Life And Death
Estelle suddenly leapt out of bed. She fumbled with the bar on the door. Wrenching it free, she hurled it aside, and raced outside, leaving the door wide open. Tomni saw her run past the window, still naked, her hand over her mouth. Next thing, he heard her vomiting by the side of the house. Pulling on his britches, he ran out after her. She was leaning over, bracing herself against the side of the hut with her left arm, vomiting, and unsuccessfully using her right hand to try to keep her hair out of the vomit.
“What’s wrong, my love?” He put his arm round her.
She said nothing. As the retching ended, she walked to the rain barrel. It was raining at the back of the hut, but not at the front. Interesting, but hardly unusual. One time Estelle had seen it rain over two houses on the street. There had been a corner of a black cloud over the houses, but not over any others. No wind, rain coming straight down, only places directly under the clouds got wet.
Stepping into the rain, she got some water. She washed her mouth, and the ends of her hair. “It’s only what you’ve done to me.”
“Done to you? What do you mean? What did I ever do that could cause this?”
“We had sex. I’m pregnant.”
His mouth dropped open. He stared at her with a look of total shock. “Are you sure?”
She pointed to the vomit on the ground. “I’ve missed one monthly. I was going to wait until the second one, to make sure before saying anything, but this settles it.”
“But how could it be?”
She looked up to the sky, as if asking the heavens for help. “Tomni!” She stamped her foot with exasperation. “When Felinda tried to tell me I was in danger, and I wouldn’t listen, she said I was as thick as two short planks. You’re just as bad.” Slowly, and emphasising each word, she added, “We. Had. Sex.”
“But ... When did this happen?”
“I can’t tell exactly, but probably when we went into the woods on Solstice Day.” She gave him a wicked smile. “I really found out what happens to bad girls, who let boys lead them astray. Fortunately I’m already married, so I don’t have face the consequences alone.”
“But that was nearly two months ago.”
“That’s what people say is about the time for morning sickness.”
He put his arms round her. “That’s wonderful. Come here, darling. Let me hold you.”
She lost herself in his arms. They felt so good around her. At length she said, “I’m still out here without a stitch. Couldn’t stop to put anything on, or I’d have done it inside. I need to go back in.”
“Of course.” He held out his hand, motioning her to go ahead of him.
“Tomni!” The exasperation again. “Look round the corner. If there’s anyone there, you’ll have to go in and get me a dress.”
There was no one in sight. Once more he held out his arm for her to go first.
“No! Walk in front of me. Hide me.” This time he did have the sense to stand by the door until she could slip inside. She looked longingly at the bed. With a sigh, she grabbed her shift. She wore the same one most of the week. She started a clean one on Foxday, when she went to work, and Mapleday, when she did the laundry. “Might as well get dressed. Day’s getting on.” She put her arms through their openings, and then her head. She pulled the shift down to cover her body. She was reaching for a dress when Tomni started pushing her towards the bed. “What are you doing? We really don’t have time for sex.”
“You need to rest. Get back into bed. And we can’t have sex again until the baby’s born. Wouldn’t want to hurt it. Oh, and you’ll have to give up the job at the inn. Much too heavy work for you. I’ll go into the village and tell them.”
“Tomni! Don’t be silly. Look, I know I don’t have direct knowledge of pregnancy and babies, my mother didn’t have any more after me, but I’ve known many pregnant women.” She was trying to slip around his arms, but he kept pushing her towards the bed. “Stop that! Also talked with our neighbours, since I knew I’d probably get pregnant sometime. They’ve had a dozen children between them. They all say work and exercise is good for a mother. Keeps her body fit, makes for an easier birth. They say lying around is the worst thing a woman can do. Now stop fussing. Having a baby is perfectly normal for a woman. Don’t get so excited. And of course we can have sex. That’s not where the baby is. As for work, when I get so large I can hardly walk, and I have to pee every half hour, it might be difficult. Until then, keeping active is the best thing I can do.”
As they again melted into each other’s arms, Tomni said, “I hope it’s a girl, as beautiful as her mother.”
“And I hope it’s a boy, who will learn a trade. A smith, like his father, or a carpenter, like his grandfather.”
“Whichever, I’ll still love her.”
“Him. Oh, by the way, I’m not the only one expecting.”
Tomni thought of all their neighbours. Which one could be having a baby? Could be anyone of half of them. “Who?”
“Marble.” She pointed to where the cat lay on the now-empty bed. “Haven’t you noticed she’s got larger?”
“But how did that happen?”
Estelle put her hands one each side of his cheeks and stared into his eyes. “Same way as with me. We have similar arrangements, you know.” She looked with sadness at the cat. “Last time she had kittens, I drowned them. On a farm, there is nothing more constant than death. Best thing to do then. Not now though. This time I’ll do what I can to see they thrive.”
When Lisanna next went to market, she looked round for Finnfeldor. Seeing him, she slipped away from her father. “I’d like to talk about our marriage.”
“No problem there. Just as eager as you. We’ll have it soon.”
“No, I mean I don’t want to ...”
“Wait any longer,” her father’s voice added over her. “She was really pleased when I told her. Said it was the best thing that could happen to her.”
“No, wait, that’s not what I said. I said I want to marry ...”
“Of course you do.” Finnfeldor was quite confident. Any woman would be glad to marry someone with his land. “Now don’t worry. We’ll fix it up as soon as we can. Zuthran, what say we go have a little something. If you’re going to be my father-in-law, we need to get to know each other better.” Both laughed as they headed towards the Ibis.
Lisanna cursed in frustration. “That went well,” Palito said from behind her. “Got any other ideas?”
“A few, but not ones I thought would be as easy as the direct approach. Does that stuck up nobody really think I would marry him when he won’t even listen to me?”
“Yes. Men don’t expect to have to listen to their wives. Not manly, you know.”
Lisanna was ready to scream, but she knew she had to keep a clear head if she were to find a way out of this mess. “We’ll think of something. Still have to talk to Yealton.”
Storkday, Estelle had just finished her first song session. She had put the Solstice song in that group, announcing that another popular song, equally bawdy, would be in the second session. She picked up the mug of small beer that she had left at the side of the stage, to ease her throat after so much use.
“Man over there asked if you would see him once you finished singing.” Estelle looked where Gerisa pointed.
“Querfeth!” Eagerly she ran to the trader’s table. In front of him was a carved wooden kitten. Estelle stared at it, unbelieving. Slowly she reached out a hand to take it.
Querfeth put his hand over the kitten. “Your father said you’d give me a silver penny for it.” She reached into her pocket, pulled out a penny, and put it on the table. Her eyes still open wide in amazement, she picked up the kitten. Examining it, she was again struck by how talented her father was with wood. “Since you’ve paid, there’s also a message. He said to tell you not to go back, but it was safe to write.”
Estelle’s head snapped up. “Write? I don’t have anything to write with.” She looked wildly around, not daring to miss this opportunity. “Maybe Uhdram has something. Would you take a letter back?”
“Same rate, sure. For now though, how about a mug of your fine beer?”
She ran to Uhdram and explained. “Get him his beer, and I’ll see what I have.”
She put the beer on the table. “Three farthings, please,” she said timidly. Since he had just given her a message from her father, would he expect his beer free? To her surprise, he pointed to the penny she had put on the table.
“There. Keep the change.” He picked up his mug. “How are you doing here? See you’re back singing. Hope that goes better than did last time. People treating you well?”
They talked for a few minutes, then she started serving other customers. Uhdram waved her over. “Found a sheet of paper. It’s in there, with a quill and some ink. When you’ve finished, fold it and melt some sealing wax on it. That way, if anyone reads it, you’ll know. Or your father will.”
She smiled at him. “For a miserable old curmudgeon, you can be a very nice person.”
With Zuthran safely off to the Ibis, Lisanna was able to meet Yealton. Quickly she told him of her father’s plans. Yealton was silent for a minute or more.
“What are you going to do? Marry him, and you’d live in luxury. Far better than I could keep you.”
“I don’t want his money. I want you. He’s an old man. His children are older than I am, and I’m supposed to become their mother? Father says to marry him, ‘wear him out’ was his phrase, and then take his money and marry you. What do you think of that?”
“Don’t want his money. If you want it, marry him, but don’t think of me afterwards.”
“Good, because that’s how I feel. No way will I marry him. The problem is, I can’t get that through to him. Father’s said I want him, and the fatuous old fool has his head so far into dream land that he believes it. What can I do?”
“We could kill him.”
“Believe me, I’ve thought of that. When would be best? The wedding? Or the wedding night? Before he takes my virginity though. That’s saved for you.”
“I could kill him, then there’s no chance he can do anything to you?”
“And I can marry you at the foot of the gibbet just before they hang you. Tempting offer, but there has to be a better way.”
“What’s Palito say?”
“He’d settle it by killing father any day of the week.” She sighed. “There must be a way we can stop this wedding. I could say no at the ceremony, but if it goes that far, most likely no one would take any notice. No, we have to think of something else.”
“People think he had something to do with Garmond’s death. Just too convenient, the way he died when your father was having such a heated argument with him. Is there any way we could arrange for the bear to get your father too?”
Lisanna shook her head. “I feel like such an ungrateful daughter, thinking of how to kill my father. They would hang me for certain if I did. Yet if we could arrange for the bear to find him, it would solve everything. How do you think he killed Garmond?”
“Pushed him between the mother and the cubs when he was drunk is what most people are saying. Could we lie in wait for him when he comes home from the Ibis?”
“Could we get the bear, and her cubs, to be there just at the right time? People say it’s a magical bear. What rites do we have to perform to get it at our beck and call? No, I don’t know anything about how to control a bear, magical or otherwise. Just have to leave it, and see if she answers our prayers. Though I don’t want to kill him. Just get him to see sense, that’s all. Let me marry you, and stop beating the others. Yet what hope is there that he will ever do either of those things?”
Estelle was in the Dark Forest, searching for food, when Marble appeared. Her signals indicated she had found something worth investigating. “Is this food for a meal, Marble? Or another body?” Marble had indicated three carcasses since the body of Garmond. Two of those, Estelle had managed to get useful meat. The third was too far rotted to be of use.
Estelle followed the cat. After a short distance she heard feeding noises. Afraid, she tried to catch Marble and carry her to safety, but the cat was too quick. Through the trees, Estelle could see two mountain cats tearing at the body of a deer. “No, Marble, I’m not going to fight the cats for that meat.” Marble swung wide round the cats. Obviously going somewhere else. Estelle kept an eye on the cats. It seemed they had seen her, but so long as she did not go any closer, they were not doing anything about her.
Marble stopped. Just ahead was a fawn, frightened out of its wits by the cats. Instead of running, it was stopping to see the end of its mother. It was bleating, moving jerkily, clearly not sure whether to leave and try to find safety, or to stay near its mother. Estelle felt sorrow for the poor little thing. “If it’s old enough to survive on its own, it would be no match for the cats. Or others that might be around. Without its mother, or its herd, it’s dead.” She looked carefully through the trees, but saw no other deer.
Marble was used to hunting. She swung round behind the fawn to its other side. Then she pounced. The fawn jumped. Looking at Marble, it was easily caught by Estelle. Her knife was in her hand, and before the fawn knew what was happening, she had slit its throat. “Sorry, little one, but I doubt you would live much longer anyway. This way you provide food for us.”
She held the fawn up, draining the blood out. Blood was a real nuisance to get out of clothes. Much better let it drop on the ground. She kept looking at the cats. Feeding on the large corpse, they watched her warily, but were not about to leave their meal so long as she stayed away. She wiped the fawn’s neck with leaves, and wrapped some round it to stop any further bleeding. Still watching the cats, she and Marble slowly made their way home.
Carefully she skinned the animal. It was so small, yet it would provide them with needed meat for a few days. She threw some scraps to Marble. “Thank you for finding this. And here’s nourishment for your little ones. How many will you have? Last time you had six. I hope I don’t have as many.”
Tomni was very happy to come home to the smells of roasting deer. That night they all ate well. The next day, Estelle took the hide to Xurtgil to see what he would pay for it. He was decorating a leather bag. He had it lying on a table, the stamp he used to make a mark in the leather standing on it, and was hitting the stamp with the small hammer held in his left hand. He stopped when Estelle showed him the hide.
“Nice hide. Small. Supple. Must be fresh. Need cleaning, curing.” He turned it over and studied all sides. “Did a good job skinning it. No cuts, one large piece. I’ll give you fivepence for it.”
That was enough for two sesters of flour. Very pleased with her trade, she bought one sester and some yeast. There would be fresh bread tomorrow to go with the last of the meat. That would help everything go down. There would be meat for Marble. Estelle thought how lucky she was that the cat had traveled with them.
Antella was not being so lucky. Netta now very rarely knew where she was, or who people were. She was sitting by the fireplace in her house when Antella walked in through the door, carrying food she had bought. Netta leapt up.
“You slut. How dare you come into this respectable house. I told you before, get out and never come back.”
Antella was tired of this. “I live here. I cook the food, clean the house, do laundry, darn your clothes. Stop this nonsense. If you keep insulting me like this, it would serve you right if I did never come back, leave you to try and fend for yourself.”
“You vile girl, to answer me back like that.” Netta snatched up a cast iron frying pan, made by her late husband in his own smithy. “Take that, you disgusting slut,” she raged, as she tried to land blows on Antella. The young girl had taken all she could, and was now fighting and yelling back.
“I’m not a slut. You’re a crazy old woman. You used to be my mother, but now you don’t even know you have a daughter. I may as well be Estelle, for all the motherly love I get.”
“Estelle, that’s the name of the slattern who stole my Tomni away from me. Horrible creature. I’m gong to tell the Esquire to burn you, as you deserve.”
Before Antella could answer, Carlos came between them. He took the frying pan from Netta’s hand, and turned her so she could no longer see Antella. “My darling boy. There you are. So you got away from her. Let me feel you, stroke your cheek. My, what a strong boy you’ve become.”
Carlos sat her done, placed a mug of beer in front of her to distract her attention.
“This can’t continue,” he said to Antella. “She’s not accepting you at all now. It would be best if you left before she causes you real harm. Is there somewhere you can go?”
“I think so.”
“Then go. I’ll look after her, tell you what’s happening, but it would be best if you didn’t let her see you again.” He paused. “I’m thinking of marrying. Would you mind if I brought my wife into your house?”
“Not mine. My mother’s. See if she minds. If she thinks you’re Tomni, and you make it plain you’re not marrying Estelle, she’d probably be delighted.”
Antella packed her own personal items. Household items were her mother’s, and she would leave them for Carlos, and his wife. She knew the girl he wanted. Nice girl, easy going, would probably manage Netta better than Antella did. She would also be very glad to move into a house already set up and with a functioning business, yet a house where she would be in charge. Antella smiled grimly to herself. ’So long as I can find a home, this will be the best solution for everyone.’ Her bag over her shoulder, she trudged down the road to the west. “Antella!” Sarda was always glad to see her. “Why the long face? Is everything all right? Why the bag? What have you brought?”
“Everything I own. Netta’s gone completely off now. Started hitting me with a frying pan. Carlos says I should stay away. Could I stay here? Please? I’ll try not to be any trouble. I know I’m a stranger, no right to your hospitality, but I have nowhere else.”
“You’re not a stranger. You’re brother is married to Estelle. That makes you Estelle’s sister, my daughter. You can have her place. It would be better if you could go home, but you are welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
Metras had come in to the room. “One problem. Estelle’s bed is in our room.”
Sarda looked confused. Then realisation dawned. “That’s all right,” she said somewhat hurriedly. “We’ll manage.”
Antella looked at them. “Don’t want to do it if I’m in the room?” Sarda blushed. “Do you enjoy it?” Antella asked.
Sarda blushed even more. “Yes.” She looked at Metras. “Helps us to stay in love.”
“Good. Father and Netta were always arguing over it. He wanted it, she didn’t. Maybe why she only had two children.” Suddenly Antella realised what she had said. “I mean, er ...”
“Estelle’s birth was difficult.” Sarda knew what was bothering Antella. “Don’t know what happened, but could never get pregnant again. We kept on making love, but no more children. Then Estelle had to leave. Fortunately we heard she made it to the other side of the Forest safely, but now you’re here you are our second daughter. Very welcome too.”
“Do it whenever you want. Don’t let me interfere. After all, a few years and someone will be doing it to me. Might as well learn about it from people who do it properly.”
Storkday evening, Xurtgil visited Tichne. She welcomed him into the house, offered him refreshments again, and settled down to talk. When he started to mess with her clothes, she stopped him. “Sorry. My monthly.”
“Next week then?”
She shook her head. “No. We won’t be doing it again.”
He stared at her, unbelieving. “Why not? You always liked it before.”
“Then I was married. Garmond did it enough with me that, if I had got pregnant, he would have accepted he was the father. Now I’m a widow, I can’t risk it. Before my monthly, I could have said it was his last offering to me. Now I can’t. Sorry.”
“We could marry.”
“I need children to look after me in my old age. We’ve been doing it for over a year, and I’ve not got pregnant. I know, you think that means we could keep doing it. With my luck, this would be the one time you would give me a child.”
His face was laughable. His mouth was open, eyes wide. Very comical. “But,” he spluttered. “What if it’s you who can’t get pregnant?”
“Had two children. True, might not be able to now, but most likely I can.”
Suddenly his face dropped. “So that’s why you want Zuthran. He can father children.”
“Or I can take the five he has. If we married, whichever house we lived in, I would put Lisanna and Palito in the other, and let them run it. I could look after the other three. If I persuaded him to let her marry Yealton, she might like me enough to keep me in my old age.”
“He’ll beat you!”
“No he won’t. I’ll tell him up front, he lays a finger on me, or the children, and I’m gone.” She looked thoughtful. “In that case maybe I should live with him first for several months, or a year. So as to make sure he doesn’t get violent. In that case I’d better move into his house. If I decide to leave, it would be easier for me to move out of his house than try to throw him out of mine.”
Xurtgil’s face furious, he moved towards her. “You thinking of taking me by force?” Tichne was unconcerned. “Raping me? It’s all bloody rags down there right now. You wouldn’t like it.”
He stopped. “You’ve got it all worked out, about me, and about Zuthran.”
“No, but I am thinking it through. Don’t know if he’s interested though. He’s not said anything to me about it. Now there’s that ridiculous rumour that Lisanna is betrothed to Finnfeldor. Utter rubbish! Everyone knows she wants Yealton. She’s not the type to leave him for money.” Her face softened. “I’m not refusing you, I’m just saying I need time to think it out. As you said, Zuthran would not be the best husband. I may yet decide on you. Until that happens though, I can’t have sex.”
“You won’t be able to resist. You like it too much.”
“I like it, yes, but not so much as to risk losing any advantage I have about marriage.”
Palmday morning, Zuthran was all smiles. “Got it all fixed.” He beamed at Lisanna. “Talked to Finnfeldor last night. He’s agreed to have the wedding in two months.” He waited for her delighted approval.
“I’m never going to marry him. I’ve told you, I want Yealton. Never, ever, will I marry that fat balding old man.”
Zuthran’s face snapped into anger. “I fixed this up for you as the best you can get. We don’t even have to pay a dowry, he wants you so much.”
“He doesn’t want me, he wants my body. All he’s thinking about is getting me into bed and raping me.!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You should be grateful to me for arranging something as beneficial as this marriage. Besides,” his smile returned. “He said he would halve my rent once you’re married. Offered of his own accord! Won’t have to wait until you wear him out. Of course, when you do, then you’ll waive the rent completely. You’d do that for your dear old Dad, wouldn’t you.”
“No! I’d triple your rent. You aren’t my Dad, no longer my father. You are just Zuthran, my pimp.” This last word was said with such venom that Zuthran leapt to his feet.
For a minute, it looked as if he would strike Lisanna again. She and Palito braced themselves for a fight. Instead, his face softened. “You’ll understand in time. You’ve got two months to realise what a wonderful opportunity this is. Well, better get working. The farm won’t see to itself. Come on, Palito, let’s see you do some real work for a change, instead of that women’s work.” With that he went outside.
Palito and Lisanna looked at each other. “What are you going to do.”
“Don’t know. Have to get across to him somehow that I’m not doing it. Not sure how, but somehow.” She sighed. “As he said, I’ve got two months. Although I’ll have to do something a lot quicker than that or I’ll be sucked into it whatever I do.”
That evening, Xurtgil went to see Kapet. She let him in the house, but there was a noticeable coolness. “Glad to see you again. It’s been a while. Not since Garmond’s death.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Consoling his poor bereaved widow? What’s the matter? That time of the month? So you come to a woman who no longer has those times?”
“How did you... ?” His stumbling speech let her know she was right.
“Usual reason a man goes from one woman to another.” She took a breath. “What are your intentions about her, about me?”
“She’s thinking of marrying Zuthran.”
“Is she now? That would be going from the frying pan into the fire. If she thought Garmond beat her, Zuthran will be no better.”
“She says she’ll tell him not to, live with him for a year to see he doesn’t.”
Kapet laughed. “Won’t that be wonderful? And if he waits until marriage to beat her? No, he’d start earlier. Wouldn’t be able to restrain himself. So, learning you have no luck with her, you’ve turned to me to get your pleasures?”
“I love you. I want only you.”
She snorted. “I’ll tell you what I want, and that’s honesty. I have never asked you to marry me, never gave it a thought. Still don’t. So don’t bother with that. I was ready to enjoy myself with you but with no commitments. But I want honesty. Tell me what you intend about Tichne, and about me.”
“She and I might marry. I could still see you, even if we do.”
“No. I don’t care if Tichne had you as her lover when she was married, but I will not take a married lover. There I draw the line. I’d be friends with you when we meet in the Market Square, but nothing more. If you are honest with me about your feelings for me, I’m still willing for us to enjoy our friendship. But I will not marry you, and I will not continue this way if you marry anyone else.”
As Xurtgil was leaving Kapet, Estelle wended her way home in a very sad mood. When she went into their hut, she could hear Tomni moving. “Tomni, are you awake.?”
“Wha..? Yes, what?”
She sat on a bench by the table. “Come over here and sit with me. I can’t tell you this when you’re half asleep on the other side of the room.”
Now he was by her side. “What is it? The baby?”
“The baby’s fine, so far as I can tell. No, this is personal for you.” She sighed. “I’m sorry to have to tell you. A trader told me tonight.” She took another deep breath. “He said,” her voice broke. “He said, and I’m sorry Tomni, but he said your father. Said he’s dead.”
Tomni put his arm round her. She leaned into him. “I’m sorry, really I am. I liked your father. Especially when he said we should marry. Had to tell you though. Couldn’t hide it.”
“How did it happen, did he know?”
“Said he collapsed at work. He wasn’t there at the time, but he said it was natural.”
“Heart attack. He never fully recovered from the wound. Would not rest. Insisted on working.” He held her tight, and both of them had tears in their eyes. “Should have been prepared for it. So obvious.” There was silence, while each remembered their own memories of Damton. Tomni squeezed her. “At least I have you. Parents die, but wives, I hope not.”
’Some of us die in childbirth,’ she thought. ’Hope I don’t. I would like to see my child, watch him grow up.’
“And I have you. Makes what I have even more precious.” She leaned into him and kissed him gently on the cheek.
Xurtgil had not seen Tichne since she had refused him. He was therefore quite surprised when she walked into his shop.
“It’s Zuthran,” she began, without any preamble. “He’s bothering me. Came to see me. I tried talking to him about the two of us getting together, but he wasn’t interested. Told me I had to fill in the pond Garmond dug. You’ve heard how his daughter, Lisanna, the pretty one, how she’s engaged to Finnfeldor? He’s our landlord. He’s already promised to halve Zuthran’s rent. Zuthran says when they marry, he’ll cancel the rent for Zuthran’s farm altogether. Now Zuthran’s saying that if I don’t fill in that pond, he’ll get Finnfeldor to double my rent to make up the loss. I need your help.”
“What can I do? I don’t have a pretty daughter I could marry off to him.”
“I don’t know, but something’s got to be done. You don’t know what it’s like. With Garmond gone, I’m finding out just how much work he did round the farm. He was brutal, hit me, but he was a worker. I’m having to pay two, three, men to do the work he used to do on his own. His farm, he worked. These lazy ho-hopers, if I’m not standing behind them, they do nothing. With having to pay for more men, if the rent’s doubled, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep the farm. Then what would I do?”
Xurtgil shook his head. “Don’t know. If we married, don’t know that I could do much for the farm. I’m a leather worker, not a farmer.”
“You make money from the leather.”
Xurtgil gave a sad smile. “So now you would want money for what you used to give for free? Times have changed.”
“I’m not selling it,” Tichne denied hotly. “Just my husband would expect to help me. Anyway, not saying that’s the answer. Could you stand up to Zuthran? Could you stop Finnfeldor from raising my rent? Whatever solves those problems, that’s what I’ll have to do.”
Two days later, Estelle was walking along the path to the village, to buy some more flour. Marble appeared, signalling another find. “More food? We can do with that.” She followed her. “We’re going up the track to Garmond and Zuthran’s farms. Where are you leading me?” A short way up the track, Marble turned into the woods. Just beside the path was what Marble wanted to show her. Zuthran, bloodstained, his throat slashed.