The wind slammed the door as she entered the cottage. There was no reason to yell in the small house, not to determine if her father was there, but she often did.
“In here!” His answer was just as preposterous. She went to his door and stuck in her head. “Come in, girl.”
“I have a load on the wagon. I’ll take it tomorrow. How’s your arm?”
He waved his bandaged arm, the hand holding his carving knife.
“What are you making?” He showed her the cow shaped by his clever fingers.
“I carved a horse, a goat, a sheep, and a chicken already.”
“Barnyard animals? Why?”
“For my grandchild to play with.”
After tucking Bragi into bed with a kiss, she washed off sweat by candlelight and splayed on her bed, nude in the dark, a pink-and-blonde wanton in the heat, a fatigued fairy.
Because it was dark, I disappeared from the rail?
Still here, Tanuvia.
“What did you learn today? Do you have a plan for me to meet Gem?”
I learned a lot today, and I do, but I’m worried about you.
Gem may not be what you think. I suggest you proceed cautiously.
“Love is not cautious, Muninn!” She sat up, clutching her knees to her chest. “What did you learn?”
Gem and his brother don’t add up. If you involve yourself with those two, you should be aware of that.
“What is this? A riddle? Are you trying to scare me? Wasn’t Gem everything I said? If you have a plan, please tell me.”
He was what you said, muscled and tall, and a deckhand on the Rascal, and he lives with his brother. Tanuvia, I warn you, they do not live in the best of conditions. It’s better than the street, better than a slum, but it’s not the cozy cottage this home is. There was not much food in the house.
“You mean they’re very poor?”
I have conflicting data on that point and prefer to withhold judgment before I know more.
I mean you can see for yourself.
You’re going to town to sell vegetables tomorrow?
You sometimes sell to buyers loading your vegetables on ships?
Then you’ll be in the neighborhood of the docks. I suggest you work the street where Gem lives. Knock on his door and offer to sell your produce. It doesn’t matter if he buys. You will meet, and the rest is up to you—and Gem.
Once I recognized Aetref as the minstrel, I considered sending Tanuvia to the tavern when he played his lute but prognostication analysis produced a low probability of success. Despite her penchant for lusty liaisons, Bragi’s daughter was not a sophisticated lass. She might fare poorly approaching Gem through a bevy of Aetref’s admirers. And it was cheap. Tanuvia wanted something more than what she had with other men.
“Why, that’s so simple. I should have thought of it!”
You should have. Now you can meet him without concocting a lie or perpetrating theft.
“Oh, it’s proper. It’s the Goodfolk way. Da will be pleased.”
My head shrunk low ‘tween the hunched shoulders of my wings. Bragi might not be pleased if there were shadows over the young men.
Tanuvia’s morning began emptying Bragi’s jug, cooking breakfast, bathing her father in silence while he clenched his jaw and stared stonily into the distance. There was the cow to milk and send to pasture, and the horse to hitch. She made lunch. She kissed her father on one cheek and the other.
“What is it, girl?”
“I just love you, Da.”
“I love you, too.”
Where was she going? The moon?
I stayed at the farm that day, covertly monitoring Bragi, and didn’t join Tanuvia til evening. She was near the docks, stacking empty baskets and tidying the floor of the wagon. I perched atop the long hand brake, and she straightened to squawk.
“I was afraid you weren’t coming. I held back a basket to try your plan. Can you tell me if they’re home?”
I lifted my wings for flight, and she shrieked, “Wait!”
She spit in the flat of her hand and raked at her curls, a futile effort in the humidity by the sea. “How do I look?”
Did you bring a fresh shirt?
Her shirt was damp with sweat and blazoned with a green stain across one breast.
“God and goddess, I’m a fright! I didn’t think of it!”
You could put it off. Try again next time.
“I can’t! Every day I wait is torture!”
“Fine. Let’s do this. The light is fading. Maybe he won’t notice. I’ll take a basket to the door and hold it over the stain.”
At least he will have an accurate picture, Tanuvia.
“What is accurate? I didn’t care enough to wear clean clothes for him?”
That you are a hard-working, competent farmer. Isn’t that what Goodfolk expect of a woman and a consort?
“Thank you, Muninn, but still…. It’s not very romantic.”
I lifted from the brake before she could stop me again and was soon able to report that the young men were home.
I may be back if you’re gone too long.
“Where are you going? I need you.”
I’m flying home.
“Oh.” She thought a moment. “To check on Da?”
That was my intention.
She blew out a long breath and dried her palms on her trousers “Thank you, Muninn. I’ll be quick here, but if Da needs me….”
I’ll let you know.
Bravely, she nodded, and I leaped into a sky colorfully banded with sunset, leaving the young woman to her fate.