Chapter Ten (part I)

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Gentlemen, let us not shed too many tears for our cousins in the Northerns. They are a hardy people, who have for generations thrived beyond society, and they must be hardy yet ere these lands of ours are fully civilized. No man, unless he is a fool, lives in the Northerns territories ignorant of the hardships he chooses. So let us not coddle them. They've built cities before without aid from the Southlands, and they shall do so again.

If we are to send our means and men over such a burdensome distance, let it be to build the Wolfmarch. Let it be to defend our northern interests from our most untamed relations. With the Northerns and the Wolfmarch in hand, we Folk will be strong, and with strength, we may be independent. Let it be our singular vision that we may all live to see a day when we Folk break with the Baelgast and finally join the modern nations of the world.

(Letter to The Ethelsburg Gazette)

.:.

Frederick and I did not get a child. Two weeks passed -- two weeks during which I waited and worried and prayed, my thoughts running often to Ruby and Mathilde, Darlene and my mother -- and then, one morning near the middle of Grazingmonth, I woke up aching and bleeding and exceedingly grateful. I said a prayer to the Mother of All, begging her forgiveness for shunning her gifts, and thanked her a dozen times for not insisting on bestowing them upon me, anyway. Never had I been so glad to be so wretched.

Alas, the wretched cramping gave way almost immediately to a wretched toothache. Each day, it grew, and it grew, and it grew, keeping me awake more and more through the night. By first Hayingmonth, my face hurt from my jaw to my ears to my eyebrows, and I could endure wretchedness no more.

It was Edgar who decided enough was enough. He blinked at me groggily when I went in to wake him, muttering, "Good morning," and then he cut himself off, his eyes suddenly wide and alert. "Aethelbryne... Are you alright?"

"Ach, I'm just tired." A glimpse of myself in the wash stand mirror showed me I looked every bit as wretched as I felt. "It's this toothache. It's kept me awake all night."

Edgar sat up, saying, "I'll fetch a doctor," then he seemed to remember his undress and tucked the sheet up round his naked ribs.

"It's not so bad as that..." I dismissed the idea with a wave of my hand. "I can walk over."

"Go, then. I'll manage here."

"The porridge is on the fire." I put down the ewer, an unlooked-for hope stirring in my heart -- a reprieve from pain and weariness! "And the kettle, too."

Edgar flicked his hand toward the door. "I'll manage it."

I left him then and went more or less immediately to Doctor Brown's office, hoping he was in and free. Alas, he was not. The squat woman who was either a maid or a nurse informed me the doctor went across the river late the night before, to help a woman struggling in childbirth. She made me a cup of rosehip tea and left me sitting in an upholstered chair in his examining room.

I had finished the tea and was half-dozing when Doctor Brown returned. He cried, "Oh, Miss Shaw!" and my head jerked up. I blinked at him, my heart racing, both muzzy and sharply alert.

"Ethel didn't tell me you were here..." Doctor Brown was pale and rumpled, but he seemed in high spirits. A chain of wilted daisies rested upon his head. "Is it the cough, again?"

"No, it's a toothache."

"Ah." Doctor Brown patted the tall examining table. "I'll take a look."

He put down his bag and washed his hands. I just sat there a moment, stupidly watching him work soap lather between each and every finger, then I heaved a sigh, dragged myself out of the chair, and climbed up onto the table -- and I wished I could curl up on it, even though it would've made for a very hard and cramped bed.

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