Rather Than Drink Whiskey

Title: Rather Than Drink Whiskey
Time Period: February 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna visits the apothecary with the intention of making a trade.

It's not exactly infrequently that Luna makes her way toward the apothecary; usually on the hunt for this herb or that to mix in with her tea or tobacco. It's really no different today. Not exactly. The fabric bundled under one arm is of fine quality, much nicer than the usual fare of the women of Dornie. Scavenged from a dress meant for the burn pile, the prostitute's better judgement won out this time and rather than waste, she cut the offending garment up.

Sweeping up her skirts, she carries the edge close to her thigh before letting it drop again once she's reached the door on the second floor. It's polite to knock, so she does, just before entering the small shop. Aislinn doesn't lock her door, even the prostitute is always welcome, it's something she's taken advantage of over the past half a decade.

"Missus Rowntree? It's Luna Owens, I'd like to talk to you about something." She pauses to close the door behind her and make sure there's no one else perusing the shelves. This problem is embarrassing enough.

"Ma!" calls a small voice. It comes from an equally small child sitting on a stool near the stove, his hands curled around a cup of what is probably tea. In the boy's lap sits an ermine with fur the same colour as the snow caked to the sill of the window outside — either Aislinn's sons have brought home another wounded woodland creature for her to tend to, or her familiar is taking advantage of the stove's warmth and the softness of Ariel's lap. "Luna Owens!"

Ariel wrinkles his nose and looks down at his reflection in the cup's liquid contents. A quiet sniffle and cough muffled by his sleeve suggests that his drinking it isn't entirely voluntary. This is the season for colds, and it seems Aislinn's youngest has come down with one.

A moment later, the woman Luna is here to see emerges from the back room, wiping her hands on her apron. "Hurry hurry," she urges gently, gesturing for Luna to shut the door behind her. "We don't want to let Old Man Winter in."

Luna freezes at the sight of the small boy, a tight smile pasting across her face. It could be that the young woman doesn't like children, or she's just afraid of them. "Hello Master Rowntree, you've taken ill have you?" The white fur is given an appraiser's eye, judging the small animal by what clothing its skin would look best against. It doesn't occur to her that it could be the healer's familiar.

Her smile eases somewhat as Aislinn bustles into the room and the door is finally closed with a small slam that rattles its window, knocking around the wreath of dried flowers used to decorate it. "Alright, alright, I'm hurrying."

She places the fabric down on a clear counter and begins to unwind the scarf from around her neck and peel the long coat from her body. The prostitute isn't in the habit of wearing things so constricting as a coat but the chill of the day has made it necessary. The coat is placed near the fire, close to the boy and his pet. Mostly to judge and see how that sort of fur would look against the color of the wool. "I've come to ask about a certain problem I've been having. A client suggested I see you about it rather than drinking whiskey to control it."

"My father always used to say that alcohol is the best prescription for men who want high opinion of themselves, undisturbed by the facts." Aislinn crosses to the counter and moves behind it so she can access the shelves stacked all the way to the ceiling — or, more accurately, the jars arranged by what their glass contains.

"Ariel?" she asks, prompting the boy to look blearily up from his tea. "Come here. Your brother's downstairs having a visit with Missus Brisby — he'll walk you back to the stables."

Ariel sets the cup down on the hardwood floor at his feet, scoops Hush up in his arms and drapes the lethargic ermine around his neck like a scarf before trudging across the room to his mother, who adjusts the collar of his coat, licks her thumb and uses it to wipe away a smudge of dirt on the apple of his cheek. "I don't want to," he says, his voice a low, hoarse whisper that's surprisingly rough for someone of his diminutive size. "Da's still mad."

"Don't be silly, sweet one." Aislinn presses a kiss to the crown of Ariel's dark-haired head. "He loves you. Now go, or Miss Owens will pinch your bottom for me. Won't you, Luna?"

A titter of laughter, something more uncertain than the smile Luna gave the boy when she first entered is the reply that Aislinn receives. "Of— of course, bottom… yes." Then Ariel is graced with the tiniest shakes of her head along with a curl of her lip indicating that she wouldn't. A secret between the two of them perhaps. Her eyes are still on the ermine, that would look much more lovely around her slender neck than the boy's.

Stooping to meet the young Rowntree's eye, Luna presses her lips into a thin line and nods. "I know a thing or two about Da's who have a temper, aye? It's best to get it over with, whatever you've done. Else you'll end up like me." Not that Ariel would become a prostitute but a jerk of her head toward the door dismisses the young man before she straightens up again.

Aislinn makes sure that Ariel is bundled up good and tight before she sends him on his way. She's heard the stories, of course — wolf attacks on the fringes of the settlement — but between Colm and Hush, she has no worries for her son's safety, only his health. He at least must not be running a fever; if he was, he'd be tucked into bed at home with his grandmother fussing over him, not meeting his father out on the heath for a riding lesson.

Only when the door is shut behind him and the two women are alone does she say: "Now then. What's the matter?"

"Well…" Luna begins slowly, dragging the pad of one finger across a counter surface. One would think that she's checking for cleanliness rather than waste time but those who know the prostitute know better. "I've recently had a problem that I've had some trouble shaking off. And so.. I've been medicating myself, somewhat."

She turns a weak smile toward Aislinn before taking the seat that Ariel so recently vacated. Her hands tremble as she fidgets, lacing her fingers together and then apart again, only to play with the fabric of her dress. "Do you remember the first time you came to see me at the Dovetail? It— there was a situation… and I was trying to drink it away, or use herbs to forget but it became dangerous. So I tried to stop using the herbs so much."

"Aye," says Aislinn, soft. She places both her hands on the edge of the counter and looks down at them rather than subject Luna to any unwanted or unnecessary staring. "I remember."

She stands there for a few moments longer, in silence, then risks diverting her gaze across, studying Luna's facial expression for physical clues that confirm what her heart's magic is telling her about the other woman's emotional state. And it's there, plain as the day outside.

"I can prescribe you some laudanum," she offers, "but like all medicine— it's to be used in moderation."

"I have been trying on my own," Luna insists, rising again and pacing across the room to the far side before stalking back. Her heels clap against the hardwood in a manner than might make it a little annoying for the neighbour below. Missus Brisby. A woman that doesn't really like the prostitute that much anyway, perhaps because Mister Brisby seems to look at them a lot. "It just doesn't take so well, you understand, don't you? I have pain and I tremble, so I drink whiskey or take some herbs in my tea… then I only want more and more and more."

She stops, spinning on her heels when the help is offered and gathers up the fabric. "I have this to trade, it's silk and very strong." She unfolds the cloth, the rusty red color of it seems dull until it catches the light. Then the sheen gives it a life all its own. "It used to be a dress, I have lace to go with it if you'd like that as well."

When Aislinn reaches out to skim the tips of her fingers over the fabric, it brings a tight, wistful smile to the corners of her mouth. "Red," she murmurs, "like poppies. How fitting." But also not a colour that she favours; her wardrobe is an earthy palette that draws inspiration from clear skies and bland things that grow from the soil with only the occasional splash of something bolder.

Now that Luna thinks about it, she can't remember ever seeing Aislinn in anything this loud or bright. "It's very lovely," she says, regardless. "I'm sewing Celia a new coat for her birthday. This will make a fine lining.

"Thank you."

"It was either this or the lilac colored one but it's so dull unless you pair it with a black lace, I didn't think you'd want it." Apparently Luna doesn't really care what she has or hasn't seen the healer in before, Luna has good taste. "Red is much better anyway but this isn't for a lining, it's meant to be seen. You could make her a dress of it, embroider the front with cream and it'll be a bit more fitting for a girl her age, aye?" Duncan has never seen Luna's dresses before anyway. He's not her client.

If they're lucky, he wouldn't notice his youngest in harlot's red.

"It was him, Missus Rowntree," she says in a lower tone, still fawning over the fabric. "The one that did it years ago, he was inside Baizey and controlling him. Then Baizey said the most hurtful things afterward… I want to forget all of it. Can you give me something for that?"

Aislinn is about to say something about how lilac is a wonderful, calming colour, but Luna's question has her pressing her lips together instead of parting them. Something about this request makes her uncomfortable, and she's glad that she's being honest when she answers Luna with a small shake of her head.

She's notoriously bad at lying.

"I'm sorry," she breathes, "I have nothing here that can help you forget something forever. The laudanum's the best I can do, but it will put it out of your head at least for a little while. Would it be all right if I brought it by tomorrow night?"

"Tomorrow night? I'd have to wait so long? Don't you have any now?" The anxious pacing resumes for a few turns around the room before Luna settles up against the counter again. "I mean, I suppose I don't need to forget. I won't take too much, aye?" Her wide blue eyes and shy twitch of a smile are meant to reassure the healer that she won't overdose but her disposition toward drugs and history with them generally point opposite.

"What about until then? My poppies are almost gone and the pain settles in so badly I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep and I must be awake in the morning." For now, morning is when Luna does most of her business.

Maybe Aislinn doesn't wear the colour red because it reminds her that being in this profession means she sometimes needs to wash as much figurative blood from her hands as she does the real stuff. Either way, she won't have Luna's on them today. "No," she says at the end of a short, stilted pause. "Of course. How thoughtless of me."

She turns, consulting the shelves behind the counter, and takes down a glass bottle that fits in her palm. Its label reads Tincture of Opium in Aislinn unmistakable, almost illegible penmanship. "This is an analgesic, so please be careful with it and use half of what you think you'll need. I usually fill orders for each patient separately and adjust the dose based on their circumstance, but only this once—"

The prostitute's eyes are caught on the word opium and she claps her hands together once. Her fingers folds over and are brought up to tuck under her chin in a prayer of thanks to Aislinn. "Oh thank you! Mister Fogg was right, he told me you'd have something to help. I'll bring you something extra, aye? I have some muslin… it's a boring fabric but maybe you'll have use of it?"

Reaching her hands out, she hugs the bottle carefully between her palms. They twist and close up like a clam over the little thing as though it's a pearl in their center. It's definitely as precious as one to the younger blonde. "I'll bring back whatever I don't use," which is a promise she has never made before. "Half of what I think, I got it. Just enough to keep me from feeling the pain."

Aislinn pinches the sleeve of her dress and rubs the fabric between her fingers. Eggshell white. Muslin. Minimal embroidery, no other embellishments. "I don't see why clothes should need to be exciting," she says in quiet defense of dressing plainly, but that's as far as the argument goes because arguing isn't something the healer is good at either.

Which is why she frames what she says next as a humble offering of advice. "You could leave the Dovetail if you wanted. Not all of the girls have parents who are still living, or who would welcome them back into their homes. It isn't my place to judge you, Luna, and I pray you don't think that I mean to— but if Maddock and Isibeal knew how much you were hurting, you wouldn't have any need to trade your silks."

"My ma'd love me back, she already said." Luna concedes, turning slightly away from Aislinn so that she doesn't have to look the healer in the eye. "I don't think my da'd be happy, I'm already spoiled." Though, in fairness, she was spoiled before she ever hit the steps of the Dovetail the first time.

She turns back then, pasting a smile on her face that Aislinn could never be fooled by. "Besides, who's to say I don't like it? I've been there for over five years and I have a clientele that ain't happy with the average whore. If I leave, there'd be no one that could ever fill my shoes. They're too dainty for the rest of 'em."

Aislinn's pale blonde brows lift at this assertion. Not for the first time, she finds herself wondering how many times her husband visited the Dovetail before they were married and what his opinion on the subject might be. As she watches Luna from beneath fair lashes, a sudden pang of self-consciousness has her twisting the golden wedding band around her ring finger.

"Well," she says, "as long as it's what makes your heart feel full." She lowers her eyes, then. "I really do like the fabric."

In an effort to avoid Aislinn's eyes, Luna's fall on the healer's hands and the wedding band that's being fiddled with. "I ain't never going to be proper," she says with a sigh, probably nothing that the other woman wants to hear but there it is. "But as long as I've been at the Dovetail, ma'am— your Edmund— I ain't seen him there. I may be only speaking for myself when I say that if I did, I'd send him out again."

The little bottle is carefully tucked away before the prostitute takes her scarf and begins winding it around her head again. "It don't make my heart feel full, I don't think there's anything in Dornie that could. And I try to leave, I do, but I always end back in that room. Maybe if I can stop the herbs, if it takes, I'll have the fortitude to stay away, aye?"

"Eamonn is true," agrees Aislinn. "It's not loyalty I'm worried for," and she leaves it at that, hands dropping away behind the counter where Luna can no longer see them. "I'll do all that I can to help," she says. "My older brother Regan— he was a drinker. Didn't have any trouble putting the bottle down, but he never could leave it there, poor boy.

"If you need anything, anything— Madame knows how to find me."

Luna pauses and raises her eyebrows at Aislinn. The healer doesn't need magic to tell that curiosity, enough to kill a cat nine times over, is building within the younger woman before she breaks down. "What happened to your brother?" The question is posed in a bit of a whisper. Maybe because the whoretesan is a little afraid to find out the answer, if it's bad news. "He didn't come to Dornie with you and your boy… Did he?"

A slight grimace, a hopeful one, sets itself on Luna's face and she searches Aislinn's possibly for an expression that might lead to good news.

"Oh no," says Aislinn. "No, no. Regan left us after my father died, and that was years— years before Duncan…" She doesn't quite trail off as much as she does decide that the sentence stands completed there. How she and Colm ended up in Dornie is a story that most of the townsfolk know, and one she tries not to repeat even to those who don't.

She wipes at her face with her apron. "I like to think he's found fullness, wherever he is. The wind tells me he lives, but it travels so far that everything else I want to know is lost somewhere along the way."

Luna nods and finishes buttoning the coat she's wearing, something she wouldn't be caught dead in if she were in her right mind. Or drugged into her senses. The navy blue is a shade off from matching the hue of her bright scarf, she notices only now and frowns at it before tucking as much as she can into the coat.

As a favor to the healer, the cup Ariel was using is picked up and placed on the counter just before Luna gives Aislinn a small bu reassuring smile. "Maybe when I leave Dornie, I'll find your brother." She touches her bare hand over the spot the little bottle has made its home, to reassure herself it's still there. "I'll tell him you have lovely boys and a fine husband."