Light struck Chloe’s face from the east-facing window, an obnoxious reminder that she’d gone far beyond “sleeping in” by this point. Now she would be considered lazy – wasting a spring morning beneath her blankets. Whoever was authoring her serial of dreams seemed intent on teasing her by consistently ending with a closed door, usually in Ravenhold or her family home in Archet. No amount of pulling or prying ever seemed to open it.
Continuing to doze never seemed to return her to that spot to progress the narrative, and she spent the last month waking up with a distinct sense of dissatisfaction. She’d mentioned it while making a delivery to Bree with Colton a week ago, who’d harmlessly offered to help her feel more fulfilled in bed with a grin made of cheese. She’d kicked him in his nads for that, and they were late to meet the merchant they’d been sent to see. Worth it.
Still, it was such a cliché – a door you couldn’t open. She wished her subconscious could be a bit more creative, but its recurrence left her wondering all the same. It carried some meaning, though she hadn’t decided yet what parallel it drew in the waking world.
“Shit.” She yawned, arranging the blankets on her top bunk so that only her nose was exposed to the open air. Spring had arrived in Durrow a few weeks before, but the mornings remained brisk even with the windows kept shut through the night.
“And a good morning to you too.” Kaylee replied to the rhetorical greeting from beneath her with a smile in her voice. Though she couldn’t see her, she knew from the sounds of shuffling below her that Kaylee was making her bed, which she never went without doing before mid-morning. “Did you forget your errand this morning?”
Chloe further entrenched herself in her covers. “It’s already done. I organized the equipment for the trip to Annunlos yesterday.”
“Your other errand.” Kaylee said simply, finishing her bed making with a fluff of both pillows.
It took her several moments to remember, but when she did, Chloe sat upright with a grin, shedding her sheet cooccon. “Do you think it worked?” She slid down the ladder from the upper bunk, dropping her splayed copy of The Steward’s Passion on the ground with a thud in the process. Quickly, she changed into a set of her work clothes that she’d laid out on her trunk the night before. “Oh I know it must have…”
“I hope so, for your sake. It’s all you seem to think about lately.” The other woman said, “Try not to be too disappointed if it didn’t though, alright?” She offered her bunkmate a quick smile before stepping out of the room they shared with the other women bunking at Ravenhold.
“I know it must have…” Chloe repeated to herself while lacing her boots. She raced out of the barracks into the kitchen, picking up a sandwich of gouda and cherry preserves – her favorite – off the counter that the staff had obviously prepared for the Guildsmen. It was gone before she’d made it through the front door.
Morramarth frowned with a defeated look as he returned to the counter with a glass of milk, another of his sandwiches strangely missing.
It didn’t take her long to reach the coops in the yard. The hens were given free range to roam in the mornings, and they had scattered about in their little cliques, bawking occasionally when a person or fellow hen offended them. A select group of the hens that had been selected to brood remained in the coop. Gaelyn planned to increase the Guild’s flock by three-fold before the end of the year to have an ample number of pullets to sell at market, so eggs at the breakfast table were more sparse than usual.
Chloe smiled when she spotted the hen she was looking for. Pickle rarely left the coop, though she wasn’t chosen to brood. She was picked (and pecked) on by the other hens, no doubt due in part to her comb that tended to droop to one side over her eye, and the way she occasionally forgot to take a step with her left leg before proceeding with her right. Despite coming from a good stock of laying hens the year prior, Pickle had yet to produce an egg. Many had suggested she leave the coop to join them at the dinner table, but Chloe had taken pity on the bird, and asked for a few weeks to remedy the situation.
She fed Pickle away from the other hens to make sure she was free to eat enough without the others pushing her out of the way, and changed her bedding every few days to ensure it was a clean place to roost. But yesterday had been the key. She had brewed a light broth of mushrooms and wild onions for the bird that she knew helped women who were trying to conceive. It had been the secret to her mother’s success, according to her father, and the principle was the same.
Gingerly, she lifted the fat bird off of her nest. The hen offered no protest, simply staring back at her human without blinking her one visible eye. And there, Chloe saw it.
It was not just an egg – it was the egg. Alabaster and as big as an egg ever was, it was a glorious testament of their work together. “You did it, Pickle!” She cooed, and shifted the hen to one arm to reach for the egg with the other.
As she turned it about in her hands delicately, she noticed that it was much heavier than an ordinary egg, and to her surprise, that it had writing on the other side. “Some Hen”, it read.
Instantly, the enthusiasm drained from her expression, shifting to fury. This was no egg, it was just a stupid river stone. And she knew exactly who was responsible for putting it there.
“Colton!” She yelled. Pickle ruffled her feathers at the sudden shouting, her first reaction since Chloe had arrived. She placed the bird back on her roost, and kept the stone in hand. She would lob it at its rightful owner as soon as she found him. “You ass.” She seethed, running off into the yard.
A few quiet minutes passed before a mouse emerged from the corner, carrying a stick of charcoal in its mouth. Not what I’d hoped for. She mused. But we’ll find a way to save you yet, Pickle. She scurried off, in search of another stone that’d be suitable for her words.