The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 03

The main characters with a backdrop of a town Illustration: Mandy Dixon

When he regained consciousness he found himself in a downy half-tester bed, the embroidered hangings tied back to let in a subdued beam of sunlight from the thick greenish glass of the lattice window.

His head throbbed; his throat was dry and when he tried to move there seemed to be claws jabbing into his side.

“Sir?” a voice said.

He screwed up his eyes in an attempt to see. A young woman sat in a high-backed wooden chair next to the bed.

Fiery hair showed through her filmy headdress; green-gold eyes were filled with concern.

She leaned forward, releasing a cool scent of violets about her person, and placed a cool white hand on his brow.

“He is sensible at last?”

Another figure appeared at the bedside.

Also female, dark-haired with a wild rose complexion and silver-grey eyes that regarded him searchingly.

“Yes. The fever has passed, praise be,” the first young woman replied.

By, but he’d a thirst on him! As if reading his mind, the dark-haired attendant supported his head and held a cup to his lips.

This time the perfume was spicier: sandalwood and something else he could not define.

“Sip slowly,” she told him. “That’s right. Now lie back and try to keep still.

“I shall leave you with my mistress while I prepare a posset.”

His head began to clear a little. He looked again at the person in the chair.

“Is it an angel I see?”

His voice was no more than a croak and the attempt to charm brought a smile showing a dimple at each corner of her mouth.

“Nay, sir, no angel. You still walk God’s good earth.

“I’m Jane Hatton, daughter of City Tanner and Master Guild Member Nicholas Hatton.

“This is my father’s house you rest in. May I enquire your name?”

“’Tis… Leche. William Leche.”

“Do you recall what befell you, Master Leche?”

Will frowned, thinking back through a flawed sleep of dreams.

“There was a shout for help. A woman’s voice…”

It became clear. The dim alleyway, the piteous cries of the girl, the unkempt figure with the dagger.

“That was me, sir. You came to my assistance and for that I owe you much.

“Some work-fellows brought you here. My servant, Margery, attended to your wounds.”

Will saw that he was clad in a starched linen bed-robe that was too big for his frame and prickled abominably.

Of his own garments there was no sign. He wondered uneasily how he had come by his state of undress.

His hostess made a little gesture with her hand.

“You need have no worries over your modesty, sir.

“The yard boy, Rolf, disrobed you and has seen to your personal needs.

“Your clothes are being laundered and mended. It was necessary to cut through the doublet to get to your injury.”

“Ah. And my saddle-roll? Dear God, and my horse!”

Realisation hit Will like a blow. What had become of Monarch and the saddlebags holding most of his possessions?

“Your saddle-roll is safe. As to your mount, I’m afraid I cannot say,” Jane replied.

“I left him at the inn along with my other baggage while I took a look around the town. The innkeeper expected me back within the hour!”

Will was dismayed.

“How long have I been here?”

“Three days. You took a fever, though that is hopefully past.”

“But Monarch!”

Will tried to rise. He winced as the claws in his side made themselves felt, and sank back into the bolsters with a groan.

“Sir, be still or you will have Margery to answer to. Day and night she has barely left your side.”

Will scowled.

“I’m not ungrateful, mistress, but this is a sorry plight to be in.

“I didn’t come here to lie abed, weak as a kitten and sore as a – ”

“Contain yourself,” his hostess said sharply. “Such emotion could see the fever back. I cannot speak for the consequences. Mind me?”

Once she had his attention, she went on.

“Let us consider. Where did you leave your mount? Was it the White Lion on Northgate Street?”

“I think not.”

“The Pied Bull?”

“Nor yet that.”

Will ran a shaky hand across his face.

Where in heaven’s holy name had he stabled his adored chestnut horse?

To be continued…

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