Story for the Day: Gran Mara Connridh

This month's novella will be about the infamous Baba Connridh, the old hero who speaks to the Gods and fights evil fey with iron knitters. Join our Patreon page now, and receive the novella at the end of the month:

In a small farm house in the southernmost part of Tyfferim, just north of the main road from Diras, lived Gran Mara Connridh, Frewyn’s oldest woman and farmer. With the fortitude of a mountain range and swathed in more wool than one usually wears at her time of life, Gran Mara Connridh endured as a mark of Frewyn’s pride, farming her small patch of land by herself, tending her animals, cooking her meals, sewing and bodging and improving the thatch, and always doing exactly what she liked. Time reckoned her to be one hundred and thirty or thereabouts, but firm resolution and studied sagacity, learned from a life spent in the fields and out of town, and an inclination not to care about anything but her cabbage beds and whether the cow was in milk today, made her the standing example of Frewyn hardiness. She was a stout woman, full-formed and square, with skin browsed by the many hours spent in the sun, firm flout and active jowls, and a braid neat and long, presiding over the furrows with a spade in one hand and a potato in the other, giving rise to the old jape that there were only two types of people on the Continents: Frewyn farmers, and everybody else. Muliebrity was lost on a woman whose only interest was a fine loam, well tilled and properly limed, and all the gradations of earned maturity were cloaked under a cultivated character, even temper, and impregnable constitution. She lived well by herself, keeping her larder stocked all the year round with roots and preserves and eggs, and the long walks to town provided her with all the exercise she required to remain as active as her age and situation would admit. She had a cane, given her by an anxious cleric, who was worried that the fatigues of farming would be too much for a woman who began to succumb to the stiffness that a life spent cutting peat in the bog must produce, and she used it not to walk but to swat away horseflies and poke the voles that dare burrow into her garden. She wore a black woolen shawl, whether it was cold or not, thick leather shoes, and girded her long skirts around her knees, keeping with the old traditions and having no mind for all the new trim young girls were sporting. Sensibleness in dress was always best for a Tyfferim girl: she was expected to work in the fields, to sew the seeds and cut the corn and winnow the oats, and no one could get into the grass with petticoats and flounces. A woman dress for the work ahead, not for the reprieve and feriation, and Gran Mara Connridh thought every woman ought to march about in boots with basket and bucket in hand, in case the eggs needed to be taken in or there was water from the well to be got. She hated fashion and indolence, hated anyone who did not know how to slane the peat or seed the rows, hated everything belonging to do-nothingness and procrastination; evenings, when no more work out of doors could be done, and holidays were the only acceptable times for sitting about, and even then, there was dinner to be made, floors must be swept and socks must be mended, rugs must be beaten and linens scoured and patched, and there was just as much work to be done within doors as there was without, to say nothing of the needlework that needed to be done for the poor or the dolls to be made for the children at the church.
                She never thought of herself when she could think of others, and while the chief of those others were her neighbour’s ten horrendous children and a cleric who trespassed on her comfort every God’s Day, she did remember to give her scraps to the sow, offer what she could to the wretched, and give the Tailibhannach some work when the hayrick needed to be filled. She was poor but fortunate, and had the good sense to be prudent and judicious with everything in house, being the best estate manager that a hundred and thirty years could furnish. Money hardly ever came in through the door: she had never married, the most celebrated achievement of her life, and had no widow’s pension to strengthen a small income during the long winter months. Generous presents of cheese and meat were regularly left at her door by neighbours who either admired her determination or disliked her candour and hoped that a gift of something to eat in the house would keep her away from theirs. They need not have worried, however; she was always ill-disposed for company and never invited anyone in from town. She boasted no acquaintances, had no family, and whatever friends she had secured long ago seemed now all gone. She was glad of it, however, glad to have the best hours of the evening to herself, where she could sit at her table with her cat and welter in the work she had done, smiling at the carrots, sighing over the bread and butter, considering the prospect of being to eat with someone as rather a chore than a treat. She never attended church: many believed her absence due to her elevated age and infirmity, but she had no interest in being placated and pleaded to by a High Brother and congregation who only wanted to give her the front pew and the best seat at the poor table, and therefore used her years an excuse never to venture into company. The grates of small talk and idle conversation were ones she should never concede to sit behind, and she would rather be at home in the silence of hedgerow than in the bustle of the marketplace.
                She had few hobbies other than farming and thatching that filled up her time: knitting and embroidering, talking to the Regent, who called her Baba and said she was far too indignant to die, chasing after martins with her switch, looking after the flower beds, swearing to the Gods, nursing headaches given her by the neighbour’s children, and waving to the Regent’s wife, who was an old woman like herself and knew what it was to manage a house of her own. Those who knew her from her formative years spoke highly of her powers, and those who knew of her in a general way admired her for her tenacity and ferocious independence, but those who had heeded the whispers of scandalmongers in town reckoned her as a relic, a spectre of Frewyn’s past who had nothing better to do but to die, the grumbling old grimalkin who terrorized the hunter’s hounds and birched weeping babes, but she cared for none of these aspersions: the spring crop must go in, and there was no one else to plant it, so she had best get on and fertilize the ground and never mind the tender appellations. What anyone thought of her would not get the carrots in on time or mind the potato mounds. The western rows had already been planted, the north was lying fallow this year, and she was in the southern field, picking up stones and preparing the land for the plough. Beryn would come with Morraig, the Dunhuram family mare, who in horse-years was nearly as old as herself, and he would hitch the plough and drive it through the fields, because, although Baba despised visitors, anyone belonging to the Regent’s family and anyone who understood the trials of farming was welcome to help her at anytime: the Donnegals and Dunhurams came to be useful and never stayed long, just the sort of people she felt the world needed more of, and Beryn, being busy with his routes and having a small child at home, could only stay as long as ploughing one small field could admit. He would come on the morrow, and therefore the field must be cleared by the evening.