Challenge #02338-F148: Words May NeversteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  4 months ago 


They meant to hurt you with words and bring you down by demeaning you. You became inspired to do something entirely different. -- Anon Guest

Say something long enough, it becomes true. Words like weirdo, freak, idiot, and so forth don't hurt in small doses, but if they are said often enough, by enough people, to one, that one can easily believe they are worthless. It happens so often, but it does not happen to all.

Consider Suz' Mayberry, iconoclast of Elderwine Falls. There, almost everyone is a vinter, knows a vinter, or has a vinter in the family. It's practically a law that if one lives in Elderwine Falls, one has to have a job related to the local wine. She lives in an old tower that used to be part of the landlord's Keep, in times of war. She doesn't grow elderberries, nor pigs nor chickens nor cattle. The land is no good for any of those. It was why, legend said, the long-absent landlord chose it.

Suz' Mayberry likes it there because the land has interesting rocks, and the tower has a good view of the stars. In the day, she studies rocks, and in the night, she studies the stars. The people of Elderwine Falls have all kinds of names for her. Stupid is a favourite, since everyone else has to be smart. Elderwine Falls is known for its Elderberry Wine, and the freshwater falls that give their vintages that extra special sparkle.

No. Suz Mayberry would talk about rock formations and how a spring deep in the mountainside is responsible for the water that helped give Elderwine Falls its name. She would spout on for hours about trace minerals if you let her. Idiot girl. About the only thing she's good for is letting people know the seasons are turning and when to expect the right kind of weather for growing elderberries. Or how good the crop might be.

Don't get her started on the animals inside stones. Just... don't. Not if you don't have all day. She's stupid, she has to be. Stupid, and certainly not dumb about it. It's as if she's starving to talk to people, but she'll talk your ear off about nothing that matters. Stupid girl.

When she's not looking at rocks and looking at stars, she's messing about with distinctly non-wine alchemy. She makes good soap, the people of Elderwine Falls admit, but that's about all she's truly good for. Soap, and halfway decent crop advice. That was it. Sometimes, a decent excuse for being late anywhere. Useless girl. No sane man would want her.

Yet despite all this social pressure, Suz' Mayberry kept on with what she liked to do. She studied rocks, messed about with alchemy, and looked at the stars. She sold her soaps or traded them for food and was, despite it all, happy in her life.

Then came the day that the ground shook, and the falls dried up, and so did the town well. The rains weren't enough to keep the elderberries happy, and the townsfolk started to bewail their fate. Some moved out. Most pooled their money and offered a reward for the return of the water. Suz' packed some supplies and clambered up the cliffside and vanished inside the cavern where the springs were.

She was gone for days. So long that the remaining people of Elderwine Falls thought she may have died up there. A week... two weeks... and then there was a distant report and, in two more days, the water and the falls returned. And so did Suz' Mayberry. Battered, bloodstained, and a little deaf in one ear.

Suz' explained, a little too loudly, that when the ground shook, some rocks became dislodged and blocked off the springwater. She used a 'special exploding mix' of saltpeter and an oil she made from plants, to get rid of that. She could show them everything she knew, if they wanted to listen. She had, after all, set up a classroom in the old Keep. All they had to do was stop by and ask questions.

The people of Elderwine Falls stopped calling her a stupid girl, after that. She became a bright woman who knew her stuff. And perhaps some of the third sons or daughters could learn a few things about soap and why it went bang when saltpeter was involved. Or how special rocks meant that the town had its unique water. Or why certain stars predicted the weather.

Always the third child, or later. Because you couldn't waste your heirs on the risk that they might go weird. They would scoff and say things like, Of course a little weirdness can be useful from time to time, and then explain how they had to be sensible, and reasonable, and logical about these things.

Suz' Mayberry explained it the same way. You had to be sensible, and find out how the world worked. You had to be reasonable, and find the reasons why things happened the way they did. You had to be logical, and use logic to solve unexpected problems. Weirdness isn't a curse, she insisted. It is a way of seeing things in a different direction, and thusly seeing things that others won't even look at.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / bedo]

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