I tossed my apron at my sister, annoyed with the entire village but mostly annoyed at myself. Her tart reminder to “keep my opinion in my pouch,” irritated me further.
Outside I found Som and the butcher whispering to each other. They stopped when they saw me. Som took the lead and I followed, silently thank you, them through the village and down the cart path to Som’s barn, where he had a wagon waiting. We hitched up the horses and I started to walk behind the wagon.
“Don’t be more of a fool,” Wulfgit growled at me, and slid over so that I could share the seat with them.
Som shook his head and clucked at the draft horse.
“You really stepped in it this time,” he commented after a moment.
“Yes,” I agreed after a time.
“Not that anyone blames you for your lasting ire, but…”
“But bad manners. Yeah, I know.” I sighed.
Wulfgit snorted.
“I like you, kid. Speak your mind. Don’t let the rest them fools keep you from being honest.”
Som looked over Wulfgit’s greying head at me and rolled his eyes.
Cheered by my friend and Wulfgit’s unexpected kindness, the day seemed to brighten.
We passed through a cow field, full of mooing mothers and their skittish young. Liquid dark eyes watched us intently, and some cows moved closer. I knew they were probably just after hay, but it gave me a chill. When we passed through the gate, they lost interest.
The cottage appeared after a bend in the path – hardly a path, considering the fallen log and large rocks in it.
My sister would call it “pretty” I supposed. It had a thatched roof, white-washed stone walls, and a stout-looking door. Flowers in pots grew near the one window, and a small walled garden lined the southerly side of the house, near the well.
Som lead us to the garden wall and pointed to the well.
“I found her here. She’d been there probably a day. I try to swing by to check on her regularly, with her being old and such.”
I didn’t see any stains or indication that it had been the death spot of an evil being. It looked completely normal.
“She weren’t that old,” Wulfgit said, rubbing his chin.
I couldn’t help myself, I had an interest.
“How did she die?”
He shrugged. “No marks on her that I could see. Her pet fox was sitting at her feet, as if waiting for her to wake up.”
“Did you kill it?” Wulfgit asked, looking around for the creature. “I could use its fur.”
“No,” Som shook his head. “It ran off into the forest when I got closer.”
“She had a pet fox and you say she wasn’t a witch?” I asked.
“She had a pet fox because my fool cousin killed a vixen with babies. Tiria took the litter in but only could rescue one.”
“Besides,” Som said, gesturing to the cottage, “Does this look like a witch’s house?”
I looked around at the sturdy house and flowering, green garden. It seemed tidy, cared for. Clean.
When I didn’t answer, they both looked at me in sardonic inquiry.
“Obviously I don’t know anything about the woman. Shame on me for letting the community down. Fuck a duck, man.”
Wulfgit laughed.
Som slapped me on the shoulder and took us into the house.