The well was all but dry, the deep reserves beginning to run low, and Tabatha peered down into the darkness with a morose sigh before sending the bucket down. Too much more and she was going have to go down there and see what she could do about breaking farther down into the bedrock. She grimaced. As if that wasn’t a terrible idea, with no one out here to hear her if she needed help, but—the grimace grew a little deeper—she couldn’t exactly go back to the palace, now could she. She shrugged. Well, if it came to it it, she’d made her well and now she’d sleep in it.
She’d said all this aloud; falling into the habit of talking to herself had kept the silence at bay, but now she listened, trying to hear if the flow had stopped. It was so unrelentingly quiet in this little hollow, nestled in by trees and ringed by mountains. Birds rarely flew overhead anymore, and the monsters knew now not to come near. Sometimes you had just had to laugh, and this she did. Into the well, just to hear it echo back. Just to have the world be a little less quiet.
She listened, but it echoed far longer than it should have, and from—behind her? She whirled, at the ready, only to see her son watching her and laughing too, having seemingly dropped from the sky. Alma, too, stood at his side, her face drained and tense at the sight of her mother-in-law. And—was that her granddaughter as well? All grown up, and laughing a little uncertainly with Jowd. The final member of the quartet, a long, lanky man who Tabatha felt sure she should know, grinned as if this was no more than he’d expected.
Tabatha beckoned to them. “Well, come on then, since the jig is up. Come in and have some tea and we’ll chat.”
Alma stiffened and threw her a furious look that dashed against the shore of Tabatha’s inertia before turning on her heel and stalking away from the cabin. The tall, lanky man murmured something to Jowd before turning and going after her, giving Kamila a little nudge on the shoulder as if to say she too should stay. Well, wasn’t that interesting…and no more than she should have expected, Tabatha supposed, watching the airship rise back into the air and away, leaving Jowd and Kamila behind, as if to say there could be no chance of a conversation between she and Alma.
Jowd and Kamila stayed with her for a few days, and although she had the important and necessary conversations with her son that she’d needed to have for several years, she didn’t see Alma or the man Jowd told her was the infamous Cabanela, but not that one, Kamila hurried to point out. After they’d concluded their business, Jowd and Kamila left, the airship descending and leaving again without anyone else showing their face, but not before extorting from her a promise that she would come to see them and try to patch things up with her daughter-in-law.
It was only after they left that Tabitha thought about her well again. She went to draw water, thinking yet again that she would need to do something soon. The yard was fiercely quiet once again and she tried not to think about how nice it had been to have her family back. She got her water and made to head back inside, only to come face to face with a group of workmen in Figaro’s colors who she somehow also had not heard.. She sighed; of course her son had told her once-kingdom where she was, but she clearly needed to meditate more if these untrained souls had managed to sneak up on her.
As she began to remonstrate with the foreman, he told her in no uncertain terms that he was not to leave until the well was once again viable. For emphasis, he waved the bill of service in her face and she snatched it from him, reading intently until the bottom, which was signed, not in her son’s inelegant scrawl but with Alma’s serene script.
She gave up and let the workmen do their thing. Not so quiet now, for certain, and… she looked over the bill of service again. Perhaps there was more hope for a reconciliation there than she had believed.