Carry On

Part 10 of probably 12 or so. The collected set, in order, is here.

Several more days passed in similar fashion. The shop was busy, the tales were tall, and the village was abuzz with excitement. Dani made more than her share of the cut as the knight’s men and would-be adventurers stocked up on everything they imagined they could need. She’d made sure to spread the coins, too, keeping supplies stocked and the necessities on the shelves. She was well fed and content.

Between these moments of ease, Dani felt something else beneath her own thoughts. Like fragments of a dark dream or memories of the vivid imaginings of youth amid the wild tales of beasts and monsters lurking in the wild, a growing heaviness weighed on her shoulders, fading in and out of conscious thought. At times, she felt like she had been somewhere else, as though her happy life was the dreaming of some unfortunate urchin scraping by on the streets of a large city. At other times, the sensation was a distant thought that pulled at the edges of her existence, a dim grief that flickered on the borders of her mind to distract her from the world that needed her attention.

As the days went on, the crowds thinned, and life returned to its normal cycles. Most of Dani’s days were spent in her backyard laboratory or the shop, and the slow wind-down to familiar faces filled her with a sense of security. The flurry of activity had been nice enough, as the weight of her coin purse could testify, but she maintained that business as usual was usual for a reason. The comfort of a life well lived rarely allowed time for too much excitement; adventure, she’d decided long ago, was probably overrated.

The stories always told of the great trials and tribulations that heroes faced, the monstrous creatures that tried to end their chance at glory. Sure, there were riches and princesses sung about as rewards, but Dani had more than enough money to live well and had never met a girl, princess or otherwise, who seemed worth the trouble of being put through all that. Maybe they did exist, but — well, maybe the stories were only that, anyway.

With life returning to normal, Dani allowed herself to imagine. Imagine that she’d been born in the right place, or blessed by some omnipotent being, or imbued with magic, or otherwise extraordinary. Imagine that she was an adventurer, buying up the balms and potions for a journey to distant lands. Imagined that she wasn’t grinding leaves and mushrooms in a ramshackle lean-to. Imagine that her name would be on the lips of bards, her face carved into monuments by great sculptors.

It was nice to imagine, she thought. It was nicer, though, to know that a simple and well-lived life was here for her. For all the small inconveniences and petty drama she’d endured, none of it bore the gravity of these great deeds. Nobody would question her role in the tides of history, or set out to prove that she was not who she claimed to be. That was, somehow, her greatest comfort; she may not be praised in song, but she was herself.

Days sped by and the seasons changed around her. She tried new recipes, both in the kitchen and in the laboratory. She continued to hone her craft and tend to her garden. She allowed herself to live, and the world to live around her. It was a perfect serenity, broken only by flashes of dark dreams and feelings of something sinister that spread across her mind at times, only to blow away in the breeze.

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