Quasi-Indefatigable Xenolith



The Canary and the Commoner Conspire

"Are ye well, m'am?"

It was obvious that the Matron was not well, but it was respectful to ask. A kindly young common woman was already reaching down to offer what assistance she could to the disheveled woman. As was customary, the Matron, looking wretched in her torn and muddied yet still bright yellow dress, brushed the commoner off, repulsed by the though of being touched by such a low creature.

The helpful woman shrugged and revealed something. "Ye dropped these." There was an open packet with a note and two fine bottles in it, decorated with ribbons. As soon as the bedraggled Matron regained her composure from her fall into the mud, she indignantly snatched the packet and its contents away from the wretch.

"Such a fine Lady shouldn't be 'round 'ere of an evenin', m'am. Could be dangerous." It was a curious accent from the woman, not at all like the one commonly heard in that neighborhood, but the canary-dressed woman wouldn't have known that or cared. It was horrifying enough to be in this place far from decent things, her status somewhat revealed, and be forced to interact with a disgustingly low woman.

She was very short and very curt, as all women in the service of the Convocation were taught to be when speaking to underlings. "Which way to the ferry?"

The commoner smiled with surprisingly straight and white teeth, which she quickly hid behind her lips. "Lost are ye? Should be keepin' to more proper places, ain't ye?" She waved her hand up the street. "Th' docks be yonder, m'am."

Without another word, the woman moved off in the proffered direction, flinching in pain with the fall of one foot and limping strangely with the fall of the other. The commoner watched this for a few steps and then moved to follow.

The high woman hadn't got far at all when she was again interrupted. "'Scuse me, m'am, but it's custom for a girl to get a bit of a tip when she helps one such as y'self." Lips pursed at the distraction, Canary reached into the purse tied to her girdle and flung a few coins into the mud. She was strangely satisfied to see the woman scrabble down in the filth to retrieve the discarded money and she turned to continue on her way.

A few steps more and she was accosted again by the same commoner. "Beg pardon, m'am, but you ain't walkin' so good. Is there somethin' a girl can he'p with? Smooth the way a bit?"

Sighing, the Matron turned a loathing eye on the bothersome wench. She should say something, she thought. Something vile and demeaning. Something to not only put the hag off but also punish her properly for her insolence at daring to converse with the higher-born. Rather than that, something much better came to mind. "Of course you can help me. And there is a silver coin in it for you."

The common woman's eyes fairly sparkled. "How can I serve ye?"

The high woman looked down at the packet she carried. She was already pushing being late. Her superior would be very angry and vindictive if she fouled up another task. No one wanted that as a relatively new Matron trying to impress those who had given her a chance! She looked from the packet to her torn and now muddied yellow dress, her best one. It would absolutely not do to be about her Matronly duties looking like this. Still, she was late and if she failed, word would get back to Symantha, whom she had just left and from whom she had just received very strict instructions. If she botched this, she might be sent back down to the sad ranks of the dames again and never recover.

"I need you to deliver something for me."

Canary was clumsily weighing the risks and costs of the idea that had curiously popped into her head, as she had clumsily fallen into the mud. Of course, such incidences can be accidents, or they can be purposeful and portentous, just as Daavor's shipwreck and rescue had been. The Matron herself had not a clue that larger forces had placed the idea in her mind, but the common-looking woman had some inkling. She had read stories in old books about such happenings and the fine hairs on the back of her neck were tingling.

As commoners were meant to be in the presence of a money-making opportunity, she was eager. "Whate'er you need, m'am!"

There was more looking at the packet and thinking from the new Matron. It was always best to play things safe, they had taught her in school before she flunked the basic intelligence test. She put the pink-ribboned vial and note in a secreted pocket in her skirts and held out the vial with the blue ribbon. "Take this to the household of Yvette." She tried to think quickly, but it looked painful. "She is feeling low and it is an elixir to make her feel better."

The face of the common woman lit up. "Queen Evette?" This was the Queen of the whole Convocation and doing favors for such as that one would probably net a poor woman quite a tip!

Shaking her head, Canary got another pained look. "Of course not, you fool!" How silly for the beastly idiot to think that any commoner would be asked to come within a mile of Royalty! No wonder such stupid hicks could never be a part of the Convocation! "I am speaking of the Princess Yvette whose household is on Green Meadows Lane on Firsthome. Do you know the place?"

Laughing at her own hopeful presumption, the common woman nodded. "'Course it wern't be the Queen! Yeah, I know where that Princess of Fish lives, m'am."

"Good." One could almost see the Matron's mind churning away, heavily taxing the limited capacity that could easily be surmised through her eyes, turning over the ramifications. The common woman was working just as hard to mask her intrigue and let patience and bad grammar rule the moment. The Canary finally nodded her approval of the thought that had taken her mind. "Yes, you will find that she is giving birth tonight. Make certain the midwife gets that elixir and that your Princess Yvette takes it." She smiled slyly to herself, pleased at the simple brilliance of the idea that she selfishly called her own. "You will need to get cleaned up a bit and catch the next ferry across..."

Mulls, in her role as the common woman, had been distilling here before this ridiculous Matron about as long as seemed necessary and the continued raising of the hairs on the back of her neck were starting to bother her. "M'am," she scratched her nose innocently enough, "you mentioned something about silver?"

Next Chapter...

Copyright, Jason Nemrow. All rights reserved.