Again, this is the opening page of a YA novel.
“What is wrong with this town?” Tyne grumbled to herself.
The cottages of Palte loomed over her, beehives built of yellow stone. The muddy earth of the lane between sucked at the rails of her heavy sledge. Tyne was in no mood for trouble, not after the bad news from her customers today. Feeling the resistance, she yanked harder to keep the load of wood moving.
Doing so knocked her scarf askew. She stopped with an irritable sigh and adjusted the knot beneath her raven-wing braid. Tyne didn’t even want to wear the scarf. She hated the way it rubbed against her pointed elfin ears. Tyne didn’t care if people saw her ears, but her mother insisted she cover them whenever she went into town.
Satisfied, Tyne hauled her sledge around a bend and to her next customer’s yard. As she passed through a gap in the fence of woven willow branches, she called out, “Delivery!”
She had just reached the wood shed when the cottage door banged open.
“Tyne! Hold on there.”
Tyne froze in the act of undoing the straps that held the wood on her sledge. Her heart sank as old Hildr trotted toward her, but she tried to answer politely, the way her father would have.
“Well met, goodman Hildr.”
Hildr planted himself between Tyne and his wood shed. He cleared his throat and a sickening weight dropped into her stomach. This was the third time today one of her customers wanted to talk to her. She had a good hunch what he was going to say.
“The thing is,” Hildr faltered. He ran a nervous hand over his balding head. Pale eyes darted to the ground, then to the fence behind her, looking everywhere but at Tyne. “The thing is, I won’t be needing you any more.”
“May I ask why?” Tyne gritted between her teeth. “My father supplied you wood for many years. I’m trying to carry on the work he left unfinished.”
At last the man looked at her. Everyone in Palte had known Tyne’s father, Willem. They all knew he was but five months dead, ambushed by bandits as he cut trees in the mountains south of the village. A momentary softening of Hildr’s expression let her hope he would change his mind.
“Is it a problem with my work?” Tyne pressed.
Hildr glanced toward his house, a kind of flinch. Tyne glimpsed movement there, curtains parting behind a window in the low, round cottage. Griffa, his wife, peered out. She scowled. Resolution replaced the pity in Hildr’s eyes. He squared his shoulders as if bracing to lift something heavy.
“I just can’t use you,” he said. “Be off, elf.”
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