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The Wishing Map
Chapter Eighteen: Spiffwits and Storysmiths (Continued)
Previously: Waking up alone (and with a hangover) at the Inn in Kellansend, Gina learned that her brother Zack was missing. She could only conclude that the fisher folk Maerith and Shelcor had taken him.
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The moment Maerith and Shelcor entered the inn, Gina demanded to know where Zack was.
“We’ve not taken your lee brother,” Shelcor vowed.
“Well, if you didn’t, who did?” said Gina.
Maerith put an arm around her.
“I’ve a notion,” Shelcor replied, “but nay way ter know certain without a long journey inland ter prove it, a journey I cannot take.”
“But why? If you know where he is, why can’t you—?”
“Yer’ve nay understanding of the fisher folk,” Maerith said.
“I can pay you!” said Gina, her pitch rising with her sense of dread. “I don’t have any money now, but I can get it, I swear!”
“We’d ne’er take your bimmies, chelding,” Shelcor replied. “But it’s a full night’s journey ter Naimian and I cannot—”
“I can,” said Maerith.
“Nay, yer shall not!”
“Yer know I can.” Maerith took her husband’s hand in hers. “And yer know I must.”
Then Shelcor did something odd—he tenderly stroked his wife’s tummy.
“Holy…! You’re pregnant!” said Gina.
Maerith smiled. “It’s early on. I can still travel afoot.”
“But the change—” Shelcor began.
“Will not hurt me, I think. I once knew the Rainbowwood Forest as well as now I know the sea. I’m the one as should take her.” She caressed her husband’s cheek. “Your yet-born pup an’ I will return safe, my heart. Traith.”
“What change?” Gina asked.
They left half an hour later with two roughspun sacks and a fishskin bottle. It was early in the time of Wisdom, the season closest to our winter. As they walked, Gina pulled her arms inside the sleeves of the hooded woolen cloak the innkeeper’s daughter had given her. It was much too large for her, and she was grateful for that.
They were at the outskirts of cozy cobbled Kellansend within ten minutes. Gina took a long last look at the snug little town, and wondered if she’d ever see it again. Still, she had no choice: she had to find her brother—and the Revealer. She moved closer to Maerith, who was carrying a lantern shaped like a Kellansendish door-lamp. The woods quickly swallowed its coppery light. A rumble of fear ran through her. Portent of full-blown panic to come?
“So, um, you were you born into a fisher family?” Fill the darkness with your voice! Make yourself forget that your brother is lost and that you’re walking in the woods a trillion miles from home!
“Nay. I was born on a flax farm near Skullybrack.”
“So, then, how did you and Shelcor meet?”
Maerith smiled. Joy and sorrow intermingled as she began to tell her story…
Thoughts: Uncertainties and dangers can’t always be avoided. Sometimes stories are the only refuge we have.
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