The stillness of the small figure in the bed makes Marta wonder fleetingly if she has died. She is as motionless as stone, arms lying limply on top of the blankets, until Marta gently touches her cheek. Reacting with great fear, she jerks her body backwards, hitting her head against the wall behind her. Marta can see abrasions and marks on her lower face and around her wrist. They stand out cruelly against her smooth flawless skin. Dark eyes fluttering open, she looks at Marta, who sees recognition stirring in their depths. She seems incapable of speech and makes no sound, but watches warily as Marta sets about caring for her wounds and bruises.
Marta wets the rags she has brought with her in the brine solution and cleans the open cuts. The sight of the puffy and discoloured side of her ribcage brings tears to her eyes. She shows Ardrina how to make a poultice from bread and wine to ease Dorthina’s bruising. The women boil the mixture over the open fire outside and, once it has cooled completely, apply it to Dorthina’s damaged flesh. She knows that Ardrina would have preferred a shaman’s remedies and is only accepting her help because nothing else is available.
Martha dips a little bread in some warmed milk and offers it to the girl. She eats a tiny amount and then turns her head away, starring with indifferent blankness at the wall.
“Let her sleep, Ardrina. Stay with her today and keep an eye on her. Clean her wounds with the brine solution again after supper and reapply the bread poultice. Send one of the children to fetch the beef tea tonight. It will be ready by then.”
Marta left the grieving woman and her daughter alone and walked back to her own house. She has done what she can for Dorthina’s external wounds. The damage to her soul will be much more difficult to heal.
This is an extract from A Ghost and his Gold. It was going to be a novella, however, I received amazing comments from my developmental editor, Esther Chilton, and now my head is filled with a whole lot of new ideas to expand this story. I think it may end up a novel. Isn’t life great!
You can join in Sue Vincent’s wonderful photo prompt: Stillness here: https://scvincent.com/2019/10/10/thursday-photo-prompt-stillness-writephoto/