Martha heard a clatter near the pile of dirty dishes and saw Sniffly jump away from them with a guilty bark. However, his guilt wasn’t enough to keep him from wolfing down the potatoes he had just spilt onto the floor. Martha had to let out a despairing laugh.
“C’mon Sniffly let’s head outside. The only way I can think of to make a dinner that anyone other than you will enjoy is if we can find some mushrooms or berries or something to spice up potato soup.”
She made sure to leave the door ajar behind them and wandered around the fringe of the clearing in front of the door. Then, not knowing what other direction to take, she decided to follow Sniffly’s lead and cautiously moved a few paces into the forest in the direction he had started exploring. It wasn’t the season for berries and the vegetation was so different from what she was used to that she didn’t trust most of the fungus she found. However, being outside did clear some of the tension, it was good to breath fresh air and to see with natural light. Even after spending most of the morning searching, all she had to show for it were three hollow mushrooms that she knew were safe. However, she wasn’t one to easily give up.
Eventually she found what looked like a patch of tough grass but smelt like a leek. Upon digging up the small bulb it was growing from, she wondered if it wasn’t more of an onion. She bit off a small piece to experiment. Definitely edible, and tasty too. She could dice the grass for flavour and slice the bulb for variety among the potato chunks. Now that she knew what she was looking for, she renewed her hunt with new vigour.
She had gathered over a dozen bulbs in her shawl when she realized she was alone.
The dog’s bark came from her left so she stood up and started towards it.
“Sniffly come here.”
The bark was closer now but wasn’t moving from its original position. A few seconds later Martha stepped into a clearing with a perfect windbreak of juniper along one side. The sun had descended far enough that it was shining directly on Sniffly reclining on a moss covered boulder. Martha could hardly blame the dog for not coming. Standing here, in the sunlight and out of the wind, she could feel a level of warmth beginning to build in her bones that she hadn’t felt since leaving Phoentown.
“Well if you’re not going to come when I call, at least make room for me beside you.”
Martha snuggled down next to the wriggling mound of fur and closed her eyes, basking in the warmth. As long as she could find moments like this, maybe she could still get through what life had thrown at her.
Martha shivered and opened her eyes. The sun had fallen just below the level of the trees and she was alone. Her first thoughts were of being alone, at dusk, in weir country. She pushed back the fear by reminding herself that it was less than a lunar cycle since the attack on the caravan. She had heard somewhere that weirs were only active under a full moon. As she stood up and looked around, she thought she saw a glimpse of Sniffly’s fur on the other side of the junipers. She took a step closer and heard the hound braying with a quiet whimper, as if he had been hurt.
Martha pushed aside a bough and froze. Sniffly’s eyes stared into hers imploring her for help while he pawed at the ground in futility with his foreleg. Two beasts had his rear legs pinned to the ground and were slowly ripping off and swallowing mouthfuls of his flesh.