“How do you know the Banner of Rosenhall?”
My question came through stammering lips as the water in the rinsing pool was very cold. I could see the pimpled flesh from it on my arms. It felt good when I first entered after the hot bath I had just taken but now I was standing chest high in the cold water of the pool a mere five feet from a Nordic man who was commenting about my family banner. I had been briefly taken back by the fact that men and women both were using the same bathing pools but now I was particularly self-conscious now that a man was actually talking to me and he was wearing as much as I was – nothing.
“I fought with a Rosenhall many years ago. We spilt blood together and made a name for ourselves. You must be his daughter for you have his eyes.”
I never remembered my father speaking of anyone in his travels. He spoke often of different lands he had traveled but he never mentioned anyone by name. The fact that I ran into someone who might of knew him from back them was a longshot I couldn’t begin to contemplate. I had just chosen t come to the continent of Ander by a whim. I simply assessed that it would be a good place to carve out a name for myself and a new life and maybe a new family. This whole thing of actually being where my father had once trod was a little much and something I had not anticipated.
“You must forgive me sir, my father never spoke of anyone from his travels. He had many tales but he never named names.”
The man laughed with a booming laugh that put ripples in the water. I tried not to look down into the water and succeeded, I wasn’t sure if trying to see a man’s ‘second sword’ deliberately was a cultural mistake or not and I didn’t want to find out . I found out that this was actually not frowned upon for reasons that are quite interesting but that is a story for later but at the time I didn’t know.
“That was just like him. He hated to give people credit or even brag about his own deeds. He could have stayed here and lived like a king, but he wanted to head back home. I assume because you fly his banner he is dead.”
“Yes. Very recently. He left me little but the Banner of Rosenhall and a few other things.”
At this the man nodded sadly, he seemed to be far away for a moment.
“Well, there’s an end to it after all.”
“Nothing Lady Rosenhall but I must beg your leave.”
With that he turned and walk away toward the male dressing area through the pool. As he climbed out of the pool I got a good look at the backside of him and then immediately became self-conscious and averted my eyes. I heard Mya chuckle softly behind me and then we took our turn walking out of the water. I became conscious at that moment that the whole of the bathhouse was silent and using my side vision realized that was because all were staring at me. I felt a little more self-conscious but I headed for the dressing room door and found my way inside.
A small but hot iron stove was in the women’s dressing room where a couple of women were already standing drying off. The warm heat felt wonderful as I joined them but as soon as I did, they both made exit from the area and left Mya and myself standing alone.
“Mistress, I don’t know who that man was, but it seems to have dampened our social life.”
“Indeed, let’s finish up and get back to the inn.”
As I stood they letting the heat of the iron stove dry me off I began to realize that I had just talked to a man who had some reputation. It was not necessarily bad but it was such that people were afraid of what could happen to them if they got too involved with me. His attention to me had caused a problem but I wasn’t sure how permanent or how big the problem was.
I turned my backside to the stove to get it dry as well and only my long hair was still slightly damp when we left. I told Mya to get my clothes and soon both of us were dressed again in the clothes we had started the day out in. I had let the braid in my hair out to bathe and I told Mya not to bother redoing it now but to wait till final preparations to go see the Jarl. With that I let it flow down my back as we exited the Bath House.
My long red mane flowed and whipped in the stiff breeze that was now over the city and the little bit of dampness in it chilled me a little. After retrieving the Banner of Rosenhall, Mya and I made our way over just a few paces to the Merchant Quarter and our inn. We headed back to our room and found that both the dresses and a few accessories had been delivered to our room. We now had only a few hours to sunset when we would be expected at the Jarl’s Longhouse Gate. We had little time. I stripped down to my loin cloth and let Mya do my hair.
I decided to go with three braids. One large on down my back but I decided to do two others each at one of my temples to wrap around my head and pin the end of each one under the large back braid. It would make a halo of red hair around my head and a large braid going down my back. I didn’t have time to do a fancy braid for any of them so I told Mya just to do a standard three strand braid for all three. This still took some time but in the end I knew it would pull all my hair back from my face and neck. I came out great and Mya Pinned it with my hair pin in back doubles as a small dagger, I wasn’t taking any chances on this one. I applied the very little face paint I use. Some red for the cheeks and some eyeliner nothing for my lips because they are red enough on their own. Mya then helped me in the rose dress as I had come to call it.
I had to laugh now at feeling so self-conscious about my breasts being on display in these Nordic dresses. Since my bathhouse experience I now felt the dress was fairly modest and there was little hope of using my binding cloth to make me more modest as the dress was cut in such a way as to prevent this. Mya then added the corset to the dress which had the Rose symbol and then it struck me why this piece was a separate part of the dresses for women. The dress itself could be worn in any context, but the symbol might change due to marriage. A woman kept all her dresses but the corset could indeed change over the years and you wouldn’t have to embroider all over again. There were five other lands in Ander and I was beginning to wonder what customs were like this for their heraldry.
As a final preparation for me, I added my sword belt and sword. The belt and scabbard had been made for my father and were plain and the black color didn’t detract too much because it fit under the bottom edge of the corset. I wasn’t sure if it was the custom of women to wear swords to noble gatherings but I was not going to be unarmed in public in a strange land.
Once I was ready I helped Mya into her dress. I had to laugh because the woman actually had breasts in this dress. Not big ones but the Nordic way of making a dress actually gave her respectable breasts although she complained that it felt they were being squashed into an unnatural shape. The green color of her dress was bright and it contrasted my red quite well. It really looked like I was the rose and she was the vine which was probably the most accurate description of our relationship. I was the one out there on display and Mya was always the one who made sure I didn’t fall. Mya’s hair didn’t take long as it is blocked and above shoulder length, I did put a small double strand braid to hang down and frame the left side of her face. I then watched her slip her two throwing daggers up each wrist and then attach her long knife to her left hip. She was after all filling the role of bodyguard at this time for me until I found someone to take that job.
Once we retrieved the Banner of Rosenhall, we headed out into the streets just in time to see the last rays of sunlight shining on the edge of the city. I gathered myself up and held my head high as we left the inn and turned toward the Noble Quarter for the first time. My Banner was unfolded and over my shoulder and with Mya behind me I felt invincible. I didn’t know what I would face with the Jarl but I was determined to make my way with confidence.