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“Earth tablets, or terra sigillata, are ancient remedies. The most coveted were drawn from the Lemnos, a holy Greek island. Earth from this area had a distinct red colour – the Greeks used to stamp it with symbols pertaining to the Gods.” Mugwhah says this with a wry smile as she produces hard little lozenges fitting the description, stamped with the likeness of a goat, “The goat stands for Artemis.”
“Artemis was a goddess who protected wild animals. She also protected women.”
As she begins to crush the pastille in a pestle and mortar she looks at me intently. She stares so that I feel obliged to say, “Why do you look at me so?”
“That’s why you are here is it not, you might not understand it as such, but you are drawn to Artemis? You are drawn to the untamed, and you seek to protect something that you do not yet understand but that you see in me and other women. What is it that you have done but surrender yourself. Because you do not even understand enough to ask me what you want.”
My noble training makes it hard to admit to ‘submission’, but in principle I know Mugwhah is right. There is something so beautiful and expansive in giving myself over to these new feelings – they fly like birds from the imprisonment of court life. How perceptive Mugwhah is, to know I crave something but don’t know what it is. But being here bliss.
Mixed with the milk and honey, the medicine is a sweet and mineral smelling, creamy emulsion; it sticks to my throat as I swallow it.
The fire light is the first thing I notice, it doubles and blurs and appears closer and more distant. The crackling of the twigs slow down to become heavy explosions. I hear the hammering of my heart. Loath, the great Castle Farrier, couldn’t make such a racket. I feel exhilarated and look over to Mugwhah. To my surprise she looks terrified, “It’s only my heart!” I start.
But it isn’t just my heart. There is a chanting from outside, the beating of a drum. And disorientated I stagger to the curtains that hang in Mugwhah’s doorway and fall through to land in the dirt. When I find strength to raise my head I find myself confronted by an angry mob of peasants, with torches and pitch forks. In a moment I also locate my father, accompanied by a small squad of archers and swordsmen.
“By God’s name William, what hath she done to thee?” My father’s voice taunts me. I can see the calculating logic of what he has done, used the ruse of a witch hunt to help coral the workers, to give them a mixed sense of fear and excitement to make their minds en-flamed in an act of his willing – his to command. It is a calculating logic I have been indoctrinated with from childhood, a logic I have come to despise.
Mugwhah is vulnerable. Despite her powers she cannot repel this mob. I find yourself sweating and crying, unable to speak or stand. The potion I drank is powerful and I remember Mugwhah’s words once I had swallowed it – it’s effect will be profound.