Twin Passions(9)

By: Miriam Minger


"Lady Gwendolyn!" Just returning from the kitchen, Leah rushed over to her young mistress's side. She gently lifted her from the wooden floor and helped her back into bed. "'Tis the sleeping herbs, my lady. They make a body feel all wobbly for a while," she murmured. Turning to the small table at the side of the bed, she poured cool water into a goblet, then handed it to Gwendolyn. "It will soon pass," she added. "Just give it a moment."

Leah's startled cry had pierced the gray mist in Gwendolyn's mind, painfully reviving her dulled senses. Sipping the water, she could feel a tingling in her limbs as the numbness gradually disappeared. She handed the goblet back to Leah, then stretched her slender arms above her head, yawning.

"There, now, that's better," said Leah. The color was slowly returning to Gwendolyn's cheeks, and her eyes had regained a hint of their sparkle. Satisfied that her charge was feeling more like herself, Leah patted her mistress's hand. "The hour is growing late, my lady. You slept way past the midday meal, and now you must bathe and dress for the feast. If you are feeling better we should begin, for there is little time."

Gwendolyn groaned inwardly. So, the day she had dreaded had come at last. Tonight Wulfgar would present his marriage gift to Anora. If her sister accepted, as Gwendolyn had no doubts she would, the wedding ceremony could proceed as planned. She threw back the fur coverlet. "Very well, Leah, I suppose we had better hurry."

Leah frowned at Gwendolyn's obvious lack of enthusiasm. Surely the lass could show some joy on such a day, she thought irritably, but for once she held her tongue. Nay, there simply was not enough time to lecture her today!

Soon the room was a flurry of activity. Servants quickly filled the large brass tub in the corner of the room with buckets of warm water, while Leah began to pull silken garments from the large chest at the foot of the bed.

Gwendolyn rolled her eyes at the sight of the various tunics from which she must choose. She knew this was one occasion when a shirt and breeches would not be allowed. Stepping gingerly into the tub, she bathed herself quickly, ignoring the disapproving glance from Leah as she dunked her head under the water to wet her hair. Her method made much more sense than standing over a small basin while someone poured water over her head. It was far quicker, and required a lot less fuss! Shaking her wet curls, she stepped out of the tub and toweled herself dry.

"Where can I find Anora?" she asked impatiently, squirming as Leah slipped a cream silk tunic over her head.

"She has been in the solar this afternoon, no doubt working on that fine tapestry with your mother's ladies-in-waiting," Leah replied gruffly. "Please stand still, my lady!" Her attempts to smooth the many folds and pleats in the tunic were being frustrated by Gwendolyn's constant wriggling. Next came a mauve mantle of fine linen embroidered with golden threads, which she managed to get over her young mistress's tousled head with slightly less trouble.

Lastly, Leah handed Gwendolyn an ivory comb to smooth her unruly curls. But she threw up her hands in despair when Gwendolyn chose instead simply to run her fingers through her damp hair. Sliding her feet into a pair of gray kidskin slippers, the girl was out the door and hurrying down the stairs before Leah had even set the comb back on the table.

"My lady, you forgot the circlet for your hair!" Leah called out after her, running to the door. Receiving no response, she turned back into the room, grimacing at the mess. Towels were flung every which way, water sat in puddles on the floor, and clothes lay in scattered disarray upon the bed. "'Twill be a fine day when that lass is finally wed," she muttered, picking up a sodden towel. "And I hope her man, God help him, can tame her manners!"





***





Reaching the door of the solar, Gwendolyn paused a moment to catch her breath. She felt guilty at leaving such a mess in her chamber, but she did not turn back. It was far more important to speak with Anora before they went to the great hall for the betrothal feast, she thought wildly. There just had to be something she could do to convince her sister to change her mind!

Gwendolyn gently pushed open the door to the solar. The room was empty but for her sister, who was bent over the tapestry, absorbed in her fine needlework. "Anora?" she said softly.

Whirling around in her chair, Anora had a look of startled surprise on her face. "Gwendolyn, I've been so worried about you!" she exclaimed, rushing across the room. Embracing her sister warmly, she drew her into the room. She looks none for the worse for her misadventure, Anora thought with no small amount of relief, quickly noting the healthy glow of Gwendolyn's cheeks. "If I'd known you were awake, I would have come to your chamber," she said apologetically.

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