Pre-Chapter Notes: Hello everyone. Just wanted to remind you that if you join my Patreon, you can read an extended uncut version of the final scene from the last chapter. It’s roughly 1100 words and goes into all the action and even features some characterisation of the two girls and their relationship. For the month of October, this is available at a reduced cost of £5. My writing pace is also picking up again after the nightmare of the past couple of months so I should be able to start building up my early access chapters for Patrons. First step will be one chapter and then five. If I get enough Patrons I’ll build that backlog up to ten chapter. While you’re at it, consider joining my discord server as well. With all that said, enjoy the chapter (and the juicy parts from last chapter if you missed it.)
Two river petals and a dawn flower to go and Tehri’s bouquet would be complete. She had spent the entire morning picking out flowers from the now surprisingly abundant flower garden that she had been tending to for the past four years. It wasn’t much but it let her stretch her creative juices without being overly expensive; which is to say it cost nothing other than time and a few seeds, most of which Tehri had harvested herself.
At some point in the future, Tehri wanted to learn how to make pigments and, by extension, paint from her flowers so that she could get back to painting proper. Hana and Byrden had tried getting her some when they discovered her artistic nature, but it proved to be unreasonably challenging. For one, paint was significantly more expensive than Tehri had ever realised and the supplies weren’t much better. Second of all was the fact that it wasn’t exactly high on the stock lists of any of the merchants that stopped by the village.
At some point they managed to acquire a few paints for Tehri, hoping that it would help her first major bout of depression in their care. It had happened not long after they had told her about her mother’s fate. At first she was manic at the news.
It was a dangerous time for her; mania and grief don’t mix well, especially when the person is to do much of anything physical to distract themselves. To make may matters worse, Tehri didn’t care that she had a weak constitution or that she was still recovering. Instead she pushed herself, almost as if she was seeking pain. At one point she even jumped off of one of the taller buildings.
To this day she isn’t sure why she did isn’t sure why she did it, but when it happened, she crashed both figuratively and literally.
Hana and Byrden were terrified when it happened and they were even less equipped to deal with the depression that followed. One of their attempted solutions were the aforementioned paints.
Fortunately, she had only broken one of her arms from the fall so she was able to make use of them and it did help slightly. What she really needed, however, was time and maybe some of her medicine from home. Unfortunately the latter was well out of her reach. Time, however, was in ample supply, even if it filled her guardians with dread.
Tehri’s mood started to improve as spring approached. When it was good enough she did one last painting and then made Hana and Byrden promise that they wouldn’t buy her any more supplies. She refused to be a drain on their resources. From that day she started helping out with chores as best as she could which is what led her to the garden.
In time it grew to become her new artistic venture. It may not have been painting, but it made her happy enough. As an added bonus, Hana was particularly fond of the bouquets that Tehri created. In fact, Hana was the recipient of the one she was working on that morning.
The occasion? Hana had just discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. It was news worthy of celebration and Tehri wanted to do her part. This was the least she could do, especially when her competition was Byrden who had discovered a way to be over both moons at once.
With the dawn flower picked, Tehri made her way inside the house; it had grown over the years. Not by much, but enough that they could more comfortably accommodate for the family they were planning for. Tehri felt a little guilty about that because without her, the house would have already been big enough for a couple of children if she hadn’t been there. Alas, Tehri had taken the only spare bedroom in the house. Now, however, there were an additional two rooms that had been built into the side of the house. Tehri looked forward to the day that they would eventually see use. Today, however, was not that day.
Tehri found Hana in the kitchen trying her latest creation. She had been told by some of the other women to expect weird cravings when she eventually got pregnant and now that she was, it seemed like she was overcompensating for a lack of any by creating various weird and wacky dishes.
Tehri gave the wall a slight knock to get her attention right as she was giving her creation a taste. That was unintentional on Tehri’s part as was what came next. Hana dropped the spoon and started sputtering almost immediately. Panicking, Tehri placed the bouquet down on the table and rushed over. She signed quickly to say, Sorry, are you okay?
Sign language was a useful skill and one all three of them had learned together after a merchant had suggested it to them. It made communication between them significantly faster and a lot more convenient which was important in times like this.
Seeing the signs, Hana did her best to compose herself and respond. After a moment or two she managed to respond with, “I’m okay. You just surprised me is all.”
I didn’t mean to, Tehri signed back, I just wanted to show you these flowers. They’re for you and the baby.
“That’s really sweet, thank you. Though I think it might be a bit premature to start getting the baby flowers.
I know that!
“True enough. Care to try some of this soup?”
Tehri’s face paled at the proposition; Hana’s dishes had become a game of chance. On one hand it could be delicious, and on the other it could be congealed frog jelly soup with pickled River slugs or worse. Even so, if it made her happy, Tehri dared risk it.
Hana handed her a small tasting bowl and ladled in some of the soup. It didn’t look too threatening. If anything it looked to be a rather unassuming creamy yellow. It even had a mellow aroma that made Tehri even more suspicious. Alas, it was too late for her to back away now so she touched the bowl to her lips and tilted it back.
Tehri’s eyes widened in surprise as the soup hit her tongue. She could taste the gentle and earthy notes of potato and celeriac. Something was wrong. It was far too normal; there had to be something else. She had to try it again to be sure. Then it came. Tehri started to feel a rising heat from soup, one that threatened to bring her to tears. Only the tears never came. Instead the heat had been tempered by the creaminess of the soup in a way that Tehri didn’t even realise was possible. She also didn’t realise that she was smiling.
“I’m glad that you like it,” Hana beamed. “Though I can tell that you’re a little surprised. Don’t worry. I’ve got an extra spicy version that I’ll be sharing with the other mothers in the village later this week. They won’t know what hit them.”
Tehri couldn’t help but laugh at Hana’s devilish plan, even if it scared her a little.
“Oh yeah, before I forget. Would you be able to do me a favour, Tehri?”
In response, Tehri gave her a quizzical look.
“I need a couple of things from the market. Do you mind picking them up for me? I’ve got a list and the money already prepared.”
I can do that no problem.
“You’re a lifesaver. One of the stalls closes at noon and it won’t be open again for another two weeks. There’s a little extra money in the pouch so use it to treat yourself.
It was a relatively short walk to the market even with Hana and Byrden’s house being on the far side of the village. If Hana wasn’t still working on her soup or needing to do chores around the house, she could have probably made it in plenty of time. Even if that was the case, however, and Hana was just lazing around, Tehri would still have obliged. She liked being outside and doing a little shopping wouldn’t strain her too much.
When she arrived at the market, she went looking for the stall that was due to close early. It was manned by wizened hermit of a man with long unkempt greying brown hair and a similarly ‘styled’ beard. That is to say, Tehri hoped his hair was brown. It was difficult to tell and the twigs that decorated it didn’t help. Neither did the earthy aroma that he gave off or the fact that Tehri didn’t recognise him at all. In spite of that, he looked clean enough.
As for what he sold, Tehri could see a plethora of herbs and fungi, many of which were still in the dirt from which they had grown. Tehri recognised some of his wares, but most were beyond her.
The man looked over at Tehri as she approached and straightened slightly. He then called to her and asked, “What can I do you, little miss?” with a voice like moving earth.
Tehri handed him the list, hoping that he could read. She was doubtful; comprehensive reading skills weren’t exactly common in the village.
He mused over the list for a second and then peered over it to look down at Tehri. “Are you sure this is what you want, little miss?”
“Then I hope you are prepared for the consequences.”
The man’s tone in saying that was far too ominous for Tehri’s liking. She tried to sign for clarification but he only gave her a confused look.
As she flailed about, someone else called out to her. A golden haired boy approached them from across the market. He was around the same age as Tehri, and well built with a smile that could melt even the coldest of hearts. He was also one of Tehri’s few friends and the only one that had gone out of their way to learn sign language.
Hi, Kamren, Tehri signed to him.
The wizened man gave him a knowing glance and said, “This must be the father.”
Tehri gave the man a horrified look. It may have been true that Tehri liked Kamren and that they had even kissed, but father?
Kamren had a similar reaction, only he voiced it.
“The young miss is purchasing mother’s wort, elden root, and milker’s truth cap. These are all highly effective natal supplements and remedies to help with the early stages of pregnancy.”
In that instant, everything became clear. Tehri started signing to Kamren so that he could translate for her.
“These aren’t for me, they’re for my guardian, Hana. It’s her first child.”
After clarifying for Tehri, Kamren realised what he had just said. He turned to her and asked, “Since when?”
Last month? Tehri answered.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
We only found out a week or so ago.
“But you just said…”
You do know that it takes some time after you do the deed to learn the results, don’t you?
“Yes?” answered Kamren with absolutely zero confidence.
“This is all very nice,” the man interjected, “and I apologise for the mistake, but we should continue. Noon fast approaches.”
Tehri nodded and asked how much it would cost.
“Two wheat and seven pennies,” the man answered. It was a colloquial way of saying two bronze coins and seven copper pennies.
Tehri handed him the coins and he prepared the goods with a loving, delicate touch. He wrapped each bundle of herbs in cloth and placed the fungi in small wicker boxes before loading everything into a canvas bag. Kamren took the bag for Tehri and offered to join her for the rest of the venture.
Some time later they found a quiet place out of the way to take a break. Tehri had bought them a little snack in the form of shimmer-grilled vegetables for them to eat with the extra money that Hana had given her.
While they were eating, Kamren prompted a conversation by saying, “Did you hear the rumors from the capital about the missing princess and how they hosted a massive party to celebrate her return?”
No? Tehri replied.
“It was the talk of the market all morning. Apparently she had been kidnapped or something all those years ago along with a bunch of other people. Something about those raiders. Anyway, they managed to escape and find their way back. One of them was given a really old title from way back when, but I don’t know why. I think it might have been something to do with them being an Ardent. All I know for sure is their last name is really similar to yours.”
The news hit Tehri like a landslide. Her hand drifted to the bracelet on her wrist. She dared not hope.
What was their name? she asked.
“Nairiir? Neiliir? Something like that.”
Tehri’s heart jumped. She dared not hope, but after hearing those names. It was obvious how you could get to either one from Naliir. And on top of that, they’re supposedly an Ardent who was captured by the raiders. Tehri dared to hope.
She forgot about the shopping and ran back to the house. Kamren shouted after her, but his words landed on deaf ears.
Minutes later she threw the front door open to find a startled Hana.
“Tehri? What’s going on?”
My sister! She’s free!
My sister is in the capital. She escaped with the princess!
“How do you know that?”
The merchants were talking and they said her name. Our name. They said Naliir or some close enough approximation of it.
Hana was speechless. If it was true, it was incredible news. Even so, she wasn’t sure what they could do about it. Midiris was so incredibly far away. That’s how it seemed to her at least. Granted, the furthest she had ever been from Aran Village was Talaran City. The only thing she could think of was sending a letter and praying it reached her. Before she could suggest it to Tehri, however, someone else came barging through the door.
Kamren was breathing heavily, trying not to drop all the wares he was carrying.
“You forgot the shopping, Tehri.”
And with that, the moment was, for the time being, lost.