They dealt themselves a dead man’s hand.
Vivian Husker’s book was recently reviewed in a Boston paper, and a new crop of fools has arrived in Cross.
I heard the news a short time after breakfast and, I confess, I stood in my orchard, pipe in hand as a sense of bewilderment swept over me. It lasted only for a moment, but it goes to show how stupid these four ladies truly were.
I don’t know who they were, and I doubt they would have appreciated the upbraiding they would have received from me, but I’m sure it would have been preferable to what they experienced.
Despite their idiocy, I raced for the Hollow, for that was where the ravens said the women were. The birds, as always, spoke the truth.
Their carriage was parked alongside the stonewall that separates Gods’ Hollow from the road. Two stallions stood uneasy in their traces, nostrils flaring and eyes rolling. The horses were about ready to bolt, and it took me a moment to calm them down. As I looked over the necks of the steeds, I saw the four women sitting amongst some deadfall as though they were in a manicured garden.
They had cards spread out and a basket of food close by, and their voices were raised in gaiety.
That changed a moment later.
Branches exploded from the ground, piercing the flesh of the women yet not killing them. Their lungs were left unharmed, and their shrieks rent the air. More branches lashed out from the deadfall around them and hooked into the joints of the women, all of whom cried out for help.
Then, the wind picked up, rattling the dead branches and bringing a solitary name to my ears.
My mother’s laugh followed my name, and she tore the women to shreds.
She had waited until I was there, helpless to do anything other than watch.
As the bloody mist that had once been the women settled down onto the land, I cut the horses from their traces and set them loose.
I still had my orchard to tend to, after all.