The unhappy dreams from the night clung to me as I packed my rucksack. Clothes, including my one fancy tunic for going to see the Grand Council; a small toolkit with needle, thread, pen, ink, sharpening stone; and a blanket went in first. I’d dreamed the elders had tied me to the wildfire memorial and set my hair on fire and that Jeslynn dumped Tiria’s magic vase over my head and the fire went out. I got free from the ropes and ran into a burning building to find a child, then the building dropped on me. Then the dream repeated, only each time the magic vase spilled out its contents a little less liquid came out and it took me longer to get free from the ropes. I never found the child. A very frustrating, disturbing dream. I put Tiria’s things on top, including the now rolled up map and the vase – wrapped in a pillowcase. I decided to keep the flowers in it – not knowing if the flowers were a part of its magic or not. The ever-burning lamp I also wrapped in a pillowcase and tied to the outside of my pack. At least we wouldn’t be stumbling around in the dark.
Wulfgit waited outside for us, his mules saddled. He handed me some sweet grain.
“They like treats,” he commented and left abruptly.
Torgood appeared out of the predawn gloom, whistling and carrying a stick with a sack tied to the end. He seemed like some sort of avatar for a moment, the dimness at his back causing a slim outline of light around his tall body. Jeslynn handed me a bag of food, a full wine skin, and an empty water skin.
“Som’s waiting for you at Tiria’s well. You can fill up there.”
The lamplight showed me the dark circles under her eyes. Torgood greeted her formally. She nodded back to him stiffly.
“Gestin…” she paused and didn’t finish.
I gave her a hug and she clung to me for a moment.
“Som said he’d help when he could with the tavern. Wulfgit too. You’ll be okay.”
“I know.” She let me go and stood back on the tavern steps, wiped her cheeks. “You be careful. Come back.” Torgood nodded and I said I’d be back.
We rode the reluctant mules through the village, noting that some houses were lit while most were dark. No one else came out to see us pass. We crossed Som’s field, now empty of cows and dusty, and found Tiria’s cottage. A lone lantern sat on the garden wall near the well, showing the drastic changes that had occurred.
The walls, although still whitewashed, showed stains and the roof looked like it had fallen in in parts. All of the pretty plants had died, their flowers shriveled. The garden had dried weeds in it. It looked like no one had been there for years, instead of a week.
I got off, gathered my water skin and Torgood’s.
“Get away from there,” a voice growled and a man rose up from behind the well, brandishing a sharp-looking pitchfork. Weaver Noth.
I stepped back, hands in the air.
“You’re not welcome to this water.”
“Is Torgood welcome to it?” I asked, “He’s not done anything wrong that I know of.”
Weaver Noth chewed on that idea for a moment and then nodded. Torgood got off his mule and I handed him the water skins.
“Not your skin.”
“They’re both his – I was just holding on to it.”
Weaver Noth grunted.
Torgood took the skins and filled them with water. He grinned at me as he tied both skins to his mule.
“Now get out of here.” Weaver Noth waved his weapon at me again. My mule jerked its head out of the way and I scrambled to get on its back.
“Hey now – what’s going on?” Som said as he dismounted from his own mule.
“Nothing, Farmer Som. I was just seeking these two off.”
The first rays of dawn showed Som’s frown.
“That’s not what it looked like.”
“It’s nothing,” I said and turned my mule to go. Torgood put his mule between mine and the upset weaver.
“Thank you for taking care of my sister,” I added, looking back.
“Good luck, Gestin.” Som raised his hand in farewell.
I hoped his wish stuck.