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Clay ToombsClay Toombs

The door caught the autumn wind, and her hand flashed out to prevent its clash against the wall of the public house. All eyes looked up as she secured the latch, then down at their cups as her fleshy face surveyed the darkened room. Only the balding barman had a smile for her, and only because that was his job. As she hefted her bulk onto the creaking stool, he poured amber into a cut crystal glass—her glass, kept on the top shelf and kept very clean. The patrons returned to their drink and their gossip. Only some of it was about her.

In the furthest, darkest corner, all backs to the wall, a “party of adventurers” (as all well knew they were) lamented the loss of their wizard. Strangers to this place, they alone kept up conversation in the seconds Geni took to cross the room and mount her stool.

She did a tiny finger-dance, spoke a word in a tongue she didn’t speak, and ensorcelled the candle-dish on the adventurers’ table. Their coze carried from their candle to her ear. She half-listened and half-remembered.

Euphegenia Weaverswidow is what townsfolk called her now, with a ward between them and evil. It was in this very pub she’d done the deed for which they feared her, and the thing she’d done had changed her to Weaverswidow from Weaver’s wife. She’d been the Burgher’s daughter before that—well-to-do, pretty, and vain. She’d run old Weaver’s son a fickle dance; tormented him in his desire. Not that she didn’t fancy the man—she did—but she scorned him, too. For how could a weaver’s son dress so shabby, and how could his guildsman father have no coin to pay her bride-price.

But father suddenly passed from life, and son passed suddenly to wealth. Young Weaver paid gold to her father, and she paid heed to goodman Weaver. With Weaver’s gold she filled her home with little luxuries. Her belly swelled with fine eating, but alas not with new life. With Weaver’s gold she draped her person with silks and jewelry, but alas she never draped a babe—never mother, only wife. Barren rooms she furnished with library and laboratory, and barren mind with knowledge. She tutored children—others’ children—in the learning of the world, just to have the noise—by day—of children in her home. But in the silent darkened nights, she plumbed mysteries arcane, and by lonely guttering candlelight she delved the spirit world. By tedious herb-researches, and dosing of self and spouse, Euphegenia discovered the tincture by which at last she wombed a child. The bundle of cooing joy was all she’d hoped and more, but the Weaver seemed afraid of it, and in three moons she learned why.

A mother knows when her babe is near and when it is away, and on that fateful night she sensed him leaving with their child. Rousing, nightcloak, cradle empty, downstairs, kitchen, sharpest knife, door latch, footprints, through the snow, to the road beside this pub she came. She saw her husband pass a swaddle to a coal-eyed hooded rider, who looked at her and laughed, then spun and galloped for winter’s gloom. Her curses in his wake. Raging, wailing, chasing Weaver fleeing into the pub, she caught him here at this very stool and severed her marriage bond.

The knife cut deep, his blood ran hot, while hers ran icy cold. Her accusation slit the air, “How could you trade our babe for gold!?”
His last defense damned her soul: “My father made the gold. The devil’s bargain was struck for you: our first born for your love.”

To the darkest corner of the pub she said, “I’m Geni. I heard you need a mage.”