This bit is supposed to take place after the events of the previous posting. This is told from the perspective of Kathra, however, rather than an outside character. Please tell me if you like this or if you’d rather have things told from outside, as in the previous post.
Kathra’s cell was silent at last. She’d long since stopped crying, a thing she hadn’t done in quite a while. Still, it had taken time for her to regain her composure and the emotion that had caused the crying still lingered, poisoning everything. As a result, the plate of food that had been pushed beneath the door lay untouched in exactly the same spot it had ended up. Kathra gazed at it from her bunk again. Though normally appealing, the food, now cold as stone, looked just as unappetizing now as it had then. Kathra sighed and lay down on her bunk.
Just then, the door swung inward and Deldeth came bustling in. She took one look at Kathra and shook her head as the guard shut and locked the door behind her.
“Great Riknor,” she sighed, “How Copperminer clan has fallen.”
“What?” Kathra whispered, sitting up.
“Look at you,” Deldeth said, shaking her head in dismay. “If your clan mates could only see you, they’d surely think you’d forgotten them.”
“Go away,” Kathra moaned, laying down again and rolling over to face the wall.
“Oh!” Deldeth exclaimed, “That side is even worse!”
“Leave me alone,” the prisoner growled.
“Oh, of course,” said Deldeth dismissively, “Leave you alone. You don’t care about your clan at all, do you? You’re content to lie there and dishonor Copperminer clan with your–”
“Copperminer clan is dead!” Kathra shouted, springing from her bunk in a rage, tears in her eyes again. “They’re all gone! Don’t you understand? There’s nothing I can do that will bring them back! Nothing!”
“You’re wrong,” Deldeth said softly, smiling in triumph. “So long as you live, Copperminer lives.”
Kathra gasped, her tirade brought up short.
“You never considered that, did you,” the priestess continued, walking forward. “You were too busy wallowing in self-pity to even allow that thought to touch your brain for a second. Listen to me. You are Copperminer clan, now. You have a responsibility to those that went before you to bring honor and glory back to the clan name. There is no one else and you cannot do it looking the way you do.” As she said this, Deldeth rested a hand on Kathra’s all-too-slender shoulder. “So, to begin you are going to eat your dinner.”
“I–,” Kathra began, but the look on Deldeth’s face brooked no argument. The aging priestess walked over to the neglected plate, picked it up, then walked back and held it out expectantly.
“Do you want me to feed it to you?” the matronly dwarf added slowly, with a look that said she would if forced.
Kathra, her face filled with reluctance, gingerly took the plate, then, her eyes still on her unwanted guest, sat back down at the edge of her bed and began to eat. The food tasted like chalk in her mouth, but Deldeth’s grim expression didn’t lift until the younger dwarf had cleaned her plate.
“That’s much better,” the priestess declared, taking back the now empty plate, “Think about what I’ve said to you. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that, she banged on the door and it opened to let her leave.
That night, Kathra didn’t sleep very well at all. Deldeth’s words kept ringing through her brain, scattering sleep like so many bats in a surface cave after dark. How the Copperminer clan has fallen. Had it? Just because of her? If your clan mates could only see you, they’d surely think you’d forgotten them. Would they? Would they really? So long as you live, Copperminer lives. That was the one which repeated itself most often. Then, in its wake, always, you have a responsibility to those that went before you to bring honor and glory back to the clan name. That last sounded so much like her father that it drove right to the bone. When she was able to sleep, Kathra’s dreams were haunted by visions of faceless dwarves glowering disapprovingly at her. These dreams never lasted long, but they always seemed to lurk right behind her eyes.
As a result, when breakfast came sliding beneath the door this time, Kathra was wide awake. Not wanting to watch Deldeth glare at her while she ate again, Kathra ate with a will and found, to her amazement, that the food was delicious. There was a small cake of rye bread which turned out to have been baked with gokni cheese inside it and smelled heavenly the minute she broke it open. There were fresh klognath berries, light and sweet to the taste, which only grew beneath the surface, and shishgruk mushrooms, the last given a light dusting of freshly carved salt. Finally, there was gignove, which was a kind of bacon harvested from giant bats. When she was finished, she pushed the empty plate back beneath the door, which elicited a surprised grunt from the guard outside and went to the spring in the corner of her cell for a drink. She was just finishing with this when the door swung open and Deldeth walked in again carrying a large bag. Behind her came two burly guards carrying a large tub full of warm water which they set on the floor by the drain hole. Then, one of the guards handed Deldeth a bar of soap and the other left and brought in a stool and a large towel and set them down next to the tub. This done, both guards left, pulling the door shut behind them.
“Let me guess,” Kathra said, beginning to disrobe. “Time for a bath.”
“You do learn quick,” Deldeth smiled. “First, though, we’re going to comb your hair. Such a mess as this will only be made worse if we try to comb it after you bathe” Kicking the stool forward, Deldeth gestured to it and, unwillingly, Kathra seated herself on it. What followed must have sounded like some kind of battle to the guards outside. When it was over, though, Kathra’s hair was as smooth as a stalactite and there were eighteen tiny copper clamp beads, six gold ones and two iron ones lying in a little pile on the floor at her feet. After that, Kathra got into the tub and, under Deldeth’s watchful gaze, began to clean herself.
“I still don’t understand how you could stand to be this dirty?” the watching priestess breathed after a while.
“Work in the gravel pits is dirty,” Kathra answered.
“That’s obvious,” Deldeth grunted, “I meant, why didn’t you bathe after?”
“What for? I’d only get dirty again the next day.”
“So you can actually stand to sleep in that…filth?”
“They never offered me a bath unless the next day wasn’t a work day,” Kathra said, ducking underwater to wet her hair before beginning to wash it as well.
“Hmm,” said Deldeth, her eyes narrowing ominously, “We’ll just see about that. You’re going to need another tub of water,” she added, gazing into the muddied water Kathra was sitting in. “You won’t get any cleaner in that one. Guards!”
In the end, it took three tubs of clean water to get Kathra clean enough to suit Deldeth. Once that was done, the priestess dug into her bag and removed a number of bundles, which she handed unceremoniously to her charge. These turned out to be clean, blue, linen tunics, one of which Kathra immediately donned, surprised at how good it felt to be clean in fresh clothing.
“Now, sit down,” Deldeth ordered, taking a new comb and a polished steel hand mirror from her bag. Kathra obediently sat and the priestess began to comb. Unlike before, this combing didn’t take nearly so long. Once she was finished, Deldeth handed Kathra the mirror and began to braid the girl’s hair and replace the removed beads. This took a while, since the clan style was fairly complicated, but Kathra was astonished at just how much she remembered of how it was supposed to look.
Once finished, Deldeth set the comb and mirror on Kathra’s unused shelf and dug into her bag again. This time the bundle she removed contained clean linen sheets and a white, goat’s wool night dress. With quick movements, Deldeth had the bedsheets changed and the blanket firmly shaken and replaced. Then she laid the new night dress on Kathra’s pillow.
“Understand,” the priestess said firmly, “You’re not to wear this after work unless you’ve bathed first. Have I made myself crystal clear?”
“Yes,” Kathra agreed.
“Good,” said Deldeth then, brushing her hands together, “Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I have …other things to do.” With a grim look on her face, the aging priestess banged on the door, which swung open to admit the same two guards as previously. This time, though, the younger of the two stopped, staring at Kathra as though he’d never seen her before. The other, who’d gone straight to the empty tub, thrown in the towel and stool and lifted a handle, cursed roundly at its heaviness and, turning to find out what was keeping his companion, let out a low whistle as his gaze lit on the cell’s occupant. Then Deldeth cleared her throat, bringing the two males back to their work.
“One more thing,” the priestess added as the two guards hustled their burdens out of the cell again, “If you ever stop taking care of yourself, you will be seeing me again and next time my visit won’t be nearly as friendly.” That said, she turned and the door was shut behind her.