The Folly of the World
worked the fields so long as he got his cut, as if his bullyboys were anything but that, as if—“I’m talking to you, loon!”
    Sander came back to the moment, back to himself, and saw some underfed punk pointing a sword at him in the shadow of the willow. No, not a sword—
. The tip of Glory’s End winked at Sander even in the shade of late spring, and he answered her whisper with one of his own.
    “What the hell you say to me?” the warden demanded, passing the reins of his horse to his companion and stepping closer.
    “I said you’ve got my fucking sword, boy.” Sander’s grin shone more dangerously than the blade between them. “You give her back now, nobody gets hurt.”
    The warden stared incredulously at the naked man. He did not hand over the sword. People got hurt.

    O n the night the handsome stranger bought her, Jolanda had wondered just what kind of vile shit he intended to do to her. She’d gripped his dagger in her uninjured left hand, but he made no move to take it from her, and not knowing what else to do, she stowed it in the bundled shift and blanket under her arm and let him help her onto the horse. She had often daydreamed of finding a waterhorse and riding it into the waves, never to be seen again save by drowning sailors, but bouncing on an actual equine back through the dunes, Jolanda felt something deep and cold and black as the night sea soak her insides. They left the trail and rode up the beach, back to where she had first seen him, the stars glittering above like the witchfire that sometimes shimmered in the wet sand after a summer wave had broken and fled.
    “That’s good for tonight,” the stranger had said, stopping the horse. They’d traveled farther than Jolanda had ever gone, but the dunes here looked the same as those of her home. He dismounted the horse first, and then helped her down. As he did, she remembered the knife tucked in the cloth in her arms, but it was very late and she was very tired, only the strangeness of the night and the discomfort of the ride and her throbbing hand keeping her awake. Her legs gave out underneath her as he set her down, and she stayed where she lay in the sand, the last thing she saw the silhouette of the Frieslander looming over her.
    She was not a dreamer by custom, at least not when she was asleep, but that night Jolanda dreamt of the sea, dreamt she dwelt there the way she had dwelt in the dunes. She and hereldest brother, Pieter, who wasn’t a shitbird like the rest and had run away when she was very young, were swimming over the black waves toward some distant, rocky isle. They talked as they swam, as if they were strolling on the beach and not sliding over breakers, and though the sea was dark as the sky, she could see almost as deep below as she could above, and yet was unafraid. She realized they had both changed, and wondered if the man who had bought her was her brother from the sea returned, and so he changed in the dream to the Friesland stranger, but still was Pieter. Only when the dream shifted and they were crouched in the smoky gloom of their father’s hut with the purple pots boiling did she realize she was asleep. Still she dreamt on, but when she started awake to a crab pinching a scrap from her bloodied palm she remembered nothing beyond the purple pots.
    The crab scuttled into a hole, clutching what she hoped was a scrap of the torn tunic she had bound the wound with and not her skin. She blinked into the hazy dawn, the sand swirling over her like the thinnest silken sheet ruffled by the softest summer wind. She was cold, and she hurt all over, and sand was caked in her eyes and ears and nose and lips and worse places still. She sat up and saw that the stranger was staring out at the ocean, his horse beside him, and Jolanda had the brief but discomfiting notion that they had been conversing just before she awoke.
    “I don’t know if you caught it, but my name’s Lubbert,” he said. “Of Sneek.”

Similar Books


Sonya Weiss

The Summer King

O.R. Melling

Avalon: The Retreat

L. Michael Rusin


Robert Pobi

Gunns & Roses

Karen Kelly

From Paris With Love

Samantha Tonge