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The Samtíðarsögur of SIGRÍÐR part iv- The Bath house at Ar’ Elis

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Even in the gloom of the drinking halle that Tyler has located for them, it was warm enough that the shield maiden could feel the sweat collecting and trickling down, through the valley of her spine and the scent of dead troll and an unwashed body became noticeable even to her.

 

Tyler had left her, Caius was gone, and she was a maid alone in a bar, looking as though she has been dragged through a muddy battlefield and stinking of death and dried gore. It would not be pleasant to the other patrons within the bar and yes, some were wrinkling their nose and moving discretely away. It was with a gentle tap upon her arm then that the hosteller draws attention to her state and says with delicately placed meaning

 

“We have a fine bath house here M’lady, should you require it?”

 

His words resonate. of course, she is filthy. It must be extremely unpleasant for those stood downwind. The empty glass is placed up the counter. Eyes the color of cornflowers regard the innkeeper steadily and then a curt nod to confirm that she will comply with his suggestion.

Servants arrive to guide her through double doors and away from the bar and before she knows it, she is hit with the hot and steamy thickness of air associated with scalding water and lots of it. Once there, she is guided through the gloom to a quadrangle that remains exposed to the sky.

A space that was filled with lush ferns and palms in pots, slender colonnades that hold a Romanesque quadrant and open to the sun- a heated bath all picked out in mosaic tiles of terracotta, blue and yellow of a Moorish palette.

 

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It was a most pleasing surprise.

 

This level of luxury was unknown to the Viking shield maiden, and her eyes are widen and her lips part agape with wonder and surprise and a little dismay for she feels as though she sullies the cleanliness of this place purely by being here.

She sees there are other bathers, women of the town who come there to relax, to gossip, gathered in groups of two or three, either sat about the edge of the pool, kicking their feet through the steaming water that is perfumed with the most delicate of floral scents, or in the pool and leaning against the sides, feeling the soothing heat of the water as they wash away the cares and concerns of the day.

Attendants trip about the place, dressed in robes of billowing white and carrying stacks of towels or freshly laundered clothing. Along the walls were benches where women were receiving a massage, or  just sitting chewing the fat wrapped all about in linens, waiting for their clothing to be prepared.

It was a pleasant atmosphere, but all chatter and muted conversation ceased immediately at the sight of the filthy, barbarian warrior, and SIGRÍÐR tilted her chin upwards in defiance,  she was determined to feel no shame at her appearance, for this dirt and gore had been hard earned.

 

There is movement about her and as her eyes adjust to the gloom about her, she is able to discern yet more women and at first is surprised at the single sex nature of this establishment but then, these were not her lands, neither were they her customs and she would abide by the traditions of their hospitality.

A gentle touch upon her arm and the shield maiden at first flinches and then see that an attendant smiles kindly to her and gestures that she should remove her clothing and deliver it to her. The maiden is vaguely aware of the door opening behind her and others shuffling in behind her, one very loudly complaining about such an affront, but SIGRÍÐR merely steps forward into the square of light that comes from the open roof above the pool, beaming into the space and highlighting the curling shapes of the steam as it drifts to find its escape.

The water seems inviting and without further ado, she roughly dumps the shield into the waiting arms of the serving wench, followed by the axe that clatters upon it, and with a tug at her belt, the sheath that holds the heavy one handed sword finds a place also, along with knives from her hip and from her boot.

The weight seems to be enough for the servant and she is away immediately, leaving the shield maiden to drop to her haunches and test the heat of the water by trailing pale fingers through it. It feels divine.

 

There is noise,  complaints and  protests from a patron that cause the blonde woman, SIGRÍÐR to turn and view the fuss and sees some very meaning attendants ushering a woman who moved with the mildly tentative action of one who was not in complete control of all her perceptual functions. The woman is sightless and as she is being ushered and pulled this way and that, finally explodes.

When the woman angrily assaults on servant, SIGRÍÐR is immediately on her feet and approaching her.

“Peace sister!” comes the plea to Morgdaya’s hearing. Although it was spoken in the common speech, it was hued with a very pronounced accent of the Northern Reaches that would indicate it was not spoken by someone who claimed it as their mother tongue. Reluctant was she to approach too swiftly, for one servant has already been put upon her back and the woman had an expression upon her sightless visage that she would think twice of doing it to another.

“They mean well”

 

The shield maiden smiles at the almost pathological independence of the sightless warrior who causes such outcry. She has seen this temperament before on almost every shield maiden she has ever shared the shield wall with.

Fighting to be equals.

Fighting for respect and taking it without permission or fault.

A tinkling authenticity, a laugh that was genuine, perhaps it would relieve the tension in the room, but the sounds of the women returning to their activities would distract from any further harshness of words.

The blind one now reluctantly accedes that she does indeed need help.

“Then allow me” came the voice again, as SIGRÍÐR shoos away the servants and gently lays her own hand beneath the outstretched palm of Morgdaya.

 

The woman would flinch at the sudden touch but SIGRÍÐR would remain firm and confident and say “You are very close to the steps. There is a pool before you. Looking at the depth it would come perhaps to your waist” as she assesses the height of the water on the other bathers and describes it perfectly to aid the female warrior.

“Five steps down and a rail on the wall” the soft accented voice of SIGRÍÐR would have a calming effect and was certainly more effective at making the blind woman aware of her surroundings than the pushing and tugging of  servants.

A step- one and then two- and then the sightless one’s hand was placed upon the rail and her toes would feel warm water lapping at her toes.

“Remember” comes the voice again. “Five steps” and then the touch is alleviated and the shield maiden moves away to allow her to do it herself. Besides, these clothes were not about to remove themselves.

 

The maiden has already stepped away from the sightless one’s passage into the steaming water, and leans against a bench while she unties the leather garters that wrap about firm calf muscles and hold trews to boot.
 
Boots are slid from tired and aching feet, then- tight leggings of dirty leather are unlaced at the navel, loosened and with a shimmy, slip from narrow hips. It was no effort at all then to unlace the toughened leather chest piece and sigh with some relief as the tight bonds of that item are relaxed and she feels she can breath again.
 
All are passed to a servant who waits with arms outstretched to transport all of them to the laundry. The fume of stinking unwashed body and soured sweat is now pungent and ripe.
 
Finally, the woolen tunic which, was wholly appropriate for the colder climes, but here was soon a sweat soaked hinderence, was tugged over her head and her nudity revealed.
 
An athletic build, small high breasts, a slender waist and narrow hips accompanied by strong thighs and long legs. Her body did not appear to have the softness common to most women, carved instead from muscle and bone and clearly defined by the dirt that gathers in the contours.
 
Flesh was so pale that even in the gloom she could easily be seen by others, like a ghost, in comparison with the Moorish dark coloring of the other women present in the bath house. As soon as she is done, she moves with an grace that denied self consciousness and moreso lauded the natural state of her nakedness, to follow the sightless woman into the bath.
 
One step, another, then a third as hot water crept over foot and ankle and calf and thigh until she bent her knees and immersed herself to her shoulders in the hot and soothing waters, feeling the therapeutic effect on tired and bruised limbs. 
 
“You are most welcome” she responds to the blind warrior who thanks her for her help. 
 
She drops her head back to soak her head and the snow blonde hair that skimmed the dimples pressed above her hips, darkens and fans out behind her like the tail of the magnificent peacock.
 
The pale hued SIGRÍÐR rises from ducking beneath the heat of the water in time to hear the blind woman’s comment about her stench. At the direct nature of this woman’s comment, the shield maiden throws back her head and laughs with genuine and authentic gusto. The blind woman then asks if SIGRÍÐR was a beauty.
 
“You would be right- for it was a troll that hindered me this day”, with such a formal form of speech that it was obvious to Morgdaya that this female was not in any way local.
 
With each pass of wet hands over the pale flesh of her face, yet more filth and gore and the kohl of the warrior smudged about her eyes is removed and a clear, flawless skin is revealed.
 
Another snort from Nordic warrior and her question is replied.
 
“Not by the standard of my clan” she replies with a good-natured chuckle, signifying that she was concerned by it, not at all.
 
“The men crave the swell of a full and heavy breast and the spread of wide child bearing hips and I have neither”
 
More arrive and a respectful nod as taut arms sweep soaking hair from a high Nordic brow and the now much maligned features of the maid, which contained not one scar or any show that a battle maiden did indeed exist beneath that dirt.
 
Flawless skin, with nothing decorating it beyond a bramble scratch or a deep purpling bruise beneath pale flesh. It was a constant shame for her. neither would anyone ink that skin as one would with each battle fought, for without scar or injury it was famed that she was cursed by the Gods.
 
That they did not crave the presence of SIGRÍÐR at the halls of Valhalla and so she was left unsullied and unscathed despite every attempt by the dismayed warrior to breech that perfection and tear the skin with Saxon iron.
 
 
The atmosphere in the steamy bath house was quite pleasant. The conversation was light, easy, the company- affable.
 
SIGRÍÐR remained silent for much of her time in the deep heat of the pool, quite content to listen to the other women exchange sundry details about their lives, their families. Her gaze had alighted upon each as they descended below the surface of the water.
 
All of them, striped and puckered with magnificent scars that brought with it a pang of jealousy and would have the Nordic woman turning away momentarily with disappointment.
 
One magnificent creature was even etched all over with intricate ink that to the medieval woman, would have her raising the dark haired beauty to a level akin to Valkyrie- such must be her prowess in battle for to have so much, covering almost every inch would signify her a Goddess of War.
 
Still, she enjoyed the sensation of the heat upon tired and strained muscles. At one point a pewter goblet was thrust into her hand containing a chilled liquid that would have her taste buds tingling with unfamiliarity.
 
It was sour and yet fruity and left the tongue drier than before it was consumed. She did not care for it much and handed it back at the earliest opportunity and when a bathing attendant gestured that her clothing had been laundered and was ready for her, she emerges from the pool, body wet and slick and wraps herself in warmed linens.
 
The Nord takes a moment to sit quietly on a bench, catching snatches of conversation from the women around her. And in this place, the great social leveller, when all were nude and vulnerable and with a singular purpose to become clean once more- one could not distinguish the pauper from the Queen.
    3 Comments
    1. Morgdaya the Blind 8 months ago

      I remember that day well. that lass I threw is still alive but avoids me now

    2. Meant to put only one star but my phone hates me

      • Author
        Z-SIGRÍÐR 1 year ago

        Drags Tolerith to the nearest shrine of Odin and prepares for a blood eagle.

        🙂

        Thanks for reading it! Most kind.

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