Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter in this wonderful story by Olthadur, entitled
The Pilgrimage of Virtue
Background music by Smartsound
Chapter 6, “The Cooks Tale”
I sat in the Courage Plaza for most of the morning. I looked at the statue of Grannus, staring off into the distance in stoic strength. It has been a week since the soldier was injured. He will survive and will walk with us. His arm is badly broken – shattered they told us. But he demanded he be allowed to leave with us.
Determination and Courage. Where was the line between Courage and foolishness?
We sat in the tavern that afternoon with the Soldier. He was glad to be out of his bed and eating. He refused his normal mead, but seemed in good spirits.
“Maybe we should think about going back?” the Farmer said, nodding once to the Soldier.
There was a quiet pause. No one said anything.
The Cook cleared his throat.
“If every time someone got hurt they stopped what they were doing, no one would have done anything worthwhile.”
“That’s easy to say when you aren’t the one who almost died,” the Farmer said.
“You assume that I was never hurt before. You must have been hurt before as well, all of you. And yet, here we are, like the Soldier, continuing on.”
“Tell us more,” the Elder said, picking up his fork and eating once again.
The Cook took a look around the table and nodded.
“I suppose it is my turn,” he said.
“I knew a woman who lived in Braemar. She was not a well off woman by any stretch. But she could afford to survive. She had a small house, a garden and hunted enough to feed herself and earn some coin.
“She was considered beautiful and was courted by many. She refused all advances. She did not really care for such things. She focussed more on her work, hunting, tanning, and making leathers. She became quite good at it.
“Hunters and artisans looked for her leathers and paid good coin for them. Others, who were more ambitious, asked her for her hand in marriage, hoping for both love and wealth.
“She denied the marriage, but took the coin. Eventually this got tiring, and a little lonely. She wouldn’t mind a companion, one who could hunt with her, help in her chores and learn from her. Maybe, and she was very reluctant and afraid to admit it, love her.
“She believed she found someone and reciprocated his affections. Many were surprised at this change in the Lonely Huntress, as they called her.
“She was excited and nervous. The relationship was good, for both of them.
“She used her coin to build a larger house and together they hunted, stretched and tanned leathers.
“One fall the Lonely Huntress found out she was pregnant. This was unexpected for both of them. The news meant that things would change. The man she fell in love with said things would be fine. She could care for the child and he would hunt, tan and sew. She said she could hunt, tan and sew with child. She loves what she does and will find a way to care for the child and continue her work.
“As time went on the Lonely Huntress grew with child. She hunted as much as she could, but took many more breaks than she anticipated.
“When the child was born she had to remain indoors for some time. Her child was beautiful and strong, but birth took a toll on the mother.
“She lived, being strong herself, and used a wrap she had made to carry her child into the wild to hunt with. The hunting never stopped, but it did change. The child did not yet know of stealth and patience. Soon, the Huntress remained home to care for the child while her partner did the work.
“‘This was temporary,’ she thought. When the child could learn, she would hunt again. She did the stretching and drying of the leathers as the child grew, but that too waned as she had to spend more time caring and feeding the child.
“Again, she felt that this was temporary. Years went on and things changed yet again, but not in the way the Huntress wished.
“The child was sick often, causing her to spend more and more time tending to the child as opposed to hunting and preparing skins.
“Soon business began to falter. Stress overcame the family. The Huntress needed coin to pay for the child’s medicine and she still yearned to hunt. Her partner was unable to hunt well enough to make the money the needed. She wished to go out and hunt more than anything. She knew she was a better hunter than her partner. She had been at home with the child for far too long, yes, but her skill could not be denied.
“Yet, he did deny it. He demanded he remain the hunter. He demanded she teach him the skills needed to keep the business, and their life, afloat.
“There was no way this could work. It would be easier to teach her partner to care for the child and hunt herself. On top of that, her partner did not have the skill she had – no amount of teaching, or time, would change that.
“There was only one thing she could do to ensure the survival of her child: sell the business, the tools, the workshop, the property and the house. Use the coin to purchase a smaller dwelling and the excess coin to care for the child.
“Her partner did not agree. He held onto the life they had before the child and refused to allow the business to be sold. ‘Without the business, he would be nothing,’ he said.
“The Huntress replied, ‘I have not hunted in three years. The business and name I created are no longer mine. You do everything while I care for our child. My very identity has changed. No one calls me the Lonely Huntress any longer. They don’t even call me a Huntress. I am a mother. Our child needs us. Let the business go. You will not be nothing, you would be a father.’
“Her partner did not agree. His work was his identity and giving that up would not do. Over the course of the next year the two fought, stopped talking, broke up, and the business was sold.
“Now, the Lonely Huntress was an out of work mother who had the business she started sold off. She had to give some of the money from the sale to her partner, which meant she did not have enough as she had planned for herself and the child.
“The next few years were difficult. The mother had purchased a small house, barely large enough for the two of them to live in. There was a small garden which she worked, and it provided them with enough food to stretch every coin they had.
“As the child grew older she grew stronger. She grew out of the sickness that held her back and the Love of her mother made her stronger.
“The mother took the daughter hunting. She patiently taught her everything, nursing the child’s natural skill. The hunts were not as productive as the mother would like, but they were more a lesson to the child than a job. The leathers they created were damaged and imperfect, both from an untrained huntress and an untrained tanner.
“Many years passed like this. The daughter grew into a good huntress. Her kills yielded more and more usable skin and her tanning gave high quality leather.
“Soon both mother and daughter were hunting, tanning and sewing together.
“Through all this the mother reflected. She lost a good deal of time and money to this child. She lost her identity, her business, and her love. She really did love her partner, contrary to the fact that he chose his own happiness and identity to theirs and their child. She very likely could have been famous and rich throughout the island if she continued to hunt for the last fifteen years. Instead she chose to care for her child, the child who survived childhood sickness and became a strong independent woman.
“For many days, the mother wished she could just be herself and hunt, but the child interfered with that. It was frustrating, but necessary. Now, aged beyond her prime she sat outside her house waiting for her daughter to return from a hunt, a cart filled with carefully chosen and compassionately killed game to be turned into food, tools and leather.
“She was no longer the Lonely Huntress. She was a mother. The mother who gave her daughter everything so she could live and provide her herself. In exchange the daughter became what the mother always wanted, a Huntress.