I sunk down as the water lapped at my skin. After only a few days of sleeping on hard ground and being bathed in dust (how much dust could a place have? Honestly. My hair had changed colors after the first hour of the journey). With each inch that disappeared into the water, grey and red rose to the surface. Thank the gods that Jamie had suggested I ask for three baths. I thought he was crazy, but I had been too tired to argue. Even after doing my best to knock myself free of the worst of it, I left a murky mudbath behind me as I emerged from bath number one.
Gratefully I settled into bath number two. The water was warm and the rough light rock that was left for me was glorious. Pumice, I think is what the innkeep called it. Didn’t have much call for it’s like back in my home-town, but in a land of dust, clay and mud—well, I was glad it existed. I had been worried it would sting or cut, but it honestly was fine. Little rough, but exactly what was needed to free the grey stuck in my pores.
To think I had thought I had been clean! The second bath, if possible, looked worse than the first. The first at least had the decency to just look dirty—this looked disease. Bits of skin, roughened and then loosened, floated and mixed with the grey and red that had still hidden themselves on me. It looked like a stew of sick or a cauldron a witch would mix.
Finally, I was in bath three and all I had to care about was relaxing. No more dust, just sore muscles, bit raw skin, and hair that finally returned to its inky color. At least I understood why mum always refused to wear black when she travelled. To think I thought black would be safe from at least looking grimy!
With a sigh that rattled my ribs I sunk my head under the water still warmed by the fire under it. Gods bless whoever thought that up and gods bless the girl that had come in and stoked it while I scrubbed and scrubbed in the other baths. If it wouldn’t likely cause a fuss, I would’ve kissed her.
It had only been a few days in my journey and already I was ready for a break. Jamie had tried to warn me, but nooooo, I wouldn’t listen. What did he know, after all? I was young and healthy and strong. I could handle anything!
Water burned as I snorted at my own folly. Some great traveler I was, not even a week in and I was desperate for the comforts of civilization. I’d get used to it, eventually. Maybe. It had to get easier.
I ignored the voice in the back of my head that sounded suspiciously like Jamie’s rough brogue. It reminded me that the second week was supposed to be even harder. It was a quiet thing, though. A whisper compared to the call of a dream I’d had since I was knee-high to a squirrel.
The warmth of the water, the soreness leeching from my aching bones and the knowledge that each callous brought me closer to my goal was all the lullaby I needed. The dream of moonlight bathed mountains took me and I soared even as I sunk into the water. The call of Griffins I’d never seen, the halls of a people long past and the knowledge that I was on my way to find them danced behind my eyes as sleep took me.