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The worm Clarion almost impaled with the dibbler poked its long, pale head through the dirt toward her, so straight and taut it was like a dagger someone stabbed up from beneath the soil. At first she thought she'd missed it entirely, but after she instinctively turned the tool and drilled the hole larger, she watched it stretch and fight until it snapped its own tail off.

Clarion stared as it slithered into the upturned earth and gaped at the still-wiggling tail that flopped from beneath the dibbler.

"Clair?" Elena readjusted her bonnet and tucked a strand of auburn hair that'd fallen out of her plaits back inside the fabric. "Have you found something?"

Krea scooted over, the basket full of seeds hanging from the crook of her arm tipping slightly, almost causing the basket's contents to fall. "Oo, is it some crystal? Mum told me to be on the lookout for crystal in the witch's garden, she did. Rocks have healing powers."

"Your mother has more rocks growing in her head than there are rocks in my garden." Jacosa finished scooping water from the little canal that ran through her property and out under the stone wall that protected her garden from rabbits and other varmints. "And there's no such thing as magical healing crystals, and if there were, you wouldn't find them growing in the dirt like common potatoes." She dropped the watering can next to Krea's feet, causing the poor girl to jump back and lose a few of the seeds in her basket. "You'd be wise not to call me a witch within earshot, either, not if you hope to make use of any of my potions and poultices ever again."

Krea mumbled something about there being "nothing wrong with a witch being called a witch" but pressed her lips tightly together when she caught Jacosa eyeing her.

"It's just a worm." Clarion stood and slapped some of the dirt off her skirt. Most of it blended right in with the dust and mud caked on from mucking around with the last two pigs left on her family's small pig farm. "I'm sorry. I... I was just thinking."

"I know we raise them, care for them, and become their surrogate parents, only for them to wind up on our neighbors' supper tables." Clarion's papa didn't mention that they wound up on their own table, too. Or that they became trade for the cows, sheep, and chickens that wound up roasting in their place over the fire. The piglet thrashed under his grip as he tried to slip the tip of the kitchen knife beneath the splinter in the pig's leg. "But that doesn't mean we don't treat them with kindness while they're with us. Hold it still, Clair."

Clarion squeezed the pig's little hoof tighter and stretched the leg out as far as it would go. She didn't like being so close to the pigs then, especially when they were squealing and thrashing like they were little monsters.

Her papa twisted the knife and the splinter of wood popped out. He lay the knife beside him on the ground and picked up a piece of scrap cloth, tying it tightly around the animal's injured leg. His eyes met Clarion's and the corner of his lips twitched up into a smile. "We have a responsibility as the bigger species, no matter what others may say."

He smacked the piglet's hind end and Clarion let go. The piglet scrambled off to join its four siblings at the trough.

"Grab it, then, they're good for the chickens." Krea dropped her basket on the ground and peered into the small hole created by Clarion's dibbler. Clarion snapped back to the present, remembering the worm instead of the piglet. She was sure Krea couldn't have imagined that the sight of an injured worm had conjured up images of Clarion's late father. Krea showed little interest in the work of her own papa, and besides, the town blacksmith had little knowledge he cared to pass on to his daughter when he had four sons from whom to choose to succeed him. Never mind that they were all under the age of six.

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