Cymbyliene brushed the last of the cobwebs from the shelves behind the marble counter. The shop looked as though it hadn't been used in some time....she was glad she had acquired it for her own. She ran her soft fingers over the cool, smooth surfaces of her jars and bottles as she placed them on the shelves. All of her powders, ointments and liquids had traveled well and arrived intact, save her powdered comfrey root which was now scattered dustily over most of the floor and her skirt. She hoped to the heavens that no one would come in right now; she and the new clinic were a sight.
A dark green curtain hid a small alcove. Peering inside, she saw a perfect place for a small examination table and a surgical area for emergencies. It was rare that persons with severe wounds or illness came to her, but not unknown altogether. A small staircase led to the second level, which she had claimed as living quarters. She frowned a little bit as she looked around the shop area. It felt quite unwelcoming somehow.....perhaps it was just that night was falling and the world itself was becoming dim. She brought some candle sconces out of crates and placed them at intervals around the receiving area. Satisfied with the welcoming glow, she sat in a chair by the shop window and peered out into the growing darkness.
Stormpoint....what an unusual name for a town. There were many strange rumors about the inhabitants of this place. She brushed a strand of hair away from her brow and looked longingly into the night with dark eyes. It looked like a place with secrets, with adventure, with interesting people! It looked like a place she might call home; a place that would not be afraid of someone a little different. In fact, she herself might even be considered mundane in contrast to its mysterious citizens! She hoped so.
The hour was growing late, and no one was likely to come at this point. Before retiring, she hung her little sign from the shop window and locked the door.
Herbal Medicinals and Organic Remedies
Natural Health and Cosmetic Aids
*Emergency Services available. Ring Bell for after-hours assistance*
Satisfied that all was in order, she pulled the shades hesitantly, still longing to go explore a bit. Priding herself on her discipline and common sense, she mounted the stairs to her little room for the night and retired to her cup of tea and her bed, already donned comfily with pillows and quilt.
Cymbyliene hugged her purchases to her chest, hurrying home. It was growing dark, and though she did not know why, people around here told her to keep to the indoors at night. She decided to follow their advice until she knew otherwise.
What a fine day she had experienced, shopping for things for her new clinic and her rooms abovestairs. There were a few shops she still wished to see....the Kuriousity Shoppe being the first on her list. She would visit it soon; it looked very intriguing. She hoped that she might find some unusual things with which to decorate her building.
Settling in quietly in her sitting room upstairs, she pondered her new home. She thought she might employ some young people...she liked to find children whose families had little money, or who had no families at all. The wages they earned helped them and she could assist someone without wounding their pride. She wondered who she should consult on this issue. She had seen the great Cathedral in town...the priest certainly would know who would be good candidates.
She looked wistfully at the skyline. It had been a long time since she had been in a church, and she would like to meet the Priest. She would call upon him tomorrow.
A lone man walked down the cobbled road past her shop, and she found herself watching intently. You need to make some friends, Cym....she thought ruefully. Pulling her blinds closed, she poured herself some tea and settled in for the night with just a fairy story for company.
She had lost track of the time several hours, or was it days, ago. She couldn't be sure anymore, but she knew instinctively that it was nearly dawn. The city was wrapped in the soft quietude of pre-morning darkness, broken only by the distant song of birds and the closer sound of the fountain that bubbled steadily, day or night, by the town centre. It was a pleasing combination, and if she closed her eyes she could almost imagine that she was outside the city--that the ground beneath her feet was covered with soft tufts of grass rather than cobblestones, and that the structures which rose to both sides of her were trees rather than shoppes. It was only of small comfort, however, for she wasn't in the mood for illusion. And so, through her fully opened eyes, she saw the both the cobblestones and the buildings, and knew herself to be in the merchants' district.
She knew the area by heart, having lived in it since her arrival in the city and having spent many sleepless nights wandering its streets. There was the cobbler's shoppe. It had been closed for the past week and a half, and she thought she knew why, but she held her tongue and kept her suspicions to herself. Next, there was the bakery--a busy shop even by Stormpoint standards. The owners would be arriving soon, an elderly couple hailing from the lands to the west of the city. They were kind of heart but keen of mind, and though she had little taste for confections, Eowyn often stopped by the shop to look in on them and share a cup of a curious beverage they called coffee. It was dreadful and she marveled that anyone found it palatable, but their company was pleasant enough and it more than offset the bitter brew.
Then there was the tailor, and the candle-maker, and the . . . . She stopped and stared quizzically at the building before her. It used to be a clock-maker's shop, but the steady ticking of its wares no longer rang from the windows and the sign above the door had changed.
Herbal Medicinals and Organic Remedies
Natural Health and Cosmetic Aids
*Emergency Services available. Ring Bell for after-hours assistance*
She'd never thought about it before, but Stormpoint had been lacking a clinic. In fact, there hadn't even been an apothecary shoppe, and those in search of such wares often found their way to her door. She helped them when she could, but she wasn't a healer and was ill-equipped to handle many of their requests. Yes, a clinic was long past due and she wondered how its arrival had escaped her attention. It couldn't have been there for very long. At least, she didn't think it could have.
Part of her said she should stop by and welcome the healer, but another part wanted only to turn away and continue walking until she found her way through the thoughts that hung heavy in the mist-filled corners of her mind. Recently, it was the latter part of her mind that had won these battles, but standing before the clinic door the former part was strengthened with a certain knowledge, or perhaps insight, that the clinic and its owner were worthy of investigation. She finally decided that she would come back when it was light, then realized with some small embarrassment that the sun had risen during her wanderings and that she had missed the gentle shades of dawn that always warmed her . . . soul?
Even as she stood mentally shaking her head at her lethe, she could hear someone moving about within the building and she guessed the clinic would soon be open for business. Thinking twice, she pulled back her hand before it reached the bell. The sign said the bell was for emergencies, and there was no point in startling her new neighbor on what Eowyn hoped was her first day of business. She therefore knocked gently on the door, half hoping that the rap of her knuckles would be too faint for the bustling figure inside to hear. Fortunately for Eowyn, it wasn't.
The door opened quickly and Eowyn found herself standing face to face with a woman who she imagined to be the healer. Soft auburn hair framed a kind face with dark eyes--eyes that had seen their share of both sorrow and joy, and eyes which Eowyn guessed sought a good deal more than their owner would admit. Her expression was slightly worried. She had, no doubt, thought that the pre-hours' visit denoted an emergency, and Eowyn sought to put her concern at ease.
"I'm sorry, I thought if I knocked . . . . "I own the Kuriousity Shoppe down the way." she said, trying to start over, "I just noticed your clinic and fear that I've been remiss in failing to welcome you to the district, and to Stormpoint, for that matter. My name is Eowyn."
((Edited from character interaction. Part one of two.))
Cymbyliene sat down, bemused, thinking of her meeting with the Lady Eowyn. What a lovely woman she was....Cymbyliene was pleased to be her neighbor. Their conversation was interesting, though a bit tense, she thought, though she imagined that it was not due to any particular dislike Eowyn had for her. The lithe, tall woman seemed to be what Cym called a "secret keeper", or one who had many hidden facets. For herself, she knew she had bungled the conversation numerous times, not knowing how to explain her reactions to things, but such was life. She thought back over their discussion. Cym had invited her in, surprised and pleased to see her new neighbor. She waved away her neighbor's apology at not having greeted her sooner.
"I have been here only a few short days," she smiled. "Please, come inside." She held the door open.
Eowyn smiled hesitantly in return and entered the clinic. "Well, that's something of a relief. But I apologize that your arrival escaped my attention."
Cym studied her visitor curiously a moment. "I actually intended to visit your shoppe today. Don't feel badly....I haven't met anyone yet. I don't know a soul." She looked down at her hands and then smiled. "But I think I will like it here." She paused uncertainly. "Have you lived here for long?"
Eowyn raised a brow at the expression and the questions, but the expression faded into a subtle smile. "Well, I suppose that depends upon what you mean by 'long', but I've been here for some time." She paused to look about the clinic in silent appraisal. "It must have been quite an undertaking to move."
Cym chuckled. "Indeed it was. It took me days and days to get here." She frowned a moment, troubled. "The men I hired to move my things into the shop told me some odd things."
Eowyn affected an expression of surprise, but also understanding. "Indeed?"
She nodded. "They specifically mentioned that I should stay indoors at night." She looked out the window. "They would not say why. Why do you think they so advised me?"
Eowyn fell silent a moment in sad reflection. "Night can be a dangerous time in Stormpoint." She kept her answer cryptic. "Many of the shadows are more substantial here. And not all of them fade with the coming of dawn."
Cym nodded quietly, considering her statement. She mused sadly. "I love the night......it will pain me to be exiled from it."
The other woman wore an expression just short of biting her lip. "Do you know nothing of the city?"
Cym shook her head. "Very little actually, save that it is diverse of population. It was imperative that I come to a place that does not fear....differences in their neighbors."
Eowyn smiled pleasantly, but a hint of curiosity flickered in her eyes. "Well, you might have found it, but the cost may be higher than expected." She paused uncomfortably before continuing in a different tone. "I don't want to paint too dark a picture of this city, for there is much that is good within its walls, but you would do well to stay within doors when night falls. We have a rather large 'predatory' population, if you take my meaning."
Cym stamped down a mild uneasiness and raised her chin marginally. "I am not frightened....I am also not a fool. I think I take your meaning well.....I do thank you for the advice."
Eowyn frowned slightly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise."
Cym berated herself for coming across all wrong, and tried to reassure. "Oh, no...I wasn't offended. I just...." she frowned a moment, "I hate to look too helpless, you see."
Eowyn seemed to understand. "Yes. I see you have an impressive stock," she added, changing the subject, "How long have you been practicing?"
She smiled softly. "I learned from my mother since I was a girl. It has only been in the last year that I have worked alone." A shadow passed over her expression. "I needed to relocate, and I heard Stormpoint had no such place."
Eowyn considered questioning her, but decided against it. "No, it hasn't. I expect you'll be quite busy."
Cym smiled wistfully. "I hope so." She turned to her counter and took up a ribboned basket filled with little muslin pouches. "Do you drink tea, Lady Eowyn?"
Eowyn smiled knowingly. "Be careful what you wish for.." then she paused. "Tea? I can't say that I've heard of it."
Cymbyliene looked very surprised. "You haven't? Well! Let me introduce you to it." She held out the basket. "It is an assortment of herbs and spices that you soak in hot water to make a drink."
Eowyn looked uncertain. "It's not like....coffee, is it?"
"Coffee?" Cym chuckled. "Well....it is sort of like coffee, but it is milder and more fragrant, made of herbs and plants of the earth." She wrinkled up her nose. "Coffee is made of beans."
"Well, I must admit, it sounds...interesting."
Cym thought that Eowyn still looked unconvinced. She smiled at her visitor. "Well, I hope you will try it. If you like it, all the better." She grinned. "Otherwise, give it to your customers and tell them where they may get more."
A flicker of concern flashed over Eowyn's face. "Customers...." her voice trailed off. "Yes, I can certainly pass that along."
Cym pressed her lips together a moment looking uncertain. She feared she had been over-eager to make a friend and had kept her too long. "Have I kept you too long from business?"
Eowyn waved a hand in a small gesture of dismissal. "Absolutely not, and besides, I'd be remiss in my self-assumed welcoming responsibilities if I left just now. Tell me, where was home, prior to your move?"
"Oh, it was a small village." She waved a hand in the general direction of west. "West of here. We called it Havenwood."
"Within Lord Ogrek's kingdom?" questioned Eowyn.
Cym shook her head. "No, much farther than that, and a bit north. I have heard of your Lord Ogrek, however. He is reputed to be very upright in character."
Eowyn pushed back a telling smile. "Yes, that is his reputation. I've not met him myself, actually, though we share a mutual friend."
Cymbyliene looked mildly amused. "Well, reputations are not always true. I shall have to meet him, if he is accessible. I am a terribly curious woman. That is not always a good thing."
Eowyn commented, "Oh, there's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of curiousity. Some of us even make a living off of it." She smiled wryly.
((continued from previous interaction))
Cym laughed brightly at the woman's cleverness. "I look forward to visiting your shop soon. I love interesting things." Her dark eyes surveyed the shop's owner a moment, thinking that she was likely as interesting or more than anything she stocked.
"Well I hope you do, and I hope you find it interesting." She paused a moment in thought, her features suggestive of an internal debate. When at last it appeared she had reached a resolution, she asked in a somewhat hesitant tone. "I hate to be intrusive, but there is one point on which I'd like to be certain. Do you use any....'art' in your healing?"
Cymbyliene looked suddenly pale. "Do you mean....magic?"
Eowyn answered in a voice tinged with both coolness and regret. "If that's what you call it."
Cym shook her head in slight panic. "No! No...I do not call it that, or anything. I just...." She calmed herself willfully. "I use herbs. Plants. The gifts of the earth." Her eyes looked afraid. "I am not a mistress of any dark arts."
One corner of Eowyn's mouth turned upwards, but her eyes bore no mirth. "I see you have a strong opinion on the matter."
Cymbyliene sighed deeply, from her soul. She had made a mess of things. "Not me, Lady...but those who would burn me for believing I am a witch of some sort." She rubbed her temples. "I have no ill will or strong opinions on the topic of power or any use thereof." She dropped off, unsure how to explain why she needed to be so careful how people perceived her. She had a special intuition in her healing, that she considered a gift. Others may consider it something evil.
Eowyn raised a brow to a positively inhuman height. "Burn you? For healing? I thought most humans had passed that stage of fear, at least for their own kind."
Cym looked wry. "You would be surprised how easily the ignorant can get whipped into a frenzy about just about anything. It was a bad experience....I am sorry to have reacted so badly." She gave a very penitent look.
Eowyn spoke. "Surprised? No. Disappointed? Well, that's another matter. And please, don't apologize, I sometimes forget...." She waved her hand again. "Oh, it's not important." She smiled to erase all doubt.
Cym offered a wan smile in return. Her thoughts flashed to the strange reports she had heard of Stormpoint's inhabitants. Surely, she was in no danger of mass hysteria here! "Well for what it's worth, I don't imagine I will be chased through the streets here. At least not for that reason."
Eowyn smiled again and answered warmly. "I sincerely doubt you will be chased through the streets for any reason."
Cym laughed playfully, and feigned disappointment. "Are there no eligible males in town? A good chase can be fun."
Eowyn laughed in return, but the laugh held small tones of insincerity. "Again, be careful what you wish for."
Cymbyliene sobered slightly, struck by her visitor's tone. "Indeed. A lesson one never forgets." Both women looked at one another for a minute. Cym was not sure what to say.
She was terribly grateful for Eowyn, who sought to break the uncomfortable silence. "I'd love a tour of your clinic."
Cym smiled, very relieved. "Oh, certainly. It is nothing state of the art, mind you." She gestured to the shelves behind the counter, lined with jars. "These jars are catalogued and contain various remedies for headaches, minor ailments, things like that." She led her to a curtained room behind the counter. "Back here is a workshop of sorts...a lab." There were little tubed bottles bubbling over burners. "I distill liquids here and make powders and ointments." She smiled.
Eowyn nodded. "Impressive."
Cym led her through another doorway. "This room has just been assembled. I can treat patients here with serious illness or wounds." They both looked around at the examination table, some instruments and piles of clean linens. "I hope never to have to use a room like this, but somebody is always getting themselves wounded or very ill...."
"Yes, " commented Eowyn, "I imagine that's an unfortunate aspect of your profession."
Cym lead them up a small staircase. "Up here, I keep my own living quarters, but I had one extra room." She opened the door to the spare room. "I think I will reserve it for anyone who will require an extended stay and care." The room was outfitted with a small, modest bed, quilted snugly, and a small chest of drawers. "Again, I imagine it will be very rarely occupied, or so I hope."
Eowyn pressed a hand to her temple and leaned against the wall. "Let's hope not....."
Cym was instantly concerned. "Are you not well, Lady Eowyn?" The woman looked a little shaken.
"I'm sorry. I'm fine. I think it's the room. It's a bit....." She struggled to find the right word, and finally offered one. "Overwhelming."
Cymbyliene stepped back so that Eowyn might step out of the room. She darted a look at the spare, small room, wondering what the other woman saw that she did not herself see. She was not going to ask....Eowyn seemed a woman who offered information when she was comfortable, and not a moment before. She herself had seen strange things, and had strange dreams at night, but telling people about them is what nearly got her burned. She determined to show respect to Eowyn by minding her own business.
Eowyn held tightly to the doorframe as she stepped from the room and took a few moments to regain her composure before speaking again. "I think you'd best see that this room is prepared. You may have need of it sooner than you suspect. "I'm sorry," she added hurriedly and without further explanation, "I should be getting back to my shoppe."
Cym murmured her goodbyes and showed Eowyn down the stairs to the door, somewhat dumbstruck. Surely, her neighbor had seen something. Perhaps it was like a vision. She berated herself, for Eowyn likely thought that she herself had animosity toward persons with that type of gift, but she did not. She actually longed to talk to someone about them...someone who would understand the kind of dreams she had at night. She frowned out the window at the street and shook her head to clear it of busy thoughts. Heeding Eowyn's unexplained advice, she went upstairs to be sure that the extra room was well outfitted with supplies against whatever coming travail awaited.
Cymbyliene was pensive as she returned home from her afternoon exploration of Stormpoint. She had closed the shop early and taken the opportunity to run about and soak up all of the sights. She had been drawn in by the cathedral's majesty at once. It was very quiet, but she had met Father Selnecker. Cym took to him at once. He was everything she hoped a community's spiritual figure should be, and he was honest and frank with her. She always preferred honesty to prevarication. She believed she could trust him, and had told him she would return to have her confession heard and to receive the sacraments. The last time she had confessed......she shook her head to clear away the memories. This was a new place!
Now as she wandered home, her gaze narrowed at the setting sun. More than ever, she hurried and heeded the warnings to stay indoors after dark. Father Selnecker had been very plain with her regarding the Vampire population, the dangers of the docks and the crime guilds...did he say there were two? And there was a demon! She cast her gaze about, realizing that she stood as easy prey for any type of predatory individual, as a woman who lived alone. She did not carry a weapon and did not plan on doing so. Still, whether due to inexperience or just plain blind bravery, she knew she would not leave this place, now that she had come. As Eowyn and now Father Selnecker had said, her services may be needed very badly in a place like this.
She sat on her front steps for a little while, letting the evening breeze caress her skin. How she did adore the night and its sweet attentions! When the moon rose higher and the night got still and quiet, she inched up the steps and slid inside regretfully. There was no sense in taking risks...or not until she had her bearings a bit better. Pulling the shades, she locked the door tightly and climbed the steps to her living quarters. She found solace in a cup of tea and soft music as she sat by her upper window and gazed out at the street attentively, determined to enjoy the night as best she could.
She walked down the corridor drowsily, to the spare room, looking for something. What was she looking for? She tried to remember, rubbing her eyes. Her robe! She was looking for her robe. The cool night air made her shiver beneath her thin chemise. She stepped inside the spare room and covered her mouth, drowning out a cry of shock and horror. How did he get here? Confusion flooded her.
A man lay on the narrow bed, bruised, broken...so much blood! She ran to his side,and bent near him. His strong features were terribly pale with the blood loss. The dark haired man stirred and opened his brown eyes, looking at her in anguish. She reached out to touch him, and then he was gone.
Cymbyliene woke suddenly from the nightmare. She looked around. She was standing beside the empty bed in her spare room. Her heart pounded in her ears as she scanned the perimeter of the small space. All was as she had left it. There was no man, no blood......nothing but a dream. She wrapped her arms around herself a moment with a sudden chill. Muttering to herself brokenly, she looked over at the chest of drawers. Her robe was strewn across the top. She drew it up quickly and put it on, comforted by the substantial feeling of the soft lawn material. She crept across the cool floorboards back to her own room and lay down again, turning on the lamp at her bedside. The warm light caressed her pale skin. Tonight, the darkness was not her friend.
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