Over an hour after Father Manrel had gone on his way but while it was still before noon, Liavan's stall received a visit from two of her older sisters. Havor was wearing a dark blue tunic over a slightly lighter blue dress while Adnie was wearing a red dress under an orange tunic. Both of them were wearing straw hats adorned with feathers dyed to match their tunics, and both were carrying shopping baskets. Liavan noticed that they both looked around carefully before approaching her.
"Liavan, how are you?" That was Havor, the eldest of the three of them. "We thought we should come and see you after Dadda stayed with me for the best part of a week and then Mum started dripping things when she talks...."
"I hadn't realised how unpleasant she is about you without her even thinking about it," added Adnie, "until she spent an hour telling us about what had happened. Turns out that there's very little better than black marker tokens and black slug things falling from someone's lips to make you realise that they're being unpleasant and unkind, and probably have been for a long time. Anyway, we thought we should see how you are."
"I'm keeping well, thank you," replied Liavan. "Having my own house is very different to what I'm used to, of course, but I don't miss having to pack things away when I'm only partway done with them."
"I don't think that I ever had that problem when I was still living in Mum's house, but I do remember that she used to do it to you," agreed Havor. "You couldn't even leave something set aside while you came to the table to eat a meal. Mind you, Mum tried to tell me how to manage my house when I first got married. She didn't stop until Reasc told her that if he'd wanted to live with his mother-in-law, we would have moved in with them. She got all huffy and stamped out."
"I keep having to put my pantry back together my way," added Adnie, "Because apparently there's only her way to organise your kitchen."
"Fortunately, I was able to keep her out of my kitchen," Liavan told her sisters calmly, and smiled.
"That was one of the things that had her peeved, " admitted Adnie, "and that she had absolutely nothing to complain about when she used your outhouse." She added, "Our mother expressed concern that you might start making a spectacle of yourself by wearing strong colours. Perhaps you should work out what looks good on you and set about looking spectacular?"
Havor chuckled, her hand over her mouth. "Oh, I am glad we left the girls with their other grandmother this morning. They repeat things at the most awkward moments." She added more soberly, "We'll come and see you here again, shall we? After our mother's spectacularly bad behaviour, I doubt you'll be interested in visiting our homes or having us at yours in case she invites herself again."
"I can't stop her coming to my gate," replied Liavan quietly. "Inside that, I have several options, some of them legal and some entirely within my own hands. Oh, and if anyone asks, I have no idea what those slime things are."
"Be careful," urged Adnie. "Mum knows who to talk to if she decides to get a mob raised against you."
"If it comes to that," Liavan told her, "then all of you stay away. I believe I can get myself out of trouble, but I don't know that I can protect you, particularly if I don't know that you're there."
"We'll keep that in mind," Havor nodded. "Now, if you'll excuse us, I want to get some of the purple yams before they're all gone." The three sisters made their farewells and Liavan felt buoyed because she had feared that her sisters would take their mother's part in their disagreement. Their other sisters might, of course, but at least two of them were still talking to their youngest sibling on friendly terms.
After she 'd finished selling for the day, Liavan went around the tailors, seamstresses, and the second-hand furniture dealers between making her own food purchases and buying her next batch of bottles. She was able to find out the cost of a getting a new tunic made both with and without the fabric being included and was quite pleased with the answer. Liavan was certainly capable of sewing herself a new tunic, but what she didn't have was a pattern unless she took her pale yellow one, the only one she owned, apart. As she also lacked a pair of fabric shears, she thought that the cost of getting a well-made garment to expand her wardrobe would be worth it. It would take her several weeks to earn the money, taking into account her expenses, but a strong hued tunic in the orange-brown tones she fancied was well within her reach.
Furniture was another matter. The third used furniture dealer, and the one nearest to her mother's house, did indeed have her great-aunt's clothes cupboard of carved black wood standing in the back of his shop, but the price marked on it was so much that Liavan was unsurprised that it was still there. She'd made sure that she hadn't misread the price, taken another turn around the floor, and left. It was something that would have to wait for another time before she could consider it.
The next week was solidly made of rain. Liavan's water tanks filled, she didn't need to water her garden, and a brief walk around the bend of the hill let her see that the river level at the Kingsbridge was rising. As there was little that she could do outdoors and stay dry, on the first wet day Liavan had turned to her great aunt’s notebooks to see if there was anything she’d forgotten on the subject of curses. Several hours later she closed the notebook she was reading, looked down at the green brocade cover, and sighed. By the time she’d walked to the kitchen to prepare dinner, she was surprised by how late it had gotten.
The next day, after she’d completed her chores and checked on the river level at the Kingsbridge, Liavan decided that she should get down to going through her great aunt’s notes to see if there was anything in there that would have taught her about curses. She went into her sitting room and was surprised to see one of the notebooks already sitting on the desk. The green brocade covered volume was neatly square on the surface as if she’d just finished reading it and meant to come back to it. She looked at the bookshelf, and the space the notebook normally occupied was empty. Liavan closed her eyes and thought back, walking her way backwards through her memories of the day, and realised that she could remember coming out of the sitting room the previous evening but nothing between the previous day’s lunch and that.
Liavan sat down at the desk and opened the book. The book could be out of the shelf to show where in the notebooks she was up to, but there were other ways of doing that. Some hours later she inserted the last of her impromptu bookmarks and closed the green brocade covered notebook. She went to the outhouse after that, making a mental note to construct a covered walkway in the improvements she wanted to, and from there went and checked on the progress of her potions.
She didn’t return to the sitting room until the next day and was puzzled to see the green brocade covered notebook sitting on the desk, just the way she would leave it if she had been reading it, and with torn strips of scrap paper stuck between the pages at various points. Liavan was also absolutely certain that no-one else had been in the house. She sat down and cautiously opened the notebook.
It was getting dark and she had to lean close to the sheet of paper on the desk as she finished writing the note. Finally done, Liavan blew on the ink to make sure that it was dry and thus making sure that her words wouldn’t smudge. She pushed her ink well to one side, well away from anything else, and put her pen down beside it. The sealed bottle of ink she put firmly on top of her written page to make sure that it didn’t blow away. Liavan considered leaving the notebook open where it was on the desk, directly above her written page, but she decided that the chance of the pages flipping over in a breeze and the now labelled bookmarks sliding out of place was too great so she closed it, leaving the book centred on the desk and not touching the note. Liavan folded her hands in her lap for a moment, sighed, and then stood up and went to make dinner.
The next morning Liavan was wondering why she hadn’t started looking through her great aunt’s notebooks yet when she walked into the sitting room to see a green brocade covered notebook sitting on her desk. It had torn strips of paper stuck in it as bookmarks, and they were notated in her hand writing – the first one said, “pink-eye ointment.” There was also a nearly page long note, again in her own writing, pinned in place on the desk by her bottle of ink.
“I am writing this before I forget that I have even read this book, again. I have already read it at least once because I found it today with bookmarks stuck in it and I can’t remember putting them there. I believe that there is a spell to make you forget that you have read the book on its cover.” Liavan stopped reading, looked at the notebook, and then went to sit in the chair she had arranged for doing needlework, well away from the desk. “The notebook contains notes and recipes for several useful eye ointments: one for pink eye; a healing salve for eye surface scratches; and several for temporarily improving vision, but those are annotated with some precautions that I didn’t have time to completely decipher today. Over half the book is about curses, and I know that I’ve read it before, but I don’t know how many times that might be. I also believe that although the spell on the cover may make you forget that you’ve read the book, it doesn’t make you forget the content.”
Liavan sat and considered that for a moment before reading on.
“I suggest buying several notebooks of your own (properly, should that be my own, your own, or our own?) and copying the contents of this one, the green brocade covered one, into them. It might be wise to break the information up into eye ointments, curses, and the comments on the baron’s great uncle as a young man – that way, if I’m wrong and the forgetting spell is in the content on the pages, then you should have at least some of the book’s contents in a place you can use them. Good luck, my future self, Liavan Haucmel.”
Liavan spent a little while sitting in her sewing chair and considering her options. What she decided to do was write herself a shopping list immediately and put it in her holdall with her money. Then she put the note back where she had found, and countersigned it with the date and the comment, “Do you remember reading this?” It was worth testing whether the spell was more than she had thought it was.
She spent the rest of the day checking her clothes and linen for mending, and doing the few small tasks she found.
The next day, which was the day before market day, the clouds finally began to break, the river was over its banks enough to make the willow trees inaccessible even though the road and the bridge were still passable. Mistress Ganalt, distinguishable at that distance by her height and width, came out of the inn and waved in what Liavan took to be a friendly manner, so she waved back in the same vein before they both went about their business.
Market day itself dawned fine and Liavan took pains to get her washing and the airing on the clothes line before she set off to Market Cranebourne. The town was almost dry, and Liavan's neighbouring stall holders told her that the place had only had a few days rain, a thing which made her think that the clouds had gotten caught up on the hills as they were passing. Sales went well, Havor stopped to talk for a while with her two daughters, Reean and Olrar, in tow, and then Liavan finished her day in town by buying three notebooks from the book binder on Mishel Street before visiting Withemistress Penden for tea. Mirran and Anirar were both present this time as well as one of their younger sisters, Enrie. Liavan went home with the satisfaction of a day well spent.
She woke the next morning with the conviction that it was time to find out where the track along the front of her house went if you followed it to the east.
She breakfasted, cleaned up the kitchen, hung out the washing that hadn't quite dried the day before, and considered what she would need for a return walk of less than five miles. In the end she had assembled a basket that contained a full water bottle, a pair of garden secateurs, a notebook, a pen and leads for writing and sketching, two small clothes for wrapping interesting things in, and a clean cloth tied up to hold a piece of cheese and a handful of orange fruits the size and shape of her thumb that she'd bought at the market. Liavan considered wearing her tunic but as she only had the one and it was an unfortunate colour for poking around in a forest, she chose to wear her brown overall apron instead. It wasn't as if she was likely to meet anyone on her walk. Finally, she put on her plain straw hat, picked up the basket and walked out the door, locking it behind her.
The trees started ten minutes’ walk beyond Liavan's eastern boundary. The main trees were tall and of mixed varieties, while an understory of equally mixed bushes obscured her view of what might lie beyond them. At least a third of the bushes were flowering and more showed signs of having done so recently. There were small birds flittering through the both the bushes and the canopy above her, occasionally darting through the patches of sunlight in amongst the dappled shade. The birds were unfamiliar, ones that Liavan had not seen in Market Cranebourne and which apparently had no interest in her garden as yet, but Liavan thought that she was seeing at least four different kinds. Some of the bushes she did recognise, plants that were usually grown for their scented and attractive flowers, but it was clear that no-one was tending these and culling the plants with less impressive flowers - some had blossoms that were small and ill-favoured beside those of their companions or the specimens that Liavan had seen before. Even so, there was a double flowered form of honey creset, witch hazels busily growing their seed pods, butterfly bush in a range of purples, and a full range of jirawa colours. The witch hazels were definitely useful, the butterfly bushes brought in butterflies, while honey creset was prized for its scent and Liavan decided to get cutting from samples of all of them on her way back. Jirawas were notorious for only growing from seed, not cuttings, and the plants were prickly besides so the young withemistress planned to come back for seeds in summer, after she'd decided where to plant them.
Liavan tore herself away from the bushes, looked at the yellow clay track, and wondered if the ancestors of the feral decorative plants she intended to sample had come from wherever the track was going. None of the bushes was native to this part of the world, and when growing wild they were typically found in places near settlements, whether current or abandoned. She continued on and it began to occur to her that the track was remaining remarkably clear of overgrowth. The bushes and trees grew on either side of it, and none had sprung up in the middle of the road. At one point a strangler fig had engulfed a long-smothered tree on the right hand side of the path and sent a branch dripping with aerial roots out across the path, but despite the roots grazing the ground in a multi-forked mat, none of them had found a purchase in the track's surface. It occurred to her that the yellow clay might have been chosen to reduce the work of maintaining the track, as well as making it easy to see and she wondered why it prevented plants from taking root in it.
This is Part 8.
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