“Her eyes widened, and for a moment, I thought I’d offended her. But, she popped from her chair, a slow smile creeping onto her tear-stained face.

“You are the brilliant one, Benella. Their hair,” she said excitedly. “I can make pieces to exactly match the existing dresses.”

I had no idea what she meant but nodded my agreement. She dashed back to our room, saying she needed to start right away and that I should bring her anything pretty I found on my wanderings, like feathers and such.

“You always seem to find the right side and turn it up.” Bryn shook her head then cut me a slice of the bread and spread a thin layer of our fresh butter on it. “Here. Take this with you. I know you’ll want to walk around and find something for Blye right away.”

I reached for the bread as she expected, even though I didn’t really want to walk the estate so soon. Blye would appreciate anything I found, especially if I found it quickly. If I stayed, she would probably start crying again. Taking a bite of the bread, I grabbed my bag and left.

The dark woods surrounded me with a sense of peace. Many of the village folk didn’t like foraging so close to the estate, and that made my foraging much quieter and easier. Before I reached the shadowy mists, I heard the cry of a large bird above me. I followed it with my eyes and watched it land on a forked branch of the largest tree in the area. Not far from its perch, I spotted a twig nest that was wedged in the crotch of the two branches. The bird ruffled its white and grey feathers and hopped forward to begin feeding its squawking young.

Wrinkling my nose, I eyed the bird’s feathers then adjusted my bag and set to climbing the enormous tree. The bark bit into my hands and scraped the skin of my legs through my woolen trousers as I scrambled from branch to branch. The bird noticed my ascent and shrieked at me before taking flight.

Minutes later, I pulled myself onto the branch that held the nest and glanced at the tangle of twigs. Slowly, I inched forward, clinging to the branch so the wind didn’t catch me unaware. The large chicks, blind to what approached them, chirped at me hopefully and opened their mouths wide. Soft down feathers the size of my hand lined the nest and cushioned the chicks. Those beautiful white feathers would be a prize in any lady’s hair.

I removed several from the nest, careful not to touch anything else. I didn’t want to scare the mother off or rob the babies of their warmth.

The climb down took much longer than the climb up, and my legs began to shake with the strain before I reached the ground. In the distance, I heard voices and worried they might be Tennen and Splane’s. Despite the tiredness I felt, I hurriedly dropped the last few feet, managed to land softly, and quickly disappeared into the mists.

I traversed around the wall, finding more treasures. The place where the primrose had grown now had several more delicate flowers. Carefully, I plucked the buds, leaving the roots to grow. Bryn hadn’t been able to make anything with the single flower, and I doubted she’d be able to do much with the six I’d just found, but the candle maker might.

Not far from the primrose, I discovered a large spider spinning a silvery web. It noted my attention and spat web at me. I jumped back in surprise, and the web missed me and landed on the grass. It shimmered in the mist. Keeping an eye on the spider, I bent to touch the web. It didn’t stick to my fingers. Instead, its strong silk slithered over them softly. It would make a fine thread. The spider didn’t seem to notice me pulling the mass of web from the grass.

Hungry and tired, I returned home well after dinner. A covered plate waited for me in the quiet kitchen. Sitting to eat, I heard Bryn and Blye talking softly in our room and knew our father read in his study, as he did every night after dinner.

It didn’t take my sisters long to come from the room and inquire after what I’d found. I set my food aside and pulled the thread and feathers from the bag. Blye exclaimed over the thread, asking where I’d found it. When I explained about the spider, she begged me to return the next day to try to get more. I nodded my agreement, and she left with her prizes to go sew.

* * * *”