The Wish Weaver

By Dash Hoffman


Chapter One

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Chapter One

A Circle of Friends



     Once upon a time, long ago and far away, there was a beautiful wild country where fairytales, dreams, and wishes were real. It was there that the great Kamala mountain range reached its jagged peaks so far up into the heavens that they seemed to nearly touch the stars. Though the universe was too lofty for them, the mighty giants gazed low upon the passing clouds, catching them in the folds of towering trees and in the depths of twisting canyons, and holding them as they wept rain in rivers down the cliffs and mountain walls to the valleys at the feet of the titans.

     It was there, between the foothills of the Kamalas and the wide-open fields of the farmlands to the east, that a small village was nestled into gently rolling hills and skirted prettily with a rambling river separating it from the span of pastures. The village of Zorion had been there for as long as anyone in it could remember, and for as long as their greatest grandparents could remember, and perhaps even much longer than that.

     Zorion had ambled along quietly through the passage of time, changing in small ways as the generations within the town families came and went, losing the old and bringing in the new. The wheel of the old mill on the river circled endlessly as the current turned it ever onward, the baker’s shop stoked fires before dawn that brought villagers in for warm bread, the tailor’s sewing machines hummed to life, and the villagers met with one another at the well in the center of Zorion to talk and stay closely connected.

     A young girl of about thirteen stood before the water well one fine summer’s morning, as the golden rays of a new day spilled over the far-reaching farmlands, filtered through the expanse of leafy trees along the river bank, and found their way around the scattered buildings in the center of the village.

     She had long black hair, loosely tied behind her neck, and it hung down her back to her waist. Her skin was fair, and her eyes were as green as the water in the river. She wore a cobalt blue tunic with a red trim. The material reached down almost to her knees, laying over a pair of dark cream colored wide pants, and on her feet were soft black suede-cloth boots which laced up her legs underneath the material. Her form was fit, and she was strong.

     The girl was just drawing up a bucket of water when her attention shifted. The chorus of morning birdsong around her had been muffled by the thud of heavy footsteps which sounded behind her, first at a distance, and then coming nearer to her. She turned her head and looked over her shoulder only to find the face of a man who was the only man in the village who could stop her in her tracks.

     He was her father’s age, weary worn by time and work, with eyes that were bright blue and once-brown hair which was sifted through with streaks of grey and hints of white. His strong frame had taken on the extra weight of age, and his hands were calloused and rough looking. It was none of these things that stopped her, frozen in place for a long moment every time she saw him, but rather one thing which he had not been born with; one thing that had not happened to him naturally over the course of time, and that was a massive scar that ran at an angle down the length of one side of his face from behind his hairline, over his cheek, and down his neck to his collar bone.

     It was an old scar and it had faded over the years, but there was still a sort of bruised, purplish, and marbled look about it, and it was on his face because of her.

     When he saw her, he nodded in greeting. “Padma.” His expression did not change. He might have been saying hello to anyone in the village and he treated her no differently than he treated anyone else. That fact was another reason she had such a difficult time facing him.

     “Good morning, Omid.” She answered him; her heart pounding. With her eyes locked on him, she didn’t notice that she hadn’t lifter her water bucket up quite as far as she should have to clear it over the edge of the well, and the bottom of the bucket hit the stones on the well’s rim, making the water inside slosh around and spill out a bit as she dragged it across.

     Without looking away from him, she bent at the waist and set her bucket down on the grass at her feet. He turned his eyes to the well and she blinked and rushed to him, pulling his bucket from his hand.

     “Let me get that for you.” She insisted as she tugged the pail away from him before he could stop her. Turning her back to him, her breath grew short and her heart raced.

     “Padma, you don’t have to do that. I can get my own water.” He said with a kind, quiet voice as he neared her.

     She shook her head adamantly as she hooked the bucket and lowered it down into the well as quickly as she could, cranking the handle on the wheel swiftly. “Oh, it’s no trouble. You know I’m glad to help you. I’m always glad to help you.”

     He breathed a long, almost tired sigh, and she felt her palms grow moist as the bucket grew heavy, and then she hoisted it back up. With her heart nearly working its way out of her chest, she turned and handed the full bucket of water to the big man before her.

     “Here you go. No trouble at all.” She told him in an easy tone that was edged with tension.

     Omid slid his thick fingers under the handle of the bucket and he took it from her, gazing down at her with a sort of sad frown at the corners of his mouth. “Padma…” he began hesitantly, “you don’t have to try to do so much for me. You owe me nothing.”

     She felt her throat tighten and her breath got caught in her chest as she looked upward slowly into his bright eyes. “I owe you everything. I owe you my life.” She made herself look at the scar stretching over his face and down his neck. It was a wonder that he had lived; that either of them had lived.

     “You owe me nothing.” He repeated as he shook his head. He turned from her, walking away with a slow and steady gait as the water in his full bucket spilled over the edges here and there.

     She watched him go and felt her eyes sting with hot tears. She tried to swallow the lump in her throat, but it wouldn’t go away. Her heart ached as she kept her eyes on him until he was gone.

     Padma had been a girl of only nine when it had happened; when everything had changed. She had been wild and carefree, strong and brave, and she used to love to play near the edge of the woods. Her father had told her time and again not to go into the woods, especially alone, and she listened for a little while but then she grew curious about what lay just beyond what she could see and one day she went past the edge and wandered in.

     It had taken no time at all before she was lost in all the greatness of the forest; every tree looked indistinguishable from the others, the bushes seemed to surround her on all sides and the daylight faded faster in amongst all the growth. There was no way out that she could find, and she became afraid. Light vanished and darkness filled every space around her, and still she was lost.

     That was when it happened. There had been a noise in the brush not far from her. A kind of soft rustling noise, and then in the quiet as she stared around her into the dark with wide eyes, she heard sniffing sounds which were followed by low, deep growls. She had been too terrified to move, but she had managed to scream somehow, and the sound of it brought the call of her name from men moving through the blackness of night with torches held high.

     The light of the flames danced through the forest, flickering off of the trees and bushes, creating shadows even darker than the night around her. The voices called out again and again while the noises in the brush around her grew louder, and as the voices neared her, so did the growling.

     It seemed to happen in an instant; a flash so swift in her memory that it almost didn’t seem real. A wolf, bigger than any of the hunter’s kills she had ever seen, launched itself from its hiding place in the foliage near her. He had landed almost at her feet, growling, snapping, and biting at her as she screamed in terror, but almost at the same moment that the wolf attacked, the biggest man in the village tore through the trees and grabbed hold of the wolf by the tail, pulling it back on its padded feet just as it was about to sink it’s fangs into Padma. She wailed and wept, huddled down against the ground, and the wolf rounded on the man who swung his torch at the creature, hitting it with the fire.

     The wolf attacked the man in a blur of teeth and claws, and the man yelled and fought back against the beast until finally the great wolf fell to the ground in a silent heap and the man pushed himself up from the forest floor.

     He came to her then and scooped her up, and she thought she knew who it was until she saw that his face, his head, and his neck were torn open, his lifeblood pouring from him, covering them both. He cried out to the other men who were calling to them, among them Padma’s father, who rushed to them only moments later as the big man fell against the arms of the other villagers.

     Omid had taken months to recover and when he had finally healed there was a scar from the attack that night; a scar that would always be there, right on his face, every time Padma saw him for the rest of their lives. It was a scar that would not be there had she only listened to her father and obeyed him. Guilt had taken hold in her and its grip promised to never let go.

     She had taken to doing all that she could for Omid at every opportunity, trying at every chance to repay him somehow, to assuage her guilt, to even the score between them, but it was a debt that could not be repaid, no matter how much she tried, no matter what she did, and his sacrifice ate away at her. It felt even worse to her that he waved off all of her attempts, as if saving her had been nothing, as if there was no debt to be repaid, as if it hadn’t been her fault at all that he had nearly been killed too and had the physical devastation to show for it. It seemed to her that the harder she tried to repay him, the more it widened the gap of guilt in her because she could see that her continual efforts meant nothing to him and that he did not want to accept any offering of gratitude or obligation from her, leaving her with a bottomless pit inside her heart, and no way to fill it.

     With somber silence, she picked up her bucket of water and walked to the baker’s shop, wishing that there was some way to repay the unpayable debt she bore heavy on her heart.

     Pushing the door of the shop open, she went inside and saw one of her friends standing at a shelf filled with baskets. He was the baker’s son, Carmo. In one hand he held a tray fresh from the oven, laden with piping hot rolls. With a cloth in the other hand, he picked the rolls up one by one and set them into the baskets on the shelf. He looked over his shoulder at her and gave her a smile.

     “Good morning, Padma.” He nodded pleasantly. Though he was two years younger than her, they were good friends.

     “Good morning, Carmo.” She tried to give him a genuine smile back, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes.

     He could be politely described as portly; the baker’s son. With soft curves to his rounded face, arms, waist, and legs. Upon the top of his head was a crown of dark brown curls, thick and chunky, somewhat unruly, framing his warm brown eyes. His cheeks were pink as he worked at his tray and baskets, feeling the heat come off of them. He wore loose dark brown trousers and a white linen shirt with a few buttons at the neck. On his feet he wore flour dusted dark shoes, and over the back of his head he wore a small mahogany colored cap.

     “Bread today? Two?” He asked, finishing the rolls and taking the tray to the counter.

     She nodded. “Yes, please.” She gave him a cloth sack with a strap on the top of it, and he put two loaves of freshly baked bread into it, handing it back to her. She dropped a few coins in the small bowl at the edge of the counter and waved at him with her free hand as she turned to the door again.

     “Thank you, Carmo. I’ll see you around later.” She headed out of the shop with her water and her bread, and the door closed softly behind her.

      Carmo turned his attention back to the work at hand, but as he was reaching for another tray of baked goods on the cooling rack, his father came from the kitchen in the other room and gave him a serious look.

     “You’d better go up and see if your grandmother needs anything.” He gave the boy a nod and then turned toward the kitchen once more with a ball of dough in his grip and a coating of flour over his hands and up his arms. His father looked like an older, rounder version of Carmo.

     “Yes, father.” He answered, and wiping his hands clean, he pulled his apron off and set it on the counter before closing his fingers over a delicate pastry and heading for the old wooden stairs in the corner that led up to their home above the bakery.

     His grandmother was in her room which was a simple space set off from a few humble rooms; a sitting area and two other small bedrooms. He knocked at her door and she bade him enter.

     A grin formed over his round face as Carmo pushed the door open and saw her laying back in her bed. She was resting against a pile of pillows and she was smiling right back at him. They had the same eyes and they were always glad to see one another.

     “Hello Gran Saša!” he beamed at her.

     “There’s my boy. Light of my life. Come tell me how you are this day!” She said in her soft, thin tones. Her body and voice might be frail and weak, but her spirit was strong and beautiful.

     Carmo sat at the side of her bed and took her old weathered hand in one of his, while his other hand was behind his back. “It’s been a good morning, Gran. I got all the rolls done and I even got my new pastries out in time before Pa came in and started the bread.”

     “You did?” She asked brightly, her eyes almost twinkling. “How did they come out?”

     Beaming with pride, he brought his other hand around to her and opened his fingers. There in his palm was the delicate little pastry he’d brought up with him. It was finely crafted and dusted with a light sugary powder.

     She gasped happily, and he handed it to her. “I saved the best one for you, Gran.”

     “Well this is absolutely perfect! Just look at that! It’s so pretty. I’m as proud as popping, my boy.” She touched his cheek gently and then lifted the pastry to her mouth, tasting it. Closing her eyes, she tipped her head to one side a little and then to the other.

     He watched her with rapt attention, waiting to see what she thought. It had been her bakery many years before and his father had been the boy growing up in it, now he was the boy and his father was the baker.

     “It’s perfection!” She sighed blissfully as she finished it off. “I love the buttery soft center. What a great invention!” She waved him to her and he leaned close and hugged her carefully.

     “I used your old recipe and just made a few little changes to it.” He admitted with a grin.

     “Well it’s your new recipe now and I think you should make lots of them and keep them on the shelf because the whole village will be wanting to eat them all up in no time!” She laughed lightly and reached to hold his hand again.

     “I’ll do that, Gran. Thank you.” He felt as if he had just won the whole world. “How are you feeling today?”

     She shrugged a little and looked away from him. “Oh, probably better than I’ll feel tomorrow, but much better now that I’ve had a treat from you!”

     Concern crossed his brow and he studied her closely. “Do you need anything?” He asked, holding her hand just a little tighter in his.

     Gran shook her head slightly. “Just rest. There’s not much else to do at this point, I’m afraid. What’s best for me now is rest and good company, especially when my good company brings me things like you did!”

     Carmo smiled and nodded but the worry and fear in his heart grew, as it did every day when he looked closely at her. The doctor had told them that she wouldn’t be with them much longer and there was nothing Carmo wished for more than to have her stay with him as long as he could keep her in the world.

     They talked a while about little things and then his father called him from downstairs. His grandmother gave him a big smile.

     “You’d better go help him. You know he needs you.” She winked at Carmo.

     “But you need me too!” Carmo pleaded quietly.

     Gran shook her head. “I’ll rest. You can come to see me later. Now kiss me and off you go.”

     Carmo kissed her cheek and gave her a smile before hurrying down the stairs to see what his father wanted. There was a basket waiting for him on the edge of the counter.

     “Take that over to the tailor’s shop please.” His father called out from the kitchen.

     “Yes, father!” Carmo answered back loudly, scooping the basket onto his arm and going to the door.

     The tailor’s shop was a short way down the small road, just a few buildings past the bakery. Zorion was built a little differently than most villages, which have a condensed town center. All of the shops and buildings in the center of the village where most commerce took place were all spaced a bit apart from each other, with a small grassy mound between shops here, and a pretty garden tucked in between some buildings there, so that there was a little bit of a walk between them, just beneath a few shady trees now and then.

     Carmo entered the tailor’s shop and looked around. There were a few well-crafted articles of clothing hanging on display throughout the room; a fine coat in one place, a pair of good trousers in another, and some dresses with full skirts and curling ruffles.

     At one of the far corners of the room stood a great mirror where a visitor to the tailor’s shop might see a reflection of themselves with a certain kind of material or some premade clothing.    

     Standing before the mirror was a tall, thin boy with dark brown hair which was combed back from his hairline and cut short at the collar. His thin lips were pursed thoughtfully as his blue eyes studied his reflection meticulously. Held up against his body was a swath of dark green brushed silk.

     “Good morning Evren!” Carmo piped up, going to him and standing behind him. Carmo met Evren’s light gaze in the mirror. Evren furrowed his brow.

     “The Lord Mayor special ordered this silk and it took ages to come in. He wants it for a new waistcoat. It’s more money than I make in a month here, but I just love it. Look at this,” he widened his eyes and brought the material up close to his face, “does it bring my eyes out? It does, doesn’t it? I was wondering if they had any in blue silk, because I think that would look even better on me, but I do love the green so much. I wish I had both of them. All of them, actually… there is a whole shelf of special materials in the back that are rare and beautiful, and I want them all. Every single one of them would make me look so much better.” He pouted slightly as he regarded himself critically. “The clothes make the man, you know.”

     Carmo tilted his head slightly and gave Evren a curious look. “I think you look just fine in what you’re wearing. That’s very nice.” He nodded to the trousers and well-made shirt that Evren had on underneath the cloth which was draped over him.

     Evren sighed heavily and narrowed his eyes. “Well it’s fine for working in here, and it is nice; I made sure the tailor used the best material that I could afford, but it’s not nearly as nice as I want it to be. Just imagine how beautiful I could be if I was able to dress in what I want. It’s not just the clothing that needs to be better; I want a bigger body, not this skinny rail of a frame that I have. You know, strong muscles and good form, and the finest clothes that money can buy. I’d be at my best then, wouldn’t I?” He mused wishfully as he gazed at his reflection.

     Carmo remained puzzled. “I think you’re just fine like you are, but I don’t know that much about dressing nice.”  

     The taller boy turned then and faced the younger boy. Evren, like Padma, was two years older than Carmo. “What we look like on the outside tells others a lot about who we are. It creates a first impression. I want everyone to think well of me when they see me. I want everyone to respect me. If I want that, I have to dress nice and show them what I’m worth.”

     Biting his lower lip a bit, Carmo considered what Evren said, wondering about it. He let his thoughts and questions about it go and he blinked, remembering that he had come with bread for Evren and his master, the tailor.

     “I’ve brought your bread.” He smiled, holding out the sack he had in his hand.

     Evren nodded and took it from him, giving him a few coins for it. “Good, thank you. The master will be wanting his breakfast soon, and some for lunch as well no doubt.”

     Setting the bread on the counter, he went back to the material, wrapping himself in it and looking back at the mirror. “Isn’t it beautiful?” He asked wistfully.

     “It is. I hope you can get the things you want.” Carmo smiled at him. “I better go back to the bakery. I guess we’ll see you later?” He asked. Evren nodded absentmindedly.

     “Yes, I’ll see you later.” The taller boy said to his reflection in the mirror, though the comment was directed at his younger friend.

     Carmo smiled to himself and walked out of the shop, but just as he was about to close the door, another of his friends was walking up the path to the door, so he held the door for her.

     “Good morning, Carmo!” She smiled sweetly at him.

     “Good morning, Hanne!” Carmo replied, giving her a lighthearted smile.

     Hanne wore a simple dress, slightly faded, set about with printed flowers on the material. Her brown hair was parted down the middle and plaited, hanging over the front of her shoulders to her waist.

     She stepped in through the door and faced Carmo as she did so. “Where are you off to?” She asked curiously.

     “Oh, well I came to bring some bread, but I’ve done that, so now I’ve got to get back to the bakery.” He shrugged with an easy smile.

     “We’ll see you later won’t we?” Hanne raised her brows expectantly. Carmo nodded.

     “Yes!” He waved as he headed down the steps toward the road.

     Hanne closed the door of the tailor’s shop and looked over at Evren, who was petting the material in his hands lovingly. “I should be dressed head to toe in this.” He sighed as he put the material back up on the shelf and walked over to the counter.

     Hanne admired the brushed green silk with an appreciative look and then turned toward him. “It is lovely material. Are you going to make some clothes out of it?” She gave him a hopeful smile.

     “Not until I make ten times the money I’m making now. Someday I’m going to be so wealthy that I will be able to buy everything I want and then I’ll be completely happy.” For a passing moment Evren let himself daydream about what it would be like and then he came back to the business at hand and turned his attention to Hanne.

     “What brings you in today?” He asked, glancing for a fraction of a second at her dress. It was worn, but it was clean and pressed. He knew that her family didn’t have the money to buy new material often. They had several children and the clothes were often passed down from one to the next, though as Hanne was the oldest of them, she was most often in the newer material when they had the means to get it.

     Lowering her hand to smooth it over her frock, she spoke with a soft voice. “I was thinking that maybe I could talk with you about getting a new dress. I’ve saved up some extra money and I was hoping that it would be enough to get something really nice made.”

     Evren was surprised but pleased to hear it. “A day dress? Something like this, simple and easy that you could work in?”

     Raising her brown eyes to meet his light gaze, she shook her head slowly. “No, not really. I mean, I know it’s terribly impractical, but I was thinking that maybe it could be something a little nicer.”

     Tipping his head interestedly, he eyed her closely. “Something for special events?”

     Hanne shook her head again. “Maybe… something really nice. Something flattering. Something very… pretty.” Her heart began to pound as her cheeks blushed a soft rosy shade.

     Evren nodded slowly then as he realized what she was talking about. “Something to turn someone’s head?” He asked with a confidential quietness to his voice.

     She pressed her lips together into a thin line. “Perhaps…” She trailed off quietly.

     “Something to turn Sevahn’s head?” He asked hesitantly.

     Hanne looked down at her hands, held together in front of her for a moment before she returned her gaze to Evren and answered him. “He doesn’t notice me now. He only has eyes for Padma. She doesn’t want him. She doesn’t care about him at all. He doesn’t seem to notice that though. I like him so much.” She frowned and her shoulders slumped downward. “I just thought… if I was in a pretty dress, if I looked… nicer. Then maybe he might…” She trailed off again.

     Evren finished her sentence for her. “Then he might notice you and like you.”

     She nodded. “I just wish so much that he loved me too. I think he could, if he only gave it half a chance.”

     Evren lifted his chin. “Well I understand that. I’ll see what I can find for you. I promise you that I will do my best to help you.”

     With a grateful smile, she nodded at him. “Thank you. I know it’s terribly impractical of me, but I’ve just got to do something.”

     Before Evren could reply, there was a soft scraping sound and they both turned toward the front of the store. A small face poked through the opening at the door and brown eyes exactly the same as Hanne’s were locked on her.

     “Petia!” She gasped disapprovingly at her little sister. “I told you to wait outside until I was done.”

     The little girl nodded. “I know, and I was waiting for you like you said, but Sevahn is coming down the road!” Hanne’s younger sister looked quite excited about it. Petia was eight years old and she didn’t think there was anyone in the whole world as wonderful as her sister Hanne, so she followed her everywhere. Hanne tolerated it to an extent, but time on her own was precious to her as a result.

     Hanne’s face grew pale and her breath grew short. “He’s out there? He’s coming?”

     Petia nodded excitedly and waved her small hand, beckoning her sister out of the tailor’s shop. Hanne turned to look at Evren apologetically. “Sorry, I’ll catch up with you later.”

     He shrugged and smiled. “I’ll be there.”

     Hanne rushed out of the shop and Petia stayed fifteen paces behind her as her sister insisted that she do. The older girl hurried after a tall, muscular, well built boy with wavy golden hair. He was walking after Padma, who was heading toward her home, having finished her chores in the village for the morning.

     “Padma!” He called out to her, picking up his pace to catch up to her.

     “Sevahn!” Hanne called after him.

     Padma stopped and looking over her shoulder and saw him coming after her. She sighed and looked away, but she stayed where she was and waited for him. He caught up to her, breathless and smiling wide.

     “Padma!” He gushed, his eyes moving over her face as if he was trying to memorize everything about her.

     “Sevahn!” Hanne called out, just catching up with him and Padma. Padma smiled widely at her and reached her arms out to hug her friend.

     “Hanne! Good morning!” She grinned pleasantly. Then she looked over at Sevahn, whose gaze was locked on her. “Hello Sevahn.”

     Petia stopped fifteen paces behind the small group and watched them, her eyes wide and her hands clasped in front of her.

     “What did you need?” Padma asked Sevahn. He caught his breath and tried to look casual as he glanced uncertainly at Hanne and then turned more toward Padma.

     “I was hoping that you could meet up with me later. Out by the old stables.” He gave her a lopsided smile and it was clear that he was accustomed to that smile of his having an immediate effect on any girl he flashed it for. It had no effect on Padma, but Hanna looked as if she had lost her breath.

     Padma shook her head. “Sorry, I have a lot to do. I don’t have time to go out there with you.” She looked at Hanne and gave her a nod. “See you.” She turned then and left them and Sevahn sighed wistfully.

     He trudged slowly to the water well and Hanne followed close behind him, trying to match his steps to be at his side. “I’m not too busy today!” She told him with a hopeful smile. “I…  I could meet you out at the old stables! Then… then you wouldn’t be out there alone.” Her cheeks turned a light pink and she grinned up at him.

     Sevahn barely glanced at her. Instead, he looked hard at the bucket in his hand and concentrated on lowering it into the well. “No. You should stay in the village and take care of your sister.” He grumbled.

     Hanne felt her stomach tighten with nerves as embarrassment washed over her. She watched in silence as Sevahn took his water bucket and walked back toward his home. Petia came up beside her and took her hand, giving it a little squeeze. “You really are too good for him. He doesn’t deserve you.”

     Just then another boy came to the well. He was a little tall for twelve years old, with strong muscles though he was lean, and longer dark brown hair that hung about his head in gentle locks, reaching his eyes, the middle of his ears, and the bottom of his neck. He had warm brown eyes and a kind smile. His skin was dark golden brown, partly due to his heritage and partly due to the fact that he spent so much time outside in the sun.

     “I’ll have to agree with your sister about that.” He spoke with a friendly tone. “You deserve better than him.”

     Hanne turned with a start and looked at him. “Amias!” A smile formed over her face. He gave her a nod as he filled his water bucket.

     “Good morning Hanne, good morning Petia.” He greeted them both. Petia beamed at him and Hanne looked him over lightly.

     “You’ve already been out to all of your traps?” She asked in surprise. “It’s so early!”

     He nodded and indicated the two dead rabbits he had tied on a thin rope that hung over his shoulder. On a similar strand of rope tied around his waist, he held up a length of it that was heavy with five good sized fish. “I’ve done well in the traps and I caught these this morning. It’s been a good day and it’s just gotten started. Why don’t you take the rabbits to your mother? I won’t eat all of this today and I still have other traps to check further down the river in a bit.”

     Amias handed her the rope that had the two rabbits tied to it and she took it with a grateful smile. “Thank you. I know she can make a good stew out of them for dinner tonight.”

     Amias shrugged lightly. “I’m glad someone will get some use out of them.”

     Petia tugged at Hanne’s arm. “Come on, let’s go take the rabbits home and then play! I’ve been waiting all morning!”

     Hanne nodded and laughed. “Okay, okay. We can go.” She looked over at Amias as she turned to leave with her little sister. “Thank you for the rabbits. We’ll see you back here in a while?” She asked curiously. 

     “I’ll be here.” He nodded and waved to her, filling his water bucket and then turning to leave. He was a good-looking boy with fine features and he had a gentle soul. He was wiser than his years, patient with those around him, and cleverer than any other young one in the village. Amias was a friend to all and they were all friends of his in return.

     He left the well with his pail of water and his fish dangling from the rope around his waist. He carried a sack over one shoulder; it was filled with traps and various things that he used whenever he went out into the woods or along the river. He had been a hunter and fisher since he was a young boy and he’d gotten better at it with every year.

     Amias waved to people that he passed here and there, and he walked along through the village until he came to the far end of the long road, near the river, to a humble home. It had once been a barn; two stories tall, but part of it had been converted into a home for himself and his uncle to live in. They still kept one cow in the other side of the barn, closed off from the home, and she provided milk for them.

     He reached his hand for the latch on the door and pressed his lips together into a tight line as he opened the door quietly. With silent footsteps he entered the home, closing the door behind him.

     It was dark inside though shafts of sunlight peeked through cracks in the wood here and there. He looked around and then carefully placed his feet one after the other on the quietest spots on the floor, so as not to disturb his uncle.

     The older man was passed out on a bench near the table, with an empty bottle in his hand. He was snoring loudly and from the smell of the bottle and the man, Amias knew that his uncle hadn’t gone to bed, he’d stayed up all night into the morning, drinking until he passed out.

     Amias knew that he should have used his own secret entrance into the house; the one that went straight into his room. He’d used it to leave that morning, not wanting to wake his uncle so early before dawn, but he hadn’t realized that his uncle would still be passed out.

     He headed for the kitchen and put the fish in a container of water, setting the bucket from the well on the table. With a sigh, he went to his room and closed the door behind him.

     Taking an apple from his pocket, he bit into it and opened the secret door to his room; the one leading outside. He let the warm sunshine spill in and he leaned his head against the frame of the little door and thought about his parents. He barely remembered them being together, he had been so little when they had all been a family, but then everything changed.

     His mother had grown very sick one winter and she hadn’t had the strength to make it through to spring. She passed away while the snow was still blowing, and it had been too hard on his father. His father left to go find his fortune wherever he could, and he said he would come back someday.

     Every day when Amias woke, he looked up at the sun as it rose over the farmlands to the east and he whispered to himself, “Maybe today… maybe he will come back today.” Every day he wished it and every night he told himself that the next day might make his wish come true.

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