"Why didn't you shift?" Janna mumbled. The blankets were pulled up under her chin.
"What?" Rose asked, staring at the fire. She wondered if it needed another log.
"Why didn't you shift?" Janna repeated. "She wouldn't have been suspicious of a cat."
"It didn't occur to me." Rose replied. Picking up the poker, she stirred the fire. The flames leaped up, rejuvenated. Setting it down again, she pulled off her tunic and draped it over the edge of the bed. Walking to the other side, she pulled at the quilt on top. Janna tugged it back. "Stop that," she said. "I'm not going to be up all night listening to you cough. You shake the whole bed. I'll sleep in the chair." Whisking the quilt away, she wrapped it around herself and sat down again. "Now stop interrupting. I'm almost finished."
"Who's there?" The woman asked again. "Come out where I can see you." She walked farther into the alley, towards Rose.
Rose sighed and stood up.
The woman gasped, then rushed to her side. "Oh Gods! Are you all right? Did someone hurt you?! Come inside, I'll send someone for the Guardsmen!" Grabbing Rose's wrist, she started pulling her to the door.
"No Mistress!" Rose cried. "It's all right! I'm all right." The woman stopped, dropped her hands, and faced her. "I'm a were." Rose said. "I was just in the alley and..." she trailed off as the woman's expression hardened.
"A were." she said. "I suppose you came looking for a handout?" she asked harshly. "Too bad you can't carry a tray. I'm desperate enough to hire anyone." Dropping Rose's arm, she turned away.
Rose paused, confused. "I can carry a tray." she said.
The woman turned back, and gave her a long look. "Can you take orders? If I tell you to take two ales, a mug of wine, and a cup of gravy to a table, you won't get confused and bring three mugs of gravy?"
"I can." Rose wondered who could mess up something so simple. An image of a tray with three steaming mugs of gravy flashed through her mind, and she suppressed a smile.
"And you won't turn on everyone suddenly and try to kill my husband and guests?"
Rose rolled her eyes. Not that again. "I'm perfectly sane, Mistress." she replied.
"You say that now, but I heard what happened in Mallard." She relented. "All right, come by tomorrow morning. I'll tell my husband to expect you. I'll need to keep an eye on you. Can't have you running away the minute you get paid. Hm... I'll put you in the small room in the attic."
Rose was too shocked to reply.
"Well? What are you waiting for? Go home! You're going to have a busy day tomorrow. I want you here early." the woman flapped her hands, shooing her.
"Uh... Thank you, Mistress." Rose managed. She started walking towards the mouth of the alley.
"Wait!" the woman said, she put an hand in her apron pocket and pulled out two coopers. "Here. You stink like garbage. Go to the baths before you come here." She picked up Rose's hand and placed the money in her palm. "Now go! Remember I want you here early tomorrow! Just after dawn!" Rose walked a few steps then turned around.
"Wait! What's the name of this place?" she called.
"The Stone Inn." The woman called back. "I'm Lisa Stone."
Rose turned around, smiling to herself. Putting the coins in her mouth, she shifted and bounded home.
The fire crackled, almost spent. Rose picked up a thick log and rolled it on to the embers. Brushing dirt off her hands, she picked up the quilt, wrapped it around herself and sat down in the chair again. She looked around. Where was the footstool? Over there. Can I get it without standing up? Freeing one foot from the quilt, she stretched out, hooked it with a toe, and dragged it in front of the chair. Wrapping her feet under the quilt again, she stretched and sighed.
"What happened then?" Janna asked from under the blankets.
Rose looked up sleepily. "I worked there about three months then you breezed into town." She smiled. "And forced me to save you from that Magician." she added.
"I didn't force you. You came in and pissed all over everything."
"Right, and if I hadn't, you'd still be there. Glaring at him. Silently."
Janna chuckled. "Good night, Rose."
"Good night, Janna."