On the next market day morning,
Victor and Igor rode down to the village.
Igor kept a close eye on Victor,
because after the recent upheaval
over trot-lines and traps, Victor had been
uneasy with himself and his duties
as mazil of the valley.
Igor knew, of course, that Victor
would also be watching him today,
given the clear cold winter day
and its inevitable toll on
Igor's twisted form.
The boys, too, were solicitous when
the wagon stopped to pick up
Nandru and Tivador.
"Morning, Igor," said Nandru.
"Do you want a spare blanket
or some hot bricks from the forge?"
"Darling boy," Igor said with a smile.
It was so rare to find anyone who didn't
look askance at him because of his back.
"I'll have some of those bricks, indeed."
He'd already heated up some clay slugs in
the fireplace to warm his hands in his pockets,
for all the good it would do in this weather.
Without any clouds to keep the heat in, it
was as cold as the thirtieth piece of silver.
Nandru soon returned with the bricks
in their woolen wrappers, which he
tucked around their feet. Then
both boys piled into the wagon.
The horse champed and fussed --
Victor's hands were tenser on the reins
than usual -- but Nandru called out
to the bay mare, and she settled.
They drove to the farm that had once
belonged to Artúr, where they all got down.
"As restitution for the trot-line accident,
you are allowed to take whatever you can carry,"
the mazil said to Nandru and Tivador.
"How far do we have to carry it?"
Nandru asked cannily.
"Over the threshold, if it's indoors.
Let's say twenty paces, if it's outdoors,"
Victor replied. "But if you injure yourself
or break anything trying to lift something
too heavy for you, then you forfeit
your prize, so think carefully."
"Yes, mazil," the boys chorused,
and then scampered away.
Victor clutched the trim of the wagon,
leaning against it for support. "Was that --
did I do all right?" he asked.
The stress had cost him a lot of his confidence.
"You did fine," Igor assured him.
"You were firm and clear. You set
reasonable boundaries while giving them
a chance to benefit from creative thinking.
I'm sure the boys will do well."
Igor knew that Victor's own parents
had been ... less than kind, in ways that
sometimes made Victor doubt his own
ability to handle children fairly.
Though Victor always insisted that
they considered corporal punishment crude,
Igor knew that there were many other methods
less prone to leaving scars on the skin and
more prone to putting the on the soul where
they might sodding never heal.
Igor had never met Victor's parents.
In the privacy of his own mind, he
still wished them a long, vigorous life
filled with as many kidney stones as possible.
Just then, Nandru came out of the barn with
a newborn draft filly slung over his shoulders.
"All right, she's yours, put her down now,"
Victor said hastily, and Nandru obeyed.
She was a lovely creature, to be sure,
all pipestem legs and fuzzy foal coat,
but the beautiful buckskin color and
deep shoulder would stick with her.
"You understand that she's much too young
to leave her mother, right?" Igor said. "So you
won't be able to claim her for a long time, and
it will be several years before you can work her."
"I know," Nandru said. "But now I've got a horse
that I can raise up real sweet so she'll be
gentle in my hand when she's big."
"That shows good forethought, young man,"
Victor said, and Nandru beamed at the approval.
"She's not just a dumb plowhorse neither,"
Nandru went on. "Artúr snuck his mares out
to the common pasture when that trader came
through with a Friesian stallion pulling his wagon."
"Another crime to Artúr's credit," Victor said sourly.
It was all very well to help yourself to a stallion's seed
if the horse had gotten loose, but otherwise it
meant robbing his owner of the proper stud fee.
"She won't be quite as heavy as her mother --
you've seen her, that big Cream Draft? -- but
this filly will be perfect for plowing tight corners
or logging in the rough or pulling a carriage,"
Nandru said as he stroked her elegant nose.
She certainly didn't look like a plain old plow horse.
"You'll need to spend more time at the farm,"
Victor pointed out. "That may mean working
for the new owner in exchange for her space."
Nandru just grinned at him. "Sure, I'm happy
to make friends with a new farmer!" he said.
"Whoever wins that drawing today will be
coming into a whole lot of work. I won't
mind pitching in for coin or barter."
Now that would help weave Nandru
into the village a little better, which was
something Igor heartily approved.
"I can see you've really thought this through,"
Igor said. "Did you mean to choose her, or
did you just take the biggest and best you could?"
"I meant to go for a foal, if there was one
new enough to carry and good enough
to be worth the bother," Nandru said.
"The Clydesdale dropped a filly too,
but enh, not as fine as this one!"
The baby gave a plaintive bleat
and butted him in the crotch.
"Hey! That's not your momma's teat,"
Nandru scolded, pushing her away.
"She's probably hungry," Igor said.
"Why don't you take her back to her mother?"
"Yes, sir," said Nandru, and took hold
of the filly's mane to lead her away.
She went with him willingly, a sign of
her biddable temper -- an excellent trait
in a draft horse. He'd chosen well.
It wasn't much longer before Tivador
staggered out of the farmhouse
under a whole bag of sugar.
"I hope you know better than to try
eating that all at once," Igor said sternly.
Tivador set down the bag, then nodded.
"Well then, you can do one of three things,"
Igor said, ticking them with his fingers.
"Give it to your mother for your family.
Keep it all for yourself, but let her parcel it
out over time so you don't make yourself sick.
Or you could make a spectacular batch of
candy and share it with everyone."
"I was so sick over Christmas,
I didn't get any szaloncukor," Tivador said.
"I'd love to share that with my friends."
"We could certainly make some now,"
Igor agreed. "Handing out candy can make
you very popular, at least for a little while."
"A capital plan," Victor said.
"Let's put the sugar in the wagon."
Between him and Igor, they moved
the bag with a minimum of fuss.
Then Tivador tugged on Igor's sleeve.
"I know you said to take only one thing,
but there's a copper foot warmer in
the kitchen. I saw it when I was
rooting for the sugar. You deserve
something for looking after us
when we were so sick."
"Run and fetch that for Igor,"
Victor instructed, and off went
Tivador to the farmhouse.
"That will be a blessing to have,"
said Igor. "It's a great deal quicker
to fill a copper box with coals than
it is to heat a batch of bricks."
"As the boy said, you deserve it,"
Victor said with a smile.
"It was kind of him to spot it," Igor said.
"I'm wondering about your experiences with
sugar-coated popularity," Victor murmured.
"Ah well, when I was a boy I once got paid
for errands with a five-pound bag of sugar,"
Igor said. "I got it in my head that if I fed people,
maybe they'd quit bullying me quite so much.
It worked, too, as long as I managed to offer up
something every fortnight or so. At ten,
I considered that a great success."
Victor's eyebrows drew together, forming
a vertical line between them. "Tch. Ruffians."
Each of them was protective of the other
in his own way, more than of himself.
Tivador came back with not only
the promised footwarmer but also
a handsome copper teakettle
with a fine china handle.
"Now we've all got something,"
he declared as he hopped
into the wagon with his haul.
Nandru returned from the barn,
his hair full of horse snot from
the friendly mother of his foal.
"Next is the drawing, right?" he said.
"Yes, we're going back to the village
for that," Victor said as he and Igor
climbed into their wagon.
Nandru and Tivador bustled around Igor,
tucking him into the heavy blanket that
had been folded on the bench.
Igor wasn't even entirely sure
when word had gotten around that
he suffered in the cold -- for certain, he
resisted telling anyone other than Victor,
and did that only with great reluctance.
Igor didn't think the man had talked, either,
for Victor was a great respecter of privacy
and knew that Igor preferred to hide
his appearance and the weaknesses
that it sometimes caused him.
They must have simply noticed it
by watching him, and Igor was touched
that anyone would pay such close attention.
Then Victor clucked to their horse and
drove away from the farm, his slender hands
a little more relaxed on the reins.
* * *
History includes many types of handwarmers. Igor is using the solid ceramic kind, similar to contemporary bread warmers. A better option would be a beanbag stuffed with ceramic balls or barley, being more flexible.
According to an account in the Gospel of Matthew 26:15 in the Bible, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Restorative justice focuses on repairing the damage done to community and relationships. Since Artúr had no interest in making amends, Victor turned to a different source of restitution through the farm and its portable goods. Fortunately Victor's library contains many different volumes on law and politics, allowing him to choose things that fit his situation. You can find practice manuals for restorative justice online.
Self-doubt can make people feel insecure about their parenting, leadership, or other skills. Know how to overcome it.
Draft horses are bred for heavy work such as plowing, or lighter jobs such as pulling a carriage. Some breeds like Cream Drafts are more powerful, while Friesians can be smart and agile. The Cream is actually a later American breed, but cream and champagne draft horses appear in other breeds, so it could just as easily have emerged elsewhere. This is the Friesian/Cream filly. This is the other mare/foal pair on Artúr's old farm.
A sense of community builds strong connections. Follow the steps to strengthen community ties in your area. Now compare what Victor and Igor have done in this gothic fluff series to what usually happens in gothic dark literature! It is precisely that attention to community ties, and involving everyone in local issues, that makes the difference in how well problems get handled.
Szaloncukor is a traditional Hungarian Christmas candy made of marzipan dipped in chocolate.
Bullying is a serious problem. Bribing a bully to leave you alone is a form of tribute, and it actually works great with some bullies; the drawback is that you have to keep doing it. (Once you have paid him the danegeld, you will never be rid of the Dane.) There are more effective ways to stop bullies, but not all methods are available to all victims. Igor probably used one of the best solutions within his reach at the time, physical force and appeal to authority being unfeasible.
Here is the kind of copper foot warmer that Tivador found for Igor. It holds a scoop of hot coals, and people would take these in wagons or into church.
This is the copper teakettle. Among the materials used for tea kettles, copper is popular for its quick heating and low use of fuel.