He hadn't put out place settings, this time. Instead he'd gone inside, by the cabinet near the hearth and the concertina that lay in a little heap on top of it like a discarded shawl. From the looks of him, he'd been there a while. Katrin dumped rabbit and greens on the table. "Leave it," she said, and he turned, his eyebrows peaked together in concern. She sighed. "Leave the concertina alone," she repeated, this time in a sweeter voice. It was the tone that mattered, not the words. "Don't you ever touch that," she cooed, and he smiled at her.
She retreated with my gifts back into the Hollow Tree. With another shiver and groan, the trunk snapped shut, swallowing her up. When it opened again, there was something there. I went to retrieve the item and recognized it immediately. It was my father's favorite mug. Exactly his, down to the chip on the handle from when he fell asleep with it on his knee and dropped it; down to the worrying on the lip from where he always rubbed it with his thumb; down to the bottom, where etched were the words: "Love, Lunan." Lunan was my mother's name.
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Katrin had known since she was a little girl what her husband would look like, ever since she was old enough to understand that Aunt Gunna had deeded her farm to Katrin.
Jiteh lets her hand hover a breath away from the Boundary. Somewhere beyond, there are people who do not watch their brothers devoured by the Life Tree. There are people who do not praise.