Nations on the Brink (storyline)/Another Chapter Ends (vignette)

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Another Chapter Ends

Fatigue caused her limbs to feel like lead, the laden muscles just lank and lifeless at her side as she dragged her feet up each step towards her room. Hubricht, for all his failings, was with the Baron and she had been ordered to bathe and go to bed. The chamberlain had even told her that he was going to lock her door and require she not come out until the sun was setting. She considered letting him do it, but there was so much to do. So very much to do.

The door to her chamber opened with the familiar creak and she stood stock-still in the doorway.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered out in confusion. “I didn’t realize that I’d entered the wrong room.”

Jarnsaixa chuckled in her gruff way and politely corrected, “I’m in your room. And I’m not leaving until I am sure you are fed, bathed, and tucked into bed.”

The much larger woman pointed at the copper tub that was by her fireplace, steam rolling over its lip and Odelgarde realized suddenly that there was lavender in the air. She loved lavender. She shuffled over to the edge of the tub and, forgetting her usual shyness in such situations, shucked the sewer-soaked clothing from her body as quickly as her trembling fingers would let her. The giantess stayed in her place, averting her head for the magister’s sake and not her own, and waited until she heard the sloshing sound of water that indicated the much smaller woman had slipped into the bath.

Odelgarde sat in the bottom of the tub, the water up to her shoulders, her knees to her chin, and her arms around them. She didn’t trust herself to lean back, she would be asleep instantly and she knew she needed to eat and scrub.

A quiet voice at the door, one that the giantess didn’t even blink about entering, heralded the arrival of a petite woman.

“You need to eat,” she told the much younger woman as she closed the door.

Numb, Odelgarde nodded and took the offered pieces of cheese while Jarnsaixa began to scrub her back.

“You should have let me go back into the sewers with you,” the giantess began as she helped the clearly fatigued magister get clean. “There was no reason for you to endanger yourself like that. I am meant to be a shield. I know that you have magic to guide you, but you are still young, and you may not always obtain Lorminstra’s Graces. You can’t bank on that.”

Silently, the petite woman looked over Odelgarde’s head at the giantess and something in her eyes caused the giantess's admonishments to leave her with a gusty sigh.

“You did well tonight, Odelgard,” the giantess conceded.

Odelgarde laid her chin on her knee, her eyes surrounded by dark circles. She suddenly felt so much younger than she should be for her position and rank. Dying in the sewers had been terrible, the fear of feeling the blade coming from behind, the utter blackness, and for a moment she thought she saw her mother’s face in a sea of waiting before being yanked back to the cold stone of the sewer.

“I’m going to miss you both when it is time for you to return to your duties beyond here. Hubricht is not really any kind of company.”

Chuckling, Jarnsaixa stood and laid the scrub brush by the fire.

“For tonight that is not yet here and tomorrow is a long time away,” the giantess replied. “I will wait outside while you finish. And then you will go to bed. Do not make me have the chamberlain make good on his threats.” She nodded to the petite woman by the tub and departed from the chamber.

“She’s going to miss you, too,” Odelgarde said quietly, a deep melancholy adding to the fatigue that threatened to put her to sleep.

“Yes, and I will miss her,” came the reply. “But for tonight, young lady, we will worry about you. Lay back and let me rebraid your hair for you.”

Odelgarde reclined against the back of the tub and let the petite woman tend to her hair. It reminded her of being a child and she didn’t mind that feeling, not after the night she’d had. At some point, the petite woman started to hum a song.

“That’s lovely,” Odelgarde said as she struggled to keep her eyes open.

“It’s an old elven song my uncle taught me...”

Anything else the woman said was lost as sleep finally came for the young magister.