(OOC: Any dialogue with <> around it is Eastern, and not the regular common Woodland language. )
It was the type of afternoon that seemed like it would go on forever. The air was still and warm, the light was the color of honey and nearly as thick. They hadn't seen any of their few neighbors in days, and no travelers on the road either, and Mei felt like they could be the only two creatures left on the land. It was nice in a way, to pretend to keep the whole of the land to herself and her son. Still, she decided with a sigh, whether that was true or not, there was still work to do, and she needed to do it.
With a huff and a stretch, she decided that the repairs to the cellar that had been made last spring were still holding up, and headed for the stairs. She paused halfway there, though, and lifted a clay pot off the shelf. She carefully wiped the little cob web off the top, and then considered it more thoroughly. It had been bartered to her only a fortnight ago for some wintergreen tea. The otter who traded it said that it was plum jam, and now Mei thought that such a nice day perhaps deserved a sweet ending. And she could coax Derry to actually eat the bread this way. She tucked the pot under her arm and headed once more for the stairs. It was clear now, but more than likely rain would fall in the night, so clean laundry needed to be taken in. And dinner would need to be started soon, and she was positive that she and Derry both needed baths this evening.
The cellar door shut firmly behind her, Mei turned and surveyed her little home. It was not a traditional Easterner's home, but a traditional Westerner's home, but she had made due and was happy. It certainly looked much nicer than it had when she and Derry had come across it four seasons ago. Then, it had been cold and dusty and smelled of being closed up for many, many seasons. It had been stripped bare of anything of value; the roof leaked and the cellar flooded, the gardens around it had been fallow for some time. But the little stone cottage was sturdy, and it was in a nice little clearing, with a little freshwater pond fed by the stream close by.
It was tough work, getting her home to rights, especially with Derry only just weaned, but it happened. She had a neighbor half a day's walk from here, and he was pleasant in a rough sort of way. He had come from the far Northlands and settled here some time ago for the rich soil and mild winters. He was a bit gruff, and had a Northland accent so thick she could barely understand it, but he could only half understand her broken, Eastern-accented commoner. In the end, they helped each other out. She needed some repairs on the house done, and soon enough, seed crops to get her garden started. And he needed mending on his clothes, and had arthritis and stomach troubles that she had treated quite often when she belonged to the Herbalist, far and back across the ocean.
And what she couldn't trade for with Farmer Kelley or the Abbey, she could usually trade for with the travelers that passed by on the wide and dusty road that could be sighted from her front porch.
And now, she was preparing for her second Autumn in this home, which was now clean and bright, with a fire in the kitchen hearth and herbs growing in the front garden. Crisp tami mats graced the stone floor, soft futons and thick blankets sat stacked in the corner, waiting for use in the evening. It was home, and right then Mei couldn't even frown at the small toys that Derry had neglected to put away.
As if her thoughts had summoned him, Derry burst through the front door, grinning from ear to ear, holding the large bowl of peas she had tasked him with shelling. "<hi mama!="">" He cried, obviously untroubled by the way he seemed caked with dirt. His hands, his face, even his unruly hair was plastered down to his head and his little green noragi vest was caked in places with fresh, damp dirt.
"<derry!>" she sighed, not knowing whether to scold him or to laugh. "<what on="" earth="" were="" you="" doing?="" look="" like="" an="" unwashed="" potato!="">"
There was a pause as Derry wandered over and placed the bowl on the table. Small pats of dirt flaked off his vest, and he poked at one. He glanced down at himself, seemingly surprised to find himself so covered in dirt. "<oh. wow.="" i'm="" dirty,="" huh?="">"
Mei just sighed again, and hands on hips, asked, "And what were you doing, to get so dirty?>"
He ducked his head again, thinking he was going to be in for a scolding. "_" he told her, quietly. "<after the="" peas="" were="" done,="">" he added, hoping to help his case. His mama didn't like when he got too dirty, especially on days when the laundry was fresh. It made extra work for them, she said, and he didn't like to have to do extra chores.
"<and where="" were="" you="" being="" a="" mole?="">" came his mother's voice, as she began to move around. He glanced up to see her pad into the kitchen where the wash tub sat. On a shelf above, there was a scrubbing brush, a fine-toothed comb, and a bar of good lavender soap. "<under th'="" porch,="">" he sighed, with resignation. He had known, in some vague way, that a bath would follow if he got filthy, but it hadn't seemed like such a problem before. Now he knew he was in for it. Not only a bath, but a good scrubbing and getting his hair combed. Ugh. He ducked his head back down and pouted, waiting for Mama to tell him off, though she hardly ever raised her voice to him, ever. Instead, her fingers sifted through his hair. A few clods of dirt fell out. "<no wonder="" there's="" cobwebs="" in="" your="" hair,="">" she sighed, the disappointed tone in her voice somehow worse than any telling off.
"<sorry, mama,="">" he muttered, glancing up at her. She smiled down at him, and wiped her fingers off on her Kimono.
"<don't worry,="" derry,"="" she="" told="" him,="" grabbing="" his="" hand="" and="" leading="" him="" to="" the="" door.="" "<it's="" nothing="" a="" good="" thorough="" bath="" can't="" fix.="">"
He grimaced, but went along without a struggle. He was going to get a bath, and fighting just made it worse.
"<and,>" she added, looking down at her son's pouting little face, "<it's nice="" and="" warm="" enough="" to="" bathe="" in="" the="" stream="" today.="">"
Derry thought this over and was slightly mollified. Having a bath in the stream was less like bathing and more like swimming and playing, just with soap. His pace picked up, and he hurried around to the end of their pond, where the water spilled out and went to meet the larger rivers, his mother following behind him.
Neither mother nor child noticed the small plume of dust rising from the road, scarcely a mile from where the house sat, and getting closer.</it's></and,></don't></sorry,></no></under></and></after>_</oh.></what></derry!></hi>