Day after Day and Night after Night
Rory stooped to pick up another bale of wool to carry to O' Beth. Shouldering the itchy gray bundle up to a place on her back, she shifted and bent to compensate for the weight. Her legs bending, but not buckling, under the fifty pounds of compressed wool that was tied tight. She hooked her arm through rungs left on both sides for carrying. Trudging her way from the wagon through the press of people to the other end of the street. There was one main road that ran in a circle around the perimeter of the interior wall of the town. Then another that ran through the middle, houses were built in a semi circle.
The outer wall that ran around town with a road in that only offered two entrances. They were placed at different locations which made the town easy to protect and defend. Spring was just beginning to be apparent. Patches of snow were everywhere. Grass was showing sprouts where it was not trampled. A few bright crocus and camellia flowers were in bloom and leaves out on most of the trees, if not all. The air was fresh with just a hint of cold in it. Mud was every where, you could not avoid it. Rikos the shopkeeper would get up and spread a coat of gravel and moss down over the main area. Keeping the track from becoming a bog.
The houses were low shanties, some with false fronts to give the appearance of being larger. Some had columns and there were many porches. Baskets of tomatoes and strawberries were hung out to catch the sun. Along with geraniums in bright reds, pinks and corals. Rikos had taught her they helped keep pests away like mosquitoes. Most of the residences were 1-2 bedrooms, with a kitchen, a sun room, a bathing room, sometimes a sitting room. Every house had fireplaces that were in the middle of the house and the house was built around it. The kitchens and living or sitting areas shared the fireplace. Houses stained by varnish in red, green and honey colors to protect the wood. Fireplaces were built of gray, black and white rocks, smooth and round.
They had back yards, where small sheds were built or stores. There were two large barns in town at opposite ends of the town and street. One was used for the few cattle in town, milk cows mostly and pigs. The other one was used to hold hay, and bales of wool from local shepherds. Along with a few goats that were used to make cheeses from. There were two community smokehouses, anyone could use to smoke meats or fish. There was also a silo filled with sawdust and packed with ice to keep fish and cheeses cold year round. There were also four drying vats for drying foods, such as fruits or baking nuts. There was one shed that was used for leather working. The town was well organized and neat, tidy. Every space also had a garden area where they planted beans, spinach, carrots, turnips and radishes.
Vendors had arrived, high here in the mountains to trade wares. With wagons pulled by donkeys or oxen yoked together. O'Beth had worked hard all winter on making dyes for the wool. Her colors were so pretty, that people traveled for miles to have her make their yarn, for rugs and to dye fabrics. O'Beth had been teaching Rory how to find the right soil and plants. Even small bugs that could be crushed for the color they gave off. They worked all year round on it and when summer approached is when they dyed most of their fabrics. This being that this location in the mountains was only accessible from the last of spring until the first week or so of fall. The snow would then began to pile and the roads up the mountain would be covered with it.
Today, one such person, a Lord “something” or other had came into town. Asking that his wagon full of wool and other fabrics be dyed special by her hand. Rory did not recall his name. “They never look at us, and we never look at them.”, O'Beth had grumbled under her breath. Even now she was curtseying in her mind. She liked it better when she could stand tall and erect and see people. For what they really are. It just felt better to look into people's eyes. O'Beth had sent her off to roust the town, when he came knocking early this morning after they had broke their fast. They were just cleaning up the dishes. She sent her off out the back told her to wake Rikos the storekeeper, first and then others.
This was her last bale of wool to carry. Others had also helped bring the fabrics to O'Beth. There were silks this time, that was a rare treat. It was so smooth and she liked how it shimmered in the air. Almost as if it had a life of it's own, stating here am I, do you see me? Would that others could see her. She was slender and small like a willow or reed. Her long dark brown hair, almost black, and plain hazel eyes. Mostly amber in color with flecks of green and rich brown color.
She was suppose to have been home hours ago. Tomorrow was her birthday, but her family always celebrated it late at night. They would rise and go out and into the moonlight and light candles. Then dance in the woods singing old songs they no longer recalled all the words to. Her older brother Tym watching over her protectively but flinging pine nuts at her, keeping her laughing. He unlike her was quite tall, had the same olive dark complexion and his hair curled in a perfect manner.
Not like mine, she thought. Mine has to be brushed and brushed and brushed some more. Taking almost half an hour each morning to untangle it. Aunt Kari said that she would need to start braiding it every night. That she needed to be more like a lady. She laughed, looking down at her dirt and mud splattered clothes, feeling her hair straying from the bright red hand kerchief she had tied over it. Her fingers stained fresh this morning from some cornflower dye when her locket fell in to the vat. O'Beth smiled when it happened. Looked at her in such a loving way and then chuckled.
Finally, she had reached the back of the yard where almost the whole town had been assembled to help. She piled it with the last of load against the old barn near some yellow roses that were starting to bud. . O'Beth saw her and trudged towards her, her cane smacking anyone in the leg who got in her way. Rapping them sharply on the shin. A slight twinkle in her gray eyes giving away the fact that every one she aimed out towards was some person she had an issue with. Only Rory had noticed this and called her on it. Didn't stop her from doing it though.
“Young Miss, apprentice or no, you will go home and attend your own birthday tonight. May the moonlight shimmer and glow for you.” She hugged Rory to her and grasping her hand, slipped something on to it, covering it so no one could see. Her old sweet, gray eyes, gazing down into Rory's hazel muddied ones. “Now get you, move on home. I will be along later, work or no work. “ She then turned Rory around and pushed her none to gently towards the gate.
She started to skip lightly, a kind of joy seeping into her. She would need to bathe of course. She started to run along the path from the outskirts of town into the forest. Her family had a small cabin in the woods. It was not to far from town, just a few miles. It would take her half an hour to walk it. Less if she ran it.
The path was not wide, and she had been careful to keep it so it remained as she put it, cozy. She kept the path clean of broken limbs and such but let flowers grow where they wished. She was humming a little thinking of some of the songs they would sing tonight.
Her feet started to pick up and she was soon running like her Aunt always asked her not to. Leaping over things, going crashing through the forest. What her Aunt Kari did not know is she had been working on doing it more quietly. Tym had been teaching her how to hunt and track. She loved being able to go quickly through the forest but silently too, like Growler. Growler was a large cat in the area that the older folks sat around fires and told stories about. Rory had seen it a few times. Even once brave enough to stand across 3 feet of distance and look into the cat's eyes. When it sat it was almost as tall as her. Growler was a big long cat, she thought male but wasn't sure. She didn't know why but one morning, she decided to see if she could find the cat.
Higher up by the falls in a meadow over looking the valley, the town, cabin and lake he had been. He was sleeping in the sun and laying still in the grass. It was almost fall and it was beginning to get colder. She recalled that she had dressed warm for the cold and felt like going swimming as the sun's rays beat down on her. Even though she knew the water was too cold for that now. After searching the entire valley she had decided to climb the waterfall, she rarely did that. She didn't know why, but she never wanted to leave the valley. Rory became scared if someone in town asked if she wanted to go to a neighboring village.
She had entered the meadow and sneaked up on him. Until when she was within 3 feet of him, the cat rose up and looked at her, yawned and stared. He tilted his head a bit as if trying to read her thoughts. They looked at each other for a long time. As if they were sharing a conversation. While birds warbled and the sun begin to go down. It was the first autumn wind of the evening that broke it. She suddenly shivered and felt she should go. The cat laid back down and went back to sleep as if their moment had never occurred. What disconcerted her the most was how intelligent he seemed. Why had the cat not harmed her?
She skidded to a stop as a large raccoon suddenly leaped into her path interrupting her thoughts. For once his bandit mask seemed more menacing that mischievous. Rory quickly turned out of the path and continued around him. Then another raccoon, soon they were all seeming to come out of the woods. Their attitude appeared menacing. She began twisting and leaping using all she knew of the forest to get home. She knew she should perhaps be afraid but she was not, only in a hurry to get home. Until at last, she could see the glow of candles in her cabins window. Tym came running out of the house with his bow and began firing it behind her. She could hear them falling away behind her. She ran until she was in his arms.
“Tym I do not understand, the racoons are my friends why would they attack me? I like to bring them fruit and nuts and sometimes fish. They have never tried to harm me before. “ She buried her head into his shoulder, gasping as she struggled for breath. He pulled her close, stroking the top of her head then pushed against her lightly and punched her arm. His wink and smile a bit sly. “Oh, won't Auntie Kay, love this!” Tym called their Aunt Kari, Auntie Kay because he felt she was an antique. Old and stuck in her ways, more of an institution. He grabbed her hand and twirled her. Taking in the view of all the debris. Rory's torn dress and stockings, her scuffed boots and patches of dye everywhere.
“I must say Rory, you have outdone yourself this time.” Tym's grin dimpled and shined with mischief. Aunt Kari walked in just as he pronounced this. She took one look turned on her heel, grabbed the tub off the wall hook and proceeded up the stairs to Rory's room. Her and Tym looked at each other and then started laughing. “Speechless, I made her speechless.” She had tears streaming down her face and had to hold her tummy because it hurt from the laughter. It had been a very long time since she laughed that hard. The last time was when Tym's bow broke and it's string popped him soundly on the cheek leaving a nice red welt.
It was shaped unusually and they teased him about being kissed by his bow for a week. Tym always wore dark clothing. She supposed that some would find him a bit menacing in appearance if not for his dimpled grin. He was her ardent protector though. He had always been there helping her, watching over her, teasing her. She loved her brother dearly. Rory grabbed the worn railing, smooth now from all the use, and climbed up the stairs. Funny how she was noticing things today. Everything just seemed to be a bit more intense. As if an excitement was growing. It must just be because she was excited about her party. Tonight most of the village, that Aunt Kari chose, would be here. She wondered when she would have a say in it.
As she headed into her room, Tym watched Rory go and the smile left his face to be replaced by anger. She was already forgetting the incident in the woods and being chased. He whipped around as there was a loud thump then a scratch at the door. As he opened it, Growler stood their waiting. Tym paused, then he bowed slightly, “ I guess I can understand why, you have a vested interest in this. Do come in please.” The big cat sniffed the air first. Then he padded in a slow deliberate manner towards the fire then circling, lay down on the hearth. Resting his large head on his paws, he looked out the door. He then raised his head and pushed it forward as if to say, “Go on, attend to it, I will keep watch.” Tym grabbed his quiver and raced, leaving the door open, in case he had to return quickly. Like a hawk he swooped in on each figure and dragged it into the woods. There was a gully about a mile from their house. It took time to pull his arrows out of them and then drag the bodies. There were eight of them. He grimaced, and rubbed his collarbone. He would need to be faster with his bow if they sent more.
During this time, Aunt Kari was making sure she was absolutely ready, and she would not let her see. She had a pretty new dress on. It was spun out of a material or fabric she was not familiar with. It was strong and kind of had a stretch to it. A very pretty dull shimmer to it that seemed more as if it wanted to absorb light than to give it off like the silk did. It was embroidered with flowers and vines and around the bottom of the dress there was a design of flowers with birds also embroidered along the hem. The flow of dress was unusual too, it flowed around her in soft folds, and there were soft leggings that appeared to be out of a dyed leather. They were so soft it almost seemed to melt in and become a part of her skin. She also had new boots, they came halfway up her leg to the top of her calf muscle. They had soft leather ties that helped lace them. They also appeared to be made out of leather. But it had a different texture. These were dyed a dark blue, almost black color. Her hair had been braided and a crown of cornflowers and other flowers were woven into her hair and down her back. Also a few soft downy raven feathers were tied onto the ends of her hair.
This was new, she had not seen her appearance, she looked and noticed the mirror was missing. “Aunt Kari, where is my small hand mirror?” Aunt Kari looked at her, and said “Tonight is about how others and your world perceives you, not as you do.” You are becoming older I wanted you to know how we all feel you are truly beautiful inside and out and …” her voice trailed off, as if she was about to say something more. Then she looked very sad, tears welling up in her eyes. “Its of no use, I am going to cry tonight. A rare thing for one such as I.” The tears slid slowly down her cheeks and Kari grasped Rory's hands gently in her own and used them to wipe the tears from her face. When Rory looked at her with concern, she smiled and said, “So you can recall my sacrifice later and know I loved you.” She then pulled Rory close to her, “Changes are coming, I cannot stop or hold the tide, it is time.” She pressed on her hand then walked out and closed the door.
Leaving Rory stunned and wondering what was going on. Rory began to pace and rock, hugging her arms to her, like Tym taught her to do during bad thunderstorms. She looked around the room and it seemed different to her. As if it was not hers, as if she had never belonged here. It just seemed different, grungier, not careworn and well used. She noticed their were panels starting to come free of their bindings. Her quilt looked like it needed mending.
The only thing that stood out was a book, her mother's journal. It was in a deep orange, and it seemed to stand out amid all the rest of the room. She kept it although she could not read it's pages. Her mother came from a different country and her book was in the language of that country. The flow of the words and letters beautiful, but she could not understand them. It was not a large book, it now could be held easily in her hands. But it was thick and well bound. Its pages also seemed to shimmer and shine, like gold.
“Why have I never noticed this before?” She said this out loud and even the sound of her voice was different, older sounding. She began to thumb threw the pages, flipping them bending them slightly, easing them, making the pages easier to turn. As she did, flakes of dust, appeared on her fingertips. Turning them golden too. It is gold. She realized now, that gold dust had been brushed on the pages, the writing was in gold. How beautiful, how precious and rare. “Unusual. Today is very unusual.” Rory whispered soft and low to the room. All at once she heard Aunt Kari yell. “ You cannot be in here, you will scare all the guests! Please go wait out in the meadow for the party. You must behave, please, I beg of you, she cannot see you until.”
Rory didn't hesitate, but it was if she was trudging through water though. Trying to break free, she finally reached the door and pulled it open. Started to go down the stairs, and saw, a flicker of a tail go around the corner of the house, by the door. Growler. Growler in her house and her Aunt talked to it as if it was a person. Growler the big cat who scared everyone. Weird stories were whispered at night around campfires about him. Growler who stared at her that one day in the meadow. How they looked into each others eyes. Testing each other, to see if the other measured up. Growler was attending her party? She shook her head, and pressed her fingers to it, suddenly she felt very tired. She just wanted to go and lay down.
Kari took one look at her face and began walking over with a glass of what appeared to be water. “No Rory, not tonight! You cannot sleep tonight it is your birthday. You must be in the moon tonight and stay awake until the dawn. You must hold on. You can do this. Here have a drink of this.” Aunt Kari passed the glass to her. As it went down her throat, Rory felt refreshed and felt she had tasted nothing sweeter or finer. As she handed the cup back to Aunt Kari. Her Aunt suddenly reached out and grabbed her hand.
“Who gave you the ring Rory?” She shook her hand, said again, “Who gave you the ring?” Rory looked at it now, she had forgotten O'Beth. “O'Beth did, I do not believe she wanted me to see it, yet I believe it is her birthday present for me.” She rubbed her hand as Aunt Kari sighed with relief. “O'Beth? Good, I was worried it might be the village boy who walks you home every now and then.”
Rory looked at the ring, twisting it into the light. Soon they would light the candles and walk to the meadow. The ring seemed to be made out of brass, but it had several small gems of liquid amber, topaz? They were cut more like diamonds she had seen once. They were all branched out of the ring. They were like the leaves on a vine and in the middle a rose was carved out of the metal and it's center a tiny beautiful pearl, dark in color. The ring was quite pretty despite its materials and for a moment she seemed to see a glimmer of something more, but then it was gone.
Tym came in and quickly gathered lanterns and candles. He did not relinquish his bow, and she saw he had his short sword slung at his hip and he had tied on his dagger to his thigh. Did he think there would be danger tonight? He caught her looking at him, and he grinned. Shrugged and said “ In case there are more racoons, wouldn't want anymore bandits ruining your party.” Tym then jumped over to the hearth and lifting the mantle with one arm. Reached in with his other arm and pulled out a beautiful bow and quiver. “These are yours, I made them myself.”
She noticed the shafts were from eagle feathers. They were brown and gold, the wood, white with a green tint. The bow also was was white with a hint of green and he had carved, on it, beautiful symbols like the one's in her Mother's Journal. As part of her outfit, she had a low slung purse that ran over her shoulder. She now placed her Mother's Journal into it. Then reached for the bow and quiver. He helped her set it in place, the quiver also slung and it fit into a loop on the end of her purse and helped hold her purse in one location. He smiled and then with a wink went over to his pipe box and pulled out a beautiful long dagger.
“I wanted to do a sword, but you are much better with the dagger.” He held it out to her so she could look at it. Runes ran down the middle and there were designs of leaves and roses on the handle. Tym pulled out a sheath and helped to strap it on a belt that he wrapped around her waist. The sheath complimented her attire was it was a dark black? She wasn't sure anymore it also seemed to also have a bit of green to it. There were also three amber colored gems in the belt. It was heavy but not too much. She now seemed to be in a dream, what was going on?