Chapter Sixty-Two

Namid was getting frustrated.

She was tired of all this talk of “women’s work” when the only work she had ever known was killing the Harvest.  Irian took to things naturally, but she didn’t do so well.  And the questions!  “Where are you from” and “why are you so dark” and “how long are you staying” and “can ye sew” wore upon her daily.  And, there was still no real place to put them.  They slept in a spare bedroom in a house that had just had a child pass away, and she felt so guilty about the whole idea of sleeping in a dead child’s room.  Irian came home so tired that sleeping normally wasn’t an issue, but she had little work to do, and her time was gnawing at her.

About that time, Irian came in the door.  It was rather early, and his hair was washed.  That in and of itself was enough to get her to sit up and take notice, but it wasn’t dark yet, either.  She was immediately alarmed.

“Are you hurt?”

“Sore a bit, from where the plow chafed me.  But no, not hurt.”

“A PLOW?”

“Yes, and in return our friends here have an offer for us.  Would you like to come with me, meet them, and hear what they offer us?”

Namid’s curiosity was piqued.  She wanted to know, not least of all, why Irian was being used as a mule.  But, the rest of it sounded interesting.

“Sounds good to me.  Let’s go!”

At that point, Cairbre lumbered out from under the bed, and squawked.

Irian laughed.  “Yes, you can come too.  You know, I would swear that he knows what we’re saying.”

At the farmer’s house, his wife had already had time to set out tea and biscuits.  Irian was almost disappointed, but he didn’t say as much.  He hid it as best he could, but he was really missing his shaklas.  Even coffee would have done just fine.  But, he reasoned, tea was a pretty good substitute, if you drank  enough.  And he planned to.

“There you are!  Tuck in and when you’re properly fed we’ll start in with the talk.  Irian, I know you’re famished and your woman looks as though she could use a good feeding up as well.  How are you two eating, anyway?”

Namid answered.  Irian was too busy eating.  “We take as given to us, of course, but mostly we’ll buy a meal in the tavern in the evenings.  Irian’s saving up money, but it goes so slowly…”

“Ah, where are my manners!  I’ve set guests to tea without a proper introduction.  What are we going to do with me.  Irian I already know, though ye know not my name, and you I’ve never met, but only seen in passing.  My name is Una, and my man here is Earc.  We thank you for what you’ve done for us today, Irian.  Will’ee tell us your lady’s name?”

Irian looked up.  He and Cairbre wore identical expressions-mouth full, eyes wide and staring.  Namid was used to this.  “My name is Namid, and we thank you for your hospitality.  All three of us.”

“Irian, did you let that cat into my house?”

Cairbre crawled out from under the couch and squawked angrily.  His feathers ruffled up and he tried to look imposing.  He opened his mouth, as if to give her a piece of his mind, and a long obbligato of meows proceeded forth.  The room collapsed in laughter.

“I do believe he’s telling you he’s not a cat, he’s one of your, what do you call it, ‘kittychickens.’  At any rate, you’ve offended him.”

“The very idea, that I’ve offended a kittychicken.  I declare, they ARE getting smarter…”  She gathered herself up.  “At any rate, this deal applies to Irian and Namid only, for I don’t know what I’d do for a kittychicken.”  Cairbre, however, was busy trying to paw a biscuit into the floor.

Earc started in.  “Irian, as we discussed, we have noticed that you two are rather road-worn.  You give so much to us, you who have no ties to us other than shipwreck, and we two feel we should give back more than a day’s wages.”

Una cut off her husband.  “We know you probably don’t know, but there’s talk of your appearances, and it’s not all polite.  Namid dear, your appearance is scandalizing some of our ladies.  Needs must when the devil drives, as they say, but we think we can help you.  Will’ee let us fit you with proper clothes, and enough to wear?”

Namid looked at Irian.  He was currently filling his mouth with tea.  If he went any faster, he’d have to drink from the pot.  “I do believe it’s fine for me to accept for both of us.  I must apologize for his behavior.  He does like his food.”

“Nonsense, nonsense.  Your man is strong as a team of oxen.  He deserves his food, and so do you-now eat, or I’ll feed you myself!”  This last admonishment was accompanied by a flapping of her apron at Namid.  namid took it for what it was meant to be, a light-hearted comment, and started to eat a biscuit.  She found that after short food for weeks, these biscuits were better than a feast at Home.

“Well, it’s settled then.  When you’ve eaten your fill, I’ll fit you for your new clothing.  It’ll take me a while to complete all of it, but I’ll be able to send you home in something that isn’t ragged, torn or metal.  Do’ee have quilts enough for your bed?  We have spares…”

Namid thought hard.  They didn’t really own the quilts, they just used the ones that came with their bed.  “The Drummonds have loaned us what we need while we stay with them, and we’re trying to save money for a house.  Irian works so hard, but I can’t seem to contribute.  All it seems I do is was our bedding and occasionally feed him.”  Irian stopped with a face full and stared at Namid.  This was a line he hadn’t heard before.”

“Aye then, so ye have none.  We’ll be setting you aside some of those, as well.  And before you start in, what your man did means we don’t die come winter.  Our quilts and stitches are a small price to pay.”

“Even so, I feel as though I’ve not earned them.  Irian does all the work, and I’m left to myself.”

Una smiled.  “Young miss, we know what he does and what you do.  Don’t think this town doesn’t talk.  I’ll say it again-your man saved our life.  And if you two are man and wife, then it’s your right to share in his reward.  Anyway, I was about to ask you if you wanted to learn to make clothing from me.  It’ll give you something to do, and a bit of coin in your pocket, if’ee do well at it.”

Namid nodded.  There was a lot she didn’t understand going on here.  But she knew kindness when she saw it.  And her brother had always told her never turn down a kindness-you never know what it will lead to.

“Well, it’s settled then.  Irian, don’t give tea to the kittychicken.  Kittychicken, there’s mice in the pantry.  And young miss, if you’ll give me a hand with these dishes, we’ll get your hair washed and combed as well.  Do’ee not take care of your hair across the sea?”

And with that, all the pent-up feelings of homesickness and anger over her missing hair and confusion over being lost spilled over, and Namid began to weep.

“Now then, come with me dearie, I didn’t mean to offend.  I think we ladies need to have a talk, and we’ll leave the men to whatever it is men talk about.”

Namid sniffed and nodded.  Irian and Earc sat across from each other, with the kittychicken going to investigate the pantry.

“Now then, with the womenfolk not able to shush me, I’ll make you a different kind of deal.  Will’ee listen to what I have to say?”

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Published in: on July 2, 2010 at 4:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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