Life returned to normal in a day or two. Som and Wulfgit seemed to be hanging about the bar more often, I noticed. Torgood also, but Torgood seemed more interested in the books than my sister. My sister treated all with her usual kindness. I implored the weather gods to keep my sister from choosing the Butcher. Som, I guess, would be an okay brother by marriage – but it seemed odd since we’d grown up – Som and Dasta and Jeslynn and I – together. I wouldn’t want to marry my sister, love her though I did. I couldn’t imagine my friend wanting to either. Marriage wasn’t on my horizon at all.
The books held no secrets that I could tell, although one or two seemed to have come from far-off lands as indicated by their strange names and stranger construction. Tiria, ‘my witch,’ as Wulfgit had teased, still remained a mystery to me though. No one seemed to know about her before she’d married Dorn the Miller. I didn’t remember the child she’d had, but Jeslynn, whose ability to gather insignificant data about the valley and community we lived in never stopped amazing me, said she’d heard it had been a girl child and perhaps something had been wrong with it.
“Wrong how?”
She shrugged. “Why don’t you ask Som?”
I almost said, in perfect brotherly form, “No, why don’t you ask him?” but stopped myself. No need to fan any fires, as my mother used to say.
“Okay, I will.”
Som came in, just after sunset. He appeared to have stopped to clean up, for he didn’t have the normal odor of cow manure floating about him. Jeslynn greeted him cheerfully and offered him either the fool pie – still on the menu despite my trying to change it – or a steak. For some reason, the Butcher had blessed us with the gift of choice cuts of meat, which probably came from Som’s cows. My fellow men did odd things to impress women.
Som took the steak. I poured him a pint and tried to figure out how to ask nosy questions about a subject I was sorely tired of.
Jeslynn noticed my hesitation and asked for me.
“Gestin wants to know what happened to Tiria’s child,” she said in passing, her arms full of trays of food for a table in the corner.
I sighed. Sisters.
Som laughed. “Do ya now? And why would you want to take an interest in that sad tale at this late hour?” Of course he said that just as the Elder came in. She favored me with a glower and sat down the bar from us.
“I’m trying to mend my ways. What happened to Tiria’s child?”
Som shrugged. “I don’t know. Died shortly after birth – maybe a few months.”
“What was wrong with it?”
Wulfgit came in, a handful of flowering weeds.
“Here, Jes-girl, I brought you some flowers for yer vase.” He thrust them toward Jeslynn, who recoiled.
“Those are nettles, Wulfgit. I break out in sores when I get near those.”
“What?” he looked at the weeds in his hand. “That’s not what I picked. I swear to you. Som, Elder, tell me you see purple asters.” He shoved his hand at each in turn. Som leaned away and the Elder kindly stopped him flinging his arm about and examined the weeds.
“I regret to say, Butcher Wulfgit, these are nettles – and quite dead. Have you been drinking?” She looked into his face.
“No, Elder. I swear that too. I just got back from the pond – ah, meant to tell you about that. The pond’s near dried up.”
Jeslynn pointed to me to get the nettles away from the man.
“Beekeeper Helent reported her well was pulling nothing but mud today. Som, how’s your well?”
Som shook his head. “I have water, Elder.”
I got the nettles and tossed them out the back for the chickens. I checked the tavern’s well – which also served as the well for the town square.
I dropped the bucket down and the rope went nearly to the end before I heard a splash.