Bian -12- A Fennik for a Pottle of Kawdry

Somewhere, past the edge of desperation lies a land called...

by Erin Halfelven


Chapter 12 - A Fennik for a Pottle of Kawdry

My stomach growled unexpectedly. Kilda could not get back too soon with that soup. During the meeting with Tahtie and Zenner, I’d had a piece of buttered bread and a cup of watered wine, and it had grown kind of thin. I didn’t really feel hungry, just sort of low on energy, but my stomach kept complaining.

Borgifu had gone to make sure horses were ready for us, Rotgar and Lillakatye had followed to have a discussion about planning and whether the Amazon-like warwife would be joining or opposing us. Kilda went to the kitchens to get us some provisions and a hot meal.

Leaving me to pack things into two large leather sacks that looked for all the world like duffel bags. First things packed, all my stuff from elsewhen. Except for the small Glock and two extra magazines that went into my brand new pockets.

I looked around the rooms for other stuff that would likely need to be packed and found a sturdy pair of fur-lined boots my size. Alenna’s size. I swapped the house boots I had on and packed them wrapped in a length of oiled leather on top of the Earth stuff. I found a belt with a large pouch attached and put that on for a hip pack, under the vest. Thinking about it, I dug the taser out and put that in the pouch. Kilda would probably have an idea of what else to put in there. Maybe the local equivalent of toilet paper and toothbrush?

What the heck did they use for stuff like that? Jeez. And…and, uh, feminine hygiene stuff which I would probably need sooner or later if I didn’t find a way out of here and now. Miken Gotter! I pushed those thoughts away with some effort, trying not to dwell on negative thoughts.

I found some heavier robes, but had no real idea which would be appropriate, so I just determined the ones that were the right size and lay them on my bed. Oof. It wasn’t hard to tell Alenna’s stuff from Kilda’s and there go more negative thoughts. Darkness and ice, I cussed in Bloddish.

I really had no idea what else to pack, so I just folded an extra robe and stuffed it in on top of the Deputy Gallant things and left it at that for the moment. Something else nagged at me.

I stood awhile in uffish thought, and it came to me again. I’d thought of it before but lost track of the idea. Alenna was a magic worker and the words for that in Bloddish implied spells written in runes. Why hadn’t I found something like spell books during my searches?

Well, obviously, she had either taken them with her or hidden them well. I had to hope they were just hidden. If I found them, would I be able to use them? I could hope.

I hadn’t found any paper while searching but I did find a box with quill pens, a small knife, a black crumbly stone-like thing, a bottle of what might be ink and a couple of small dishes. I had a vague idea how those were used, but I didn’t find anything to write on and, other than the door, nothing that was already written on.

Surely Alenna kept stuff she had written down somewhere? Besides any hypothetical spell book, she must have done some writing. I checked behind the keldringer and on the bottom of a couple of the trays in the push-pull. Nothing. But one of the trays was curiously heavy. I took the gloves and scarves out and there it was, another box like the one that had held the ink stuff but bigger.

Opening it up, I found three small leather bags and a stack of what I thought must be paper but turned out to be very thin sheets of something a lot like leather. Parchment or vellum (if those two are not the same thing) or something like that, two dozen sheets, each as thick as poster board but flexible. The Bloddish word came to me; skrapenskijdder, scraped hides. And all of them covered in writing, both sides, close and small, and sometimes written on in two different directions, the lines of writing overlaying other words at right angles.

It made it hard to read, using a bit of understatement. And she had used at least two languages and two different alphabets, sometimes on the same line of writing. Excitement and stress made it hard to concentrate on deciphering it, and Kilda might be back with soup any moment.

I turned my attention to the bags because I suspected what I would find. The smallest one contained coins, gold coins. Seventeen of them, each no bigger than a nickel and six of them penny-sized or smaller. I couldn’t judge their sizes very well because of my changed stature until it occurred to me to dig out the change from my uptime pockets and compare. I rushed off to do that as soon as I thought of it and basically took all the detritus of Gallant’s pockets and put it into my new hip pouch for later sorting.

I had a $1.58 in assorted American coins. Three quarters, five dimes, four nickels, thirteen pennies and a $1 token from a car wash, which was slightly larger than a quarter. Quarters, I knew from some piece of remembered trivia, were just less than an inch in diameter and five of them weighed about an ounce. They looked enormous lying in my tiny hands.

The larger gold coins were indeed about nickel-size, but thinner and yet heavier; adding them up, along with the smaller ones, it seemed I had about two ounces of gold, maybe a bit more. In my world, that would be worth about $4000. Who knew what it would buy here?

The largest bag had silver coins in it, of four or five different types; some of them half-coins or quarter-coins, cut from larger ones. It felt like five or six ounces of silver, all added up.

I knew the names of some of the coins, the big gold coins were markka, plural markkan; call them marks. The commonest silver coin was a fennik, smaller than a dime; a penny; the largest silver coin, about quarter-size was a grotta, and it weighed about the same as four of the fenniks; a fourpence then? Most of the grottas had marks on one side for cutting them in half or quarter, and about half of the fenniks had similar marks. Which explained all the half and quarter coins in the bag. The quarter fenniks had a name that sounded like English: farthing.

How much was all the silver worth? I had no firm idea, but some part of my new identity told me that a mark was worth 100 pennies, more or less, depending on… on what? Well, there probably was no government enforcing a proportion like the old U.S. rule of twenty-to-one or whatever it had been. So the value of gold versus silver probably went up and down.

Another part of my borrowed memory said that sixteen fennik weighed one hejr, an ounce, though it would be less than the ounces I was used to but not by much. And that a gold mark was worth eight hejr of silver except that it wasn’t always. And three marks would weigh an hejr, an ounce, also. Sixteen hejr, ounces, to the pund, pound.

How had Alenna gotten so much money? Gifts? Theft? Extortion? It seemed like a lot, but we might need it. We would have people after us, anyway, so where the money came from didn’t seem that important.

The middle size bag held shiny pebbles. It took me a moment to realize these were probably gemstones. Not something I knew much about but a few looked like colored pieces of quartz, and the dark red ones might be… garnet? Surely not rubies hidden in a young girl’s bedroom? If they were only semi-precious, still each stone might be worth several marks.

I needed to sit down. This was a treasure; even in my own world, it would have been enough to get someone knocked in the head. Counting the gems, it had to be worth $5000 to $10,000 in uptime numbers, but the buying power here and now might be five or ten times as much. I seemed to know, somehow, that a mug of ale was a halfpenny and a cup of wine, twice that much. A loaf of brown bread cost a farthing, but a good riding horse might be 100 marks or more.

And we were going to take four or more of such horses. Where would Borgifu get the horses she had promised? Did Alenna own a horse? Rotgar probably owned more than one. Could Kilda ride? How would we carry supplies? How long would it take to get to Lundenna?

It suddenly occurred to me that I should be asking Rotgar these things instead of letting him handle all the details. But I really didn’t know where he had gone. He probably wouldn’t even think of talking with me about this stuff. After all, I was a barely teenage girl.

Annoyed, I put a hand into my new pocket and fingered the stock of the Glock hidden there. I didn’t want to shoot anyone else but having the gun available comforting and anxiety-making at the same time.

Someone knocked at the door. A first, everyone else just barged right in. I hurried to the door and swung it open, and there stood Kilda, her arms full carrying a wooden container with upside down bowls stacked on top of it.

“This is hot,” she said, hurrying inside and setting the —tureen?— down on the table. She had wooden spoons tucked into her kirtle and small buns knotted into a fold of her apron, and while she freed those, I took the lid off the soup, and I nearly fainted from the pleasure of the smell.

“It’s a kawdry of pork and dried fish with butter, and milk, and roots from the cellar,” she said. “Cook gave us a pottle which will do for our midday meal. I told her you had missed out eating.”

Which was true, more or less. We didn’t wait for anyone to get back and join us but filled our bowls, broke a loaf of the good, white bread and ate quickly. The roots seemed to be onions, turnips and something that tasted like cabbage. No potatoes, I noticed. Well, those had not come from the New World yet, had they?

One helping of the soup filled me up, but I did polish the sides of the bowl with pieces of bread while Kilda told me what else she had learned, the most important thing being that no one had any idea that I intended to avoid my wedding by leaving.

Again the door opened suddenly, and Rotgar came in. “Food!” he said and went immediately to the pottle still half-full of kawdry. “Borgifu got the horses, we’d better leave within the half hour if we are going to put any road between us and your father before night.”

The warm soup turned to ice inside me. I didn’t want to betray the man I had been calling Tahtie, but if I stayed I’d have to marry Duke Awful.

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This story is 1952 words long.