“Where have you been?” Anders asked. Without waiting for an answer, he hollered back into the house, “Mom, we’re leaving and won’t be back until after dark. See you later!” He pushed Paign back out the door, at the same time hoisting his backpack onto his shoulders.
“Come on!” he yelled at Paign, as he jumped off the porch at a run. “You know how Freida gets when we’re late!”
It was a marvel how fast Anders could be. Since he was also already a brighter student, it annoyed Paign that he couldn’t quite catch up to Anders.Well, I have a sword swinging into my knee!Paign thought. But he didn’t say anything and just kept running after Anders.
Nearing the gate of the Skulstad’s farmhouse, he could see Freida stomping in the snow behind the barn. Their huge mastiff, Tiny, chained to the porch’s corner post, yawned lazily as he watched Paign run by. Paign smiled to himself at the notion of such an enormous dog being named Tiny, but he knew it was because Freida had fallen in love with the runt of the Olson’s mastiff litter. While Tiny gave no heed to Anders or Paign, since they were around Freida so often, he was truly fearsome to strangers.
“You’re late!” Freida said to Anders, who had already jogged around the corner of the barn. Without even looking at Paign, she turned on her boot heels and strode up the snow-covered pasture towards the edge of the tree line that marked the base of the ridge. High above, dominating the horizon of their little valley, the ridgeline erupted more than three thousand feet into a jagged sky.
They hiked along the existing snow trail made by the trampling of Freida’s goats and sheep, for more than an hour without speaking. Freida led them with a ferocious pace. Anders, just ahead of Paign, was puffing like the steam train that went through their valley twice a month. Paign’s throat felt like it was on fire from his hard breathing in this bitter-cold landscape. He was sure that Freida felt every bit as much discomfort as he did. Her pace was her way of showing she was still angry with him for not believing her, Paign was certain. Had he asked, he would have learned how right he was.
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