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The Wishing Map
Chapter Eighteen: Spiffwits and Storysmiths (Continued)
Previously: Upon learning that her brother had been kidnapped, Gina set off, with the help of the mysterious fisher woman Maerith, to find him.
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To allay her fears, Gina asked Maerith how she and her husband had met. Joy and sorrow intermingled in the beautiful woman’s face as she began her tale:
Her family were textile farmers who came to Kellansend three times a year to sell burbee-flax and danderwool. At first they’d embraced the idea of this big sinewy fellow marrying into their close-knit clan, but when they learned he was fisher folk, a selchie, they turned against him, forbidding Maerith to ever see him again. So Maerith and Shelcor eloped and were married at sea.
“And married ter the sea, as well, for I’d fallen in love with its brilliant depths a’ green. When Shelcor an’ I returned ter Kellansend, my three elder brothers were mad for revenge, so they plotted ter murder us both.”
“There on the shores a’ Kellansend Bay they waited with pitchfork, ax, and scythe.”
“Forth from the shadows they come.” Maerith’s eyes retraced the horror, not only of being assailed, but of being attacked by her own siblings. “Then out from behind a selchie craft rushes our lee brother…an’ throws himself betwixt us.” She wiped a tear from her cheek with her heavy skin coat. “An’ in a moment that can ne’er be ta’en back, they pierced an’ hacked him down.”
“’A step you can’t untake,’” whispered Gina.
“Our family was undone. They returned to the farm, vowing ne’er to say our lee brother’s name again. Nor mine.”
Gina shook her head in disbelief. “It’s all so Shakespearean.”
“Yer speak traith when yer say it is full a’ sorrow, for I would rather a thousand times ter have died than my brother.” Maerith’s voice faltered. “But Uol granted Shelcor and me healing in one another.” She placed Gina’s hand on her stomach. “An’ wi’ pups ter come.”
Tears were streaming down Gina’s cheeks.
“Fairhap I’ve a lee sister now, as well?” asked Maerith.
“Oh, yes,” Gina replied. “Oh, yes!” She wrapped her arms around Maerith. Before long, however, she began to slump.
“Ah, yer drank much of the grownlings’ meeth, and still ha’ not fully recovered. We’ll sleep awhile.” The fisherwoman walked Gina off the path and into a patch of bluebells. They reclined between two big protective rainbowwood roots, the toes of a giant.
Within a few minutes Gina’s head had slid into Maerith’s lap. Maerith touched her hand to her heart, to her forehead, toward the sky, then slid the fishskin bottle off her shoulder, pulled out the wooden plug, and filled her other hand with liquid. She wetted her lips and patted the rest on her face.
Gina looked up. “Water?”
Maerith touched Gina’s lips with the solution.
“Oh,” Gina said in drowsy surprise, “salty.”
And then she slept.
Thoughts: Walking in another’s shoes is the best way to avoid wearing out your own.
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