Millie wandered into the kitchen a short time later, Edda looked over her coffee at her. “Why the frown?”
“Quoth dropped by to say hello and I think he was trying to get me to go somewhere funny again.”
“Really? Where? And what did you tell him?”
“I said I could only go when you’re able to come with me and it was the deeper part of the woods. He got awfully flustered when I told him I wouldn’t go.”
Edda hummed to herself and took a thoughtful sip of coffee. “I think you did well to listen to your feelings on that one. It sounds very much like somewhere funny and that means I think we all should investigate at some point. But not today.”
Millie grinned and skipped, just a tiny bit. “No, today’s Market Day!”
“That it is, now come and get yourself some breakfast. It won’t be worth visiting for a couple of hours yet, the stalls are still setting up, so what will help the time go fastest?”
They settled on a practical herbology session, wonderfully aided by an app Edda downloaded onto Millie’s new phone. “I don’t want to encourage you to rely on technology, but you’re fond enough of plants you’ll learn them for their own sakes anyway, well beyond the scope of this little reference. This will just help you with starting out, and be a quick guide for more unusual plants as you go on.”
Millie looked up from where she was carefully cross-checking her phone screen with the patch of apple mint in front of her. “Is there something on the phone where I can make my own notes?”
“I don’t know. How about you ask Adam? That’s a very good idea actually. Ask him about being able to record spoken notes and whether there’s anything that can turn them into text.”
Millie bent to her phone, then went back to poking the bed of herbs in front of her. The phone chimed a few minutes later. “He says there is, but you can get some really strange results while the app learns the way you talk.”
“Sounds worth it to me, and we might even get some laughs along the way. What do you think?”
“He’s going to look up the best ones and send both of us a link to what he thinks will be most useful.”
“See, now this is why it’s useful to have children. Especially ones who are good at things you don’t know about.”
Millie giggled and checked the time. “Is it nearly time to go to the Market?”
“It is, so how about we tidy things up here, tidy ourselves and head up the stairs in about fifteen minutes? I’ll see whether Shaun is joining us.”
Millie tidied the gardening tools away, then headed indoors, muddy shoes left at the door. She bounded up the stairs for a quick wash and change of clothes, then scampered down again to stand, hopping from one foot to the other in impatience, while Edda changed and then popped across to the workshop to speak with Shaun.
FINALLY they set off for the stairs, the bus station, and the market. Shaun had decided to keep working on whatever strange thing he was building, but Edda asked Millie to make sure they remembered to get him some clotted cream fudge.
Millie heard her name as they reached the base of the stairs and turned to see the two healers’ apprentices, Simeon and Timothy, waving from the forest path.
“Are you going to the Market?” Simeon called.
“Yes, are you?”
“Yes, but our JourneyMasters are being so SLOW. I think they don’t really want to come.”
The two boys had joined them at the stairs by that stage and looked back to watch two women slowly emerge from the shadow of the trees. Their pace quickened a little when they saw Edda and Millie.
Millie watched them as they approached. One was tall, with a blonde pixie crop that highlighted her fine-cut features. She walked with a loose limbed stride which reminded Millie of her old Phys Ed teacher, who’d been a swimming champion and had to take time off to go to competitions. The other woman was a little shorter, with a long plait of blazing red hair pouring over one shoulder. She looked to be of similar build, but walked more stiffly, and made use of a curiously carved cane.
Edda performed introductions, the taller one was Greta and the one with the beautiful cane was Rosalie. Millie smiled and said all the things her mother said was polite, then focused on Rosalie. “Can I ask you about your stick?”
Rosalie gave a little sigh and replied. “Of course.”
“What wood is it? It’s so dark! And do the carvings mean anything?”
Both the healers laughed. Millie thought they sounded a little surprised.
Rosalie said. “It’s made of ebony, which means it’s very strong and the carvings are a mix of decoration and a couple of Norse runes for health and strength.”
Simeon was standing on the first stair now. “Come ON, you can look at runes with us in class, Millie.”
Millie turned to look at him. “We learn runes at school?”
“No silly, you’re going to come and share healing lessons with us sometimes, you’ll learn them then.”
Greta coughed apologetically. “We were planning on asking you if you were interested, and if Edda would be willing, to give up her pupil for a few hours each week.”
Millie looked at Edda. “I’d like to, very much.”
Edda smiled back at her. “And I can’t think of a better set of instructors for you. In fact I was going to ask them if they’d be willing to add you to their class on Saturday afternoons.”
“Great, now that’s sorted, can we goooooo?”
Millie knew how it felt to be nearly bursting out of yourself with energy and impatience but Simeon seemed to have it worse than she ever did.
Rosalie waved him on. “Go on, we’ll meet you at the entrance to the Market, you should have just enough time to buy me a juice before we get there.”
Simeon grinned, and bounded up the stairs, Timothy close behind. “You coming Millie?”
Millie watched them racing up the stairs. “I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up. You go ahead and I’ll start practicing for next time.”
The boys waved and were soon at the top of the stairs and out of sight.