White Lie

The woman sees him tramping up the dusty road and waves him over with a gentle smile. She offers him water and a tear of bread, and asks his name. He does not say, I am Rekkit. My father is Myn who rules all, and his father was Ul the exploded God.

"I am Juho, Chi-Eyd." He uses the word for mother that means 'adoptive'; it is a tradition among road-travelers. The name he chooses for himself once meant 'well-meant falsehood'.

"Sit, Juho, here in the shade of the awning. My sons are away at sea, and I have no one to talk to."

"I am grateful."

Her name is Kistril; she is a widow. From their sailor's pay, her sons send her scrip for gold through the mails so that she may keep her house and her full stomach. She sings to herself to pass the time; when he asks, she sings to Juho.

At song's end, she asks, "Where do you come from, and where do you go?"

You are foolish and impetuous and ungrateful of life, says his father's voice long ago in his memory. Go walk among your Aunt Vyl's creation, the Folk, and learn humility. His answer is piously evasive: "I come from East. Where I go is for the Gods to decide." It is, he is pleased to note, literally true.

Kistril has never been East, knows of the cities there only from songs. She married young, and bred young, and cared only for her children, and knows only the part of the valley she can see from her doorstep.

He finished the last scrap of bread. "You have been generous, Chi-Eyl. Is there work your sons would do were they here?"

She refuses the offer half-heartedly, but eventually admits that the fence has a hole in it that wild kree get through to steal from her garden; if it were fixed she would have more to eat. He convinces her to show him the break that he might repair it.

The garden is large and well-tended. To one side there is a weathered stone bench for reading and a gravestone, both cut from the same rock. On the gravestone is a girl's name and a rune that is well familiar to him.

"Your daughter was favored of Simkit?"

She gives a brave smile. "The Governor of the district sent his own physician as a Devotion. He said she would live only five years; she lived seven. So small and yet so strong." She laughed. "Folk who wanted good luck or special favors would bring her hard candies. I teased her that other people's misfortune would make her fat!"

Rekkit finds suitable wood and repairs the fence. It is hard work on a hot day, but he is free from care. When Kistril is not looking, Rekkit speaks to his brother Akril and his sister Bookt to ask their favor for her garden and house; the widow would have a comfortable winter, for once.

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