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June, otter


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June, otter
 Worse though was her face and ears which had become quite red, and stung even when not touched.

When they entered the city, they walked through the market stalls, looking for herbalists, and clothes sellers. Bohs had a good eye to spot what they needed, and before they made it to the inn they had herbs and women’s clothing. Bohs said nothing when she purchased more black clothing, though these were lighter and looser than the things she wore now, just nodded at her selections and bought her a larger pack to carry her old clothes in.

The inn Bohs chose this time was much different from the Green Hog—it had a silver crescent hanging above the doorway, and when they entered the common area, it was loud, but filled with music, singing and the stomping of feet as people danced in the center of the room. A woman behind the mead counter spotted them with a smile, and sashayed her way over to them.

“Bohs Ghents! I thought you were outrunning an enemy?”

“Enemy found me, I ran the other way,” Bohs said. “You have a room for the night, two beds?”

“For you? Always. And who is your companion?” The way she said the word was different from the way the inn keeper at the Green Hog had said it. It was casual sounding, with a rush of curiosity behind it.

“My daughter, Ulorna, from the north. She’s not used to the heat, so she needs and herb bath to help her.” Bohs handed the woman the packages of herbs he had bought at market. “You remember how to make it?”

“Of course! Come my dear, we’ll get you settled into the bath. Trina! Take Master Bohs to room fourteen.” The woman led Ulorna down a long narrow hall, into a room with the largest basin Ulorna had ever seen. “My, I always expected to see Bohs Ghent again, but with a daughter, now that was a surprise. Oh! Where are my manors Cathe Crescent my dear.” Cathe grabbed her hand and shook it, before she turned to some strange knobs that hung above the basin and began turning them in different combinations. Water flowed from a spout above them into the basin, filling it as Cathe began flinging the herbs Bohs gave her, and then began adding some of her own. “You strip off now, and get in and tell me how the temperature is.”

Ulorna began stripping off her layers, until she stood bare and could climb into the basin. Cathe took each piece of clothing as Ulorna sank into her bath and folded or arranged the, leaving only her new clothes on a shelf along with some drying sheets. “Now you relax, and just let the herbs do their work. I’ll just take these to your room then.”

“Could you leave my knives with me, please?”

“Doubting the safety of my inn?” Cathe asked.

“It would just make me less nervous, being in a strange place,” Ulorna replied. Cathe grinned at her.

“Just like your father, always so worried that something is going to happen. Oh, very well.” Cathe draped the belt of knives over the shelf, and left, closing the door behind her. Ulorna lie back in the basin, and soon found herself unable to keep her eyes open.

When she woke, one of the inn girls was shaking her awake.

“You’ve been asleep for an hour, miss,” the girl said, holding out a drying sheet for Ulorna to step into. “Master Bohs said he would like you to meet him in the common room for supper as soon as you are dressed.” Ulorna nodded and thanked the girl as she released the water in the basin. Strangely, the girl did not leave, but began to unwrap the parcels that held Ulorna’s new clothing. It took her a moment, but then Ulorna understood that the girl meant to help her dress. She almost protested, but then, she did not know the ways of the south, and perhaps this was not all that unusual.

When they began actually dressing though, Ulorna was very grateful for the girl’s help, as there were many things to lace and tie. The girl was very quick about her work, and soon, Ulorna was dressed in a flowing, light bodice, with a small, boned undergarment to hold up her breasts, the likes of which she had never worn before, and a longer but much lighter skirt, with shorter travel pants underneath. Ulorna was extremely grateful she knew how to buckle on her belt of knives. “My what strange boots!” the girl said as she made Ulorna balance on the edge of the basin, so that the girl might lace them up. “Don’t your feet hurt?”

“No, they’re used to walking on the ground.” The girl ran a fingertip across the pad of Ulorna’s foot making the dark haired girl shiver.

“Rougher than a man’s!” the girl exclaimed. “Oh well, I suppose a pretty girl like you needn’t worry about the state of her feet. After all, it’s not like his mother will check.” The girl chuckled at some joke she had made, and Ulorna laughed so that the girl would not think herself unfunny.

Once they finished, the girl directed Ulorna to the common room, and then said that she had to be about her business. Ulorna walked down the hall, the wood beneath her feet different, almost scratchy compared to the stones, snow and dirt paths she had been used to her whole life. She entered the common room, and found a small roar of conversation over some slower, less danceable music.

“Oh Miss!” called one of the barmaids, as she ran up to Ulorna. “Your father was called away on an urgent matter of healing. But I have your supper, if you would care to sit at one of these tables.”

“Mistress Ghent may be seated with my party!” called a voice from one of the secluded half rooms in the back. The barmaid froze and looked back to see who called, squeaking when she realized who had.

“Miss, that’s…oh, I don’t dare disappoint him. Would you mind terribly? Would it make Master Ghent angry?”

“I don’t know,” Ulorna confessed. “Would you get in trouble if you didn’t seat me with him?” She tried to pick out the make who called, but the half rooms were much dimmer in the fire light.

“He ain’t my boss, but you must understand, Miss, he’s very important.”

“Then seat me with him, and save yourself some grief,” Ulorna commanded. The barmaid walked her over to a partially enclosed room, wherein sat three men, two of whom were a bit older and commanded the experience of battle with the way they held their shoulders and the thick swords at their waists. The third was younger, perhaps not much older than Ulorna, and was their charge by the way he sat between them. He too, had a sword buckled at his belt, but his clothes were of a much finer weave and were less stained and travel weary.

The bar maid brought Ulorna a chair, and sat her across from the three men with a promise to return for her food. One of the older men poured her a mug of mead and Ulorna thanked him, and drank deeply from it not quite sure what to say, especially as the younger man examined her.

“Where are you from?” he asked at last.

“The north, far north,” she answered.

“How far north?” he asked.

“So far we only have three months of the year to plant and harvest crop,” she said. “The rest of the year the ground is too hard from the snow and ice that falls on it.”

“And you lived among this snow, for most of the year?” he asked. “I was curious why you were so pale, but your hands are so rough. Do you have a trade?”

“I was apprenticed to our town hunter,” she said.

“And why did you leave?” Ulorna hesitated, not sure if this young man would so easily accept that the villagers really had no reason for wanting to kill her other than that she was strange. “No, let me guess, your father, the Wandering Mage came to get you, and deposit you at the Mage Academy as his father did to him.”

“I would not know what his father did to him,” Ulorna said. “But yes, my father was waiting for me the day I knew I needed to leave the village.”

“And how small was your village, how isolated?” he asked.

“Frey,” said one of the elder men flicking the younger one in the temple, “she obviously doesn’t know who you are, you may as well introduce yourself.”

“You really have no idea who I am?” Frey asked leaning forward on the table.

“No, should I?” Ulorna asked as her meal was deposited in front of her by the barmaid who scuttled away so quickly Ulorna could not give her thanks.

“I am Prince Frey, third son of King Aldin,” Frey said. “Not the most prestigious title, only being third son, however I am considered the better of the three princes.”

“Better at what exactly?” Frey’s guards snickered and punched the young prince on both arms.

“Mostly he’s just the best looking one; the waring, strategy and politics went to his older brothers, so I suppose that’s why they were born first!" The men snickered again, though Frey did not look so amused, so Ulorna hid her smile in her mead.