Beneath the cloak Venne was wearing tight-fitting grey clothing; a light-grey tunic tied at the neck and darker grey trousers tucked into black, ankle-high soft boots.  One sleeve was missing from his tunic, and the exposed arm had three long, finger-wide burns running from halfway along his biceps down to his wrist.  They were livid red and weeping little droplets of translucent yellow fluid, and stood out strongly against the near-whiteness of his skin. Alenna sucked her breath between her teeth when she saw it, and Mirko felt his stomach twist slightly.  He was surprised Venne had controlled himself as well as he had when they'd shook hands.

"Tell me, Venne, how does a clock-maker's apprentice manage to burn himself like that?" said Alenna going back to her dresser and opening the top cupboard this time.  Mirko could see that there were taller and wider jars inside.

"Sheer carelessness, Mistress Alenna," said Venne, hanging his head slightly.  "I was heating a wax-clock to remove the residue from it before putting new candles in, and forgot about it.  When I came to pick it up, the wax ran in three hot streams down my arm.  And like a fool, I poured water over it, hardening the surface of the wax and holding the hot core against my skin."

Alenna took a jar of dirty green salve from the cupboard, and opened a drawer in the dresser.  From it she took a soft, gauzy fabric and an ornately carved wooden box.  Then she brought them all over to where Venne was sat.

"This," she said, opening the box and taking pinches of a dark substance out and sprinkling them on his arm, "is cobweb.  It will help the skin grow back."  When she was done, she wrapped a sheet of the gauzy material around his arm once, and slathered the green salve over it.

"This will promote healing.  You will have to peel this off at some point, and it will probably take the hair off your arm with it, but if you can burn yourself this badly without screaming fit to wake the dead, then I suspect you can do that too."  More gauze went on, then more salve, and a final layer of gauze.  "Try not to get it wet, and keep it on for at least three days."

"You have my thanks, Mistress Alenna," said Venne, rising to his feet and testing the flexibility of his arm.  "How much do I owe you for your care?"

Alenna frowned, and then her face lightened again with a smile.  "I have a water-clock," she said, "and I think it's running too fast.  Could you look it over for me, and call that payment?"

"It would be my pleasure," said Venne, pulling the cloak around him.  Mirko suddenly realised that Venne was a good foot smaller than him, and in the cloak he seemed almost to be one of the shadows in the room.  "Do you have it here now?"

"I shall bring it over to Zesh this evening," said Alenna.  "I still have some ointments to make up today."

Venne nodded, and a hand emerged from the cloak for long enough to add a flourish to his bow, and then he disappeared through the door outside.

"So druid," said Alenna, "what can I do for you then?"

Mirko lifted his itching arm, flushed red, and said, "Poison ivy."  Alenna's laughter at first made his face burn even hotter, and then slowly he joined in as well, seeing the ridiculousness of it all.

The End

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