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(MARWC) Grist
#1
I thought it was going to be just an ordinary Tuesday, but he'll be here soon and then I'll be on
my way.

This will be the last time I light these lanterns on the bridge and somewhere deep in my heart,
the task will be missed, but not the lonely trek to accomplish the chore.
It was on such as a night as this cold winter's eve that I first met Accam Dey and on a similar
one in Autumn, the tinker did what he did to me.

I suppose I should explain to the reader of this tale who-is-who and how it all came about.

I'm the Miller's daughter, the last in the line of the Jessup family and because of that night that
the tinker came to my little home beside the river, I am unmarried and without kin to pass my
name onto.
I'm a spinster... yes, that's the correct term in these parts.

For nearly a century, my descendants have illuminated the stone-built crossing of the Bulmer
river. The four ornate lanterns positioned at either end of the bridge were first erected nearly
a century ago by some long-forgotten Blacksmith.
I'll wager is name was Bulmer.

The moon watches my lonely vigil and I know I don't have much time left. At least, not here in
Merricott.

So I light the lanterns every night and the village further down the valley is grateful. The 'Midnight
Mail Rider' can bring the news posters and the gossip from the surrounding shires for Merricott's
residents to devour during their morning ritual of drawing water from the village's well and even
though the Postman doesn't actually arrive at midnight, that's the title he is given.
There's something captivating about it I suppose. But anyway, I'd better get back to my tale.

Alas, the well-tanned Gypsy with his sack of clanking mysteries arrived at my Father's door with a
promise that he had something the village's only Miller would find invaluable. I will admit that the
tin flour jug that my Pa purchased was something to behold, but we had no idea the winking-and
-smiling tinker held other thoughts of payment.

For two straight days and nights after the traveller's visit, my Father and several men from Merricott
searched for the charming man with the fancy-gold rings on his fingers and the wayward nature.
Of course, I had no idea any-such hunt was underway as I lay in my bed surrounded by whispering
women and my weeping Mother.

If memory serves, I was violated, spoiled and plundered. These were words softly breathed around
the room as my brow was cooled with a damp cloth and urged to take more broth from one of my
Mother's best spoons.

I recovered, that's what women do. They accept their lot in a world of men and go on. Grain is still
to grind and sacks are there to be filled. Just as the Gypsy had took his fill.
Ten years ago... ten whole years ago since a stranger altered my state in the community and caused
me to attempt to take my life. The recollection is still vivid of that night... that night I met Accam Dey.

The season when all the trees and plants disrobe had long passed and after the hamlet's Winter
Solstice celebrations had ended and the coloured rags around the mill's eaves had been taken down,
the daily chores became the focal point of living again.

I had taken to carrying a gully-knife from my Mother's kitchen when I had to visit Merricott and even
though I was sure that the man who had molested me would never again dare to stumble down the
thoroughfare that crossed the bridge, the handle of that weapon was always damp from my hand.

Oh, they were always happy to see me and I know that as I passed any of the women busy scrubbing
a doorstep or hanging linen on a line across the main track of Merricott, a welcoming smile that never
quite reached their eyes, would await me.
I know in my heart that the happiness they poured onto me was really pretentious sympathy.
'Oh isn't it a shame...?' really meant thank God it wasn't me or mine.
One can only take so much.

It was only when I stood in the cold shadows beneath Bulmer's Bridge with the knife at my wrist,
did I first become aware of what a coward I was. I couldn't do it. The current was strong enough to
take my body away from any chance of saving me and the loss of blood in the icy river guaranteed
that I would never again, have to endure the sickly smiles and the condescending tones of the
Merricott women.

My parents were asleep in the leaning old adobe structure I'd called home for sixteen years.
The old waterwheel creaked it's view on the nightly decision of not to being able to dance with the
peaty-water of the Bulmer and the bloated ashen moon watched from it's lofty place.

I have never held any fear of the night, even after the episode with the tinker. I recall that somewhere in
the back of my mind, I hoped that he would reappear so that I could try my hand with that gully-knife...
and cut his excuse-for-a-heart out.
The shadows deepened as the moon pulled some scudding cloud around itself.

Yet, I could not make that slice, I stared at the blue vein that had moved life along it's highway and had
pumped harder as I'd struggled beneath the gold-strewn hand of the vagabond who had ruined that life.
I believe I can say that at that moment, I was the loneliest person in the world.

'Then it is a paradox...' the huge black wolf had said. '...If you are enstranged and I am beholding to
nothing, how then can we be both alone and yet here... together?'
Maybe some would have never heard the end of the sentence because of a faint, maybe some would
have just loosened their bowels and ran the race of the prey. And maybe I should have done these things.

'But here we are you and I, a killer seeking a drink and a girl wishing to taint that water' the confident voice
had came again and the large eyes glittered with a hint of dark humour.
I remembered to breathe.

'You can kill me wolf, I am willing for you to take me...' I stuttered '...There is nothing for me here' The words
had seemed to emerge by themselves as I'd never considered that the appearance of the chest-high beast
may be the agent of my demise.
Glassy-eyes blinked behind the steam of his breath and then, the big wolf stepped closer.

'You have been marked by one of your kind and so, you wish to die?' the tongue-lolling mouth asked and
nearing my position, I saw the long flesh-rending teeth that guarded it. 'And you wish for me to be your
executioner?' the monster stated with a small snort.

Yes, the sable-furred creature stood up to my trembling shoulders and his head was as big as a cow's.
The moon had reappeared and failed to enhance the stygian hue of the wolf's coat, he was truly midnight
on all-fours.

Cunning sanguine eyes scanned the sleeping mill and replying with my own study, I noticed paws that were
larger than my Father's own hands.
'Do I measure up?' the wolf whispered and I'm certain the velvet voice didn't come from his long snout.

Then that huge head turned to face me and I stifling a whimper of fear, I awaited the butchery. I would be
gone and the villagers would have something else to gossip about. With my hands wringing my apron,
I closed my eyes and accepted my fate.

The sound of water being lapped caused me to open an eye and poweful hind-quarters were my only view,
the wolf was taking a drink from the river. Once more, I could have ran, I think that I could have even pulled my
knife from it's place in my petticoat and wounded the beast.
Maybe the injury would have hampered his chase of me?

'I am Accam Dey and the last of my kind...' the wolf introduce himself without looking at me. '...So your
ponderings would have two progenies extinguished tonight' he added and shook water droplets from his
whiskers.
My hand went back to throttling my apron.

The moon decided that slumber was too early within it's ribboned quilt and so, gazed down at the two
strangers below. A pair...? Kindred spirits or just a meeting of the lost? We stared at each other for a
moment and then Accam Dey spoke once more.

'I will be here again tomorrow night and if you decide not to colour the river with your gore, I would be
blithe to speak to you about your woe' he said with a tone that rivalled a flocculent pillow. I'd have sworn
the wolf winked. Then he was gone and needless to say, he didn't eat me.
I slept well that night.

By the time Christmas came around again, I had met with the wild creature called Accam Dey many
evenings after that first encounter. Yet, there were times when the wolf would excuse himself from a
coming visit, but he never told me me the reason why.
And I never asked.

The warmer nights would find this odd couple sitting on the lush grass where the eddys of the river
ignored it's width and allowed a small calm area where the water tarried. The over-hanging bank
promised ground-hugging turf and a comfortable place to take in the view of the illuminated bridge.
I had always imagined it as almost grotto-like in the way that the elderflower bushes surrounded it.

Accam Dey would always wait until the torches had been lit before he stepped from the shadows
and greeted me. It was late-August when he gave me the gift.

My Father believed I was trying my hand at fishing and even though he had frowned at the idea that
I should be alone beside the Bulmer with the coming dark, I assured him that I would be close enough
to the mill to flee if any stranger approached.
Anyone on two legs, that is.

'A trout will make a fine supper...' the sooty-furred monster offered as he panned his gaze across the
windows of my home. '...And night fishing is best kind' he added and brought his kind-eyes to mine as
he softly sat beside me on the grass. The line and pole nodded occasionally, but I believed it was just
the current sayng hello.

'On evenings like this, I can see why you would want to stay in such a peaceful place' Accam Dey
mused without turning his shaggy head to look at me. His comment was not without merit, it was truly
serene. The sky was that pink-blue colour of a warm-cloudless evening and a red full moon rested on
the tree tops along the road. It would only be an hour or so before the stars appeared.
We sat there and soaked in the halcyon air and felt the heartbeat of the land beneath our backsides.

I had never heard him sigh until then, but that is what he did. Blacksmith's bellows encased in a body
of muscle and pitch-cloth. 'I have been cogitating regarding a gift I have for you' he suddenly breathed
softly beside me.

The homemade float on the end of my line curtsied and then went back to it's summer drift. Since that
first night when Accam Dey introduced himself, he had never hinted that he had the ability to doubt.
He is a wolf fearless.

With the distant sound of a whip-poor-will arriving from the copse across the river, I gently touched the
massive shoulder of Accam Dey and whispered that whatever he felt was appropriate, was fine with me.
It was daring, but he was my only friend.

The large eyes fixed on me with serious earnest as he spoke and my wary mind raced with what he
was about to say. If these encounters were part of my healing, then I didn't want it ruined due to some
needless requirement of tributes.

'The human that scarred you, the road-wanderer that did what he did... I encountered him' Accam Dey
said softly and stood to his full height. I can only guess that my own eyes were as big as the 'Sunday
Occasion' saucers that my Mother kept to one side for when the Priest visited.

The giant wolf sniffed the air and glanced towards the mill. One could imagine that somewhere a rat
or mouse was partaking of some fallen corn in the storage barn and Accam Dey knew it.
'Please let this not stand between us' he said enigmatically and without a sound, slipped away into
the shadows of the bridge.

It was the Gypsy's hand. The dirt and blood-stained rings were still there and in hindsight, I would
suggest the taking of the limb -and possibly the killing of the miscreant who had dragged me into
those leafless elderbushes on that Autumn night, must have only happened a day ago.
'It's the only way I know of assisting in the closure of your...' Accam Dey stood over the severed hand
and gathered his dictum. '...It's what I felt was appropriate' he corrected himself.

I held him then. The huge feral killer that roamed the land and forded the gulf between man and animal.
This creature of the night that could snap my bones without a glance, stood and accepted my gratitude.
Burying my head into his thick mane, I murmured the words 'thank you'

There was no scaly-catch that evening and it may have been to the fact the fish dined on the grubby
flesh of five gold-gilded fingers that had been tossed into the water during another lament from the
whip-poor-will.
A passage in my life had ended and a bond had been created, Accam Dey had turned the page.

My parents passed on eight years later with my Mother coming down with the consumption and then
Pa drinking himself to lay beside his dead wife a few months afterwards.
They say love is binding, don't they? The evening following my Father being put in the ground, Accam
Dey appeared again and we talked of loss and grief.

'Life is fleeting and it's only when it's gone do we ponder penitence, do you agree?' he had said as he
sat on his haunches between the two graves. 'Your tears will do naught to ease the travail you will wear'
he added with a staid tone.

I was tired. The day had been full of consoling faces, busy hands and kitchen mutterings. The mill had
become a wake parlour once more and the requiem moved between the curse-like ordeal of my family
and deliberations of where flour would now be obtained.
It was only when the villagers finally began to leave, did I tell them that the grist-grinding would continue.
I would go on.

'So you will remain here, pulverise seed and pass your days talking to an animal... your only friend?'
Accam Dey asked through my day-dreaming and mentally, I shook my self-pity away and looked towards
the big wolf. The daylight had almost gone and the nine-or-so bags of corn near the storage barn seemed
to demand that I take up my Father's reins and engage the waterwheel. Life is not only fleeting, but also
a trammel.

Pulling my cape about me, I answered and could not keep the signs of resignation from my voice.
'It's my lot... my place in this world' I said and failed to fight back the tears that had been waiting for too long.
The wolf looked towards the falling sun and seemed to be deep in thought, the furry brow creased to show
his mind was jousting with his heart.

'There is a place...' Accam Dey said as I turned to accept my milling chores, '...a place that I have visited
from time-to-time' A cool breeze ruffled his bristly fur on his back as I halted to hear his words and I knew
his acute awareness would alert him that I was attentive to his comment.

'Sometimes when the days begin to shorten and the air tingles with the promise of frost, I have sought
warmer climes to ease these aged bones' the calm, subdued wolf uttered. Though his voice was bucolic,
Accam Dey's eyes hinted at a serious proposal was sparring with his rational and it was winning.

'This world isn't what you think it is...' he murmured and sniffed the zephyr for the sign of quiet hare or
sleepy rabbit. "...And I would like to show you the truth" he whispered into that same cool draft of air.
Glancing towards the watermill, my mind nudged my soul and asked me to linger.
Then he told me.

And so I'm here. With the flickering flame of the lantern as my witness as I await Accam Dey's shadow
to alight the frost-kissed bridge. My life here is over and just like those perverse gold-sheathed bones
that canker on the silty-bottom of the river, I will be forgotten.

There's a land out there that where I can begin again, where no waterwheel will mark my time and no
millstones that will mock my crushed spirit. My companion is here and it's time to go, but in memorial
of those who bore me and raised me, I slip my hand into my petticoat pocket.

As the tossed corn-seeds cause ripples across the oily surface of the Bulmer, I say goodbye to the
home that loved me and the burden that everyone assumed I'd carry. I'm never doing that again.

The End.
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"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
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#2
Very good! I think I should probably go dig around, I’m sure there are lots more great stories to read, while anxiously awaiting another Powler tale.  tinybiggrin
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