It is said the fog comes down when two halves were made whole in death. Answers to questions on where the saying came from, or what it meant, varied from village to village, even person to person. It wasn’t like the other stories; tales that would be told around fire pits with differing versions being recounted for all to hear. A vote would be held on which story was the closest to the original. From that day forward, everyone in attendance would only retell the agreed upon version, unless, of course, they took part in a new vote.
Many years had gone by since the fog blanketed the world; long enough that people struggled to remember a time when it had not. It made life difficult for the villages scattered across Sheobeth, especially for the traders and the farmers who relied on them to travel, moving supplies across the mountainous terrain. Traders like Wary.
“I have seen the tops of many mountains!” Wary proclaimed, amidst the jeers and cackling of his fellow tavern goers, “I have stood at the top of waterfalls so high, you could not see but mist in the valley below!”
“You walk two peaks over to trade stream slugs and mountainfish with your former nanny!” One patron returned; the room erupted with laughter.
Wary’s shouts became less spirited. “I will… I’ll be known in villages further from anywhere to be seen from the top of the tallest mountains. They will know me as a great explorer.”
“Sure, Wary, you tell us all the time.”
The laughter followed him as he shuffled out the exit, tipsy from ale. His sluggish response time couldn’t prevent him slamming into someone as they rounded the corner.
“Hey! Watch it-” She stopped herself before she could say anything too harsh. “Wary, what are you doing out here?”
He closed one eye, feeling it would help him focus the other.
“Signey? It’s good to see you!”
Signey straightened his ruffled shirt. “You shouldn’t wander around like this. Get home, straight away.”
“Jokes on you. I was already headed there.”
“Well, it’s the other direction, big guy. Now who’s laughing?”
He squinted through the fog and brushed aside a lock of his curly hair. He started for home again, hanging his head.
“They’re all laughing… at me.”
Signey shook her head and curled her cheek with a smirk; she knew Wary would feel better in the morning. Some of the townsfolk were hard on him, but he was harder on himself. Wary had a big personality with big ideas, he just never figured out what to do with them.
He and Signey had been friends for as long as either could remember. Their parents owned neighboring farms near the edge of the village, which presented many opportunities for the two to get into trouble. They ran through the forests, playing games and getting lost, built tree houses they imagined were castles, and made campfires that occasionally got out of hand. They knew everything about one another; everything there is to know about seven year olds, anyway. That is, until the giants of King Rikard the Last showed up.
They were told that the King needed the land for his own purposes, and the farmers would have to pick up their things and move. The consolation, however absurd, was that he would not disturb the boundaries of the villages, and the people would be free to make their trade within. It was demeaning for all who gave up their land. The people of Sheobeth had once been proud fighters; the blood of warriors was said to pump through their veins. They were built for battle; large frames held heavy muscles that were only strengthened by generations of farm work. But how can a man stand up to a giant? Nearly three times the size of a human, wielding swords as big as tree trunks, there was no use in fighting.
Wary and Signey would no longer be neighbors, not even close. On the last day, under the watchful eye of the giants, Signey loaded up her belongings. As she heaved a small chest on the pile, she saw Wary’s family pulling away from their home. She was upset that he hadn’t said goodbye to her, but his downtrodden demeanor as he sat, drooped in the back of the wagon told a bigger story. Something in him was changed forever; the whole ordeal had torn out a part of the fun-loving, witty kid that she had known.
The two would not see each other again for several years since Wary’s family relocated to a different village. It wasn’t until they were nearly adults that Signey ran into him one morning, and was pleasantly surprised to learn he and his mother were moving back. It wasn’t the same however; the former best friends never found the time to do the catching up that they always intended. They would see each other around the village and exchange small talk, but Signey always thought of that last day at the farm when a piece of Wary went missing.
As she stood at the entrance of the tavern, watching him stumble home, Signey believed that he would find what he was looking for and she would get the old Wary back.
“Alright, you sods, who’s got a couple extra pelts to donate?” She yelled, barging into the tavern.
“The twins?” Asked a merchant named Earnest.
“It get’s cold this time of year. We’re going to need extra bedding for them.”
“I’m not giving them my furs! I don’t know why we’re all suddenly expected to raise them.”
Signey put her arm around him, the whole bar watching on.
“And I thought waiting for you all to be sauced would yield positive results! Earnest, what were we supposed to do? Their mother rode in, completely exhausted, giving birth as her dying act. Would you rather we let them die as well?” Spoken loud enough for the crowd to hear.
“It’s asking for trouble! Nobody knows where that woman came from, who those kids belong to. We don’t know what we’re getting into.”
“They are two beautiful baby girls... and the care-maidens are doing the work! All we need from you are a couple of pelts. What do you say?”
Earnest felt the pressure of the onlookers waiting for his answer.
“Alright, fine. Pick them up in the morning.”
Everyone raised their glasses and cheered.
“I got a couple extras for the little ones!” Shouted a patron, causing another hurrah.
“And this round’s on me!”
The room erupted and music started playing, a couple of the older men tried to dance with Signey as she made her way to the door. She couldn’t help but note how long it had been since she saw the villagers in such a good mood.
Back at the little shack the villagers called “the nursery”, where the maidens had room to sleep and give care to the women, Signey relayed the good news.
“I’m picking up four pelts in the morning.”
“Did you hear that, little ones? You’ll be right comfy.”
The little ones were Una and Inga, identical twins born of a stranger to the villagers. The mother was doubled over on her horse when it wandered into the village; someone spotted her and found her to be unresponsive, immediately calling for help. Swiftly, a small crowd gathered and carried her to the nursery where the woman was given water and light broths to build her strength. The maidens could see she was with child, but held no hope of the babe surviving such malnutrition. The day came, sooner than expected, the stranger barely conscious during the labor. All the typical rituals for potentially harmful births were carried out. It was all done in such a hurried fashion that the maidens overlapped one another in their acts of lighting sage and recitations, yet, miraculously the girls came into this world.
Their mother, however, did not survive. It seemed she gave everything left in her body to bring Una and Inga into this world. Many found it to be a noble act that should be rewarded; the least they could do, certain villagers argued, was to raise the girls in the nursery. Everyone would pitch in, and the girls would eventually apprentice as maidens in whatever field they chose. Signey liked the idea from the start, as she was an apprentice herself.