This was a very short, dark, little thing that tried to climb out of my head…
“Father, if you do not give my hand to Faldur, I will throw myself into the well!”
“Signe, no.” Faldur looked helplessly at the big man opposite him. “I must work for the honor, and the price is fair. Four years… and you are young.”
Signe’s father Grifon shook his head, his massive beard wagging. “Signe, you are not yet of an age to be wed.”
With a shriek, she burst into tears and ran out of the longhouse.
Grifon started to follow her, brushing past Faldur.
“Don’t.” Faldur’s voice was dull and soft. “She…”
“She does this often.” Her father stopped, and patted the younger man on the shoulder.
Faldur’s head was hanging, his short beard brushing his chest. “She tells me, when she wants something, that she will cast herself into the sea. Or the well. Or from the seacliffs.”
He raised his head and looked at his future father-in-law. “She gets whatever she wants from me. And she will this time, as well.”
Grifon’s face twisted. “You could…”
“I love her.” Faldur shrugged and twisted away. “I cannot help myself.”
Morning came, and a creeping fog that blanketed the small town with a chill that bit to the bones. The world was silent and still.
Faldur rose from his pallet aching, and his heart still heavy from the day before. He had not seen Signe again, but had returned to the boat to catch the tide, and to do his work. Grifon had shoo’ed him away, saying he would wait and let her come back when she was ready. Her mother had been dead and gone for years, and the girl’s moods shifted like the tides themselves.
Faldur had come back in the night, helped with the catch, and had hastily scrubbed off before burrowing into the furs on his pallet. To his guilty relief, Signe was not in the furs. The warmth of their illicit embraces was welcome, but her tears tore his heart.
Now, he hurriedly added a layer before emerging from his lean-to and steering for the longhouse, where there would be hot gruel on the big hearth. He blinked as he emerged into the pearly dawn, the light diffused but brighter than the deep dark of his sleeping chamber.
There were people standing around the well.
Faldur skipped a step and stumbled. With leaden feet, he walked toward the small crowd.
“What is it?”
A young woman, her face a curdled pale opal of skin and flushes of color, her eyes wide with fear, turned to him. “Something… I put down the bucket, and something pulled on it.”
Faldur looked past her, then, at the winch over the well. The rope that let down into the depths of the earth was taut. It strummed as he watched, quivering slightly.
“Let me through.” Grifon’s hoarse growl ripped through the assembly, and the big man came up to the edge of the well, where it had been walled up with rocks, and he looked down into the hole.
“What do you see?”
Faldur didn’t see who asked that question.
“She’s been down there since last night.” Grifon fell to his knees, heavily, and crumpled. “She’s…”
“What… who?” Several throats inquired, a panic rippling out from the anguished father.
Faldur turned away.
“Faldur! Where are you going?”
“I’ll be right back.” He muttered.
When he returned, he said nothing. The crowd, the entire village, it seemed, had come out to stare at the well. At the vibrating rope. Grifon was racked with sobs, keening deep in his throat, his hands covering his face.
Faldur walked among them, silent, but they parted before him nonetheless. He walked up to the edge of the well, but he never looked down.
It took one cut with the very sharp knife, and the rope whipped. The weight on the end of it had been heavy, indeed. Far heavier than a slip of a girl.
Faldur turned away, his eyes focused on nothing. The people edged back, giving him even more space as he walked forward, the sliver of a blade clenched in his fist.
Someone thought they heard him speak as he went.
“It was what she wanted…”
I was prompted this week by ‘Nother Mike, with “When we lowered a bucket into the well, something grabbed the rope and pulled…”
I prompted AC Young with “That wasn’t sand, falling through the hourglass…”
Read all the prompt responses, or play along yourself, over at More Odds Than Ends.