(chapter continued from previous post)
“Your husband isn’t here?” Narcissa asked.
“Gone, like all Ilek’s master craftsmen, looking for a place he can earn a living to support his family. He’ll be back when he can. Meanwhile, I do what I can to keep his children and myself fed, and remember my duty to Ejiro’s Bride even when many others forget.” She paused in front of a sandstone shop, closed like the others.
Unlike the others, the faded and chipped sign above showed the unmistakable form of an astrolabe.
Enodian technology turns up in the oddest places, Lysandra reflected.
“Your home?” Narcissa said, and gestured upwards. “The sign of an educated craftsman, that. I suppose you’ve sold all his work by now?”
“No, not all. I can’t get much for it anymore. Neighbouring towns charge us cruel prices for food and have had so much sold so cheaply that even an object that should feed our family for a month, I’d be lucky to get a single healthy meal.”
“Would you be willing to humour me? We’re far from home and at times I feel homesick, I confess, and I would very much like to see what a master craftsman might have done with Hypatia’s plans and descriptions.”
The woman hesitated for a long moment, then nodded abruptly. “On condition that you touch nothing else. I have children to feed, and right now, the plants are worth more than all the clever trinkets combined.”
“We do not need your food, even if we were willing to steal from children.”
The woman unlocked the door with a heavy key, and waved them inside.
The interior was much brighter than Lysandra expected.
That had a great deal to do with mirrors, both polished metal ones and glass ones that should have been astronomically expensive, angled to cast sunlight across an indoor garden of sorts. Anything that could be used to hold soil had been pressed into service, from cooking pots and washbasins to half-barrels and odder things she couldn’t readily identify. In all of them, plants were growing, and doing so more successfully than any others they’d seen locally. The air smelled heavy and green. Lysandra couldn’t tell the difference between root vegetables and salad greens, but some sort of bean that had been trained up a trellis was hard to mistake.
Between the plants, though, were things of brass and bronze and steel and glass. They’d been shoved to the backs of shelves, into the shadows, and were dulled by dust and dirt, but some of those shapes were complex or deceptively simple. Continue reading