Julina’s day does not start well, but then she learns a lot more about the developments in town, and she makes a new friend.
by Julia Phillips
07 - Of Tresses And Stresses
The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2013 Julia Phillips. All rights reserved.
It uses some of the associated characters and situations that arise from the world called ‘Anmar’ created by Penny Lane, whose stories are also copyright (c) 2011 - 2013 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.
07 - Of Tresses And Stresses
The next day started badly.
A strategic button had come off the dress I wanted to wear and I had to re-use the dress I had had on the previous day. I would have mended the offending button, but knew that today of all days, I had a lot to get through and didn’t want to hunt out the sewing kit, and clear the table to spread out the garment and so on - particularly as we needed the table now for breakfast. I only had four dresses, one was being washed, and one I kept for ‘best’. So I laid out yesterday’s garments, slipping a coat over my nightgown.
Then I went to get the others up, Kords was grumpily already up (in her nightclothes) rekindling the fires and boiling some water. Kissa grumped as well as she tried (vainly!) to steal another moment of sleep and Julu needed a good shake.
As for the boys! I think they could sleep through a thunderstorm raging inside their room. I spent my usual hand of moments in the usual struggle to get any sense out of just one of them. Once I reached that stage, I could leave that one to stir the other.
So I went to the bathing room and splashed my face and body. I knew winter was coming on rapidly as that water was so cold! Shivering, I ran back to my room to get dressed. The first thing that was good was that dearest Kords had hung my underthings on a rail in front of the now brightly crackling fire in the grate - it is lovely to slip into warmed undergarments on a chilly morning. I intended to have a proper bath and to wash my cascading tresses later.
And so I was finally dressed as the house stirred. They all knew to let me go and use the facilities first, as I had the most to do to prepare for them to break their fasts.
I started getting the stuff ready, when I heard a commotion out in the pasture, and rushed out to see what was going on. The neighbour’s grenn had once again got into the pakh pen and I had to chase it out - for the hundredth time this month it seemed.
I went back in and picked up the kitchen knife, ready to chop up …..
“Yes, Papa?” I replied as I put down my knife and went to his door.
“Would you have time to press a tunic for me, I seem to have used up all the pressed ones already?”
“Have you checked in the second drawer? I put a pile in there only the day before yesterday,” I called through the woodwork.
“Ah. Didn’t think of looking there. Ah yes, thank you.”
I went back to the kitchen and picked up my knife again, shaking my head as I always put his pressed tunics in the second drawer.
“Juleeeeeeeeeeena?” I heard Julu’s less than dulcet tones call me.
I slammed the knife down again and went this time to her room.
“I can’t get Kissa to wake up. I need her to help me dress.”
“Have you washed yet?”
“Then you don’t need to get dressed yet. Kords has just left the bathroom, so hurry in there now before Papa or the boys steal in.”
“And Kissa, I know you’re awake. I want you up and out of bed before Julu gets back. If you’re sensible, you will jump in there as she comes out, otherwise the place will be a right mess once the boys and Papa have trashed it as usual.”
I returned to the kitchen and sighed. At last I could get on with the chopping. I picked up the knife.
Then I heard: “’Lina! ’Leeeeeeeeeena! I can’t find my other shoe.”
I had been asleep in a different room for the entire night, so why little Korden should imagine I would have the faintest of clues as to the whereabouts of his footwear was totally baffling to me. And I knew he had yet to wash himself. Anyway, why couldn’t he ask his brother to help search? With a muttered “Grrrr!” I stopped what I had yet to start doing, stuck the knife point downwards into the chopping board with enough force to leave it quivering and went to the boy’s room, as I knew I would get no peace until Kord at least saw me.
I swung open the door and marched in, only to be greeted by a naked ’Kin who chose to shout at me for entering without knocking rather than hide the nakedness about which he was complaining. I ignored him until he made it clear he wasn’t going to stop.
“Enough, ’Kin! I have washed your arse and your ‘wiggly-waggly’ often enough in your life and you didn’t complain then. You heard Kord call for me, so anyone with a bit of sense would know I would have to come along. So just stop showing off and get dressed. And then, YOU help your brother find his shoe. Because I am not going to do it, now you have been so rude to me. As for you Korden,” he winced as I used his full name, “I have told you at least a hundred times not to just kick off your clothes, but to hang them up properly before going to bed. If you had indeed done as I bid, then you would know exactly where to find your stuff. I am no longer prepared to just pick up after you messy boys. If you have lost something, then YOU will have to find it - this is last time I am ever going to come running - do I make myself clear? You have no need for your shoe until you have washed and dressed and I am in the middle of preparing your breakfast. Have some more consideration, both of you!”
The door made such a satisfying din as I slammed it behind me on my way out. I think the stomps I made as I went back to the kitchen area could probably have been heard down in Tranidor. I heard little Kord start to yell at ’Kin: “You great idiot! Now look what you’ve done. You’ve made ’Lina mad and now she won’t help us in the future. You’re such a …… ow! Lemmego. ’Lina! ’Leeeeeena - help, he’s hurting me. Ow! You bully. Gerroff!”
I nearly went back and have a REAL go at them, but I took a deep breath. I looked at Kords who had by now come to the kitchen to help. She saw the mood I was in. I just shook my head, and stomped out of the home and up the slope towards the entrance to Blackstone Vale. After maybe two hundred strides, well they were more stomps than strides really, I sat down on a boulder and looked out over our town and the Bray Valley, the sun just beginning to shine onto the far side. I burst into tears.
I have no idea of exactly how long I sat there, but the peace and tranquillity worked their healing magic and I started to contemplate many things, beginning with the fact that I now understood why Mama had sometimes needed time to herself. I remembered how I had felt when she just went off and felt a certain savage satisfaction that the others might get to feel the same for a little while. I was shaken out of my reverie by Deegrum and his grenn. He came up to me, laid a gentle hand on my shoulder and then passed on to his work, with not a word spoken - and yet so much communicated. The grenn sniffed my hand, allowed himself to be patted and then trotted off after his master.
I stood up, shook my dress into place and went back home - there was a dinner for nine of us to arrange for that evening, the house needed a quick clean, and the lessons for the children needed to be arranged. Papa would need to be shown what I required before he went off exploring for Master Bezan, as had been agreed last evening, and Kords needed to learn about ……………………...
When I got back home, they were all as ‘good as jewels’ as we say up here in Blackstone. The little glances they made to their father before doing anything told me that he had had some strong words. I just pretended that nothing had happened, and started bustling about, bossing them when it needed to be done.
I took Kords aside once the others had been organised and we went through the list of requirements for the dinner that night. We were a little behind schedule by then, so I got Kords to check the meat and vegetable supplies and I rushed round the store cupboards confirming what we had in them. Between us, we came up with a menu and made the suggestion to Papa, who approved of it. He gave me a strange, sad little smile and stroked my arm. I could have sworn he was about to pull me into a hug, but I squirmed away, telling him we were running a little behind time. He had twice, at least, said he wanted this dinner to be as perfect as possible; which I thought was a strange thing to say - after all, what was so special about this one as opposed, say, to last evening’s meal with Master Bezan? But my head was full of shopping lists and timetables and so on that I didn’t dwell on it, and thus I didn’t take up that thread.
We had a ganifil to be cooked, and I sent Papa to get a rack of pakh ribs - I was also planning some of the meals for the evenings that Papa was to be away, seeing if I could do some preparation for them at the same time as today’s meal. I asked Kords if she wanted to do the shopping, but she chose to let me go - probably to be sure that I got some extra time to myself. I smiled gently at her and gave her a peck on her cheek. I made a mental note to give her more time to herself in the future.
So I went into town to get the needed supplies, going there via the campingplace as it involved less slopes. I just happened to get there at the time of a relatively large kerfuffle with Denesar and his family. Master Brydas, the smith, was requisitioning the wagon that had been abandoned there by the Trogan mob and under which Denesar and his family had been camping. I felt a pang of annoyance as I had made a mental note to myself to mention it to Mistress Epp and Shemel, but had not yet done so. He needed it apparently for some experiments and had promised the men and boys of the family some small coin for their assistance. I therefore only had a few heartbeats of time to talk with Denesar, but managed a good conversation with Rathina once the menfolk had trooped off with Brydas and the wagon.
She decided to accompany me as I did my shopping and we swapped recipes and cooking methods as we sauntered around town. We nearly got run down by wagons a few times and thus we progressed by using the covered walkways, stepping into the street to allow others to pass when it was possible.
As we went, we literally bumped into Fedren, our ‘Sheriff’ - that was still a strange word to us in those days. He was just coming out of Blandel’s house and we learnt that the Master Mason was still very depressed after his treatment in Trogan’s jail. Master Fedren told us that he was starting to investigate the backgrounds of the Trogan mob and also of those that had attacked Mylady up in the Vale.
“But I don’t want to discuss that right now, I want to discuss the little incident with Molleena and the wagoneer.”
My heart sank. But I immediately realised that it was sensible, as both Rathina and I had been there.
“I must strongly recommend, Mistress Julina, that you younger ones repair down to the bridge for your gatherings, rather than use your traditional place. I know this will be a big change for you all, but I need to preserve the peace in this town, and there are ever increasing numbers of strangers coming in. Molleena’s attitude is going to inflame some passions sooner or later - sooner I feel. May I ask you as a responsible member of the group to get you all to relocate?”
I breathed a sigh of relief as it was far better than I had expected - I still had time to do something about it all. Not that I got much spare time nowadays with my housewifely duties. I had expected that I would have to lock up Molly or something, or become responsible for giving her a good talking to. It was obvious that the … Sherrif, didn’t want to involve her parents - yet!
“I can’t do that tonight, Mast --- er Sheriff. Hmmmm - what a strange title that seems! I have a dinner to cook for the family and some guests, but I should have some time after that. Master Bezan has asked Father to do a little task for him down to the Chaarn junction, so I should be able to get out tomorrow or the day after.”
“I can’t ask more than that, and thank you. Mistress Rathina, how fares it with your family?”
“Oh, thank you er …. ‘Sherrif’. You’re right Julina, a very strange word to say! Most are returning up the Vale in the morning, at least that was the plan. Master Brydas has however offered the menfolk a little coin in return for assistance with some experiments which somehow involve a wagon, which has to be loaded and unloaded and have its position changed and all sorts. It all sounded most strange to me, not to say complicated.”
The Sherrif laughed. “Oh he’s just rushing through some work that Master Bezan and I particularly would like to implement as soon as possible. The Town Assembly has approved it all. Mylady suggested some construction methods using something she called ‘tresses’ - no they’re hair aren’t they? - er... ‘trasses’ - no! ‘Trusses’ that was it. ‘Trusses’.
“It’s a way of building bridges and rooves would you believe. The campingplace is getting far too crowded as we all know and the wagon traffic in town is also reaching uncomfortable levels. What we would like to do is expand and extend the road out the other side of the campingplace, and then have it descend in a great curve round the head of the Bray Vale, eventually joining back up with the existing Chivan road some two or three marks south of town. This will naturally require a bridge to be built across the Bray farther down, so Master Brydas has built up two low stone walls across which he can balance these new ‘tress’ constructions of metal. He then places boards above to form a roadway, and he pushes a wagon onto the temporary structure to see what happens. If it supports the wagon, then he rolls it off again, loads it as heavily as he can, and then has to push the wagon back onto the structure.
“Once he has satisfied himself that it works on a bridge with end supports a mere handswidth high, then they will take it all down valley and run a proper set of tests there, on a proper bridge with proper supports that is, with dranakh and laden wagons. Make sure that the construction can cope with all the stresses required. There is a bit more to it than that, but you’ll have to get the other details from him. Once we know that we have a stable and strong bridge then the roadbed can be constructed. Also, it appears that this structure, if successful, can be used for the roofing at the new Community Hall, which is our priority construction - and possibly elsewhere, like any new public bathhouse and so on. It combines lightness of construction with strength and could make vast changes to how we build things in the future. But I'm not an engineer. You'll have to ask them.
“Master Bezan reckons there might be as much as a hand, or even more, of marks of extra road to be built. We want the tests done as soon as we can, because the construction will probably be delayed by the winter. If it becomes necessary to amend the design, then the tests can be done on the pretend bridge at the smith’s to minimise the delays in starting in the Spring. The approach roads to the selected site for the new bridge are already being made, so the new bridge roadway can be relatively simply dropped onto the supports.
“That will relieve the traffic load in the town itself; and they are clearing the area up by the second coal quarry to create a living place for the miners, which will help with the congestion at the campingplace. Both of these will make my peacekeeping efforts a lot easier! Now, if you ladies will excuse me, I must go and do my chores. Well met Mistress Rathina, Mistress Julina.”
“Well met, Sheriff” we trilled in unison, the title becoming easier now to say. We watched him stroll down to the Bell Inn and turn into the door.
“Well I must say that the ideas of Mylady are very practical. Who else would have had such simple yet effective thoughts and designs?”
“I agree, Mistress Rathina. Everything that Mylady has introduced is of such benefit to us all. And I am pleasantly surprised that this Assembly is thinking ahead and planning so well. Very strange for a body devoid of any female influence!”
“Come now, Julina. Please. Drop the mistress bit. Please just call me Rathina. And I fully agree with you about both Mylady and the Assembly - particularly the now-lack of a woman in charge. Mind you, this new Steward impresses me more and more every time I encounter something he has done.”
“Very well. And thank you for the honour. And Master Bleskin - excuse me - Captain Bleskin has also impressed me, and most of the ladies of the town - that I can state with certainty.”
And so I gained a new friend, although I was still aware that she wanted me as a partner for her son!
I finished my supply shopping and was startled to hear the bells announce the time, so I scurried back by the Claw and up the slope to home to find Kords had really done well with the preparations and Papa was helping the boys with their lessons. Kissa and Julu had been given permission to play about while feeding the animals in our small pasture and suddenly home was a pleasant place to be. I went round and gave each one a kiss, as I wondered in my mind how long the rural tranquillity we had here in town would last.
At home, the tranquillity lasted a short while only.
Papa started querying what we had done, what was to be done, and even why we were doing certain things. It was delaying us as we tried at first to be civil in our replies but it was getting on both my and Kords’ nerves.
As you will find out in the next tale.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.