Chapter 3 – Educating the Dalta

I sat the Lunamae precariously on my lap at the table as we went over letters again. As a four-year old, she had plenty of energy—too much at times for my liking—and I found she would calm down if I got her situated where she couldn’t easily run off. Nevertheless, I was determined to make sure she kept learning as much as I could teach her, no matter the energy level.

I had a few sticks laid out on the table as well as some objects. I held an apple in my hand and asked her what it was.

“Appew,” she said confidently. While she didn’t pronounce it perfectly, I didn’t expect her to at her age.

“What does the word ‘apple’ start with Lunamae?” I asked her. The child looked into my eyes. She shared the same blue color as her mother and they sparkled. She looked down and grabbed three sticks. She formed the letter “a” and looked back at me.

“Good girl, Luna,” I said. “How about this one?” I held up one of Logan’s leather belts. Logan had gone into apprenticeship with the cordwainer and he liked experimenting with the leather so much he decided to attempt to make some belts as well (with the help of my father attaching the metal parts).

“Bell—” Lunamae paused and pursed her lips together. “Belt!” She grabbed some more twigs and changed the letter than was on the table into a “b”. I looked at her proudly.

“Mewen,” Lunamae said, calling me by name in her childish speech.

“What is it?” I asked her.

“When is my mommy coming to see me again?” I looked somberly at her. It had been more than a few weeks since Angharad had the time to see her daughter. She was in negotiations with some clans and then delivering gifts to others when weddings took place. My own mother had been gone most days as well, keeping Angharad company and attending to her needs. At least Lunamae was aware of Angharad being her mother and not I. Throughout the years I had cared for her as my mother had warned me. It wasn’t so bad. Lunamae for the most part was well behaved (although she did enjoy darting from the house and having me chase after her). This made looking after her a bit easier since any trouble caused by her would be my family’s responsibility.

“Soon, Lunamae,” I told her. “It’s almost your birthday and you’ll be five. Do you know how much five is?” Lunamae held up her left hand, fingers sprawled.

“I miss mommy,” she said, putting her hands down violently on the table, a few twigs fell off as she did so. I combed my fingers through her hair which was getting quite long. She calmed down.

“I know. I miss them both too,” I said, referencing my aunt and my own mother. “She loves you. That is why you are here with family. We love you too.” Lunamae shifted anxiously in my lap and I knew the time for learning letters was past. I knew something which would make Lunamae happy. “Would you like to go out and learn about herbs?” The little girl nodded wildly and she jumped off my lap. After putting on an apron and a couple supplies for the apron pockets, I took her by the hand and let her out of the house, making sure to blow out any lit candles and adjusting the fire.

The apothecary had been more than happy to aid in both our learning, but there was only so much we could learn within the boundaries of the moat. I was finally to the point where venturing past the Humble Bridge also crossed my mind, but I was terrified still of bringing a four-year old across who had been longing for her mother. We walked toward the apothecary shop and since it didn’t have a door (as we were all family, if someone stole it would be very easy to find the culprit), we just walked in. Talfrin was there to greet us. He was sorting bottles and measuring herbs to add to empty ones.

“Good day to you Muirenn,” he said jovially. He looked down at the angel-faced Lunamae and asked how she was doing on this day. The child beamed.

“It’s gonna be my berfday and I get to see mommy!” Lunamae exclaimed. Being the daughter of the clan leader, she was looked on with sympathy most of the time. The others in the village understood she didn’t have as much time with her birth mother as the rest of the youngsters.

“We’ll be there to celebrate it,” Talfrin said. He and his wife Nia, may she rest with the Creator in peace forever, were also a part of our clan. I think I remember Father saying he was a third uncle to me. He was probably nearing his fiftieth season with us as his grays and wrinkles were showing and his hair was balding, but the lines on his face were of happiness and joy rather than sorrow and pain. The apothecary excused himself to wash up. He came back a few minutes later with a couple of baskets and handed one to Lunamae. She took it proudly. “Are you both ready to learn about plants and their properties?”

“Yes Mistah Tawfurn,” Lunamae said shyly, her arms behind her back. I nodded.

“I think you are both able to cross the bridge today,” he said. “There are only so many plants available in the keep’s garden, and most of those are only used for cooking. We will have to venture out a little farther today.”

“Are you sure she’ll be fine?” I asked.

“She’ll be fine if she recited something. Has she learned anything new?” the herbalist asked me. I thought for a moment and realized we could go over the alphabet. I nodded and Talfrin urged us forward. The apothecary shop was at the north end of the village and our house was on the southern end, closer to the Humble Bridge. As we ventured closer, we passed by the stables and my father waved us along. We also passed by the cordwainer’s shop. My brother was outside and knew we had frequent trips to Talfrin’s shop. He came to greet us with a gift in store for the apothecary.

“I thought this might be helpful to you for customers.” Logan handed Talfrin a few leather pouches that looked very well made. I assumed he made them since they had a small “L” notched in the side to designate him as the creator, much like branding a cow. “They are only prototypes. I didn’t know if you’d like them or not so I only made a few. You can have these at no cost. If you want more let me know and I’ll work out a good deal with you.”

“Thank you, Logan,” Talfrin said with authentic appreciation. “This would be a less expensive route than the glass bottles I had been using. I never thought to use leather even though it’s more widely available.”

The merchants from Fanarion always had something unique, things we had never seen before when they came on their yearly visit. Glass was one of the first new things introduced. They were able to make it with the vast amounts of sand they had on their beaches since they were on the coast of the Sea of Ayreni. Sometimes they’d bring up interesting foods and drinks. I wasn’t particularly fond of their coffee, but some of the other women in the village were (and especially Chief Dame Angharad). The women of Chalos, who visited even less, gave us chocolate which I loved even more. I found if I wanted to ease the bitterness of coffee, I could add a bit of chocolate which was sweeter. The Chalosians made their chocolate from a cocoa plant and then added cane sugar. Their villages were surrounded by dense and humid forests filled with a multitude of interesting plants. I am told those are called “jungles”. The word makes me laugh as do some of the names of the villages. Veekah sounds more like Lunamae mispronouncing something rather than a place where people would live.

Logan waved us on and we continued towards the bridge. We passed our house and a few more before we were between the keep and the bridge.

“Are you ready?” Talfrin asked. I was as ready as I’d ever be.

“Lunamae, do you want to recite the alphabet with me as we skip over the bridge?” I asked. The girl puffed up her lips and cheeks in protest but saw the shocked look on my face and then nodded sweetly. “I’m ready.”

Distracting Lunamae with recitation wasn’t hard at all and I quickly realized the bridge was not as intimidating as it had been when I was younger. We were able to quickly cross over with no problems, and the bridge didn’t disappear when we were over it.

“Good job you two,” Talfrin said. “Now let’s go look for some plants. There is a wooly looking plant, with leaves similar to mint, I am in need of. It’s called merubiam. I can use it to treat coughs and ailments of the lungs as well as colds. I make it into a juice that is quite bitter but effective. It might be flowering this time of year if we are lucky.” We walked a few meeleys away from the keep. We didn’t go much farther because we would be out of sight of the watchmen who kept guard of the lands. It wasn’t safe to be out of their sight, especially if a warring clan were to find us. With Lunamae in our custody there was easily a good ransom to be had in her capture and with my being a close relative it wouldn’t bode well for me either.

“Found it Tawfurn!” Lunamae said, skipping towards Talfrin, the basket in her right hand swaying along with her arms. In other hand was a clump of the merubiam, roots and all.

“I don’t need quite so much of the plant, little one,” Talfrin said, carefully removing the leaves and shoots and putting them into Lunamae’s basket.

“What else is there we could look for today?” I wondered aloud. Talfrin thought to himself and replied,

“Yarrow would be good for this time of year. With the planting season I can see some of the farmers getting injured. You never know when an ox or horse wants go their own way while plowing.” He explained the plant is easy to spot because the bright white flowering buds it produces are quite tall. “The herb is good for flesh wounds and other skin abrasions as it encourages clotting although I hear the monks at Bexweth use them in the flavoring of their beer. You could also cook it like you would with spinach or use it in a soup, but the taste is bitter which is why I think it’s preferred as an ingredient for beer.”

Talfrin went one way and I took Lunamae with me in the direction of the village. I knew I had seen the plant before so I directed the little girl with me to a fencepost. Sure enough, the yarrow was there as described. I remembered I hadn’t asked what part of the plant was to be used so I did as Lunamae had done earlier and took the whole plant, root and all, in hand. I took Lunamae’s hand with my free one and we set back to look for Talfrin.

We found the apothecary on the ground; his arm had an arrow, fletching and all, protruding from it. Though there was a lot of blood loss from the wound, he appeared to be fine otherwise. At his age a wound as he had could be life-threatening. It was good he was an herbalist.

“Mistah Tawfurn, what happened?” Lunamae inquired cautiously. Talfrin held his arm and tried to get up on his own but it was hard. I helped him.

“We must head back to the village quickly. I was attacked by bandits. They shot me from a distance first and then tried to rob me. The only thing I had of any value was Logan’s leather pouches. They took those and ran. I am too old to be of any bother, especially since I hadn’t a weapon with me. I see you have gathered the yarrow. I will be fine. How well are your needleworking skills Muirenn?”

“N-n-needleworking?” I said hesitantly. I was sixteen and should be more than capable but I hadn’t had time to do much in womanly arts having Lunamae as my charge. I had been dedicating most of my time teaching her as was promised in the altram ceremony.

“Why yes, someone is going to have to stitch this up. I hope you have been practicing. I will need this wound to stop bleeding and be cleaned with ointment on it first. Don’t worry, the yarrow gathered will both ease my pain and help clot the area so I wouldn’t feel it as much and will be helpful in getting rid of any foul substances cause by the arrowhead,” Talfrin stated. I winced at the thought of stitching up real flesh. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like penetrating skin with the needle and the flesh becoming taut with the pull of the thread. I just gulped down the thought and walked beside Talfrin. Lunamae and I led him back to the keep.

The journey took about an hour and as we approached we heard the sound of the watchmen who apparently had caught sight of Talfrin’s arm, arrow still attached. Someone blew a horn three times and I could see Angharad and my mother running out of the keep, both holding their skirts high enough to travel properly. It was easy enough for them to cross the bridge as they certainly weren’t thinking about themselves. The horn being blown three times meant Lunamae was in danger. They never blew the horn even once before.

“What happened?” Angharad firmly asked the apothecary. The man winced in pain, still holding the hurt arm.

“Bandits, although I am not sure it was all they were,” he replied. The chief dame looked at the fletching on the arrow and raised an eyebrow as she inspected it (making sure not to actually touch the injured Talfrin).

“It is quite odd that the Wuriven would come this far to the south. I thought they were a pleasant and otherwise peaceful clan. This may not have been organized. A few rebels can ruin the name of the whole clan. Remember Ulric?” Angharad and Talfrin exchanged looks. I had heard about the story of Ulric. He had been from our village when we were first becoming a sizeable clan and had stolen an insurmountable amount of goods from local merchants. He would meet traders at the King’s Pass and offer them at a very low cost. He was later caught and strapped to the Humble Bridge. I was told he was used to test the Humble Bridge on whether or not the spell worked when they magicked it. In every village there was to be expected a few rotten pieces of wood. Luckily Ulric was found out.

“Perhaps, my lady, it would be a good idea to meet with the Wuriven clan,” my mother offered.

The chief dame replied, “Perhaps, Adelle.” She looked down at Lunamae who was wide-eyed and beaming at the sight of her. “Lunamae, how are you?”

“Good mommy!” The child dropped her basket and offered her hands up to her mother. Angharad didn’t hesitate and lifted her offspring into her arms. Lunamae put her head on her mother’s shoulder and asked, “What’s gonna happen to Mistah Tawfurn?”

“We’ll make sure he is cared for well,” Angharad replied softly, brushing her hand over the girl’s face. “Let us talk about something else, like what you want us to do for your birthday.”

I left the two for a moment and followed Talfrin up to the keep after retrieving Lunamae’s basket. Because he was the best person to go to in case of injuries or sickness within the keep, he had a room there and supplies.

“None of the other ladies can do this?” I asked, referring to the stitching of his wound once the arrowhead was removed.

“You are strong Muirenn. While you haven’t seen battle, you have seen hardship. The ladies of the keep would not be able to stomach it as you would. I have faith in you,” Talfrin said. His words gave me confidence and hope. With the help of a few guards supporting the apothecary who was weak from the blood loss, I wandered into the keep and took a left upon entering to go up the stairs. He had all his supplies on the level of the living quarters (for obvious reasons). I followed the guards and Talfrin from a distance until we were led into the room. It was very similar to his shop actually, with shelves of labeled bottled herbs and some pre-made poultices on wooden shelves. The room had no windows so it was rather dark. The guards used the sconces on the walls outside the room to light the many candles in the room.

“Do you require anything?” One of the guards asked.

“Some boiling water to start,” Talfrin answered. When the guards left he addressed me. “I have a mortar and pestle on one of the shelves on the far wall. I need you to take the leaves and flowering parts of the yarrow plant and crush them in the mortar. You will probably need to add some water to get a good consistency. That is one of the reasons why I asked the guards for boiling water. I want to make sure it is free of impurities. The other need is to clean the wound out. You will have to be brave Muirenn. I will not be able to remove the arrowhead by myself the way it is. I will want you to put a little of the mixed yarrow on the wound to ease the pain and then you are going to have to pull the arrow out and be mindful of the shaft that you don’t break it low. I would hate to have it dug out.”

Sewing up his arm was one thing, burrowing into flesh to remove an arrowhead was another. I tried to be strong in order to pull it out. The guards arrived a few minutes later with a pot of boiling water. I asked for a little bit for my mixture and once the water was added it was much easier to grind the plant bits together.

“Muirenn, there are some clean strips of fabric in the cabinet farthest from the door. You will need those after you have applied the poultice.” I rummaged through the cabinet and pulled out several strips of linen. “Now come here and help with this arrow.”

I walked toward him and realized I would need a knife or something sharp to cut the fabric. I had carried a knife in my apron and I took it out. I began to work on the arm fabric on Talfrin’s shirt. I was careful to not jar the portion around the arrow shaft. After carefully removing the piece of clothing, Talfrin breathed a sigh of relief.

“It looks as though it bypassed the bone and is in a bit of muscle,” he said. The arrow had gone completely through; the bit of the head could be seen on the other side of his arm. I explained the situation to him since he couldn’t see the underside of his arm. “You will have to drive the arrow shaft forward and then make a clean break on either end. You have to remove both the fletching and arrowhead ends.”

I did as was instructed. It was very hard to do without causing Talfrin to wince but I had put the yarrow around the wounds as he had instructed earlier so the pain was much less. The wound oozed blood but it wasn’t bleeding as bad as before due to the healing properties of the yarrow plant. Once the pieces of the arrow were removed I poured some of the boiling water in the wound. He groaned in agony but made sure it was all clean before I could stop. I then put the poultice within either side and wrapped it in the clean linens.

“You have done very well,” Talfrin said proudly. “You know, I have been thinking you would have made the perfect apprentice if you weren’t female. We should continue your training. You can handle situations like this very well. You could have Lunamae tag along. She will need some of the knowledge as well for when she grows up. In a few days I will need you to stitch the wound together. Right now it needs to heal a bit and I want to make sure it doesn’t get infected before you stitch it.”

“Yes, Mister Talfrin,” I said.

“I’ll be fine if you leave me here. I think it best if you get your mind over the events of the day and help Lunamae with her party.” I did as Talfrin instructed. I walked back through the upper level corridor, took the stairs in the tower down to the first floor and then wandered around to find Lunamae who I assumed was with her mother. I found my own mother while searching.

“How is Talfrin doing?” she asked me. She was carrying a basket of sewing equipment and held some bolts of fabric under her arm. I shrugged.

“I took the arrow out and put a bandage on it. He wants me to sew it up later.”

“I am sure you can handle it,” my mother stated, a little too unsurprised. I pretended not to notice.

“Where is Lunamae?” I wondered, diverting the subject. My mother pointed to outside the keep.

“She is with Angharad in the cook house. They are discussing what kind of cake to make for the birthday party tomorrow. I’ll be up in the sewing room if you need me. I have been given the task of making Lunamae a new dress.” She left to go up the stairs and I headed to the cook house. I don’t often have a need to go there since it services just the keep, but everyone in the village had at one point in time been able to smell the scents of freshly made foods wafting out into the air. It was particularly evident in the summer months when fire smoke didn’t pollute the fragrances. The house was a short walk from the keep as the staff needed to be able to quickly deliver. It was separate from the keep because of the risk of fire. The fires of the cook house, it seemed, never stopped burning. Sure enough, Lunamae was there, in her mother’s arms no less. After a few more minutes of discussion, the chief dame said her goodbyes and left Lunamae to my charge. I took her back to the house and prepared her for the party the next day.


Lunamae woke me up from my pleasant sleep. She was practically bouncing off the walls of the house, announcing at the top of her lungs she was five. I let her shout for a bit as I slowly got myself out of bed. At my age, birthdays were a constant reminder I was growing older and unmarried. Those my age were already having children of their own. To me, it seemed, Lunamae was much like my child since I raised her from a babe.

“I’m coming, birthday girl,” I said groggily. I found a comb and brushed out my hair. I hadn’t paid much attention to it in recent years. The brown I used to have was turning into auburn and getting to be quite tangled as well. The spring air helped with all the rains we had. I pulled on a linen shift and then found a clean wool overdress. Once I had put those two on, I finished with a belt around my waist after first looping my herb pouch through it. I found my shoes in the corner of the loft. They had been made by my brother Logan, his branding evident on the heel. I heard the sound of the bodhrán and fiddle and some pipes and realized that Angharad had requested a parade to pick up Lunamae at our house to take her to the keep. Lunamae heard the music and stuck her head out the window.

“I see mommy!” she yelled. I walked down the loft, noticing Lunamae was wearing the new dress my mother had made. My mother had the door shut to her room and I realized she must have spent the whole night working on it.

“She’s got too much energy,” Logan said. I turned and noticed him in the cooking area of the house, sipping on what appeared to be hot tea. “I didn’t realize it was so hard getting a child dressed in the morning.”

“You did it with one arm?” I asked surprised and Logan turned up his mouth in a quirky grin.

“I had to keep reminding her to stay calm or she would rip her dress. She was excited to wear it so she obeyed for the most part. I didn’t want to wake you after the day you had yesterday.” Logan took a sip of his tea and walked over to me. “Do you think you can endure eight more years?”

“Heh,” I said, not amused. Truly, I longed for male companionship and friends. It was tiring to care for a child by one’s self. I couldn’t do anything with people my own age and I didn’t have time to court either. I was a bit surprised requests weren’t being sent by other clans interested in arranging marriage in exchange for alliances, being the niece of a chief dame. Granted, with the birth of an heir, that changed things.

The birthday entourage arrived and my brother and I escorted Lunamae out to follow the entertainers to the keep. I knew my parents would be along soon. They would be looked down on if they were to miss it.

After we were led into the keep we stopped for a moment so Lunamae could be joined with her mother and be seated first in the feasting hall. My brother and I were next and then others followed. My parents arrived shortly thereafter and were seated next to Logan. Servants came around with ewers of water and bowls and a towel to wash our hands with. Then they distributed napkins to us all. The entertainment continued as the meats, vegetables, mutton and fruit pies, and drinks were brought forth. There was beef, suckling pig, lamb, and stuffed geese present. I could tell each by their coloration and the way they were presented (the suckling pig and goose being the most evident since they retained their shapes). For this special occasion, the guests were given the last honey mead of the season. It was one of my favorite beverages. It had the flavor of honey but with a mild mix of alcohol. I preferred it over ale or the beer the Bexweth Abbey monks produced.

We tried to keep Lunamae in our discussions but somehow we branched off-topic to the Wuriven clan.

“Will you be sending an investigative party to them?” my father asked the chief dame. While he was a farrier by trade, he was still her brother and had previously been an advisor to Chieftain Leofric when he was still alive and ruling.

Angharad shifted uncomfortably, but still made an effort to answer. “I am considering it. They may not know they have wolves in their midst. I would, of course, make sure there was a suitable amount of guardsmen following along for protection. I have made more inquiries with Talfrin—who is doing better—on the size of the bandit group that attacked him. He did not recall it being much more than a handful.”

“Who shall go to initiate conversation?” My father asked.

“Keolan, you know you are too close in the bloodline to go yourself. I can send one of my advisors,” my aunt answered. I dodged out of listening to anymore of the conversation and decided it would be better to make talk with Lunamae so she would have her head filled with happy thoughts. We talked about how much we had learned this past week and what we were going to do the next. She was very eager to learn when she could start needlework because she wanted to “sew up people” too. Luckily, I still had another day before that service was required of me.

The party ended after a fabulous cake was presented and then promptly eaten. Chief Dame Angharad had imported chocolate from Chalos specifically for this event. After all the festivities had concluded, I ushered a weary Lunamae back to the house for a nap. I could only imagine what her other birthdays would be like. Hopefully none were preceded with violence.

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