“How is Mother?” the three men asked when Toadmila came out of the house.
Toadmila gave them her most professional smile.
“She'll be fine,” she said. “Now, I don't suppose you can pay...”
“Anything!” the men said, all three at same time.
“My first born.”
“Money?” Toadmila asked, raising one eyebrow.
The men looked at each other, their eyes bulging, their mouths gaping. And then they burst into laughter.
“That's all you want?” Bart asked.
“Potion ingredients cost money,” Toadmila said sternly. “Potion books cost money. Spell books cost money.”
She stopped short of saying that a crystal ball would cost money as well.
“Of course!” Bart said.
He grabbed her hand and pulled out a small leather pouch. Andrew grabbed her other hand and forced her fist open. They emptied the contents of three pouches into her hands, a rain of small copper coins.
“And we can get more!” they said, laughing.
“We sell wood.”
Wood from the King's forest. Toadmila knew well they had no right to sell it, no right to cut it. She knew they could get killed if they got caught.
“There's no need for more,” she said, collecting the coins into her own woolen purse. A sliver of guilt slithered inside her heart. Grimwood was hers to protect, people and trees alike.
“One more thing,” she said, as she turned to leave. “Don't call Saint Rosalba when you go into the forest. Call some other saint if you must.”