The winter melons ran out first. Albiderak planted the seeds and, with a little coaxing, they took root. With a fair ration of honey mead each day, they thrived. Soon winter melon vines overwhelmed the small plot Albiderak had staked for them in the garden. They more than obscured the cottage’s brick walls; they engulfed the entire structure. For three seasons now Albiderak hadn’t needed to rethatch the roof. Even in winter, when the leaves were off and the stems died back to a woody brown, the vines tangled so tightly across the roof that not a single drop of rain or melted snow could seep through. A fair trade, Albiderak often thought, for going thirsty more days than not that first summer.
But the woodsman had faced more risk than simple dehydration in watering those first seedlings with Davron’s mead. Even now the effects showed as a tendril crawled over the windowsill, wrapped around the handle to Albiderak’s traveling case, and tried to pull it from the woodsman’s grasp.
“That’ll be enough of that,” Albiderak chided. He untangled the vine from the leather strap only to have tendrils slip around his wrist — not tight, but enough that the woodsman couldn’t walk away.
Albiderak sighed and set his case on the floor. “I know you’ll miss me,” he said, extricating himself and sidestepping another vine that tried to twist around his ankle. “I’ll miss you, too. But I’m counting on you to keep an eye on the place while I’m gone.”
Leaves that normally reached bright and green for the sun sagged against the bedframe.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back soon. A month at the most.”
The winter melon vines seemed unconvinced, but Albiderak was already closing the door behind him, trudging with case in hand down a weed-choked path he’d hoped he’d never have to walk again.