Taltana, the village midwife and wise woman, took the news of her only son’s death without the release of tears. Her face stilled, the light in her eyes dimmed, and she stared at the mud wall over the record-keeper’s shoulder.
“Marriage status?” he asked.
“Widowed last spring.” Unmoving except her mouth, Taltana’s life withered before my eyes.
She flinched and shook her head as though dispelling a dream before looking at the man bent over the leather encased tome. “Thirty-seven summers.”
His pen scratched the parchment. “Do you own property?”
“I maintain the western most hovel, the garden beyond, and a one day’s plow in Lord Solarius’s fields.”
The recorder grunted and wrote. Then without lifting the tip of the pen, he asked, “Do you wish to marry or pay the price to remain unwed? Either choice requires you house three men under your roof for the winter season. They shall contribute to the household. If you marry, your husband will protect you.”
“What is the cost of saying nay?”
“A month’s measure of grain or an animal from your flock or herd.”
“How can you put a price on her …” Antano’s grip on my upper arm silenced me.
The record-keeper’s pen paused, but he didn’t lift his head.
“No interference,” Antano reminded me softly.
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- Rachel Rossano