Author: Selena Taiki
That morning Tara woke some what grumpily, with an irritating sense that there was something familiar about the slender person wading in her dream's purple ocean. However, the prospect of relaxing for the day and going into town combined with the pleasurable scent of breakfast to banish both her bad mood and the hazy dream. Humming softly to herself along with the bubbly melody of the cottage's domestic magics, Tara made herself presentable. Still humming she ambled down to breakfast.
"Ah, so that is the reason the dishes are behaving particularly well this morning," Giles said, looking up as Tara entered.
"Huh?" Tara questioned.
"You were humming along with them weren't you?" Giles asked knowingly.
"Oh," Tara said, her eyes widening before she dropped her head, letting her hair fall forward to obscure her blush. "S-s-sorry," she whispered softly.
"It's quite alright," Giles said firmly. "No harm done, a bit of good actually. It's just a good opportunity to remind you that you need to be careful with your singing now; you don't want to accidentally cast any spells."
Still mortified, Tara nodded, and sat quietly at the table. She kept her head down, missing Giles' worried frown.
"Hey Tara," Xander said, breaking the awkward silence. "I finished your wands. Wanna see?"
"S-s-sure," Tara said, finally raising her head and pushing back her hair. Xander left the room and returned quickly, laying several polished lengths of vanished white wood on the table. The smallest wand was really just a tapered stick with a fancy willow leaf pattern. The next several had a five pronged star at the end. The largest of the bunch was a thick staff that would clearly rise a good six inches above Tara's head and was topped with a large amber set in gold. Tara reached out a hand to finger the warm wood and gasped in surprise when she heard the soft echo of her mother's voice among the deep melody of the wood. She felt her eyes water and hot tears spilled from the lids to run down her cheeks. "Thank you," she whispered, choked.
Giles patted her hand from across the table, clearly knowing what she was hearing while Anya comfortingly rubbed small circles on her back.
"She loved you very much," Giles said softly.
Tara nodded and smiled tremulously, using her sleeve to dry her eyes.
The rest of breakfast was a quite affair as the other three members of their little household let Tara regain her composure.
After breakfast Xander collected the wands, telling Tara he would put them in her cedar chest leaving her with only the smallest, which fit neatly into a little loop on her belt. Overburdened, he bent awkwardly to kiss Anya's cheek and admonished her to buy something nice for herself, from him, while she was in town before trotting off toward Tara's room. Apparently Anya not only liked pretty gifts but expected them, at least from her husband.
The ride into town passed in companionable silence as Tara gazed absently at the fields and wild gazing pastures. She leaned back on the wooden seat of their donkey towed cart and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the mindless twitters of the wild birds as they chirp about earthworms and nests and shouted insults at the circling crows. The town itself was very similar to where Tara had grown up except that the streets where packed dirt rather than cobblestone. People glanced at them briefly when they rolled past but returned to work, used to the sight of the tiny horned woman.
Anya expertly maneuvered the cart along the streets and parked the cart near a group of shops. She tied the donkey to a hitching post and made sure his grain bag had a decent supply of food in it before turning to Tara. "Let's go," Anya said, rubbing her hands together.
"Is it s-safe to leave him there unattended?" Tara asked. Dad had always made her stay with the cart when they went into town to guard against the more 'unsavory' folk.
"Would you mess with even a minor magic user's cart?" Anya asked wryly.
Tara blushed bashfully and mutely shook her head. She followed Anya quietly as the woman set off at a brisk trot towards the bakery. The light dust of flour in the air made Tara sneeze when they entered the shop, but it didn't stop her from continuing to breath in deeply, enjoying the sent of baking. The thin bald man behind the counter grimaced good naturedly when he saw Anya.
"Good morn Mistress, come t' ruin me again have ye?" He asked in a think, rolling brogue. "I'll not have coin enough to keep me children fed if ye keep bargaining so harshly. Surely ye wouldst not subject such a fair maid," he nodded to Tara, who blushed and ducked her head. "t' such a cruel sight."
Anya snorted softly and mustered her rebuttal, but Tara was distracted from their haggling by a strand of a cheerful melody that drifted in through the door. She strained, trying to hear more of the beautiful song. Shaking her head in frustration, she turned to Anya. "I'm gonna go, um, check s-something out," Tara interrupted. "Can I m-meet you back at the cart l-later?"
"Sure," Anya said, waving vaguely. "Have fun."
"A moment lass," the baker said. He grabbed small cloth bag and shoved two sweet rolls in it. Folding down the top he handed it to Tara. "As a welcome t' the town," he said, raising a hand to forestall any protests.
"Th-th-thanks," Tara mumbled, blushing brightly. She took the bag clumsily, her arm not quite prepared for its slight weight, and backed out of the store, almost tripping on the raised doorway.
She stood out side the bakery and looked down at the cloth bag in puzzlement before shaking her head. She could hear the song clearer out here and she cautiously followed it, her boots clicking in counterpoint on the cobble lane.