Read Janna Mysteries 1 & 2 Bindup Online

Authors: Felicity Pulman

Janna Mysteries 1 & 2 Bindup

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Copyright Act 1968
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Janna Mysteries 1&2 Bindup

ePub ISBN 9781742745619

This book is fictitious. The herb properties and herbal remedies detailed in this book are based on ancient folk practice and should not under any circumstances be considered an actual remedy for any ailment or condition.

Random House Australia Pty Ltd
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Rosemary for Remembrance
first published by Random House
Australia in 2005
Rue for Repentance
first published by Random House
Australia in 2006
This bindup edition first published in 2007

Copyright © Felicity Pulman 2005–7

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

Pulman, Felicity, 1945–.
Janna mysteries 1 & 2 bindup.

ISBN 978-1-7416-6251-1 (pbk.).

I. Title. (Series: Pulman, Felicity, 1945–
Janna mysteries; 1 & 2).

A823.3

Cover design by saso content & design pty ltd

CONTENTS

T
HE WOLF’S HOWL
shattered the dark, secretive forest. Startled, Janna spun around, straining to pinpoint the direction of the sound. At the sudden movement, the flame of her torch flickered and almost died. Fighting panic, she cupped her fingers around the flame to protect and steady it. The light gave her an illusion of safety and she took courage from it, for she was alone out here, with no protection against the prowling predators of the forest. No protection against wolves.

Janna cursed the quick temper which had sent her fleeing into the night without bringing even a knife to defend herself. She raised the torch higher, watching for movement, listening intently for a telltale rustling.

All was still. Her gaze moved up to the full moon, which floated above her in a blaze of radiant silver light. It brightened the sky almost to daylight. Yet even the moon’s brilliance could not penetrate the tree-shadowed darkness that surrounded her. It was heavy with mystery and threat.

The sudden crackle of dry leaves set her heart racing. A deer? A fox? Not loud enough to be a wild boar – but a wolf would move quietly, stealing up on its prey. At once Janna’s imagination conjured up the beast creeping through the forest towards her. Her first impulse was to run, to put as much distance between her and the wolf as possible, but she remembered her mother’s warning: ‘Never turn your back on a wild animal.’ She kept still, knowing that she could never outpace a wolf – never.

She swallowed hard, gulping down fear. The thin trail she followed ran deep into the forest, into the wild and tangled places where the wolf was surely lurking. Should she go on, or go back to the cottage? The immense forest closed around her, hushed and still. Nothing moved; there was no sound now to break the silence. The wolf’s howl wasn’t very loud, she thought. Perhaps it was too far away to be any real threat.

Janna set off once more, leaves crunching, twigs snapping under her boots. If she hurried, she could pick the wild strawberries and get out of the forest before the wolf even knew she was there. She couldn’t just abandon her mission, for the strawberries were important. Her mother needed them for a special potion. They had planned to pick them together, tonight.

‘It’s a foul-tasting mixture. The fruits will add sweetness and strengthen the blood, but we must go tonight for there will be no time to pick them before my visitor comes tomorrow,’ Eadgyth had fussed, all the while pulling from the shelf the other ingredients she would need. It was a mix to bring on a woman’s monthly courses and so prevent an unwanted child from developing in the womb. The church forbade the practice and most women remained obedient to both the priest and their husbands. Sometimes, however, worn out with childbirth and with already too many mouths to feed, they were desperate enough to seek Eadgyth’s help. Even then, she acted only if she was truly convinced of their need. From Eadgyth’s preparations this evening, it was clear she was sympathetic to the woman’s cause and prepared to help her.

‘Who is she?’ Janna had asked, but her mother hadn’t answered, saying only, ‘I want you out of the cottage by the time she arrives.’

‘Why won’t you let me stay and help you?’

‘Not this time.’

‘You never let me help!’ Janna scowled at her mother.

Eadgyth had sighed impatiently. ‘You have enough to do. You tend the herb garden and help me prepare my mixtures and potions. That’s quite enough to keep you busy.’

‘I don’t want to just keep busy. I want to
learn
.’

‘I’ve already taught you everything I know.’

‘But knowledge isn’t enough! I need experience too. How will I ever get that if you won’t let me help look after the people who come here?’

‘You know enough for now.’ Eadgyth had turned back to her decoction. Janna knew, from long experience, that the subject was closed. She seethed with resentment. She was sixteen years old. When would her mother start treating her like an adult?

‘’Tis well it’s a full moon tonight. Picked at midnight, the strawberries will carry the moon’s power,’ Eadgyth had fussed on. At that point Janna had stopped listening. If it wasn’t the moon, it was the time of day or night, or the alignment of the planets that must be favourable. She’d heard her mother say the same sorts of thing a thousand times in the past. Doubtless she’d be saying the same things to Fulk in the future. Once she went into partnership with him. Janna’s mouth pulled down into a sour scowl, while her mind went back to the scene from which she had fled.

The loud knocking had startled both Janna and her mother. Eadgyth paused in the act of pulling on her boots. ‘Who could that be?’ She’d flashed a sly smile at Janna. ‘Are you expecting a suitor to come calling? Godric, maybe?’

‘No!’ Even as Janna issued the denial, Godric’s face flashed into her mind, and her cheeks heated at the memory. He, too, had come calling late at night, seeking aid for his ailing mother. But his mother had made a good recovery, so Eadgyth had said.

‘I saw the way Godric looked at you. I think you’ve taken his fancy, Janna.’ There was a twinkle in Eadgyth’s eyes as she teased her daughter.

Janna flushed under her mother’s scrutiny, and kept on fastening her cloak.

‘He is a fine, well-set fellow. You could do worse,’ Eadgyth observed. Another knock came, more urgent this time. ‘Likely it’s some poor soul in trouble. Go to the door, Janna. See who it is.’ She bent to her boots once more.

Janna opened the door. Her welcoming smile died and her heartbeat slowed to normal. Not Godric but Master Fulk the apothecary. Eadgyth sometimes bought supplies from his shop in Wiltune to make up her own medicaments and creams. For the moment, however, he was staying at Babestoche Manor, having been summoned to attend Dame Alice during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Local gossip said that Fulk divided his time between the manor, his shop, and the alehouses in Wiltune, where he boasted of his skill and his noble patronage to any who might listen. What on earth could he want with them?

‘Good evening, Johanna. Is your mother home? Might I have a word?’ Master Fulk pulled a large square of yellow silk from his purse and mopped his red, sweating face. Their small cottage was some distance from Babestoche Manor, and the journey had obviously taken its toll on the apothecary’s constitution.

Janna bobbed her head and made way for him to enter. His large presence dominated the small, smoke-filled room, which was lit only by the flickering light of the fire at its centre. In unusual deference, the apothecary bowed to Eadgyth.

Janna saw that her mother wore a smile of chilly politeness as she greeted him. She grinned inwardly, knowing her mother’s opinion of Fulk both as a man and as an apothecary. ‘
Wortwyf
I may be called,’ Janna’s mother had declared when news of his presence at the manor became known, ‘but as a herbwife I know far more of women’s troubles than that turnip head! Even Aldith, the midwife, knows more than him. He’s a posturing ignoramus. What does he know of the difficulties of carrying and birthing children? What does any man know, or care? In my opinion, Janna, if Fulk was even half so skilled as he claims, he would surely be ministering to King Stephen himself instead of selling his nostrums to any wealthy enough to pay for the privilege of being gulled by him!’

Eadgyth kept her smile firmly in place as Fulk pushed Alfred, their big black cat, off the heavy wooden chair by the fire. The chair had been crafted by Eadgyth herself, along with the stuffed cushions that provided extra comfort. With a grimace of distaste, the apothecary brushed off black cat hairs then sank down, expelling a sigh of relief.

Janna picked up Alfred and settled onto a stool nearby, waiting eagerly for Fulk’s explanation of this unusual visit. His opening was unexpected.

‘My dear Eadgyth, I am come here to make you an offer which I am sure can work only to your advantage.’

Fulk paused, perhaps waiting for Eadgyth’s delighted response. When it was not forthcoming, he continued. ‘You will have heard that I am skilled in the art of healing …’ He stopped, frowning at Janna’s barely suppressed snort. Eadgyth kept silent, giving him no help at all.

‘Of course, my knowledge is far greater than yours for I have taken instruction in
scientia
from scholars in Oxford. Small wonder that the infirm and elderly come from far and wide to consult me, knowing that they will benefit from my plasters and poultices, my pills, tonics and mixtures.’

And when those fail, they come to my mother! With difficulty, Janna kept her thoughts to herself.

Fulk looked expectantly at Eadgyth, searching for an acknowledgment of the honour of his presence here in their cottage. She tilted her head, and waited for him to continue. A heavy silence settled, broken eventually by the apothecary. ‘However, there are still many mysteries concerning the human body which are known only to God.’

‘And perhaps to me. Is that why you’re here?’ Eadgyth suggested, tiring suddenly of the charade. ‘Are you here to ask my advice, Master Fulk?’

‘No, no, of course not.’ With an airy laugh, the apothecary dismissed the thought.

‘Then why, pray, do you come knocking at my door so late at night?’ She settled onto a stool opposite Fulk, and stared at him intently.

‘Because … because I have an offer for you to consider. We both practise the healing arts. I thought you might care to share my knowledge.’

‘You’re offering to teach me?’ Eadgyth lifted an eyebrow in surprise.

‘I expect there is also something I might learn from you.’ Fulk’s face flushed a darker shade than before. ‘For example, some women’s troubles may be beyond my ken …’

‘So you’re actually asking
me
to teach
you
?’ Eadgyth gave him a glacial smile.

Fulk shifted uncomfortably. ‘You must know there’s talk about you in the village,’ he said, changing the subject. ‘If you come under my tutelage, it would give you a high position in Wiltune.’ He leaned towards Eadgyth. ‘It would also help me. I am so busy with customers I have too little time for mixing up those remedies that my patients seek. I’m here to offer you –’

‘A partnership?’

‘No! No, not quite that. After all, I have my reputation to consider.’ At the sight of Eadgyth’s ferocious glare, Fulk extracted the yellow kerchief and mopped his brow once more. ‘I’m offering you a chance to sell your potions through my shop, and your help in the preparation of my own remedies under my guidance. It would give you a reputable outlet for your medicaments and bring you in a steady income. Of course, I could not put my name to any concoction of yours unless I knew that it was quite sound.’

‘And how would
you
be able to tell?’

The contempt behind Eadgyth’s question was lost on Fulk. ‘Why … I would need to know all the ingredients, of course,’ he blustered.

‘And so you would learn my herbal lore under the guise of helping me?’

‘You mistake me, mistress. I thought you would be delighted by my offer. It works far more to your advantage than to mine.’ Janna noted that Fulk’s condescending tone didn’t quite match the worried expression on his face.

‘Delighted by your offer? Delighted to be patronised by a man who knows little but would steal my knowledge under the guise of helping me? I think not!’ Eadgyth surged to her feet, indicating that Fulk had worn out his welcome. He stayed seated, sweat beading his brow.

‘I assure you, Mistress Eadgyth, a business relationship would benefit both of us.’

Eadgyth studied him narrowly while she assessed the worth of his offer. ‘A business relationship, no. A partnership – perhaps.’

Aghast, Janna stared at her mother. She could hardly believe what she was hearing. Eadgyth despised Fulk. How could she bear to contemplate a working relationship with such a loathsome toad?

Fulk’s face, already red, now turned a deep crimson. ‘You believe yourself to be my equal?’ He spat the words as if they were bitter gall in his mouth. And yet, Janna noted, he seemed to be considering the idea in spite of Eadgyth’s cutting assessment of his ability. She was sure Fulk wasn’t telling them the real reason he’d come knocking on their door so late at night. She wondered what it could be.

‘Come with me to see Dame Alice.’ The invitation seemed more of a command than a suggestion. ‘Bring with you one of your nostrums. Let us see if you are as good as people say you are.’ His words were measured, but Janna sensed the urgency behind them, and saw it in the fingers that twisted together in barely concealed impatience. She had her answer: Dame Alice was the reason he was here.

‘What sort of nostrum? Is Dame Alice having difficulty birthing her babe?’ Eadgyth asked sharply.

‘Not at all,’ Fulk said proudly. ‘Thanks to my ministrations, my lady has given birth to a fine son, when it’s common knowledge she’s lost every other child since the birth of her first little boy. That is why the midwife was put off and why my lord Robert summoned me to see ma dame through this pregnancy.’ He puffed out his chest, swollen with self-importance.

‘Why then do you come to see me, Master Fulk?’

Fulk’s eyes slid sideways. He would not look at Eadgyth. ‘Ma dame needs a mixture for something of which I have limited experience. Something to stop excessive bleeding after childbirth,’ he mumbled.

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