Preparing the Harvest.

You reap what you sow

Nadia had never slept on anything other than down and silk, so sleeping on wood and hay, plus the events of the day, plus she had been without food since breakfast, except for an apple eaten while in the store room in the scullery gave her disturbed and frightening dreams she was too deeply asleep to escape from. Suddenly she woke to the noise of her sister crying for food and a changed diaper and the frightening view of a face sticking up at the top of the ladder holding a guttering tallow candle. Her brother suddenly awoke as well in a puddle of urine and began to cry as well. The face behind the candle began to yell. "Shut those brats up, why don't you. What are you doing in my hayloft anyway you miserable tramps!"

Nadia was startled by the voice, less by the yelling than by the shock of recognition. "You!" she cried out. "You are supposed to be dead."

Baron Myakoruk was startled by the cry of recognition. He looked closely at Nadia for a moment and grinned sardonically. "So, for that matter are your dearie" he said. "You realize that your corpses are worth a great deal now?" Nadia nodded. "Can you do anything about that caterwalling?"

Nadia shook her head. "I can't do anything about my sister. She is dirty and has had nothing to eat since this morning. I came here to see about getting some milk from a goat or a cow for her." She turned to her brother and told him to shush. Then she reached into the laundry basket and dug around till she found a tunic for him and changed him.

Baron Myakoruk vanished from the ladder. Nadia was to tired and worn to care where he went. If he sold them out, that was going to be their fate. But he was only gone a brief moment, and he brought with him a cup of warm milk and a large cloth. "Have you ever changed a diaper, Child?" Nadia shook her head. "Well, fortunately, I have. Lets see what we can do for the baby. " Swiftly he took Nadia's sister out of her silk dressing, and then undid the diaper, which was soaked. "We are lucky she isn't doing solid food yet. That would make this really unpleasant. He quickly folded the cloth over the baby and swiftly tied a pair of overhand knots to hold it in place and then re wrapped her in the silk. "She is going to be very unhappy for quite a while. She has a bit of a rash now from being wet for so long. How did you keep her quiet till now?" Nadia showed the vial to him and he looked it over. "If this hasn't killed her yet, she will live forever." Barron Myakoruk held the cup up to the baby's lips and gave her little sips. "She is too young to know how to drink from a cup, but she will have to learn today. " In the mean time, Nadia gave her brother and apple and some bread. When the cup was empty, the baron went for some more while Nadia's sister squalled. Soon he arrived with more, and fed the rest to her. Kameika grasped onto the cup and tried to feed herself more than the baron allowed, but he kept a firm grip and smiled as she tried to take charge.

After the baron finished feeding Kaemika he reached into the basket and pulled out a round of cheese and cut off slices for himself, Nadia and Sophon. Then he pressed Nadia to tell about what happened to her the previous day. Much of which, the story of the three of them hiding in the barrels especially, he found very funny.

After she told about her escape, he pressed her for her plans. She admitted she didn't have any plan except to avoid getting caught. She thought she could perhaps reach the coast somehow and get passage on a ship.

Baron Myakoruk leaned back against the wall of the barn. Do you speak the vernacular at all? You realize we have been conversing in grenouilian since you got here, and that would be dangerous for you.

Nadia changed to the local language "Oav coors I the loacal language utter! Hoo alse does a to sarrvantz orders give?"

The baron sighed. "At least you understand it."

Nadia laughed briefly. "Ov course, I it understand. All the best gossip from the sarrvantz was in the loacal language. And I can it pretty well speak, but it was by mama and papa forbidden before them to it speak "

The baron sat quietly for a moment before he spoke again. "So, with your vast command of the local language and with a very strong grenouilian accent and wearing slippers covered with precious stones and a pearl necklace and gold wristbands you were planning to walk, or ride somehow, to the coast and get a ship to wherever. You are very brave young lady."

Nadia stood up "But you see! I am deeguisede I am a dress linen just like all the sarrvantz wearing. It not possible would be for anyone the fact I am the princess royal to see!"

The baron covered his face and made a chocking noise. "And did no one ever tell you that it is unseemly for a young girl to use the 'ishik' form to address an adult?"

"But that the way is to address a sarrvant, no?"

The baron shook his head. "You can never use the 'ishik' form of address ever again. That is how you will be addressed from now on. And you will address everyone with the 'yetye' form."

"But you me address with the 'ishik' form!"

"That is because you are an immature little girl and I am an adult. If the Princess Royal wishes to die, she can use the 'ishik' form. If Nadia wants to live to a pleasant old age, she will learn the 'yetye' form."

Nadia stood in the candle light, stunned into momentary silence. Slowly she sunk to her knees and looked into the candle. Despite the fact she was staring into the light, it looked like she was contemplating the surrounding darkness. The baron gave her a few moments to think things through. "It is a hard lesson" he said. "It is a lesson I have had to learn the hard way myself these last three years."

Nadia looked up at him. "That the impourtant questeone brings up." Being very careful to use the correct form she said "Hat to you happand that you should like smoke of a cendale vanish? My mama was three times upset that you away went. But about your departure she would nothing explain."

The baron watched her for a moment and contemplated the way he had seen her raised. He did not think for a moment that she would understand what he would tell her. It would be better to keep it low key. "I managed to upset the bishop in his official capacity. I did something that would result in my being executed as an abomination. "

Nadia looked at him quizzically. "The bishop is always being upset. He always goes cluck cluck cluck like the hen when you her eggs take. But if the person has enough money to pay him, his anger quickly goes away like the snow on a day warm. Did you lack funds? I am sure my mama would have helped you reduce the bishop's anger."

"Well, your father was upset as well, and Countess Neftchika also was involved."

Nadia shook her head ruefully. " In the worrld there is not money enough to consoale both Countess Neftchika and the bishop"

"You mother was kind enough to provide me this refuge. I have a new name. I am now innkeeper Rasvetchik. I have a nice tavern, a large orchard and I have five farms out to rent that bring in 100 silver talents a year. I am very grateful to your mother, which is why I have not yet called out the guard that is sleeping it off. The question remains, what should we do with you?"

"Not impossible a cart hirre to me to a seaport take, then passage to Grenouilia purchase?"

The baron looked at her eager eyes and decided to let her down easily. He explained that there was a large reward out for her, that the ports were watched and her grenouilian accent would cause her problems the whole way. He felt sad as he watched her expression fall. He then explained that he would provide her a refuge. She would have to give up her pearls and her bracelets. He also made it clear that he knew she had a substantial purse, but that she could keep to pay her own expenses. She would have to pay a nurse for her sister and the bracelets would be used to pay for an apprenticeship for her brother when he reached an age. She looked at him steadily as he talked.

She thought over his words carefully. "So!" She said. "My mother you rescues and a good business and some farrms gives, but to the favor return you my jewels take and in the business you my mother gave put me to work as a common servant. "

"You are a bigger risk to me than I was to your mother. And don't say I'm not grateful. I am. But your position as a young girl and the source of an heir for your father makes our position a lot more troublesome than what your mom had to do for me. And you do need to face the fact that as a young girl your options are very limited. And now I must be off. I know of a woman who will make an excellent nurse for your sister. You will have to pay her one silver talent per month to nurse, one talent to care, and one talent to keep her mouth shut. I will see you early in the morning. You should get some more rest. You now have work to do."

Nadia watched the candle vanish down the ladder and gave herself up to thought. Her brother and sister were already asleep and in a very few moments so was she. Unlike the silk sheets and down of home, the hay and wooden boards were hard and scratchy. But she had an exhausting day, and her body needed to recover.

Way too soon the innkeeper Rasvetchik and his candle came back up the ladder and gave her an energetic "Good Morning" in Grenouilian. Nadia responded by telling him to go away in the same language. Moments later the splash of a bucket of water over her head got her up and fuming. "It is almost sunrise." he said in the venacular. "Time to start the day" He passed her some clothes. "These are for your brother. Or for the time being, your little sister. At least until she is six or so. In three years no one will care, so he can go back to being your brother then. Until then his your sister. It is a pity you have such a feminine figure. It would be far safer if I could dress you as a boy. Were you a boy, I could almost fall in love with you... Pity. "

Nadia looked around the loft. "Where is Kameika?" she cried in Grenouilian.

Rasvetchick pointed out the clothes. "You two get dressed. I took Kameika to her nurse already this morning while you were still asleep. You may visit her after your chores are done. By the way, her name is now Tzvetina. Yours is Milyenka and your sister there is Vanka. When she gets older she can revert to Vanya." Nadia just stood there stupidly. "Don't play modest around me. I have seen you naked before. I need you to get dressed quickly. there are lots of chores to do and you have slept in too long already. " Nadia dressed her brother in the little girl's dress while he protested. A couple slaps and a threat of another got him into sullen quiescence. Turning her back to Rasvetchick, she quickly changed her clothes into the course hempen dress he had given her. She had never worn anything so ill fitting, unflattering and uncomfortable. Rasvetchick came behind her as she was struggling with the cords to tie it in place and helped her tighten it so it was not so ill fitting. The barn had no mirror, which upon reflection she was grateful for.

They climbed down the ladder. In the chilly mist of the almost dawn she could see the inn yard and the stables. When her brother reached the floor of the barn Rasvetchick pointed out the yoke to her. She stared at it blankly. There were two buckets attached and she had no idea what he wanted from her. In a swift move he placed the yoke on her shoulders and pointed out the well, easily twenty or more steps from the door to the inn kitchen. "I need 10 buckets of water in the kitchen every morning by sunrise. Then, before we open, I need an additional 6 buckets in the serving area. Hop to it"

Then he grabbed Sophon's hand (Now Vanka's) and began taking him to the inn. Vanka protested but three quick raps on his head with Rasvetchik's knuckles and he quieted down.

The princess royal, formerly known as Nadia, now Milyenka the servant girl squared her shoulders and marched to the well. She had seen the servants at the palace do this. Reviewing her options, she had to do it too. It was a shock to her just how fast the yoke became incredibly heavy. When she got to the well and put it down on the cradle that was set for it she felt a great relief. Next she went to the well. The bucket was tied to a nail at the top of the well. She untied it quickly and let the bucket drop. Where it just hung a few inches over the bricks. Milenka stared at it for a moment in disbelief. The bucket just hung there. Rasvetchick saw her frustration and wandered over with his face covered by his hand. Then he directed her attention to the top of the well where the pulley holding the rope was. At one end there were sprockets, and holding on to one of them was a latch, which he let loose. The bucket sank quickly into the well as the handle turned quickly. After a few moments there was a splash as the bucket hit the water. He reset the latch and walked back to the inn. Milyenka began turning the handle that pulled up the bucket. She had never done anything like this before so it was hard work. She kept cranking for what seemed like forever, and then looked down the well. the bucket was just a short distance over the surface of the water, and a long way from the top. She gritted her teeth and kept turning the crank. After what seemed two or three eternities the bucket finally reached the top. She grabbed onto the bucket and pulled it over to the yoke, only to have it stop a few inches away from the well. She held onto the bucket and let loose the catch and was finally able to bring the bucket to the left side bucket hanging from the yoke. Which it filled half way. She stared at it incredulously. Around her in the inn yard were several servants bustling too and fro. Milyenka walked back to the well and dropped the bucket down the long dark well. Again, she heard a splash and she began to crank up the bucket. Again it seemed an eternity and her arms were beginning to hurt a little when the bucket finally showed. She let loose the latch and carried the bucket over to the yoke and filled up the left hand bucket. She repeated the process two more times and it only got harder as it went along. Then she picked up the yoke. The weight crushed her. She gritted her teeth. "I can do this." she thought. "I see people do it every day." She remembered that the maids at the place took their time walking from the well to the kitchens. She walked at a slow pace to the back door of the inn. There she met an elderly woman who scolded her for taking such an inordinately long time and being such a lazy good for nothing foreigner. She poured the water into a barrel as directed and returned to the well. There she was scolded for leaving the bucket loose. "It must always be latched and tied or it will be damaged" she was told. Four more backbreaking trips were made to the well with a scolding at the end of each one. She was then told off to make sure the bucket was tied and latched. When she was done there, the yoke was to be put back in the barn.

Milyenka felt she had worked enough for one month, but no, there was more to do. Half the water in the barrel had to be transferred to a huge caldron hanging on an iron bar in front of the fire. When that was done the caldron was pushed back over the fire. While she was carrying the water from the barrel to the caldron she got a lot of ribbing by the other servant girls about her slowness. They each of them had a bucket half full of water as they waited for the cauldron to come to a boil and they gossiped as Milyenka briefly dozed next to the fire.

Her short nap did not last long, as it appeared she had a long list of chores to do. After cleaning the windows to the inn and helping turn over the bolsters in the rooms upstairs. From there she was sent to the hop yard where she was tasked to find male hop plants and pull other weeds. She found this task bewildering and she was roundly scolded for missing a few.

Too soon it was time to go back to the well and bring in the remaining buckets of water for the serving area. When she was finally done it was almost dark and the first customers were arriving. When she was done tying up the well bucket and putting away the yoke she was met by Rasvetchick and Vanka. Her arms and shoulders were sore, as were her legs and back. She was so tired she could hardly move, but Rasvetchick hustled her and Vanka to the hut of Mama Golovatya, who was nurse for Tsvetina. Mama Golovatya was a recent widow with a six month old baby of her own. Tsvetina was colicky and fussy, which Rasvetchick explained was the result of going hungry most of the day before, and of course having cows milk rather than healthier food the previous night.

It turned out that Mama Golovatya's house would be their home for the foreseeable future. It was out of the way and she knew how to keep quiet. Mama Golovatya was upset when she found out that Milyenka was ignorant of the art of spinning yarn. She was given a sharp lesson and soon was spinning hempen thread on her own. In order to earn her keep at the house for her and Vanka, it was explained she would have to spin 10 talents weight of either flax or hemp per day. But for the first day Mama Golovatya was satisfied with two talents weight, as tallow for candles was expensive, and waiting for Milyenka to finish ten talents worth would cost more in candles than the value of the thread she made.

Milyenka the serving girl wondered if Nadia, now deceased, the king's daughter had made a wise decision in fleeing the castle, or if she should have stood her ground. Her clothes itched and her muscles hurt and her eyes rimed with tears. At least she had saved the lives of her brother and sister. And it was unlikely they would remember any prior life as they grew older.

Just as mama Golovatya snuffed out the candle Rasvetchick returned and climbed up to the loft to talk to her. He explained that life would be hard, but no one knew that there were former royal brats hiding near the inn. The idea that the one carrying the buckets of water to and from the well might be the princess royal would be considered ludicrous. Some soldiers had come by the inn and inquired, and no one had even mentioned the new Grenouilian refugee and her sister working at the inn. That pearl necklace would be used to make up a nice dowry so she could get a decent husband, and the bracelets would be used s o her brother could be apprenticed to a decent trade. Milyenka just quietly snuffled and wept and after a short while he went away and for only the second day in her life she fell asleep from exhaustion.

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