Friday, October 30, 2009


Hyd had a second cup of alcohol, drinking it quickly so it would have the fastest effect. It would take away the pain in his shoulder and it would also help him get some much needed sleep which he would have a hard time doing with the way his mind was trying to figure a way out of their situation.

"Someone is going to need to get this arrow out of my shoulder," said Hyd.

Eadward, John and Stephan looked at each other and at Hyd, none of them willing to give it a try since Hyd had hit each of them before when he had been hurt and they were away from home. He did not mean to hurt them but it was a natural reaction he seemed to have when he drank too much to dull the pain, which is why he rarely drank more than a few mugs of ale.

After several seconds of watching each other, the started to laugh.

"Do you remember that time you broke your leg when you were fourteen and we were out hunting?" Eadward held his head with both his hands and flinched away from Hyd.

"My head hurt for a whole month when you kicked me after I tried to set your leg and bind it so we could go home."

"You almost dislocated my jaw when I tried to hold you down that time you cut your ear," said John.

"You were the one who cut my ear, though," said Hyd, "so I do not feel too bad about hitting you."

"I was only trying to teach you how to use your sword and since no one has been able to cut you again I would say that I succeeded."

"There is that," said Hyd. He smiled at John to show that he was never really ever mad at him. He looked at Stephan.

"I am not going near you," said Stephan.

"It was not that bad," said Hyd.

“You bit me,” said Stephan. He rubbed his left forearm, grimacing.

“Is it still sore?” John laughed at his friend, remembering when Stephan was bitten by Hyd. They had gone to purchase some sheep in Wales to renew their stock and make the wool in their herd more marketable. They were on their way back, having a hard time keeping the sheep in control. They had bought two rams that were trying to dominate the ewes on the trail. Stephan and Hyd were working on the leather lines that had the largest of the rams tied to a tree for the night. Hyd was trying to tie off a knot when the ram shook its head violently at Hyd, gouging him with a horn. Stephan grabbed the offending horn as Hyd went to put one of the leather lines between his teeth to tie the horn secure. Hyd missed the leather tether and bit into Stephan’s forearm.

When they finally returned home, Stephan told the story to the Jester, the musician and actor that lived on Hyd’s holdings and Jester performed a skit at Hyd’s birthday celebration reenacting the incident. No one laughed louder than Hyd.

“Fine,” said Hyd. “I will do it myself.”

Ranee coughed. She coughed again, only louder when the men did not pay attention to her. Still they ignored her.

“I know I am only a woman,” she said. Anger and frustration making her sound harsh and shrill to her own ears, but the men finally looked at her. She took a deep breath.

“I can do it,” she said.

“Do what?” asked Eadward.

“I can remove the arrow and bind the wound.” She sat on a back bench, her back straight, and her hands lying demurely in her lap. Her clothes were damp, ripped and torn, her hair loose and tangled, with grass and leaves tucked in various strands. Dirt smudged her cheek and she had scrapes along her chin. She looked at each man directly in the eyes, her chin raised in defiance.

“No offense, madam,” said John, “but it is not that easy to mend a wound.”

“Why is it that when someone is going to offend, they begin by saying ‘No offense’?” Ranee looked at Stephan, waiting patiently for him to answer her.

He looked at her, smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“I apologize,” he said, “but here will be allot of blood when the arrow is removed.”

“And the arrow will not be easy to take out, either,” said Eadward. “You will need to…”

“Break the back part off of the shaft and pull the arrow through the front,” said Ranee. “I have done this before.”

“When?” asked Hyd.

“My father does not think much of women,” she said. She hung her head and was quiet for a while. The four men in the room watched her, waiting for her to continue at her own pace. They were used to listening to women. They all respected Eadward’s mother, Maryn, a great deal. They considered her smarter than most men they knew. And John and Stephan had mothers and sisters who they loved and respected.

“My father only has two uses for women. Mostly he believes women are for his entertainment.” Ranee blushed, red tinting the tips of her ears and the tops of her cheek bones. She did not look up. She spoke to her lap.

“He also believes women of use as pawns in his political and financial maneuvering. This, as you know, is not unusual for most men of a certain class.”

“Not all men think as he does,” said Hyd. Eadward, John and Stephan agreed with him.

Ranee looked up at the four men, trying to gauge which kind of men they were. She had never met any men of title who thought or felt differently and could not believe these men were different, but they waited patiently for her to continue and they did not tell she was wrong. They looked at her like they really wanted to hear what she had to say.

“I fit into the second category as far as my father was concerned,” she said. “I know of other girls who are not so lucky.” She blushed again, but part of the color was from anger this time. She had a friend who had killed herself when she was twelve because her father used her in a wifely way.

When Ranee looked at the men she saw that they were angry too, their jaws clenching as the ground their teeth together. Ranee shook her head to clear her thoughts of bad memories so she could continue.

“As long as I looked good and acted demurely around him or prospective husbands, he left me alone. I spent much time quietly lurking in corners trying to learn things from others. Our priest took pity on me and secretly taught me to read and write and use numbers. He said a woman should know these things so she can run her household properly. No one but he knows I can do these things. My father would have him beaten if he ever found out regardless of him being a priest. Preston, our priest, taught me how to keep secrets and become and very good actor. He saw how my father treated my mother and thought it very wrong.”

Tears rolled down her face, but she did not wipe them away. She stood up abruptly, taking two steps towards them and wringing her hands together.

“You can not tell anyone,” she said. “Preston is still my father’s priest. My father would kill him if he found out, after torturing him to find out what else he had taught me or any other women my father owns.”

“We will not tell anyone,” said John. “Who could we tell? We would be shot before we could speak.”

“You are safe with us,” said Stephan and he laughed because none of them were safe right now.

“Women are not possessions,” said Eadward.

“What world do you men live in?” asked Ranee, “because it is not the same one I occupy.”

“You are right,” said Eadward. “Our world is different than most, but you would like it, I think.”

“And you might be right, too,” said Ranee. “But I am not and so I do what I need to do.”

“As we all do,” said Hyd. “And right now we need to make do also. What else, besides monkish knowledge do you know?”

“Hyd’s drunken side is coming out,” said Eadward. “I apologize for him.”

“I do not need you to apologize,” said Hyd. “I need to know if she…”

“My name is Ranee.”

“I need to know if Ranee can help me or not with the arrow.”

“I can help you,” she said, “and I think it time that we start and I will talk while I work. You have been in pain long enough and we must take time to rest soon, if we are to escape this situation and you have no other volunteers, from what the others have said.”

“Ranee speaks truly,” said Eadward. ”You should just be a man about it.” He handed Hyd another cup of the alcohol. “Drink and be merry.”

Hyd swallowed his third cup, handed the empty container back to Eadward and nodded to Ranee.

Preston made sure I met different people on my father’s holdings,” said Ranee. She walked over to Hyd and stood in front of him, looking at his shoulder without touching him.

“I need a knife, some rags for packing and some rags ripped into strips,” she said over her shoulder. “Will you hit me when I take the arrow out?”

“I do not hit women,” said Hyd.

“According to your men, you can not help yourself.”

“They are not my men. Eadward is my brother and John and Stephan are my friends, so I can hit them whenever I please. But I do not hit women.”

“He will not hit you,” said Eadward. “No matter how much pain he is in or how much he has drunk.”

John handed Ranee his knife.

“Fill the cup with more of your brew,” said Ranee.

“I have had plenty to drink. I can not feel my shoulder any more.” He laughed. “I can not feel my toes.” He giggled.

Ranee laughed at him.

“You will not be drinking any more. You have had enough,” said Ranee. “I will be using the liquor to pour over the wound and the knife. It will prevent the wound from festering.”

Ranee poured some of the alcohol over the knife. She then used it to cut his tunic from his shoulder. She was careful not to get near the arrow so it did not move in the wound.

“I learned the herbalist’s art from a woman who lived in the swampy area near the bogs. She had eight children from eight different men. She was one of the happiest people I have ever met. She taught me while she taught her oldest child, a daughter, how to find herbs and make her medicines. She also taught me how to treat various diseases and ailments and wounds, most importantly how to prevent wounds from festering.”

Ranee took two wadded up pieces of cloth and soaked them in the alcohol. She handed the cup back to Eadward to be refilled.

“One of you will need to hold the back of the arrow shaft and one of you will need to hold his shoulder.”

John and Stephan stood behind Hyd. Eadward handed the full cup back to Ranee. Hyd’s head bent forward, his chin resting on his chest, his eyes closed. The alcohol and the sound of Ranee’s voice were putting him to sleep.

Ranee nodded to John, who then held Hyd by his uninjured shoulder and his right bicep. She nodded to Stephan who stood at the ready to hold the back end of the arrow shaft. She held the cup of alcohol over Hyd’s right shoulder.

“You may not know this,” she said, “but my father has the best horseman in the region. Horses being more important than any other animal or people for that matter, my father made sure his horses always had the best. Our horses are sold to those who want the best horses and the king rides one of our war horses in battle.”

Ranee nodded to Stephan who took hold of the arrow as she poured the alcohol over Hyd’s shoulder. John held on tighter as Hyd woke from the pain of the liquid flowing into the wound and tried to flinch away.

Ranee took a strong hold on the front of the arrow as Stephan snapped the shaft. She pulled the arrow out of Hyd’s shoulder, dropped it to the floor of the cave and packed the open hole in Hyd’s shoulder on both sides with the alcohol soaked rags. Hyd bellowed from the pain, his body rising up and straining against John, but he never made a move towards Ranee. She pushed both hands together increasing the pressure on Hyd’s shoulder.

“Hand me the strips of cloth,” she said.

Eadward passed her the cloth. She wrapped Hyd’s shoulder tightly, tying it up so the knots were not on top of the holes in Hyd’s shoulder. Hyd passed out with a sigh.

John and Stephan picked him up, carried him to a sleeping bench and covered him with a wool blanket. Ranee picked up the arrow pieces and put them in the corner with the other trash. She dipped some alcohol into the cup, added some water to the top of the cup and sat down. She sipped the liquid, grimacing.

“That is nasty stuff,” she said.

“True, but it keeps well and has many uses,” said Eadward. “You were telling us about your father’s horses.”

“Really about Wayn, his horseman.”

John handed Ranee some dried meat.

“Eat,” he said, “It goes well with the drink.”

“Wayn is also my father’s surgeon. He is a big man, strong, since he is also a blacksmith. He makes fine intricate work in metals and he makes small fine stitches in flesh. He too dislikes the way my father, and men like him, treat women. He taught me that the stitching I learned could be used to repair flesh.”

“You have had interesting teachers,” said Eadward.

“I learned fast, too, since I could never be caught doing these things or the others would pay dearly for my knowledge.” Ranee yawned.

“You and Hyd have had a rough time of it,” said Eadward. “It is time for you to rest. John, Stephan and I will stand guard and pack for our escape and make plans.” He took the cup from her hand and handed her a blanket. Ranee lay down. She was asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.

No comments: