- Have more dialogue planned, not sure where to go much afterwards
- Present-tense vaguely pretenious, I know
There again - a knock. My ears are not so sharp, and the wind is howling, but I am certain there was a knock on the door.
I wish whoever it is would go away. I felt the storm coming yesterday, and the cold and wet has settled into my joints tonight. The bed is warm, but the air is cold... Another knock. Maybe the storm blows them in. They think no one sees them coming here, in the dark and the rain.
I get up. Cold, I was sleeping dressed, even with my cap on. My strands of amythest I had taken off, but I do not need them to answer the door.
There is a woman outside, cloaked against the rain. It takes me a moment to recognize my son's wife. She is without her golden rings, her armbands, all her bright ornaments. Also without her women. She thinks no one sees her coming here, in the dark and the rain. I do not dislike her, but neither do I like her. "Come in," I say, standing aside. She hesitates and I huff impatiently. The colder, wetter air from outside is coming in. Now, so is she, with a nervous step ill-suited to her station. I wonder if I should begin to dislike her.
Her woolen cloak sheds droplets of water onto my floor. She turns around slowly, looking at the walls and shelves but not at me. I wait for her to speak first. When she does, it surprises me. "Cwen," she says, using not my name but my old title, "Cwen, they say you know how to make rare tinctures."
"They do," I acknowledge, "and they are right."
She finally turns to me. She is a tall, pale girl and has been losing weight since the winter came. She may well be ill. "I need one," she tells me.
"Oh?" I ask. "Which one?"
For a brief moment, she regains the dignity of her station. She stands straighter, her cheeks flush and she glares at me imperiously. Before she can speak, though, I continue. "I can't tell you if I can make it," I explain patiently, "if you don't tell me what you need."
I think she will falter, but she does not. Good. Her chin high, she tells me, "Something which will excite love."
I blink. This is my son's wife. He has given her every honor. He has foresworn concubines. He let her bring her sister into his hall so she would have somone from her homeland to dwell with her. She and no other bears the cup in the hall, and his scop sings of her often. Her ingratitude is large, but I will not speak ill to her. "He loves you well. Fear not for that," I tell her, only a little coldly.
Her eyes soften. "Cyng Oswulf is a most generous man, and kind to me," she says quickly. "The tincture is for me."