A Pleasantly Ambiguous Snippet

I want to, as I have in the past, label this “[Title of Work] Snippets, Part 1” so that this can be continuous and easy to find. The only problem with that is that neither this book nor its accompanying series have titles yet. So we’re just going to have to wait on that little development.

Some little-tiny-baby context for this excerpt: Dwynwen has just set out from Pentref o Gwenith (home village, tiny town, as seen in all of Suo Gan [all of which is available on this here blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4] and this other story.) She has come upon the first village since setting out, and needs directions to an inn for the night. She approaches the village blacksmith, because she views blacksmiths as a generally trustworthy and helpful bunch (thanks, Govan).

The smith glanced up, noting her presence, and held up one finger briefly before looking back down to his anvil, hammer falling with clangs that would have been deafening if Dwyn had not grown up with that sound as the music of her every day.

            Minutes passed, and Dwyn contented herself at looking around the smithy, so familiar and just slightly out of place, run by a different smith than her father. Tools hung from large, sometimes bent, nails hammered inelegantly into the strong walls. The nails appeared haphazard, but Dwyn could see the meticulous organization of tools, the most useful lower and nearer the forges – of which this smith boasted a decadent three, of varying size – and the more specialized and intricate higher and near the back.

            A large pile of wood was stacked near the back door, almost as tall as Dwyn. Beside it, a large, metal cart was beginning to run low on coal. The fuel sat near a tall working bench, upon which papers, chunks of charcoal, cheap parchment, and various tongs and a set of billows lay scattered. There was a bucket of the same hearty nails from which the tools hung on the wall, and a beautiful pen and ink pot sat gathering dust in the far back corner of the table.

            With a grunt, the smith dunked his current piece into the vat of oil to his right, quenching it in a billow of steam and smoke, flames licking across the hot iron briefly before they burned themselves out. He withdrew it and ran a finger lightly over it, grunting with approval.

            “No warp?” Dwyn asked pleasantly.

            The smith glanced up, re-alerted to her presence. “Mm,” he grunted an affirmative. “A good quench. You smith any?”

            Dwyn smiled and shook her head. “Hardly. I know my way around a forge, but it’s my Papa who does all the real work.”

            The smith grunted again, approving. “Good of him to teach you a thing or two. Important.” He turned, picking up a rag and wiping the blade as he walked to put it among several pieces that appeared to be in progress. “What can I help you with, then?”

            “I’m looking for a place to stay for the night, I was hoping you might know one?”

            The smith came up to stand beside her in the door, wiping his hands on the same rag. Dwynwen bit her tongue to keep from repeating what she’d told Govan so many times, that wiping greasy hands on a greasy rag was no help whatsoever. It amused her to see that it appeared to be a universal trait among the profession.

            The smith raised a hand and pointed toward a narrow street slightly farther down the thoroughfare and to their right. “You keep walking that way, and there’s a bigger-type cottage. Older couple lives there, rents out their extra rooms and serve supper and breakfast. Not too large a fee, either.” The smith turned and looked at her, and his brown eyes, muted in color, looked at her in a piercing way. Dwyn had the uneasy feeling that he was looking through her glamour and seeing her for what she was: a very young and solitary woman who was a little unsure of her way. “D’you need anything else, lass?”

            The smith’s gaze was earnest, and Dwynwen felt sure that if she asked for the money for a night’s stay, he would give it freely.

            She smiled. “No, I’m all right. Thank you – may your fire be bright and your aim true.” With the smith’s blessing, Dwyn left the smith standing in the doorway of his smithy, watching her go. She did not feel scrutinized, merely watched over.

            When she turned the corner and passed out of the smith’s sight, Dwyn raised her glamour back into a formidable and no-nonsense figure. She scanned the buildings as she passed, and soon came upon the cottage the smith had told her about. It was large enough to be a small inn, but not gilded around the edges enough to be a proper manor or town house. The roof was thatched over the second floor, a triangular attic-vent cut in near the peak of the roof. The first floor was all stone, but the second extended above in long wooden planks.

            A simple sign was painted over the door: The Seventh Son.

            On a nail in the center of the door hung a sign that invited all to enter, so Dwyn lifted the latch and the door swung open.

            Dwynwen walked into a space that took up nearly the entirety of the first floor, only a door in the far right corner indicating the presence of any other rooms. Almost directly across from her was a steep set of wood steps, little more than a railed ladder.

            The room that she stepped into had a stone fire and a large hearth, with tables and benches generously packed into the room. A counter, that looked like it had been hand-built by an owner, stretched along the wall with the door. A shelf behind it housed utensils, plates, bowls, and cups – large and handled as well as small and wooden. A large water barrel stood, ladle hooked over the side, at the end of the counter nearest the door.

            And it was empty.

            Well, nearly. On a second glance, Dwyn saw a small group of what appeared to be travelers, judging by their worn overclothes and tired affect, sitting at a corner table, nursing plates of what looked to be hearty fare and tall cups of what was likely mead.

            Dwyn turned to shut the door behind her, hoping that the thudding sound of the door would draw a keeper out of hiding. It did not. Dwyn walked over to the counter, swinging her pack off of her back and leaning it against her leg.

            “Hello?” she called, directing her voice toward the door. That turned out to be the right direction, as an older woman – perhaps in her seventh decade? – came out, taking her time and wiping her hands on her apron.

            “Hello there, annwyl,” she said warmly, undeterred by the fierce countenance Dwyn was putting on. “What can I help you with, then? Some supper, a room?”

            “Both, thank you,” replied Dwynwen, bending down to fish her coin purse from her pack. “How much? I’d like to pay for a meal for the morning, too, if I could.” She straightened, purse in hand.

            “Fifteen, dear,” the woman said, still smiling. “And don’t you worry after the morning meal, I imagine you’ll be swift out the door. I can afford to feed so slight a thing as you out my own purse.”

            Dwyn counted out the coins and slid them across the counter. “Thank you,” she said, again.

            “Of course, annwyl,” said the woman, sweeping the coin into a pocket of her apron with clinking. “Find a seat, I’ll bring your supper out in just a shake.”

*

            Dwynwen counted down to the fifth door, swinging it open. A room with a bed that looked wonderfully soft greeted her, topped with several blankets in case of a cold night. No hearth, but the one on the first floor had looked as though it heated the whole building. The lack of hearth was more than made up for by the large bathing basin that stood in the corner, tucked under the shuttered window that also had an animal skin nailed over the shutters to keep any undue chill outside.

            Dwyn dumped her things with a clatter at the foot of the bed, locked the door, and shoved the room’s chair under the handle for good measure. That done, she let her glamour fall, firmly out of sight of anyone else – and particularly that traveler from downstairs. Then she walked over to investigate the bath.

            She had heard of magic basins and baths, with inscriptions to run water – and heated water at that – but she had never seen one before. A spout for water curved into the tub, and a spinning knob that looked as though it controlled the water sat just below it.

            “Must have cost a fortune,” Dwyn muttered, somewhat awe-struck. As she looked more closely, she saw the inscription carved into the spout, knob, and basin:

Summon water forth from here

Cold or hot, clean and clear.

May the user emerge afresh,

Clean and warm, restful-blessed.

            The first line curved along the spout, the second sat small in the center of the knob, and the rest wrapped around the front of the basin itself.

            She looked all around where the basin sat, looking for some sort of piping that would descend into the floor to pull water from somewhere. She saw none. It was truly a … magical bath. Dwyn sat back on her heels, somewhat mystified.

            “Who am I to refuse?”

            Dwyn turned the knob of the tub in the same direction that the small, sun symbol was inscribed on the knob. Gingerly, she put her fingers beneath the ensuing jet of water. She withdrew her hand quickly with a small yelp; it was very hot!

            She adjusted the knob, placing it at more of a midpoint, only tilted slightly nearer the sun’s symbol than the other of a snow-capped mountain. She put her fingers back in the running water. It was perfect. She knelt, watching the basin fill with a distinct sense of wonderment.

            The whooshing sound the water made as it filled the tub was something she hadn’t heard before, really. It was somewhat similar to a river, she supposed, but a fast one. Perhaps a waterfall? That wasn’t quite right, either.

            Her thoughts wandered to one river in particular. The current, strong enough to nearly sound like this magic thunder of water, had swept her well off her feet. Dwyn would have drowned that day, if Cadoc hadn’t been there to go after. She had been inches from it.

            The faint smile she had watching the water faded at the memory. She thought she would rather stay away from rivers, if she could, until she had Cadoc back. She’d never much liked them before; that last encounter had not made her much more cozy to them.

            Shaking her head slightly, Dwyn stood up, shedding her layers of clothing onto the chair that leveraged the door more firmly shut. When she returned to the basin, bare feet padding on the smooth, wooden floor, it was nearly full. She turned the knob so it was tightly closed, only a few stray beads of water dripping from the spout and making rings of ripples on the otherwise still, crystal clear water. Steam rose from its surface.

            Dwynwen stepped into the water, and a sigh rose from her, unbidden. It wasn’t often she or Govan went to the hassle of heating enough water for a submerged bath, so it was already a luxury; and in this basin, she hadn’t had to pull it in from where it leaned outside against the wall of the cottage, heat and haul several pots of water, and fill it herself.

            She settled into the water and leaned her head back against the ledge of the tub, hair fanning through the water and grazing her shoulders. Dwyn had no quarrel with her station in life, but she vowed to herself that, if she ever had the coin, she would get one of these for herself.

            Before she could fall asleep in the warm, warm water, Dwyn found where a cake of soap sat on a table, tucked between the basin and the wall, and washed, beginning with the dirt under her nails.

You know what I’m about to do? Hit “publish” without proofreading any of that. Risky business, but what can I say? I’m a real maverick. (It’s even more risky because I copy+pasted that snippet out of my manuscript, and it had several plot-related notes-to-self imbedded, so here’s hoping I fished all of those out).

C’est la vie, boys, c’est la vie.


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