“We gather here to honor the memory of Tiria, second wife of the Miller, Dorn, son of the Miller Codir, son of the Hunter Osgand. She was a good wife and bore Dorn a child. She maintained his house until he passed into the elements like his forefathers.”
Elder Ponmay directed the crowd to line up and one by one take a taper and light it from the brazier at her feet.
She directed Som, being the closest thing to a relative by the fact that he found her body, to light the pyre. A gust of wind blew out his taper. Someone gasped and the crowd froze in place. I, my taper almost in the fire, froze with them.
Som looked embarrassed and hurried to light it again.
When the next gust of wind blew his taper out, he looked to the Elder.
She bit her lip and gathered a handful of tapers from her assistant – Som’s sister’s youngest girl – and divided them with Som. Together they lit them all and from both sides of the pyre, managed to finally get it burning. Elder Ponmay dusted off her hands and then nodded to the next in line to start the procession.
Each person threw their light into the pyre while the Elder recited the hymn of the dead, which told of the birth of the soul from the elements, its journey through the world, and its return to the elements. I couldn’t help but remember the other times I had heard that hymn – when I had to light the pyre for our parents. Jeslynn had to help me light it then. Had Tiria been there that day? A gust of wind once could be forgiven, but many times – on this, the normally non-windy part of the day – boded ill. Rand’s pyre had burned without issue. Jeslynn had lighted it without me as I was injured from a burned building collapsing on me. I rubbed my arm absently after I tossed my taper in. The same building had fallen on Rand, but he hadn’t survived.
I stood next to Jeslynn, who slipped her hand into mine.
I couldn’t help but feel happy that the witch was burning.
Once the last person passed the well-burning pyre, Elder Ponmay called for words. I hated this part. Funny how one could speak freely among the same people at the bar, but feel restrained out here in the smelly meadow.
When it came my turn, my tongue voiced what I felt.
“Although she was rumored to be a witch and may have caused this valley much grief, she obviously was favored by the weather gods since her cottage didn’t burn down in the fire that killed my brother-in-marriage a year ago.”
Jeslynn, who had said something about the witch being kind to strangers, squeezed my fingers painfully.
Elder Ponmay frowned at me and Wulfgit coughed loudly, repeatedly, until the group’s eyes turned from me to him.
“The smoke,” he said, wiping what I suspected were tears of laughter from his eyes.
After the pyre had burned down, Jeslynn stomped away and Elder Ponmay refused to look at me. Everyone else followed her lead and refused to speak to me, even though I poured them ale and feed them. It got to be exhausting.
Hours later it seemed, Som left to get his cart. Elder Ponmay, a tankard in one hand, a cookie in the other, pointed her bony finger at me to follow.