Hello. My name is Sigrid, daughter of Bard of Laketown. I'm not really sure how to begin this, or even if it is a good idea. I don't really have time to be writing in a journal, but Da gave me this beautiful blank book for my birthday. I turned fifteen yesterday, the year TA 2939, and I am starting to realize what a great age that is, and am starting to feel very old. People say time flies, and while I don't really believe that, I must say that the years are going by faster and faster. I used to seem the other way; every day was slow, every year a huge accomplishment. Now it seems my mind can hardly keep up – there aren't enough hours in the day for all the things that need doing. I don't really feel much older. But the time running away with itself is easy to remember when I look at my younger brother and sister, and sometimes, at Da. Bain is growing tall – soon he will be as tall as I am, then someday as tall as Da. He will be eleven in the summer. Tilda is getting older too, and is becoming such a help around the house. She is nearly seven, and people say we look alike.
Anyhow, I think I will write in this book about my days and what I do with them, if I can make the time. It isn't very interesting, but great people always keep records of what they have done, and Da has told me every night before I go to sleep that we are great people, no matter how humble, and never to forget that. He started doing that when I was just a little older than Tilda, I think. That was when Mam died. I was playing outside on the boardwalk that leads from our house to Nyr's house, with pieces of straw, I think. Right, someone had taught me how to fold and tie the bits to resemble a tiny horse, and it was taking me a long time to master it.
I remember when Da told me that I was going to have another baby brother or sister. I had been too young to remember very much of when Bain was born, being only four, but this time I was so excited. I hoped it would be a sister, so that we could play together. Da sat us both down by the fire after supper, and with Mam sitting on his lap in his chair, he smiled and told us. Bain didn't seem too affected by it – I think he must have just nodded and gone back to his play or something, but I remember squealing and jumping up and down until I trod on a loose nail and ended up in tears in Mam's arms.
As time went on her belly got bigger and bigger, and each night before she would climb into bed with Da, I would talk Mam into clambering into the little bed that Bain and I shared, so that I could touch her and feel my new baby sister or brother stretch and squirm within her. Such things would make me blush to do now, but children don't care if something is uncomfortable, I suppose. Bain would join us until Mam would laugh and say she needed to go so that we could rest and so that Da wouldn't think she didn't love him any more. That always made us laugh.
I was a great help, I thought, though I don't really know how much help I was. Tilda can be very useful to me, and I was her age then, I suppose, but it's awfully different. Mam was often very tired, and when winter came, the healer, Wald, was often at our house. The cough Mam developed was so bad that it didn't even sound like it came from a human. It sounded more like the sounds some of the terrible creatures that live beyond the lake make, or so I have been told.
So I was outside, despite the chill air, plaiting hay into tiny horses. I had been sent out there when Mam's pains became worse than she could bear without crying aloud, so as not to be frightened, and to keep an eye on Bain. I don't know how long the pains lasted altogether, but it had been a rather long time – at least I heard her tell Da they were beginning the morning before.
Bain was throwing odd bits of bark and other trash into the canal and watching the ripples among the bobbing fragments of ice. We must have been out there for several hours, judging by my numbed fingers and the steadily growing members of my steed army, when I heard my name being called by Da's voice.
"Sigrid! Sigrid, Bain, come here."
I can still remember the strange tone in which he used, and the look in his eyes – it reminded me of the eyes of the rabbit we once cornered in the marketplace – dark in the middle, but light on the edges, and staring with sorrow and fear.
"Go inside, and give your mother a kiss," he managed. "You have a new baby sister." I didn't understand why he looked so devastated. Not until I went inside and saw Mam lying pale and almost motionless in their bed. Wald, the healer, handed her a tiny bundle as soon as we entered, grave, and quiet, our footsteps loud on the boards of the floor.
"Come here, Sigrid," Mam said, her voice so light I could barely hear it. There was a tiny dot of blood in the corner of her mouth, and I watched it while she talked – it frightened me. "Bain, you too. Look – a baby sister."
I peeped within the blanket and saw a tiny scrunched up face, wrinkled and red.
"What is her name?" I asked at last, still feeling frightened and not knowing why.
"Tilda." Da spoke behind me as Mam was overcome with a fit of coughing, and another stain of blood marked the pillow when she finished. "Take her," Da whispered, and nodding, I carefully picked up baby Tilda. Bain started crying, and Da gathered him into his arms. Tilda felt so light and fragile among all the blankets, and I watched as Da held Mam's hand and talked to her quietly. He told her how much he loved her, that I remember, and then she was gone. I didn't realize why she was no longer talking, but Wald stepped forward and took Tilda from me, so I hugged Bain so that he would quiet. As soon as he did, I heard a sound I have never forgotten, nor ever heard since. Da held Mam in his arms, sobbing like a child. My heart felt so cold for so long after.
Taking care of little Tilda was my job after Mam was gone. We found a woman who had also just had a baby to nurse Tilda for us. She was over at our house a great deal, and helped me with all the work to be done. Bain too, relied on me, since Da was gone often on the lake for days at at time, and sometimes even through the nights. I had friends whose father's were fisherman, and their fathers stayed home in the daytimes, but with barge work, one never knew. Da was much quieter than he had been before Mam died. Sometimes he would smile, or be cheerful, but never jolly, never joyous like he used to be. I wished that I had known how to comfort him then, but I was so young. Even now as I grow older, I am still searching to realize the depths of his pain. I have to go now, but I will write more if I can very soon. There are a few more chores that need doing before I go to sleep, but my beautiful book will still be here tomorrow.