In which the summer comes...
Fanndis returned to the cottage several days later to see Arna’s exterior room nearly complete. She supposed that the only way Stigg knew to while away the time was to work to the bone on some project. Arna had been reading a great deal and learning various bits of magic from Fanndis’ books. It was clear there had been much productivity while she had been away. Father Kimbli was in the kitchen, reading his Bible with his spectacles pushed way down on the end of his nose. She chided him for neglecting his duties as steward.
“It’s Sunsʼ Day, Fanndis. Even stewards don’t work on Sunsʼ Days,” he laughed warmly.
“Is it truly? I lost track of the days,” she sighed.
Dropping off her riding clothes, Fanndis told everyone that she would be at the hot spring that lay about a mile north of the cottage. The others continued their work while she was away. Father Kimbli stayed and admired the building being done on the room for Arna. The girl herself was in the bedroom, napping.
While at the springs, Fanndis thought long and hard about the situation with Ulla. Finding Olan’s body in the cave had been a shock and she was hopeful, for the first time, that the situation with the twins might be resolved soon. Heat rose in ghostly swirls of steam and the woman was distracted by them. For a short time, she bathed and let the water splash around her without thinking about much. Sometime later, she hauled herself up on the bank and dried off. Because the springs were so secluded, she had no fear of being watched. Standing up, she dressed at her leisure before heading back to her cottage.
By the time Fanndis returned, the men were in the kitchen in the middle of some heated debate about philosophy. Smiling, she skirted passed them without interrupting and went to check on Arna. The girl slept on the bed and Fanndis, making sure not to disturb the girl, unwrapped the linens around her thigh. The entire section above the knee was terribly swollen and bruised. It was not a pretty sight and Fanndis hoped her healing abilities would make it so Arna’s thigh would be beautiful and supple once more by the time the break healed.
Fanndis brought poultices and linens from the kitchen. She set about cleaning the skin around the break and rewrapping it tightly. Thankfully, Arna was an obedient patient and had not insisted on getting up and moving about a lot. Her break should heal within eight weeks. The girl would be able to walk about on crutches much sooner than that. Fanndis was about to finish her work when Stigg knocked on the door and walked inside.
“How is she?” Stigg asked.
“I believe she’ll be just fine. The area’s bruised and swollen, but you did a good job setting the leg. It will heal properly in a couple months,” Fanndis replied.
Stigg nodded and made to shut the door, but Fanndis interrupted him.
“Yes?” he inquired.
“You’re a kind soul, Stigg. I’m glad my son is so compassionate.” Fanndis inclined her head and went back to work.
Color rose in Stigg’s cheeks and he shut the door, heading back to the kitchen. Father Kimbli leaned back in his chair, resting his eyes from his reading. Soryn had his face buried in one of the books Stigg had let him borrow, turning pages back and forth looking for answers to unspoken questions. A half smile came to the man’s lips as he watched the boy and the old man acting so at ease. Stigg, himself, was troubled so he went to the barn to feed the horses—and to get his mind off of what was perturbing him.
Ivan looked tired after the journey into the mountains. Stigg forked some dried greenhouse hay into the horse’s trough then patted him on the neck. The horse snorted and chomped at the food with obvious greed. An owl hooted in the rafters. Despite his own unrest, Stigg was struck by the peacefulness of the night. He wished that peace would descend upon himself. It was as though all of their lives were about to change—even more than they already had in the last few weeks. A portentous nagging kept twining itself about his mind. He was worried. The business with the pig and with Arna’s accident weighed on his mind and he frowned.
Ivan whinnied, gobbling his hay. Stigg shook his head, banishing his thoughts. Patting the horse again, the man turned and sat at the base of the stall door and leaned his head against the wood. Ever since he was a young man, the barn had been his place for privacy and solace. The pure spirits of the animals and the familiar smells allowed him to rest even if his mind was in turmoil. He closed his eyes, just for a moment, but was soon drifting off to sleep. Frigid night air whirled about them, but the warmth from the bodies of the horses, the cow, and their chickens helped to take the edge off.
Sometime later, Father Kimbli found Stigg asleep in the barn. The old man called for Soryn to help him walk Stigg back to the hearth fire and his bedroll. The three of them staggered their way back into the house where Stigg and Soryn went to sleep. The old priest chuckled at the two of them. They looked exhausted. Fanndis walked into the room and found Kimbli smiling at them.
“I think it’s high time I left for home,” the old priest said.
“It’s getting late,” Fanndis observed.
“Did you find anything out when you went to see that woman?” Father Kimbli asked.
“She showed me something unbelievable in the woods near the west,” Fanndis admitted.
“We found Olan’s body. His human body, still alive but in some sort of comatose state.”
“How is that possible?” Father Kimbli whispered.
“I don’t know. Apparently, Olan performed transference instead of transmutation. It’s a giant mess to be sure,” she muttered, rubbing her temples.
“Hmm.” Father Kimbli rubbed his chin, not really knowing what to say.
“Well, sleep well, old friend. It’s a cold night out there.” Fanndis turned to get his coat for him.
“Oh, I will. I’ll be glad when I’m back in my room at the church and buried under my mound of covers. These old bones are getting rather snappish about the cold nowadays,” he chuckled.
Fanndis watched him ride away and endured all of the thoughts and emotions that flooded her once he was gone. She wanted to get to the bottom of the quagmire they were in and she wanted to do it quickly. All of the doors and windows were fastened before she went into the bedroom and lay down on a pallet next to the bed. Arna rattled out strange little puffing snores which helped lull the older woman to sleep. Fanndis dreamed about Annar, Valkyrie, and the days of her youth.
Copyright © 2013 L.M. Sherwin
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