Two more day’s journey brought the spires and towers of the capital into view. It had been a mild winter thus far in the capital, and the roads seemed quite busy for the season. Several passers-by gave quizzical glances at the camels as the companions passed, and more than one child commented on the beasts’ strange appearance.
The party finally were home. They were several weeks late, but home nonetheless. The entered the southern gate and made directly for the Alley’s. When they arrived at the small square before the arches Gwendolyn dismounted and leaving the rest of the party with the animals went to the laundry.
Thyme was ironing with her back to the counter, and Mildred was engrossed in some minor stitching repairs when the little bell on the door rang. Mildred glanced up and immediately had to make a double-take.
“Mistress Gwendolyn!” she exclaimed.
Thyme nearly dropped her iron as she quickly turned, and then placing it on the counter rushed to hug the Washer Woman.
“Hello, girls,” Gwendolyn said affectionately. “Are you well?”
“Yes, yes,” they said in chorus.
“Isn’t Mistress Thilda with you?” Thyme quickly asked, with a rather concerned expression.
“She is fine,” Gwendolyn assured her. “She is at the arches.”
Gwendolyn again gave each laundress a hug, and then went to summon the others.
The animals were led to the wash house one by one and unloaded, then returned to the square. The treasure and equipment soon filled Thilda’s work area, and some of the more special pieces were placed on Gwendolyn’s bed.
Star was quickly introduced to the laundresses, and then she and Seymour led the horses, mules, and camels to the livery-yard.
Thyme excitedly urged them to tell about their journey, as Mildred went to put on a kettle.
“There will be time for that later,” Gwendolyn told her. “Is all well here?”
“Well,” began Thyme, “far be it from me to speak ill of folk, but that Mr. Drake has really put the scare into me.”
“Scare?” Thilda asked.
Thyme began to recount how the pawn broker had made “polite” visits when they became overdue, and then how the heavies began to call around.
“Mr. Drake musta had a change of heart though,” Mildred piped in. “The men he sent around said he was getting impatient, then they just never came around again. And that was over a week ago.”
Gwendolyn looked cross, and muttered “we will see about that.”
After everything had begun to settle at the wash house, Breena made her apologies and departed for the Back Lane.
Thilda too said she had things to attend to, and headed off in the direction of the Great Market.
Maya sat in the laundry and awaited Star’s return. When she arrived they departed together to the enchantress’ lodgings. Seymour, for his part headed to his rooms above a nearby tavern.
* * *
As Breena arrived at the infirmary things looked much as usual. A queue of the dispossessed awaited their turns, and attendants sorted them according to need. Several of the poor showed joy and excitement at the healer’s arrival. Some reverently reached out to touch her as she passed. The attendants at the door, gave an equally joyful response to her appearance.
Breena went straight to the treatment bays where she found one of the medical student’s lancing a rather hideous looking boil. She then went to the office to find one of her senior attendants sorting some papers.
“Where is Abigail?” Breena asked.
The attendant looked up, and after a momentary expression of joy at seeing “the prophetess,” she became more downcast.
Fighting back a tear, the attendant said, “She passed two weeks ago.”
This deeply affected Breena, as not only had she cared for the old woman, but she had to question if she could have done something if she had been there.
“We chipped in and gave her a good funeral,” the attendant said. “That young Mr. Egbert out there did his best,” she added. “He took it badly as well, and has worked extra hours ever since.”
“I’ll be sure to thank him,” Breena said giving the woman a forced smile.
Breena then went to her chambers, and after a brief word with the now communicative “White Ones,” broke into a flood of tears.
* * *
Thilda wove her way through the bustle of the market, and with both nervousness and anticipation headed to the armourer’s stall. There, demonstrating the perfect balance of a rapier to a prospective customer, was Lydeth. Just the sight of the tall armourer’s beautiful features filled Thilda with joy and desire. She strode past the customer and gave Lydeth their first ever public kiss.
She then stepped back and punched the half-Elf. “You said you would look after the laundry,” she said accusingly.
Lydeth smiled and raising Thilda’s chin returned her kiss.
“I have done exactly that. In fact, I have had to take some matters into my own hands in regards to that weasel, Drake.”
The tall armourer then wrapped her in a long passionate embrace.
Thilda did not return to the wash house that night.