At the close of the fourth day, Althing is half over, and I am glad. I long for the solitude of my own woods, the tender embrace of my wife, and a decent home-cooked meal. My Thjodhild makes a delicious stew for the evening meal. I could eat it every night for the rest of my life and never grow tired of it.
As for the food here at Althing--too few men have brought their unmarried daughters and sisters, and the women of Diaparn can hardly be expected to cook for all of us. And so the cooking has been largely left to the men who know nothing about it, and as a result, I am suffering terribly from indigestion. The tent-flap opens frequently, proving that I am not alone. I try to roll over and sleep again, but I am forced to leave the security of my tent. A poorly-cooked pork stew affects the low and mighty alike.
On my return from my errand, moderately but not completely relieved, I notice a light at one of the cooking-fires. A figure stands near a pot, and five or six others have formed a line around him. I venture up towards them, and who should I see but Magnus, ladling tea into drinking-horns?
"What is this?" I ask.
A man of Eitravik, singularly affected by the evening's meal, stands in front of me. "Some sort of brew. My brother had some half an hour ago, and he said it helps," he says, paling. Poor fellow, he looks past the point of being aided by herbalists' teas. But I wait in line with the rest and take some of Magnus's tea. I nearly choke on it. It is hot, almost searing, and disgustingly strong.
Magnus is--or was, at least--as sick as the rest of us. But when he sees me, he smiles weakly, and a bit sympathetically. He sips his own brew straight from the ladle, wincing, and aids another ailing patient.
"Do you know him?" asks the man of Eitravik.
"I only met him here," I answer. "His name is Magnus, a farmer from this island deaf and mute, and given to the monks in childhood. I take it they taught him medicine along with Latin."
"A man of learning." The Eitravite nods, sipping his tea again. "Well, this tastes bad enough that it ought to do us some good."
The bitter taste I ignore as best as I can. I drink half the horn in a single draught, and though it is rude to put down a horn half finished, I cannot bring myself to complete the task. Already, my stomach churns less. "How long has he been here?" I ask.
"At least an hour," another man says. He raises his own horn cheerfully. "Sip slowly, man. It's medicine, not mead."
I scoff and down the rest of my mug. What is a bowl of pork stew, that it should affect Einar Shattersword? My body will heal from this just as it has healed from any wound--quickly and painlessly, so that no one would know that I was wounded in the first place.
Magnus kneels beside me, scolds me with a glare, and refills my horn, indicating that I should sip slowly. And, slowly, I begin to feel better--well enough to return to bed and sleep soundly until dawn.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.