I got up earlier than normal, well before sunrise, to make breakfast pastries and assorted dishes for the after-ceremony gathering. As with a Thing and any other event, people would contribute meals and drinks but the gathering would happen at the tavern and the brunt of the hospitality would fall on us. Jeslynn rose a little after I did, and attended the normal morning tasks – feeding the chickens, milking the cows, watering the garden. After a time, when she didn’t come in as I had expected her, I looked for her out back. I didn’t see her at the stable, so I opened the front door of the tavern and looked out on the square.
There I saw her tending to the wildfire memorial that had been built on the edge of the square across from our front door. The ugly burnt stick had been put up by the Elders as a reminder to all – not only of the people and property lost – but of our failure to properly appease the weather gods. I doubted the weather gods were impressed with our offerings as they seemed as capricious as always. It took me a moment to realize the reason for Jeslynn’s efforts. It had been a year, almost a year I think, since we’d lost Rand to that evil event. I wondered, feeling the slow burn of anger in my stomach, if the witch had been responsible for that. Certainly her part of the forest hadn’t burned, although Som’s farm had almost been lost.
‘Past was past,’ as my mother used to say. I shook off my mood. I propped the door open to let the before dawn, spring morning air in and returned to the kitchen to make Jeslynn her favorite fruit tart.
The meadow where farewell and rememberance ceremonies were usually held seemed smellier, and less mushy, than usual that morning. The spring that feed the field seemed to have stopped flowing. Hopefully that wasn’t a sign that we’d offended the gods. Again.
The entire village, even Torgood who usually found an excuse to skip anything that hinted of religion, gathered around the in a rough cirlce in front of the Elder. We waited.
When sunlight, just creasting the hilltops and painting the trees in gold, touched the top of Elder Ponmay’s staff, she spoke.