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Liavan: Spring - Part 2

This follows on from Part 1 and comes in at 3,435 words.

Liavan woke to the sound of rain outside. She lay there quietly for a few minutes getting where she was sorted out in her mind because her first thought was that she was still in her room in her parents' house and that she would have to go around the house checking that all the south facing windows were closed because that was where the weather usually came from. Then she remembered where she was and that she had overhanging eaves, and then she got up anyway to check the windows because she didn't know that the amount of overhang would be enough. After checking the windows, dressing, having breakfast, and going outside to make sure that the water falling on the roof was draining into the tanks the way it was supposed to, Liavan sat down at her work room table to figure what she was going to do next.

Aside from relishing the fact that she owned two tables and had them to herself.

First, she read over the last thing that she had written in her latest notebook. She remembered the visit from Withemistress Penden, and she remembered it much as it was written down, so she hadn't been spelled to forget it or to remember something that hadn't happened. Besides, when she went out the back of the house and looked at the work she had done, she could see the golden creckle berry bush where it was planted in what would be her berry bed. Then she started making a list of things to do. Finishing digging the berry bed went on the list after digging the beds for her annuals to be grown from seed and for her green, leafy vegetables. She had to get a sense of how rocky the soil was to be able to work out whether it was worth planting any root vegetables this year. She needed to set up her equipment and supplies for making more cough mixture so that she had stock to sell. She needed to check the rest of her claimed plot, which was rather larger than the area she'd fenced in, and the tree line for any other useful plants that could be transplanted into her garden. Her herb and vegetable seeds needed to be planted out and the cough mixture needed to be made. She had research to do - she made a list of things she wanted to work on and underlined 'travel boots' twice.

The rain stopped by mid-morning, by which time the house was swept and dusted, the kitchen tidied, and the apparatus for making the cough mixture had been set up. The kitchen and the work room shared a chimney, and Liavan had wondered whether it was practical, or even possible, for them to share a stove. She also had also wondered whether a stove was what she wanted in her workroom, or whether a raised hearth with a wide hob would suit her better. With the cessation of rain though, she went outside to check how the drainage ran through her garden and what happened to the track outside her gate when it was wet.

The track had turned to yellow mud, and the runoff from the unmarked field behind the house divided before it got to Liavan's back fence to go down into the beginnings of the gully on the left of the house or to run in a sheet across a vaguer downward slope on the right. Liavan looked at the yellow mud on the road, looked at the dark soil of her newly dug beds that were considering becoming mud, and poked at the yellow mud with a stick. She didn't find anything but yellow mud over yellow, clay-like dirt. Liavan raised her eyebrows at the mud, resolved to look at the soil on the other side of the track when she didn't have to deal with mud to get there, and went to make sure that her bean seeds weren't becoming water logged.

It was dry enough after lunch to start digging out the three garden beds on her to do list. All she got done was lifting the sod and putting it along the verge out the front. Then the insects came out to bite. Fortunately, Liavan had an insect repelling spell that she used at the market to keep the flies away from her stand no matter who was set up next to her - people seemed to like to buy their medicines without accompanying insects and extraneous odours. Unfortunately, it seemed that her spell was fly-specific, and these blood sucking horrors weren't flies. Liavan fled inside, followed by some of the tiny monstrosities, and spent an hour working out the changes she needed to make to either repel them instead of or together with the flies. She recorded the changes in her notebook, added repelling fleas and keeping insects out of the house to her to do list, and then made a late evening meal.

Liavan woke twice in the night and recast her anti-insect spell.

The morning seemed insect free. After breakfast, Liavan applied herself to cultivating the two new beds so the soil was broken up enough for her to plant seeds. Digging the soil over showed that she had a good spade blade's depth of dirt before she was down to rock and clay, and she was able to get her seeds in the ground before she had a late lunch.

After lunch she walked across the track to look at the soil on the downhill side of the track and found it as dark as her own. She walked along her actual frontage as laid out in her ducal license to occupy an unclaimed plot, and found that the track along that length was of the apparently imported yellow clay-like soil. It continued in both directions beyond her plot as far as she could see before the landscape got in the way. It was an oddity, along with the couch grass that she was moving out of the way of her new garden beds. Liavan filed it away in her mind and spent the afternoon criss-crossing the meadow looking at plants. There was another patch of field memoraze and, remembering what Mistress Penden had said about companion plants, she made notes about what was growing near them - there were no more grass orchids but there were clover with purple-tipped flowers and lies-a-bed stalks. Liavan hadn't really paid much attention to clover before, but she didn't think that the flowers she had seen in the past had been quite that colour.

When she got to the edges of the trees, she picked up fallen dead sticks to use as kindling in her kitchen and the work room. The accumulation of them made her certain that no-one else had been out here doing this for a long time. She did find a well grown blacken berry stand, which were not at all the same thing as blackberries, and resolved to take cuttings rather than try to transplant an adult plant. There was also a snake: a golden, browny-green creature as long as her leg, that flicked its tongue at her when she froze in place in surprise, and then slid away through the leaf litter. Liavan hoped that it wasn't poisonous, and that it mainly ate rodents. She also decided that her great aunt and the author of Goodbody's Physic hadn't said nearly enough about snakes.

She went back inside and boiled jars to make sure they were clean, while she chopped and bruised thyme and liquorice root to prepare them for steeping. While things cooled and steeped, she pulled out one of her great aunt's note books. Great Aunt Anglou hadn't been an acknowledged withemistress but Liavan remembered the complaints her mother and aunts had voiced about cleaning out the old lady's crowded room after she had died. Now that she was experienced at deciphering the hand writing and symbols in the surviving notebooks Liavan sometimes wondered exactly what the older women had thrown out and given away while they were congratulating themselves on getting rid of the clutter. She also wondered what had been in the notebooks that they had decided had nothing of value in and thrown in the fire. Liavan had enchanted her carpet bag holdall from very specific instructions in the red-covered note book. The holdall could contain everything that Liavan had ever tried to put in it at once and had carried everything that she had brought from her parents’ house plus the things she'd used in the spell that made her house. One of the green note books had notes about travel, she was sure.

The notes were in the second of the green-covered books that she looked in. They were also annotated in different coloured inks. Apparently Great Aunt Anglou had had pithy corrections to make to her original notes.

After a break from her reading to strain her brews, bottle them, and then set them aside to settle overnight in their containers, Liavan sat down to make detailed notes from the corrected version of her great aunt's notes. The processes for adding the enchantment to an item and making that addition permanent were the same ones Liavan had used to turn her carpet bag into a holdall. It was the rest of the process that had been modified - one glyph in particular had been crossed out three times before Great Aunt Anglou had been happy with the result. The notations included, "Does not work on a brooch, must be footwear!" and "Horse shoes?". There was also an entire section on what sort of periwinkle the spell needed: "Shellfish or plant?"; "Common periwinkle root - what can I do with a gill of periwinkle shells?"; and "Not variegated. Never variegated." Liavan read through the piece five times to make sure that she'd found everything that her great aunt had included. Then she wrote out the glyphs and circles she would need and listed the components for the dust that was part of the preparation.

She had her own questions, of course, and she considered them over her evening meal. Did the dust have to be fresh when you used it, or could you make up more than you needed for one enchantment and store it for another time? Where was she going to get common periwinkle root? When Great Aunt Anglou used the word 'league' how far had she actually meant? It also occurred to her that now she didn't have to hide things from other people in the same house, perhaps she could get a nice solidly bound account book and use it to write out clear copies of things that worked and what they did.

Liavan wondered if a scrying would help her find the plant she was after. Everyone always said that you should go to a withemistress for a scrying if you were trying to find something, but both Great Aunt Anglou and Goodbody were unhelpful on the subject. Goodbody didn't mention it and Liavan couldn't tell if her great aunt didn't approve of the activity or simply thought that the popular scrying method of her day didn't work. Either was possible. It was also possible that the old lady hadn't been able to scry - Liavan had heard that not everyone could.

That got her to thinking about common periwinkle. If she'd still been in her parents' house it would have been easy to get. It liked damp and shade, and thrived in poor soils. It thrived so much in poor soils that had escaped from ill-favoured yards all over Market Cranebourne. In well favoured damp soils it spread even more enthusiastically, and Liavan knew that farmers downstream of the town had complained that periwinkle was spreading with every minor flood. She knew that it was poisonous to people, so it might well be to animals as well, although the farmers' main complaint was that it stopped the grass growing. Where she was now was upstream of Market Cranebourne and on the other side of the watershed, but the main road that her track came off ran around the bottom of the hill and crossed the River Sowdy at the Kingsbridge. Before the Sowdy got to the Kingsbridge, it flowed through Ledbury, and Ledbury was almost as big and as well off as Market Cranebourne. Liavan decided that investigating the banks of the River Sowdy might be useful and let her put off investigating scrying.

That thought sent her happily to bed and the only thing that disturbed her in the night was the sound of spurwing plovers.

In the morning Liavan checked her jars to make sure that none of them had done anything unexpected, and then she set them out in clusters on her work bench so that she could chalk the circles and glyphs around them that let her push magic into them. It was possible to make cough mixtures without magic, but ginger was rarely available in these parts and one of Great Aunt Anglou's concerns had been that it wasn't safe to give honey to very small children. Both ingredients were useful in treating coughs. Once the magic was done, Liavan cleaned up her chalk marks, added labels to the jars, and had an early lunch. Then she went for a walk down to the River Sowdy.

The track took her across the top of the gully, over the shoulder of the hill, and then down across the broad slope below that in a path with one bend that was like a zig without its zag. Now that she knew that someone had probably brought the surface layer of the track in from somewhere else, Liavan kept an eye out for the remains of road markers. She only found one, down at the corner of where the track met the road. It was triangular, broken, and half hidden by brambles, but one side showed the distance to Market Cranbourne, one side showed the distance to either Ledbury or Castle Rennard, and the third one showed a half symbol that she didn't recognise and a short distance. The third side was the one you faced as you turned into the track that led past her plot. Liavan added prepared exploration to her list of things to do and headed down the paved road in the direction of the river.

The Kingsbridge was two arches of stone across the waters of the River Sowdy. Today those waters looked dark, clear and tranquil, without the muddiness that came during and after from heavy rainfall. The central pillar of the bridge went straight down into the centre of the river and the roadway that the arches supported was almost wide enough to take three carts abreast. According to Great Aunt Anglou's notes, King Hildebrand III had built the bridge to replace an old wooden structure back when Great Aunt had been a young woman. The bridge wasn't tolled, and the only buildings within sight belonged to The King's Head, an inn that sat on high ground above the usual flood line on the other side of the bridge from Liavan. In Market Cranebourne it was suggested that The King's Head was a place where carts sitting in the yard would be routinely relieved of a few items from their cargos. Although she knew that she was going to have to visit and introduce herself to the residents shortly, Liavan wasn't planning to do that today. She would much prefer to go bearing gifts, of cough mixture, and with the means of a quick departure in case it was needed.

Today she took herself down along the river bank downstream of the bridge. She took cuttings from all three sorts of willow tree she found growing there and made a mental note of the stinging nettle patch for later use. There were ducks with ducklings that she was careful not to disturb, and a moorhen with her dabchicks. When she found it, after twenty minutes of careful looking, there was lots of common periwinkle - the patch was so large that it could have contained all her garden. It was a sea of dark green, paired leaves that was dotted with pale lavender flowers. Liavan sighed, made sure her willow cuttings were carefully rolled up in a piece of cloth at the bottom of her basket, took her trowel and started digging. She was here after roots, but she simply put every node of the vine-like plant that she dug up into her basket, leaves and all. If the plant was such a problem, she saw no point in leaving pieces behind to take root again and the rest of the plant could prove useful for things she didn't know about yet. She was able to fill her basket in less than half an hour and had barely touched the mat of plants by the time she'd finished.

On the basis that if she headed towards the hill from the river, she was going to hit the road, Liavan tramped cross country after she'd finished her digging. The grass was longer than she expected, almost waist high in places, and she found several places where it looked like something had been rooting at the ground - not to dig a burrow, but leaving the surface churned up and torn about. Then she found scat. Well, if it was smaller, she would have called it scat. This casting was of a volume that indicated a large animal. Liavan started thinking serious thoughts about self-protection but reached the road without it becoming necessary. She hadn't realised that the drop from the road to the ground below it was quite as steep as it was. She did manage to climb it by her own physical efforts, but Liavan wondered whether it was like that to keep the road above floods or to keep unknown large animals off the road. It would, of course, have been efficient to do both.

Once she'd found her turnoff and climbed the hill to her house, Liavan was happy to spend the rest of the afternoon preparing most of the plants she'd collected for drying. She put aside three times the roots she thought she'd need for the enchantment for use in the morning, and then planted her willow cuttings in small pots to see if she could get them to strike. She watered her garden, had her evening meal, and then washed herself in front of the kitchen stove using buckets of warm water and a large, shallow metal basin to stand in. A suitable bath tub was on her list of things to get. After tipping out the water outside, she went to bed and slept because she was going to try new magic in the morning.

Something woke her in the light before sunrise, noise from outside. Liavan rose and looked out her window. Outside, beyond the fence she'd built with magic, was an enormous pig. It was hairy, had tusks and looked like it massed as much as three men. She was very glad that the spell for the fence had included wards of protection. She hoped that they worked on pigs. There was a snorting sound and another animal came into view. This one was not a pig. It had antlers, but not the sort of antlers she'd seen displayed in various establishments that thought that sort of boasting appropriate. The owner of the antlers was bigger than the pig, being taller than most men at the shoulder, but it had to bend down to get the antlers on the pig's level. Liavan kept quiet as there was a certain amount of toing and froing between the two animals, not unlike the conversations between certain young men back in Market Cranebourne when they were trying to reorganise the pecking order, and then the two huge beasts decided that today was not the day they would come to blows before going off in different directions. Liavan let the curtain drop back into place and lay back down in her bed. Putting a fence with wards in it around her entire plot now seemed a more important issue than it had before. Also, now that she knew that there were such big animals out here, she wondered if there were also things that ate them. Everyone knew that there were no big predators these days, but maybe wild dogs? It was an uncomfortable chain of thought but it didn’t stop her falling asleep again.

Part 1
This is Part 2
Part 3. 

 


This entry was originally posted at https://rix-scaedu.dreamwidth.org/116290.html. There have been comment count unavailable comments there.
Tags: liavan haucmel, prompt request 180904, withemistress
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