Petal by Armariel

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XXXVI. Truffles

“What's Essie got?” Yarrow called to his brother in excitement.

Valerian ran to the hazel-thicket to inspect, and saw that the pig had dug up something near a tree and was eating it now with obvious relish. The boy sneaked up and grabbed part of it from her.

Now the girls were coming. Marjoram rode her big sister piggy-back, since she was still too little to run very fast.

“Looks like a lump of dirt,” Columbine said in some disappointment as she came chugging breathlessly up.

“It's not,” Valerian said. “I think it's a mushroom...of sorts. Look at it.”

“Don't eat it,” Columbine said in some alarm, as Valerian looked about to taste it. “It may be poisonous. We must ask mum or dad.”

“Smell it,” Valerian said. “It doesn't smell poisonous. It smells like...”

“It smells good,” Yarrow said sniffing. “Like an apple...or a pink rose.”

Columbine laughed, then she took a whiff.

"It smells lovely," she said. “Like springtime. Or a kiss.”

“A kiss!” Valerian hooted. Marjoram was reaching for it.

“What do you think it smells like, luvvie?” Columbine asked her.

“Snowflakes,” the little one said, and all laughed, including Marjoram.

“Essie ate some and she didn't die,” Valerian pointed out. “Let's taste it.”

“Nay, we must ask mum first,” Columbine insisted. But it was too late. Valerian had already taken a nibble.

“It's delicious!” he pronounced, as the others stood about with open mouths, waiting for him to fall down dead. And then he fell over on his back, twitching, his eyeballs rolling up, clutching at his stomach. The others screamed, including Marjoram, although she was too little yet to understand. She was shrieking now at the top of her voice.

“Not in my ear,” Columbine told her. Then she noticed Valerian was still clutching his treasure in one hand, and she reached down to take it.  Immediately his fingers clenched over it, and she kicked her brother in the side.

“Just as I thought,” she said. “He's faking. Twit.”

Valerian laughed, and rolled away as she made to kick him again.

“I want to taste,” Yarrow said jumping up and down. “I saw it first.”

“No you didn't, Essie did,” Valerian said as he got to his feet. “And I took it from her. If you tried that, you'd probably have a finger missing.”

“Here, Essie Essie Essie,” Marjoram called, but the pig was nowhere to be seen.

“Let's show it to Mum,” Columbine insisted, as Yarrow looked at his fingers to make sure they were still attached. “She'll know what it is. She knows these things.”

“If we must,” Valerian said with an expression of exaggerated resignation, lifting his eyes heavenward. In truth, he was curious to find out what it was also. And if it were anything truly wonderful, which it likely was, she would be most proud of him.  A feeling of sudden wild joy and excitement seized him and he broke into a run, hollering back at his siblings, "Last one in is a drunken hop-toad in a snake's mouth!"

And Petal smiled as her children came running toward the smial clutching the fruit of the hazel-thicket she and her husband had planted shortly after their wedding. So they were finally bearing. And already she was planning out the delightful dish she would make with the new delicacy tonight, and even thinking of giving a party. It had been far too long since the last one.

And this one would be far more interesting.

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