In the Wagon
(Continued from On the Way to Marshend: CrossingtheStream)
"I'm Aerin," she told the beaten woman. "Yesterday we ran into trouble, and our Septa was shot with an arrow. Do you have healing skills?" she asked, ignoring the woman's bruises for the moment.
The woman hesitated, and then nodded. "Some of the crannog methods. But I'll tell you - there's little that I can do here and now. We need to get to somewhere we can stop and get a fire going."
"Better we get to Marshend as soon as we can," Aerin told her. She gave the woman a more careful look. "If you need water or a cloth or some salve.. The water's right there," she pointed to the small cask.
"I'd tend your lip, but..." she looked at her arm in a sling. "I'm needing help myself."
The strange woman looked at her with compassion, and then bent to wash her face with a rag dipped in the cask.
"What happened to you?"
Aerin pulled out one of the Septa's salve jars and placed it near the woman. "We were attacked by armed men yesterday. They tried to take me. They were looking for a woman with a wolf. They got the wrong one, but they seemed desperate, as if they were running out of time."
"I have a cat, not a wolf. Shade won't hurt you, just so you know," Aerin added quickly. "He only hurts those who hurt me. Or him. Like Hex out there. Hex once had Shade in a cage. But I think Shade isn't going to hurt him today," she said rambling.
"Who are you?" she asked suddenly.
The woman turned and looked at her - and then smiled. "A cat can be a brave companion. And I trust Shade will realise Hex is a good man ...
About the same time Shade stopped playing with his food Aerin thought to herself.
"My name is Gwendla and I come from the Neck - the marshlands there. My people are called the crannog - and we live in houses that are built over the water of the marshes. But I was captured and brought North by men who ... who have forced Hex to serve them too." She touched her lip. "Their leader - he did this. And I shall have the heart out of him for doing it."
Aerin nodded at that, as if it were a perfectly reasonable thing to want.
Before she could say more, the wagon drew to a halt.
After a moment, the cloth covering was pulled aside and a woman with long dark hair and a strong, practical face climbed in - and stared at them all for a moment. "I am Septa Mariam," she said. "A healer ... and it looks as though more than one of you needs my services ... "
Aerin pointed to her Septa. "The Septa first, if it pleases you lady. She was shot with an arrow yesterday morn. She's.. not doing well. She's feverish."
The Septa gave a swift nod, and then moved forward to the bed where the Septa lay in a weak, fitful doze, Ranulf sitting beside her.
Mariam looked at her swiftly, but with a clearly trained eye.
"We need to get her into the cottage at once," she said. "A guard ... two - to carry her. Can one of you organise that - and quickly?"
Gwendla looked at Aerin.
Aerin moved to the front of the wagon and stuck her head out. "The Septa needs to be moved. Two men," she told him. "Hurry. The healer is worried."
It was only a moment later the Septa was being moved by two of the men from Clearwater into the house.
Aerin picked up the Septa's bag, hesitated, then handed the bag to Gwendla. Then she pulled out her own pack of things and slung it, and grabbed her short blade. The one she wasn't supposed to have brought. "Let's go. Follow them inside the house," she told Gwendla and Ranulf. "I'm behind you. Don't stop. For anything," she said firmly.
Gwendla and Ranulf followed the men carrying the Septa - although Gwendla paused, as though she would say something to Hex, before moving on. Then Aerin found herself in a group that included Hex (Shade was moving in a slow, thoughtful semi-circle some twenty feet behind him) and the Steward, but also a strange woman.
(Continued in Outside the Septa's House)