Miter wasn’t stomping, exactly, but he moved firmly into the crowd and exhaled loudly as he did. There was no reason to be mad at Gove; she was just a suspicious person who didn’t understand what had really happened in the woods. Just another person who didn’t believe him.
He’d come to market with a few specific things in mind, and wound his way over to the shaded bench where Rusk usually set herself up. As he moved through the crowd, locals nodded to him; a few younger men with a slightly mocking look in their eyes. He’d become a local eccentric.
Rusk wasn’t in her usual place; a few other older folks were sitting in the shade in her absence, and they paused their conversation as Miter approached. Rusk’s sister stepped forward to greet him.
“Rusk didn’t come down?”
She shook her head. “She wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I told her to stay home, and I’d bring a few things down for folks who’d been waiting.”
“Does she need anything?” Miter owed a lot to Rusk, and was one of her nearest neighbours; he should have checked on her this morning, really.
“No, no, just tired.” Beska was maybe a decade younger than Rusk, and still easily twice Miter’s age. He nodded.
She tilted her head. “Are you here for your usual?” From her many pockets, Beska pulled out a few fist—sized terracotta bowls with lids tied on with string. “Warming and cooling, right?”
Miter traded in his empty bowls and tucked three of the salves into his pack.
“I also brought more of those wool scouring pads she likes;” and he handed a small stack of felted circles to Beska. “I was hoping she might also have some, um—” He saw the other old folks listening.
Beska smiled, not entirely with sympathy. “Some wards?”
“Some wards; yes.”
She handed out a few of the marked clay tablets with amber windows, and they rung gently as they stacked in his good hand. “She thought you might want a few. I know you don’t like the fog.”
Miter resisted the urge to correct her; it had never helped in the past.
Beska was oblivious to his frustration; “You can trust Rusk’s wards, dear. They’ll keep the white bears at bay.”
Behind her, the other older folk were muttering to one another. He carefully ignored them, while behind them, the mist was thickening into a proper fog, rolling down the river and hiding the sun.