Mirrored from Sythyry.
“Cory! You’ll be mucking from the Orren ponds today!” proclaimed Gorsen. The job required taking a wagon to the Orren village by the riverside, wading hip-deep in their fish ponds with a hoe, filling many baskets with stinking but very fertile pond-bottom mud, and sploshing them over the fallow fields of Dren Mafferhame. It was one of the most unpleasant chores in Dren Mafferhame. The farmers had a mucking-list, so that each one took a turn at that chore or another that was equally unpleasant.
“I did that last month,” said Coriander Rounse. “Shouldn’t be my turn again for two years. Did your mucking-list get mucked up?”
“Nothing of the sort. You’re a hired farmer now, remember, not a regular villager anymore. We’ll be setting you whatever tasks we regular villagers like.”
“Now that is unfair! I’ve lived in Dren Mafferhame half my life now, ever since I married Allam and Periwinkle!”
“It don’t matter how long you’ve lived here. It just matter whether you’re a regular villager or a hired farmer. You sold your shares of the village, that makes you not a regular villager any-the-more. You’re a hired farmer now. That means you do what we tell you, and I’m telling you to go muck from the Orren ponds today. You or Gathern will be doing it every time from now on.”
“Damson? Cherrybush?” Coriander asked the two villagers who were standing by the mayor awaiting their assignments for the day. “Will you let Gorsen put on such airs, like she’s a baron or something?”
Cherrybush shrugged. “Seems to me she’s got the right of it.”
“Seems to me like you want to get off the mucking-list altogether!” snapped Coriander.
“Seems to me the hired farm-girl ought to go do what she’s hired for, not stand around giving herself airs and complaining about what her betters say,” said Damson.
“Betters! A month ago we had just as much land as you did!” said Coriander.
“And now you don’t, and your kid burnt down the barn and your husband wrecked my carriage and all of that,” said Gorsen. “So we’re your betters now, and anyone would agree. Go do your work, Cory, or I’ll be docking the day’s pay from you. And you don’t have much more to sell to make up for it, do you?”
“And no stealing from us all any more to enrich yourselves, like you was!” said Damson.
“We’re playing villagers,” said Nithia Caragaborse, age twelve. “Go away.”
“I can play villagers!” wailed Ellie. “You know I can! We were playing villagers together all year!”
“We’re not playing villagers with you now,” said Nithia. “You’re not one! Go away! Play by yourself!”
Ellie didn’t wind up playing by herself. Zie wound up crying in Tansy’s arms.
“You’ve been drinking ale and cider of late,” said Gorsen.
“None of us have been drunk and troublesome, have we?” said Allam. “I’m pretty sure we’ve all been sober enough in public.”
“The concern is not sobriety,” said Gorsen. “Though that would be a concern as well if you were being disorderly. The concern is, simply speaking, that you have been drinking ale and cider of late.”
“Everyone drinks ale and cider at dinner,” said Allam.
“Every villager drinks ale and cider at dinner. We don’t begrudge you the food — why on wood would we, you work alongside us every day! — but the ale and cider is for villagers,” said Gorsen.
“What, you’re telling us not to have any?” cried Allam.
“Hardly that! We’re more than happy to sell ale and cider to you or to anyone,” said Gorsen. “And cheaply, too. A lozen a day for all five of you, for as much as you like. That’s twenty-seven lozens for the last month.”
“That’s dear not cheap, since it was free for all our lives before this! For the next month, we’ll be drinking water, so don’t be charging us such a fee!”