Daughter of the Witcher Ch. 09byTaLtos6©
*** A little of what's happening in both places now, at sea and on land.
Something to note here; The creatures back at the keep are not human and they have a rather involved societal structure.
I'm aware that there are readers who might not especially like the way that these things all have a varying degree of capability to go in both directions which depends on the individual - and it's even built into their society, though not overtly.
Just be aware that it's there and know that I didn't write this to make the reader who doesn't like that sort of thing grumble. I've purposely glossed over things a bit for that reason. It's just the story and how it goes, that's all.
So read the tags and decide. I'm not out to shock the gentle-hearted. That's why there isn't much fine detail. If readers wanted that, I know they'd just go to that genre on Lit, and be happier.
No matter how they play, I'd prefer that you fall at least a little in love with a few of the characters.
Margit looked up from her inspection of the hoof that she held between her knees. This particular mare had been a handful for a long time to the Kurtadam riders, never showing much of anything other than her will to them, and her will and what it caused her to do, was never what was wanted. She was fairly docile and even bordered on being good-natured a lot of the time, but once a rider was on her, ...
She'd been brought to Margit's attention as a bit of a problem child.
She'd listened as the problem had been explained to her and then she'd asked to have the animal led around one of the pens. There hadn't even been one circumnavigation made before Margit was calling the walker to bring her in. It had been subtle, and the animal sought to hide it, but Margit went straight to that one hoof and began to work on the problem of removing the tiny stone which had lodged itself and been missed during the regular once-overs done by the horse handlers.
That little thing had since become embedded deeply and almost grown over.
She noticed the presence of another and smiled when she recognized Tirga, who offered a hot drink of hot mulled wine, so she ambled over to wash her hands.
"You are ever a wonder to us, my friend," the Kurtadam smiled, "Many have looked in just that one place and they saw nothing."
"Well that 'nothing' just happened to be in the perfect place to remain lodged and also cause her enough pain to favor it, but only slightly.
Horses can often be beyond stupid, but there are some who are quite bright and that girl there knows enough to do what she can to hide her trouble most times. With a rider on her back, it gets too much for her to work though."
"I have another matter to speak with you about today," Tirga said and then she smiled, remembering something.
"You and Gunnar do much for us all. It came to me that, though you both can work many wonders to our eyes, there is one thing which you cannot do -- not that any of us can either," she chuckled.
"You do not have enough hands for all of the things which you attend to in your day. You might see it as nothing more than being busy.
I have many things such as that as well. But I have help if I only raise my hand.
As well, I have some things which need answers which I cannot give. But I have an idea and seek to ask your help as well as Gunnar's, if you can provide it. I think that if this can work, you both would have help which you need, I might have a little less on my list, and both of us mothers might smile from it."
Margit was intrigued now, not really having any idea of what Tirga had in mind. She nodded anyway, wishing to help her friend in any way that she could.
Tirga sipped her drink and sought for the best way to begin.
"As with any other people, I would guess," she said, "we are not all the same. Some are more fortunate than others, some are wiser, some are stronger, and so on. It is the same with us as it is with you.
I try when I can, with Petra's aid to look after the poorer ones among us.
During the time of the confinement, I could do little other than watch and try to help where I could. There was a young female who had been orphaned. We were at the time, completely dependent on our human captors for food, and I can also admit to my mild shame that there are those among us who can be greedy.
This female was smaller, of a type which never seems to grow beyond a point. It placed her at a disadvantage and she could never get enough food to eat and was always hungry. She was also very timid. But starvation is a powerful force which can drive anyone to do things which they would not do, normally.
I was kept in a different cage and could do nothing more than shout, and so I had to watch as the poor one came at last to the desperate point of offering her body to another for a little bit to eat.
She became pregnant from it of course. Hunger always returns, though the effect of what we do can last beyond us. She gave birth and then she had more troubles."
Tirga looked over a little sadly, "She perished a few years later not long before we won our freedom, but I have never forgotten what I had to watch. That cage was the last which we forced open, more than a year after the first, for the locks and the bars were strong and the worthless monks gave us no keys.
Among the very first things which I did was to have the male killed, since he was beyond useless. There were others in there with them, who shared a little of what they'd been given, but not that one.
Since that time, I have cared for two young girls who are not mine. They are not royal and receive little aside from basic care as I can give it. It is not what I would have wanted, but I am so busy.
But they are now of an age where they need to be kept busy themselves, for I will be damned if I will allow what I had to see replicate itself and reproduce that way -- for it will, unless I do something.
Can you see a way that you might use them, you and your fine male? I would suggest setting them to work for you in any way that you see fit to help you and even to serve you as you need. Make them a part of your household and, if you can, try to show them that you care if you can do it. I will have more food brought to make good on what they eat.
They were so young when their mother died of malnutrition. She wasted away, giving them most of what little food she could get to give to them. For most of their lives, they have not had anyone like the mother who whelped them."
Margit couldn't see that she and Gunnar needed any help in the form of servants or assistants, but she did understand her friend's request very well. As the daughter of a Khan, she'd seen people who lived in abject poverty in her time.
"I can try," she smiled a little uncertainly, "I have a thought that what I miss as a mother are my children when they were old enough to need little care from me, but we spent much time together working our farm. What are they like?"
"They are the same age as my son," Tirga smiled in a bit of relief.
"They are well-mannered, but like their mother, they tend to be shy and it makes then very quiet. One of my regrets is that I have not had much of any time to give them what they need so much of so that they might gain their confidence more. They are smaller and they hide their age somehow just as their mother did.
They tend to be considered, ... a little backward because they say little, but if you take a little time and watch to see it, you will see that they are both very bright and thoughtful."
She looked at Margit for a moment, "Do you remember when we were young, and there were those times when girls, ... are curious about each other and, ..."
Margit grinned, though she had to look down to manage it, "I remember, Tirga. It was just the two of us being curious, as you say, though I looked forward to visiting with your people because of you for it. Just a naughty thing when a young one tries to learn a bit."
She laughed a little, "Such a pair of fumbling, curious girls we were, not that it was more than that at our ages, we were so young. I have not thought of it for long years, but it was nice. Why do you mention it, though I thank you for the memory?"
"Kurtadam whelps born in the same whelping are a kind of twins to the human way of thinking, though we do not consider it such," Tirga said.
"These two are actual ones and look so very nearly alike in everything. I mention our young and curious play in order to say that it has gone between them since they were that age in the way that our whelps care for each other, especially since they are all that they have together. Not wanting to see one or both of them follow in the steps of their poor mother, I have forbidden anything else for them until they have found their place properly among us. That time comes to an end now and I am a little sad that I could not bring them out of themselves more."
She looked over hopefully, "For that to happen, where they take their places as adults, I now pray that I have you to do what I could not for them."
She looked off and, seeing the ones that she'd brought waiting, and looking beyond uncomfortable, she smiled a little and waved them over.
The pair looked very reluctant and painfully shy, but after a moment, they took each other's hand for a little uncertain courage and began to approach. They were as Tirga had said, completely alike if one didn't know them, both a little mouse-colored in their body fur, but having much lighter, wheat-toned hair.
Margit stared for a moment and then she grinned, "So there are TWO of the one which I always saw watching me as I worked, but staying far enough away so that I would feel foolish to ask if there was a problem."
The pair almost stopped then and seemed to appear a little sad, thinking that they were about to be laughed at. Margit shook her head and beckoned to them herself.
"I laugh because I see now that there is more than one of the shy ghost who watched me so often, that is all. I am Margit, an old friend of Tirga's."
She held up her hand to her friend, already knowing that she was about to hear their names from her.
"Tell me your names by yourselves," she smiled down a little at them, "so that we can have proper introductions."
The two looked almost frightened then. They seemed to have slightly large eyes anyway, but at Margit's remark, their eyes grew even more. Margit tried to bear what Tirga had said of them in mind -- that they were a kind who never seemed to grow fully, and even still, it amazed her a little.
Here were two young Kurtadams, eighteen years old and looking more like twelve year-olds and under-developed at that. She didn't care at all; she just found it striking somehow.
"I -- I am Nala, lady" one of them said, "and this is --"
Margit's palm flashed upward once more," No -- no," she smiled, "I need to hear it as each one speaks for herself. "Who are you, young friend?"
The second one looked for just a moment as though she would have given pretty much anything for only a chance to hide herself under the hay strewn on the floor of the paddock.
"Bremma, I am called, lady. Are - are we to stay with you now?"
Margi nodded, truly wanting to laugh now, though she didn't dare to out of fear that they'd misinterpret it.
"Yes," she smiled, "though if you think that you can forget just one little bit of the manners which Tirga must have taught you, I would like it if you could just not always remind me that I am a lady. I am a simple human woman, and I am happy to meet you both."
Tirga prepared to take her leave, "I leave you to Margit's care, then. Serve her well, for she is an old friend of mine and I find her nearness to me these days as a gift."
"Wait!" her friend said suddenly, "How is this to go? I do not really have uses for servants or -- helpers such as these yet. How am I -- how are we to think of them, Gunnar and I?"
"In any way that you think you might need to draw them out of themselves, Margit. They are a little like a pair of girls who could come to you to be as adopted, or perhaps you might feel more comfortable if they were as only servants to you. Try to give them a look at your family life and then you might all manage something from there."
She put her hands on their thin shoulders and bent to kiss each one for a moment, "They need a family life for the feeling of safety and confidence to grow out of, and they need a little work in some tasks to keep them a little busy -- or a lot - if you have the need. I know that you would treat them well, so that is not even a thought to me. Try to make them a part of what you do every day and that is the best place to start. I could not do that for them.
What would I do? Have them work in the keep's kitchens? It would give them the work and nothing else.
But do not let them stand idle, for then they only draw together and fall into what I seek to draw them out of."
The twins said goodbye, looking afraid and clearly struggling to keep themselves - and each other - from bursting into tears as they hugged Tirga tightly for a moment, and by her face, she was clearly a little surprised. But after they'd watched her walk off, they turned and looked at Margit with the same huge eyes, waiting to see how this would go.
"Oh come," she smiled, "I want none of this anguished hand-wringing that I have been watching until now and there will be none of the nervous hand-holding between you now. Hold MY hands and we will go to find a midday meal together."
She nodded to each one, "THAT is where we will begin this."
Come on then," Margit smiled as they walked into the kitchens, "Let us go and see what our feast for this day will be." She had to tug at their hands a little to get them into the line with her.
She made them go together with her and one of the cooks greeted her. "Here with a little company today, lady Margit?" she smiled.
Margit nodded, "My two new young friends -- or perhaps I stand with my new daughters, I do not know at all yet. Tirga brought them to me and asked me to take them for a time. But I grow quite smitten with them and I need no servants, really. I am thinking of trying to teach them what I can, and to do that well, since they have no family, I think of just making things simple and treating them as I would my own almost grown children."
"Oh, I know this pretty pair," the cook smiled, "If they are not sent here to bring food for anyone else, they only stand a moment and then leave. Such shy ones, they are, and so lovely too."
She leaned forward a little to look at the girls, "Now, you are finally here for yourselves. For once, give an old girl like me a little pleasure and tell me what it is that you would want to eat.
If you are like this for every meal that you do eat, it is little wonder that you are not bigger. It may be some notion that you hold in yourselves, but we do not all wait to take your pretty heads off if you only ask for something to eat."
The pair looked as though they almost wanted to hang onto each other, but Margit wouldn't allow it at all. "No, you are a part of my house now, and here, you need to say things sometimes, so out with it, girls."
It took a bit, and the next ones in line looked at them a little harshly until the cook waved her wooden ladle a little threateningly at them to hold their tongues, but she heard their almost silently spoken wishes and heaped their platters high for them with a laugh.
"Remember my rule -- take all that you want, but eat all that you take."
She chuckled at Margit, "Do not expect these two to move much after this. I'll fill their bellies, lady, you may trust in me."
Margit laughed and nodded as she led them away to a table.
She spent more time watching the pair eat than she did eating her own meal.
"When you are near here at the midday," she said, "I want you to look for that cook if you can. You do not see it, but there are people who would like to help you and not look at you sideways. Now where is Gunnar?"
The two girls looked almost terrified then and she asked over it.
"We have watched the man as well," Bremma said, "The Lady Tirga has been trying to push us to you both for a time. That is why we watched as we could. We are afraid of him, Margit."
Margit had to hold onto the table to keep from collapsing in her laughter for a little time.
"Then it is clear to me that you have never found the courage to actually speak with him. Look, here he comes now."
Gunnar had been trying to see what was being offered by peeking through the line a little unobtrusively. Considering that he stood almost seven feet tall, it usually didn't work out all that well for him most times when there were others waiting ahead of him.
He looked around briefly for Margit and then he saw her and walked over. The two girls looked as though they were considering a quick bolt for the door. Margit held them fast and then they realized that the seating arrangement would have Gunnar sitting across from his wife and between the two sisters. They almost groaned.
"Ah, and here you are, Margit, sitting with the two young watchers this day?"
"The two young watchers, Gunnar? What do you mean?" Margit asked.
"I have marked them from time to time when I work and even when I used to practice out in the courtyard."
He smiled a little from one to the other for a moment, "They always try to stay out of my view - which does not work - and they always come alone, one or the other but not both together."
"So you knew that they were twins then?" his wife asked in a surprised tone.
Gunnar nodded, "Well of course, Margit. They are as different as night and day to my eyes by their motions and demeanor. This one," he gestured with his thumb, "is only painfully shy and this one is even more so by about half."
He leaned forward looking curious then, "You mean to say that you hadn't noticed this?"
Margit threatened him with her piece of bread crust and even the shy pair smiled a little.
"So, I am Gunnar," he said, "please tell me your names and then we can step to the important things. I need to know what is good to eat today."
They introduced themselves only a little louder than it had gone in the food line, but it was a little quieter where they sat and Gunnar caught their names after only asking that they repeat themselves twice.
"I think that they might be our new daughters, Gunnar. Tirga asked us to help them to learn."
Gunnar shook his head. "And what was wrong with the old way that we made children, Margit? I like that way a little better, I think, since something was needed from me in it."
He sighed a little dramatically, "Well if we have two more, as you say, then I must step forward and resume my fatherly duties once again. A lot of that involves solving their troubles, and here I see that they already have problems with their meals."
He looked back and forth at them and Nala shrugged, "The cook gave us all of this, but she said that we must eat it all and we cannot. One of these platters would be more than enough for us both."
"Ha!" Gunnar exclaimed quietly, "Why it is simple, my new daughters. Both eat from one, and give the other one over to me."
They nodded eagerly and Gunnar had his meal before him then. He got up and fetched an empty platter so that the two could split what remained and they did it very nervously.
"Alright," he smiled, "now please tell me how it is that I have another two daughters of a sudden."
They looked at him as Margit told of it all, and they found that they weren't quite as afraid of him anymore. But it was still like pulling teeth to get much out of them.
"Look girls," he said a little seriously, "You make me a little nervous here. I think that if I were to sneeze, you might fall dead of fright. If you are to be part of our house, then this cannot be.