Monday, December 19

In the winter solar.

It would have been scandalous anywhere else but a woman in nothing but a man's wool tunic and her own stockings, all curled up under a pile of blankets, was nothing really surprising in the ladies' winter solar. Since there was a bathing room down the hallway and the room was only ever frequented by women, it was a safe place to dry while clothes were brought down and warmed for their wearers. The days before winter feasts often filled the room with slightly damp and cold women in warm robes, sewing or talking while their hair dried enough for a servant to brush, oil, and pin it up.

This afternoon was a stormy one; the horizon over the sea outside was blurred with falling rain and the wind as it fled the surface of the water. Occasionally there would be a fall of rain that whipped the window panes, but for the most part the storm raged outside without affecting the peace and warmth of the solar.

There was a pot of cider warming over the fire, hung by an iron hook that squeaked; one of the newly-wed lords was praised high for his practical gift of a set of glass beakers to the solar.

Anyway, she had her hair pinned up even though it was still soaking wet, and she was sketching on a piece of vellum with a bit of charcoal. She'd returned with her retinue from a long trip and since she had been riding forward of the group, got caught in the rain. After she made certain that her servants had been seen to, and the horses stabled, and arrangements to be made for their return, she'd been huddled off to the solar to be "fixed up" before the feast began that night. Unfortunately not everything had been seen to, so she was left to sit in a towel before the fire for a little while before some clothes were hurried from the laundry--none of hers were ready--so that she wouldn't catch her death of cold before the night fell.

The only female member of the company of players that was to play that night sat humming and tuning her lute a little distance from the fire. The tuning would be quite useless by the time night set in (the feast hall was noticeably cooler than the solar and the presence of such a warm fire in the solar would change the tune considerably) but the fire was so warm and the presence of female company so rare that the player sat comfortably dawdling until the hour they were to rehearse.

The two companions talked to each other during the intermittent silences when others weren't going in and out of the room. Discussing the dances, they decided the country dances were infinitely more fun to dance and to play. In dress their tastes ran mostly alike, except for the business about sleeves (the lute player really had to have close sleeves so that she could play); but generally it was quite decided that the jewel tones of dress were abhorrent and unnatural. A golden yellow or nice blue of natural dye always looked more graceful than the bright glare of scarlet or green. In books, too, they could converse, though the player knew more poetry than prose, because of her profession, of course.

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