"Tino, get up" a teenage girl cried, pulling the blankets off a preteen boy. The boy curled up tighter on his bed, muttering,

"Still dark. Just a few more minutes..."

The girl huffed, placing her hands on her hips.

"Fine. But by the time I have breakfast ready, you'd better be up and ready to go or you're not getting any. And that means you'll have your trading assignment done for Berwald."

"Alright Linnea..." Tino mumbled sleepily. His older sister sighed and left the room to find her outerwear. Slipping the cloak on, she grabbed the heavy ice box and trudged outside to water the herbs that she had just planted yesterday.

Taking the empty box, she walked over to the stable and placed the feed for the animals in their respective mangers. She counted to make sure that none of them had run away during the night. Two cows, three pigs, two piglets, and a horse. Patting the cows, she dragged a stool over and began to milk their cows, humming a song that Mathias often sings by their door, asking Linnea to come out and marry him. Rolling her eyes at the thought, she gathered the buckets of milk and placed them on the cart, along with the ice box, and a few other buckets. Stacking a couple of jars on the cart, she made a note to keep some of the milk and eggs for Tino and herself. 

Bending down, she check to make sure that the piglets were still alive. Two others had died from the cold during the winter. When they squealed at her tickling, she chucked and slipped out of the stable into the chicken coop to find the fowl wandering about, clearly hungry and upset. She took out the dried feed and spread it to one side of the barn, while plucking the eggs out of their nests, placing them gently in a basket. Setting the basket on a high ledge, she bend down to greet some of the fowl, a strange habit that embarrassed Tino. 

"Hey there sweetie," Linnea cooed, "How are you today?"

The chicken didn't reply, of course, but walked off to the water trough, and walked back to eat more feed, and walked back to the empty water trough. 

"Aw, you're thirsty. I'll get you some water soon. I'll be right back, alright?"

Again, the chicken didn't reply, but Linnea got the general idea.

Returning to the stable, she gave their horse a quick brush down and strapped on his saddle, and placed the basket of eggs on the cart attached to the horse's straps, and climbed on. She made her way along the rather muddy road, and apologised to the upset horse at having to put him through the ordeal. Seeing the well, she allowed the horse to stop by a tree on a patch of dry grass. Picking up a couple of buckets from the cart, she made her way down the hill to the group of women by the well. 
Linnea greeted them as she approached.

"Hey Anika, Sonja, Helsa, what's up?"

"Hey Linnea," Anika, a light brunette, answered. Her slight wrinkles and thin figure revealed her age and recent battle with sickness. Sonja smiled slightly, a bit of her haughty nature revealed through her crossed arms. Helsa waved happily, her brilliant red hair bouncing, hair that mimicked her older sister Sonja's. 

"Apparently a new family moved into the village last night," Sonja answered.

"Oh really?" 

"Yep!" Helsa piped, "And one of them is supposed to be a gorgeous man!"

"Helsa! That's the only boy capable of working. Apparently he has a little brother that isn't even capable of field work yet. Their mother is bedridden, and they don't even have a father. They're just going to be a burden on the village."

Anika chucked, shaking her head at the sisters.

"Where's your welcoming spirit, girls?"

Linnea just smiled and secured her bucket into the well's rope, and lowered it while listening to the girls. Sonja sighed.

"Berwald has enough to take care of. He's such a young leader, and now he has to handle the burden of a useless family. The only man doesn't even farm."

"What? He doesn't? What does he do then?"


Linnea paused.

"Need any help there, Linnea?" Anika asked.

"No, no. I'm fine," said Linnea, quickly releasing the rope in her hands.

"And why are you so concerned?" Anika turned to Sonja.

"Well, I hate to see Berwald stressed, and he seemed pretty concerned about this issue."

"Ah, you're concerned about your future husband are you?"

"Of course I am!"

"Sonja's in love!" Helsa sang, and Sonja stepped on her foot, earning a yelp.

"Have you settled the contract with him yet?"

Sonja shuffled her feet.

"Not yet. He still doesn't seem interested. You would think he would at least be somewhat considerate after all the hints I drop and how sickly sweet I act toward him."

Anika and Helsa laughed.

"What's so funny?!"

"Oh, just, it's funny to imagine you acting sickly sweet, Sonja," Linnea answered for them, having finally lifted her first bucket out of the well.

"Right, says the girl who doesn't even know how to accept a marriage proposal."

"Oh, shush. I don't need Matthias to be around me all the time, it would just make me even more annoyed."

"He's a perfectly good man, I would totally accept if I were you."

Helsa poked her sister in the side.

"You didn't accept two years ago, though, when he asked you."

"I was fourteen! I didn't want to be married yet! But Linnea is seventeen, and it's totally unacceptable to stay unmarried much longer."

"And maybe Berwald doesn't want to marry you because you're only sixteen," Linnea suggested, lowering her second bucket, "After all, he's over thirty."

"He's only thirty one!"

Helsa coughed and repeated mockingly, "He's only thirty one!"

Anika laughed and waved to the girls, "Well, I must be going now, stay safe on the way back to town."

They waved back, Sonja assuring her that they would be safe, "We'll be fine, the sun's already starting to come up."

After a minute of processing, Linnea gasped, and hurriedly pulled her last bucket up and picked up both buckets of water.

"The sun's already up? I've gotta run. See you, Sonja, Helsa!"

They gave her a small wave while watching with confused eyes as Linnea trudged back up the hill to her horse. After placing the buckets in the cart and securing them, she climbed back up on her horse and led it back onto the road.

"Sorry for hurrying you girl, the market will start soon. I'll give you an extra apple today, alright?" Linnea asked her horse, patting her mane. She snorted and Linnea took that as an agreement, regardless of what that really meant.

The End

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