Let me tell you...
Let me tell you… I lived in this place before you were born – when it was just a tiny village on the banks of the river, where I used to fish. The river flowed down to the city beside the great blue – and yes it was truly blue – ocean. I still live here now. And I am still fishing. I fish for dreams. I am the dream-fisher. I catch the dreams of the sleeping-wakers, of the waking-sleepers. And what do I do with these dreams? Why, I hang them up in bottles. I tie them onto leaves. I leave them under flowers. I freeze them in a snowflake. I let them rest, and sing, and listen – and then, when they are ready, I turn them into stories.
The next day the boys all waited till dusk. They left those great horns behind and they set out stealthily, just as the moon rose, wearing dark colours so Wolf wouldn’t see them – moving like shadows from ditch to hillock to tree. Instead of the horns they carried shovels and torches, and in the centre of the wood they started to dig. Shallow at first, then deeper and deeper, throwing up the dark earth to make a great pit. Down at the bottom they spread out a net then covered it over with branches and twigs. On top of it all they placed leaves and dry grass till under the stars no-one could tell that the trap had been set.
She would pick forest berries, just before daybreak and mix them with elderflower, nutmeg and basil and simmer them with honey in a big mixing vat. And when it was ready and when it was bottled, mothers would use it as a healing potion, fathers drank it to bring back their strength, while children would clamour at the doorway for Snuffwidget to sell them a glass for a penny, mixed with fresh water from Old Mother Tidgewallop’s well. Back in Nana Night-thorn’s day they would line up down the street to taste her new brew, but now bottles of Morning Sunrise sat covered in cobwebs on Snuffwidget’s shelves. He tried his best to make it just the way that his grandmother had, just the way that she’d whispered it to him as she lay on her dying bed – but it never came out the same.
Firedancer was worried. Silfren and Starwhisper had been her friends ever since any of them could remember. Always shared everything they had, be it blackberries in a bowl, daisies to make chains or ribbons pretty as pretty to lace all in their hair. Firedancer, Silfren and Starwhisper went everywhere together, down Mallenbrook Lane tramping in all the puddles, wading in the water deep at Pottam’s Mill or following the boys-who-would-be-men and the girlen-become-women all the way to Sandy Holme. Shared each other’s brooches, necklaces and trinkets. Sometimes for the dance at season’s moon they even swapped round their dresses. But now here they were sulking over Firedancer’s scarf, the scarf all twined with creatures such as none had ever seen.
The Edge of the World
On and on they trudged, mile upon mile. Crossdogs staggered and stumbled. The knee that he’d crocked all back in Brunt Boggart when he fell from the apple tree – why it buckled and bent. But still he kept on, for what could he do? The mother kept screeching, like as if he was her son – for how could she know, up there in the sky, who was carrying her at all? And the sun it beat down, then the rain it came falling and Crossdogs’ face was all matted with sweat and the trickle of eggs slithering down with every step he trod.
A cluster of crows came cawing around and a raddle of ferrets stalked after the eggs. Across the fields a lone fox bayed just as the day began to fade. Far away Crossdogs spied a light glinting. He bunched his fists and straightened his back and strode on towards it.
A while later, and a while later more, Scritch stood again on the far side of the market while the wifen pawed over the baubles laid out on the tray which he hung around his neck.
“Only the best,” he nodded and winked. “Only the best. Anything that glistens, anything that shines.”
“This shines,” exclaimed a woman in a turquoise gown. “Shines like the necklace I was wearing yesterday.”
She glared at Scritch accusingly, but Scritch only shrugged.
“How can it be? If it was your necklace true, why then it would be round your neck and not here on my tray.”
That night Ravenhair dreamt she was a bird, singing in a jewelled cage. Dreamt she watched Bodran, his sullen face, his sulking eyes. Dreamt that she might kiss him, although she could not, for the bars stood between them and she knew her beak would only peck at his beautiful puckered lips. And so she sang, but as she sang Bodran only hurled abuse at her and covered the cage with a discarded gown.
But it was his gown, and as she shook her feathers, beating her wings against the bars, she could smell his scent in the folds of satin.