Summer of Fire has now gone to the editor and cover artist and will hopefully be available soon (unless it needs a massive re-write).
“Oh that poor little mite,” cooed the tailor’s wife. “She must be frozen solid in that thin little dress in this weather.”
“She’s almost as thin as that dress,” fussed the baker’s wife, “I wonder when she’s last had a decent feed.”
“Oh Gods love her,” whispered the preacher’s wife, “it’s no life.”
The three women were clutched together in a huddle in the village square waiting for the carter with lists and baskets of goods to trade. The small girl in the pink shift with the moth-eaten woollen shawl was across the muddy grass, kicking the heels of her holey boots against the wall of the Inn. She looked so forlorn beneath her bush of untidy hair with her pale, bony limbs. She seemed tall for her age they thought and quite unfortunate in the face but that didn’t stop them being compassionate. There was a sharp gust of wind pushing an unpleasant splatter of rain out of the menacing grey clouds. The girl sneezed and clutched her head, the three women let out low sighs of pity and scurried for the shelter of the large sycamore.
Ten minutes later, when the squall had passed and the women had emerged from the protection of the tree shaking water from their cloaks, they hurried over to the poor little mite who was now shivering, her sodden dress clinging to her gaunt frame. The cleric’s wife took off her own cloak and wrapped the child in it. The baker’s wife pressed a plaited bread roll from the trade basket into her ice cold hand. It was still warm from the bake oven, and the Baker’s wife hoped it would warm her before she ate it. The girl smiled wistfully in thanks, her soulful eyes speaking volumes to the kind hearts of the three women.
They were still fussing over her when her bearded monstrosity of a father swanned out of the Inn five minutes later, dry as a bone in a heavy canvas coat. With pointed looks, they nodded their greetings to him and departed muttering under their breath, the cleric’s wife taking her cloak as she went. Grabbing the girl savagely by the hand, the bearded man dragged her away around the side of the Inn and out of the women’s sight. They were left, lips pursed, shaking their heads.
“What the hell do you think you were doing?” growled the man, through the rough fur of his beard.
“Nothing,” replied the girl sulkily, through a mouthful of bread. “They felt sorry for me, that’s all. I didn’t do nothing.”
“Bloody marvellous,” grumbled the man, “give us some of that.” He held out a calloused hand expectantly.
“Sod off,” hissed the girl, her voice taking on a strangely masculine tone, “I’m frozen and you promised you were going to delouse this wig and patch this dress and you lied.”
“Oh poor baby,” snarled the man, scratching his chin vigorously. “At least you haven’t got half a badger’s backside glued to your chin.”
“Come on, let’s get back to the wagon,” muttered Sylas, taking another bite out of the bread roll and chewing thoroughly. He probably didn’t have enough spit left to swallow it quickly. “You have no idea how cold this wind is when there’s nothing between you and the air.”