They came with the dawn to one of the last really hot days of the summer. Three big wagons loaded with dark clucking barrels.
When they stopped on the market square in front of the inn, a young woman threw herself down from the drivers seat and stood wide in front of the closed door. With a mad grin she began to howl like a mixture of a fox and a bird. The window of Fabian's room was flung open, and the innkeeper stared with a groggy stare he looked down on the courtyard. When their eyes met, his face shone up like a sun and soon he had threw himself down the stairs to meet his guests.
He stumbled out the door and almost tackled the young woman who stood waiting in the entrance. At the last moment he found his footing and used his momentum to catch her up and spin the now happily laughing woman a lap through the air. "Salina! I did not think I would see you this year. "
With her arms stretched out and her back bent backwards, she looked up at the sun while she broke. "Yes, I thought I would have to run away on my own. However, it seems that they were finally content with the aging and we were allowed to take off and make the trade."
One of the men on the middle wagon leaned down to face Fabian "We thank you for your dedication, you have completed your part in the contract. Where do you want the barrels?"
"We'll see how much will fit in the basement... The rest we'll break tonight there are plenty of thirsty throats around here!" It was clear that the innkeeper's joy over the reunion had swelled over and influenced his generosity.
The men on the wagons stared at him like Fabian had gone crazy. But Salina threw her arms around his neck and exclaimed. "It will be a party for the legends!"
That evening everyone gathered in the meadow west of the village. The wine casks were lined up for tapping and the mood was on top. The musicians were a happy mix of villagers and visitors. They had even lured down Lady Malena from the cliff and she had managed to dig out her scrimshaw flute to honor the occasion.
Both young and old threw themselves into the dance around the crackling fire, toasted the free-flowing wine, and then with more or less discreet apologies pulled back to engage in more intimate activities.
In a quieter moment between the dances, Old Lady Malena approached Fabian's newly found partner, who was waiting in the que for the wine. "Hi, Salina is that right?"
The younger woman nodded as she bent forward to fill her mug from the tap that was hammered into the side of the heavy oak cask.
In the absence of a verbal response, Malena continued. "I do not know which one but I see your grandfather in you. We knew each other when we were young, and if I'm honest, I had something of a naive crush on him before he left. "
Salinas smiled a playful smile that seemed centered in her golden glittering eyes. "You're almost right, Brage is my father and his words seem to carry warm memories of you two Malena, he would certainly wish for me to convey hi greetings if he knew that we had met."
"But he should be closer to ninety and you a lass at not even twenty. That's not possible ?!" The shock of this incredulity seemed to have blown the wind out of her sails.
With her free hand, Salina now stroked the somewhat uncomfortable widow's cheek. "Come with us to Greenvale, I'm sure it will do you some good two."
"Thanks for the offer, maybe another time. Someone must keep an eye on all these youngsters in these trying times." Malena gathered herself with a sigh and stared a bit dreamily up the river where she had seen Brage disappear in what now felt like a lifetime ago.
Fabian flew in with an ungracious pirouette, catching up Salina in his dance in an attempt to repeat the embrace of the morning, she playfully beat his chest and struggled in his's grip, but soon let herself get pulled into the dance.
The next morning the ground around the fire pit was still hot and a group of youths stumbled out of the straw, still slightly intoxicated by yesterday's activities, they ambled back to the market to see if the bakery had opened its doors. The visitors' carriages were gone from the square, but there was something else missing that that caught their eyes. The fisherman's cottage at port street was gone! One could now gaze out along the river and where the cottage had formerly stood, only six truncated pylons remained. No one would miss the old husk, but many rumors and wild tales about its disappearance were spoken in the weeks and years that followed.
Nine months later, the first litter of Twinkle Night children were born. In a summer of joy, even couples who were convicted of their own infertility, now found themselves expecting. It did not take long after the first births for the rumors to spread. The children carried their marks from the revelry that night, tending toward a jolly temper and good health, it was seen as something of a blessing, but it was hard to ignore those mischievous gold spotted eyes.