I wake up the following morning to the feeling of suddenly being doused in some sort of warm liquid.
“You really should empty out your chamber pot when you’re done with it,” Griff says roughly.
I jump to my feet. A scream begins to escape my lips as I realize Griff is laughing with Agnes at his side and holding a dripping water pitcher in his hand. I punch him hard in the gut.
“What the hell, Griff?” I scream. “These are my only clothes.”
“Yeah, and they looked like they were in a severe need of cleaning.”
I cross my arms and push through him and Agnes to the stairwell.
“Ah, come on, kid. It’s just a little joke.”
“Oi, lassy. Oi’ve got a change o’ clothes fer ye.”
“Yeah, kid. We figured you couldn’t go around in the daylight wearing one of those tunics. Not too many people are going to mistake you for a dude.”
I turn around slowly and see Agnes is holding a pile of fabric in her hands.
“It ain’t much, darlin’, but it should fitcha awright. Tis one o’ my old dresses, back when I were a smaller lass.”
I walk to her and lift the dress out of her hands, inspecting it closely.
“It’s gorgeous,” I say, looking the simple design over. Most of the cloth consists of a plain white woolen undergarment, a simple dress to be worn under the tunic which accounts for the design of the outfit. Over that goes a leather sleeveless top combined with a flowing green woolen skirt, separated by a simple belt of gilded leather. The dress must have been expensive for the time, since it’s something which would be the envy of people even in my time.
I look at Agnes, seeing her for the beauty she truly is, even in her enlarged state, and realize the sight she must have been in the dress she just handed me. I give her a tight hug.
“Thank you,” I say softly.
“’Tis nothing, lass. Oi shoulda trown it ow’ aiges ago. Glad t’see it git sum use.”
I look eagerly to Griff.
“Go ahead,” he grins. “Try it on already. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
I reenter the room and shut the door behind me, speedily removing the dripping, dirty tunic from my cold body and tossing it into the corner next to the chamber pot. Carefully I pull the white gown over my head, finding the rough wool against my skin both comforting and itchy at the same time. Once I pull the tunic over the dress, I feel like a completely different person.
I walk out of the room, an enormous smile plastered on my face, and instinctively do a twirl to show off my new outfit.
“Oi, girly,” Agnes says with a gasp. “Ewe is beootiful.”
“She’s right,” Griff agrees. “That dress was made for you.”
The fit of the dress is perfect, almost as if it were, in fact, made for me.
“Let’s go upstairs,” Griff breaks my reverie. “I want to see this thing in some proper light.”
Almost giggling, I glide up the steps behind the pair who seem to have taken on a rather close rapport. I should probably look into that more later. For now, I choose to enjoy the moment.
Once we get into the common area, with the light shining through the front windows, I see the designs etched into the skirt’s fabric. Golden thread courses throughout, creating repeated patterns of leaves and flowers. It’s magnificent.
“Oi ‘eated sum porridge, if ewes is ‘ungry.”
It takes a moment before I realize Agnes is talking to me, and after becoming aware, another moment to realize I’m feeling quite ravenous.
“Oh, yeah, I’d kill for some breakfast,” I say, turning to look at our innkeeper. She digs a ladle into the same pot which had contained the gruel yesterday. She brings up a bowl and I see her scoop a substance which looks an awful lot like the same dish into it. She slides it over to me across the bar and I look down, realizing the term for porridge must mean something completely different than I was thinking.
I look to Griff with concern on my face.
“Sorry, Aggie. She hasn’t got the taste for pottage yet. You got anything else she can nosh on this morning?”
“Well, awl Oi’ve get is sum more bread un ale. Tha werkin’ man’s breffast, theys say.”
“Sounds great,” I say ashamed. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, miss,” Agnes responds as she gathers the bread from below the counter. “Oi wouldn’t et tha stiff if’n I din’t need ta eiver.”
“Like I keep saying,” Griff cheers as he reaches for the freshly poured bowl of gruel, “more for me.” He follows that up by singing under his breath, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old.”
“Tha’s a fine rhyme,” Agnes says as she places the bread in front of me and reaches to fill a mug with ale. “Ewe wri’ it?”
“No, that’s a rather archaic rhyme where we come from. Feel free to use it.”
“Oi fink I will,” she answers as I dig into my bread.
This bread is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, outside of, possibly, the stuff Father Addy had given us. I was a little too overly hungry at that point to pay it any attention. It’s obviously a far cry from the squishy sliced white bread which most commonly accompanies my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
This has a thick crust on the outside that almost cuts the cheeks as you bite into it, which isn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling. Once you get inside of it, the bubbly texture of the meat of the bread is almost gooey and tastes a lot like the sourdough I had when my parents took me to San Francisco. It’s brilliant and delicious.
I almost consider grabbing a bowl of the gruel just to have something to dip it in.
“Alright, kid. You ready to do some humping today?”
“Wha’?” I ask through my full mouth.
“Gotta work the crowd today. Aggie says the best way to get into the cathedral and close to The Wizard is to make ourselves up to look like visiting nobility or something like that. Maybe relatives of King Uthyr’s? That means we’ve gotta get ourselves decked out like nobles. Them clothes are a good start for you. We’ll still need some horses, probably a carriage. Some weaponry wouldn’t be a bad thing to consider, and—“
“Alright, I get it, we need to get stuff. How do you suppose we’re going to do that?”
“Simple, kid. Same way we get anything. We play the game.”
“Right, but do we have any game to play? Seems like the rules would change considering we’re in a completely different time and place.”
“Don’t fool yourself, kid. The rules never change.”
“Really? What about #17?”
“I stand by #17. #17’s a great rule.”
“Sure seems like you’re breaking it with both me and Agnes, not to mention your mysterious teacher.”
“You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you?”
“Wha’s rule sev’teen?”
“Never trust a woman,” I say through clenched teeth. “Griff’s been trying to tell me there’s nothing sexist about that rule for a while now.”
“It isn’t sexist. It’s a well-known scientific fact that women are always hiding something and therefore shouldn’t be trusted.”
“If it’s any consolation,” Griff attempts a recovery, “I shouldn’t be trusted either.”
“Ewe kin say dat agin.”
I laugh at Agnes’ response, which causes Griff to throw up his hands in frustration.
“Hey, I don’t make up the rules, okay? They were made up ages ago.”
“We are ages ago. What’s to say you’re not going to be the one who makes them?”
“That’s a good point. I could start a legacy!”
“Yeah, that’s just what we need: You to have an even bigger head.”
“Hey now,” Griff smirks. “My head can always use a little enlargement. And this is cheaper than surgery.” He laughs at his own joke while Agnes looks on in confusion. “Alright, fine. You ready to get out and start the day yet?”
“Yeah,” I answer, followed by a large sip of my ale. I could really get used to drinking this. It’s definitely more refreshing than water, even at the warm temp. That, and for some reason, my mind seems to get a mite clearer after a few sips. No wonder people like the stuff so much. “You gonna give me any idea of what swindle we’re pulling today?”
“I still haven’t quite worked that out yet. I was kinda thinking we might be able to pull some sort of version of the Beijing Tea Scam, or maybe a Bogus Escrow? I also considered just a straight old Police Impersonation, but with the whole Wizard thing going on, people might figure that out early, and we wouldn’t want that. Then again, we could always—“
“Couldn’t we just work a few Good Samaritans? This old stuff should be pretty easy to fix, right?”
“I could see that working,” Griff nods his head in agreement. “Seems like a bit more work involved than some of our other options, but, you know, if you’re willing to take them on.”
“Sheesh, you really are lazy. Come on, how hard could it be to fix things from the Middle Ages? Heck, we’d probably make them work better.”
“That gives me an even better idea!” Griff says as he claps his hands and stands. “We could work a good ol’ Water-Powered Car scam. It would be perfect!”
“Except they don’t have cars, Griff.”
“You know what I mean.”
“You want to split up and see who can get their task done first?”
“You mean a Scam-Off?”
“Yeah, sure. We’ll see who’s faster, master or apprentice.”
“I like it, kid. But don’t get cocky. I’m still the master.”
“Sure you are. Oh, weren’t we going to stop by Geoffrey’s place before we got too deep today?”
“We were, but now that you’ve mentioned a Scam-Off, I think we need to change our priories.”
“Whatever you say, master,” I grin slyly.
“Watch it, kid.”
“Right, whatever. So, what do you want me to take on?”
“I could really use a fresh change of clothes. You want to deal with the horses?”
“Fine, horses it is.”
“Wha’ kin I do?” Agnes asks.
“You wanna learn the game?” Griff asks.
“Hey,” I shout. “No help!”
“Fine. We don’t need you right now, Aggie. Why don’t you stay around here and keep your ears open. Maybe your old buddy Wyllt will stop by and give us some insider info.”
“Awright,” Agnes replies sadly. “Oi’ll do what I kin.”
I stand up and direct myself toward the door.
“Hey,” Griff yells after me. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Do I have to wait for you to say ‘Ready, set, go’?”
“I would think that would be the nice thing to do.”
I stand in place and give Griff a condescending look. He quickly scrapes out the inside of his bowl, slurping down the final bits he was able to retrieve from within. As he wipes his lips with the back of his wrist, he says, “Okay, ready, set, go!” and pushes past me toward the door, yelling “See you later, Aggie!” as he disappears.
I look at Agnes and smile.
“Men,” she shrugs.
“You don’t even know,” I laugh and walk out the door behind my companion. Suddenly, I realize I have no clue where to find horses and peek my head back in. “Where would I go to find a man about a horse?”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Three