"A stranger approaches from the east!"
Before the war, strangers were welcome. Now...
I hurry along the grassy path leading to the village's center.
The baker is here already, a dusting of flour on his skin. The ironworker clenches a hammer in his hand. The mute healer sits on the ground, herbs spread upon her lap, hair wild, eyes wilder, rocking to a rhythm she alone can hear. Wrapped up in her visions, the healer never sees the world as it truly is.
"The stranger wears the brand of wealth." The sentry approaches with a woman. "Clean and sturdy boots. Nary a patch upon her dress. Pale skin. Clear eyes."
I look up and into the eyes of my sister Sauren.
"Marcus," she whispers.
The healer looks at me, her rocking ceased.
"Her city has been built upon the backs of our people," I say. "She has trod through her world in pretty lambskin boots, made, no doubt, by Wynne." I gesture to the bootmaker. "And what does Sauren do in thanks? Cuts off Wynne's hand."
Sauren's husband couldn't keep his hands off Wynne's round bottom as she'd knelt before him measuring his feet. 'Get your hands off that vile creature,' Sauren had said. And Wynne had dared to speak. 'I'm not dirty, Miss. Just poor.'
"Sauren's actions started this war," I say to the healer.
"Please, Marcus," Sauren says.
My sister had cut off Wynne's hand because it was in her power to do so. Was I doing the same? Even among the woodspeople, there is power and hierarchy and thirst for recognition. "No." I turn as the sentry raises his sword. "Stop." The people of the village gaze at me. "A change in sentence, perhaps. Wynne is in need of an apprentice. Sauren, meet your employer. And your niece."
Wynne smiles broadly and Sauren commences crying, although from relief or resignation or sadness, I do not know.
The healer returns to her herbs and recommences her rocking.
This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word was brand.