For the last post of mine in March, have a taste of the actual story that I’ve been going on about. I don’t seem to have a lot of dialogue that isn’t in spoiler territory, so the story isn’t as skimpy on it as here appears.
At first it was fun, running in one of the pale wheel-ruts in the grassy path, and seeing the house disappear when I reached the first bend. The horizon was new, exciting to a small child, even if it was only trees and more trees. But that was my undoing in the end, for with so many trees all around me, and the path twisting so much, I soon found that I did not know which way was home. The patches of sky so far above me were too small to guide me. I remember leaving the path and wandering through the untame wood.
Once I dropped through Brother Andreas’ window and found him, not working as usual, but sitting with his tools spread out, rubbing his wrist, and staring out the other window into the valley.
“What’s hurt?” I asked.
“Oh, there you are, Fiona,” he said, not even turning to look at me. “I’ve worked too long at a stretch and now my hands are paying for it.” He stood up and began clearing a place for me.
“How’d you know it was me?”
“No one else ever comes in that window.”
“What if someday a wolf did?”
“It might eat me,” he said, moving a stack of blank parchments to the eastern windowsill.
“Wouldn’t that be a bad thing?”
“Because there are worse things than taking the death God sends.”
“But a wolf?”
“It’s quick. Quicker than some, anyhow.”
“How do you know?”
“Brother Declan knows a lot about different ways to die. Ask him for one, and he’ll compare it to six others by the time he’s done.”
Deormod was grown into a man, but still he made no attempt to leave me behind in his child’s days. In fact he chose me to dance with him, and we swung in and out of the bonfires together, warm, laughing. The firelight pricked out his face, a man’s face now, and I realized for the first time that he was handsome. The touch of his hand on mine made me tingle all through my body. There was something about him that fit the black night with the flames leaping in it, something wild and dangerous and thrilling with adventure, something that fascinated me.
The cheaping lay at the bottom of the hill we lived on, past the road that led to the caenobia. So many generations had traded there that the whole level plain was dry and dusty all year round, except at the very beginning of summer, when a green fuzz sprang up, to be trampled as soon as the market opened, which was today. Usually my father came too, but as the whole family was busy today, Mother had had to send me alone. It was all right; we knew many of the traders there and many of those who would be buying, and I was good at bargaining, if my eye for wrought metal was not as critical as Father’s or as practiced.
Today, as I entered the field of tents and heard once again the summer noises, the cattle bellowing, sheep bleating, voices crying their wares, it was not that I was alone that made me nervous. It was that today, even by so simple a thing as my veil, I was proclaiming myself Christian.
I made my way through the cattle-market to the end where we usually found the metal-workers and those trading in imported metal. A booth selling glass beads caught my eye, and I lingered to admire some that were greenish-blue.
The bells had finished ringing by the time I was done, and I could hear music of singing coming from the oratory. I picked up the veil, still folded, and stepped outside. My bare feet touched dewy grass, and then dry earth when I reached the path worn into the ground from constant travel to the oratory. A thin layer of brown dirt clung to the soles of my feet by the time I stepped over the kirk’s threshold.
It had rained in the night and frozen toward morning, leaving ice enameling the paths. Icicles dangled from twigs like ear-rings, but the beauty had a match in its danger. I walked more carefully when I came to the place where the path curved down the side of the hill beside the stream. I didn’t want the ice, coupled with my unfamiliarity with my new shoes, to result in me slipping and ruining my good clothes.
The oratory was warm inside with the breath of all the people gathered there. Candles were shining from the altar, the windowsills (somehow not burning out even though the shutters were flung open), and some of the large ones were even standing on the floor.
My people welcomed me, and I fit into the midst of the crowd easily. They smiled at their newest sister, and I was glad, for I was at home here.
It was evening, and I was standing outside spinning. I had spent much of the day at the caenobia, bent over a book I was helping the scribes copy, which, as exciting as it was, had left me tired of sitting. Mother was seated on the steps, also spinning, but she managed a shorter thread because she was closer to the ground. Ealdmodor sat on the steps also, telling us the gossip she had heard from another old woman many years ago about somebody I didn’t know when he was young.
Favourite snippet? These are almost all from the first part, and most of them will be familiar to my beta-readers. The parts I like best are all spoilers, so I’ll have to wait to share them.