Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope
“My daughter,” breathed Miller, “my daughter can spin gold out of straw.”
This sudden boast struck his fellow-drinkers as interesting, if stupid. Miller had a tendency to open his mouth unwisely when ale had passed his lips. The bragging was, however, astonishingly egregious. Their king, after all, finding himself in something of a hole, financially speaking, was wont to do anything to refill the kingdom’s coffers. Those with wiser minds shook their heads; Miller was asking for trouble.
The Taverner, sensing the man was finely balanced between merely making noise and starting a fight, thought it best to send him on his way. He heaved Miller to his feet. The odour of flour that clung to the man crept into the Taverner’s nostrils. It was the smell of his profession, of his world; had he been asked, Miller would have denied the existence of any smell. Miller swayed, peered at the Taverner, and raised his voice so that all in the tavern could hear. “My Alice can spin gold from straw,” he bellowed.
Looking around, taking in the disbelieving looks with a bleary stare, he began to mutter. “A good girl, my Alice. Good, beautiful, industrious. Better than her bitch of a mother. ”
Noticing the three soldiers in the corner, the Taverner propped one shoulder under Miller’s arm and maneuvered the sot away. He felt eyes upon his back and sensed danger.
He sensed danger, too, in the way Miller spoke of his daughter’s beauty. The Taverner suspected when Miller got that look he was somehow confusing Alice with her dead mother in the most base of manners. Sometimes he feared for the girl; most of the time he decided she was her father’s property, like all daughters. And Alice was smart. She could take care of herself.
Miller stumbled into the night, muttering. A few moments after the door swung shut, a soldier detached himself from the huddle in the corner and approached the Taverner …