This page provides a short story that occurs in Jaipers before the story found in Duilleog. It provides a little insight into some of the Jaipers characters and a little on how Will became the healer of the town.
This started as a simple effort to write something for a website. I found as I went along that I wanted to explore a little more about early life for Will Arbor. For those that have read Duilleog you will catch the tie-ins easily enough. For those that haven’t, perhaps it will give you enough interest to get your hands on the story.
Without further preamble, here are a couple of days in Jaipers:
A Market Day in Jaipers
WILL ARBOR DROPPED his patchwork backpack on the ground beside the table. All around him the Jaipers open market was slowly coming to life in the early summer morning. Men and women, eager to hawk their wares, were hurrying to place tables in the best locations and lift awnings to provide shade against the midday summer heat that was sure to come. Thursday was the busiest day in the market and many of the town’s people came to the market on this day in preparation for the weekend.
Will’s backpack lifted a small cloud of dust that the early morning breeze carried off to dissipate into the town. Will stood up straight and arched his back. His pack was heavy this morning. Last night he had returned to town and spent the evening working his herbs in the back of the common house with Daukyns, the town wordsmith and his friend, helping where he could. This morning his pack bulged with unguents and ointments to heal, soothe, and clear up the smallest of hurts to the strongest of infections.
He shared the table with a young woman, Margaret. She baked small tarts and pies and drew in a crowd. She was popular, especially amongst the children who loved her sweet and tart pies. Margaret had told Will that she loved Thursdays more than any other day because there was always the chance that Will would wander in from the wild to set up shop with her.
“I sell more on these Thursdays than any other day, Will,” she said as she set her pies out on the table. “It keeps me going through the thin days.”
Will nodded and opened his backpack. He lifted out his bundled herbs and placed them on the table next to the pies. He had gathered quite a few herbs this time out. Basil, marjoram, savoury, thyme, mint, and a few others the town knew little of, were in abundance. Next he drew out his unguents and placed them on the table. Margaret watched him and then picked up a small jar. The jar was sealed with wax but she sniffed at it in curiosity.
“What’s this one?”
Will glanced at the jar. “It reduces scars,” he said simply and bent to pull out more small jars.
“And this one?” she asked lifting another jar and sniffing it.
“Healing. It speeds up healing,” said Will.
Margaret picked up another jar, filled with a white powder. She held it out to him and arched an eyebrow.
Will blushed and looked around to see if anyone was listening. “For women. It eases the monthly cramps. You mix it with a little water. Just a pinch.”
Margaret laughed out loud and set the jar down. “And what does a young lad like you know about that?”
“More than most, young lady!” boomed a voice behind her.
She whirled to the sound and shot her hands to her waist. “Mister Daukyns! How dare you sneak up on me!”
“Now, now. No one is sneaking,” Daukyns smiled and moved over beside Will. “Thanks, Will, for your donation you left me.” He patted the sack he carried. “That’s quite a supply. I’ll make sure the right people get it in their hands.”
Will nodded and after closing up his backpack he stood. “My pleasure. I left you asleep this morning. You looked like you needed it.”
Daukyns, the town wordsmith, wore his only piece of clothing: a wine-stained brown robe with sleeves too big for his arms. He loved his wine and spent most evenings sitting outside the common house where the town allowed him to live, sipping from his wooden cup. Will made extra unguents for him and Daukyns distributed them among the poorest in town.
“Oh, I did, I…” he started to answer.
“Richard! A word?”
Will looked around Daukyns to see Bill Burstone standing next to the potter’s shop. Bill was looking around, and when Daukyns didn’t respond right away, he frowned and beckoned him over.
“One moment, Will,” apologised Daukyns and went over to Bill. They spoke in hushed tones and Bill looked upset about something and waved his hands around for emphasis.
“What’s Bill doing with Mister Daukyns?” asked Margaret.
“I’ve no idea,” replied Will. He turned to the table. “Your tarts look lovely today, Margaret.”
Margaret looked sideways at Will and batted her eyes. “Why, Will, are you saying something naughty about me?”
Will blushed a deep red and stammered.
Margaret slapped his arm and laughed. “It’s just cheek. I’m messing with you. Thank you, Will. I hope to sell them all today. I made extra. I had a feeling you would be in town. Thursdays are the best.” She hummed a little tune and rearranged a few pies.
Daukyns raised his voice with Bill and then looked over at Will for a moment. Will knew Daukyns enough to know he was worried about something. He watched Daukyns stride off leaving Bill staring after him for a moment. Will felt a strange sensation in his body. An emotion not of his own making wafted through him and he shuddered. Goosebumps raised on his arms and a ringing sounded in his ears. Bill sensed Will staring and scowled at him before leaving in a different direction.
Will shook his head, and the ringing went away. He rubbed his arms and turned to help Margaret set up her side of the table.
* * *
That evening, Will sat on the ground outside the Jaipers common house. Daukyns sat in his small chair sipping wine and looking out over the common grounds. A few couples strolled hand-in-hand, enjoying the evening, and would nod politely at them as they passed. Across from them was the Woven Bail Inn, its lanterns fully lit and already laughter and singing filled the bar and poured out into the street. Up towards the southern gate were the barracks and stables. A couple of garrison soldiers were outside sharing a pipe. The guards at the gate were calling over to them to hurry up and relieve them.
Will and Daukyns sat in comfortable silence and felt the heat of the day cool a little with the setting sun. The sky was orange and turning red to the west and framed the distant mountains. It was a beautiful evening.
“What was that with Bill today?” asked Will.
“You argued with Bill this morning. At the market.”
Daukyns said nothing for a time before shifting slightly in his chair. He glanced down at Will. “Nothing really. Just something he and I are working on.”
“He seemed upset.”
“Bill is always upset about something. Don’t let it worry you.”
“I sensed something from him.”
Daukyns twisted in his chair to look down at Will. “Sensed something? What do you mean?”
“I can’t explain it. He seemed upset and I swear I could feel it!” Will laughed to take the madness out of his words. He scratched at his neck in an odd way, reminiscent of a dog scratching itself.
“Did you now…” murmured Daukyns. He looked intently at Will before smiling a smile that reached both ears. “How curious! Tell me if you feel anything like that again, will you? Oh, look! Here comes the Reeve. No doubt to tell me to take my wine inside.”
Reeve Stephen Comlin laughed and stopped before the two of them. “Daukyns I can never get you to do anything. Why would I start now?” He looked down at Will. “Evening, Will. Saw you come in yesterday. How are things?”
Will knew Reeve Comlin was asking him if he had seen anything strange outside the town. He shook his head. “All good. Quiet. No travellers on the southern road lately.”
“Not yet. The barges are late coming in from upriver this month. They’ll be here soon enough, then the road to Port West will be busy. Watch yourself out there.”
Comlin turned to Daukyns. “What’s up with Bill?”
“What do you mean?” asked Daukyns, looking accusingly at Will.
“He’s out of sorts. Drinking more than usual at the Inn. Seen you two together a lot these days. So you know what’s going on.”
“My dear Reeve, I assure you nothing is going on. We are merely exchanging knowledge. As a wordsmith I adore knowledge. Through knowledge comes enlightenment. We should all strive toward enlightenment, don’t you think? I’ve yet to see you at the weekly session, Stephen. You should come.”
The Reeve shook his head. “Changing the topic. Fine. You keep Bill out of trouble. I’ll blame you should anything happen.”
Daukyns put a hand to his chest and feigned insult. “Blame me? Reeve Comlin, never!”
Comlin chuckled and wandered away. He waved behind his back. “Good to see you again, Will. Stay safe out there.”
They sat a time longer. The sunset was burning red across the entire horizon now. Daukyns hummed a little with a song being sung off-key in the Inn. They watched the Reeve step inside and a rousing chorus of hellos rang out over the singing.
“I worry about you out there, Will.”
Will looked up at Daukyns and opened his mouth to speak and then closed it.
“I do. You’re too young to be out in the wild on your own.”
“It’s all I’ve ever known. I feel safer out there than in here. I can’t explain it. I feel… welcomed… out there. More at home.”
“Hmm. That in itself is a strange thing, don’t you think?”
“Not really, no.”
“I guess we agree to disagree, young man.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow. Heading out.”
“I thought as much. You sold everything?”
“Yes. So did Margaret. She hugged me and kissed me. Not on the mouth though! On the cheek.”
“Did she now? I’ll have to have a word with her. Quite inappropriate!”
“Daukyns!” exclaimed Will and looked about to make sure no one was nearby to overhear.
Daukyns laughed. “I won’t say a word. I’m just teasing.” He chuckled on for a bit and Will squirmed beside him. “I’ve got a lead for you.”
“Yes, a plant you might be interested in. It’s called a poppy. The sap is very effective against pain. It was used by the military for the wounded. I’ve got a place you might check south and east of here. They have wide petals white, pink, or red, and a large black centre. Long green stems, quite tall. Leaves at the base. There will be fields of them. You need the capsule below the flower. Like a small ball. The milk inside is the magic.”
Will nodded. “Okay. I’ll know them when I see them.”
Daukyns smiled a little. “I have no doubt, my boy. No doubt.”
* * *
The next day as Will was about to leave Jaipers, Reeve Comlin stopped him as he approached the southern gate. Will stopped when he called out and stood and watched as the Reeve ran over to him. The Reeve clapped him on the back and motioned for the gate guards to look the other way.
“Will, so glad I caught you. You’ve saved me a ride trying to track you down. I need your help if you’re willing.”
“Of course, what do you need?”
“One of the town folk could use your help. He had a bit of an accident and he could use your skills.”
“My skills? What do you mean?”
“Will,” said the Reeve and started walking toward the town centre. “Follow me. You have skills as a healer. No one else can get to the heart of the problem like you can. He asked for you.”
“Who is that?”
“Gerald Rayner. You’ve met him before. He runs the clothing store. He had a fall yesterday and hasn’t been doing well.”
“And he asked for me?”
Reeve Comlin waved at two children who ran past chasing a homemade ball. “Yes. Well, his wife did. The town considers you our healer. After you helped that poor woman last month, word has gone out.”
Will remembered the woman. She had been having difficulties with her pregnancy. Will had provided her with herbs and urged her to eat more leafy greens. It had been a simple matter for him. She had been suffering and was white as a sheet. He said as much. “It was no bother. Anyone could see she needed more food to give her strength.”
Comlin chuckled a little. “Yes, anyone could see that, which is why you solved it when no else could. She’s fine now, and due in a week or two according to the midwife. The woman hasn’t stopped talking about you.”
“Huh,” was all Will could think to say.
They walked through the town and a few people called out to Will by name, startling him. The Reeve smiled at Will and said nothing. Soon they made their way past the open market and approached the clothing store. Comlin trotted up the steps and opened the door for Will. Will entered and looked around. A few women were examining clothes hanging on racks and another woman, working the store, was helping them. She looked up when they entered.
“Ah, Reeve Comlin. Will. Thank you so much for coming. My husband is in back with our daughter. Go on in while I see to these women. Will, please help my husband. He’s a stubborn fool.”
“Ma’am,” replied Steve and led Will to the back of the shop. They passed through a curtain hanging across a doorway and found a small office next to a variety of clothes hanging on racks. A girl, only a little older than Will, was sewing a shirt by the looks of it by hand. She looked up with pins sticking out of her mouth.
“My da is in the office.”
“Thanks, Alicia. Come Will.”
They entered the office and found a bedroll on the ground behind the desk. A man lay on his back holding his chest with both hands. He was breathing with difficulty and looked over at them when they stopped before him.
“Gerald, I’ve brought Will to see you.”
“Ah, good, my thanks. I’m not sure I need the attention but my wife is worried.”
“No doubt. You don’t look so good. Can Will examine you?”
Will looked first to the Reeve and then set his backpack down beside Gerald and squatted next to him.
“Hullo, sir, how are you feeling?”
“Like cac. I feel like a horse sat on my chest! It’s so hard to breathe.”
“Can you raise your shirt for me?”
Gerald nodded and pulled his shirt up to his shoulders. Will reached out and started pressing the man’s chest in various locations; probing with his fingers with a firm pressure.
“Does that hurt?”
“There’s no bruising so I don’t think a horse sat on you.”
Will proceeded to probe the man all over, checking for pains. Finally, finding nothing, he gently pulled the man’s eyelids back and looked into his eyes. “Nothing. I think it’s inside.”
“Inside? What do you mean?”
“How old are you, sir?”
“I turned forty-three last month.”
“Have you had any strange pains? Up the left arm? Dizziness? A feeling of wanting to throw up. Sweating a lot? Tired?”
Gerald nodded. “Last week. Felt like someone punched my arm. I had to sit down the other day. The entire world spun right round. Sweat poured out of me.”
“I see,” said Will and rummaged through his backpack. He drew out a small vial filled with a grey powder. He looked up at the Reeve. “Can you get me a glass of water?”
Reeve Comlin nodded and turned to the door where Alicia was standing chewing her lip. Will hadn’t heard her move to the door. Comlin repeated the request and Alicia disappeared into the store. “It will be just a moment.”
Will pulled herbs out of his backpack and laid them down and removed leaves from the bundles of herbs, creating a large pile. He mixed the leaves up and put his herb bundles back in his pack. Alicia appeared and handed Will the water without a word and then hung back watching. Will removed the cork stopper on the vial and poured a small amount into the glass. The powder dissolved. He handed the vial to Alicia.
“Keep that. Reeve Comlin could you sit him up for me? He needs to drink this.”
Comlin did as he was told and Will handed the glass to Gerald who took it with a shaking hand. “What is this?” he asked.
“A powder I made from the bark of the birch tree. It helps with pain. It will also make it easier for your heart to move your blood.”
“Eh? What’s that? What’s wrong with me?”
“I think you suffered a mild heart attack.”
“You do, do you? A heart attack? At my age? And how do you know that? You’re nought but a child!”
Reeve Comlin tutted. “Trust me, Gerald. This young man has a knack for this. I’ve seen a lot of healers in my time. He’s one of the best. If he says this will help, it will.”
Gerald looked ready to argue but then he nodded and sipped the water. “Ugh, it tastes foul. And bitter!”
“Sorry,” said Will. “Taking it with honey will help.”
Gerald drank the rest of the water and grimaced. He gasped for breath and handed the glass back to Comlin. “Terrible taste. Like something died in it.” Gerald wiped at his mouth and then looked at the pile of herbs. “What that for, then?”
“To make tea. Three cups a day. I’ll write down the contents and the amount of each herb and give it to your wife. You’ll need to purchase more. The market sells them. But use mine first. Three cups a day, without fail. You should have one now.”
Alicia murmured something and disappeared out of the office. Reeve Comlin laid Gerald back on the bedroll. He remained where he was. “What’s the tea for, Will?” he asked.
“These herbs should help with the symptoms and relieve the stress on his heart and body.”
“And you know this how?” demanded Gerald.
Will looked blank-faced at Comlin.
Gerald frowned. “How do you know? How do I know it won’t poison me, or make it worse?”
Will looked uncertain. “It will help. Each herb has properties that will help your circulation. Take the powder every morning. Just a small amount like I used. Daukyns has more and knows how to make it. But taken together, the powder and the tea, they will get you up and moving. Probably in a few days. You’ll need to keep taking them.”
“For how long?”
“Well, forever, I think. Unless you do something to get your heart stronger.”
“Get my heart stronger? What do you mean?”
“Exercise. Go for walks. That would be best. Walk down to the river. Around town. Daily. No heavy lifting. For a few months at least.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Sir, you will die. Your heart is weak. It struggles.”
“By the Word! Reeve! Who is this young man! He’s not even a chirurgeon’s apprentice!”
“He’s the young man who is trying to save your life. I suggest you listen to him.”
Alicia returned with a kettle and a cup. “We’ve just heated the water a little while ago. Does it have to be hotter?”
Will touched the side of the kettle and shook his head. “It’s fine.” He took a small portion of the herbs and sprinkled it in the cup. Next, he filled it with hot water and set it aside. “Let it steep for five minutes. Then drink it all. Three times a day. Morning, afternoon, and before bed. You can add honey if you like. Maybe mint to making it soothing.”
“Does he drink the leaves?” asked Alicia.
“No, strain that. You’ve enough herbs here for a week at least. You can get more at the market when you can.” Will picked up the cup and handed it to Alicia. “Make sure he drinks it all.” Will closed his backpack and stood up with it. Reeve Comlin stood with him.
Will looked about, uncertain what to do, and then moved to the exit.
Reeve Comlin paused and looked down at Gerald. “Do as he says, or your family will be burying you at the cemetery.”
Gerald nodded once, and they left the room leaving Alicia with her father. As they said farewell to the wife, Will gave her instructions on the tea and the recipe, and they walked out into the street. They had taken only a few steps when Alicia ran up behind them and stopped them. She thrust a small package into Will’s hands.
“They’re just scraps of cloth, but I thought you could use them. For your feet, or whatever. Thanks for helping my da.”
Will and Reeve Comlin looked down at Will’s feet. He had them wrapped in pieces of cloth for shoes. Will blushed. “Thank you, and you’re welcome.”
Alicia beamed a smile and ran back inside the shop.
Reeve Comlin stood looking at Will for a long moment, his expression unreadable. “Well done, Will. A chirurgeon would have charged a gold crown for that.”
Will’s eyes grew wide at the amount.
“He’s a lucky man. A chance to live for the price of a few scraps of cloth. Come on, I’ll walk you out to the gate, son.