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Prancing in the Pony

The Room with a View was as draughty as it gets and Margyth shivered in her thin chemise. She was brushing her tunic clean. It had got dirty today and she needed to look presentable. It wasn't just about Mrs Adler, for whom cleanliness was godliness - Margyth needed to find more work! The unexpected pay cut was undermining her plans and playing havoc with her tuition. Mr Willow wasn't going to teach her for free, that much was clear. He demanded payment even for discussing simple things. She was a cash cow for him, but what could she do? This was the way things were, the way things had always been.


She finished with the tunic and looked outside. It was late enough and the stars were bright in the sky, but the town never slept. Good! The distant, ceaseless clatter on the cobbled streets was going to muffle any sound she might make. She could hear the music too. She thought of last night, when the storm and thunder forced her to abandon her usual routine. The Dwarf - she wished she had got his name -was a true master of the lute. Patrons came, patrons went, and Margyth had ears only for his deep baritone and eyes only for his fingers on the strings. And then a pint of ale was stuck right under her nose and she accepted before she even knew it.


She peered at the tub she had dragged here a few days ago, slipped the chemise off, and stuck her foot into the water. She groaned - it was freezing! Not as cold as the river but cold enough. Pulling the air in sharply through her teeth, she sat down in the icy water, dipped a piece of clean, old towel in it and started washing herself. She still didn't understand why she took the tankard - maybe because she'd seen the man holding it before and his never-ending argument with that girl amused her. Maybe she just needed to talk to someone or maybe it simply felt good to be flirted with for a change, even if the man doing the flirting was drunk as a skunk and prepared to climb all over old Butterbur if there were no other targets. She grinned to herself. She would have loved to see Butterbur's face if it had come to this. There were other targets, of course, she was just the one standing the closest. She rubbed her skin harder and faster to fend off the growing numbness, her breath coming in agitated spasms. She didn't remember herself laughing this much in a long time. The way this man, Wulfney, or a lucky asshole, as he had introduced himself, pranced around the room had her in stitches in no time.  He wanted to talk her into dancing with him but despite the ale making her head swimming she had enough common sense to decline. She sniggered. All the other patrons pranced with him though. Was it him or the Dwarf's extraordinary musical skill?.


Washing her hair was the worst part and she dipped her head in the water with clenched teeth. The temperature in the Room tonight wasn't helping either; a little cloud was forming with every breath. Maybe she should have danced after all, at least the memory of it would have kept her warmer now. She thought longingly about the public bathing rooms and snorted; she'd never be able to afford them but, goodness, there had to be a better way than this! She jumped out of the water and started drying herself with a stiff, rough towel as quickly as she could. He managed to surprise her, didn't he? When the Dwarf took a break to drink some of that strong smelling liquor popular with only a few patrons Wulfney carried his own lute into the room. She laughed expecting him to disgrace himself, drunk as he was, but the lute obeyed him without fail. Well, almost without fail. After the initial display of virtuosity there came the sad, melancholic songs. He'd mentioned a flower he's left behind and the home he missed and she let her emotions be carried by the tunes. She slipped on a clean chemise. Well, these were beautiful and sad songs,  but she didn't have go all soppy about it, did she?


She wrapped herself with an old, patched cloak working as a blanket. It wasn't doing much but she had to keep her clothes neat and tidy for the morning. She tucked herself in. The feeling from yesterday lingered and images flooded her mind. She stared ahead unseeing long into the night.