The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 10 Excerpt

A moment later though, the mystery was solved. The three Hertling siblings came walking down the road from the east. Hero and Hertzel carried large baskets filled with foliage, while their older sister had something that looked like a cricket bat casually slung over her shoulder. The twins saw their friends and waved, calling out greetings. Hero ran ahead and Senta met her at the road, giving her a great hug. Though he waved to his friends, Graham’s eyes were fixed on the instrument that Honor carried. When she was close enough that he could see it clearly, he found that it was not a cricket bat at all, but a lizzie sword. The main hand to hand combat weapon of the lizardmen was a thick sword made of wood but encrusted all around the edges with flint, obsidian, or sometimes even shark’s teeth. This one had shiny black obsidian flakes that appeared razor sharp.

“Where’d you get that?” asked Graham enviously.

“It was a gift,” Honor replied. “The chief of Tserich gave one to each of the members of the Colonial Council. I imagine most of them are hanging on display somewhere, but I like to carry mine when I have to go away from the town.”

“So where have you all been then?” asked Senta.

“We went to gather winter berries,” replied Hero.

“Perfect, we can have them for tea.”

“Oh, you can’t eat them,” said Honor. “They’re for decoration only.”

“We had loads of them hanging all around our house,” said Graham. “But it’s way past Kafira Mass now.”

Senta shot him a frown.

“What?”

“As a matter of fact,” continued Honor. “I got the idea from your mother, Graham. I think the red and green will brighten up the house and as I understand it, according to Brech tradition, they are often kept over the winter and not just on, um… holidays.”

“Can we go inside now,” asked Hero. “I’m just frozen.”

Honor opened the front door and they all stepped inside the home, which was only marginally warmer than the outside. Hertzel, with Graham help, got right to work lighting a fire in the stove, while the girls went into the other room and exchanged damp clothing for dry and wrapped up in thick blankets. Hero lent Senta one of her two housedresses, which was only slightly baggy and only slightly too short. The boys removed only their boots and socks, which they dried by the stove once the fire was going, but Hero brought each of them a blanket, and in a few minutes they too were feeling warm and cozy. The four ten-year-olds sat around the stove, Senta and Hero sharing a chair, while Honor placed the green branches filled with red berries festively around the small room.

“I brought bread and butter for tea,” said Graham at last.

“That’s his way of telling you that he’s hungry,” said Senta.

“No it isn’t.”

“That’s lovely Graham,” said Honor. “I was going to make some butter this week, but we’ve all been so busy that I just haven’t found the time. Hero, come help me prepare tea.”

“Let me help instead,” said Senta. “Hero’s not warmed up yet.”

“I’m fine, really,” said Hero, though she made no move to unwrap the blanket from around her.

“It would not be passend… um, proper. You are a guest in our house.”

“Please.”

“Very well then. Join me in the kitchen.”

Joining Honor in the kitchen meant taking three steps from where she was. Once there, Senta helped the eldest Hertling by slicing the bread that Graham had brought, which was then toasted on the stove.   Then they sliced cheese and apples and sausages, and these were served along with the toast and tea at the table.

“What has you so busy this week,” asked Senta, when they were halfway through the meal.

“Hmm?”

“What has you so busy that you weren’t able to make butter.”

“Besides council business,” replied Honor, “I’m spending quite a bit of time at the base trying to help those poor people off the ships get themselves situated. I barely have time to see to Hero and Hertzel’s schooling, let alone make butter or darn clothes. Fortunately my brother and sister have stepped up to do their part.”

“I could help.”

“That won’t be necessary, I’m sure. Besides, you must have plenty of your own work to keep you busy.”

“Not really,” said Senta. “Everything pretty much gets magiced at our house.”

“That must be nice,” said Honor dryly.

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