From astride Superian, Buffy was able to give us a view of Kvatch’s initial rebuilding efforts in Episode 172. Upon returning to the Mages Guild, a concerned Gladius Maro asked for help with Pelena who was vomiting. Buffy diagnosed the soldier’s mate as pregnant. Later in private, the nervous elf self-assessed that no new spirits grew among those dwelling within her. Darkness Eternal-
Thank you for noting that life in Kvatch goes on, even as the very cycle of death and new life continues. Buffy and Acadian have some serious talking to do after the next couple episodes. KC-
Thanks for appreciating how we have specialized some of Buffy’s talents, even within the same school; in this case noting that she’s great with poisons but terrible with potions. You know her well! Dreelius seems to come through when required, but he sure is cranky! SubRosa-
Thank you, my fellow Enya fan, for the link to that great song. It is one I had not heard! There is one more song left for Buffy to sing in our story - in the very last episode. It is another Enya one. Buffy will make it to Savlian’s grave but, as she said, just not yet. mALX-
Thanks for picking up on the rays of hope here. Gladius is a good friend and means well, but he clearly never received much training from the Legion on consoling grieving widows. Grits-
Thank you for those very kind words. Gosh, you are spot on in suspecting that Buffy will be ready to make some decisions soon. We need the next two episodes to more fully set the stage, then our final two episodes for her to sort things out and set her course. Rihanae-
So glad you enjoyed Oleta! No private joke on the turnip – just Moria’s habit of mangling her words. The chuckles were that one of the readers here (D. Foxy) can see dirty innuendo in almost anything, and mALX correctly suspected he would have fun with our line about ‘sniffing Buffy’s turnip’. Thanks for your kind words about Buffy passing by the graveyard and the emotional roller coaster she rode as she discovered Pelena was pregnant and she was not. ghastley-
So glad you like the summoned handkerchiefs. Buffy sure cries enough to need them! Yes, grieving will take time for her – even as life and rebuilding goes on. Zalphon-
Thanks. In this next episode, Buffy displays her ability to summon towels.
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173 Epilogue, Part 4 - What Shall I Wear Tonight?
Moria carried Superian’s tack into the stable’s storage tent. The girl returned to hand me a hoof pick then went to work with a grooming brush. “It’s nice to see your arm out of that sling and that you can mount and dismount your mare without help now.”
I began inspecting each hoof. “Well, I still need a brief fortify strength spell to make it up to the saddle, but not for much longer I think.”
“I’m glad you’re riding Superian every day. I can tell how happy that makes her.” Moria’s hands paused a moment. “What are you going to do after we finish grooming her today?”
Setting aside the hoof pick, I began working my fingers through Superian’s long tail. “My next stop is the bath tent to get cleaned up and wash my hair.”
“Bolden says that, as a mage, you can heat your own water! Can I go with you? My chores here at the stable are already done for the morning.”
I looked at the bits of straw decorating unkempt brown hair, streaks of dirt marring the young hopeful face, and grimy hands that fidgeted with the grooming brush they held. My eyes then traveled down the front of a stained flaxen skirt to horse manure-encrusted toes and sandals. “I think that would be a wonderful idea, Moria. We can do each other’s hair.”
Soon, we left the silkily groomed mare and headed for our next task. Moria was skipping and humming at my side. “I don’t often use the bath tent,” she declared.
“Oh really?” I replied, feigning surprise.
“No. My guild head, Tavia, makes each of us spend a whole day every week on laundry detail. We have to use the stream down by the old encampment because the one up here by the city has a waterfall and she’s afraid of losing clothes and orphans over the cliff.” The young Imperial then puffed up with pride. “Because I work at the stable, I can use Belle and her wagon to haul laundry down and back up the mountain. Tavia says all that will change once we move into the city and they get some ducks to carry water.” She giggled. “I think she must be teasing me about the ducks.”
“I think they’re special ones called aqueducts,” I remarked.
“Anyway,” she continued, “we end up getting soaking wet and pretty clean by the end of our day washing laundry. All of us except Isabel, that is.”
“Oh, she goes to work in the Countess’ tent, learning how to be a lady’s maid. They make her wear nice clothes and use the bath tent nearly every day! That green elf with red eyes - they’re called Dungmer by the way - who works for the Countess wanted the oldest orphan girl, but Tavia told her I was not a proper bait.”
“Although I can’t imagine why, perhaps Tavia meant you were not appropriate for duty with the Countess and her Dunmer steward?”
“Yes, that’s it. She said I was better off outdoors being trained as a hustler at the stable.”
“I must admit, Superian and I think you’re a wonderful ostler.” Approaching one of the plateau’s several springs, I announced, “Here we are.” Moria and I lugged water to the nearby women’s bath tent until half a dozen full buckets rested on the slatted wooden floor inside. The girl watched in rapt fascination as flame danced from my fingertips to heat the water.
I fished vials of soap, conditioner and shampoo from my pack and arranged them on a bench. Our clothing then found its way onto hooks mounted to the corner support posts inside the tent. “Leave your sandals on,” I instructed, “so they get washed as well.”
As I raised the first bucket above our heads and began to drizzle water over us, Moria asked, “Why’re your ribs sticking out? Hasn’t Weedum-Ja been feeding you enough?”
I looked down to verify her observation. “I guess I haven’t been eating as often as I should.” Once thoroughly wet, we each began soaping up.
“Have you been bad?” she persisted.
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes when I’m naughty, Tavia makes me go to bed without dinner.” Staring at me, she continued, “I can see your hip bones. And I think you need to feed your bosoms more too. Someday, I’m going to have hips. And bosoms too – big ones. Well, maybe not as big as Sigrid’s; some of the boys make jokes about her and I don’t think I’d fancy that.”
“I’m sure it won’t be long until you begin to blossom, Moria.” We poured more water over each other before washing our hair. “No,” I finally replied to her question, “I don’t think I’ve been bad. In fact, both Weedum-Ja and Sigrid have been encouraging me to eat more. I guess I’m just too sad to feel very hungry.”
“Oh, I know about being sad,” she replied soberly.
We washed our hair a second time in silence then, lifting more buckets, gave each other a final rinse. I summoned a series of towels and we dried off. My fingers ran conditioner through our hair then Moria, being surprisingly careful around my ears, combed mine out. She gave me a center part and left it loose. “My stable master says you’re like a lost forest creature now without her mate.”
“Bolden’s a wise man,” I replied, “and yes, I miss Savlian.”
She passed my comb to me and turned on the bench so I could tame her tangled mane. “I remember that night the Daedra set my house on fire. Part of the roof collapsed, trapping my parents. Captain Savlian broke down the door, threw me over his shoulder and charged back out just before the rest of the roof fell. I remember kicking and screaming how much I hated him for not saving my mother and father.”
As I arranged her brown hair into twin ponytails using a pair of green ribbons from my pack, I said, “I know Savlian would have saved your parents had it been possible.”
“I realize that now.” She turned to face me with glistening green eyes. “I never got to tell him I was sorry for yelling that I hated him. Nor did I ever thank him for saving my life. Now it’s too late.”
“Don’t you worry, Moria.” I took her hands in mine as I blinked back my own tears. “He knew.” I wrapped the girl’s filthy clothes into a bundle, instructing her to bring them to her next laundry day. The russet felt dress with green trim that I donated from my pack fit her well enough. Once we were both dressed, I said, “You look like a beautiful young lady.”
She grinned. “I like having a bath with you – warm water, good smells and pretty hair.”
As we left the tent, she pierced the air, “Tiberius!” Skipping away from me to join the smith’s apprentice as he passed by, I heard her demand, “Smell my new Buffy hair!”
After sniffing the thick tresses thrust into his face, Moria’s fellow orphan smiled and awkwardly took her hand in his. She yanked it away, hit him on the shoulder and sprinted off toward the stable. I whispered so quietly that only Acadian could hear, “Give her some time to grow bosoms and hips, Tiberius. Then you’ll have your hands full.”
I turned and let my feet carry me toward the blue and white tent of the Mages Guild. In some ways, I felt so much more childish than Moria. Why couldn’t I accept Savlian’s death as well as she had dealt with the traumatic loss of both parents? Despite her tender age, she seemed of sturdier stuff than I.
The flap to my guild no sooner closed behind me when I heard, “I hope the day greets you well, Milady.” My eyes fell upon auburn hair, blue-green skin and delicately curved ears that rose to graceful points. The well-dressed mer rose from a chair and continued, “I am Badali Sendal, Steward to the Court of Kvatch and humbled to make your acquaintance, Dame Buffy.” She looked at me expectantly. When I offered my hand, she grasped it warmly.
I recalled that the steward had been one of the chapel’s survivors. “I’m pleased to meet you, Badali. Please call me Buffy.”
“Nay, Milady. Although I have served and advised the royalty of Kvatch for generations, I hold no title of nobility. Please permit me the honor of executing my station and duties.”
It was instantly clear that any further attempt to dissuade her use of my title would be as futile as such efforts had been with Lucilius Marcus. “I hope you and the Countess have recovered from your long ordeal. How may the Mages Guild help you today?”
“My business is with you, Milady, not your guild. I bring tidings and an invitation from Lady Odalys.”
I tilted my head. “An invitation?”
“Yes. My lady liege wishes that you dine with her this evening.”
“Why me?” I immediately tried to correct my uncourtly response by adding, “I-I mean, I’m honored.”
It was Badali’s turn to tilt her head. “Because you are the only noble besides herself who yet breathes the air of life and freedom in our fair but struggling city.”
“You mean I’ll be dining alone with the Countess?”
Like Boderi Farano, the age of this Dunmer could have been forty or four hundred. The glow of wisdom in her ruby eyes and reference to serving generations of nobility suggested the latter. “Be at ease, Dame Buffy. She does not bite and you will find her most gracious. May I tell Lady Odalys to expect you within the canvas walls of her court as the sun slips into the Abecean?”
I nodded. “I’ll be there.”
With a flawless curtsey, Badali said, “The Countess will be most pleased, Milady.” Without presenting her back to me, the mer then slipped out of the guild.
“What shall I wear tonight?” I pondered aloud.
“A change out of these buckskins might be in order,” replied Acadian quietly. “Perhaps your guildmagister, who now also serves as court mage, can help?”
“Excellent idea.” I went straight to Sigrid’s sleeping tent, which doubled as her office.
“Good day, Buffy.” Pressing our guild’s seal into the hot wax of a folded letter, she added, “One of my more unpleasant duties. Roliand left no living kin, but Arielle is survived by a younger sister – with arcane aspirations it seems. I told her how bravely our dear guild mates died. Now, how can I help you?”