Merete finished the song and the images faded into nothingness. The villagers were silent for a moment before they rose and returned to their homes. Merete slipped her gittern back into its case and followed the exodus back to her family's house.
She put the instrument in her room then joined her mother in the kitchen. “Heli, is the rice ready?” Hedvig asked.
“Yes mother,” Heli said.
“Get it on the table,” Hedvig said. Heli scooped some into two bowls and carried it over. She set it at the two spots already laid out. “Merete, put this on now. Hurry, before they get home.” Her mother handed her two plates full of fish and vegetables. She placed them at the seats just as her father and Heli's husband entered the house.
The two men said nothing to the women. They sat down and began to eat. “Have you heard what Kobus has done now?” Olavi asked. Her father's face was set in an angry expression.
“No, what?” Pauwel asked. He took a drink of his tea.
“He was caught trying to drag Mimmi into the forest. This is the third woman he's assaulted in the past lunar. The Elders fear there are more who refuse to speak up. They're going to banish him. The men have been called to gather before going into the fields. His shame is his father's, and Kristjan is very angry.”
“Kristjan did nothing to control him, and he's just gotten worse since his service to the Emperor ended,” Pauwel said. “I understand Kobus is the only son in a three generation house, but that doesn't mean he should get away with anything he wants.”
“The Elders are dealing with it now,” Olavi said. “We'll be rid of him.”
“Merete's performance was very good tonight,” Pauwel said.
“She's very lucky the Elders are letting her read the histories,” Olavi said. “Her songs are well crafted though and her images true to the events.”
Their conversation turned to the mundane topic of the coming harvest. They lingered over their tea when they finished but finally left. The dishes were swept away and one smaller one was put in their place. Heli's son came up and ate his dinner. As soon as he was done he ran off to play with the other boys while there was still light enough to do so.
Once the dishes were cleaned, Merete and Heli set out four plates. Merete's grandmother joined them. The four women sat down around the table. “Your images were a little violent, don't you think?” Hedvig asked as she took a bite of her food.
“I don't think so,” Merete said. “The battle was not a small one, mother. It is important to carry the truth of the histories to the music, and that includes showing it in the fullest. I actually took most of the violence out of it. There was much in the story about who died, how they died, and how many died at the hands of the other Palenkiri. Those deaths were told in gruesome detail. It made me ill to read it.”
“Why do you do this, Merete?” Piritta asked. The old woman drank some of her tea. “Why can't you let your father find a husband for you? You should settle down. You are old enough to have children of your own.”
“We don't need any more children in the family right now, grandmother,” Merete said. “I also enjoy being the tale spinner. It's one of the few professions that women can hold along with the men and not be looked down on.”