Kind of fantasy, the first of that type for me. In this scene, Ina, the protagonist, is recovering from a nasty knock given to her by her mother, the Queen Mother, while her bratty sister mocks her. Hopefully, it’s not totally dreadful!
In the kitchen, Martik sponged at my head with a rough cloth and wrung it out over a pail of cool water.
“What’s all the fuss?” my sister asked, using her foot to shove past the shaggy scullery dog that slept by the woodstove.
“Your sister bumped her head sparring, it’s only a scratch,” said Martik with a patient smile. He patted my throbbing head again, then handed the cloth to her.
“Here, Eresh, tend to your sister,” said Martik.
“What? Where’s Old Nish? I don’t want to!” Eresh said.
“Mind me, dear one,” Martik said in a gruff voice. Then, more gently to me, he said, “Ina, I’m heading to stables. Come back out when you’ve recovered a bit. Oh, I beg your pardon, Old Nish.” He stepped aside at the door to let an old woman pass in through the door from the courtyard, then went out. Old Nish stomped the snow from her feet and unwrapped her gray head.
“What’s this, then?” Old Nish said, glaring at Martik’s retreat and the muddy footprints around the hearth. She strode over and snatched the rag from Eresh. Her wrinkled lips pursed into a frown as she inspected the wound. “This gash will need herballing. Oh, yes, that it will.”
“Tsk, tsk. I thought it was just a scratch,” said Eresh in a mocking tone.
Old Nish ignored her, and said “Fetch some clean water, there you go, Eresh,” shoving the pail in my sister’s direction.
“But it’s cold out there!”
“Go now, girl, afore my boot finds your backside!”
“I thought fetching water was servants’ work,” Eresh said in a haughty tone reserved for those beneath her. She shot a significant glare at Old Nish’s back but was paid no mind. On the way out, she slammed the door a little harder than necessary.
“Oh, my pet,” crooned Old Nish, turning back to me. “What’s happened to you now? Sit back there, I’ll get your boots.” Adjusting her skirts, the old servant crouched near my seat by the hearth and removed each of my boots in turn. “Ah, yes, oh dear.” A sizable pebble fell from one boot.
“Just a bit of sparring, Nish. I’m alright.”
“Sparring with whom? Looks like a Southern savage has beat you about the head!”
“And the chest!” I opened my shirtfront a button or two where purplish welts could be seen.
“A pox on the Southern savage,” said Nish, smirking and busying herself with the second boot.
“Nish! Stop that silly talk,” I said with a laugh, but laughter was painful. I winced and ran my hand through my tangled hair. Black like the Regent’s and like the Queens of old. Black Goddess, they called my mother. My hand had a spot of blood on it. “I was sparring with Mother.”
“Oh, child,” Nish said. She straightened up and touched my hair tenderly, careful to avoid the injury. “It’s not an easy life, is it?”