The city streets were crowded as they usually were at this time of day. It was well past lunchtime, so businesses were bustling, especially as more people entered the city. Carts came one by one through the gates to bring in their goods. It was always like that during harvest season and Arabella loved to watch all the new people move through the streets.
The streets, like the walls, were grey stone that had been worn flat by decades of footfall. Arabella stared at the walls overhead as she held her broom, wondering exactly how tall they were. They towered over the city, looking as though if one were to climb the stairs, they might be able to reach up and touch the clouds. She gazed at it until her view was blocked by a passerby before continuing her sweeping.
It wasn’t exactly the best time of day to do this sort of thing, but it needed to be done. A clean city was a healthy city and a healthy city was a happy city. Her work was just part of the many tasks she completed as part of her service to the church, which offered its services to the city.
She hummed to herself as she swept, though she saw something gross laying in the street. A dropping, probably from a carriage. Looking back and forth she grabbed a dirty cloth from the stall and moved out to grab it before someone could do something unfortunate like…
Arabella tumbled backwards on the stone only stopping when her back hit the side of a street stall. Pain arced through her shoulder and back where it hit, sharp enough to make her clench her fist, making her fist feel warm and awkward as something not fully digested dripped down her wrist. Wincing she opened her fist and stared at the mess of cloth and other things before glancing up to see the disappointed priest glaring at her.
“Look what you’ve done, girl.”
“I was just….” She glanced around, “What hit me? Is everyone alright?”
“T’was a courier I think, you’re lucky they didn’t stop to scold you. Though now look at you, made a mess all over your robes.” Grabbing her by the shoulders he pulled her up and looked her over. “We’re too far from the priory, guess we’ll have to do a quick cleanse. Can’t have people seeing ya like this.”
“But I….” She met his gaze and shut her mouth at the scolding. She knew he was doing her a favor; she hadn’t wanted to get so dirty. Still, she bit her lip and spoke softly, “I could maybe change instead. We don’t have to….”
“Just get back here,” he said to her as he moved her to the back part of an alley. He looked around for a few seconds and held out both his hands. “By the sea and the moon, by the rivers and the tides, bring forth your holy water to rinse away all that stains this world.” As he recited the prayer, water condensed in his hands. It was a common sight but Arabella recoiled as she braced for what was about to happen, “By our goddess Aoiria, be cleansed.” The ball of water splashed her and Arabella shivered as the holy spell hit her.
Water soaked her through, from head to toe, dripping down and taking all the dirt and grime of the day with it, but it was so cold!
She clutched her arms as she shivered in the evening air. In the shade between the buildings a cold wind made her brace even more. The priest scoffed. “Come on girl, it’s not as if this is the first time you’ve been splashed.” He faced her as she lowered and rolled up her sleeves to get the wet fabric off her skin. He glanced downwards then immediately back up before turning away and coughing, “Do keep your arms in front of you while you dry off. No point in being shameless as well as careless.”
Arabella was confused for all of three seconds before looking down and crossing her arms tightly over her chest. Her chest should have been bound enough. Darn cold water. Darn splashing. He’s the one who….
She breathed in, then out, walking back toward the store, “I don’t think I can sweep like this.”
“No,” the priest said as he walked to the door, “I have an order I need picked up from the tannery. I’ll write you a note to give them.”
“The one by the lake?” That was clear across town.
“Yes, hopefully a good pace will dry you off. You’ll definitely need one if you want to get back to the priory before nightfall.”