished. Also, none of that in the Town. Just like Ryshas… We’d have to visit there before going back to the Queen in Valdis.

The Priestess promised to share her herbs and produce with us, and was interested in whatever I had been able to copy from my Mother and Grandmother’s books, as well as how things are done in Turenay. Another friend, and you can imagine how weird that feels to me! Being friends with a Priestess of Naigha!

Arni and I decided to stay in Three Hills until the day after the fair, and to go to the Leper village first, then to Valdis. Anshen knows there’s enough that we need to report to the Queen! We settled down to a kind of routine: household stuff in the early morning, feeding the piglets and the chickens, the donkey and the dog, then practice until noon. (I helped an old woman with rheumatics, among others…) A walk around town after the noon meal, then more practice.

We’d start preparing dinner, then an hour before dinner people (and every day more people) would come in. Our whores, but also Ervan, and the potters’ boy and some others. And we’d do exercises in reading and writing, and doing sums for quite as long as everyone could keep their attention, and then I (not even a journeyman!) would take the gifted but untaught into the front room and do some simple semsin exercises with them, and then we would put the table in the street, and put dinner on the table, and enjoy the summer, the food and the company!

One night, we had Ruzyn in our house, that night we cut the dinner short. Poor woman… She was one of Lord Moryn’s sergeants, in the pacification of the west-bank of the Valda. She’s been there, when villages were burned, children driven into the wood with their no-doubt banditical parents. When the forest was cleared away, acre after acre, and everyone who was hiding from Lord Moryn’s wrath massacred. There must’ve been reasons for the ruthlessness with which the campaign was waged… But it was atrocious, no doubt about that. But I cannot fix that, but I might be able to make it possible again for Ruzyn to live with herself, and Anshen again.

The day after the Fair ended, we went north-west — to the leper village.