I was shaking out the goose down beds in the fresh, clear air when Mother Berchta returned from the village meeting, a sour look on her face. She glanced over at my progress, grunted (I'd learned a lack of complaint was as good as a compliment, when it came to my mistress) and moved inside to the fire, where I'd set a kettle to warm for her. Normally Mother Berchta liked a sharp mint for her daytime sipping, but today something had moved my hand to the chamomile, with a scattering of lavender bud. She poured herself a cup, inhaled deeply, then exhaled lustily. The lines around her mouth eased a bit, and I smiled to myself.
(I'd been apprenticing long enough to know that when a hand moves on its own, it's generally best to just let it get on with things, and try not to overthink it.)
Mother Berchta brought her cup to the doorway and leaned against the frame.
"Well it's wizards," she said, with the same irritable tone she'd used last week when she'd said, "There's voles in the garden."
"Wizards?" I gave the snowy white bed in my hands one last snap, then lay it carefully in the grass to bleach in the sun. "They don't usually come out this far, do they?"
"No," she said. "They don't. They’re too busy savin’ the important parts of the galaxy from whatever threat they’ve conjured up." She rolled her eyes, but did not explain just what had brought the robed ones to our small corner of the world. I grabbed the final bed and began to shake, knowing she would continue in her own time.
Finally Mother Berchta heaved a put-upon sigh.
"And as if wizards ain’t bad enough, these ones is dark."
"Dark?" I paused in my fluffing. Dark wizards might actually be something more than an annoyance.
"Yep," she stood a little straighter, apparently pleased at having caught my full attention. "Nasty little pests, probably recruiting. Or else looking for sacrifices no one will notice."
"They'd have done better to stay in civilization, then," I remarked. "Who notices their neighbors in the big city? Out here we're all in one another's business." It was one of the reasons Mother Berchta's cabin was so far removed from the village.
"No one ever said wizards was smart," she shook her head and took another sip. "Especially not the ones silly enough to go to the dark side."
"Well, what are you going to do about them?"
"Me? I'm not doing a blessed thing. Pest control is what I have an apprentice for." And with that she re-entered the house, shutting the door behind her.