[The blue lettering is meant to show that I know this is an outline.]
Narnemvar was nearly dressed by the time they reached the beach. The only things missing were his shoes and cravat, although it must also be said that his shirt needed to be tied up. And his looks would have been improved by a hat, as his hair was still mostly gone.
It was nearly dark. The trail left them in a bare area, but up the beach they could see what looked like a pier. They decide to hoof it up there in hopes of finding people living near the fern line across from the pier.
A few hoots and hollers later and they are near the pier. There are indeed people living near the ferns. There are about a dozen little huts and one very solid looking house. Being aware of his prerogatives and of the benefits of starting at the top, Postlavanderon makes a bee line for the house. Women dressed in cloth twisted here and cloth twisted there come out of their huts and stop him.
This is Aunt Erminetrude’s house and she’ll be asleep by now. It would be a bad thing to wake her. Postlavanderon is charming and gracious and asks them where they can find a boat to rent or buy and if they recognize the names of several merchants that he mentions.
No they never heard of those people and they’re sorry but their husbands and fathers and brothers are out in the boat, fishing. Postlavanderon looks around and sees none of the regular signs of a fishing village. There are no broken boats being used for other things, no nets taken up for repair, no strings of drying fish.
Postlavanderon concludes that the women are lying, but asks permission to check at the other huts to see if anyone has a boat, or knows of a boat, or knows that someone intends to come back early. He has silver to pay for the boat. He mentions that he is a prince. The women reply that Aunt Erminetrude has fifteen dogs, each silkier and more clever than the last. He bows and walks along. Behind him, Satbada begins to enquire about the availability of water and foodstuffs and perhaps a tub for bathing.
Narnemvar skips along behind Postlavanderon, his face flashing between expressions, now completely blank, now grinning, now fidgeting in frustration. Small children whisper to each other and slide away after him as if after a juggler or piper or someone that their parents didn’t approve of.
Postlavanderon stops at each hut, from the farthest north to the farthest south. At each house the women are sorry, but the boat is out and may not be back for weeks. Neither silver not Princehood impressed them. But the stories collected.
Aunt Erminetrude had had adventures in her middle age. She had dragons in her attic. She had a garden that no bug or animal would defile. She had a marble staircase, though, on being pressed, the teller admitted that it was a narrow one. But it was tall enough that all of the women of the village could use it to knead dough on baking day.
Aunt Erminetrude this and Aunt Erminetrude that. Narnemvar began to enquire about Aunt Erminetrude before Postlavanderon could begin to ask about the boat. When questioned, no one seemed to know exactly whose aunt she was or how long she had lived there. A few of the older women could remember a time when the house was not there, but they could not say how long it had taken to build, or who had built it.
There’s magic coming from Aunt Erminetrude’s house, said Narnemvar.
“Does it feel like a magic boat?” asked Postlavanderon.
“No, nor like dragons. The dragons are very small and are hiding in the garden. That’s what keeps the bugs and other things out. There are three, which is a pity, because it takes four of them to breed.”
“The things I learn traveling with you.” said the slightly put out prince. “Are you all right?”
no , I’m a little antsy. We’ve been talking about a boat and asking for a boat and being lied to about boats for too long for my complete equanimity. I wish to move.
Postlavanderon approached the hut nearest to the big house. The woman inside said much the same things as the others, but to Narnemvar’s companionable grin she confided. “I clean for Aunt Erminetrude. I’ve been up to the attic. You’re right to say that there are no dragons there. There’s only one big box. It has a big sign on it that says ‘Aw Thor’ and it never has no dust on it. I don’t even bother to go up there any more.
The duo thanked the woman, in their dual styles, and took their leave.