The coat is expensive. Take the coat; it’s lined with rabbit. That will bring a fine price when I goes to London. Don’t just stand there, unlace her boot. The other is wedged in the carriage.  A bit of elbow grease will mend these good as new.

Ah Gavin, they’re so bloody, turns my stomach.

Hurry! Strip her to petticoat and drawers. She’ll have no use for them, dead as she is. Did you find her pouch? She’s bound to have one, unless it tumbled down the hill. My, my, she must have been a proper lady, what with all the custom-mades on her back. Oh, never mind. ‘Tis here, in the fold of her skirt. The embroidery’s ripped and the clasp bent but it will sell. So now what do ya think? We have gloves, perfume, handkerchief, powder, half sovereigns and five pounds. The fine queen herself is smiling up at me. ‘Tis a good day indeed. Strip her down, Lil. We best be goin’.

No. I won’t take stockings or garters. She’ll need something to cover her when they take her away.

But look you, at the beadwork and ribbons on the sleeve of her petticoat. It would bring a fair price. And on this long-fingered hand, a sapphire and diamond ring! It’s swollen in place but a swift cut with my knife will take finger and all.

Gavin, leave her or the devil will have your soul. Come away now, before night falls. We’ve more than we can carry.

I’ll have his ring Maggie. It’s worth a king’s random. She won’t be missin’ a finger where she’s gone.

All right then, get me some river water and I’ll coax it off, ya greedy mutt. But don’t be cuttin’ on the dead, Gavin McFlannery, or you’ll be bringin’ a curse down on us all.

─̶

My eyes open into darkness. I’m cold, shivering. I want to cover myself. I want to rise and be warm but am too far away. My body feels heavy and dense, my thoughts disconnected. I am hot, burning with fever. I am icy and tired. I melt into a dream of rolling hills and heather. The wind is gentle as I walk with my dark-eyed son. We’re laughing, chasing a goose for mid-winter festival. The days are short now and the sunlight weak. We pray to Father Christmas to give the sun back its power, but it does not return. The wind is no longer mild. It bites my flesh. I search for gloves. Where are my gloves?

I hear the crunch of a boot near my ear, and whispers in a language I do not understand. There is a woman’s voice, a gasp and muffled crying. Strong male arms lift me from the earth, causing pain beyond bearing. A blanket covers me. My son is still wandering. Where is my son? I’ve lost him.

─̶     

It’s been a week. She seems no better.

Give her time, Luca. Her wounds are deep and her forehead hot. She has suffered much. She is responding well to the smoked leaves from the blackberry. They’ve reduced her fever and inflammation. Now I need the penicillin in spider webs to lie over the lesions of her head and twine to bind her leg, as she will want to move when she comes back to us. When that is finished, bring me rabbits and plenty of vegetables. Build up the fire and we’ll make a stew.  She can not chew, but a broth will warm her body.

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