Mairyn couldn’t believe most of what she had already heard. The entire town defending her. Stella speaking for her and against Lauryn and Madmae Gertrude. Mairyn was sure that Petre was having a joke at her expense, except he won’t play this kind of trick on her. She sat there staring at her feet. Then it hit her that she no longer had a place to live. What was she going to do? She had no where to go. It was wonderful that the town was defending her but how was that any help to her when she’d be sleeping out in the cold night tonight?
“Don’t’ you want to know what Wulfgard had to say?”
Mairyn really didn’t care. She shivered in anticipation of the cold damp night. She looked at Petre and he seemed so eager. She guessed he hadn’t thought about where she’d be no that she could no longer go to her little cubby at the back of the Lindwurm. It was small and cramped and under the eaves but at least it was warm.
“Mairyn.” Petre shook her out of her despairing reverie.
“Uncle Wulfgard has made himself your guardian. Officially. In front of the entire town.”
Mairyn was stunned. She stared at Petre like he had grown three heads.
“You’re crazy. Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know why he did it, but he did it. And you should have seen the reactions from Madame Gertrude and Lauryn. Madame Gertrude told Wulfgard she’d call off the marriage if he took you in. Of course, both Wulfgard and Jondan showed her the parchment with her mark on the marriage contract and Wulfgard taking you in was not a valid reason to cancel the contract and that she could in no way change it at this point. It must take place by the next new moon as planned or she would have to pay a considerable fine. That shut her up and you could see her trying to think of a way out but there was none. Lauryn on the other hand was having a right fit in Gideon’s arms. Gideon looked down right frightened of the whining whimpering shrew in his arms. He kept asking her why she would be upset that his father would take her sister in and she just kept saying that it wasn’t fair that you would ruin everything for her. The whole thing was a great show in the middle of town. Uncle Wulfgard sent me to find you and to explain everything to you. He wants you to move into his hall tonight. He wants us to gather your belongings and come to your new home.”
Mairyn was astounded. She couldn’t take it all in. In one day that was meant to be special for some one else she went from being a drudge in Madame Gertrude’s clutches to being a ward in Wulfgard’ hall. She had no idea what that could mean or what her place would really be like but she would be closer to Petre and Petre liked his Uncle and never said anything bad about him. It had to be better than where she was. Even if she was just being pulled along as another hand to help with the cleaning she was used to that and she didn’t think she’d be beaten. That was good. Closer to Petre, no beatings, two things on the positive side. And she would be in the house many days before Lauryn. She might even be able to make some friends. She didn’t think she’d be charming anyone the way Lauryn did and she was sure it wouldn’t last long but it might be nice. She looked at Petre to see if he was laughing at her. He wasn’t. He did have a smile on his face though like he had just brought her the best present anyone had ever given her. And he did and she hugged him for it. He turned bright red. When she kissed him on the cheek, he was like a flame burning at its height.
“Stop with all of the gushy stuff,” he said. “Let’s go get all of your things and head over to the hall. There’s only a little day light left and I want to show you around and introduce you to everyone. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
Mairyn’s stomach gurgled in answer. They both laughed and ran out of the cave and down the mountain.
Mairyn and Petre ran down the mountain path, across the path in front of the lake and up the street to the Lindwurm. Mairyn made it to the door of the guesthaus before Petre. She was sure he let her win their race. She was laughing as she opened the door and ran into the hall. The slamming door made her come to an abrupt halt. Mairyn spun around to find Madame Gertrude leaning against the closed door and Lauryn standing next to it with the wooden bar. Mairyn heard her heart pounding in her ears and her breathe laboring in and out of her lungs. She heard Petre pounding on the door from the outside. Madame Gertrude and Lauryn grinned at Mairyn at the same time. Madame Gertrude moved away from the door and Lauryn threw the bar in the wooden brackets blocking anyone from being able to get inside the building. The Lindwurm had no other way in or out. Madame Gertrude did not want anyone to be able to escape without paying her the money they owed her. It came to Mairyn that no one else was in the building but the three of them. She strained her hearing for the sound of other life but none came to her. She also did not have a clue as to what Madame Gertrude and Lauryn had for her, not until Madame Gertrude pulled the leather strap from around her waist. Madame Gertrude and Lauryn moved apart from each other and began circling Mairyn as if Mairyn would try to evade them. Mairyn did not move or make a sound. She just looked off into space, not even at the others. Her joy of just moments ago had completely disappeared to be replaced by an emptiness and despair he had never felt before. Lauryn grabbed Mairyn’s arms from the front and dug her nails into Mairyn’s flesh. Lauryn jerked Mairyn’s arms so that Mairyn stumbled forward and bent over slightly. That’s when she felt the leather strap strike her in the back. She cried out in startled pain.
“Don’t make another sound,” Madame Gertrude yelled at Mairyn at the top of her lungs. She hit Mairyn again, harder than before.
Lauryn was laughing out loud in Mairyn’s face.
“What made you think you could move into my place in Wulfgard’s house?” Lauryn ripped the dress Mairyn wore at the sleeves. “This is my dress and the only reason anyone noticed you.” Lauryn was yelling too.
Mairyn fell to her knees as the strap struck the back of her legs.
“Get up you lazy ungrateful bitch.” Madame Gertrude kicked Mairyn’s thigh. “You will tell them you don’t want to leave here.” She kicked Mairyn again.
Mairyn never made another sound after the first startled noise. She hated that silent tears flowed down her face. She couldn’t believe that they’d take the chance of beating her. Beatings were not allowed in their town and carried a heavy fine. Of course, there had to be proof of the beatings and who did them for the law to be carried out. They must be counting on her silence and they’d be right. She had no business moving into Wulfgard’s hall. She had no business there. She was crazy to think she could pick up and leave this madness. She had no idea what was in store for her if she left. At least here she knew what to expect.
Lauryn was pulling Mairyn to stand up. Lauryn and Madmae Gertrude were yelling instructions to her about how she was to behave in the future. Lauryn grabbed Mairyn by the hair and pulled her close to her face. Mairyn could feel the spittle coming from Lauryn as she screamed.
The door behind them burst open in splinters and a group of people fell into the room. Everyone quit moving and yelling and the two groups stared at each other, except Mairyn who looked at the floor and Petre who looked at Mairyn.
Madame Gertrude and Lauryn still had their hands on Mairyn and Madame Gertrude still had the strap in one hand. They let Mairyn go and she collapsed on the floor. Petre ran to her, shoving the other two women out of his way. Madame Gertrude raised the strap to Petre but Wulfgard strode across the room and grabbed her arm before she could lower the blow. Wulfgard ripped the leather strap from Madame Gertrude’s hand and threw it across the hall. She shrieked some incomprehensible words as Wulfgard pulled her across the room to a chair and shoved her to sitting. She tried to stand up and he kept his hand on her until she stilled. When it looked like she would no longer try to stand up, he gestured for two townsmen to come stand on each side of her. He turned back to the rest of the hall.
Petre had Mairyn cradled in his arms and was stroking her hair and wiping away her tears. She had her eyes closed and was silent.
Lauryn was seated on the other side of the room with Stella and Aloisa flanking her. Lauryn was attempting to garner sympathy by whining and whimpering but the other two women stood with their arms folded on their chests and completely ignoring Lauryn. No one else was looking at Lauryn either. Soon she gave up her act and just sat quietly glaring at everyone.
Once all was quiet, the rest of the witnesses took seats on benches by the tables around the hall and waited for the arrival of Jondan. Jondan’s hut was a little ways out of town at the back away from the lake and under the mountain. He needed his privacy to perform his various ceremonies in peace and sometimes it was best that the rest of the people in town did not smell some of the smells coming from his workings.
While they waited, Wulfgard directed a couple men to get logs to build up the fire. A storm seemed to be brewing and moving its way across the lake kicking up a cold damp wind. Madame Gertrude started to complain about this use of her resources but stopped short at a look from Wulfgard.
Gideon brought a bowl of warm water and a cloth to Petre to wipe Mairyn’s face and visible wounds. Then he went and got a cup of ale for Mairyn to drink. He handed the cup to Petre who put it to her lips. At first she would not drink but after Petre whispered something in her ear, she took a few small sips. The ale brought some blush to her cheeks.
Jondan arrived on the arm of Izabo his apprentice. Izabo carried a cloth tied with a leather thong that was round and bulky. She held it away from her body so that it wouldn’t knock against her side as she walked. Jondan leaned on Izabo and his staff. They stood in the doorway with the setting sun at their back silhouetting them. They looked around the hall taking in the people there and their places. Izabo lead Jondan over to a bench saved for him at the head of one of the tables. Izabo moved to stand behind him. She placed her package on the table next to Jondan’s arm that rested there.
“Mairyn, come sit beside me,” said Jondan.
Mairyn did not move or look up.
“Get up, girl, and come here now.”
Jondan’s tone startled Mairyn out of her stupor. Petre helped her stand and he led her to the space on the bench next to Jondan. She sat next to the old Druid. He took one of her hands in his own and held it as he surveyed the rest of the room.
“Wulfgard, tell me,” said Jondan.
“Petre aroused the town when he was barred from entering the Lindwurm to help Mairyn gather her belongings so she could take her place in my home. He heard screaming that alarmed him. When we arrived we did indeed find the door barred. We pounded on the door demanding entrance to no avail. We yelled for a response from my ward, but heard none from her. We did hear screaming from both Madame Gertrude and my son’s future wife. We broke the door down and found Madame Gertrude beating Mairyn with a leather strap and kicking her and Lauryn was ripping Mairyn’s hair out in clumps.” Wulfgard ended his speech in disgust. Others in the room were shaking their heads in agreement with what he said. Some spoke under their breaths about the scene they too had witnessed.