Dry grasses whispered in the warm wind. The sun seeped along the edge of the horizon. Sand scattered beneath his shoes. The bird at his arm shifted, the creature’s hooded head twisting at the noise, sending the knotted tassel bobbing.
“First true free flight, physician. Chances are he won’t come back to you. Will you let Qasim fly?” A warm voice at his back eased his tension. Eoin leaned into the bird, pulling the ties loose and dropping the little piece of leather. The bird blinked, focusing on his face. Gold avian eyes dilated. Qasim yawned, snapping his beak and swallowing. Twisting around, the golden eagle analysed its surrounding. The bird dragged its beak through its flight feathers. A rise of his back feathers followed by a shake had him calm and ready.
Eoin unwound the leash from the bobble at his glove. Releasing the chord from the jesses at Qasim’s feet, the doctor whistled once. The bird stepped back and forth on his hand. A ground bird let out a squawk. Qasim turned to narrow in on the potential meal. Eoin put his arm out for the bird. A second whistle. The bird dug its talons into his long shirt sleeves. It squatted. Drawing in its shoulders, it launched, feathers rustling, catching the morning breeze.
Eoin woke to a draughty room filled with baskets, dried herbs, and winter provisions. Turning, he watched the banked fire, waiting on his dreams to stop pulling at his heartstrings. He was home, and yet, this was no home. Dragging himself out of his makeshift bed, he took up the iron poker and shifted coals into a pile. He laid out a set of small sticks on the coals and waited for them to catch as he washed his face in the basin of water before pulling his mask on.
With the fire roaring and the couple in the other room still asleep, he pulled a small black cauldron from the rafters. Filling it with fresh water, he shifted the tri-pronged feet of the black, pot-belly vessel into a set of large coals.
He turned from the fire to his pharmaceutical cabinet and opened up tiny drawers and doors. Into a silver cup from his chest, he carefully ladled little spoonfuls of powders and leaves, exacting in his measurements. When the water in the pot had come to a rolling boil, he poured the liquid into the cup and allowed the mixture to steep.
He returned to the legged pot and shovelled coals out from under it, letting the rolling boil come down. Turning to Seonaid’s stores, he scooped in millet and barley to set up for a morning porridge. He refused to take his mask off in front of the couple. They had found the compromise of him preparing the morning meal and eating before they rose to suit everyone in the house.
Eating quickly, he filtered the sediment from his cup and drank the steeped solution, blanching at the bitterness. He washed out the cup and bowl and set them back to order. Staring at the ornate geometry etched into the little silver cup, he ran through a list of his chores and inventory that needed to be performed.
Settled and fed, he proceeded with his compounding pots of salves and lozenges. Getting into a rhythm with his work, Eoin tended to lose track of his surroundings. He flinched when the door to Fearchar and Seonaid’s room creaked open.
“Mornin’, Waerd.” Fearchar yawned in the door frame. He scratched his chest as he walked over to inspect the cooking pot.
Morning. Eoin signed a short form reply over his shoulder.
“Work already? Ye’re awful busy. Ye still intent on goin’ ta town ta admin’ster, rather than wait up here for vis’tors?” Fearchar filled his bowl, sat at the table, and proceeded to down his breakfast.
Yes. Eoin stacked a series of short pots and thumb-sized cloth bags to the side of his work area.
“Who are ye, Eoin? Where’d ye learn ta do all a’ this? The villagers like yer medicines. The other doc in town doesn’t understand yer methods. They work, though. Ye’ve made a pretty coin and good trade-off yer business. What could there be fur such an upright man a’ society ta lead ta wantin’ ta do what ye’re paying us for? Where did you come from?” Fearchar chomped down on a spoonful of porridge. Eoin shrugged. His hired hand had a habit of asking these questions in the morning. Not like the plague doctor needed to answer. He had paid for work, not to be questioned. Eoin ignored the redhead like he did every morning.
“A Southron. Why else’ld you wear thae suit? Come frae money. How’d ye know ye’re way ‘round a cook fire? Aristocrat, how else’ld ye’ half thae gold. Yet ye serve the poor ‘n care fur the sick. Ye act as though ye grew up in the village. Ah tell ye a name. Ye ken where ye’re goin’. Yet, no’un here knows a’ ye. Ye’re a layer a’ questions, Waerd. Tha’s what ye’re.” Fearchar leaned back against the warm fireplace stone as Eoin’s piles grew. “A destitute aristocrat. Fallen from the whims a’ the crown. Had to make a living and took this on after yer wet nurse taught ye a couple draughts. Nah. Tha’s not right. Ye’d a’ stayed in yer great house had ye coin like what ye paid us. Who are ye, Mr Niloofar?”
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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