Griff helps me to my feet and we climb over the other side of the wall to the ground below. This side’s a bit easier, being only an eight foot drop to the street.
Pulling the collar of my tunic up around my neck to hide my long hair, we walk hastily down the city’s street in the direction of the gate where we had entered only hours earlier.
Shortly after we begin, we see a man patrolling not far away. We turn to go a different direction just a second too late. The man sees us and heads in our direction. We amble off as though we have important business, but that doesn’t stop the man from yelling.
“Halt!” he says in an authoritative tone. We stop in place and turn to greet the arriving officer.
A short man in a light chain mail, holding a long sword, approaches us. He has a look of contempt upon his face.
“Awright den, was all dis abow’?”
Griff looks at me questioningly. I realize I’m going to have to take over the discussion.
Trying to make my voice deep, to hide how I’m a girl wearing a man’s tunic, I respond in kind. “Oi, guvena’, we is jus’ out foe a wok we is.”
“Afta’ curfew?” he replies incredulously. “I own’t fink so. Wotcha fink yous doing?”
“We is mighty sorry, we is,” I reply, feeling goofy in my attempts to emulate the speech of the peasants we had seen earlier today. “We ‘ad got ‘ung up tokking wif our mates and los’ track o’ tha time. We’s just ‘eadin’ ‘ome now, we promise.”
“Oh, awright den,” he says, his shoulders slumping as he does. “But you bes’ be careful out dare. The Wizard sez dares evil afoot.”
“Sure thing, guvena’. We be ‘eadin’ home straigh’ away.”
The man looks us over once more before heading off in the direction we had just come from. I hear Griff let out a sigh of relief.
“I have absolutely no clue what the two of you just said.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I reassure him. “I just told him we’re heading home.”
“By the way,” he says with a light chuckle, “you might want to stop trying that crap accent. You sound like an idiot.”
“Hey, I didn’t see you taking care of the situation.”
“If I had a clue what these people were saying, then maybe I would.”
Quietly and quickly, we make our way to The Goat and The Mare. The smell of stale gruel grows in the air as we near. I hear Griff smacking his lips at the stench.
As we enter the tavern, we are greeted by the unhappy face of the lady who had served us earlier.
“Oi,” she yells, “wotcha fink ur doin’ comin’ in ‘ere at dis time a night?”
“Sorry miss,” I reply. “We is ‘avin’ a bit o’ a rat problem at the mo’ and wuz ‘oping you could put us up for the night.”
“Y’ got stirlin’?”
“Oh, yes, mum,” I answer, reaching into my back pack for a handful of coins. “Take what is right.”
She nears and looks at the coins in my hand and pulls out three quarters. “Dis’ll be abou’ white.”
She walks away without another word, leaving me and Griff standing in the doorway.
As she reaches the opposite wall, she looks back at us and screams. “Well, cummon den!”
We hustle to her side and follow her through the doorway which exits this room, to a stairwell just beyond. She leads us down the narrow staircase, where I find myself wondering how she manages to cram herself within the space which seems much narrower than she is. Upon reaching the bottom, she stops and glares. I freeze in fear of her possibly remembering us from earlier.
“Ewe two ain’t got no livestock you need fodderin’, do yas?”
“No, mum,” I answer politely, not sure what she’s asking, but knowing we don’t have any animals with us.
“Awright den, ‘ere you is,” she says as she opens the door beside her, showing a dingy room not much larger than the closet of the hotel we had been staying in only hours earlier.
Actually, I’d be willing to bet it’s smaller. Not only that, but it’s wet and dark and, I’m guessing, filled with insects and rodents that I’d rather not think about. My eyes widen as I come to the realization that this is the place where I am to sleep for the night, not to mention how the miniscule pile of hay placed in the center of the room is the only spot on which to rest.
The woman’s scowl grows larger. “Well, g’wan den. Getcher sef to bed na’.”
She waddles off as Griff and I squeeze into the room.
“Guess you get what you pay for,” Griff laughs.
“I’m pretty sure we paid more for this than the last place we stayed.”
“You know,” Griff’s laugh turns to a smirk, “I do believe you’re right. I think you should have a talk with the manager. Seems you’ve been swindled yet again.”
“Maybe in the morning,” I shrug before kneeling down onto the hay. “Considering how much sleep I’m guessing I’ll be getting tonight, I’m sure I’ll be in much more of the right mood for it.”
“You know,” Griff says, still standing above me. “We could head upstairs for a pint or two.”
“I’m fifteen,” I argue.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no age limit on drinking here. If I remember correctly, beer flowed like water in the Middle Ages, since the water was dangerously unsanitary.”
Water, I think to myself. I haven’t had anything to drink for over six hundred years. I’ve been so caught up in everything, I haven’t even considered being thirsty. Or how I need to pee.
“Um, Griff,” I say. I can hear a tone of fear in my voice. “I don’t suppose you know anything about how a girl would go about relieving herself in the Middle Ages, do you?”
Griff’s smirk grows larger as he looks around the room before he gestures to what appears to be an oversized mug in the corner.
“What’s that?” I ask, the fear in my voice growing.
“A chamberpot, kiddo.”
“I’ll step upstairs to give you some privacy. Feel free to join me if you decide you’re thirsty.”
I grimace at him as he shuts the door on his way out. At his departure, I turn my unhappy glare toward the clay pot.
I’m not going into details about what happened next, but needless to say, nature won out over my conceptions of decency and I leave the room feeling lighter, while also wondering what I am supposed to do with the leftovers.
Are there housekeepers at a place like this who would be responsible for removing that from the room? Do I actually want to sleep with a pot of my own urine next to my head? If I were to get it out of the room, where would I take it?
Did they really toss that stuff out into the street? Not only does that go completely against my personal rules of cleanliness, I’d hate to be caught as the person who throws their pee out the window when it is in no way the tradition of the region.
I choose to leave it in the room, deciding that I can ask Griff about it later, and head upstairs to find something to drink.
Go to Chapter Twenty